In them good old days every high street would have a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker but in these modern times nobody needs reminding how global trade has changed the face of retail. I reckon I could sit here and order everything needed to build a bike without even having to make a phone call, let alone waste calories by standing up.
The problem with that is when you do need an M8 x 1.25 x 90mm cap head or a reverse cone muffler in a hurry, you’ve had it. Unless you live in China, then you face a different problem altogether. If you can’t find what you want, you’ll need to work out how to filter through the people who’ll make it for you.
We’ve shared Shanghai Custom’s story before and how its entrepreneurial founder Matthew is joining the manufacturing dots in order to offer a line of decent looking customs for the tiniest fistful of dollars. But Champagne taste and Tsingtao money needn’t mean poor quality, in fact there’s a near 100% probability that the bike you ride and cherish with a Union Jack or Star Spangled Banner stamped on it somewhere wouldn’t even run down the road with our a myriad of Chinese made parts bolted in it or on it. In fact Matthew has a list of big brand name aftermarket parts that are made in the same factory as his carefully curated smorgasbord of cut-price components.
Whilst developing and sourcing all these parts Matthew had accumulated enough spares to put this little GN250 together. Well, not quite a 250. A factory around the corner produces a 300 big bore kit so it seemed churlish not to go for a bit more power. After all, the Shanghai smog must really play havoc with the levels of combustable O2 available. And before the anti-Chinese desk jockeys get all high and mighty, the factory produces barrels and pistons for BMW on the adjacent assembly line.
Rather than try to force an oversized set of upsidedowners to fit Matthew designed a fork and yokes using CAD and had his factory manufacture to his specification. Try getting that done at your local bike shop. Yokes maybe, but fork legs…not in our neck of the woods at least.
Further development of these parts will make their way onto future Shanghai builds including a proposed run of café racers.
The front hub is aluminium and machined from solid, the rear from steel and the aluminium rims are pressed in another factory in Chongqing, a sprawling industrial city in China’s south west. The rear disc is mounted in an unusual position hanging off the swingarm, which itself is longer and repurposed from a small capacity cruiser. This helps avoid the stunted looking rear that these little bikes suffer from yet takes nothing away from the GN’s nimble handling. Shanghai Customs own-brand shocks offer a modicum of bling along with a much plusher ride. Tyres are by Taiwanese company Duro, a chunky 130 x 18 at both ends.
The thin-waisted tank is from a cheap and cheerful Xingfu 125 with a paint job that emphasises the sleek and diminutive proportions. In fact, I’ll be trying to score one of these tanks from eBay in a few sentences time, they’re a perfect tracker shape. Complimenting this svelte silhouette is a thick seat, made in-house using real leather.
Fenders, lights, bars, grips, levers and a host of other parts have been carefully sourced by Matthew and he’s about ready to go into small scale production with his own range of complete, export ready custom motorcycles. If folk can look beyond the shortcomings of the throwaway, mega-cheap mass production bikes and realise that a nation built on engineering and manufacturing can offer a great, affordable alternative to more established machinery from across the water.