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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I'm hesitant to post again after the reception my last thread got. It blew up into anti-china political rhetoric and the mods closed it down: https://www.advrider.com/f/attachments/86973b16-a842-4c41-a5bb-b789a2f2cafe-jpeg.3498065/

Please refrain from bringing politics or anti-china sentiment into this thread, as it will just be shut down again.

For a long time I've been thinking about a bike to cafe. I was really into the Yamaha SR400, until I actually sat on one. It was SO tiny. I was mulling over the Royal Enfield 650s, and then came across the SG400 (Known as the RE3 Cyclone overseas). It was $5555 delivered, and it had some seriously radical cafe styling that I really fell for. The price was remarkable too. Not only would I not have to build it into a cafe racer myself, the purchase price was lower than either the RE or the Yamaha. So... I got together some play money and bought it in October 2021.

I wanted the blue one, but they didn't have it in stock yet. That container was supposed to arrive 6 months before and hadn't yet. (goddamn Covid) So I ended up with a gray one, and bought the blue tank and fender later. BUT, I didn't just buy it and have it shipped. I bought it, flew to LA, rode around california for 2500 miles, flew home, and THEN had the bike shipped to me.

So, you guessed it, this bike Chinese. It's a Zongshen RE3 Cyclone. Here it's branded as a CSC (California Scooter Company). CSC made their bread and butter on a 24hp 250cc adventure bike from 2016-2020, and have now started importing more interesting, modern, and advanced bikes. This RE3/SG400 is a 380cc parallel twin with 36 horsepower. Screw/locknut tappets, water-cooled, tubeless spoked rims, fuel-injected, 6-speed, and near 100mph top end with stock gearing. (98 indicated, 96 actual). It's geared for 115 at redline in 6th but can't actually make that, so a tooth or two larger rear sprocket should get it all the way to 100. It's got a remarkable amount of power for only 380ccs. It's pretty docile and meek until you crack the throttle wide open. Then it's still docile and meek, until the revs hit 7000 rpm. Then it surges forward and continues to gain speed all the way to the 10,000 rpm redline. When kept in the power band there is plenty of power for passing on backroads, even multiple cars at a time. There's also plenty of overtaking ability on the highway as well. The bike will cruise at 80 without vibration or any drama other than the wind and helmet-lift you get with any naked bike. It shifts smoothly and positively, the ABS works pretty well, and it's overall a pretty nice package. The only thing really wrong with it is the rear shocks. They're set up for a 90 pound asian man, and they have ZERO rebound damping. Stock the bike will pogo four times after hitting a large bump. In China there are 3 different specced versions with different shock configurations, and CSC unfortunately chose the cheapest shocks to import. Bad call on their part. I've replaced them with a quality pair of YSS shocks, and that made a huge difference.

Other than that, I can't say I've noticed any corners cut. I mean, it's a budget bike, but the fit and finish is excellent. The design is well thought-out and made for DIY maintenance. There's no voodoo necessary to adjust the valves for instance. Tank comes off, wires come off, and valve cover lifts straight out. Everything fits together well and looks good. I mean, there are some obvious hints it's a budget bike. The gas cap ring is plastic instead of aluminum and the handlebar switches are a bit plasticy. The shocks of course were a big problem for me, and exacerbated because I'm a fatass and the bike was overloaded with gear. But otherwise, you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between this Zongshen and a Honda if you had no motorcycle knowledge at all.

Everywhere I went in Cali, this bike brought out curious people. Some thought I had restored an old bike, others instantly knew it was a production bike, but had no clue who made it. I had great conversations with sport bikers, harley riders, adventure riders, and everyone inbetween. I had the first oil change at a harley dealership in Fort Bragg, california and the owner and mechanic were astounded that I bought the machine for $5500 out the door, and impressed with the quality of the machine. Never once did I get bashed for buying Chinese. Everyone was curious and friendly.

