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At first, they laughed... The Chinese are going GP racing

Discussion in 'Racing, Motorsports, and Track Days' started by Loz, May 21, 2008.

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  1. This is big news... China now produces around 11 million motorcycles a year. Its production capacity and sheer volume of manpower position it as the world's greatest manufacturing centre, and it seems the Chinese aren't happy to let Japan keep the meat of the world's motorcycle market.

    So, in order to prove themselves on the world stage, China's biggest bike maker Haojue (remember that name) is entering 125GP in 2009, 50 years after Honda first entered the TT. And they've assembled quite a team to make it happen, including John Surtees, the only man ever to win world championships in motorcycle GPs (7 times) and Formula one.

    Great article here by Mike Hanlon:


    Chinese bikes are seen as rubbish by most westerners right now - just like the Japanese were only a few decades ago. This is the beginning of the movement to change that perception, and it brings to mind a great quote: "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." - Mahatma Gandhi.
  2. Yeah Loz, the people who knock the Chinese bikes tickle me no end.

    I'm just about old enough to remember English bikes ruling the roost (a BSA anyone?) with the odd Italian thrown in for variety.

    Along came the japs, and everyone thought they were joking! Water cooling? Multi-cylinder? Electric start?? Disc brakes?

    It took the British bike industry a generation to recover, and the Italians about the same time....and now what percentage of you ride a non-Jap bike? A fair few, but they're not exactly a joke anymore are they?

    Take the piss out of the Chinky bikes all you like, but in 10 years you won't be slinging your colour co-ordinated knee sliders and black visor over anything else (and I'll still be riding around the outside of you around corners, yer fairies :p )
  3. When Japan entered the market, bikes still had a LONG way to go to improve. In the last 25 years there's been no great changes in how bikes do their thing. More and more bikes have evolved to be water-cooled, DOHC, somewhat standardised capacities and numbers of gears. Things have incrementally gotten better but it's hard to imagine today exactly what could be done so much better, unlike 50 years ago.

    Like most things manufactured in China, unless there's a company standing over their heads enforcing a strict standard of quality, the bikes will be built down to a price, and pushed out the door so long as they're "good enough".

    See it all the time. Until we see the grandstands at the China MotoGP circuit packed to the gills with enthusiastic semi-affluent fans (ala everywhere else in the world), then the business attitude will always remain one of "Build it to a certain price, not to a certain quality".

    Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that it's always going to be that way, but it's going to be further out than 10 years. Maybe more like 20, and then they'll have caught up. Of course, in 20 years time China will have become a lot more affluent, cost of production will naturally increase, and labour won't be so cheap any more.
  4. stew, thats almost word for word, what the old timers around here said about jap bikes, when they entered the market.
    it may feel to you that not much has substantially changed....
  5. Interesting point. Yeah, in the article Mike linked to about the cloned iPhones, it mentioned that a nation-wide minimum wage just went through in China, so they're looking at increased manufacturing costs, which tends to push the emphasis toward innovation and quality.
  6. Nah. The UK bike makers sat on their haunches and did sweet FA while their products were eventually obsoleted, and even when it looked like they were losing their edge, they still did nothing.

    It's quite a different story today unless you expect every single one of the RoW bike makers to sit back, do nothing, and allow competition to roll them over.

    50 years ago too, the Jap bikes were largely crap in comparison, and it did take them 20 years or so to get a solid handle, which if you look at my post, is what I actually predicted is more the time frame for China to come good.

    Let's face it. Hyosung entered the market to a similar tune about 7 years back, and I'm still waiting for them to take over the Australian market with their bikes that are 30% cheaper than anything else.
  7. I suppose the difference was that the Japanese bikes were actually better in many ways than the Brit bikes, something that the Chinese bikes aren't. Don't get me wrong I believe they'll become a player but I don't see what evidence there is that they will be dominant...
  8. Just because we've reached a very comfortable level in current bike develpoment doesn't mean bikes are as good as they'll get, too. Once the Chinese get out of their copying phase and move into creating... Who knows what they'll come up with?
  9. Looking back now we think the bikes of that time had a long way to improve but we are comparing that using current knowledge. The Japanese copied and improved on ideas old and new, they made them work where others said "Why?". Who needs disc brakes? Why run water cooled motors?

