MOTORCYCLES - MADE IN YORKSHIRE IN CHINA
STRANGE BUT TRUE
Honley is a solid, historical, and attractive stone village in the south Pennine hills near Huddersfield in West Yorkshire. Far, far away from China; geographically, culturally and politically. Yet a link has recently been established through the manufacturing initiative of a local motorcycle dealer; Earnshaws Two Wheel Centre.
A new range of bikes has been named after the village: but why would you want to do that? Well it's where Jason Lodge, one of the three brothers who own and operate Earnshaws, lives with his family: and it was Jason who initiated a project to have their own bikes built in China and offered for sale to customers through their showroom and to other dealers and training schools etc in the wider motorcycle trade.
The models on the showroom floor at the moment are three versions of a 125cc commuter and run around bike, the HD1, HD2 and HD3 – Huddersfield postal codes (HD3 is the Honley code). They will be joined in March by the 250cc Venturer, an 'adventure' style bike which comes equipped with hard cases and a top box as standard. There's also a 110cc scooter, the Oliver, named after one of Jason's sons...a family business in every sense.
Long and winding road
Jason garnered some local and national 'fame' by riding from Huddersfield to John O Groats on one the 125's, a distance of 520 miles; achieving a fuel consumption figure of 173mpg. A long long ride at 30mph, the result of a following through on a pub idea after a 'couple' of pints.
It has taken more than two years to get the bikes from idea to reality, and of course this has involved a number of trips to China, and the subsequent cultural differences and (mis) understandings that can evolve. Jason alluded to some of these as we strolled the showroom looking at the various models and he pointed out a number of parts on the bikes where his specification hadn't been followed originally and he'd insisted on changes.
A rugged beast
As there were quite a number of Chinese manufactured motorcycles already on the market, I asked somewhat rhetorically if he thought there was room for more (similar) models. He indicated a couple of components on the Honley 125's where specification quality had improved considerably over other manufacturers models. He also offered a comparison with another Chinese manufactured bike sitting in the showroom, and I have to say in terms of design and potential longevity of cycle parts in our punishing climate; the Honley looked as it might match the rugged landscape surrounding the village that lends its name to the machine.
Jason was also keen to point out that the Honleys don't require a lot of pre sales work on the part of dealers and their staff. Slip the front wheel in and the bike is almost ready for sale, and at prices to the consumer that wouldn't even buy a lot of cycles these days, and that has to be a good pitch to a potential dealer network. The HD1 and 3 retail at £1699, and the slightly higher spec HD2 is £1799. At a time when fuel costs are not likely to see a quid a litre again and commuter rail and bus fares continue to extract high proportions of take home pay, a small very economical motorcycle has to be an attractive alternative.
No manual labour
One of the advantages riders will get is a manual that has been put together by Jason – as opposed to a translation - and is written and illustrated in straight forward terms for people who may be new to the basic tasks needed to keep a bike on the road and safe.
A journo always has to be keeping an eye on the information that's whizzing around out there for potential articles and stories. And just before I was due to visit Earnshaws I was grazing the forums, and spied a link relating to the Honley 250 Venturer. Someone had seen the bike on ebay, and posted a thread “Looks the part, even if it is a 250 and 'probably' made of soft cheese”.
Most of the comments and discussion were negative about whether this bike or other Chinese made bikes and products would last very long. And in the case of the Venturer, whether it could actually cope with off road/trail riding; but then how many bikes with the 'adventure' label can do this?
A good number of the on line contributions reminded me of the time when there was plenty of prejudicial comment being bandied around about early Japanese motorcycles, and there wasn't the (dubious) access to social media back then. It's worth pointing out that many Japanese and Korean companies and BMW use Chinese manufacturing facilities for brands and labels we have come to 'trust'. Also the build quality of many known brand bikes is not really good enough for one to be left outside the confines of a centrally heated garage, and they don't survive being ridden regularly between October and March.
Nothing Venturer-ed nothing gained
Back to the 250 Venturer plot. There's not a lot of information on the Honley website, but the immediate specs that stand out are the 16litre fuel tank that will provide quite a range if you're touring. There's a small person friendly seat height at 795mm, and 210mm of ground clearance for those who intend to stray off the Tarmac. It's priced at £3699c, and looks the part. But the true test will be to sling as leg over and try one, which Wemoto News will try and do in a couple of months time.
About two years ago Earnshaws converted a good proportion of their showroom space to cycles plus cycle clothing and paraphernalia; to try and combat the downturn in motorcycle sales. A fact which makes this new motorcycle venture an even braver move.
For more information about the Honleys go to:
www.honleymotorcycles.com or www.earnshaws.net
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