The latest topic making the rounds is that Harley-Davidson might acquire Ducati. Now that’s an interesting concept. I can envision a few things already…
A new marketing slogan: Loud clutches save lives.
A cruiser with the Harley look and a Ducati engine (the Impasta?).
Sportbikes with tank profiles designed to clear beer bellies.
The Desmo-Glide, or maybe the Monster-Glide, or perhaps even the Duckster.
The Fat Boy, the Low Rider, and now, the Meatball (you know, to counter that other V-twin company’s 8-Ball model).
And on and it on it goes.
It’s probably a good thing from a marketing perspective. Harley needs to pull in a younger crowd to assure their long term survival, and Ducati having access to Harley showrooms can’t be a bad thing. Here’s another thought: Harley needs new technology to counter Indian’s flat trackers, and a Ducati-engined flat track bike might be just the thing for the Springfield mile. And it certainly opens up a whole new range of T-shirt possibilities. Will we see a new range of carbon fiber doodads for Harleys, or a wave of chrome plated parts for Ducatis? Will Ducatis incorporate technology to shut down the rear cylinder at speeds below 120 mph? Will racing leathers now come with fringe and conchos?
I had a good visit with Zongshen last week, and I am just starting to get over the jet lag. Recovering from the time change when returning to the US is always rugged, and the aftermath of this visit has been no exception. I can get myself acclimatized to Asia time in one day, but the adjustment coming home always takes at least a couple of weeks. For a good two weeks, I wake up at 3:00 a.m. every day. That happened again this morning. Ah, well, it’s a good time to blog.
On the Zongshen R&D test track with a (redacted) test (redacted).
Let me state the obvious: I like Zongshen and I like the people who work there. Zongshen is a modern, exciting company, and I always see fascinating stuff when I visit. I wish I could tell you about all of it. I get to see new products and technologies. Speaking as an engineer, what I see is exciting. Speaking as a rider, what I see (and get to ride) is exhilarating.
A display inside the inner sanctum…one of the few photos I was allowed to take inside the super-secret Zongshen R&D complex.
Another display of corporate partners on a wall inside the skunk works….recognize any of these names?
A lot of folks think that Chinese companies only copy things. That may be true for some companies in China (just as it is true for a lot of companies in the rest of the world), but it is not what is going on at Zongshen. Zongshen’s corporate motto is “Innovate, Don’t Imitate,” and I can tell you that’s what drives the engineers at Zongshen. The RX3 is but one example of this.
I’ve called the RX3 an iconic bike, and not surprisingly, a few keyboard commandos out in the ether took offense at that term (which is why I now use it so frequently). Consider where we are today…a Chinese company introduced a fully-equipped 250cc adventure touring motorcycle, and a couple of years later the rest of the industry is struggling to catch up. Witness the Kawasaki Versys 300, the Honda 250 Africa Twin, and the new BMW 310 (rumored to soon be offered in a GS version). The motorcycle media has been falling all over itself writing about these new bikes, and that’s cool. Most of them mentioned that the RX3 arrived first, but one or two did not and I always jab the writers when that happens. I know all of these guys, and I’m not afraid to call out bias or sloppy journalism when I see it. I did that with one guy and he took offense. His parting shot to me was this: Did I really think the world’s largest motorcycle companies were copying Zongshen?
That’s exactly what I think.
And by the way, Mr. Very Fake News, Zongshen also happens to be one of the world’s largest motorcycle companies. Consider this: Zongshen hasn’t had a year in recent history where their production was as low as Harley’s best year. Think about that: In their slowest years, Zongshen still sells way more motorcycles than a respected industry leader like Harley-Davidson. One more thing to consider: Many of the world’s premier motorcycle and automotive organizations have formed strategic alliances with Zongshen. Names like BMW, Piaggio, Suzuki, and others aren’t doing so because they want to help Zongshen. They’re doing it because they want to tap into what Zongshen brings to the party. Who’d have thought?
At a gas station on the Colombia RX3 adventure ride, this attractive young attendant had but one question: What’s a like to ride a motorcycle this huge?
