Tag Archives: SWM Superdual 650

Reviewing AMH7’s bike predictions

While flicking through AMH7 looking for ideas for the 8th edition, I spotted the box, right, previewing bikes just out, thought to be on the horizon or ones we’d wish to see. Written in 2016, it made an interesting read. The easier-to-read text is at the bottom of the page.

First up: a couple of clangers: when it comes to P-twin 270° crankshaft timing – now all the rage – I clearly got my V4 Crosstourer mixed up with Honda’s more interesting NC750 twins.
Less obviously, I also assumed the short-lived 650 Husky Terra/Strada engines (similar to the BMW 650s) would be used in what has ended up as the SWM SuperDual 600 X and T (above right). It seems the older but lighter TE630 motor passes Euro 4 emissions regs for the moment. That same motor is also used in the predicted AJP PR7 which is now out, as well as the current CCM 650 Spitfires and CCM’s forthcoming adventure bike to replace their short-lived GP450.

So, did the CRF1000L Africa Twin become an instant classic? It’s certainly become a popular adventure-styled bike, though not necessarily as popular a travel bike compared to the old 750. Probably because today’s range of great bikes makes the new AT less unusual.
The talk now if of a new 1100cc version for 2020, and possibly a 700- 850 after that, because the Africa Twin concept easily outsells the older and less fuel efficient V4-engined Crosstourer 1200 and Crossrunner 800. I’d love to see the heavy NC750X turned and not just styled as an all-terrain travel bike, but that’s a bit too radical. So will rallyfying the CB500X and calling it a mini AT. The alternative is a new P-twin engine for the 700/850 which seems unlikely unless it’s attached to a rang of bikes like the CB500s. Will they pitch it against the tech-heavy KTM790 or the plainer XT700? If the original 1000L is anything to go by, Honda will aim at the Yamaha.

Still with Honda and, hallelujah, in 2018 they surprised us with a CRF450L! Saly, it took one quick look to realise it was just their 450R dirt racer with indicators and – bizarrely for Europe – detuned by over 50% down to 25hp. Worst still, it costs nearly 10 grand and – officially – requires oil changes every 1000km. As my Himalayan has proved, 25hp is nearly enough to live with, but 1000-km oil changes are not, let alone the asking price. Yes, oil changes could be pushed if the bike is not hammered, but not by several 1000kms. Using the CRF…L designation for a street legal dirt racer was a bit of a dirty trick.

The 660 motor in Yamaha’s XT660Z did indeed fall foul of emissions regs, but seeing only Tracers and XSR700s, my assumption that a CP2-engined Tenere had been overlooked was too gloomy. After an advance promotion as drawn out as Honda’s Africa Twin, the XT700 will finally reach European dealers by September and the US a year later. And with the much admired Tenere brand and knowing the brilliant CP2 motor, I predict the XT7 will become an instant classic even faster than the AT.

As we all known Enfield’s Himalayan did also come to pass. There’s me on mine in the Sahara a couple of months back. Read my 4000-mile review here. And so did the KTM technically sophisticated 790 parallel twin on road and all-road versions, a category which is now described as ‘midweight’. At around 200 kilos, it’s about as heavy as you want in a travel bike.

swms

They say a KTM 390 Adventure may also due out for 2020. The 440 SWMs turned out to be nothing special, playing it safe with retro styling and branding. Who knows, they may bang out a modern travel bike with the 29-hp 440cc motor, but currently discounted by 30% in the UK suggests they’ve not caught on.

