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The Chinese Motorcycle
7 December 2019, 20:18,
#1
The Chinese Motorcycle
Back in the 1970s Honda came out with a nice new overhead cam small bore engine and released it onto the world. It did very well and has been improved and expanded through the decades.

It did well in the civilized western world, not so much in the third world nations. It seems the people in those areas were more interested in putting food on the table than changing oil every 1000K and the short and intense service intervals, along with the high price of the new motorcycles was not so appealing to them. Honda small bore engines began blowing up at a rapid rate and the consumers turned to other makes and models.

Honda did a study very quickly and decided they needed a special machine for these emerging nations where the mechanics were not factory trained, oil was what and where you could find it and fuel had to be strained through burlap as it went into the tank.

What they came up with was the Honda CG. You still have it in GB, but sadly it has not been available in the U.S. Its description makes it an ideal "bug out bike" or general use machine for a hard times scenerio.

To get anything that resembles the CG we in the U.S. must resort to drastic means. We must do research and find out what is available that will substitute for this wondrous engineering feat. And if you look closely you can soon find the very same machine, even made by the same firms that produced it for Honda,,,,in China.

A year ago I went on the quest to find a good bike for bumming about the countryside here in the rural areas of Kentucky, which resembles the area of Wales around the Black Mountains, from what I can see from motor volgs, backpacking videos and car camping serials on the internet. Narrow winding roads, mixed deciduous forest, dry stone fences, cows and sheep. Well not so many sheep, just an occasional goat.

I bought a Royal Enfield Himalayan, and I have been very pleased with it. My only problem is that it is a big heavy machine. Not as big as some but at 200Kilos it is a b!%&h to pick up if it falls over and it has the tendency to do that without provocation, ignoring the presence of its sidestand and heading for the ground while in parked position with great regularity. Oddly, I have never dropped the bike while it was moving, but when it stops it likes to lie down for a nap.

While deciding on the RE I did study the presence of the multitude of chinese bikes on the market and brushed them aside. I wanted a "real bike", not a toy that would fall apart as it rolled down the road on its first use.

But as I studied I realized that these Chinese copies of the Honda were improving to some extent. There are whole forums of "china riders" and many import firms are now bringing these bikes to market in various forms. And they are cheap!!!

One form is the copy of the Honda CRF 250. Some of the older riders will remember that this bike began as a 230cc, and that 230cc motor was produced in China for many years. It still is.

So I saved my pennies, we still have pennies over here, for several months and made the purchase of a Chinese copy of a Honda CRF250 which came to me by way of a long distance shipping company packed in a crate and set on the ground at my door by a freight lorry driver.

Yes folks, I bought a Chinese motorcycle that came in a box! not only did it come in a box, it arrived in the middle of the first snow storm of the winter.

I covered the box with a tarp and waited out the weather, looking out the window occasionally to insure that no one came along and ran away with my boxed, disassembled, machine.

About four days latter we had a day that reached the low 20 temps ad it stopped raining for a bit so I ran out to the front porch and tore open the box, revealing a mass of plastic and metal all covered with thin protective film. I tore it open like a kid at Christmas and went to work.

What I had was a copy of the Honda CRF with an enlarged CG 125 engine blown out to 230cc and offering a proposed 15hp and about 20FT/LB torque. 5 speed gearbox and exceptionally low gear ratio on the front and rear sprockets. Anything that did not have to be made from metal was made from plastic and it was all white plastic painted a hideous "zombie green" that was apparently intended to remind one of something made by Kawasaki.

This was like assembling furniture from IKEA, except you sit on it and it goes faster. I installed the front forks, then the handle bars, got the front wheel in place, then went over every bolt in the machine with spanner, torque wrench and thread locker adhesive.

I changed the fluids too. It told me right there in the owners' manual that I needed to put fresh oil in before I ever fired the machine up, along with fork oil and heavy grease on the swing arms and steering head.

One of the things I discovered when changing the oil was that there is no oil filter, just a screen to catch the big stuff. When Honda redesigned this engine they left the filter off since no one in the backwaters of Indonesia had access to a filter or the money to buy one. In fact, they were using used motor oil from the bosses truck to top up their fluids. So this thing does not use expensive or specialized lubes, just 10w40.

