Is the RX3 Cyclone the dual sport ADV motorcycle the other manufacturers should be building?
I recently purchased my ninth motorcycle. My requirements were a lightweight, simple, and versatile motorcycle for dual-sport riding. The term “dual-sport” means different things to many people. For me, a dual-sport motorcycle is one that you can ride from your home, down the highway to the start of an unpaved road section, and then ride back home. It should be capable of multi-day rides. A dual-sport motorcycle is not a road bike, not a track bike, and not a motocross bike. It is a compromise that you can ride on many routes and is not a special-purpose bike on any of them. After much deliberation, I chose the RX3 Cyclone imported by CSC Motorcycles from Zongshen in China.
Why the RX3 Cyclone?
This explanation is going to require a recap of my motorcycle riding experience. My first motorcycle was a 1200cc Harley Sportster. After all, I lived in Wisconsin. After a few years I traded the Sportster for a 1600cc Harley Street Glide. Next I bought a Kawasaki Vulcan Voyager, a huge 1700cc touring bike. Obviously, my riding was strictly highway. Looking back, I wouldn’t call it “riding” but driving a 2-wheeled vehicle. In fact, many “touring bikes” are so heavy that they are delivered with a reverse gear!
In the middle of this era, I bought a 2-stroke Yamaha 175cc dirt bike to ride the back roads around my cabin near the Canadian border in Minnesota. By this time, I also had hundreds of hours of experience riding atv’s - but atv’s weren’t allowed on the forest roads in Minnesota or near my home in Wisconsin.
Then my family went on vacation to visit relatives in Sedona, Arizona. Sedona is famous for spectacular red rock scenery. The best way to view the scenery and get high above the town is on a Jeep tour.
So I booked a tour for the family and we crawled to the top of a canyon rim on a long, twisted, rough road. After more than an hour we reached the top of the mesa and passed two riders on fully-loaded adventure bikes (I think they might have been KLR650’s.)
I was mesmerized. I owned both a touring motorcycle and a street-legal dirt bike. I didn’t even know “adventure” bikes existed – motorcycles that could do BOTH! I immediately started studying about the capabilities of ADV bikes and the wide range of travel options that they provided.
I had spent months of my life camping, hiking, canoeing, hunting and fishing. I had even raced dog sleds and gone on winter camping expeditions. I was meant to be a dual-sport rider! So I sold the Kawasaki and bought my first “adventure” bike – a Suzuki DL650 Vee-Strom Adventurer, a bike with a solid reputation and a cult-like following.
What followed was the in-depth process of customizing the Suzuki to fit my adventurous goals, specifically, a week-long ride on the eastern half of the Trans-America Trail planned for October. I loved every aspect of the process: researching the various components that could be modified and upgraded, comparison shopping for the necessary accessories to convert the stock bike into an adventure touring package, and then installing the accumulated pile of hardware and electrical option
As October 2014 approached and I prepared to ride the first sections of the Trans-America Trail I also was looking ahead to riding the western “TAT” sections the following summer. In the process, I determined that the rougher mountain sections were too much for the Vee-Strom. I decided what I really needed was a street-legal dirt bike, so I also bought a Yamaha WR250R.
Now I had TWO dual-sport bikes. By the time I left for Tennessee on my first multi-day adventure I had two fully-equipped ADV bikes!
It took a day and a half to ride about 750 miles by highway from my home in Arkansas to the start of the official Trans-America Trail in Tennessee. Then I rode the combined paved and unpaved sections of the TAT trail back to my home in Arkansas. The round trip was 1,795 miles and I was hooked! I immediately set the date for the western TAT the next summer.
But in the mean time I had also discovered the Backcountry Discovery Routes, or BDR series. I was, after all, a BIG customer of Touratech by now! So before I would ride the western TAT I made plans to ride the Arizona route, or AZBDR. The picture below is me and the Yamaha WR250R leaving on the solo journey from Sierra Vista, AZ on my way to the Mexican border in April 2014.
I rode down to the Mexican border and then turned north. It took me only three days to ride to northern Arizona. Then I turned off the BDR route and rode west to Sedona. I had completed the circle and returned to where I caught the adventure bike bug a few years before.
In late June, I met up with a group of riders planning to ride west from Arkansas on the TAT. I ended up riding with just one of these riders after the first day and we rode to Utah, and then turned back north and east on the COBDR route to where family was waiting in Denver.
We crossed the plains, the foothills, and then the high mountain passes. The Yamaha ran perfectly. I was able to squeeze in everything I needed for 10 days of riding and camping. But it was an ordeal to ride almost 2,000 miles on a tall, stiff bike with a seat like a 2 x 6! And there were a few times I fell over from that high perch on tough sections of the mountain trails, which didn’t inspire confidence when it came time to traverse the switchbacks with sheer 1,000-foot cliffs.
