My KPX Z-150 Experience
I first found the KPX motorcycles on eBay as I was looking to get a bike and get out on some of the many trails in Arizona. I had decided that an enduro would be the best kind of bike for me since I would be spending time on some back roads where I really should be street legal. Furthermore, I planned to ride the trails (perhaps with my girlfriend) to enjoy the scenery rather than to get an adrenaline rush so the lighter motocross bikes were not the ticket.
So I was surprised to see several lines of virtually unknown brands of bikes up for auction on eBay. Immediately I guessed that they were made in China since the going prices were quite low. Generally I am suspicious of Chinese products but over time I have learned that a great deal of our products are made there anyway and that includes a lot of machinery. Since a motorcycle can be a big investment, I began asking questions and doing research. I found that there are over 100 manufacturers of Chinese motorcycles (many buying parts from other sources) and not all are created equal. Many of them imitate both the Japanese designs and each others' as well. If you've seen one Chinese bike, you have NOT seen them all even if they look the same. Making this long story a little shorter, I decided that a Chinese bike would suit me since I was not going to abuse it, I'd not ride it that often and I didn't want to pay a fortune for one. I settled on KPX after several calls to the company in Tucson and lots of e-mails to people who won these bikes at auction on eBay. Also, I looked at how each company was supporting its product line and some were looking to be nothing but box houses pushing products with no support.
So I decided on KPX. I bid several times and eventually won a Z-150.
After winning the auction, I called KPX with my credit card information but was a little disappointed to find that the bike was not yet available and could be four weeks away. I had thought that this was against eBay listing policies but I was not going to lose sleep over it since I was not in a desperate hurry. About a week later, KPX called and said that my Z-150 was ready. Whoo-hoo! I planned the trip to Tucson for a few days later.
The KPX staff was very friendly and helpful. Since I had already done a lot of research on Chinese bikes, scooters, ATVs and more, I wanted a tour of the place and for over an hour one of the (very knowledgable) guys showed me around and answered all my questions - including some pointed ones.
One of the reasons that I chose KPX over other brands was that this company, although based here in Arizona, works hand-in-hand with the manufacturer. They do not just import products and sell them, they develop, refine and test them, passing along new modifications to the manufacturer where these changes are put into mass production. You don't get this with other importers. I saw several prototypes as well as representative models from other manufacturers (some that did not make the grade and will not be sold by KPX). As to prototypes, there are a few exciting things on the horizon (if you liked those little "pocket bikes" you'll be blown away by what's coming).
A big concern of mine was parts availability. I was assured by KPX that it stocked a full line of parts so when I was there I made sure I had a look. Indeed, there was a long row of shelves full of Z-150 and Z-200 parts. I would not call the line "complete" but I think I'd be hard pressed to break something that they did not have readily available and in respectable quantities.
As with most of the Chinese bikes that I found on eBay, my Z-150 came in a crate needing partial assembly. It is a robust package but the whole thing weighs about 300 pounds and we used a fork lift to put it in my pickup.
As I eagerly started the process of building the bike I was immediately confronted with the challenge of getting this 300 pound crate out of my truck. Finally I decided to disassemble the thing in the bed of my truck and once unbolted from its container I had two friends help me lift and roll the Z-150 down to ground level. The bike does not have the front wheel and handlebars attached at this point and in retrospect I should have installed both before removing it from the truck and then simply coasted it down a ramp.
Building the bike was easy except that specific instructions seemed to be lacking. I'm quite good with a wrench but I was careful to go through the service manual first to be sure that I was not overlooking anything. I was nervous about the possibility that I might be lacking some parts. A few items were hard to find and I had expected some washers where there were none and perhaps a dust seal for the servo gearing for the speedometer (perhaps it does not even exist). I wondered if some crates in the shipment of bikes to KPX had some parts while other crates carried others. This wonderment was largely prompted by the presence of four bags full of over a hundred rubber spacers and grommets, of which I've only used three.
After about an hour and a half (most of that spent double-checking with the manual) I had a motorcycle!
Upon putting the acid in the battery, I found that it already had a charge and with some gas, I was ready to roll (the break-in oil is already in the crankcase). I thought that the bike was a bit hard to start but further investigation revealed that in my haste I had left the kill switch in the "off" position and flooded the engine. After a little more effort the engine came to life and in 10 seconds was running and idling smoothly.
