Granted, it doesn’t ride with the grace of a Ducati, or have refined controls of a Honda, but you know what? It isn’t half bad, especially when you keep reminding yourself the ticket price starts with a three. Even the major manufacturers would struggle to produce so much metal for so little.
Once you’ve picked yourself up off the floor from the shock of the impressive spec list, you’ll ride down the road and discover the Zontes does nothing wrong on the move. There are no nasty vibes from the engine, thanks to its balance shaft, it doesn’t go one way when you want to go the other and everything works exactly as it should.
It doesn’t have the behemoth dimensions of a big capacity adventure bike, so carrying pillions will be a squeeze, but that keeps things light and manageable. The 159kg machine is comfy enough for one and has a roomy riding position. Big mirrors are clear and the two-position screen quiet and effective.
Non-adjustable suspension offers up an unflustered ride and there’s no sign of the cheap, crashy ride your bones and false teeth would normally have to contend with a Chinese bike over bumps.
Unlike most adventure-style machines the T 310 wears a 17-inch front wheel up front rather than a 19 or 21, so your off-road pretentions will need to be tempered to bumping up a kerb at the McDonald’s Drive-Thru, but on the road the Zontes rolls easily from corner to corner with little effort.
Dual purpose CST tyres have adequate grip wet or dry, the single 260mm front disc and twin piston caliper gets you stopped easily and a dab of rear gives you extra stopping power when you need it.
A liquid cooled 311.7cc single cylinder dry-sumped motor (oil is stored in the frame) will never set the world on fire for the experienced, but for the new rider there’s a broad spread of throbby single cylinder power, decent low-down punch, perfect fuelling from the Delphi injection and enough oomph to cruise at motorway speeds and above. There’s no slop in the gearbox and not a false neutral in sight.
Riding the box-fresh Zontes you see in the pictures it’s impossible to say how it will stand the test of time, but the signs look good, especially when you consider what it’s made of.
Cylinders, swingarm and diamond cut wheels are all aluminium, the steel fuel tank is galvanised, plastics are sturdy and the stainless-steel exhaust has 'cool touch' stacked end cans, that won’t burn luggage or your pillion’s leg.
Chinese-built bikes always score against their rivals in the price department and the T 310 is no different. Add in all its toys and an impressively capable ride and it’s an even bigger bargain.
To ride and live with the Zontes is a pleasant surprise. Of course, it’s never going to be as polished as something like a Honda CB500X, but then the T 310 is two grand cheaper and most importantly a step towards convincing us that Chinese bikes really can be taken seriously.
The Zontes is surprisingly well equipped with keyless ignition, two riding modes, Bosch 9.1M ABS, an LCD display, lightweight lithium battery, USB charger, adjustable brake and clutch levers, electric screen, seat lock and fuel tank cover. Rugged, hard adventure-style panniers and a top box are also available as an accessory.