The end of this ride began planning for the NEXT adventure – Utah and the UTBDR! By now I had decided that the Vee-Strom no longer met my definition of a true, all-purpose adventure bike. And I also decided that I wasn’t going to subject my body to the discomfort of riding the Yamaha on my next trip, so I sold them BOTH! Thus began my next ADV bike build: A Triumph Tiger 800XC.
The preparation process started all over again. I upgraded the windshield, transferred the aluminum panniers from the Suzuki, added a rear rack, added a skid plate and countless other “farkles”. Then I took off on an October road trip to the Overland Expo in North Carolina, with side trips to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Tail of the Dragon. It was a successful camping shakedown for the UTBDR in 2015.
The Utah Backcountry Discovery Route includes some of the best scenery and varied roads available to dual-sport riders! Our group of riders started near Moab and spent two days in this area before heading north. We had four different motorcycles in the group, my Triumph Tiger 800XC, my Son Aaron’s KLR650, my buddy Bob’s GS1150GS, and his Son Rob’s street-legal KTM 450.
The riding in Utah has to be experienced. Photos cannot capture the scope of the landscape:
After making a loop around Utah, Aaron and I continued on to Monument Valley and then to Sedona, AZ for a total of 1,500 miles. For the second time in two years, I ended an adventure riding down Schnebly Hill into Sedona.
I also learned first-hand the limitations of large adventure bikes. An inch of Utah mud can stop you indefinitely (and break off a $250 front fender!) Not only do failures cost money in repairs, but can actually be dangerous if you get stranded for hours or days in the back country. So I became disillusioned with the Triumph and spent the rest of the trip considering what my next bike would be.
eventually came to the same conclusion many, many riders have already learned: there is NO perfect ADV bike. There is NO bike that excels in all conditions.
You can choose a large bike like my Tiger or Bob’s GS BMW for comfort on the highway and struggle in the rough stuff. Or you can choose a street-legal dirt bike like the WR250R for better off-road performance and punish yourself over long distances. Or you can admit defeat and buy more than one bike!!!
So it was with this mindset that I started to plan for my next adventure: a road trip to Alaska! I studied the maps. I watched every available video. I read ride reports and books on motorcycling to Alaska. Then I planned my route. The trip would include over 6,000 miles of highway riding and over 1,000 miles of unpaved roads. Note that NONE of the miles would be technically difficult “off-road” trails. All this data was factored to select the replacement for the Triumph Tiger.
I needed a bike with great comfort for long days of 500 miles or more on the highway. I needed supreme dependability and the best possible fuel economy. I needed enough power to keep up with traffic on freeways while hauling my camping gear. But I also wanted the lightest possible bike that combined all these features and was still capable of wearing knobby tires for the 1,000 miles of unpaved roads. (I also wanted tubeless tires for ease of flat repairs on and off road versus the tube tires on the Triumph.) My choice was unconventional: The Honda NC700XD.
My Alaska adventure was a complete success! Over 7,200 miles including over 1,000 miles on unpaved roads (after swapping the stock tires for knobbies in Fairbanks) to Coldfoot, Manley Hot Springs, McCarthy, Chicken, Eagle, and Dawson City!
The Honda NC700XD proved to be perfectly reliable, comfortable and capable. Immediately after returning home, our house sold and we prepared to move to Arizona. The Honda would be perfect for exploring the great twisty mountain highways near my new home, including 2-up riding. But I also was convinced that my Honda was not going to be the right ADV bike for off road exploring. I NEEDED a second, lighter motorcycle.
And this brings us to the RX3 Cyclone, imported by CSC Motorcycles.
I had been watching the RX3 for over two years. Remember that I had just completed over 2,000 miles of adventure riding on my Yamaha WR250R across Arizona, and from Arkansas to Utah and Colorado. To prepare for these rides, I had invested over $2,000 in modifications and upgrades to the Yamaha – which was already the most expensive motorcycle in the 250cc dual-sport class. Even after these modifications, the Yamaha was still too tall and too uncomfortable for serious adventure travel. (I know, this is my opinion. Other riders have ridden to the ends of the Earth on WR250R’s. They must be tougher than I am…) So I sold it – at a loss.
Based on my experience, I already knew that a 250cc motorcycle was perfect for adventure riding. There is no problem maintaining highway speeds on a 250 – which may come as a shock to the owners of 1,000 and 1,200cc “adventure” bikes. In fact, a 250cc motorcycle is considered HUGE in most of the world where 100 or 125cc motorcycles are the norm!
The best characteristics of 250cc single “thumpers” is their light weight, simplicity and dependability. Was the RX3 Cyclone dependable? I watched the reviews for two years and did my research. Yes, this motorcycle built by Zongshen is proven not only in the American market but around the world – especially in many countries where the RX3 is the primary means of transportation and not a luxury for recreation. See also my review article: Proven Reliability of the RX3 Cyclone
In addition, CSC stands behind this imported cycle with a 2-year parts and 1-year labor warranty!
