QJ Motor SRC 500 first ride review: Modern-Classic Retrovision
Aside from your smart phones, if you take a good look around your household you will see that most or at least some products and appliances about are made in China. So whether for or against it, out here in India, Chinese products are here to stay. Because they make practically everything out there and the quality of products is always improving. Today we have another Chinese product in the form of the QJ Motor SRC 500, now this here to take on some of the big guns in the business to the likes of Royal Enfield and more recently, Harley-Davidson and Triumph motorcycles. So that's a pretty big task that is has before it in this day and age, but does it manage to do so? It's time to find out.
Design-wise, the SRC 500 sports a timeless classic retro design with its 90-degree upright engine, the rounded halogen lighting at both ends, twin pod meters, wide handlebar with round steel-finish mirrors, vintage fuel tank, the classic peashooter exhaust and a flat bench seat. If you go to the QJ Motor website right now, you'll see that the SRC 500 bike pictured there comes with 19/18- inch spoke wheels and all-analogue meters which just piles on the old-school charm for me, but we'll have to settle for the alloys (same size) and the all-digital instrumentation out here, because we don't have that option. In terms of features, the bike is quite Spartan considering its steep Rs 2.79 lakh (ex-showroom) asking price.
There's no ride modes, slipper clutch, ride-by-wire throttle, or Bluetooth connectivity. You do get a USB socket and Dual channel ABS. There are a good amount of steel-finish accents over the bike like on the headlight unit, the dials, mirrors and grab handles, which look classy, however there are also some wires on this QJ Motor bike that aren't tucked away nicely and rob the bike of a neat overall fit finish. Paint quality on parts like the tank and panels is good, but a bit sketchy on certain bits like the triple clamp and parts of the chassis. It looked to have bubbled and could peel off any moment.
Getting astride the SRC 500 isn't a big deal thanks to an accessible 800mm seat height. It's sits a good 155mm off the ground which gives you decent ground clearance over bumps and potholes too. I'm 5'9 and I found the seating position to be very relaxed with my back upright, feet slightly forward set and the flat handlebar was well within reach too. The bike weighs in at 205kh kerb, and you'll feel the weight of it all at low speeds or if you have to push it around for whatever reason. And only thing that you'll have to be a bit careful while going about that latter bit with this bike is its footpegs because they're fixed and don't fold back, which could be painful if you're not careful. Once you get going properly, it gets a lot better.
Now the SRC 500 is the second motorcycle from QJ motor that we've checked out of late the first being the SRK 400, with its liquid-cooled high revving twin-cylinder engine with a lot of mid and top end power. The SRC 500, very different in comparison with its air-cooled long-stroke single-cylinder mill. The 90 degree upright engine out here makes a decent amount of power rated at 25.85PS at 5,750rpm, 36 Nm of max torque at 4,250rpm. It's got a good amount of torque low down the powerband, with a decent mid-range too, but it seems to lose its might higher up the revband pretty much as expected from a motorcycle with this weight and this sort of and motor. In the city, the bike gets off the line nice and smooth, not too brisk and not jerky at all, even shifting up through the gear shifts is nice and smooth.
The clutch is nice and light so it isn't a hassle if you're stuck in traffic either. Out on the highway the SRC 500 felt comfortable at a speeds of around 80-100kmph at 3,000-4,000rpm in fifth or top gear, with the engine feeling bubbly and grand, while the machine overall felt well designed to keep vibrations at bay for most part, although its level of engine refinement isn't as good as the now discontinued RE Classic 500. You will feel the buzz especially in the nonadjustable pegs more than the bars. The vibes are manageable at speeds of around 110-120kmph, but what upsets your rhythm is the performance of the brakes. The entire bulk of the bikes weight shifts to the front under hard braking and the bite of the 300mm disc up front rarely felt sufficient. The feel at the levers on the right aren't very reassuring either, and the bike had already had a good run in before I got my hands on it for this test, so they should have been primed and ready to go but this time.
As you would expect, the SRC 500 is an easy-rider. Loves to cruise, isn't a fan of downright speed. At low speed the suspension at the front manages things well but things can get a bit lumpy with the stiff rear setup. At higher speeds the suspension feels a lot better, but feedback from the front isn't the best. Long sweeping bends at 70-80kmph feel just about manageable, but any faster and the Maxxis tyres don't feel up for it.
To sum it up, the QJ Motor SRC 500 may look and feel like a very decent motorcycle, but it has three major aspects that don't work in its favour. First, it's late to the game. And sadly it isn't offering anything new or exceptionally different in this displacement segment, it could be on par with the now discontinued Classic 500 offered a couple of years back if not for the next iffy aspect. The second, has to be its premium price tag of Rs. 2.79 lakh (10k for this fancier colour scheme), which puts it very close to more established products from highly reputed brands. Even something like the Harley-Davidson X 440 and the Triumph Speed 400 fall cheaper than the SRC 500.
Lastly, is the QJ motor dealer and service network, or the lack of it thereof, because although the company is slated to operate out of existing Benelli and Keeway service centers across the country, there aren't that many of them around. So overall timelines of reliability and getting this bike fixed or serviced are uncertain. One thing is certain though, you're unlikely to see a lot of SRC 500s running about the place.
Starts Rs 5,50,000
Starts Rs 1,49,900