There’s a hackneyed old phrase often uttered toward people who’ve tried to do something squarely outside their expertise. It goes “Don’t quit your day job.” When the news broke that Genuine Scooter Company is set to produce a small motorcycle for 2016, I expected no small amount of eye-rolling out in the world. I expected both motorcycle fans and scooter fans alike to give Genuine the side eye and say “Don’t quit your day job” in perfect unison. To my surprise, the response to what Genuine is calling the G400C has been overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. Having now ridden the bike, I’m happy to report that this enthusiasm is well-placed.
The Origins of the Genuine G400C
Yet this particular story isn’t about riding the G400C. You can read all about that in our exclusive ride review. This story is about breaking down the full history of just exactly what this bike is, and what it is not. Since the bike’s debut here on ScooterFile, I’ve seen a lot of assumptions and a lot of bad information floating around. So let’s clear things up so that we’re not bringing a bunch of baggage to a bike that, in my opinion, deserves full consideration.
Yes, the G400C is made in China. No, it’s not Chinese.
The first and perhaps most important misconception to address with the G400C is where it’s made and by whom. The G400C will be produced in China by Shineray on Genuine’s behalf. Genuine will be in good company, as Shineray also produces whole vehicles for International, BMW, and others.
While that is the bike’s future, it’s the G400C’s past that’s more interesting. From 2002 on, a version of this bike was produced by Shineray for Honda, who sold it as the Honda CB400SS, seen below.
We never saw the Honda CB400SS here in the USA, but for the better part of a decade it graced the roads of South Africa, Russia and New Zealand to name a few places. Honda has since discontinued the model, but Shineray still had all the tooling to build it. They’ve made the bike available for companies like Genuine to come in, specify the bike’s details, and then take delivery of finished motorcycles bearing the Genuine name.
As for Chinese manufacturing in general, I won’t re-hash the points I made in an earlier post on this subject except to say that geography doesn’t guarantee quality or lack thereof. Some of the finest, most complex, most desirable products in the world are manufactured in China. There’s also no geographical monopoly on producing ultra-cheap, crappy garbage. So it’s time to evolve our prejudices when it comes to what’s made where and consider things on a more case-by-case basis.
More than just a “re-badge”
Genuine has deep expertise in not simply importing bikes, but outfitting them with specific components for the American market, all while actively overseeing quality control from their manufacturing partners. What Genuine is doing with the Shineray and the G400C is almost exactly what they did with LML in birthing the Stella. LML was a contract manufacturer for Vespa, where they produced the PX-150 for sale in the regional markets. At the time it was less expensive for Vespa to produce the bike locally than to meet that demand from Italy. Those scooters wore the same Vespa badges as those built in Italy, or in other factories around the world.
Big name manufacturers have outsourced their production needs to smaller contract manufacturers for decades. Some of those contract manufacturers are very familiar to scooter fans. PGO, SYM, Kymco, Shineray and others have, and continue to produce engines or even whole bikes for Honda, BMW, Kawasaki and other mainstream brands. Now many of those contract manufactures continue to make those same models — now discontinued by their original designers — either under their own name (think SYM’s Symba or Wolf Classic) or for other brands such as Genuine.
Once Vespa shuttered the PX-150 model, LML continued producing it, selling it under their own name as the Star. Later Genuine came along and contracted the bike we now know as the Stella. Yet even then, Genuine worked closely with LML to bring the Star up to a standard that the American market would accept. That process repeated with the Stella 4T and the Stella Automatic. In every case, Genuine has worked with LML as their manufacturing partner, and been heavily involved in terms of quality control and many of the bike’s components.
They’ve done the same with PGO. Save for the Stella, every scooter that bears the Genuine name is manufactured by PGO in Taiwan. What we know as the Buddy started life as a PGO Bubu. Yet don’t believe the message boards when they say that all Genuine does is change the logo. From engine internals to electrical components, even the bikes Genuine gets from PGO are created specifically for the American market, and to Genuine’s specification. From special edition Buddy scooters with NCY performance parts on them, to the re-imagining of the Blur SS220 and other models, Genuine doesn’t just take the PGO bikes and change the colors. The process is much more involved, and the bikes are much more unique than Genuine ever gets credit for. Put another way, PGO makes better scooters because of their partnership with Genuine, and American scooter buyers reap the benefits.
Yet Genuine hasn’t stopped there. Take the Genuine Hooligan, which is actually a mix of multiple PGO model components created specifically at Genuine’s request. The product team at Genuine took a look at everything that PGO already had tooling for, and also everything they could source from other high-quality parts suppliers in Taiwan. The result is more than the sum of its parts, and a scooter created specifically for the American market.
Now Genuine is doing exactly the same thing with the G400C, only this time it happens to be a motorcycle instead of a scooter, and it happens to be Shineray instead of PGO or LML. In both cases, Genuine is owning the component mix and standing behind the end product with their warranty and their reputation. While that certainly doesn’t guarantee there will be zero problems with the G400C, it does show that Genuine is taking this seriously.
Beyond the Honda CB400SS and the Mash Roadstar
Many online are quick to point out the similarities between the Genuine G400C and the Mash Roadstar. Those similarities are non-trivial, in that both bikes are produced by Shineray and based on the same retired Honda CB400SS platform. Also, the pre-production prototype of the G400C that we’ve seen so far has the same stock, two-tone maroon and silver color way that’s available on the Mash. So it’s easy to just assume that they’re exactly the same bike. That assumption, however, is incorrect.
