Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cheap-Ass Chinese motorcycles and scooters (Part 2)

When considering whether or not you should purchase a cheap “generic” scooter or motorcycle from China be sure you know full well what you are getting into. I’ve been looking into these things for several months and will probably continue to do so for a few more before I decide whether or not to purchase one.

I can tell you this however. The more I read up on these things the more convinced I become that a Chinese motorcycle or scooter is a really good deal. I know some of you will want to throw the ole “you get what you pay for” line at me so I’ll address that right now.

You can spend a thousand bucks (give or take a couple hundred) and buy a 25 to 30 year old Japanese machine or you can spend the same amount of money and have a brand new bike from our good friends over in communist China. There will be certain issues you need to deal with regarding the new Chinese bikes of course but there are also issues you will be dealing with if you buy a Jap bike that’s two or three decades old!

While it’s really hard to predict what sort of troubles you may encounter with something 25 to 30 years old, with a new Chinese piece of crap you can look at all the information available on the internet, study it till your blue in the face, and pretty soon a pattern will begin to emerge. You can see the big picture for what it really is.

90 percent of the bad reviews I’ve read deal mostly with little stuff like cheap plastic panels that don’t exactly fit as they should, Speedometer cables having to be replaced, lights and blinkers that quit working because of a poor quality bulb or a wire that came loose. Most reviewers of these infernal machines suggest that you tighten every single nut and bolt when first purchased. It also seems that the poorest quality batteries and spark plugs are installed before they’re shipped from the factory. All miner stuff that can be easily dealt with.

As far as the other 10 percent of negative crap I’ve read about these bikes; most of it was by people who never owned one but were only parroting all the bad crap they had heard. I haven’t read one thing yet about some cheap-ass P.O.S. Chinese scooter that had the motor blow up a few months after it was purchased. I haven’t read anything about the frame on one of these things snapping in half on some collage punk coming home from a frat party!

Everything I’ve read about these machines suggest that you can have a fairly decent and reliable means of transportation (after the initial break in period) for about 20 percent of what you would pay for a brand new Japanese bike. There is a certain amount of maintenance that is required every so often such as cleaning the carburetor and adjusting the valves but so what? Every motorcycle or scooter will require some maintenance to keep it in good running order. If you aren’t willing to do that then you shouldn’t even consider buying a motorcycle or scooter, be it Chinese, Japanese, or whatever.

Now let’s look at some of the different types of bikes you can buy. You’ll see numerous “name brands” such as Tank, Jonway, TaoTao, Roketa, Lafan and a host of others but generally speaking this doesn’t mean much. These are generic bikes and you should keep that in mind. The individual bike you purchase is more important than the name on it. So if at all possible avoid buying one of these online. Make your purchase from a local dealer so you can inspect it beforehand. Also make sure the dealer carries spare parts or can easily order parts for the model you purchase.

50cc Scooters-Some of these are manufactured for kids and are generally too small for adult riders but you’ll have no trouble finding plenty of scooters in this class that a full grown person can comfortably ride. These things start around $500 and can get upwards of 100 miles to the gallon! Unfortunately you won’t be able to do much more than about 35 miles per hour. You might get one up to 40 if you’re going down a steep hill and you have a strong wind at your back. This might suit your transportation needs, depending on your individual circumstances, but for the most part these are just big toys.

150cc Scooters-Now we’re getting into the “big boy” bikes. These scooters start at around $700 and go up. They get around 80 miles to the gallon and can reach speeds of 55 to 60 miles per hour. Not something you want to take out on the freeway but certainly adequate for most day to day use. The engines in these and the 50cc scooters are often referred to as “Honda clones” but are in fact a Chinese design known as the GY-6. From what I can tell these things are pretty reliable so long as they are properly maintained! There’s a really good article you can read about these engines HERE!

250cc scooters-These are much more expensive than the 150cc scooters starting at about $1500. Many of these come with water cooled engines which adds to the cost and complexity of the bike. These things can go up to 80 miles per hour and get about 70 miles to the gallon. This class of scooter should probably be avoided unless you can find a used one in decent shape for a good price.

200cc to 250cc duel sport bikes-In my opinion these bikes will give you the most bang for the buck. For not much more than $1000 you can have an on/off road bike that will give you 70+ miles to the gallon. These “enduros” to use the old school term will reach Highway speeds and can be ridden on public roadways or on back wood trails. Because of the duel nature of these bikes they are constructed much tougher than a scooter and (from everything I’ve read so far) have much fewer problems than the cheap-ass Chinese scooters. This is the kind of bike I am currently leaning towards.

Having said all of that let state once again that if you can find a good running, used Japanese bike at a reasonable price then you should go that route. In my location however you can’t find anything 10 years old or less for much under $2000. Believe me, I’ve been looking and they are hard to find.

Whether you choose either cheap Chinese crap or old Japanese crap a small scooter or motorcycle makes too much sense. With gasoline prices headed back up towards the four dollar a gallon mark it will take the average SUV owner close to a hundred dollars to fill up. What will you do when it reaches eight dollars a gallon? Don’t think it can’t happen anytime soon. With the Government soon to be more than twenty trillion dollars in debt and no way to pay it other than inflating the money supply and with the possibility of peak oil just on the horizon-well who knows?

If you don’t choose a scooter or small motorcycle as your primary means of transportation then you should still consider one as your “plan B” strategy. And if you’ve done your homework well you can get a lot of bike for a little bit of money. Google Chinese motorcycles and scooters to start you search. Good luck


  1. Rode a Tomos for years for shoping and going to work.Other than idiot drivers never had a proplem.And the 35 MPH,forget it rebuild and tricked mine out could get 45 to 50 MPH all day long

  2. I am with Lone Ferret, deregulating (if that is the correct word) a moped/scooter is pretty easy, and the sip gas.

  3. You're going about it the right way there Tex, read all the reviews that you can before pulling the trigger. This was always the way that I found the best deals for the money. In every situation in which I was quick to purchase something, I always ended up with a less than desirable product for more money.

    I would still recommend staying with a highway legal scooter in case it ends up being your only source of transportation; don't want to limit yourself.


  4. Lone Ferrot, 35 mph is really not fast enough for anything other than side streets in residential areas but if you can trick one out to get 45-50 mph then the little 50cc's could be a real means of transportation for anything other than highway driving. Care to tell us how you did it or provide a link for that kind of information? I haven't even thought about the subject to be honest with you but it does provide more options.

  5. Russell, I know most of the smaller "mini bikes" and scooters designed for kids have a governor on them allowing you to easily adjust the speeds they can obtain. But I really don't know for sure about the adult sized bikes. If it is a simple matter to soup these things up for higher speeds then the little 50cc's could really be useful. It's certainly something to look into

  6. Anonymous, I really do think the the 200cc to 250cc duel sport bikes offer the most bike for the money and I am leaning heavily in that direction. It'll be a little while longer before I do something in this area. Plenty of time to do the homework needed.

  7. You can look up kits for most models.Mostly it is getting a after market crab.,or at least replaceing the jets.Need to replace the stock exhaust also.


    If you realy get into it can have it bored out,but be careful that will put you over the 50cc mark,so cops will call it a motorcycle not a moped

  8. I have a Lifan 200gy-5 and it has proven to be a very dependable little bike.

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