• Chinese Four-Cylinder Motor Just Another Copy or Something Big?

Hands up who wants a 400cc screamer

Memories are strong of imported Japanese road bikes with screaming 400cc, in-line four engines. Kawasaki is now making a 250cc four but it’s unlikely we’ll see it here. This 400cc Chinese engine might make it, though.

Kings of Copying Developing Inline Four Engine

Chinese Four-Cylinder Motor Just Another Copy or Something Big?
- image 1045062
CAD Design Stage Four Cylinder
Similar specs to Kawasaki ZX-25R Ninja

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, motorcycling was enlivened by the arrival, as ’grey’ imports (bikes brought into a country they were never officially listed in), of 400cc, four-cylinder sports bikes, built to take advantage of Japanese vehicle taxation laws. Exact miniature replicas of the 600/1000cc sports bike we could get our hands on, they were completely bonkers, often revving to 17 or 18,000rpm, with an exhaust note that could raise the dead.

Chinese Four-Cylinder Motor Just Another Copy or Something Big?
- image 1045063
Impressive Figures
400cc, 75bhp, 32.5lb.ft

Why the manufacturers thought that we wouldn’t enjoy them as official imports is not recorded but is was our loss. There are signs, however, that the small-capacity four-cylinder bike is not dead. Kawasaki recently launched the ZX-25R Ninja with a 250cc four for the Asian market and now Chinese company Colove is bucking the trend in that country of building simple small capacity engines by exploring the multi-cylinder route.

Chinese Four-Cylinder Motor Just Another Copy or Something Big?
- image 1045066
Kawasaki ZX-25R Ninja
Resurrected the small-capacity inline four. Chinese bike likely to look exactly the same

Colove, that also goes under the name of Kove, already builds a multitude of bikes, from naked singles with an uncanny resemblance to KTM Dukes, to enduro, rally and adventure bikes (which look suspiciously like BMW GS models), none of which are powered by more than two cylinders.

Chinese Four-Cylinder Motor Just Another Copy or Something Big?
- image 1045064
Colove 500X
Did anyone say BMW...?

Now, this new four-cylinder engine might only be at the CAD design stage but it shows that the company is looking at alternative engine configurations and we all know that when the Chinese get their teeth into something, it’s not because they are bored: it’s because they are intending to build it!

Chinese Four-Cylinder Motor Just Another Copy or Something Big?
- image 1045065
Colove 500F Neo Scrambler
Yamaha MT-07, perhaps?

Another clue to the seriousness of the project is that specs have been released. A 400cc capacity is on the money but what isn’t expected is a power output of 75bhp and a torque figure of 32.5lb.ft, peak power being delivered at 13,500rpm. The cylinder dimensions are over-square (stroke shorter than the bore is wide) and the cylinder head is a miracle of miniaturisation with double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder.

Chinese Four-Cylinder Motor Just Another Copy or Something Big?
- image 1045067
Colove NK321
Blink and it’s a KTM 390 Duke

Logic dictates that such an engine is only suitable for a sports bike, a move that would be sure to gain more publicity than putting it in a mundane commuter bike. Whether it would ever make it out of Asia is another matter, given the size of the market. Nor do we know when - or if - it will appear in physical form.

What we can assume, if the rest of the Colove range is anything to go by, is that whatever bike the engine is put into will look exactly like someone else’s bike. With the engine being an inline four cylinder, is it too much of a stretch to assume it will look exactly like the ZX-25R Ninja?

Probably not!

Harry Fisher
Harry Fisher
Motorcycling Contributor
Born and raised in England, he has lived in South Africa with his family since 2002. Harry has owned examples of Triumph, Norton, BSA, MV Agusta, Honda, BMW, Ducati, Harley Davidson, Kawasaki and Moto Morini motorcycles. He regrets selling all of them.  Read full bio
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