Lexmoto’s new ZSX125 is a good indicator of how far – and fast – the much-maligned Chinese motorcycle industry has come in recent years, being not just as keenly priced as ever but also now being stylish and with an up-to-date spec. So, is it finally time to take ‘Made in China’ motorcycles seriously?...
This bike is much more than just AN Other, ‘cheap-as-chips’, Chinese 125. It’s a wake up call. A barometer for how fast China’s motorcycle industry is advancing. The question is: Is it now time we all woke up and took notice?
It’s the latest from Lexmoto, the slightly tongue-twisting ZSX125, and, thanks to its swoopy styling and fairly impressive spec, shows that Chinese bikes are now pretty much as good looking and credible as they are budget-priced.
Lexmoto themselves, say the ZSX “sets the standard of Chinese motorcycles” and, as one of the largest importers, with over 60 dealers and line-up that currently comprises nine different 125s, ranging from a slightly crass, old school Chinese £849 cruiser to the brand new, funky and upside-down forked £1599 supermoto, they’re probably in a better position to claim so than most.
At first glance, the £1499 ZSX impresses, too. The angular, swoopy styling reminds of a Gladius or Fazer and is pretty much bang-up-to-date while much of the specification – modern switchgear, alloy wheels, part-LCD clocks – is what you’d expect of a mainstream, modern machine as well. So far, so good.
Instead, it’s only when you peer a bit closer that you start to notice that quality isn’t quite up to par and some of the components are a little bit suspect.
So, for example, the tyres are hard and crude domestically made items and the suspension a tad on the flimsy side with forks that remind of biros and twin shocks at the rear that are like the springs from biros.
Mechanically it’s a little on the crude and cheap side, too. The air-cooled single is carbureted in the old fashioned way, meaning that there’s not only a ‘bar-mounted choke lever but also a fuel tap¬ – remember them? – down on the left side panel.
While the finish and detailing in a few areas still has plenty of room for improvement: the plain steel, black-painted exhaust looks a potential rust trap and the multi concentric circle design of the tacho faces looks like its designer had been playing with a Spirograph.
The overall quality of the plastics, I have to say, is more Duplo than Apple and, worst of all, the sidestand is a too short, spring-loaded abomination which reminds of three generation-ago Ducatis and surely will leave more than one tearful learner with smashed bodywork.
None of that, however bothers me overwhelmingly. The ZSX rides reasonably well, starts on the button (with a dab of choke) first time, performs as you’d expect of an air-cooled 125 commuter (topping out in the high 60s or so but just about enough to survive in cross-city traffic) and is certainly less embarrassing than equivalent Chinese 125s of old.
Sure it’s ride is a little boingy, its tyres basic, its brakes a little crude, but, ultimately, it’s just £1499 too, a price that’s, say, a full £1000 less than Yamaha’s equivalent YBR125 and that difference pays for an awful lot of riding kit, insurance and fuel…
First China got the price right. Now, with the ZSX, they’ve pretty much got the style right. It won’t be long before the quality’s right, too. No wonder the likes of BMW, KTM, Suzuki et al are all frantically setting up production facilities in India, Thailand and so on. So, are the Chinese there yet? No, not quite. But at this price and with this style it matters less than ever…
LEXMOTO ZSX125, £1499.99
Engine: Air-cooled, 125cc (58.5 x 46.5mm), sohc, single. 5-speed gearbox, chain final drive.
Claimed power: 10.5bhp @ 8500rpm
Torque: 6.8ftlb @ 7000 rpm
Frame: Tubular steel cradle, box-section steel swing arm
Suspension: Telescopic forks, no adjust, front, twin shocks, rear
Claimed kerb weight: N/a
Front brake: single disc, twin piston caliper
Rear brake: drum
Fuel capacity: 18 litres
Seat height: 760mm
Colours: red or black