Look out for more hit and miss predictions in next year’s fun colour AMH8


BIKES TO WATCH, WAIT AND TO WISH FOR [2016]
Now a compact parallel twin rather than the original V, thirteen years after the XRV750 ended (the XL1000V Varadero has been expunged from the records) I’ll stick my neck out and say the new Africa Twin (right) will become an instant classic.
Adopting both the irresistible off-beat 270-degree crank of the Crosstourers NC700/750s (and Super Téneré), there’s also optional ‘automatic’ DCT shifting and traction control, both fine tuned for off-roading. The ABS version is 232 kilos wet, but the 21-inch front wheel puts it closer to the KTM category than the GS12, while being much cheaper than both. The fact that they’ve ‘only’ given it 96hp (the same per litre as the CB500X) means they’ve side-stepped the giant adv horsepower race and the 18-litre tank could be good for 400 clicks.
They’re even calling it a CRF1000L to capitalise on the 250’s success. In that case let’s hope they fill the gap with a modern day XR400/Dominator hybrid, a rallyesque CRF450L single with a load-carrying subframe. While we’re dreaming I suppose we’ll settle for an injected DRZ450 or a similar sized mini-Ténéré. Isn’t anyone paying attention to CCM’s GP450?
Talking of which, they say in Europe new emissions regs may spell an end to the XT660Z. The ABS version may be the last gasp, but as it is the XT-Z’s UK price alongside the very popular MT-07 is having the same effect. When a street scrambler-styled XSR700 was annonced, there was some hope the 07’s brilliant 700cc, 270°-crank motor might also get Ténerised, but it now looks like it’ll just be a Versys- or V-Stromlike MT-07 Tracer.
Instead, AJP’s PR7 rally-raid clone might be out by now, last I heard using the Husky twin-cam TE630 engine and not the Minarelli-built XT660Z’s motor. We can also expect an Enfield Himalayan by the time you read this, an adventure-styled 500 which might see Enfield try and break from their reliance on old-school plodders.
‘They say’ – or should that be ‘we are all hoping for…’ a mid-weight KTM parallel twin as an alternative to the beserker V-twins. You can add a mid-weight Triumph to that wish list too, though the 800-cc triples are lighter than you’d think.
As for an adventurised KTM 390, some would sooner see the tasty SWM 440 prototypes (above) reach production, even if the SWM’s RS650 and SM650R (rebadged old Husky Terra/Strada 650s) TE630s) will probably come first. 


The Chinese travel bikes are coming

Updated Summer 2020
See also: Mash 400 Roadstar • Fantic 500 Caballero

chinee

Since this page was originally researched in 2015, it might be better to say: The Chinese Travel Bikes are Here. Each year China pumps out millions of sub-250s and scooters for users who need no-frills runabouts or workhorses. So does India, and it’s an open secret that many long-established and familiar motorcycle marques have been manufacturing in China for years, even if some high-end models may get assembled closer to home. Chinese origin isn’t considered a great selling point, but it’s easy to turn a blind eye as long as you have a familiar European logo on the tank.

On the right: this long article condensed into one page for AMH8.

chinmoto

It’s much less easy to persuade western consumers to buy a native Chinese brand, even if that machine may well have been cast in the same foundry as the marques we know and trust. To get around this, some importers invent ‘Anglo’ sounding brands like Mutt, WK, CSC, Sinnis or Mash.
On top of this, Chinese manufacturers have found a good dodge by buying the rights to defunct European marques like SWM, Fantic, Benelli and even Francis Barnett which older bikers will accept more readily, even if it’s all just a badge on a Chinese motor with some European design input or, as in Fantic’s case, a motor bought in for their running gear.

loncin

Researching this, I’ve come across tales of early adopters getting burned by crumby assembly, irregular running or poor materials. To that you can add getting spares and suspicion when the engine indicates some obscure Chinese marque but the tank shows something else.

I suspect some western consumers are also put off by China’s ruthless manufacturing ethos that doesn’t see merry bands of workers attending communal keep-fit sessions in the company car park each morning, let alone provide the sort of workers’ rights or environmental concerns we take for granted in the West. True or not, this is mainly why established bike marques play down the Chinese connection, even if what holds most of us back from buying all-Chinese is unknown reputation and crippling depreciation, rather than a prickly social conscience.

... Some of the more famous examples [of joining forces with more famous foreign manufacturers incude…] Loncin (BMW), Zongshen (Piaggio and Norton), Qinqi (Suzuki and Peugeot), Jianshe (Yamaha), Lifan (MV Agusta), Qianjiang (owners of Benelli), Jialing (Honda), and CFMoto (KTM).  

David McMullan
chongqing

As far back as the early 1980s Honda established partnerships with the Chinese Jialing factory and within a decade Yamaha and Suzuki made similar arrangements. By 2011 China overtook Japan as the world’s largest bike manufacturer, with many factories based in Chongqing (left).

Around 2006 Chongqing was renowned as the white-hot epicentre of China’s urban industrial gold rush, but according to this article, the gold rush waned. The recession, adverse currency rates and the strength of other markets like India (where English is more commonly spoken) have seen China’s motorcycle production slow or even reverse.

