I was having a chat with a mate over the weekend about Chinese knock-offs. Over a beer, we pondered: why do they do it? What do they get from it? Will it ever end? This ties in as the new Zongshen Cyclone RE5 looks very familiar…
We came to the conclusion that a manufacturer following trends very closely allows them to stick close to popular styling cues, and follow design elements that engineers have been paid top dollar to put together.
Imitation is the best form of flattery, at least.
The result can be a bike that looks very similar and could perform to a relatively respectable degree (usually just with a fraction of the power) – or a bike that falls flat on its face. But, as time goes on, Chinese manufacturers are doing what works and dropping what doesn’t.
Zongshen may not be a household name in the UK, but the Chinese giant has done its time, and the manufacturer has ties with Piaggio, and with bikes from Fantic, Mondial, Derbi & Rieju using their engines.
Back to the Cyclone RE5, and it’s clear the inspiration here was the top-selling Triumph Trident 660, with dashings of scrambler thrown in, and a classic round LED light as the cherry on top.
With a 550cc parallel-twin unit buried within the RE5, power is claimed to be 57 bhp @ 8500 rpm and 50 Nm of torque @ 7000 rpm. Top speed is claimed to be 108 mph, and the weight is given as 203kg.
With power figures in line with 300cc units on the market, it doesn’t possess enough power to blow your socks off (or ruffle them gently), but for a Chinese & Indian market, it could be plenty.
If I’m completely honest, the bike looks good visually. Yes, that may be because it’s a Trident, Honda CB650R & scrambler amalgamation (it’s been in a Cyclone, if you will), or a Z650RS knock-off at a squint – but it provides that same style for no doubt a fraction of the price. It’s a chance to get in on that current middleweight craze.
In answer to my original question, will it ever end? No, it won’t. But we get motorcycles to look at, and owners who want to go for one get a good looking bike for (what could be) a good price – so everyone’s a winner.