My scooter with the GY6 engine is made the same way. No filter, just change the oil every 1500K, it says 975 mils, which happens to be a quart. So if you can come up with a quart of oil every 1000 miles you are good to go with the scooter. The 230cc bike takes 1.1L or 1 1/2 quarts.

I have not checked the mileage yet, but anticipate 60-100 mpg. My RE gets 50.

This bike was designed by Honda to survive what we would consider to be an Apocalypse. Every prepper should own one!

I even checked the spokes for tension, not trusting the Chinese with my personal welfare, I think some of those guys used to shoot at me long ago and far away. But then the Japanese once did the same thing to our fathers, along with the Germans and we now buy Japanese bikes at alarming rate and the BMW sets the standard for European touring bikes, even though they have a 40% failure rate in the first year of use. Yep, warranty services reveals that 40% of the BMW cycles are into the shop for a major repair in their first year. My neighbor up the road has had his GS310 in the shop for the past two months waiting for a new brake system to be furnished on recall. He took it in for the work and they kept it, will not give it back until repaired and the factory can not provide the parts yet.

I did all of that, and at my slow 70 year old pace it took two days. A youngster of 50 could probably do it in 3 hours.

Last thing, I installed the battery and dumped in a gallon of fuel. I set the choke, pushed the starter button and to my complete and utter amazement the bike motor turned over a couple of times and roared to life!

!!! IT RAN !!!

Did I ride it? No, not that day.

I hooked the utility trainer to the Jeep and rolled the device onto that wheeled platform and drove it down to the Motor Vehicle Department where the local Sheriff checked the vin number, looked at the odometer, wrote some things on a paper and sent me upstairs with the comment of "good luck".

The clerks at the MVD looked at my "certificate of origin", said "what is that?" and I told them about getting my motorbike in a box, which was why the mileage was zero!

They immediately said "From where?", and I told them the story of Honda's plight in the third world and the evolution of my bike and the history of the Chinese ripping off patents and their eyes sort of glazed over and they told me they would see what they could do about getting a title, since few in Kentucky could find China on a map. Fortunately the sheriff saying it had all its blinkers and two tires and fenders allowed me to get the vehicle registered and tagged, which was all I was really worried about.

No, resale or resale value, or even a transferable title is not an issue with this machine. I bought a disposable bike! I paid your equal to 1000 pounds for this machine and if I use it for a couple of years, it falls apart, and I put the motor on a go-cart I will consider it a success. Likewise, if the engine fails and I steal one off a lawn mower to propel the device I will consider it a success.

With new license plates, insurance papers and approval from TPTB in hand I went home, unloaded the bike from the trailer and rode it about up and down the lane. After all that excitement at the MVD I needed a nap, so I parked it and went inside.

Three days latter the temp shot back up to 20 something from the lows around freezing we had endured and I got bundled up and took a proper shakedown ride. Down to the village for petrol to the full mark and off we went.

Up the hill, down the hill, around the curves and across the horizon I rode the little bike, constantly waiting for the front wheel to fall off, the chain to turn to whirling shrapnel, or the motor to seize up and send me flying over the handle bars.

Oddly, nothing happened, nothing bad anyway. I put 20 on the odometer and drove home a happy pappy.

The next day I rode some more and as I got used to the bike I have discovered some things that have surprised me.

First, the quality of the engine and running gear is surprisingly good. The "Zongjen" factory made motors for both Honda and Yamaha and they seem to know what they are about. Their engines are also replaceable here in the states, I can buy a new on for $500 U.S., which is almost half the price of the bike.

The bike rides and drives well. Not as solid and steady as my RE, but good enough for running about on the back roads where it belongs. It's not a race bike, not a sport bike and not a touring bike. It's a bike to run to the store, run down to the lake for a bit of fishing, or just putting about on a nice day.

It has some serious low end use. This thing will creep like crazy! You can put it in first and it barely moves and refuses to stall out until at dead stop. My RE will not do that. If you want to win the "slow race" this is the bike for you.

I do need to pay some serious attention t the carburetor. It needs to have the proper jets installed for my climate. That is a job usually done by the dealer when they unpack the bikes, but I skipped that part. The only thing they were worried about when they shipped this thing was that it would pass the import tests "as is", start and run. I am limited on my top speed by a motor that is so lean it thinks the choke is on eternally. They jet them lean to insure they pass the U.S. and EU pollution rules. I have already ordered a set of new jets, available from Ebay for $4.