This Zongshen RE3/CSC SG400 has almost nothing in common with the garbage Chinese bikes sold on Amazon, or the pitbikes sold for years by everyone from your local dealership to Jiffy Lube. The engine isn't a copy of anything, it's Zongshen's own design. It's a much higher level of quality. The metallurgy is better, the castings are beautiful, and the welds are done skillfully. Basically, the exact same thing that happened with the Japanese in the 1960s is playing out now with the Chinese, at a much accelerated pace. There's a mix of garbage and quality machines, and eventually there will be a few big players and the garbage bikes will be forgotten entirely, just like the shitty Japanese bikes from the 50s and early 60s were.

Here are some pics from my california travels:

Sky Land vehicle Wheel Tire Cloud


Tire Wheel Fuel tank Helmet Automotive lighting


Wheel Tire Fuel tank Automotive fuel system Vehicle


Wheel Tire Fuel tank Plant Vehicle


And here's how the bike sits currently. The saddlebags and hand guards were just used for the trip, I much prefer the naked style here.

Tire Wheel Fuel tank Automotive fuel system Vehicle


I'm waiting on a tank logo and the OEM stripes (in white instead of black) to finish out the tank.

This machine is great fun, and completely worth $5555 OTD and delivered. There's nothing else quite like it, and I enjoy having an underdog of a machine. Especially since it's such an eye catcher and draws people into conversation. In Covid times, I need all the social interaction I can get!

I know I could have gotten something japanese and used for about the same price, but I really dug the looks of this bike, and after buying it I have no regrets at all. It's a great bike, suitable for beginners or any experience level right up to "old fart", which I almost qualify for. (I've been riding for 25 years). There's really nothing in the same category and price point. The next closest is the Royal Enfield GT650, which has an MSRP $500 more than this bike cost delivered, and I've never met a dealership that didn't add $600-$900 worth of extra fees. The Yamaha SR400 is a tiny 3/4 scale motorcycle and also retailed for $500 more (plus fees) than this bike cost delivered. Other than those two, the only other bikes with the retro look are Triumphs and the Kawasaki W800. All of which are many thousands of dollars more costly.

Overall I'm really pleased with my purchase, and I must say that other than the rear shocks, the bike exceeded every expectation I had, and blew my mind on how downright GOOD the thing is. I really was expecting something more... chincy... and was happy to be proven otherwise. Even the Chinese tires stick great and are lasting pretty long. My V65 Magna eats rear tires every 3000 miles. My Benelli eats dual sport big block tires every 3500 miles. I already have more than that on the SG400 and the tires still look new. I'm not babying it either, I'm riding it balls-to-the-walls pretty much everywhere.


Love them or hate them, the Chinese are coming, and they're bringing really cool niche motorcycles that nobody knew they needed. Next they'll start racing, and then we'll have Chinese superbikes to contend with. This is a wild time to live in, motorcycle-wise.

Charles.

Charles.
 

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Great post. Yep, the early Chinese MC's had a lot of issues - but they are now producing some great bikes. I have two - and am not disappointed in either.

Forsooth! Benelli are now made in China - who would have thought? Any Jap bike under 1000cc is made in China or Asia or India...time to forget regional differences.

The Royal Enfield, which is a beautiful bike, is made in India. My Aprilia was assembled in Malaysia....on and on it goes.
 

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I find it interesting that the powers-that-be in S Korea decided to not go into the motorcycle business, choosing instead to focus on 4-wheelers. Imagine if the Hyundai/Kia conglomerate had decided 40 years ago to take on Honda in motorcycles instead of cars. It took them a while, but now they are just a good, if not better than the Japanese in nearly every segment of the auto market. Genesis is no Lexus, yet, but would you bet against them getting there in 5 to 10 years?
As for China, I had a Lance scooter for a few years and was very happy with the Price/Quality ratio. The Janus motor is100% Chinese made although still a Honda design and seems to be just fine. Ditto the Buicks sold in the USA: made in China…..
The real problem with buying Chinese is not the design or the build quality, it is that you might as well be buying a VW in 1939…… do you really want to give your money and support to a government that is the Nazis of today? I realize that we are supposed to avoid politics, but how can you separate out the policies of the country of origin when the government and industry are so intertwined? At this point, buying a new Chinese made vehicle is not too different from wearing cotton in 1850: it’s the made by slaves on a big plantation…..
Great tech though!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
KTM motors are made in china by CTFMoto as well.

