Earlier this week we revealed that Harley-Davidson’s joint venture company – set up in China with Benelli’s parent company, Qianjiang – has been given official government permission to start making bikes. Now it’s already leapt into action by type-approving two models, internally called the HD350 and HD500.
Those might be the internal names, but from the look of the decals on the bikes photographed for the type approval documents, it looks like the production titles will be ‘X350’ and ‘X500’.
The smaller of the bikes is more familiar, as it closely resembles the sketch first shown in 2019 by Harley, back when the project was called ‘338R’ and expected to use a 338cc twin based on the 300cc unit used in the Benelli 302S. Since then, Qianjiang has introduced a larger 353cc version of the motor, and it’s that engine that appears in the finished Harley-Davidson. It’s bolted to a chassis that’s familiar from the Benelli 302S and the QJMotor SRK350 (the latter also uses the same engine), with identical-looking upside-down forks, multi-spoked wheels and petal brake discs.
In terms of performance, the 350 is good for 36hp, but the bike’s curb weight of 195kg seems heavy. For comparison, the mechanically identical QJMotor SRK350 comes in at 176kg. The Harley’s approval document pegs the top speed at 89mph.
There’s also a larger 500cc bike from the Harley-Davidson/Qianjiang joint venture (the new company actually goes by the name Zhejiang Jisheng Motor Vehicle Co, Ltd), sharing most of its parts with the Benelli Leoncino 500. This version has a more traditional look instead of the 350’s flat track style and makes 47hp – a usefully A2 licence legal figure in Europe – from its parallel twin engine, with a top speed listed as 99mph.
Weighing in at 207kg wet, the HD500 has the same chassis as the Leoncino and appears to have identical wheels, brakes and suspension, with radial four-pot calipers and upside-down forks. The Leoncino’s UK price - £5,799 – gives a clear hint as to how much the 500cc Harley might cost if it reaches the market on this side of the world.
Whether that happens remains questionable, though. These two bikes’ main intention is to give access to the Harley-Davidson brand in Asian markets where the firm’s full-size offerings are often beyond the pockets of most riders, and where small-capacity bikes often have advantages in terms of taxation, licences or insurance. Chinese manufacturing will also help keep the prices of the bikes low in the vast Chinese market, avoiding import duties and shipping costs.