I also noticed that the odometer was spinning at an alarming rate, until I realized it was reading in kilometers rather than miles! The speed is marked in MPH but the distance is recorded in kilometers. I need to check the accuracy of the spedo also, they are always off by a good bit. Thank God for GPS and satnav.

One other thing I discovered is that this bike can be picked up from a "fell down" situation by an old man! No, I did not drop the bike, I just had to wrestle it around a bit while assembling it and noticed that it weighed 100 kilos as compared to the RE which weighs 200 kilos, or close to it.

Yes, the RE is more solid, looks better, runs better, rides better, and I leave it in the car park wondering how embarrassed I will be to beg for help standing it back up if it falls over. The RE will still go on the long trips, carry the camping gear and do a lot of the fun stuff, but this little Chinese bike is one I am looking forward to wearing out.

Now, where does this bike live? It lives on the patio, under a cover, waiting for immediate use. It is not in the shed with the RE and scooter, stabilizer in the gas, battery removed and stored, waiting for spring to return with sunshine and warmth. It sits there on the concrete slab, waiting for a day in the high teens or low twenties in mid December, with no rain, so I can jump on it and run to the village for a burger.

https://www.txpowersports.com/Taotao_TBR...r7-250.htm
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7 December 2019, 20:55,
#2
RE: The Chinese Motorcycle
What a great read MB ! ……….you got me wanting another bike pal! think I got the bug ! besides that old Montessa 150 cc trials has just about had its day …..my nephew has seen to that.
To take a look back in times past, its easy to see future direction you need to be.
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9 December 2019, 16:59,
#3
RE: The Chinese Motorcycle
You guys get a whole lot bigger selection of Chinese imports than we do over here. It is mostly due to your licensing laws requiring a period on a 125cc before getting a full license, so there is a huge market for a cheap bike that will last 2 years, from 17-19 after which it will be fit only for the trash heap. Then you buy a "real bike". So you have a big market for "disposable bikes" over there, hence the new wave of Asian imports, not just Chinese.

Many people do not realize that all of the "big four" Jap suppliers are having their wares built in Java, Tia land, Philippines, Indonesia and Viet Namn as well as the Chinese mainland.

And then there is India, New home of a lot of new marks.

It has always been the parts and support network that dooms cheap import bikes over here. I made sure I could get repair parts and regular maintenance parts before I bought this new toy.

One of the key features of my Royal Enfield is that I can buy parts from my dealer, and have a support network locally, but I can also order accessories and parts directly from India. I thing that is what the dealer does too, since I can get the parts in 4 days shipped or 5 days from the dealer if he does not have them in stock.
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10 December 2019, 11:23,
#4
RE: The Chinese Motorcycle
(9 December 2019, 16:59)Mortblanc Wrote: You guys get a whole lot bigger selection of Chinese imports than we do over here. It is mostly due to your licensing laws requiring a period on a 125cc before getting a full license, so there is a huge market for a cheap bike that will last 2 years, from 17-19 after which it will be fit only for the trash heap. Then you buy a "real bike". So you have a big market for "disposable bikes" over there, hence the new wave of Asian imports, not just Chinese.

Many people do not realize that all of the "big four" Jap suppliers are having their wares built in Java, Tia land, Philippines, Indonesia and Viet Namn as well as the Chinese mainland.

And then there is India, New home of a lot of new marks.

It has always been the parts and support network that dooms cheap import bikes over here. I made sure I could get repair parts and regular maintenance parts before I bought this new toy.

One of the key features of my Royal Enfield is that I can buy parts from my dealer, and have a support network locally, but I can also order accessories and parts directly from India. I thing that is what the dealer does too, since I can get the parts in 4 days shipped or 5 days from the dealer if he does not have them in stock.
I've ridden a lot of Royal Enfields in India, they really are bomb proof and very easy to fix, be aware the modern ones have electronic ignition unlike the earlier points type.
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11 December 2019, 16:39,
#5
RE: The Chinese Motorcycle
The RE sold in the Indian market are a completely different product than what is sold as export. We do not even get the 350 Bullet here in the States, just the 500, Himalayan and 650 series and all of them are equipped with electronics so they will pass emissions checks, just like every other bike from here or there and sold anywhere these days.

