If you are one of those people that is so closed minded to think everything that is made in China is poor quality you will be dissapointed here.
I was luckyy enough to work in China in 2000 and the story of a pair of shoes springs to mind. At the time I was paying around £60 a pair in the UK and most of what I could find in China were only about £10-£15 a pair. Then I found a pair that were the equivalent of about £50. I asked why and was told because they are made properly. 23 years later they are still my favourite shoes, have never been repaired or re-soled and still look smart enough to wear in any occasion.
That taught me that the reason we see Chinese products as poor quality is not that they are. It is because the companies who source products from China buy in general based on price. That will ALWAYS compromise quality.
A Story of Passion and Dedication
Kove are a company on a mission, despite the fact that as a company, they were only founded in 2017. The story is really about its founder.
The story behind Zhang Xue is a romantic one, with dare I say it, an Italian feel. It is a story of passion and dedication. A young man who had a dream, he wanted to be a racer, and Dakar was his passion.
Unfortunately Zhang Xue’s family couldn’t afford for him to become a professional rider, but Xue was desperate to be part of the racing world, so he studied as a mechanic, a “simple plan”.
His skills were recognised early on and he made a name for himself within the Chinese Motorcycle industry as a very capable engineer.
A Chance to Race
In 2007 after developing his mechanical skills, Zhang Xue would finally race in the Chinese Motocross Championship. He was a reasonable rider, but being realistic he was a much better engineer and in his own words, he was getting too old to ride as a proffessional.
This was the start of a new dream. If he couldn’t enter the Dakar himself, he would design a bike to help new, upcoming Chinese riders to enter and eventually win the Dakar. He set out a 5 year plan. Year 1 the goal was to finish the rally. Year 2 they would get a top 20 finish. In the third year they would get a top ten finish. For year 4 the aim is a podium and in year five the goal is to win.
2023 is the start of that journey as you will hear in the interview.
What Sets Kove Apart from the Rest
Zuang Xue’s engines always worked better than those of his competitors and combining his skill as an engineer with his focus on the bike’s lightness, brought him to the attention of Loncin, one of the biggest Chinese motorcycle manufacturers of all.
On top of his work for Loncin, in his own time he worked on the race bikes of various teams and after years gaining experience in the world of racing, he began to work on his own designs for a completely new motorcycle.
The parent company Loncin, had sold Xue’s motorcycles under various brand names such as Colove and Excelle, but Xue did also manufacture motorcycles for other brands like Jawa and Macabor. However, in 2013 he built his first complete handmade motorcycle and with the support of Loncin opened a factory with just a few staff where he developed his ideas further.
The Brand is Born
Finally, 4 years later in 2017, The Kove brand was born. A second factory was opened and Zhang Xue was given complete design autonomy by the Loncin group. Since then, the company have steadily increased their market share to become the 4th best selling brand in China and the Kove 525X has become the best selling ADV bike in China too.
More importantly, this decision gave the company the chance to step away from the production of clones and copies of other peoples motorcycles, into the role of a company in control of its own future, with a clear focus on racing, research and development.
The 525X was developed as a direct replacement for what was effectively a CB500X clone. The chassis and suspension were improved and the engine was reworked too, but the power was capped as the bike was already being sold succesfully by Loncin into the A2 licence market in Europe under several other brand names.
Motorcycle Racing at its Heart
The core of the newly developed range was gradually settled on and not surprisingly, Motorcycle Racing was at its heart.
Zhang Xue had a dream of proving his bikes at the fabled Dakar Rally and in 2023 had his first chance. The 450 Rally is the bike he has designed to take on the Dakar for the very first time. That in itself is a measure of the self confidence he has in his products. Any CEO who flies out to the desert to work on the bikes himself as Zhang Xue has done with the Dakar team has my utmost respect.
I don’t see too many other CEO’s getting their hands dirty.
3 Motorcycles, One Mission, To Win
The new range would be built around 3 motorcycles. These would be the brands ambassadors on the world stage.
The 450 Rally
The Kove 450 Rally is a race bred bike and will be available in at least 2 and possibly 3 versions. The engine is based on a Zongshen design, with more than 50HP on the standard version and over 55HP on the Factory Rally Race bike. The spec sheet for this bike reads like a wish list of components and a long range 3 part fuel tank is just a small part. A full nav tower and long travel fully adjustable J-Yuan USD forks and rear shock with carbon bashplate is the start of a long list. The 3rd version talked about is a lower seat, fully road legal version with lights and indicators.
2023 marks its first Dakar entry. This bike is the first completely Chinese designed, built and ridden entry to the Dakar and they have accomplished everything they set out to do. They can now tick off their first year in Dakar as a resounding success. You can see some footage from the Dakar and the preparations in the video
The Kove 400RR
The 2nd bike to come out of the research and development arm of the company is an all new road going version of their 400CC factory road racing bike. Using a 4 cylinder engine produced in house by Kove, this bike can reach a top speed of 220 km/h or 136mph and has a dry weight of just 160 Kg. The design is reminiscent of the screaming 250cc high revving 4 cylinder Japanese bikes of the early 90’s.
The full factory race bike will face off against the Yamaha R3 and Kawasaki Ninja 400 for the 2023 SuperSport 300 World Championship.
When you consider that the CF Moto race bikes are simply re-badged KTM’s, this will be the first time a truly Chinese built and designed motorcycle has been introduced into the European racing scene.
The 800X Super Adventure
The 3rd bike of the newly designed range is an all new adventure bike called the 800X and it could cause a real stir in the mid sized Adventure bike market. Of all the new bikes for 2023 that have been dragged around the shows, this is the only one I have been pleasantly surprised and excited by.
Creating around 100HP at 9000 rpm with a maximum torque of 81 Nm at 7500 rpm the Kove engine has real power. With a kerb weight of just 183 Kg wet, the bike is also significantly lighter than both the KTM 890 Adventure and Yamaha 700 Tenere. These figures give it a power to weight ratio better than any other comparable adventure bike on the market and the projected top speed of 218Km/h or 135mph will make it a serious performer.
In the words of the CEO “when somebody spends 6.000/7.500 euros for a Chinese motorcycle they accept the risk of buying a mediocre Chinese bike, but while spending around 9,000 to 10.000 euros the risk is bigger and maybe not so many people will like to face that risk unless there is great back up and a good network of dealers for spares and servicing.”
When discussing the 800X Zhang Xue says “We wanted to make a bike that could be easy to handle but fun. Most adventure bikes are more road oriented, but we have put a lot of effort into the off road performance of this bike. We wanted a motorcycle that would appeal to experienced riders as well as those with less experience”.
Let Me Know Your Thoughts
let me know what you think about the Kove brand.
Did you know about them already?
Are you interested in their bikes or not?
Let me know in the comment section down below
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