Monday, November 4

A THIRD BIG BIKE FROM CHINA?

The BMW 650-powered Loncin LX650 made yet another appearance in China, this time at CIMAMotor 2013.  But there's still no word of a production date.

from MICHAEL ESDAILE in Chongqing

FOR years the mainstay of the Chinese motorcycle industry has been a range of 90cc, 100cc, 125cc and 150cc models powered by copies of 1970s Honda air-cooled four-stroke engines.

In fact it is possible that more of these copies have now been made in China than Honda itself produced globally.  In recent years, some of the more enterprising manufacturers have produced their own derivations of these engines, fitting counter-balance shafts, electric start and even multi-valve cylinder heads.

In mid-2006, Chongqing-based Jialing surprised the market with the launch of its single cylinder JH600.  Although Jialing also had a joint venture with Honda, the JH600 engine was developed by Jialing in collaboration with Austrian company AVL.  It was water-cooled and fuel-injected and met Euro III emissions standards.

This was the first ‘big bike’ made in China since the old ex-World War II BMW-copy 750cc sidecars made by Changjiang.

Since its launch, the JH600 has been exported to countries in Africa, Brazil and France.  There has also been a sidecar version produced.


First of the modern 'big' bikes from China, the water-cooled, 
fuel-injected Jialing JH600 launched in 2006.

Five years after the JH600 entered production, Hangzhou-based CFMOTO put its 650NK into production.  This is powered by a 649cc water-cooled, eight-valve, DOHC, fuel-injected engine, raising the bar yet again for the Chinese industry.

The bike has proved a sales success in Australia and England and has recently been launched in New Zealand, beating the Loncin LX650 into production.

CFMOTO now has two versions of its parallel twin 650 in production

and selling well in export markets.
Chongqing-based Loncin Motor Co. Ltd., the number two ranked Chinese motorcycle maker, first showed off its BMW 650-powered LX650 in late 2010, and since then there have been sightings of the bike at shows and events around China.

The bike was also on display again at the 12th annual China International Motorcycle in Chongqing (CIMAMotor 2013).  In fact Loncin had three models on display.

The Loncin LX650 use the updated BMW 650cc single cylinder engine in a cast aluminium alloy frame – a first for a Chinese motorcycle manufacturer.

Loncin has been manufacturing the single cylinder water-cooled 650 engine for BMW at its Chongqing plant since 2008.  The engine was originally developed by BMW with Austrian company Rotax to be used in the Italian-built F650 Funduro released in 1993.

BMW initially dropped the single to make way for the parallel twin engine used in the newer F650s in 2008, but demand for the single saw it reintroduce the bike, which was relaunched in 2009 as the G650GS, fitted with the Chinese-manufactured engine.

What Loncin has done is develop a pure road bike, rather than the road, semi-off-road GS that BMW makes.  The wheels are 17-inch front and rear, front suspension is by beefy inverted forks while the rear suspension features a linkage operated single spring/damper unit.

Brakes are twin discs with four piston calipers up front while the rear brake uses a floating Nissin caliper.

Loncin has done a nice styling job on the BMW-powered LX650 but has yet to get it into production.

LX650 exhaust header with oxygen sensor.
The exhaust runs down under the engine with a Buell-style chamber that exits on the right-hand side behind the riders’ footrest.

Loncin has been working on this model for some time: it showed off protoypes in 2010 and 2011, leading some observers to believe the bike had actually gone into production.  But Loncin has been busy putting the bike through a thorough shake down before pushing the production button as the LX650.

Loncin is currently the number two ranked Chinese motorcycle manufacturer in terms of production, making 1.7 million units in 2012, down slightly on the 1.8 million it produced in 2011.

However, while it again showed off the LX650, word is the bike is still not in production.  And the company has given no details of when that may happen.  There is no mention of the bike on its website either, although Loncin staff at CIMAMotor 2013 indicated the bike would be available for both domestic and international release.

When that might be is anyone’s guess.

Loncin is also supposed to be establishing a joint venture operation in China with Kawasaki Heavy Industries after the two parties signed a basic cooperation agreement in June 2012.

This called for the two companies to set up a joint venture, carry out strategic cooperation to development China's sports leisure motorcycle market and jointly develop and sell high quality and high performance two-wheeled motorcycles in China.


However, there was no sign of this at CIMAMotor 2013 in Chongqing with Kawasaki having a stand of its own and Loncin displaying its models on a Loncin-only stand.