Back in 2006 there [were] over 100 motorcycle companies operating production lines in Chongqing alone, a good proportion of them ‘one line’ export factories that provided super-cheap models for the African and domestic markets. Unlike India in which the Hero Group and Bajaj share a huge proportion of the market the Chinese market was shared by a multitude of smaller companies. The number of Chongqing motorcycle factories still operating is now less than 40 relevant companies and is likely to reduce even further over the coming years.  

David McMullan
adventures-1977-20

Take this all back half a century and you can imagine our bike-riding forebears (or younger selves) grappling with the same ‘Made in Hong Kong’ suspicion as Japanese bikes began to make their mark. Even when I started biking in the late 1970s you planted your boots in either the ‘Brit Shit’ or the ‘Jap Crap’ camp.

motopig1

Broadly speaking, the Chinese have adopted the same strategy as Japan: start by banging out cheap, small-displacement utilitarian machines, then move in on the smaller volume, bigger-engined bikes with a higher markup, while getting into racing to speed up the R&D. Just like the Japanese in the 60s, the Chinese are on the march as they attempt to tune in to what affluent western buyers might consider, now that the load-carrying-runabout markets are saturated.

shine
swm650x

Established in the late 90s, Shineray (as in ‘Shine-Ray not ‘Shiner-ay’ if the company motto above is any guide) are one of the Chinese marques said to specialise in trail and off-road machines. 
In 2014 they bought the Italian SWM name, last heard of in the 1970s. Around the same time Shineray also acquired an old factory off KTM in Italy with a batch of Husky models. That SWM Superdual on the left uses the old 600-cc Husky TE630 engine, but in the flesh was not so inspiring. Shineray/SWM have since diversified into SUVs.

franban

Judging by what I saw at a Classic Bike show, the even older Francis Barnett marque (right) has had a similar makeover. Buy the rights to a heritage brand then design a suitably old-school look around your Chinese- or Indian-made machine. For an anonymous Chinese factory which nevertheless monthly pumps out more bikes than are sold in the UK each year, it’s a quick way of getting wary western consumers to buy your product, whether they know it or not.

shine400

GB250TT

In a similar vein established French motorcycle importer SIMA created the Mash Motorcycles brand. They’ve taken a proven Shineray XY400 (above) and refined it. It’s an appealing Brit-based retro look that some twenty years ago became popular in fad-prone Japan, if not in Britain itself. That early 90s GB250TT on the left was one of many similar machines made for the Japanese market and which are now cropping up as pricey and exotic UK imports.

sinnis250

The 250 Retrostar from Sinnis (left) bore a very close resemblance to the Mash 400 retros, but, Sinnis is now using Zongshen (see below), not Shineray.
In 2020 Sinnis announced the Terrain T380 Adventure twin, which is more or less a CSC

The fact is you can spend a long time trying to untangle these Chinese whispers. But with Chinese bikes origin is important. Is it a Jap clone, licensed or otherwise, a copy, or a cheaply made fake?

mash-06

At a Classic Bike show I got the chance to see some close-up. Chinese 250s are two a penny, but with a more overlandable capacity of 400cc, could a Mash retro be a contender as a base bike? I’ll admit that part of me is attracted to the idea of regressing towards a retro-styled machine: the appeal – however flawed – of a simple and inexpensive low-key, leg-over overlander that you can adapt to your needs. My 2019 Himalayan fitted that category. A close look before the crowds rolled in revealed a quality of finish that was hard to separate from a similar Japanese bike. A few days later I took a Mash for a test ride.

shin400
XBR500

Many assume the motor is an XR400 clone, but it’s actually derived from the 400cc version of the similar, late-eighties kick-and-electric XBR 500 cafe retro (right), also sold in Japan as the ‘Manxified’ GB500.

I was once deliberating over a back-to-basics 400 overlander when it transpired that manufacturers in China might do the job for me, producing adventure-styled bikes but with full equipment.

zongRX3

One such machine is the Zongshen RX3 Cyclone sold under various badges in the UK, the US (5000-mile report) and Russian-speaking lands, but it’s just another 250. What’s wanted is a 400’s added torque so you don’t have the scream the motor when overtaking a lorry up a hill.

