First ‘Chinese Norton’ debuts: Zongshen Cyclone RX6 is powered by 650 twin from the Atlas

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By now it should have been possible to buy Norton’s 650cc Atlas parallel twins – but the firm’s traumatic 2020 means the Chinese-made Zongshen Cyclone RX6 may actually be the first machine into production using the company’s brand-new engine.

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Previous owner Stuart Garner licensed the rights to the new DOHC, water-cooled 650cc twin to China’s Zongshen as part of a deal intended to bring in millions. Norton later unveiled the scrambler-style Atlas Ranger and Atlas Nomad using the engine, along with the sports Superlight with a higher-spec version of the motor. None have yet reached production.

However the Cyclone RX6 has overtaken its Norton siblings by clearing its final pre-production hurdle of Chinese type-approval, meeting emissions standards roughly equivalent to Euro4. But because Zongshen plan to export the bike eventually, it’s been designed to meet Euro5, too – although there’s no word yet on if it will come to the UK.

Zongshen Cyclone RX6 colour options

Although a prototype RX6 was shown in China last year, these pictures show the latest production version. There are two models, one with wire wheels, the other alloys, but both have similar specifications.

The Chinese-made Norton engine makes a certified 70bhp, on par with the Suzuki V-Strom 650 and Kawasaki Versys 650 that are its main rivals but less than the 84bhp claimed for the version in the Atlas. Documents cite a top speed of 112mph and wet weight of 245kg.

Apart from the Norton engine, the RX6 gets Nissin brakes and Bosch electronics, including ABS. The frame is tubular steel with an aluminium swingarm, and unlike the Norton prototypes, has a large exhaust collector and catalytic converter ahead of the rear wheel, allowing for a stubby end can. Equipment includes an adjustable screen, TFT dash and LED lights.