Motoracism and Brand-Bashing in the Moto World

Are you offended by a Chinese-built bike?

Chinese-built Zongshen CSC motorcycles
Look out! An army of strange bikes aimed at our heartland! Or is it just a line of motorcycles like any other, except this time they’re made in China?©Motorcyclist

We all suffer from racism’s influence. It’s an off-key loop playing from an early age, a low frequency rumble of dislike for the “other.” It’s ancient and tribal, a rotted pet forever scratching at the door because we keep tossing it scraps of our fear. Racism gives the weak succor and the strong an excuse for bad behavior. We work hard to become less racist, but exclusion is a powerful medicine.

Especially when it comes to motorcycles. Brand bashing is ancient, part of what motorcyclists do. It’s our way of hazing new riders and pointing out the absurdity of our own transportation choice. Unlike more virulent forms of racism, motoracism doesn’t prevent us from enjoying each other’s company or even becoming friends.

In web life, we are much less tolerant. Whenever I test a bike for Motorcyclist I spend time lurking on motorcycle forums. This is partly to gather owner-generated data, stuff I may miss in the short time I have with a testbike. Mostly I do it because it's a way to rack up thousands of surrogate road test miles without having to actually ride the bike. Think of yourselves as unpaid interns slogging through the hard work of living with your motorcycle choice while I skim the cream of your observations into my Batdorf & Bronson coffee.

Every motorcycle brand has fans and detractors, and I enjoy the smack talk among riders. Check out the rekindled Indian/Harley-Davidson rivalry: They picked up right where they left off in 1953. Then there's this Chinese-built Zongshen (CSC) RX3 I recently rode. Man, what a reaction that one got. Along with generally favorable opinions from Zong owners I saw lots of irrational anger over this motorcycle.

All because it was built in China.

To give the motoracists their due, until Zongshen came along Chinese-built bikes were pretty much crap. (I read that on the Internet.) Except for the Chinese-built bikes rebadged for the major manufacturers. I guess if you don't know that your engine and suspension were built in China it won't hurt you.

Mirroring traditional racism, the more successful the Chinese become at building motorcycles the more motoracists feel aggrieved. The modest goodness of the Zongshen has caused motoracists to redirect their ire at US/China trade relations, our looming military conflict in the South China Sea, and working conditions on the Chinese mainland.

Like Japanese motorcycles in the 1960s, buying a Chinese motorcycle today reflects poorly on your patriotism. You’ll be accused of condoning child slavery or helping to sling shovelfuls of kittens into the furnaces of sinister ChiCom factories. Participate in a Zongshen forum discussion long enough and someone inevitably asks why you hate America. I’ve had Facebook friends tell me I shouldn’t post information about the Zongshen—that I must be on their payroll. I’m just testing a bike, man. This reaction doesn’t happen with any other brand and they all pay me the same amount: zilch.


So if you’re angry about working conditions in a Chinese motorcycle factory, but not about similar conditions in a USA-based Amazon fulfillment warehouse (selling mostly Chinese products) you might be a motoracist. If you type moral outrage on your Chinese-built computer complaining about China’s poor quality control while sitting in your Chinese-built chair and answering your Chinese-built cell phone you might be a motoracist. If you’re outraged that the Zongshen 250 can’t match the performance of a motorcycle five times its displacement and five times its cost you might be a motoracist. I want you to take a thoughtful moment and ask yourself if your motoracism isn’t just plain old racism hiding behind mechanical toys. If it is, stop doing it, and let’s get back to bashing other motorcycles for the right reasons: the goofy jerks who ride them.