The longest journey was two weeks and 2500 miles in California. I started in Azusa (northeast of LA) and rode west until I hit ocean. I rode Highway 1 north until it ended, picked up the 101 for a very short stint, and then rode the avenue of the giants from end to end. I turned around and backtracked to pick up mattole road, and took that back west through some beautiful country called the Kings Range. I stopped in Honeydew, which used to be an empty, desolate town with a few farmers here and there. Now it's a major weed growing area, with bleary-eyed college students making pilgrimage to get the good stuff right from the source. There are tye-die t-shirts with the different "flavors" of pot from the area. It's become touristy and dumb. But then, last time I was there was 2004-ish, and time marches on. I rode up to Ferndale and then up north hugging the coast as much as I could, going through loleta and bayview, then heading west across Tuluwat island to Samoa. I then turned north and curved eastward through Manila and Arcata. A this point, there weren't any more backroad choices to continue north, I had to choose the 101, or optionally take every "business 101" in every small town just to get a break from the monotony. My goal was to hit Oregon just to add another state to my list of "states I've ridden in", but 10 minutes into the ride on the highway, I realized I wasn't having fun anymore. I was just trying to bag a state, and it was two hours to oregon and another two back here, on a soulless multilane highway.

So I pulled off and turned around. I made it back to sunny brae, and then turned down freshwater road. In kneeland it turned to gravel, and I suffered on through with bouncy, pogo-ing shocks that were constantly bottoming out. I finally got to 36, and headed east and gunned it. This was more the SG400's forte - long high speed sweepers. Even with bad rear shocks it performed pretty well here, and I was going at a fair clip. I went through Chester and got a some food, then backtracked and turned onto 89 South. I rode through the burned-out remains of the town of Greenville. The wildfires took the entire town, there was no structure left. Lamp poles were melted and sagging, debris everywhere, but perfect sidewalks and roads and clean streets and curbs. It was spooky. There were people there digging through the rubble looking for anything left to salvage. It was really sad.

I went through Graeagle and noticed more and more and more fire damage. I made it to Truckee on a nice 70 degree evening, found a hotel, and got some rest. I woke up the next day to snow and 28 degrees. I dicked around for a while until it got above freezing, threw on my heated liner and once again headed out. My original plan was to hit Reno, Nevada, but it was cold and snow the entire way. So instead I got the fuck off the mountain, and headed southwest on 80, then picked up 49 and went through pacerville, merced falls, and from there east and south on Hornitos road. I pulled into Mariposa for a hotel and found a great saloon. It was the local's dive bar, not the touristy expensive restaurants and bars on the main drag. It was fun. From there on I was running out of time, so I aimed myself towards LA. I got on 99 south and went through some very interesting farming and industrial areas. Somehow even the industrial areas were picturesque. Eventually I picked up highway 5 south of bakersfield and just opened the throttle. I don't know if you guys are aware, but the speed limit is completely ignored on highway 5. I cranked it up to 90 and was still being passed. So I wound it out, and held it at 94 mph for miles and miles. I didn't drop below 85mph the entire time I was on highway 5.

As I got into LA proper traffic started to pile up, and I just lane split my entire way back to Azusa. GPS thought it was going to take me 3 hours, and I made it in less than half that time. The bike is low and agile but also stable, and it's SUPER easy to lane split with. It turned what would have been an agonizing section of road in North Carolina into a fun, exciting obstacle course. Finally back in Azusa, I got a hotel and took all my luggage off. I spent the next day riding around the hot LA desert unencumbered by luggage. It was a lot nicer ride with those shocks. Eventually I brought the bike back to CSC, and they crated it up and sent it to my house via railcar, while I flew home. Total was just under 2500 miles from start to finish.

I hjad the first oil change done by a harley shop in Fort Bragg, and I did the first valve adjustment myself the following morning, in a secluded campsite. Valve adjustment was easy, getting the tank on and off without a helper was a bit of a challenge, but i managed. The bike made good power the entire trip. I didn't beat on it, but I didn't baby it either, I just broke it in by riding how I wanted to ride it. It made better power every day until it hit about 1500 miles, and then leveled off. It would go up steep california hills in 6th gear at 70mph without needing to downshift at all.

