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What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

Missing the point

I can't remember how this came about, but the other day I found myself looking up reviews for the WK 650 TR, a 650cc Chinese-made tourer that goes under any number of names, including CF Moto. It's a nice enough looking bike, somewhat mimicking the look of a Kawasaki GTR, but probably better compared with a Honda Deauville.

And indeed, the latter comparison comes up quite often if you make the mistake of wading through internet comments about the 650 TR. Comments on Chinese bikes are almost always useless. It is generally all-caps xenophobia countered by the occasional hopeful observation that people used to say the same things about Japanese products. Whether the bikes are any good is a question that is never really answered. And by "good" what I mean is "good enough."

A brand new 650 TR will set you back £5,200 and see you covered by a two-year warranty. Over and over in internet comments you will see the sage advice that it is better to just spend that money on a secondhand Honda Deauville. For some reason, this suggestion annoys the hell out of me. I get so frustrated by the "get a second-hand something else for the same price" argument because I feel that the people saying this are missing the point.

Let's take a look at this handy table I've made:


Number of times bike has been dropped
Number of times bike has been ridden too hard
Number of times bike has been neglected in terms of service
Honda Deauville
???
???
???
WK 650 TR
0
0
0


It goes on and on and on. With a secondhand bike, you are confronted by any number of unknowns. A new bike gives you, at least, the knowledge that certain bad things haven't happened yet. I've had a look at BikeTrader and there are presently 26 Honda Deauvilles available in the United Kingdom for £5,200 or less. Doing a quick bit of math, these Deauvilles are on average nine years old (1) and have 25,000 miles on the clock.

So, the actual comparison is between a brand new motorcycle and one that has seen a lot of years and a lot of road. The first bike comes with a two-year warranty, the second bike comes only with the not-particularly-comforting knowledge that if it were new it would have been a better bike. And this is where comes my question of whether a Chinese bike is any good. Is the WK 650 TR good enough that it will be as reliable and have the same longevity as a well-used Honda Deauville? Assuming one plans to hold onto the bike for six years (1), which machine will be producing the least amount of headaches in 2019?

On a side note, I don't really want one of these bikes. I'd take one if offered, but if I had £5,000 on hand it would almost certainly go toward a Triumph of some sort. But that's personal preference; the bikes I want are apples to this particular orange. My issue is with the culture that dismisses Chinese bikes and won't fairly assess their worth. Are these bikes good enough? I've not seen any articles that really answer that question.

–––––

(1) Which means the bike would not meet Euro 3 emissions standards. Older vehicles are exempt from having to comply to these standards but the rider still has to live with the knowledge that he or she is polluting more.

(2) The average amount of time a Briton holds onto a touring machine, according to this story.

Comments

  1. Chris:

    read this:

    http://www.ashonbikes.com/forum/cfmoto-650-tr-new-chinese-mini-tourer

    you're welcome . . .

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm going to state up front that things change and sometimes I'm behind the times.

    That said, the real issue with Chinese bikes, if one is not just being xenophobic, is what happens when they break. I know several people who have bought and enjoyed Chinese motorcycles. Every single one of them broke down - which isn't unusual for any motorcycle. Motorcycles are getting better every year, but they still break.

    What was notable about the Chinese bikes was that parts could not be had at any price. To a person, they all wound up with useless motorcycle-shaped-objects to replace.

    If cost is a concern I'd still advise, for now, buying a used bike over a new Chinese bike.

