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Harley-Davidson 500cc Twin Spotted in China


Will we see a new 500cc Harley-Davidson model from Qianjiang before the long-rumored 350cc version appears? This spy shot says so.

Will we see a new 500cc Harley-Davidson model from Qianjiang before the long-rumored 350cc version appears? This spy shot says so. (QJmotor/)

For years we’ve been waiting for Harley-Davidson’s partnership with Chinese manufacturer Qianjiang to come up with a production machine. But now a second model has been spied before the first generation of QJ-Harley has even been officially revealed. If you remember, the original Qianjiang deal was revealed back in 2019, when Harley’s then-CEO Matt Levatich announced plans for a 338R model to be built in China. It didn’t take much to deduce that the machine was a reworked version of the 300cc Benelli 302S roadster, since Benelli is Qianjiang’s most prominent subsidiary, and that the 338cc capacity would be achieved by combining the 302S’ stroke with the larger bore cylinders from Benelli’s 500cc twin.

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The new machine appears to be based on the bike known as the Benelli Leoncino 500 in the West, down to the wheels and brake calipers.

The new machine appears to be based on the bike known as the Benelli Leoncino 500 in the West, down to the wheels and brake calipers. (QJmotor/)

Later, it emerged that the engine was being reworked to 353cc, when Qianjiang type-approved a bike under its QJmotor brand that used a 353cc version of the engine and had “Harley-Davidson” logos on its engine covers. Whether due to COVID or a rethink on Harley’s part, the 338R still hasn’t been launched, but now new spy shots in the Chinese media show a larger Chinese-made Harley apparently undergoing dyno tests.

These pictures, which appear to be stills from a video, reveal that the new bike is heavily based on the chassis and engine best known in the West from the Benelli Leoncino 500. Virtually every mechanical element of the spied bike, from the frame to the 50mm inverted fork and radial brake calipers, is visually identical to the equivalent part on the Leoncino. Even the swingarm is unchanged, with the same distinctive, tubular license plate bracket hanging from the back. The wheels, footpeg hangers, and even the handlebars and mirrors are also carried over to the Harley.

Harley badging on the reshaped tank and other new details and styling are what distinguishes this bike from the Leoncino.

Harley badging on the reshaped tank and other new details and styling are what distinguishes this bike from the Leoncino. (QJmotors/)

What is new, however, is the styling. The tank is reshaped and there’s a different, circular headlight and a new, single instrument gauge ahead of the rider. Behind him, the rear bodywork is very clearly inspired by Harleys of the past, with external supports on either side of a simple, bobbed fender. The presence of protective plastic on the seat, not to mention the finished-looking paintwork with a Harley shield on the tank makes this look very much like a production-ready bike.

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It’s likely we’ll also see the same parallel-twin engine from the Leoncino though it may use a larger 550cc displacement.

It’s likely we’ll also see the same parallel-twin engine from the Leoncino though it may use a larger 550cc displacement. (Benelli/)

While there’s a strong chance the engine in this new Harley is the same 500cc twin used in the Leoncino (visually it appears unchanged), in China the similar-looking QJmotor equivalent has been uprated to 549cc. It’s a change that ups power from 47 bhp to 50 bhp but one that hasn’t been carried over to the European Benelli yet. That might well be because Euro bike license rules include a lower A2 class that restricts riders to 35kW (47 hp) machines, so the extra 3 hp from the 549cc engine would mean fewer riders could use it.

But whether the Harley has the 500cc or 549cc version of the engine, it’s sure to have between 45 hp and 50 hp, and given the identical chassis to the Leoncino it’s fair to look at that bike’s specifications to get a better idea of the Harley 500′s details. They put the bike’s weight at 456 pounds, with a 56.8-inch wheelbase, 5.7 inches of ground clearance, and a 30.9-inch seat height. The 17-inch wheels front and rear carry 120/70 and 160/60 rubber, respectively.

The Chinese-market QJmotor equivalent of the Leoncino sports the bigger 550cc engine, which is rated at 50 hp.

The Chinese-market QJmotor equivalent of the Leoncino sports the bigger 550cc engine, which is rated at 50 hp. (QJmotor/)

Like the 338R, this bike is very much aimed at the Chinese market, using local factories to reduce import duties and shipping costs as well as manufacturing expenses, and giving riders who would have little hope of affording a “real” Harley-Davidson a better chance. Like or loathe the idea of a Chinese-made Harley, there’s logic to the decision to introduce such a thing in that market. However, recent NHTSA filings from Qianjiang include two US-destined models with VINs that follow the Harley-Davidson way of doing things rather than the usual QJ pattern. The bikes, code-named LWZX350 and LWZX350RA, appear to be the much-delayed Harley 338R. If those machines are coming here, it seems likely that the 500cc twin may eventually reach these shores as well.

In the US, the Benelli Leoncino 500 that’s the basis of the new Harley 500 costs $6,799, and the Benelli 302S that forms the basis of the 338R is $4,889, and given the mechanical similarities between those models and the Harley spinoffs, those prices are probably a good guide to where the H-Ds might be positioned.


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