This is the new Benelli BN600. It’s also the Keeway RK600. Designed and manufactured in China, for its domestic market, by the QianJiang Group. Once the proud maker of unreliable Italian motorcycles, Benelli is now just an exercise in selling rebranded Chinese bikes in Europe.
It’s not that the RK600 is a bad bike. Well, it’s not a terribly good one either, but there’s not much wrong with ripping off the motor from a pre-2005 R6 then sticking it in a Steel Trellis/Cast Aluminum pivot plate frame ripped off from an Aprilia Shiver 750. 80bhp and 485lbs is a recipe for a worthy naked commuter, if a relatively uninspiring one. Housing all that in plastic that’s simultaneously hideous and bland doesn’t do it any favors.
If you lived in Rome and your local megadealer was knocking out Keeways for 4,000 Euro, you wouldn’t be too mad at it. But, if you live in Pesaro, you’re going to be livid that this crappy bike is wearing a Benelli badge.
There’s also a shitty 250 dubbed the “Uno.” Its roots are a little more transparent simply because it’s blatantly a piece of.
And that’s the crux of the mistake being made here. The Benelli name doesn’t mean much these days to many people. Already bastardized by years of crappy scooters, very few people would shout “Benelli” if you said “exciting motorcycles” in a game of word association, but to those who would, this whole re-badged Keeway thing is going to be akin to heresy. So no real value in one hand, extreme negativity in the other? Exactly what does QianJiang stand to gain here? To our minds, it’d be a stronger play to invest the time and effort into building Keeway (or some other brand) up as a maker of high-value bikes than it will be tearing Benelli down.
It’s troubling too that the Chinese origin of these bikes is essentially being hidden. Nowhere in the press materials is QianJiang, Keeway or China mentioned. In this age of the Internet, why do companies still think they can hide things from consumers? If the Chinese connection was embraced, at least QianJiang would be leading the conversation around its bikes rather than hiding from it. This just isn’t going to work.