    The Chinese manufacturers are going to get their distribution problems figured out sooner or later, and when it's possible to get the parts one needs and keep the bikes on the road, I'll revisit my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have a Suzuki DR650 (not sure where they make that) and my wife has a Chinese built YBR125. Guess which one give me fewer headaches. I don't think the YBR has ever broken down.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It will be really interesting to read long term reviews of this bike. I saw one at the NEC and was really impressed by its styling (more like a mini Triumph Trophy than a Honda Pan Euro) and build quality. The MSL test (by Cathcart) was also surprisingly very positive and away from the xenophobic comments I've read elsewhere, some of which took me back to the early 60s and the first (mass) Honda imports. More importantly for me, it highlights the filling of a significant gap in the 600 to 800cc sports tourer market. Why Triumph, Honda (eg look at what has happened to the VFR over the last few years..) or any of the other manufacturers ignore this, instead producing ever bigger machines and ignoring a significant potential market, is beyond me. I shall be watching for more rider feedback on this machine (and dealer back up) with interest.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am 50 years old and have been riding 125 machines for a few years. I hope to pass my test in july and I am looking for a new 500-600 bike.
    So the WK 650 does look interesting, mainly because i will only use the bike in nice weather to pop about. (Sorry car driver usually)
    I have owned chinese 125s and all i can say is they feel like they are produced rather than made, if that makes any sense. You can feel the difference between a Japanese bike and a Chinese bike. But i would rather buy a new Chinese bike than any second hand make. As the Honda 500 CBX is only alittle more expensive I will most likely go for that. ALthough i do own a new Honda CBF125 which is a dissapointing bike and does feel like a chinese copy of itself!
    Richard

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am motorbike mechanic for forty years now...
    Chinese manufacturers having major problems
    Not having ambitions to build “brand names” and “labels”.
    not having experience, quality controls and safety standard is receipts for bad product.
    WE in industry simply calling “made in China” THINGS --- L. L. (looks like)
    Bike like this is put together using of shelf’s parts and everything is “made in China”
    Disk brakes, front suspension tyres and rims, ask yourself who certified this parts?
    Same people which certified this car from link below .......
    http://youtu.be/94HTIueOuDQ

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All Chinese bikes are imported and finished by uk dealer, part easy to get and great dealer back-up, may i add that you would be surprised where some bikes are made.... yamaha's mostly made in china now as are about 1 in ever 4 bikes and cars now-a-days

      Delete
  7. Parts are available through the internet for Chinese bikes, you just can't run down to your local bike shop to purchase certain parts and you will have to wait for them to arrive and you will most likely have to work on the bike yourself. That said I own a Jinlun JL250P and other than the rattles in the body panels, which I have fixed, the darn thing has been a flawless runner at 71 mpg and I run it very hard. The bike sees 80 mph (top speed) at least once every time I take it out. It only used oil the first 500 miles and there is over 5500 miles on the clock now and the dip stick shows full every time I check it. In time I feel that the Chinese will be up to Japanese quality on every part of the bike. Even the Japanese quality was slammed back in the 60s when they first started selling to America. Besides the Jinlun I presently also own a 1985 GPZ1100,1985 Honda V65 Sabre, 1983 KZ 550, 1973 CL 350 Honda. I love them all and maintenance them all my self so I do know what I'm talking about.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have just bought a WK Bikes 650 TR.. get delivery 2nd Sept 2013 (63)… after a 40 mile test ride, various road surfaces. I was impressed enough to part with cash.. I have owned everything (all New) from passing my test Sept 2003 - 2003 A Suzuki 650 SV S3, a 2003 Honda Hornet Naked 900cc, 2004 Blackbird100cc Injection, the Matt black/gold colour, 2004 Yamaha Fazer 1000cc half faired, 2009 Bandit 1250 SA ABS half faired which I am happy to trade in against the new WK 650 TR… will let you know how I get on

    ReplyDelete
  9. Another interesting, though brief, review of the 650tr in the October issue of Bike magazine by Hugo Wilson. It generally confirms some of views of previous reports in presenting a positive picture. There are (again) reservations regarding depreciation and issues of build quality. However, this is certainly a bike to keep an eye on. Lets hope the manufacturer takes all the constructive criticisms on board.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi so after a week of ownership of the 650TR, covered 160 miles... All good so far. Couple of things that could be improved, wish that the side stand was a little longer or positioned slightly forward, which would make the bike stand a little more upright and easier to locate with the left foot to bring it down. As mentioned in other reviews... A clock would be nice as would brighter warning lights and turn signal lights in the dash cluster.

    Fuel usage seems better than the bandit 1250 ABS I px'd, would like to reserve judgement and run for at least a month before I feel I will be confident in saying if it is better (logic says it should be)

    The fit and finish is on par with my old bandit too, no surprises so far, just getting used to less power and the chuga, chuga sound from the twin.... Running in so keeping the revs to max 4K.