WK‘ is the UK brand of the Chinese CFMoto marque – one of the bigger players in the bike game which gets sold as ‘CFMoto’ in other western markets. They were unusual in briefly being one of the few Chinese bike makers to produce a ‘big’ 650 road bike which, bodywork aside, looked based on a Kawasaki ER-6/Versys. But neither that bike, nor anything over 125cc, still features on WK’s website.

wk400
mashadv1

From 2015 there was an initially over-priced WK Trail 400 (above) but within a year it was going for under £3000 and is now no longer listed.
It was the same as the slightly longer selling Moto Mash 400 Adventure (left, quick road test), except the luggage and crash bars were optional. Read how UK WK owners are getting on.
Mash in France are now also selling off their retro-styled 400cc Scramblers and Cafe Racers from as little as 3000 euros. The retro-styled Mash Roadstar (below) has the same 400-cc engine is the same as the Adventure and Trail). I took one out for a day: more here.

mash-16

At 400cc you’d hope these bikes have potentially plugged the gap between the heavier and pricier twins and an over-extended 250. The conclusion I came to reading short tests of the WK400 in BikeOverland Magazine and Rust is that they don’t plug that gap. The bigger capacity doesn’t add up to any greater performance over a similarly priced Jap 250 trail bike in terms of top speed, acceleration, fuel consumption and price, while brakes and lights are said to be poor. Royal Enfield’s Himalayan (below) actually works much better because despite it also being heavy, the torque is substantially greater. That’s the whole point of a 400 over a 250.

In 2019 Mash also introduced the X-Ride Classic 650 air-cooled single (below), with unmissable cues to the much-loved XT500. With low compression, the injected motor makes a claimed 40hp and 45Nm of torque @ 4500 (the heavier Himalayan is 25hp and 32Nm at the same rpm). Gearbox is 5 speed, the tank holds 12 litres, wet weight is about 187kg and wheels are fat 17s, though it looks like there’s room to lace in a 21″ up front.
Since the announcement no one appears to have actually ridden the X-Ride.

SWM 440
Shineray bought former Italian off-road marque SWM in 2014, a way of slipping into the European market which otherwise wouldn’t look twice at a ‘Shineray’ or even a Mash/WK badged machine.

4-swm
swm-silver

SWM produced the Italian-designed 440cc retros shown above, all based on a different engine to the XY400 used by Mash/WK. It’s described as a 435cc; 6-speed, SOHC air-cooled wet sump with no kick. 
These early models were sold off then restyled, and it’s unlikely that SWM will produce an adventure model as that clearly didn’t work for Mash or WK. In this capacity there’s much more demand for retro-styled machines.

husqvarna-baja

Above left, the SWM Silver Vase 440. Conceived at the end of BMWs involvement with Husky, some of its iterations faintly recall the Husky 650-based Baja concept bike (right) that was seen a year or two earlier. But by 2019, when Overland Magazine and MCN tested them, the 440s were being heavily discounted and maybe even discontinued in the UK.

Fantic Motor is another reborn Italian brand whose frantic sports mopeds and cringe-inducing 125cc chopper I recall from the 1970s. Things are looking up: they now have the Caballero range including ‘500s’ in Scrambler (below), Rally and Flat Tracker form (below), plus the latter two as 250s and 125s.

fmcabspek
nc450

These Fantics appear much higher spec than the air-cooled SWMs, using Zongshen’s water-cooled NC450 motor (right) claiming around 42hp.
Could this be the first truly modern Chinese motor in this capacity? I tried out a Scrambler and it sure felt like it. Trouble is, from £6400 up to £7000, the Caballero 500s cost more than a new Honda CB500X in the UK. But maybe not in a year or two.

FMCabFT.jpg
zongrx3
ZRX4-2019-2

The Zongshen RX4 Cyclone sells in the US under the CSC brand. It uses the same NC450 single, but gets restyled as a chunky travel bike alongside their established RX3 250 Cyclone. The 450cc RX4 weighs well over 200kg, but maybe that depends on the full luggage option.

cscrx4

Tank is 20 litres (5.3 USg), the alternator puts out 300w, seat is a friendly 32 inches (813mm) and all for $5795 delivered.
In France, Cyclone Moto sell the Zongshen RX3S 380-cc twin (below). Power, weight and styling are similar to the 450 single; price is from €5000 and in 2020 Sinnis in the UK introduced the near identical bike as the Terrain 380 Adventure.

RX3S