A few years ago, I was at a motorcycle trade show in Chongqing, one of the world’s largest cities in the heart of China. It was a chaotic affair, and the noise and strange bikes probably traumatized me a little.
The event almost made me lose interest in the Chinese two-wheeler industry. Even Kove's appearance at the EICMA show in Milan in 2022 had changed my mind.
But then the brand-new Kove 450 Rally became available for the first test rides in Italy. This bike carried Kove’s entire factory team through the Dakar 2023 in Saudi Arabia.
Not even KTM was able to achieve that on its debut many years ago.
Was I wrong? Are we looking at an important major player coming onto the scene that we should take seriously?
A Puzzle in Three Parts
There is a certain resemblance between the Kove 450 Rally and Marc Coma's 2015 Dakar-winning KTM. The $8,990 price of the bike’s basic version is striking and will keep many rally racers awake at night.
Suddenly, flying over dirt tracks like the pros sounds much more doable because the entry tickets no longer come at prices ranging from $15,000 to $25,000 and beyond.
How reliable is the bike? Has it been tested enough? Does the engine have enough power?
These are all legitimate questions for a Chinese bike. We can find the first clues in the final standings of the last Dakar event—the rookie factory riders Sunier Sunier, Deng Liansong, and Fang Mingji finished the rally on the Kove 450 in 46th, 67th and 77th place.