Remember Lifan? The Chinese company that flooded North America with cheap Honda dirt bike/dual sport clones in the early 2000s? Although the company has faded from its notoriety in the Canadian and US markets, it’s still building thousands of motorcycles a year for China and other markets, at a scale that puts the western manufacturers to shame. Its latest machine, the KPT400, is a middleweight adventure bike that points to a new future for the company … but it also shows that Lifan is still sticking to its roots.

Lifan launched the KPT400 at the Shenzhen Motor Expo in China, in late September. Here’s what the company’s website says about the new bike:

The first-launched KPT400 is equipped with Lifan’s self-developed DRF400 two-cylinder eight-valve water-cooled engine. It is powerful and equipped with a large 18.5L fuel tank. It has low short-distance fuel consumption and hassle-free long-distance travel, guaranteeing a mileage of 500 kilometers. It also supports the EFI system jointly developed by Lifan and Bosch. . At the same time, KPT400 is the first model of Lifan that adopts the new design language NEW WAVE and family elements, and will be used in other subsequent models.

So, uh … let’s look at this statement a little more closely.

First off, it’s great to see Lifan talking about developing its own parallel twin engine, With four-valve heads and liquid cooling, this ain’t your daddy’s CG125 knock-off, which is what Lifan used to sell. It’s supposed to make 42 horsepower at the crank, which sounds like good fun. A 500-kilometre range also sounds pretty good, and a fuel injection system designed with Bosch? Also very good. A TFT screen? Adjustable windscreen? Has something got into the water at Lifan, spurring a growth in creativity?

Alas, the talk about “NEW WAVE” design language falls flat, when you look at the thing and realize this is a scaled-down take on the Harley-Davidson Pan America fairing. There’s nothing wrong with that, as designers are taking cue from each other all the time (ever notice how almost every adventure bike had a “beak,” for years?). However, if Lifan is really interested in moving forward as a company forging its own destiny, it would be best to come up with its own distinctive look. The original GY-5 line had a headlight mask ripped straight form Suzuki’s DR series; going forward, why copy another company?

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