Riding new models on Zongshen’s test track. A visit to the super-secret Zongshen R&D facility. Seeing things I can’t photograph or tell anyone about. Seeing old friends again. A fabulous lunch and a fabulous dinner. A special WeChat welcome just for me. What a day I had yesterday!
Wow, it’s 3:47 a.m. over here in Chongqing and I’m wide awake. No sense fighting it, as I’ll be struggling against the time change yet again when I return to California in another day. Nope, what I’ve found works best on these short secret missions is staying tired and then sleeping for about 30 hours when I get back to the US.
I took a bunch of photos yesterday, and the best two (I think) are of my good friends Tracy and Sean from the Riding China adventure. I bought copies of the book with me so that I could give one to each of these great guys. Here’s my good buddy Tracy…
Tracy was a lot of fun on our ride last year. The guy has a great sense of humor and he always had a way to make us laugh, whether we were freezing on the Tibetan Plateau or sweltering in the heat and humidity of Luoyang. I like the guy. I told Tracy yesterday I’m going to PhotoShop his hair on my head. I might just get around to that later today.
This next photo is of Sean, our mission commander on the ride across China. He’s another good buddy. His tagline in the mornings on that trip was always “I have a surprise for you,” and then Joe Gresh and I would spend the next 30 minutes wondering if it was going to be a good surprise or a bad surprise. Sean is a great guy.
Everybody over here is on WeChat (it’s their answer to Facebook), and Sean had done something especially nice on WeChat for me. He contacted all of the riders on our trip last year and they all posted short “welcome to China” videos (they live all across China). It was really nice.
Zongshen has a massive manufacturing campus in Chongqing (it’s several hundred acres), and Mr. Zuo Zongshen (the founder) lives on a hilltop overlooking it all. The company built a luxurious Business Center on that same hilltop estate and we had lunch up there yesterday. Here’s a photo showing (from left to right) Mr. Ma (the marketing manager), Hugo (who rode with us on the 5000-mile Western America Adventure Ride 2 years ago), Fan (my good friend and original contact at Zongshen), Sean, Robbie (our primary contact at Zongshen), yours truly, and Mr. Deng (a Zongshen vice president and general manager).
I spent the day yesterday in meetings, visiting Zongshen’s ultra-secret and ultra-advanced R&D center, and riding new models. Some of what I saw I can tell you about and some of it I can’t. But I’ve been to the inner sanctum and I’ve seen (and ridden) amazing machines. I know; I am one lucky guy.
Let’s get to the things I can talk about. The first is a new line of Zongshen electric scooters. You will recall from my blog posts during the Riding China trip (and in the Riding China book) that I discussed the tremendous electrification of China, and how they are way ahead of us in fielding electric cars and scooters. Electric scooters outnumber gasoline-powered scooters by something north of 20 to 1 in China. It’s a huge market.
It felt strange but cool riding the new electric Zongshen scooters. And it was fun! It’s like being on a sailboat or riding a bicycle downhill. These little things get up and go quickly and quietly, and then you ride in total silence. You kind of feel like you’re getting away with something.
I enjoyed zooming through the Zongshen motorcycle assembly areas on my electric scooter (you might say I really got a charge out of it). The electric scooter’s range is about 60 miles and the top speed is about 40 mph, so they are strictly “around town” affairs. The fit and finish was absolutely first class. Here’s the cool part…the sell price on these machines would be something relatively low, even compared to a TT250. So, you guys and gals tell me…do you think they would sell in the US?
Here’s the one I rode…
Here’s what the dash looks like on an electric scooter…
In addition to the electric scooter line, Zongshen manufactures a very nice line of gasoline-powered 125cc scooters. I rode one of those, too. Check this out…
My problem when I visit Zongshen is that I fall in love with everything I see and everything I ride. I thought the electric and the gas scooters were both great. I’d buy either one in a heartbeat. They are just flat cool.
You might remember that I told you about the new small bike from Zongshen that looks like Honda’s Grom. I saw one of those yesterday. It’s a 150 and it’s stunning…
The problem for us is we don’t know if there’s a US market for a bike like the one you see in the photo above. As my good buddy Michigan Mike put it, does the world need another Grom? We had looked into selling these with the TT250’s 250cc CG engine, but it’s not feasible from an engineering perspective. Still, the bike looks great and I would love to own one. The fit and finish on all of the Zongshens is as good or better than anything from Italy, Japan, Austria, Germany, or the US. These guys have it dialed.
Here’s a copper Cafe Racer, and it’s another beautiful Zongshen…
By the way, finalizing our US Cafe Racer configuration (you might call it the Cafe Americano) is one of the main reasons I’m over here. It’s coming, folks, and you’re going to love it.
These are RX1 motorcycles headed to the UK. I like the matt gray finish.
I grabbed a photo of brand new Zongshen ZII 125cc motorcycles being prepped for shipment. It was grand fun riding around the assembly building on my electric scooter yesterday, taking photos in the motorcycle factory. Good times.
Zongshen makes an Anniversary Edition of the iconic RX3 motorcycle (I love using that word, iconic, when describing the RX3). Iconic. It just fits. These Anniversary Edition bikes are particularly distinctive.
Check this out….the Z-Road. Not the Z-Rod or the V-Rod, but the Z-Road. You have to admit, these guys are not without a sense of humor….
Zongshen also has an electric version of their Grom-sized motorcycle, and I rode that one, too. Here’s a photo of it…
Of all the motorcycles and scooters I rode yesterday, the electric bike in the photo above impressed me the most. It was stable, it was sure-footed, and it was very, very fast. It’s not as inexpensive as the electric scooters, but it would still be inexpensive. I liked it a lot.
I rode other things I can’t talk about, and I saw many more things in the R&D center I can’t show you (and that includes way more than just the RX4). And on that topic…
- Yes, I rode the RX4.
- No, I can’t show you the photos.
- Yes, the RX4 is awesome.
- No, the RX4 is not happening any time soon (if you’re holding off buying an RX3 because you want the RX4, you’re going to miss a lot of riding).
- Yes, I’ll tell you more about the RX4 when I can, but that’s not now.
What I can tell you about my visit yesterday was that it was all fascinating.
The good news is I get to spend another full day with Zongshen. These guys have arranged an interview later (not a job interview, although if I was 40 years younger and just starting my career, I would love working for Zongshen). The interview today is with a media company and it’s about the Riding China adventure. It’s going to be fun. But it’s all fun over here.
That’s it for now, folks. As always, there’s more coming. Stay tuned!