Motorcycles at Canton fair

Canton fair spring 2016


By Toby Smith


Canton fair


Canton fair has regularly proved to be the premier destination for motorcycle importers and the ‘must exhibit’ show for motorcycle companies. With the semi demise of CIMAmotor and the lack of actual motorcycle models at CMPF Canton retains its significance despite becoming a bit ‘stale’ over the last couple of sessions.


Hosted every April and October Canton fair exhibits the best of China’s automotive industry as well as all aspects of mechanics and engineering. The Canton Fair has been held in the spring and autumn seasons each year since the spring of 1957 in Guangzhou, China.


Its full name since 2007 has been China Import and Export Fair (中国进出口商品交易会), renamed from Chinese Export Commodities Fair (中国出口商品交易会), also simply known as The Canton Fair (广州交易会).


The Canton Fair is co-hosted by the Ministry of Commerce of China and People’s Government of the Guangdong Province, and organized by China Foreign Trade Centre.


The Canton Fair is the largest trade fair in China. Among China’s largest trade fairs, it has the largest assortment of products (especially in the automotive and mechanical sector) the largest attendance, and the largest number of business deals made at the fair. Like many trade fairs it has several traditions and functions as a comprehensive event of international importance.


Fifty product trading categories, being composed of thousands of China’s best foreign trade corporations (enterprises), take part in the fair. These include private enterprises, factories, scientific research institutions, wholly foreign-owned enterprises, and foreign trade companies.


The fair leans mainly to export trade, though a small amount of import business is also done here. Apart from the above-mentioned, various types of business activities such as economic and technical cooperation and exchange, commodity inspection, insurance, transportation, advertising, and trade consultation are other activities that are also commonly carried out at the fair.


Fair statistics



    First held: April 1957.




Phase 1: Motorcycle and automotive, electronics, household electrical appliances, machinery, lighting equipment, hardware and tools, vehicles and spare parts, building materials, chemical products.


Phase 2: Consumer products, decorations goods, gifts.


Phase 3: Textiles & garments, shoes, office supplies, cases & bags, recreation products, medicines, medical devices and health products



    China Import and Export Fair (Pazhou) Complex, 380 Yuejiangzhong Road, Haizhu District, Guangzhou 510335


Gross exhibition space: 1,125,000 m².

    Number of booths: Over 55,800 standard stands (105th Session).

    Varieties: Over 150,000.

    Business turnover: 262.3 Million USD (105th Session).

    Number of trading countries and regions: 203 (103rd Session).

    Number of visitors: 165,436 (105th Session).

Exhibitors: Over 22,000 (with 21,709 Chinese exhibitors, 395 international exhibitors, 105th Session).






The one stand out feature of a relatively unchanged Canton fair is the presence of Café Racers on many exhibition stands including the stands of the smaller factories.


The café racer is a lightweight, lightly powered motorcycle optimized for speed and handling rather than comfort – and for quick rides over short distances. With bodywork and control layout recalling early 1960’s Grand Prix road racing motorcycles, café racers are noted for their visual minimalism, featuring low-mounted handlebars, prominent seat cowling and elongated fuel tank – and frequently knee-grips indented in the fuel tank.


The term developed among British motorcycle enthusiasts of the early 1960s, specifically the Rocker or “Ton-Up Boys” subculture, where the bikes were used for short, quick rides between cafés – in other words, drinking establishments.


Writing in 2005, motorcycle journalist Peter Egan suggested the genesis of the term to the 1960s. In 1973, American freelance writer Wallace Wyss, contributing to Popular Mechanics magazine, wrote that the term café racer was originally used derogatorily in Europe to describe a “motorcyclist who played at being an Isle of Man road racer” and was, in fact, “someone who owned a racy machine but merely parked it near his table at the local outdoor cafe.”


In 2014, journalist Ben Stewart described the café racer as a “look made popular when European kids stripped down their small-displacement bikes to zip from one café hangout to another.”



Café racer styling evolved throughout the time of their popularity. By the mid-1970s, Japanese bikes had overtaken British bikes in the marketplace, and the look of real Grand Prix racing bikes had changed. The hand-made, frequently unpainted aluminium racing fuel tanks of the 1960s had evolved into square, narrow, fibreglass tanks. Increasingly, three-cylinder Kawasaki two-strokes, four-cylinder four-stroke Kawasaki Z1, and four-cylinder Honda engines were the basis for café racer conversions. By 1977, a number of manufacturers had taken notice of the café racer boom and were producing factory café racers, such as the well-received Moto Guzzi Le Mans and the unpopular but unforgettable Harley-Davidson XLCR. A Japanese thumper introduced in the late 1980s (to disappointing sales) the Honda GB500 ‘Tourist Trophy’ emulated British café racers of the 1960s.


In the mid-1970s, riders continued to modify standard production motorcycles into so-called “café racers” by simply equipping them with clubman bars and a small fairing around the headlight. A number of European manufacturers, including Benelli, BMW, Bultaco and Derbi produced factory “café” variants of their standard motorcycles in this manner, without any modifications made to make them faster or more powerful, a trend that continues today.


Chinese café racers are going for ‘style over substance’ as they strive for the traditional retro look and on the whole have achieved that end. Because of the limitations on Chinese motorcycle engine technology don’t expect anything bigger than a 250cc engine model to be widely available although there are rumours of bigger displacement versions being developed in 300 and 500cc.


As for the rest of the bikes, have a look at the photos here. If you are interested in any of the models on display contact David McMullan to hook you up with the manufacturer.


See you at the next Canton fair!

August 16, 2016