Here’s a bike you’ve probably not seen before. A Zontes T310. It’s riding in on the wave of new machinery from China – the second wave that is. The first wave we all recall was populated by annoying little pocket dirt bikes that made lots of noise, got ridden everywhere illegally and sooner than later went bang never to be repaired. This second wave is more mature, now we’re talking proper motorcycles of a quality and performance to match the mainstream, even coming with innovations not seen before. Serious stuff.
Zontes – who they?
Zontes is the RoW brand for motorcycles made by Tayo Motorcycle Technology in Guangdong, China (home market bikes are branded Haojiang). Established in 2003 they’ve grown rapidly to the point where they manufacture 2,000,000 motorcycles and engines a year, employing 1000 staff. Much of their output are 100-150cc commuter style machines, which suit their local market, but this T310 is part of a push to satisfying European needs and tastes (there are also naked and sport-faired variations).
Well, a 312cc to be exact. This is Zontes’ newest engine taking the brand into that important A2 market that’s been developing rapidly in Europe. There are plenty of 300cc four-strokes now in this market, and perhaps the nearest equivalent is the BMW G 310. Like the BMW this is a water-cooled single, with DOHC, four valves and a fairly high 12.5:1 compression ratio. Power output is comparable to the BMW, too, making 35hp at 9500rpm. Transmission is a six-speed. Spec is solid too, with an all aluminium cylinder that’s nickel silicon carbide plated for durability and performance. There’s even a balance shaft to dampen out the vibes.
This model is called simply the T310, but it says ADV on the fairing and the styling is distinctly modern-adventure with the beaky fairing (a la GS) and external crash bars. Okay, it’s got 17” cast wheels, so it’s not wholly dirt oriented, but then neither does a standard G310GS.
It does look good and close up it doesn’t disappoint, the fit and finish is of a high standard and the whole design is cohesive. Now as well as being A2 compliant it’s also pretty light, 149kg, which is a good deal less than the GS’s 169.5kg. For those of smaller stature, starting out on the motorcycle / adventure road you can see the appeal.
Yeah, linking to that last point, for 6’0” me it’s a little cramped, although not an impossible fit. Smaller people will delight in its scale and modest seat height. But that aside everything else is pretty full-sized – even those wheels and tyres, that’s a 110-70-17 front and wide 150-60-17 rear. CST isn’t a brand we’re familiar with, but they look fine and on dry roads they handled well. Being smaller it’s running smaller brakes, too, just the one 260mm disc up front with a twin-piston caliper. It could possibly do with a stronger set-up for when fully loaded, but one-up unloaded, combined with the disc rear brake, the performance was acceptable. It’s also equipped with Bosch ABS, although you’d only need that in extremis.
Does it go?
Well, it’s a revver. With this 90-kilo rider on board it needed to be buzzed to get going, but once going it ticks along well. I’d say the BMW’s G 310 motor offers slightly more torque, feels more dirt bike, whereas with this motor you use the revs more, kind of road racy. And you’ll flick through the gears pretty quick. But it’s not left behind by modern traffic and if you hang onto the revs it’ll pull happily up to an indicated 90mph, while it sustained a 70mph cruise quite easily. And actually the engine is quite flexible, after a while I found I could leave it in sixth gear and it would ride like an automatic so long as I didn’t need instant acceleration. The exhaust note is EU-regs quiet and fairly non-descript – but that’s so many bikes these days.
It’s a small lightish bike and without having so much weight to push it into the road it skips along like a small bike does. But there’s chassis integrity – just check out that KTM-esque swingarm – so it feels secure. The suspension is soft-plush but not so soft it gets overwhelmed. Fair play. Now while I wouldn’t hurry down a muddy lane on this bike, I did ride a few hard packed green lanes and the Zontes was surprisingly happy popping down these. The 17” CST tyres actually offered pretty secure grip on the hard pack, despite the dust, and the standing riding position was surprisingly natural and comfortable. A 19” front would offer a better tyre choice, and a sump guard would be preferable, but as it is, it’s surprisingly okay.
The controls and instruments?
There’s some hi-spec stuff here. You can start with keyless ignition. The screen is electronically adjustable, the fuel cap and seat both open via electric button. There’s the choice of an Eco mode on the engine mapping, although given the need to rev this smallish engine I’m not sure what effect it has on performance or emissions savings. The hand guards are half ADV half MotoGP and look cute – not tested in a fall of course. The test bike came with a set of optional aluminium panniers and top box branded ‘Loboo’ which really impressed for their fit and quality – and being lined is a nice touch as aluminium does of course tarnish your clothes when they rub around on the move. The only real disappointment was the instrument panel which lacked clarity in the daylight and the odd-ball pyramid display rev counter wasn’t the best idea. Not that Zontes are alone in this, as this display reminded me of that on the Africa Twin! Both need a redesign.
Quite the surprise really. It’s certainly nippy enough and that 70mph cruising speed means it’s not a danger in the cut and thrust of modern motoring. It’s like a scaled adventure bike for sure. Having a full licence I can’t say it’s a choice for me, but if A2 is what you’re facing then this is an adventure bike for the category, comfortable (for the smaller stature) and very well appointed. The styling – I haven’t mentioned – is utterly contemporary and quite bold in orange, and I like the slash cut pipes (a cool wee detail). If I was picky I’d like a little more torque from the tune and to enhance the ADV capability a swap to wire-spoke wheels with a 19” front, plus bash plate would add to its versatility and kudos.
Yeah, it’s good value at £3999 with a two-year warranty. That’s a lot less than the £5275 of the G 310 GS, but then that bike has the BMW badge whereas the T310 is a Zontes? (the question mark is absent but intoned every time someone reads the name). But that will probably change with time as Zontes becomes better known. But I tell you, there’s a lot of bike here for the money, they’ve done well to include all the tech, the quality finishes and extras in for that price.
Test bike supplied by Clements Moto, the UK importer. Check out the UK Zontes website: //www.zontes.co.uk/