It’s the end of the season and time to wrap up the Konker KSM 200 long termer. What worked, what didn’t and is it worth buying?
Since my college days, I’ve had a lot of bikes pass through my hands. Some I was glad to see gone, and some I still miss. The Konker is one that I will miss.
I returned the Konker to Editor ‘Arris last week with a summer of riding behind me, and it was a good summer. The Konker never broke down or left me stranded, and once again, I’ve been left impressed by the mechanical durability of a Chinese motorcycle.
However, trouble may be in the future for the bike. The clutch has developed a nasty, horrid shriek if you feather it while revving the engine. What the problem is, I’m not sure, and it’s easy to avoid by watching the clutch carefully.
It doesn’t seem to affect the clutch’s performance – the bike still shifts just fine. Maybe you could attribute the noise to poor clutch technique on my part, but I’ve had a lot of bikes, and I didn’t ride the Konker any different than the others.
Still, mystery noise aside, the bike performed well over the summer. The single lunged, 200 cc Konker is anything but super on the highway despite its original supermoto configuration, but it kept up with traffic in town.
However, its real home is on gravel roads and trails, although its suspension isn’t up to hard riding. With the low cost of Chinese production, it’s difficult to understand why these units are shipped with such soft shocks and springs.
It couldn’t possibly add more than $25 or $50 at the most to install a beefed-up unit at the factory, and it would make the bike a lot more usable by North American fatties like me.
But the Konker is like all other Chinese bikes – Western sales are only a small, small corner of the market, and if typically smaller Asian riders don’t require as heavy a suspension, then they don’t install one. Western importers should be on their toes on this issue, though.
UPGRADES ACHIEVED & SHORTLISTED
After riding around without handguards for most of the summer, I finally threw on a set of barkbusters just before returning the bike. This is another part that should come standard on the bike, at least with the offroad rim package, but no matter – Arthur Mitton at China Parts Canada shipped me a set that bolted on without a hitch.
Having the metal guards in front of your knuckles goes a long way towards giving you confidence when bombing down a tight trail, and at $44.99, it’s a very affordable upgrade too.
China Parts Canada also shipped me another useful dual-sport accessory, a rear rack. I didn’t bolt it on, because the rack was not specifically designed for the Konker and would need spacers and some cutting on the bodywork to fit, so I left it with Editor ‘Arris to tackle.
I’ve also heard the Yamaha’s XT250 rack will fit if you trim the bodywork a bit, but I didn’t have one to check.
By the way, if you own any Chinese bike, China Parts Canada is a useful website to check out. They can source parts for most Chinese motorcycles direct from the factories, which can be a big bonus if your machine’s importer is feeling uncooperative.
There are many stories of China bikers being shafted by fly-by-night distributors who won’t provide parts, so a resource like this may be a big help in keeping your bike on the road. They can even source Konker parts directly from China.
I also replaced the sagging stock chain with a heavy-duty unit (about $75) before taking the bike back. If I’d kept the bike much longer I probably would have replaced the mirrors (I found the stock mirrors too narrow to use easily – I was constantly ducking my shoulders so I could check out the rear view) and the headlight bulb.
Just like the Japanese headlights of the 1970s were better than their British counterparts but still not that great, the Konker’s unit is better than other Chinese bikes I’ve ridden, but has a lot of room for improvement.
I would also have removed the forward-sweeping bodywork bolted onto the tank if I’d done much more off-roading. The bodywork doesn’t serve any function, and is just another thing to break and then rattle around when the bike’s under speed. It looks good, but I’ve even read of the bodywork breaking due to engine vibrations.
I’m not sure I believe that, but I do know that the bike’s vibrations claimed two license plates over the summer – they both simply broke off due to vibrations. But despite the lost plates, I never found the bike too buzzy to ride, perhaps because I’m used to riding nothing but thumpers.
ON THE PLUS
With all these problems I just mentioned, you might wonder how I could still enjoy riding the bike. Fact is, most of these problems are minor annoyances (suspension aside). The bike’s bonuses (good factory skidplate, gear indicator, steel braided brake lines) make up for a lot of the accessories that aren’t included.
And the machine itself is still fun to ride. How many bikes can you crack the throttle anywhere in town in top gear and not worry about a hefty speeding fine? The bike doesn’t have a lot of power, but that just means you get more fun working the gearbox.
Off-roading, the light Konker is easy to pick up, and isn’t going to mangle you if you happen to land underneath it.
Perhaps best of all, the bike’s ridiculously great gas mileage means you can ride the thing to work all week and still have fuel left for a rip through the woods on Saturday, all on one tank. I like that, a lot.
Here’s what it comes down to: For about 75% of the price of its Japanese counterpart, the Konker delivers a motorcycle that’s about 75% as good.
For those of us who get a kick out of riding any reliable machine, that might be good enough. If that’s not you, then you have two other options – keep on saving your money for a new Japanese bike, or venture into the used motorcycle market.
It’s good to have the Konker back in the garage and despite some scuffs from Zac’s spill and the ‘better take a look inside the bottom end’ clutch noises the Konker is in pretty good shape.
I need to get a new chain adjuster that seems to have disappeared and has been replaced by a big sod-off nut, and work out someway of bodging the rear rack into place, but it looks like a relatively close fit and shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.
I’d also like to try bolting on the 17 inch wheels. At the very least it should make the speedometer more accurate that is now way out of whack with the large 21 inch front wheel messing up the gearing.
As for upgrades, since the bike will likely spend most of its time in the trails as SWMBOs ride, I’ll slap on some nice and aggressive (and cheap) Kenda Trakmasters but hold off on dabbling with the suspension until Courtney has some saddle time as she is significantly lighter than Zac or myself.
Just to add one point to the issues side of Zac’s checklist (since this is a summary piece), I’d like to see the Konker come with a thicker coat of paint and some anodizing of the aluminium parts, both areas that will look ‘orrible real quick if you ever show your Konker salty winter roads.
Otherwise, I think Zac hit the nail on the head saying it’s 75% of a Japanese bike at 75% of the price. Actually, if you compare it directly to Suzuki’s DR200, it’s 60% of the cost if you don’t include the off-road wheel kit, after which it’s 72%.
And that’s pretty much about right.
Really looking forward to a review of the Konker with the 17 inch hoops. I know it won’t be a big hit on the hiway, but would to hear how it works in town.