Writing about bikes for 20 years. Published in dozens of titles on five continents. Mildly obsessed with discovering how things work.
New spy pictures show the design image we revealed last month (above) was accurate
There’s a distinct pattern to the development of new products in China. They often start as laughable knock-offs of existing designs but later overtake their inspiration in terms of features while retaining a tempting price tag. Just as phone firms like Huawei and OnePlus now offer handsets that compete directly with Apple and Samsung, Chinese motorcycles are starting to get loaded with technology that embarrasses their established rivals.
Now Benelli – which is owned by the Chinese Qianjiang group – is on the verge of launching two models with high-end electronics that you’ll struggle to find on any similarly-priced machines elsewhere.
First, we have the next-generation Benelli 600, which is already rolling off production lines in China but has yet to be officially unveiled. A host of photographs and videos from the firm’s Chinese factory have emerged on social media, revealing bikes that are complete in every way apart from the final addition of their ‘Benelli’ badges.
Stickers on the tank sides, just below the empty space for the brand logo, show that the new model is called the SRK600, or perhaps SR600K, but it’s clear that the four-cylinder, 80hp engine and tubular steel chassis are direct carry-overs from the existing TNT600i. A new underbelly exhaust replaces the current bike’s under-seat system and all the styling is new. We already revealed the bike’s appearance last month when Benelli filed patents for its styling.
TFT dashboard and illuminated bar controls on show
However, what we haven’t seen until now is the level of tech on offer. The new spy videos show that the next-gen Benelli 600 – a budget bike by western standards, remember – has kit including keyless ignition, a full-colour TFT display and illuminated bar controls.
One video circulating on Chinese social media shows the an example of the Benelli being turned on at the touch of a button, the dash springing to life and illumination around the controls lighting up with colour-changing RGB LED effects, cycling through white, green, purple and red before settling on a blue illumination.
The same video also shows the key itself, a flip-out design with two buttons on the fob (the key is still used conventionally to open the fuel filler).
Although the bikes seen so far are lacking manufacturer badging, the dashboard clearly shows the Benelli logo and brand name as it goes through the start process. If Qianjiang follows its previous protocols, though, the bike may be sold under various brand names in different regions – the existing Benelli TNT600i has been sold as under the QJiang, Keeway, KSR Moto and Generic brands during its life.
One image reveals a factory floor filled with the new bikes in a near-finished state, suggesting that large-scale manufacturing is already underway and that an official launch can’t be far off.
At the moment none of the images are quite clear enough to reveal details like the brands of components like brakes and suspension. However, in China Benelli is beginning to offer two versions of its 752S naked parallel twin model; a pricier spec with Brembo brakes and Marzocchi forks, and a cheaper model with own-brand Benelli suspension and stoppers.
Benelli’s BJ1200J police bike has been presented to Chinese authorities
The other news from Benelli is that it’s now presented its 1209cc ‘BJ1200J’ tourer to Chinese police as a rival to the recently-unveiled CFMoto CF1250J. Both bikes are competing to become the mainstay of the nation’s massive police motorcycle fleet.
Where the CFMoto uses a 140hp, 1279cc V-twin that’s derived from KTM’s LC8 motor, Benelli’s rival has a 1209cc three-cylinder engine that’s developed from the older 1130cc triple previously used in the Tornado, TNT1130 and TreK. Specs revealed in the bike’s type-approval paperwork confirm that it’s slightly less powerful than the CFMoto, with 134hp, and a fair bit heavier at 340kg ready-to-ride in police form (the CF1250J is 297kg).
However, Benelli has also type-approved a civilian version that’s 2kg lighter at 338kg and features a pillion seat and top box where the cop model has a single seat police equipment.
As with the new 600, videos of the BJ1200J have appeared on Chinese social media to reveal a surprising level of tech. As well as a similar keyless ignition system, TFT display and RGB control illumination, the tourer’s kit includes electrically-folding mirrors and an electric screen.