Remember when Chinese motorcycles were a thing? We had a few of them around the CMG garage, back between 2009 and 2013, roughly. We flogged the Konker KSM200 for years, particularly on the Dawn to Dusk Rally. Chinese bikes were everywhere; you could buy them online, even at Canadian Tire.
Eventually, the momentum died out. Environmental regulations, customer dissatisfaction, and other woes put an end to the cheap fun. Some Chinese bikes are still available, but not as many as before. But don’t think that the Chinese industry has given up. On the contrary, it’s building bikes that would have seemed unimaginable a decade ago.
Take the new Benelli TRK800. This machine, slated for launch soon in Europe, is a fairly modern middleweight adventure bike, and it’s made in China.
Benelli is actually under Chinese ownership, with Qianjiang controlling the Italian marque. With that in mind, the TRK800 will sell under the QJ Motors brand in China, as the QJ Motor SRB 750 Adventure. However, it’s basically the same machine.
Middleweight adventure bikes have a basic pattern these days: A parallel twin motor in the 700-800 cc range. Lo and behold, the TRK800 has a liquid-cooled 752 cc parallel twin, putting out roughly 75 hp, and 50 lb-ft of torque. Very respectable indeed, and well beyond the old Lifan and Konker machines that CMG tested 10 years back.
What else do you get? The standard ADV bike bits—hard luggage, a TFT screen, Kayaba suspension, Brembo brakes with Bosch ABS. This might not be the latest and greatest Euro bike, but those specs are nothing to be ashamed of. Indeed, some recent Japanese offerings lag behind here.
There’s always a catch though—in this case, there’s three. First off, the 800 comes with 17-inch cast wheels, so this bike is only for pavement. Second, it probably isn’t coming to Canada anytime soon. Third, when it does, it likely will carry an MSRP that’s just a tad too high. That’s Benelli’s pattern in Europe; its MSRPs are too close to brands like Honda, with performance that’s still a bit behind. That works in Italy, where people still want to buy a Benelli, but it won’t fly in Canada.