China On-Road Motorcycle Bans
The negative effect motorcycle bans in China’s urban centers on the industry as a whole has been well documented – but it has recently been revealed that off-road riding has experienced a boost as a result. There is a growing army of Chinese youths who ride for fun, rather than purely to get from A to B.
We have recently seen evidence to confirm the increase in the popularity of off-road riding when Shineray took over Italian off-road bike specialist SWM. That deal was a real statement of intent regarding producing top quality dirt bikes and is expected to be the start of a series of business deals and cooperation agreements between Chinese manufacturers and once great producers of dirt bikes.
In September 2014, the Chongqing off-road motorcycle manufacturer Shineray acquired the Italian motorcycle factories, facilities, products, and technologies of SWM at a price of around 25 million Euros and established a Shineray European motorcycle centre. In early November the Shineray president Gong Daxing took his marketing team to EICMA 2014 and announced to the world that Shineray was taking a big leap forward in dirt-bike production and that they had acquired the rights to build three Husqvarna models under the SWM and Shineray brands.
And so after many years of inactivity the SWM Motorcycle was back on the market, introducing six street and off-road bikes with engine sizes between 300 and 650 cc, with advanced features (for a Chinese manufacturer) such as the double overhead cam engine, fuel injection and Euro 4 homologation. This is the starting point of a wider global project, which is quickly heading toward the production of 125 cc engine bikes aimed to satisfy a young Chinese audience and other specific motocross and endurance competition bikes. Shineray have announced their wish to carry on the evolution and stated that “more high impact models will be added to the SWM range in the future.”
The boost in interest for off-road riding was evident at the China Motorcycle Parts Fair’s (CMPF) April edition. In a press conference attended by the who’s who of China’s motorcycle media it was noted that all of the new motorcycle factories springing up were concentrating their efforts on dirt-bikes as a speciality. This has led many motorcycle parts exhibitors to add specific dirt-bike sections to their stands for the October 2015 edition.
One of the problems facing off-road enthusiasts is the lack of space to follow their passion as the new phenomenon has reared its head primarily in the cities of China where the urban sprawl has taken away any chance of “natural” off-roading. One of the options taken by this new generation of dirt-bikers is to wait until evening and use local building sites as motocross tracks, not the safest option but one that is becoming increasingly more popular as I can personally attest (I can hear the engines at night from the building site across the Yangtze river from me).
It is however only a matter of time before new professional MX facilities spring up around China. Not least of these will be the top level venue being built in Chongqing by the WangQiang motorcycle company which will be fully able to host FIM level motocross, Supercross and sidecar cross events. WangQiang have also invested heavily in putting together a top level MX team and will also be importing famous brand off-road bikes from Europe for sale in China.
Song Sheng, owner of WangQiang Motorcycles commented “although selling motorcycles is our livelihood most of us are enthusiasts as well. Our new project will be to create an international class motocross/ Supercross track in Chongqing. There is a distinct lack of motocross and off-road facilities in China with most off-roaders electing to ride on any scrap of rough ground they can find in the city. They also ride in the countryside and up in the mountains, but they are so far outside of the city that any accident that occurs is a potential disaster! Our plan is to build a centre of learning within a complex that is dedicated to off-road sports including quad racing and sidecar cross. Enthusiasts will be able to sign up for a series of lessons and the track will be available for corporate race days.
One of the events that we’re really looking forward to organising is an inter-company race day with all the Chongqing companies putting bikes and riders in teams to compete with each other. As there’s over eighty motorcycle manufacturing companies in Chongqing is should be easy to get enough willing participants and the idea would be that the company workers, lads and lasses from the production lines that are the riders.
Ultimately our aim is to host a round of international motocross here; this we feel will really get the whole off-road racing phenomenon started in China. Before we can do this we have to make sure that we have a set domestic calendar for a round of domestic racing in China, at the moment they just seem to appear randomly.”
In terms of motorcycle export the positive effect of having a serious motocross culture is that Chinese manufacturers will have to start to up their game when it comes to producing them.