WK 650i: the first big bike from China

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The Chinese motorcycle industry has been churning out big, big numbers for a long time – over 50% of the world’s motorcycles are built there after all.

Until now, however, they’ve often been small capacity copies; scooters and learner bikes built for commuters yet dismissed by true enthusiasts as cheap and poor quality.

But one ‘large number’ has eluded them – until now: big cc machines.

This new WK 650i changes all that – and potentially has huge ramifications for the future of motorcycling – particularly as it’s not a one-off: more, larger and better machines are certainly on the way.

Let’s be straight from the outset: the WK 650i is a big, big step forward from the average Chinese lightweight available until now.

The 650i is pretty good looking with most of the right bits in the right places: stainless exhaust, wavy discs, modern switchgear, part-LCD clocks and more.

The trouble is, that’s about as good as it gets. The 650i looks the part, but it isn’t really quite good enough and there’s never any getting away from the feeling that you’re riding a cheaper, tackier, flimsier copy of something else.

I’ll tell you why: the switchgear, though modern looking, doesn’t operate as crisply as you expect – especially the indicators. That ‘stainless pipe’ includes a crude, fake cover, to mimic the stubby shape of the ER-6n’s version. The horn is just tacked on to the frame downtubes.

On the move, it seems eager enough, with plenty of usable midrange, but both the bike and I seem reluctant to rev all the way out. WK claim 71bhp, ie the same as the ER-6n on which it’s based, but I have my doubts.

Part of that doubt is due to my skepticism over the WK’s speedo readings. In short, when the digital speedo was reading 50, 60mph or whatever, it simply didn’t FEEL like it. So we checked it against another bike and a GPS. The WK was over-reading by 8-10mph both at 50 and 70mph. Hmmmm.

The chassis experience is similar. Yes it’s taut enough, steers OK and the brakes are adequate, but none of it is exactly inspiring. The brakes are a little dull, the cheap tyres crude, the suspension on bumpy back roads downright choppy. Maybe little of that matters to first time big bike buyers, but there’s none of the class of the ER-6.

Read the full test in the current issue of MCN.

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Phil West

By Phil West

MCN Contributor and bike tester.