So yeah, my first trip with it was with the stock suspension. I'm 285 lbs and had 60 pounds of gear with me. By the end of the trip I had mailed half my gear home. I decided I was told old and it was too friggin cold at night for me to camp. Since I was now hoteling it, that got rid of a tent, a tarp, a sleeping bag, mess kit, and more. After the first 1500 or so miles, I also sent all my tools home. The bike seemed reliable and I had already adjusted the valves for the first time, so I kept a tiny socket set, the tools I'd need to adjust my chain, and my multitool and sent the rest back home. In fact, I didn't need to adjust the chain the entire trip. It's a 530 x-ring chain, and even though the bike sits at 3500 miles right now, I still havent' needed to adjust it at all. The bike also used no oil or coolant the entire trip. Oil was still amber, in fact.

Once I got back to NC, and the bike eventually made its way to my house (It was supposed to take 4 days but it took more than a month because railyard workers in Louisiana all quit. So my crate hung out there for more than three weeks!!). Got the bike back, and of course now it's almost december and balls cold. I experimented with shocks. I bought the absolute cheapest 15" chinese shocks on eBay, bolted them on, and went for a ride. And well, shit. They were FAR better than stock. They were $40 RFY clones. And RFY was a clone of an ancient Ohlins design. So I had a clone of a clone shocks on the bike, and they were adequate. If the bike had come with these shocks, I wouldn't have complained. They had enough preload, and while the rebound damping was still too slow, it was ENORMOUSLY BETTER than the stock pogo sticks. With the stock shocks I'd hit a bump and bottom the shock, then it would bounce four times. Usually the first bounce also bottomed the shock. With the cheapest eBay shocks I could find, there was still a bit of a bounce, but no bottoming, no wallow, and no handling issues. I got these shocks mostly so I could play with raising the ride height in the rear. Stock shocks were 14.5", and I thought the bike handled a little slowly so I raised the rear to 15", and that seemed like a nice sweet spot. If the bike had come with these shocks, I would have still upgraded them eventually, but they would have been completely adequate for the bike. I would have had a better time on my trip as well. (meaning, I could have ridden faster and taken the gravel route more often)

Now that I had the height sorted, I ordered a pair of YSS shocks for the bike, and have been very happy with them. I'm a heavy guy tho, and the YSS might be too stiff for Joe Average. Damping is a tad too fast on these, making me feel every little tar snake or bit of gravel on the road. Which is better than wallowing, great for twisties, but still not exactly perfect. I may make a bunch of measurements and have hagon custom-make me a pair, but for now the YSS shocks are working great.

So... there's my story so far.

Charles.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I find it interesting that the powers-that-be in S Korea decided to not go into the motorcycle business, choosing instead to focus on 4-wheelers. Imagine if the Hyundai/Kia conglomerate had decided 40 years ago to take on Honda in motorcycles instead of cars. It took them a while, but now they are just a good, if not better than the Japanese in nearly every segment of the auto market. Genesis is no Lexus, yet, but would you bet against them getting there in 5 to 10 years?
As for China, I had a Lance scooter for a few years and was very happy with the Price/Quality ratio. The Janus motor is100% Chinese made although still a Honda design and seems to be just fine. Ditto the Buicks sold in the USA: made in China…..
The real problem with buying Chinese is not the design or the build quality, it is that you might as well be buying a VW in 1939…… do you really want to give your money and support to a government that is the Nazis of today? I realize that we are supposed to avoid politics, but how can you separate out the policies of the country of origin when the government and industry are so intertwined? At this point, buying a new Chinese made vehicle is not too different from wearing cotton in 1850: it’s the made by slaves on a big plantation…..
Great tech though!
South Korea tried to enter into the US market in the 1998 with the Hyosung brand. They were initially far better quality than the Chinese bikes that came decades later. Hyosung made the SV650 engine for Suzuki, and they put a strikingly similar 75hp 650 v-twin in every bike they made, from cruiser to standard to sportbike. They also had some 250s that made 27hp in the early 00s. Unheard of power, except for the EX250 ninja of course, and half the price. But they had no marketing, not a great reputation, fit and finish was sub-par, but still within the realm of "good enough". There were few dealers, and they closed up shop in North America in 2018. You can still buy them across the pond in Europe I believe. The Hyosung Avatar/Aquila 650 was a pretty interesting cruiser. It was made back when the V-Rod, VTX1800, and Yamaha Roadstar Warrior were all competing to be the next big muscle cruiser. It came with USD forks and sportbike rims and tires with a 80hp engine and v-rod-esque styling. Lots of aluminum kept the weight to a downright svelte 481 pounds. The styling was not for everyone, but the bike was a solid sleeper and I'd bet pinks against a VTX or Roadstar Warrior any day. (V-Rod perhaps not). You can still find them occasionally on cycle trader. The blacked-out ones looked the best, the chrome intakes were gaudy IMO. Unfortunately, the market changed, and super-wide-tired performance cruisers disappeared overnight. Hysoung never got the memo though, and they kept on trying to sell the world a sporty cruiser for many more years. Eventually they shoe-horned the motor into a standard cruiser frame, and made a bike that looked like a harley or a honda shadow, but had near 80 horsepower, and had the options for a full touring kit (bags, trunk, windshield). And still it didn't sell. Then they had a huge factory fire and that was the last nail in the coffin. Hyosung quietly exited the US market in 2018, just as the early Chinese bikes were making big inroads.