    Suspension and ride about the same as Bandit, although i am finding the seat is more comfortable on the 650TR... Wind protection with the higher screen (there are two sizes of screen to choose from at no cost option) and fairing is excellent, I am 5' 8" and short in the leg, so despite the claim of 795mm seat height I am on tip toes when sat on the bike, with the bandit my feet were a little better planted on the ground.

    Panniers remains dry internally during the week when we had the rain, although when I washed it today with the hose there was some water ingress into the panniers, not sure if other makes are water tights.

    The engine did feel tight initially but felt like it started getting more responsive once I had covered around 120 miles.

    No complaints about the tyres, feel confident when riding the bike even in the wet, 7 roundabouts to navigate each way every day, felt planted, tyres good grip.

    Not taken the bike over 60mph so far but inspires a confident ride.

    Had to take it back to get the lights adjusted, as not set correctly on PDI.

    Adjusted the gear change lever(lowered it a few teeth on the spline) found that when i wanted to change down had to lift my foot off the foot peg to be able to change down. easy to fix, simply slacken the 8mm bolt that holds the gear change lever, pull off from the splined shaft, refit a few splines further down.

    Works a treat now as it should be.

    More will follow over the weeks.


    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi All,

    Now at almost 600miles the 650 TR will be going in for its first service on Saturday 28th Sept the bike is going well.

    Still happy with the bike and the ride, no problems to add.

    Fuel economy is considerably better than the Bandit 1250AS I PX'd...

    Where I used to fill up every 4 days on the Bandit I can now go for 7 days before filling up again.

    Chris, Is it possible to post pictures, I have some of the bike

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure if there's a way to post pictures in a Blogger comment. But I'm intrigued by your experiences. Perhaps if you wanted to send me some pics and tell me about your experiences I could create a new post.

      Delete
  12. Hmm my neighbor got one of these bikes and it's waiting a new engine as the original seized solid. The build seems reasonable but at 7k miles for an engine to lock up is worrying plus one of the fork seals is leaking? Before anyone suggests it's been thrashed, it's owner is an advanced qualified rider and recently retired Police traffic officer. Always better to buy a good used mainstream brand in my view.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Got TR and covered 3000 miles since november good value

    ReplyDelete
  14. Following on form my post on: Anonymous 25 September 2013 17:45

    My partnership with the 650TR has come to an end – regrettably it proved to be quite an unreliable bike, problems with locks on panniers, head race bearing needing replacing, then as a result of that the steering never felt right, constant smell of petrol fumes, found it not to be an ideal bike for town commuting use in London just too unrefined and not easy to control in filtering situations – now that may be as a result of the race bearings being replaced. However I was no longer prepared to put up with the nonsense on a brand new bike. … lost a lot of money but decided it had to go after only 8 months.

    Replaced with new 2014 XJ6 F – which feels so refined, precise and a confident ride.

    ReplyDelete
  15. These Chinese bike are a BIG step forward from their previous designs and build quality. I read the review(s) and bought via the internet at a reduced price. (Yes without test riding or seeing)
    Noticed on delivery how heavy it felt for a bike this size while wheeling it up the drive. Visually it looked quite good in fact very good so I thought "I'll give a chance" "it will grow on me"........wrong!
    Once riding (which should have been my test ride) I knew this bike wasn't for me and when you look deeper the build quality isn't that great, would have been really upset if I'd paid £4100 list!!!
    To think I thought Spanish and Italian bike were bad in the 70's looking back they weren't that bad!!!!
    Then to my horror there isn't really a second hand market for them so after a month, lost a lot of money and went back to Japanese who IMHO make the BEST production bikes in the world. (Yes I know some Japanese bikes are made in China but to a Japanese specification)
    The Chinese bike are a long way from the Japanese, however they will catch up in time but prices will have to rise to compensate.

    So bottom line for now.......get a test ride and go from there, however if you do decide to buy.......know you WILL have to give it away to fund your next bike!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  16. great bike, i have covered just over 25,000 with no problems other than a blown indicator bulb... do not listen to people who have never rode the bike and dismiss it straight away because it is Chinese... just give it some tlc and you will have a great bike for years to come......