I have since put about 5 miles on the bike and as this is break-in time, I'm taking it easy and not pushing it. The power is pretty good but not quite what I was expecting. However, I should point out that I am accustomed to lighter motocross bikes with a lot of snap so I don't think the Z-150 has anything to be ashamed of. Also, I've not explored the high RPM range so I'm sure I'm missing something. The bike handles well but since it is built to accomodate a second rider, expect the rear end to feel a little stiff. The front suspension feels similar (as it probably should) but I wonder if the fork travel is really as long as it appears visually. There may be a little room for improvement here.
One of my biggest and most immediate concerns was the quality of materials used in this bike. It is an inexpensive machine and we know that this is due in part to inexpensive labor in China but I also suspected that some less expensive materials would be used as well as cheaper production methods and workmanship.
I was pleasantly surprised by the workmanship. Everything fit right so I know that tolerances were respected (even with plastic items) and the welds were all good which is not always the case with Chinese bikes. Although I found a few shortcuts, this is still a well designed bike.
My biggest disappointment was in the choice of some of the materials. I'll be brutally honest about this part as I want KPX to take notice and make a few changes but let me also say that these are not drastic problems at all and most people will not care. For example, many of the nuts, bolts and washers used in the frame are of about "general hardware" quality. In my opinion these softer steel parts should be dumped in favor of "automotive quality" hardware. This is not an issue with the screws that hold plastic parts in place but the nuts on the axels (though wide enough to easily and reliably handle the job) are in danger of being damaged by the first incorrect tool used on them. I broke a lock washer and this is not excusable. I felt that some of the plastic parts should have been made of metal or at least better plastic. Specifically, I'd feel better with a metal chain guard since it might survive a chain de-railment and probably offer better protection. The buttons for the kill switch, starter, horn, etc. are all functional and probably will not present any trouble but they look cheap.
The quality of the engine seems to be very good so far. There does not seem to be compromise in the materials or workmanship and I suspect that the manufacturer buys it from a large supplier prior to building out the frame.
The construction of the frame is not bad but I'd say that it is light in a few places such as the handlebars, swing arm and perhaps the front forks. I don't expect any of these parts to get broken or bent except for the handlebars (because I've bent some of the best) and I'd much rather they bent in a crash and spared the more expensive mounting below. I think that the frame itself is properly welded and gussetted and will prove to be no trouble and take a lot of punishment but be very mindful that this is not a bike to be raced or seriously abused. Repeat after me: "Enduro." "Enduro."
The rims are steel and not magnesium and although I have bent such things back in my crazier days I see no problem with these. "Enduro."
I had expected the plastic body parts to be of sub-standard quality but I was pleasantly surprised with the flexibility and thickness. Time will tell how well they retain their color, pliability etc. I remain a little unsure about the black paint on the frame, however. Some of it scratched easily although I haven't checked all of it out yet.
There are a few improvements that I would like to see. I think the addition of a chain guide/idler to the bottom of the swing arm would be nice not because it desperately needs it, but because the chain could do a lot of damage after it wears and de-rails. A few "accidents" like this could tear up a lot of parts on any kind of bike and perhaps we should just prevent it as best we can. I don't mind a plastic battery box or tool box but I'd like the chain guard to be metal. As mentioned, better quality nuts and bolts would be a big plus especially in the chain tensioners, axle nuts . . . well how about "everywhere!" This is a good bike and topping it off with better quality hardware is easily worth adding a few dollars to the price.
The KPX Z-150 is a very good bike for the price. It falls slightly short in a few areas but I foresee improvements coming very soon (indeed, there are rumors that the 2005 model will be something to behold).
If you are looking for a Chinese motorcycle, burn this into your brain: "Not all Chinese bikes are the same!" There are over 100 motorcycle manufacturers in China and they are facing challenges marketing in their own country due to new urban restrictions so they are leaning heavily on their foreign markets. This means you will see a LOT of contenders from China and you had better do your homework before you buy. Some have gear shift patterns that are strange (all down instead of 1 down, 4 up), most have problems with parts supplies and with most of them you don't know who the real manufacturer is and which other brand names might be the same identical model. Quality, even on similar looking bikes, may range from good to poor and you will not know unless you see for yourself or ask someone who has the bike.
Because I did not see the Z-150 in person (so to speak) I did take a risk buying it on eBay but my phone calls, e-mails and on-line research paid off and I got what might be the cream of the crop. In spite of a few small negatives, the Z-150 is a great bike and well worth the money (even if I had payed a lot more for it). Once KPX gets a higher profile and people figure out how good the product line is, these bikes will start selling for what they're worth.
This page began as a critique to be given to KPX's technical staff and to a couple people who wanted to know more about the bike. Perhaps it may be read by only a few people but I have the odd feeling that I will be updating it later as developments occur and I learn more about the Z-150.
More Z-150 information
If you have questions or comments, you can e-mail me here.