Zongshen produces something around a half million motorcycles and about a million engines a year (they also make engines for other motorcycle manufacturers). Zongshen’s principal markets are their domestic market (China), the rest of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Central and South America. Most of their production reflects what the rest of the world wants: Small bikes, mostly in the 50cc to 125cc range. Here in America with our predilection for big bikes, we’re the oddballs. We think a 250 is small. The rest of the world thinks a 250 is huge. Me? I think a 250 is just right.
The RX3 project was something different for Zongshen. It was a design exercise to implement their “Innovate, Don’t Imitate” corporate philosophy. They literally had no idea just how successful the RX3 would be. During my recent visit, one of the Zongshen executives told me they predicted the total worldwide RX3 market might be 3,000 motorcycles. To date, Zongshen has manufactured about 20,000 RX3s, worldwide sales are accelerating, and the RX3 is now sold all over the world. If you’re on a round-the-world motorcycle trip, you’d probably be able to find RX3 parts easier than you would if you were on some of the other big bikes commonly used for these kinds of trips. Think about that.
Anyway, that’s it for now. I’m going to have another cup of coffee. A little bit later this morning I’m going to fire up one of the 20,000 iconic RX3s riding the world (my very own iconic orange RX3) and ride over to meet my geezer buddies at the BMW dealership for lunch. Maybe I’ll get to see to the new 310 Beemer, and if I do, I’ll post a few photos.
We are selling a lot of used bikes of all types right now, so if you have a motorcycle you are thinking about selling, please give us a call. We’ve been selling everything from little 49cc DUI bikes all the way up to monstrous Harleys, with all manner of bikes in between. We get a lot of folks asking us about used bikes all the time, so if you’re thinking of downsizing your stable give us a call at 909 445 0900. Used bikes are a big part of our business and we can help you.
You may remember a few months ago I told you about a Model 70 Winchester I bought for the specific purpose of chasing pigs, and now it’s official: My lifelong buddy Paul and I are hunting boar in September. I’ll use that gorgeous curly maple Model 70 you see above (it’s a .30 06), and Paul is using his magnificent pre-’64 Model 70 in .270 Winchester. That’s a rifle with a real pedigree: It was handed down to Paul by his father, and this particular one is rifle royalty. It doesn’t get any better than Paul’s pre-’64 Model 70, and the .270 Winchester cartridge is the quintessential chambering for it.
The Model 70 story is one I’ll tell you about some other time, but for now I’ll just mention that this particular rifle (i.e., Paul’s .270) was my very first exposure to the wonderful world of high-powered, long-distance marksmanship. Paul’s dad used to fire that rifle across the fields behind our house, but before he did little Pauly would always knock on our door to tell us all hell was about to break loose. That was mighty neighborly, as an unexpected bark from a .270 Winchester would have scared the bejesus out of everyone (I’m not sure what bejesus is, but I like the word so I’m using it here). Paul and I were next-door neighbors back in those days. We’ve literally known each other all of our lives.
Okay, back to the pig thing. Back in the 1910s folks imported Russian boar into California so guys could hunt them without having to buy a boat ticket to Russia. Then something happened that surprised everybody: The Russian boars loved it over here and the population proliferated. Then, being pigs, they cross bred with domestic hogs. The bottom line today is that most of the US has a runaway wild pig problem…a problem guys like Paul and I are only too happy to help solve.
Here piggy, piggy, piggy…
In preparation for our hunt, I’ve been working up a load for my Model 70, and yesterday I found the Holy Grail. Two of them, actually. Here’s how it worked out…
100-yard Model 70 magic…
The deal on these kinds of development efforts is that you experiment with different powders, primers, bullets, and charge weights to find an individual rifle’s sweet spot, and I found two. Over the course of two days, I fired all of the above loads at 100 yards at my gun club, and the ones in yellow are the ones I’m going with. I’ll be using 150 grain Winchester jacketed soft point bullets (I bought a bunch of them about 7 years ago when it looked liked reloading components might dry up altogether). You can never be too thin, too good-looking, or have too many bullets under your reloading bench.