    ReplyDelete
  17. Chinese bikes are not my cup of tea, was seduced by bmw 11yrs ago and have not been able to break the addiction, however, like it or not most of what we buy theses days is made in china or contains chinese parts, they are the biggest manufacturing nation in the world, many Japanese bikes are made in countries other than japan, and so are some of the triumphs now!
    I would wager there are parts on my bike that were made in china.
    "Cheap chinese rubbish" is a phrase we aremall used to hearing but some very high quality products come from there these days.
    At the end of the day they may not be the best 650 on the road but, they are the cheapest at £3599 otr, hell a royal enfield costs more than that!
    The japanese motorcycle industry is dying a slow and painful death, and the chinese is competing with cheap alternatives. They are here to stay, get used to it!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I have a 650tr as part of our fleet of training bikes, the rest of the A2 and A category bikes are WK 650i naked machines. We have lowered the suspension for the shorter rider and fitted crash bungs but otherwise they are standard. We have our own Worksop and carried out a thorough PDI using the technical information provided by the importer plus a little of our own experience.
    The 650tr has been stored outside for the last two months without a cover, during the last storms like frank etc. It hasn't rusted, sized, coughed, fused, gone flat, degraded into a pulp, the plastics still look good, not faded, cracked, jaded, crazed or rough, the tyres still are round and black and grip as well as any Avon or continental I've ridden in the last 30 + years of riding. Electrically everything works, flashes, doesn't flash as it's supposed to. It still is light and easy to ride, the panniers do let some of the deluge in when opening... But don't soak my packed lunch every day. The boxes can carry a helmet each, and a flask. It's the simple things that matter. The lights are excellent. And LED rear light is very noticeable. The locks did need a squirt of WD after the first storm, but then so did the workshop door, trailer lock, elbow etc. The brakes don't bind and do stop you. No really they do work, both of them.
    so is it a VFR 800.. Well no obviously not, the VFR costs over 10 grand the WK costs over 3. Is it a Deuville, well no it doesn't have a shaft, but it's very close otherwise. Is it an ER6' well no I find it's more comfortable, less pesky, less vibration, easier to ride.
    So will it last? Well 3000 miles so far and no worries, WK have a 2 year warranty on them, that says something. WK even offered the training school a warranty. Now that really says something as Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki don't offer training schools a warranty. Parts are easy to see on the importers website with clear diagrams, after market suppliers like wemoto provide a list too.
    The CF MOTO which is the factory producing the 650 sell throug dealers in Australia. Official figures show the 650i was one of Austrailia top 10 selling bikes two years running, no great problems either.
    So make up your own mind, KTM did as CF MOTO make bikes for them up to the 390 DUKE.
    Resale will be lower but if you bought a new VFR bike for ten grand and sold it second hand for eight you loose two grand. If you buy a WK for three and a half and sell it for fifteen hundred you loose two grand. Your always going to loose money on a new bike.

    So at the moment I would conclude that sometimes in life it is as good as it looks, and if it does glitter very occasionally it is actually gold.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I would not go to a bike school that used chinese bikes i would expect some class and tried and trusted reliability and safety. SAving a few quid for you is obviously more important than your inexperienced riders. Lets hope your gamble pays off cant see chinese bikes lasting in all weathers up here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Training schools carry personal liability insurance, the bikes are insured and if you look at the ausralian reviews these bikes (CF Moto version) are great

      Delete
  20. Thanks for this article, and owners comments, which I stumbled across while looking for more info on the 650 TR. On the WK main site this bike is reduced to £3599 inc VAT for a limited time - which seems very good value. I've no link with WK, I own a Honda Deauville and was researching alternatives.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I have had a 650TR since April 5th and done 5,500 miles on it without any problems, it is smooth and quite fast saying it is heavy at 220kg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ive had a tr 650 since march 2016.not done much milage.had done 1500 in first yr.now starting to rust in parts.and the worst thing is i ran the tank down to its last half gallion as i went to annan.270miles return trip.went to kerbylongsdale last week down to last gallion comeing back kept stopping fuel problem i thought after linging home i took tank off and to my horror inside the tank rusting fuel filter rusting .the inside off tank had like brown flakes stuck to inside off tank some comeing loose and blocking fuel filter.finished up flushing out with hosepipe untill most had loosend itself and flushed out.this is not going to go away told bikeshop asked him to send wk importers for GB.reply was garontee out.new tank was £199.once sold they are not intrested .my apinion is because off the fuel tank and crap after service is don,t buy,

      Delete

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