Much-troubled Brit bikemaker Norton may have been sold to an Indian manufacturer, but we’re about to see the results of a different international team-up instead. Chinese manufacturer Zongshen appears nearly ready to bring the Cyclone RX6 adventure bike to market, powered by a Norton-designed parallel twin. Currently, the bike is working its way through regulatory approval in China.

Norton announced its new 650 Atlas parallel twin in 2019, powering the Ranger and Nomad models (with scrambler and street tracker styling, respectively). The all-new liquid-cooled engine came with 270-degree crank,  making a claimed 84 horsepower at 11,000 rpm (max torque was a claimed 47 pound-feet). This engine was supposed to be the foundation of a new, affordable series of Nortons, helping the company boost sales. The Atlas series was supposed to hit the market in 2020.

Well—that plan sure didn’t work out. Norton’s money woes came to a head in early 2020, and even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, the retro British marque was in massive trouble, with many nasty accusations about management’s practices. By the end of it all, India-based TVS bought Norton. Now, the company is re-structuring, and those Atlas models still haven’t hit the market.

Enter the Zongshen. These offroad versions of the RX6 look surprisingly decent, although they’re heavy. Photo: MCN

However, before Norton went bust, former CEO Stuart Garner licenced the Atlas design to Chinese manufacturer Zongshen. Zongshen is one of China’s biggest moto OEMs, and back when the country’s motorcycles first hit the US market in big numbers, it was one of the most commonly-seen brands in North America.

Back then, Zongshen was mostly selling 200 cc dual sports, some of them based on classic Yamaha designs. More recently, Zongshen was the original manufacturer behind the CSC RX3 models. The company has come a long way since then, as the new Cyclone RX6 plans show.

MCN reports the Zongshen Cyclone RX6 has Nissin brakes, LED lights, TFT dash, adjustable windscreen, aluminum swingarm and Bosch-sourced ABS. That’s in line with other recent offerings from China; the country’s latest crop of adventure bikes have power and features that barely lag behind their Euro counterparts. In this case, the Zongshen reportedly weighs 245 kilos at the curb, with 70 horsepower. There’s room to catch up with BMW/KTM/Triumph/etc., but China’s much closer than it was before.

Will we ever see this machine in Europe or North America? With millions of potential customers at home in China, does Zongshen even need our markets? Maybe not, especially if MSRP puts the Zongshen past the “I’ll take a gamble on it” price point for Western consumers. That’s certainly been the case with larger-cc Chinese motorcycles in the past, like CFMoto’s Kawasaki-derived twins.

 

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