    The Japanese saw ideas and opportunities and sold them to the world. They started copying but then started inovating. Anyone who believes the Chinese won't is kidding themselves.

    Another point is that with modern technology the design, test and learn process is very much shorter these days than when Japan had to do it manually. You can design test and verify an idea on a computer in less than half the time of actually building the item.

    I believe that if the Chinese start they will be up there in five years.
  10. Yes, but DOHC, telescopic forks, water-cooling, and disc brakes, and beam frames were invented long before the Japanese ever started doing them. The Japanese just persisted with ideas that were being sat one due to the dominance of the British bike makers that were making no effort to capitalise on ideas that needed developing.

    All of those things that we take for granted today on Japanese bikes were invented 20-30 or more years before the Japanese even got into the market.

    Name me 5 worthwhile ideas/advancements for motorbikes that already exist in prototype form, but haven't yet been put into production, that the Chinese could develop and capitalise on.

    There hasn't been a single new idea on bikes for well over 50 years. Pretty much everything today is a new take on an idea that was developed in concept well over 50 years ago.
  11. Well, to answer my own post, I'd personally like to see rotary engines brought back into use on bikes given Mazda's success with the RX-8 in making it reliable. Perhaps the best way to move forwards in engine technology in terms of light weight and power as a means to replace the 2-strokes which are earmarked for environmental demise. If the MotoGP crew opened up the rules for inclusion of rotary engines, we might see something exciting happening in engine development.

    Perhaps true Hossack style front-end suspension, as opposed to the BMW kind which isn't really Hossack.

    Perhaps center-hub steering ala the Bimota Tesi's, which by all right is a very superior design but just needs some development time and dollars thrown at it to really make it shine.

    As a wild idea, I'd like to see some form of electronically controlled spoilers. As the bike leans, spoilers on the outside of the bike pop up to create more downforce to allow for greater cornering traction and therefore, cornering speed. When the bike returns upright, the spoilers retract. Unsure how light weight it could be done, but I'd envisage spoilers popping out from the bottom of the fairing panels.

    There's a few things still worth trying/developing.
  12. Front suspension is a big opportunity. I'm fascinated with funny front ends, forks seem such a compromise.

    Then there's electric engines. That's a whole field we'll see opening up in the next ten years and nobody owns it yet. The possibilities there are enormous. Adjustable ergonomics are something the Japanese are juuuust starting to fiddle with. Supercharged/turbocharged engines. Tiptronic transmissions with launch assist. Etc etc etc...
  13. Not sure if replacing a valveless one-bang-per-rev engine with a valveless three-bangs-per-rev engine will do much for emissions. :)

    Admittedly the RENESIS in the RX8 did improve the wankel rotary emissions a lot with the decreased overlap between intake and exhaust, so perhaps it's not so bad these days...

    Definitely suspension and such though.
  14. I think the piston engine has come as nearly far as it can go. Rotaries are an interesting concept but i think there next on the chopping block after 2 strokes because of emmisions.
    I think the future probly lies in light weight electric motors but it might take a while for them to develop some decent reliable power output and a battery that is up to the task.
  15. Suzuki RE5 Rotary 1974—1976


    Some facts and pictures Suzuki's rotary (Wankel)-engined bike.

    Suzuki presented its first, and only, rotary engine powered motorcycle at the Tokyo Show in late 1973. The RE5, as the model was called, was Suzuki's technical flagship at the time and a fine motorcycle. The engine, originated from NSU in Germany, was smooth, quiet, powerful and had hardly any vibrations, thanks to its construction with no parts moving back-and-forth like the usual Otto engine.

