"Their just cheap garbage." said the young Honda parts manager. He had a real neat crossed pistons tattoo on has forearm so he must know something, right?
Me? I've got Déjà vu. Seems too I've heard this song before. It's an old familiar tune! I have indeed heard this before.
Back in the early 1960s Triumphs, BSAs and all bikes British were king of the motorcycle hill. Japanese bikes were small, cheap and sold out of little hole-in-the-wall store fronts. At the time I remember all the magazines and British shops all said the Jap bikes were junk. Poor quality, unreliable, used funny metric tools, bad news all around. Just stay with good, reliable British bikes.
Well, we all know how that worked out. Now I hear the same thing about the Chinese. So what is the real truth? I have now worked on a number of Chinese bikes and I can tell you the quality is just fine but there is a problem. Actually it is a problem of our own making. The grim fact is we in the USA are plain, flat, broke. We are looking for the best possible deal but we are still broke. In come the Chinese. They want to sell stuff in the worst way. Someone said "The USA is addicted to buy things cheap, no matter how much it hurts us in the long run and the Chinese are addicted to selling things cheap no matter how much it hurts them in the short run. In other words we import "Stuff" and it destroys our own businesses. The Chinese sell "Stuff" for pennies and their people stay poor.
That's all well and good but what does that have to do with my cheap motorcycle? Simply this. You get what you pay for. There are literally dozens of Chinese motorcycle factories. There are hundreds of parts suppliers. They build a bike and sell it cheap. Trouble is there is basically no support. No parts support, No shop manuals. No factory training or support. They are selling the bike to you at the same price that they would sell to a dealer. When you buy that bike cheap you are becoming the dealer! You are responsible for the support of the bike but no one ever tells you that.
I feel that these bikes are well made for the most part. The only real problem is that the Chinese have not totally figured out what is required to make a good reliable motorcycle for the USA market... yet! For example. I was hired by an internet company to assemble a Chinese ATV for a customer they had who lived near my shop. One of the fenders was cracked so they sent a new one. I noticed the fender was black plastic that was painted. They will soon learn to use colored plastic so the scratches will not show as much. The rear chain was not adjustable from side to side so the chain was not perfectly aligned with the front sprocket. However, they put on 630 chain. The engine was a 250cc. Even with a lot of side wear that monster chain will never break. They are willing to put the time and money into a the machines to make them good but they just have not learned exactly what to do. But they will.
Because you are buying this bike so cheap, you are essentially taking over the dealers job and you are getting paid for it. Your pay is the money you saved by buying a cheap bike! The real question is are you ready, willing and able to be a dealer?
Check this out. Last year a guy brings in a R****a four wheeler. He was an older guy who runs the machine easy. A good thing too. There was not more then a tablespoon of antifreeze in the radiator and the oil looked like treacle (maple syrup). It melted the piston under the intake valve, which was unusual. A piece of the piston had logged in the exhaust valve and the piston had hit the valve bending it.
I called the US distributor and he said the two year old machine was "Obsolete" and he could not get parts for it. He had a piston that might work but if it didn't fit I could not send it back. Fortunately, I was able to get a piston and rings that worked off the internet but could not locate an exhaust valve even after an extensive search. I used a cut down Wisco wrist pin and an exhaust valve out of a Honda XR200. The valve head was too small but I was able to recut the valve seat and make it work, barely.
I'm not sure what the guy would have done if I had not been able to find the parts for it. This problem is going to reoccur until the Chinese get their parts and service manual act together.
The good news is that a number of Chinease Parts web sites, on the internet, can help you out a lot. The bad news is that you have to do a lot of the "Dealer" work yourself.
While I'm on the subject of Chinese parts let me just give you some random thoughts. While you can buy each individual nut, bolt, piston and gasket for most all other bikes the Chinese seem to like to sell "Assemblies" such as the complete carburetor assembly, complete clutch assembly, complete magneto assembly, ETC. This is fine because the assemblies are quite cheap. These different "Assemblies" fit a number of different engines and frames from a number of different Chinese factories. You may or may not end up with extra parts.
For example, there don't seem to be any oversize piston and rings sold for the Chinese bikes. You buy cylinder, ring and piston sets and replace everything. you don't bore them over. However, you can get standard ring sets and pistons for a lot of the Chinese bikes. One problem with a lot of Chinese ring sets is a lack of marking on the rings themselves. On most all ring sets there is some kind of mark on the ring signifying which side goes up. Such is not the case with all Chinese sets. Many ring sets have no markings at all. This is not as bad as it might seem. Simply check out my Ring Page.
The lack of shop manuals is also not as bad as it might first seem. Simply use the general specifications and torque figures as given here in the "Online Motorcycle Repair Course".
Another interesting thing is the availability of cheap, complete engines to repower... well most anything you can fit them in. Got an old Honda 200, a 70 or 90? A bit of modification and you are back on the road for far less then a rebuild.
So there you have it. The Chinese revolution is here to stay. We might as well take advantage of it.