It was brutally hot when I tested the loads in the above table (we’ve been having horrific heat here in So Cal), and the horseflies were out in force while I was shooting. Under better conditions and with more-carefully-crafted reloads (trimmed brass, individually weighed propellant charges, etc.) I’ll bet the groups sizes will shrink even further. My Model 70 is a sub-minute-of-angle rifle now (it will shoot into less than an inch at 100 yards). That’s outstanding from a factory rifle, but I think it will do even better.
I’m pumped up. Going pig hunting again is a bucket list item for me, and hunting with my good buddy Paul will make it even better. I’ve been out for hogs before, but the only thing I ever got on those earlier adventures was poison oak. I’m hoping to bring home the bacon this time. Stay tuned, and you’ll read about it right here.
Hey, we thought we’d put this out there…we’re discussing potential future RX3 improvements, and we’ve got our ideas about what we think would be cool upgrades for future versions of the RX3. But we don’t want to do like the other guys do (that is to say, drink our own bathwater). Nope, we’re interested in hearing from you. What would you like to see us incorporate on the RX3? Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org, and thanks in advance.
There’s nothing like a ride in the San Gabriel Mountains, and July 8th, we’re riding to Crystal Lake up in the San Gabriels! We ordinarily ride on the first Saturday of the month, but that would put us firmly in the 4th of July weekend…so we pushed our ride out to the following week. Mark your calendars…we’re riding on the 8th!
You’ll need to be at CSC before 9:00 a.m. with a full tank of fuel. We’ll have coffee up in Crystal Lake. It’s going to be great. You can sign up for the ride on our Meetup.com page here.
Our good buddy Will sent a cool note to me late last night. It would seem Will found a new use for his RX3…
We have started our traveling life and I had to use the RX3 as my tire shop runner this morning when I woke up to a flat in New Orleans. Who needs a pickup?
I emailed previously about Baja ’18. Please put me on the list. I am ready to go.
Will, that’s a new application for an RX3! Glad your travels are progressing well. You’re on the list for Baja and I know you will love it. It will be our fourth CSC Baja expedition, and take it from me, Baja is the best riding in the world. I’m looking forward to it as much as you are!
What a week it has been…Singapore, Chongqing, and after a long haul yesterday, back in the good old USA. It’s 00:38 hours here in Los Angeles right now, and I’m still on China time (which would be 3:38 tomorrow afternoon over there).
Yep, I’m wide awake. I’ll be out of kilter like this for another 3 or 4 days. Trust me on this…this ain’t my first rodeo and that’s how long it takes. I thought I might as well take advantage of my jet lag and post a few photos and tell a story or two about this most recent adventure in Chongqing.
First, a few food photos from the Business Center at Zongshen. You guys and gals tell me you love food photos, so here we go…
Okay, enough food photos for a bit (I’ll show you a few more later in this blog). Back to the story. On Friday afternoon, my good buddies Sean and Robby (and I) hopped in Sean’s Chinese-manufactured SUV. It’s a nice vehicle that reminds me a lot of my Subaru CrossTrek.
I grabbed a few photos from the passenger seat on our ride through the Chinese countryside outside of Chongqing…
Robbie, Sean, and yours truly were on our way to lunch. Sean told me we were going to a restaurant known for its chicken.
First, a photo of Sean, me, and Robbie…
And a few photos as we entered the restaurant…
The way it works in China is you select your dinner, and then you get a fresh chicken.
Now, when I say “fresh” in the context of this blog about our lunch a day or so ago in China, it has a different connotation than how we think of “fresh” in the US. When we say fresh, we mean maybe it’s not been frozen for too long.
When the Chinese say fresh, well, see for yourself…
Okay, so maybe the day didn’t go so well for the chicken.
The lunch sure was good, though!
After that memorable lunch, Sean drove us to General Chiang Kai Shek’s home (one of his four homes, actually). It’s located high on a mountain top overlooking downtown Chongqing. It was a tough hike to get to the very top and it was hot and humid, but the climb was worth it. We were rewarded with a commanding view of downtown Chongqing, where the Jialing and Yangtze Rivers join. You can just make out the city through the haze…
It was a cool thing to see. The first time I ever visited Chongqing about 5 years ago, I knew it was a special place and I always had this idea I wanted to come back and photograph the city. I could spend a month here doing just that.