According to Genuine, there are significant differences between the two bikes, and those differences come down to the components beyond the frame, engine and transmission that Genuine have specifically outfitted for their American customers. Having spoken directly with the product development team at Genuine, they’ve highlighted nearly 30 distinct upgrades and changes to the spec of the G400C that you won’t find on the Mash Roadstar. Some of the changes, like the exhaust, ECU mapping, tire sizes, tires, rims and suspension components make for better performance. Other changes will make the bike more reliable. Still others are to help lean in on the bike’s vintage looks. Let’s break these changes down in detail:
- The Siemens fuel-injection system has been tweaked for the G400C
- 100/90-19 front tire (stock was 90/90-19)
- 130/70-18 rear tire (stock was 120/70-18)
- Kenda touring tires (CST were stock)
- Kenda heavy duty inner tubes
- Lightweight alloy rims (stock uses stamped steel)
- Low-rise “Euro” handlebars (3” rise vs. 4-1/2” stock)
- Internal handlebar weights for stability
- Black headlight bucket
- 7” headlight (stock was a 6-1/4”)
- Higher output halogen headlight bulb (H-4)
- Black speedo/tach buckets
- Up-rated, heavy-duty adjustable rear shocks with Genuine-specific spring rates
- Up-rated springs in front forks with Genuine-specific spring rates
- 520 drive chain
- Tubular “CB” rear swing arm which extends the wheelbase about 2-1/2”
- Improved compound of rear brake shoes for better braking response
- Upgraded switches (cleaner looking, better action, more reliable)
- Rubber grommet on kick starter
- Maintenance-free gel battery
- Heavier, thicker vinyl seat cover
- Higher-density foam in the seat cushion
- Offset pipe bends in the exhaust to create parallel-twin “burble”
- Slightly louder exhaust note than Euro-3 exhaust (more rumble)
- Stainless Steel hardware throughout the motorcycle
- Full DOT and EPA (49 State) compliance with CARB certification in the works
That’s a lot of small, but significant changes. Any one of these items would be a solid, incremental upgrade to the existing bike. Add them all up, and the result is a significantly different, arguably better motorcycle. What the bike retains in common with the Mash is mostly good stuff — i/e high-quality Taiwanese electronics components in the ignition and charging systems. Lower-quality components are certainly available, and that those are not fitted here make the case even stronger that this is not, in the end, just a “Chinese Honda clone” as some have lazily described it.
An interesting blend of the modern and the old-fashioned
There are a handful of additional details worth noting on the Genuine G400C. For example, the front and rear fenders are both chromed steel. For contrast, my 2013 Triumph Bonneville has an ABS front fender. The G400C features an extended rear swing arm and alloy rims, which along with the better-than-basic rear shocks means a significant improvement on the handling character of the bike. Put another way, it has better road manners than it otherwise would. Having ridden the bike through its entire useful performance envelope, I can tell you that these upgrades are non-trivial. This is a bike that rides better than it has any business doing so, especially at this price point.
Built with customization in mind
This bike is 12V, has 7/8″ handlebars and features hot-swappable components with a wide variety of both vintage and modern Hondas. For example, the complete front forks, braking system, front wheel and rear wheel will bolt right onto a vintage Honda CB350, according to Genuine.
Our sources at Genuine also tell us that beyond just the bike, they plan to support owners with an extensive catalog of bolt-on accessories and upgrades. Yet the foundation for customization is there in the bike’s stock form already. For example, the headlight attaches to a bracket on the triple tree rather than fork ears. The rear indicators mount to the frame, not the tail light assembly. These are all details indicative of vintage Honda styling, but more importantly, they leave the door open for easy customization once owners take delivery, whether from Genuine’s promised lineup of accessories, or from the established world of bolt-on custom bike parts available from a variety of existing vendors.
Genuine G400C Specs
Displacement: 397.2 cc
Valves: 4-valves per cylinder
Fueling: Siemens fuel-injection
Starting: Electric and kick
Horsepower: 29 hp
Torque: 22 lb-ft
Front wheel: 19″
Rear wheel: 18″
Front brake: 280mm front rotor with 2-piston caliper
Rear brake: 160mm drum
Seat height: 31″
Fuel capacity: 3.4 gal
MPG: 86 mpg
Weight: 352 lbs
Top speed: 90 mph
Warranty: 2 years
Just the beginning
While details are still fuzzy, we’ve been told that if this bike is successful, it won’t be the only motorcycle to bear the Genuine name. We expect motorcycles both bigger and smaller than the G400C to come out of Genuine’s manufacturing partnerships in the near future. That means this bike marks an interesting turning point for Genuine, where they’re going to have to figure out how to be a motorcycle company. If they’re smart (and they are), they’re not going to just plop this bike in front of scooter fans and expect it to simply take off. The challenge here will be introducing this machine to the much larger, much different, very picky community of motorcyclists. The story they tell around this bike will be critical, we estimate, and helping people understand just exactly what this bike is, and isn’t, will be part of that critical journey from successful scooter company, to successful scooter company and successful motorcycle company. Luckily for Genuine, their approach in creating the G400C lands squarely in their area of expertise, which means they’re keeping their day job after all.