    The rotary, or Wankel, engine has a number of benefits over standard engines including a lack of camshafts, intake and exhaust valves, and a reduced number of moving parts. Many manufacturers experimented with the engine type and some prototypes were presented in the early 70's but Suzuki was the only motorcycle manufacturer that used the rotary engine on a mass produced bike.

    Suzuki presented the engine sometimes as 1000cc, because some regulatory bodies de-rate the engine by doubling the chamber capacity. The actual cylinder capacity was 497 cc.

    The design of the RE5 was not as revolutionary as its engine. The instrument panel and tail light were contained in cylindrical shapes to play on the rotary theme, otherwise the bike looked a lot like the company's two-stroke flagship GT750. Also included was a special heat shield since the rotary engine design tended to make exhaust pipes hot enough to burn riders' legs.

    What happened? The customers did find the RE5 interesting, but not many but not many of them actually bought the model. Perhaps it was the new technology that scared off the customs, perhaps it was the heavy fuel consumption that made it. However, Suzuki had invested enormous sums of money to the project and had built an entire new assembly line for the rotary engines but the machines wouldn't sell.

    The cylindrical instrument panel and tail light were replaced by standard type items in 1976, in order to make the bike look more â€normal†but it didn't help much. The model, and the whole rotary engine project, was buried in 1977.
  16. There was a new front suspension type in AMCN, with a front wishbone like a Telelever, and double ended tele forks. Looked quite interesting.
  17. Hydraulic drive?
  18. I think that what we are establishing here is that there is actually a long way that we can go with bike development.

    Wheeling my brand-new ZX-10 out of the showroom 17 years ago, I owned the pinacle of motorcycling development. It produced 125hp, hit 165mph and was just insanely capable in every respect. Magazines openly wondered at the time if there was any improvements that could be still introduced - how could you better that? Fast forward to 2008, and is there currently a Jap 600cc bike on the market that could not blow it away in every measurable respect?

    When you think Chinese, look no farther than electric drills. They used to be expensive, poorly built and simple. Along came Chinky copies at $20 which were, frankly, crap. Then they woke up to what the market required and now you can buy excellent, reliable, robust product (from China) at still a fraction of the cost that we used to pay 10 years ago.

    I suspect that the same thing will happen with bikes. I'm not saying that their stuff is currently rubbish, because it clearly isn't, but believe me it is going to get an awful lot better. And innovative. And stylish. And cheaper. And then you'll buy one - won't you? :shock:

    Trust me.
  19. Technology that hasn't been developed as far as it possibly could for bikes?
    How about forced induction. Yes turbos were tried by the Japanese and failed but that was the early era of turbos and even on cars they didn't work well. Taking the lessons learned by the Europeans on low-boost turbos (eg Volvo, Saab, Mercedes etc.) to provide extra power over a broad rpm range with minimal lag could definitely be an advantage for bikes. Supercharging would also be an option.
    Either way you could see the Chinese offering bikes offering a very impressive power/weight ratio with, more importantly, a very useable torque curve. They've already got single-cylinder 250s. Fuse two of them together into a v or parallel twin and whack on a low-boost turbo or S/C and you could have something interesting. Could maybe even offer a LAMs version by removing the S/C belt ;).
  20. In terms of whether the Chinese can dominate road bike sales, I suspect they probably can. They'll do what the have for every other commodity - produce a crap product at such an unspeakably low price that people can't justify the cost of a quality item, and the competition goes out of business.

    I can safely say that I haven't bought a single chinese-made product (ever) that worked properly out of the box. But usually you live with the compromise, however miserably, because you need to pay five times the price to get something that actually does what it's supposed to do. I hate that way of living.

    The difference with the Japanese in the 60s and 70s, and the Koreans in the 90s, was that the product was cheaper AND better, if not quite as stylish.

    Whether they can compete with the rest of the world at the top level of racing will depend on their ability to adopt a different model. Both China and India are capable of innovation (in science, for example), but have not often chosen to apply that skill to manufacturing and industry.

    (Spiky, I did buy a chinese drill 2 years ago, and not rock bottom price, either. Died after 6 hours use. Have they got better since then?)
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