Chongqing is an amazing place. With a population of around 34 million people (that’s larger than the state of California), Chongqing is one of the world’s great megacities. The city is centered where two of the world’s great rivers (the Jialing and the Yangtze) merge. It was the capital of China during World War II in an attempt to get the seat of government further away from Japan, but the Japanese bombed the hell out of the place anyway. The Chinese built a series of underground caverns and tunnels to protect their people from the bombing (just like the British did in London during the war).
I feel incredibly lucky just having had the opportunity to visit Chongqing. Like I said, it really is an amazing place. Surprisingly, most Americans have never heard of it.
After the visit to General Chiang Kai Shek’s home, it was back downtown for us. Here’s a photo from Sean’s car as we crossed the Yangtze River on one of Chongqing’s many magnificent bridges…
We were headed to Shir’s motorcycle accessories store, teahouse, and moto gathering spot. You may remember my description of Shir’s place in Riding China. Shir is something of a mystic, a soothsayer, and a prophetess in the Chinese moto world. Yep, I’m completely serious when I describe Shir that way. Our ride leaders consulted with Shir prior to our leaving on the China ride last year, and they did so the night before the ride. The other guys told me it was for luck and to get Shir’s blessing for our ride, and I guess it worked. We had a great time, nobody crashed, and all went well on that wonderful adventure. It was kind of funny…Joe Gresh and I thought both Shir and her teahouse were magical, and one of us commented that we’d probably never see it again.
Well, never say never. It can come sooner than you might think. Here I was headed to Shir’s teahouse again, and this time it was for an interview.
When we arrived, my good buddy “He” was waiting for me. He’s name is not pronounced like it’s spelled. It’s pronounced “Chwah!” and the pronunciation has to be very forceful to sound right. He is the guy who created the video of our ride last year.
Sean staged a photo of He and me arm wrestling…
The arm wrestling photo is kind of funny in the sense that during the ride, He (“Chwa!”) always wanted to stop to get more video footage, and I always wanted to keep going. I thought the whole video thing was a first class pain in the butt while we were doing the ride, but that just goes to show you how little I knew. When I saw the finished video my good friend He had created, I was blown away. It was first class in every regard and I was grateful that they had done it. On the off chance you’ve never seen the video, here it is again…
It seems our ride across China made Gresh and me famous in China, and a Chinese news outlet wanted to interview me about the differences between riding in China and the US. They were also very interested in Riding China, and I had an opportunity to plug the book.
That’s it for now, folks. It’s nearly 2:00 a.m., so I think I’ll try to get a little sleep and get back on a US biorhythm schedule.
Wow, lots of miles in the last 7 or 8 days. I say “7 or 8” because it’s a little hard to keep track of. When you fly to Asia, you get there 2 days later. When you fly home, you actually get back before you left. China is 15 hours ahead of California and it’s a 12-hour flight. I left Beijing at noon on the 17th, and I landed in California at 9:00 a.m. (also on the 17th). Like I said, it’s little confusing.
Anyway, I had a couple more interesting notes from our good buddies Greg and Andy. First, the note from Andy…
I hope you recover well from what sounded like a very plesent trip to China. I am glad to hear you guys looked into shoehorning a TT250 engine into the mini bike even though the results are unfavorable. An electric “Grom” would be wonderful. Actually any electric affordable bike would be great. I assume it will be easier to import an electric being emissions free and all but perhaps not since it might have to meet electrical standards depending on if the charger is internal or external. Let me know when I can put a deposit down for one, I am very interested!
We hear you, Andy, and you can be sure we’re giving this topic a lot of thought and a lot of analysis. Personally, I’d like to see it happen. It’s partly the P&L and partly the passion, and as you know, at CSC we’re passionate about motorcycling. We’ll see how it all pencils out.
And hey, I also had this nice note from my good buddy Tucson Greg. Seems like we made the Motorcycle.com “best bikes” list again, and this time, we’re No. 1! But don’t take my word for it…read the article yourself!