Chinese motorcycle manufacturers have long had a bad reputation for being industry copycats—taking the design and engineering concepts of other manufacturers, reverse-engineering them into substandard knock-offs, then selling them for a fraction of the cost. While this may be true to a certain extent even to this day, there’s no denying that Chinese companies are playing a huge role in keeping the brands we love alive and kicking.
Whether or not Chinese manufacturers upping their game in terms of design originality and build quality is a result of these partnerships is an interesting topic for discussion—perhaps something we can talk about in the future. What we do have up for discussion today, however, is a new heavyweight cruiser launched by Gaokin, a popular Chinese company with ties to some European manufacturers.
Chongqing Gaokin Industry Co. is the company behind a brand which you may be familiar with—Brixton. The British-inspired brand is responsible for bikes like the Crossfire 500 range of bikes, as well as the Bonneville-rivaling Cromwell 1200 which was showcased at EICMA 2021. The brand is then distributed in several parts of Europe by the Austrian company KSR. All that in place, it seems like this new cruiser could soon be storming the European market. So, what makes it special then?
Well, for starters, the Thor GK 1000, as it’s been named, is unlike anything we’ve seen from any Chinese manufacturer before. Clearly, it draws inspiration from the custom chopper scene in the U.S., albeit adopting a sportier, more compact aesthetic. While the custom chopper scene is undoubtedly in a state of gradual decline in the U.S., it never really took off in Europe and Asia. Perhaps the Thor GK 1000’s intention is to breathe new life in this segment, which, in reality, sees new models pop up rather far and few in between.
Another interesting thing to note about the Thor GK 1000 is its entirely new engine. Gaokin could have very easily just taken the engine from the Cromwell 1200 and shoved it into a cruiser frame to make something of a Bonneville Bobber clone. However, Gaokin decided that a belt-drive-equipped 80-degree V-twin motor built from the ground up would be a better match for the bike they were going for. The engine displaces 997 cubes and pumps out just south of 90 ponies—pretty punchy considering the laid-back cruiser styling. Top speed is a claimed 198 kilometers per hour, or 123 miles per hour.
Premium features are plentiful, too, as the bike even features multiple riding modes, traction control and ABS on its J.Juan-branded stoppers. It rides on KYB suspension components on both ends, too. The fully digital instrument cluster is even equipped with Bluetooth smartphone connectivity. In China, the GK 1000 retails for the equivalent of $7,704 USD—pretty good value for money considering the overall package.