Earlier this year, we revealed design filings for the Chinese motorcycle that was supposed to share a platform with a new small-displacement Harley-Davidson model. That design, filed in China and marketed by Qianjiang as the QJ350, but we noted the parallel-Twin’s engine casing was stamped with the Harley-Davidson name.
The Honda Monkey brings nostalgic feel to the already wildly popular Grom platform. Bikes in this category are small in stature but massively fun and rife with potential. Whatever you can dream up, you can do. I’d like to think Troy and I showcased some of the fun that is to be had with small machines in one of our recent adventures.
Harley-Davidson announced it is partnering with Chinese manufacturer Qianjiang Motorcycle Company to develop a 338cc model for China and other Asian markets. The move is part of the company’s “ More Roads to Harley-Davidson” strategy announced last July for expanding its reach. In this case, Harley-Davidson is targeting Asia’s premium motorcycle market.
Late last year, the MOron crew participated in yet another 24-hour minibike road race, this time aboard the Benelli TnT135. It shouldn’t come as any surprise, but we got spanked – like bringing a knife to a gunfight spanked. Not surprisingly, the winning team consisted mostly of kids who couldn’t reach my head even with their arms fully outstretched. Surely their power-to-weight ratio helped, but we’d be dumb to think the kids weren’t also very skilled at their craft (and a lack of fear helps, too).
You’d think we’d learn our lesson by now with these darn 24-hour races. Our Grom debacle was a serious test of our resolve and had us questioning why we even rode motorcycles in the first place, while our time aboard the Kymco K-Pipe we also rode around the clock didn’t present us with any problems, but boy was it ungodly slow. Maybe in my attempt to recreate the sense of accomplishment that comes with being the first electric team to complete a 24-hour race, I’ve tricked my MO cohorts into thinking racing little bikes for a whole day is fun. Thankfully, being MOrons, we clearly don’t learn our lesson.
Each time we post a story or video around a small-displacement motorcycle, inevitably we’ll see a comment along the lines of, “That bike sucks! It’s way too slow. 1,000cc or nothing, bro!” If you’re one of those people, you’re absolutely going to hate this list. Longtime readers already know this, but if you’re new to Motorcycle.com, you should know that, while we clearly enjoy riding big bikes, we absolutely love riding little bikes – minibikes, even! There are a variety of reasons why, and here we’ve gathered six of them for your consideration. If after reading all six you’re still not convinced, come out with us to give it a try. Really.
Say what you will about Chinese motorcycles; in most cases the MO team would probably agree with you. When your core market is the Asian continent simply looking for cheap transportation, as a manufacturer you stamp out cheap motorcycles by the truckful to meet the demand. Transport nearly any of those motorcycles to the U.S. – where the expectations are entirely different from the Asian market – and we’re going to be severely let down. Moral of the story: a cheap bike is a cheap bike.
If you’re in the market for a motorcycle like the Honda Grom or Kawasaki Z125 Pro, pump the brakes and take a look at this: the Benelli TnT135. No matter how many times SSR, the US importer and distributor for Benelli, say the 135 isn’t aimed at taking down the Grom and Z, it’s impossible to think otherwise. Priced at $2,499, the TnT undercuts the Kawi by $700 and the Honda by $850 (which jumps to $900 if you’re looking at the 2019 Grom). When you’re talking about price points this low, this is a massive difference.
We were intrigued when Honda introduced its Grom for the 2014 model year, as the little 125cc street-legal playbike looked to be a fun and accessible way to ride a motorbike around town. It proved to be one of Honda’s best-sellers in its street lineup. It was lightly updated for 2016, which inspired a ridiculously fun shootout between new competitors from Kawasaki (Z125), Kymco (K-Pipe 125), and the SSR Razkull.
An Italian is joining the small-displacement fun with the other kids, bringing to the U.S. market the 2018 Benelli 302R. The 302R carries the same inline two-cylinder motor as the previously seen in the Tornado 302, an Italian-designed, Chinese-manufactured naked bike from Benelli.
Three years ago in its maiden season, the Yamaha FZ-07 came out with both 80mm pistons blazing to take the win from five other tasty middleweights (including the KTM 690 Duke) in our 2014 Middleweight Mash-Up Six-Way Shootout! Last year, we threw the Yamaha in with the Duke 690 again – also the reborn Suzuki SV650 (alongside Gabe’s old SV, because why not?), and watched as the Yamaha lost out to the Duke by the slimmest of margins (a different set of testers…), on its way to beating up (barely) the new Suzuki SV.
When it comes to naked inline-Four 600cc streetfighters, Benelli’s TnT600 Tornado is in a class of its own due to an absence of competitors. Similar motorcycles exist in parallel-Twin form from Honda (CB500F $6,099), Kawasaki (Z650 $6,999), Yamaha (FZ-07 $7,199), and a V-Twin from Suzuki (SV650 $6,999), but each of those is two pistons shy of the four-cylinder Benelli. However, just last week Honda announced that its four-cylinder CB650F (a naked middleweight based on the faired CBR650F) will be imported to America beginning this August for the 2018 model year. A price has yet to be announced, but we expect an MSRP around $8k.