From what I can see having the CDI ignition is not a problem on the RE. It is a very basic system and pretty much "bomb proof" unless the bike happens to be running when an EMP bomb hits 10 meters away.

In fact, being able to remap the CDI is a big bonus since RE has choked the new engines they are making down to pass EU standards. The Himalayan and 650 series are giving a 20% boost in horsepower with a simple replacement of the CDI with an aftermarket unit. An aftermarket exhaust should boost it even more.
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12 December 2019, 16:35,
#6
RE: The Chinese Motorcycle
The CRF 230 has quite a following in the UK amongst Green Laners , it's been around a very long time and the motor/chassis has been used in an off road bike built by CCM to export to NGO's all over the world for outreach work , great motor , very tough , tolerant of most any grade of fuel , easy power characteristics(low powered) great economy , you have made a great choice there Mort , i did the same thing with a Lifan 110cc monkey bike back in 2004 bought crated and i had to build it then submit for an SVA test at our Dept of Transport so i could register it , sadly back then fit and finish was very lacking and i swore of Chinese bikes forever but i have noticed some lasting a bit longer before they turn to scrap just lately , some brands more so than others.
Nothing is fool proof for a sufficiently talented fool!!!!
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29 December 2019, 16:45,
#7
RE: The Chinese Motorcycle
Well we have had a run of very warm weather and I have gotten my grubby spanners to the little motorbike.

That was not before I did some major road time on the little beast to find out its dynamics. I have clocked up a couple of hundred miles on the KY back roads and on a couple of the front roads. The bike rides well and handles great, a credit to the model it is a copy of!

My first modification was to lower the beast front and rear. I have great difficulty with a seat height of 850mm when my inside leg is 750mm. I bought the bike I did due to its adjustable rear suspension. I lowered the front 50mm and the rear 100mm. I can now touch the ground flat footed while sitting on the seat.

As expected, it is choked down to the point of barely running for the emissions passage. Who in the world ever heard of a catalytic converter on a 230cc motor! And the carburetor is sealed to the point that the air fuel mixture screw is covered with a brass plate press fitted in place. The bowl is riveted in place so that adjustment or repair is impossible.

All of this is done to choke a 230cc motor that should make 21-25 BHP to the range of 15 BHP. You folks have 125cc motors from the same Chinese factories that pump out 14hp to hit your A1 limit. Mine should do 20hp easily, attain 70mph top speed and cruise at 55-60 without strain!

Now the motor is still new and running in, but the RPM is restricted to the point that speed is unacceptably low. There is still substantial torque on call but no top end power.

I gutted the exhaust system. The catalytic converter is a piece of rolled up corrugated metal that blocks off half the exhaust pipe to slow the flow of exhaust, bring the pipe to red heat, and burn any residual hydrocarbons before they exit the muffler.

That's gone!

So are most of the internals of the silencer. I am a firm believer that if the exhaust port starts at 25mm diameter it should have an exit path 25mm in diameter all the way through no matter how many twists and turns it takes to quiet the flow.

This bike had a 25mm exhaust port and the outlet at the end of the muffler, the real outlet not the huge hole showing for the world to see, was only 20mm diameter and had a fine mesh spark arrestor screen covering it.

That's gone!

We are a bit loud at this point, but not as loud as the neighbor's Harley, or the other neighbor's Suzuki 650. Or the old lady down the road with the rusted out Toyota Camray.

At any rate, the top speed increased from somewhere south of 50mph to just above 55mph with just the exhaust work. Now that 50mph speed is the velocity I was willing to risk on a new engine that sounded like it was going to explode when I shifted into 5th gear at 45mph! I have not gone for a real top speed run since I am still in break in period. I do not want to run the TT with this thing but a 230cc motor should be able to propel an individual of normal size at 60mph cruising speed with normal gearing.

Some new carburetor jets arrived in the post and the next move is surgery on the rivets holding the carb together. It will get a jet appropriate to the altitude rather than the test machinery. It will also get mid range flow adjusted properly with access to the air fuel adjustment screw. We are speaking of going from a .90mm jet to 1.15mm jet for a 25% increase in fuel air flow and the appropriate power increase.