As for the politics: all I'm gonna say is that I see more Nazis at republican rallies than I do anywhere else. Okay, that's not the only thing. The US is not innocent. Our country bombs schools and families to target one guy, we put kids in cages, we have the highest incarceration rate in the world, and it's predominantly one single race of people in our prisons. Our police force uses paramilitary equipment, is known for the use of excessive force, and murders people when they think they can get away with it. (And up until just recently, they could always get away with it). The point I'm trying to make here is that we're not clean and perfect and blameless. Our country is just as bad as China or Russia. Big governments will always be big assholes, especially to each other. Let the governments figure it all out, I'm just going to buy bikes that appeal to me.

That's another thing.... bikes that appeal to me. The Japanese have gotten lazy. They're not innovating or bringing anything new to the table. Bikes like the Benelli Leoncino Trail, the CSC SG400, the Fantic Caballaro Rally, and CFMoto 800MT are cool and interesting to me. They fill niches that nobody else fills right now. The Europeans are concentrating on making big expensive performance machines. The Japanese are maintaining status quo, and there's nobody making NEW midsized, mid-priced bikes. Nobody except the Chinese, that is. And so far, they're good motorcycles. The fantic in particular I wish we could get here. A dual sport that's not based on 30-year-old technology, and has styling cues from the 70s. How long has Yamaha been making a 12 horsepower TW200 or XT225/250 of some sort or another? Since 1987 at least, virtually unchanged at that.

Also, in a day and age when most Japanese motorcycles look like a cockroach fucked a transformer, it's interesting to see that the Chinese by and large are making motorcycles that look like... well... motorcycles. Kinda retro styling even.

I mean, based on looks alone, which would you rather own? The CB500X or the Benelli Leoncino Trail?

Anyhow, I'm long-winded yet again, so I'll end here :)

Charles.

Charles.
 

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.... I suffered on through with bouncy, pogo-ing shocks that were constantly bottoming out. ...
You must have missed the part in the owner manual where it states:
"
Warning! Do not attempt to operate the motorcycle with more than two people (operator and one passenger).
The motorcycle is designed to carry the rider and one passenger. You should never exceed a total load on the motorcycle in excess of 330 lbs.
Warning! Do not exceed a combined load of 330 lbs.
"
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Yeah, it's not just me. The shocks have no rebound damping at all. None. They pogo for everyone. They bottom for everyone. New shocks completely altered the bike's handling. No more wallowing, no more bouncing, no more bucking over rough road surfaces, and no more bottoming.

These shocks were worse than the old JC Whitney 11" shorty shocks, worse than any shock on any bike I've ever ridden. Including POS little minibikes.

But that was fortunately easily rectified with a little cash.

Charles.
 

