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Chinese Motorcycles

This fellow in Xi'an is riding a 125cc Suzuki.  Most Chinese motorcycles are 250cc or less, with the exception of the BMW clones (more on this later).

Seeing a motorcycle like this is unusual.  Traffic is usually very dense in the Chinese cities we visited. 

I saw many marques I had never seen before.  Most are copies of Honda, Yamaha, or Suzuki designs.   Fit and finish appeared to be quite good on the Chinese motorcycles.  All were 250cc or less.
The Chinese "Honest" motorcycle.  They are not quite so honest about the size of the engine (see the next photograph).
It took me a while to realize what I was looking at.  This is actually a fake engine cover, designed to make the 90cc engine (a copy of the venerable Honda 90) look like a larger 250cc motorcycle.  Very clever.
Wouldn't you like to ride a Cygnus R?
Or take the Sundiro out for a spin?

Check out the colors on this motorcycle.  

We saw only one type of large-displacement motorcycle in China.  To my great surprise, there are at least three Chinese manufacturers still cranking out BMW clones.  This model, the 5-Star, is based on the pre-World War II 750cc flathead BMW.  They all have sidecars.

Our Beijing guide, Wayne, took me to a 5-Star repair shop on our last day in Beijing.

 

A close-up of the 5-Star engine.  This is a copy of the flathead 750cc BMW engine.

Getting to this shop was quite a feat.  Finding it was easy, but crossing the street was an adventure.

This mechanic seems to be enjoying his work, and the fact that a crazy American with an F5 Nikon wanted to take his picture.
Some things are universal.  This mudflap was on the back of a 5-Star twin.  The inscription "Live to Ride, Ride to Live" and the eagle motif is a common addition to Harley-Davidsons here in the United States.   I was surprised to see the same inscription and plaque on many motorcycles in China.  Even the smaller bikes (125cc and 90cc singles) had similar adornment.
Here's another manufacturer's copy of a BMW with a sidecar; this time with the OHV 750cc engine.  This motorcycle is built by the LongTech company.
A LongTech-mounted police officer.  Note the OHV BMW-clone engine.
The 250cc Suzuki single is a popular Chinese police bike.
A front view of the 250cc Suzuki police motorcycle.
The fairing on the 250cc Suzuki police motorcycle.  Curiously, the markings are in English.
Lights and sirens on the 250cc Suzuki police motorcycle.
Two motor officers on 125cc Xingfu Chinese police motorcycles.  China has a helmet law, but helmet use appears to be discretionary, even for the police.
Another universal observation:  Writing a ticket in Shanghai.  I shot this photograph with the 70-300 Sigma on our last day in China.
Motorcycles are everywhere in China.  I couldn't resist grabbing this shot in Xi'an.  This photograph, which seems to express casual elegance on a Chinese motorcycle, shows the common practice of a female passenger riding sidesaddle.
Motorcycles were everywhere, and one of the things that made their presence interesting is that motorcycles are not toys or discretionary purchases in China (as they usually are in the United States).  People use them, every day, rain or shine.

This is the only country I have ever visited in which I did not see a single Harley-Davidson.  The motorcyclists I talked to knew all about Harley-Davidson, but none were around.

And how about those ultra-cool retro BMW clones?  Actually, they were not retro designs, like the Harley Softails are over here.  These are motorcycle designs that have been in production, essentially unchanged, for more than 60 years!  I couldn't believe what I was seeing when I looked at those things.  They are magnificent.  I asked what they cost.  You motorcycling enthusiasts better sit down before you read this.  Brand new, and depending on the model, they range from $1,500 to $4,000!  Wow!  Wouldn't it be great to fly over there, buy a new one with a sidecar, ride around China for two months, and just give it away?

Driving in China is, well, different.  Friendly chaos is the best way to describe it.  As nearly as I could determine, a double yellow line means nothing.  Our guides routinely passed cars and motorcycles over double yellow lines, even when there was oncoming traffic.  The general sense of things seems to be that if there is enough room for an oncoming car to move over without nailing a pedestrian, a bicycle, someone on a motorcycle, or another car, they just go.  The amazing thing is that other vehicles simply move over to make room, and no one seems to get mad at anyone else.  Blind corners on mountain roads?  Hey, that's what horns are for!  Following distances could be measured in centimeters, not car lengths.   Driving that way in southern California would probably result in lots of obscene gestures and more than a few bullets flying around.  In China, it's just the way things are.  

After my first few moments in Chinese traffic, I expected that every other building would be an emergency ward or an auto body shop, but I saw neither, and we saw only two minor fender benders during the entire 12 days we were there.  I see that many accidents in southern California just going to work in the morning!



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