One of the problems the Chinese bikes have had is they are tuned so lean that they run excessively hot and wear rapidly and blow up due to the heat. They are on the ragged edge of durability to meet the legal standards and then a 16 stone westerner jumps on and winds them out for a few hours and pushes them over the edge and screams about bad Chinese bikes.

In GB that situation might become a little better with the EU4-5 standards that can only be met with fuel injection and computer control. Our laws here are almost identical. One main difference being that testing is done only in major cities. Out here in the boonies they never heard of anything like your MOT. If it rolls you can drive it. There is a healthy aftermarket world of CDI units that have assorted mapping to meet any need.

There are also new sprockets in the post. I presently have a 15 tooth front gear and a 43 tooth rear. With the transmission in its present configuration that allows me to creep at "walking pace" in 1st gear with the clutch fully engaged and not stall the motor. That is great for passing the CBT, or even creeping through mud holes, but not so much for traveling on the A roads, or in my area the green lanes, where one can be smashed if not keeping up. I have a 17 tooth front gear coming from some place near Mongolia. We will see if that 7% change allows me to roll at 55-60 and remain below red line.

Now the cost of this work has been kept in line. I do not intend to fall into that trap where one buys a cheap bike and then spends more than the cost of the vehicle on modifications that would total the price of what you wanted to start with!

The tools I have used I already owned. The carb jets were $10 U.S. for a pack of 10 assorted sizes and one will go into the 230cc and another will go into my 50cc scooter, which is another tale all its own. The gear change will cost another $10 U.S.

Hey, if anyone is headed for the States next spring they can stop by and help me build a 49cc "adventure scooter". That new 750cc Honda X scooter has lit a fire under me! I already have knobbly tires on order.
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31 December 2019, 12:20,
#8
RE: The Chinese Motorcycle
"In GB that situation might become a little better with the EU4-5 standards that can only be met with fuel injection and computer control. Our laws here are almost identical. One main difference being that testing is done only in major cities. Out here in the boonies they never heard of anything like your MOT. If it rolls you can drive it. There is a healthy aftermarket world of CDI units that have assorted mapping to meet any need". (Mortblanc)

That's the great thing about living in the sticks MB, common sense starts at the Tree line.
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2 January 2020, 22:25,
#9
RE: The Chinese Motorcycle
Well that's it then ! I am to old to be doing with a bike No not even a second hand one and NO not even a African trans alp v twin …..I am to get this nonsense right out of my head and think about my grandchildren and not myself ! AND I don't care if Mork just bought a new one !...……..how many more times......its Mort ! ……."its time to put away the toys sweetheart"...….sorry men ….I have to let you down …..well for a few weeks at any rate.
To take a look back in times past, its easy to see future direction you need to be.
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4 January 2020, 00:10,
#10
RE: The Chinese Motorcycle
Well SS, I actually went back to riding bikes after making two realizations.

First was that my friends were all dying, some younger than me, and they were dying embarrassingly.

Heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, cancer...Is dying on a motorbike worse than that?

I have one friend that did himself in by falling in the shower!

Can you imagine finding out that old rough, tough and cantankerous outdoorsman, hunter, fisherman, thrill seeker Mortblanc died by falling in the shower?

I much prefer the thought that some day someone will look at someone else and say, "Did you known that old fool died riding a motorbike? He was seventy-something!"

Now there was a second realization that prompted me to make this foolish choice, that is the fact that both my wife and my mother are dead! Neither of them are around to tell me I can't have one and both had dome so at various times in the past.

That really did tick me off a bit since my wife had once owned a Harley!

At any rate bits and bobs are arriving in the post and I am waiting for a day of warmth and no rain, a condition that has been scarce for a week.

I did get the quick release rig for the battery installed yesterday, so the battery will go in and out in about 30 seconds and stay on the charger while inside.

I made the decision to peel the stick on decals from the plastics on the bike. They were a bit gaudy, as if the zombie green paint scheme were not already bad enough. Now it is simply smooth neon green plastic and I am contemplating a camo paint scheme to match my motorboat.

There is a good side though, if I leave it neon green it is highly visible, especially when I wear my neon yellow helmet! No one can say they failed to see me coming!

I also have a 12v cigarette lighter type plug to install so I can follow Google Earth to my death. We have some roads about this area that do not show up the computer mapping. I can plug the sat-nav in after I install that.
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