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I find it interesting that the powers-that-be in S Korea decided to not go into the motorcycle business, choosing instead to focus on 4-wheelers. Imagine if the Hyundai/Kia conglomerate had decided 40 years ago to take on Honda in motorcycles instead of cars. It took them a while, but now they are just a good, if not better than the Japanese in nearly every segment of the auto market. Genesis is no Lexus, yet, but would you bet against them getting there in 5 to 10 years?
As for China, I had a Lance scooter for a few years and was very happy with the Price/Quality ratio. The Janus motor is100% Chinese made although still a Honda design and seems to be just fine. Ditto the Buicks sold in the USA: made in China…..
The real problem with buying Chinese is not the design or the build quality, it is that you might as well be buying a VW in 1939…… do you really want to give your money and support to a government that is the Nazis of today? I realize that we are supposed to avoid politics, but how can you separate out the policies of the country of origin when the government and industry are so intertwined? At this point, buying a new Chinese made vehicle is not too different from wearing cotton in 1850: it’s the made by slaves on a big plantation…..
Great tech though!
It would be a lot easier to buy politically if our corporations actually made anything, rather than just selling Chinese goods.

This side of the pond we're stuck with Hemi's, overweight pick ups, muscle car thinking and rolling recliners for homemade. The deisgners here aren't just in the box they are holding the lid shut.
 

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If there was a requirement for truth in advertising they would be compelled to call them spring holders.
The China bike also has half the rear suspension travel of a very closely priced CB
 

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Even more good news, when your wheel bearings are shot you can upgrade the 8 buck ones in there now with 20 buck bearings and something made in Sweden and it will be a significant upgrade.

... same with fork seals and steering head bearings, easy to upgrade those
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
If there was a requirement for truth in advertising they would be compelled to call them spring holders.
The China bike also has half the rear suspension travel of a very closely priced CB
Once the YSS shocks are on the bike, the travel is about 5 inches in the rear. The tire will come within 1/2" of hitting the bottom of the rear fender. (I put one shock on and used a ratchet strap to compress the suspension all the way). Part number is RE302-350T-20-X

Charles.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Even more good news, when your wheel bearings are shot you can upgrade the 8 buck ones in there now with 20 buck bearings and something made in Sweden and it will be a significant upgrade.

... same with fork seals and steering head bearings, easy to upgrade those
That may have been the case with the previous generation of Chinese motorcycles, but it's not at all true now.

Charles.
 

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That may have been the case with the previous generation of Chinese motorcycles, but it's not at all true now.

Charles.
When your wheel bearings do fail, take one apart and count the number of balls in it and I bet you find 7 instead of 9 balls and when you replace the fork seals I bet you find the SKF brands seals will have an additional spring on them compared to the ones that are in there now. ... and the cost will be near double over your OEM parts for reason.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
When your wheel bearings do fail, take one apart and count the number of balls in it and I bet you find 7 instead of 9 balls and when you replace the fork seals I bet you find the SKF brands seals will have an additional spring on them compared to the ones that are in there now. ... and the cost will be near double over your OEM parts for reason.
Believe what you want, but I've already got 13k miles on one of my Chinese motorcycles, the SSR Buccaneer 250i shown in my profile pic. I've got 7000 on a Benelli Leoncino Trail and 3500 miles on this one. My bearings and seals are all just fine. The SSR did have some problems being an earlier generation bike (2017), but bearings and seals are not one of them.

Charles.
 

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Take the bearing number off your wheel bearing and ask your local bearing supply dealer what the difference is between their 3$ 6004 bearing and their 15$ 6004 bearing and they will tell you that the more expensive bearing is rated for higher dynamic and static loads as a result of it having more balls. Or start going through bearing catalogues to learn about the differences that way. Or go out and buy one of each and rip the seal off one side so you can see inside the thing and prove to yourself that the better bearing has more balls resulting in more points of contact and a stronger bearing that is more impervious to wear and damage. Guaranteed that the comparable heavier duty bearing is going to cost more and have a greater number of balls in the cage.
 

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It would be a lot easier to buy politically if our corporations actually made anything, rather than just selling Chinese goods.

This side of the pond we're stuck with Hemi's, overweight pick ups, muscle car thinking and rolling recliners for homemade. The deisgners here aren't just in the box they are holding the lid shut.
What about Tesla, Lucid, the Ford e-Mustang, Harley Livewire: seems to me the box was kicked over a while ago. All designed and built in America.
 
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