The RX3 Cyclone as specified by CSC Motorcycles is also an unmatched package of components and accessories. The standard RX3 includes the base features that had previously sold me on the Yamaha WR250R including fuel-injection, 6-speed transmission and liquid cooling. I consider these three features to be non-negotiable for a modern adventure bike. These three requirements eliminate other traditional choices like the Honda XR650L, Suzuki DR650 and DRZ400S, Yamaha XT250 and the Kawasaki KLR650 - even though there are thousands of satisfied riders around the world for each.
I also eliminated from consideration the Honda CRF250L for the same reason as the Yamaha WR250R. The standard RX3 includes all of the features that I added – at great expense – to my Yamaha WR250R and would also need to add to the Honda CRF250L:
The RX3 has the features and options that fit the type of riding I do: (Your tastes may be different.)
Make no mistake! The RX3 Cyclone is NOT a motocross bike. It is NOT the bike for you if ALL you want to do is ride single-track, pop wheelies, and jump logs. CSC offers the TT250 dual-sport bike for more punishment off road. The RX3 is not the best possible bike for a 7,200-mile trip to Alaska and back in 15 days. I have a Honda NC700XD for that!
But – the RX3 is the perfect economical and comfortable bike if you want to ride the highway to the dirt roads. It is perfect if your dual-sport riding includes gravel roads that do not require low range and differential locks in a Jeep! (Especially if you chose the optional 19-inch front wheel, knobby tires, 13-tooth front drive sprocket and skid plate like I did. Plus, the side racks and panniers can be removed for trail riding.) Of course, the RX3 will commute to work or school and take road trips without sacrificing comfort or performance like a REAL dual-sport!
The RX3 Cyclone does everything I require of a dual-sport motorcycle. I now have a light and dependable bike that handles the twisty highways and turns readily onto the dirt roads. I can load it up for multi-day rides when needed. I can maintain and fix most everything myself on the simple thumper. Parts are free for the first two years, and then cheap to buy after that. And when the RX3 gets dirty or gets dropped I don’t cry over thousands lost in resale value. After all, I can buy FIVE RX3 Cyclones for the price of most “adventure” bikes and have just as much fun – maybe more fun and less stress and exertion!
Randy Reek is an Affiliate of CSC Motorcycles:
PS. If you never venture off the pavement, CSC also offers the same dependable and economical 250cc motor in a high-performance sport bike: the RC3.
What to look for when buying an adventure motorcycle.
(A review and torture test on the White Rim Trail by Randy Reek)
“Adventure bikes” are the fastest growing segment of the motorcycle market. An adventure bike is defined as a motorcycle that can take you across the country, or around the world. It needs to be able to carry gear for a few days. It must handle both paved and unpaved roads.
That is as much as anyone can agree on. Beyond these characteristics, there are countless opinions as to what is the BEST adventure bike, if such an animal even exists…
Let me give you some of my opinions. My requirements for the IDEAL adventure bike are based on many thousands of miles ridden on several drastically different adventure bikes on dirt roads and highways, as well as the Trans-America Trail, several “Backcountry Discovery Routes” and over 7,000 miles to Alaska.
First, a real adventure bike needs to be comfortable on the highway and keep up with the traffic.
By definition, an adventure bike is a motorcycle that you can pull out of the garage and head down the highway to your chosen trail. Then you can explore the countryside on the dirt roads beyond where street motorcycles turn around. After your dirt ride (an afternoon, a week, month, or more), you rejoin the pavement and mix it up with cars and trucks on the way back home.
As an example of an adventure ride, three RX3 riders (rbrADV, GSC, and 3banger) recently left Moab, Utah for a ride on the White Rim Trail. We rode our bikes down the highway about 30 miles at 60 mph+ to the start of the unpaved section of the trail. Because the RX3 has a powerful 250cc motor, liquid-cooling, and a 6-speed transmission it was no problem to maintain the speed limit and even pass slower vehicles on the highway while climbing the bluffs heading away from Moab. We then rode the demanding 90-mile White Rim Trail, and after hopped back on the highway for the return trip to Moab.
To provide comfort at highway speeds, the RX3 comes equipped with both a great windshield and wide, rubber-topped foot pegs. The windshield minimizes rider fatigue and the foot pegs isolate engine vibration.
Not to be overlooked, the RX3 also includes a wide, comfortable saddle. And, while it is a small bike compared to 1,000cc and 1,200cc behemoths, it has just enough weight to NOT get blown around by oncoming traffic. The bike is not cramped for tall riders, and it can be lower for shorter riders.
I learned the importance of these features while riding across the western U.S. while following the route of the Trans-America Trail. I had outfitted a Yamaha WR250R (a street-legal dirt bike) for this extended dual-sport adventure. Even after adding a foam pad and a sheepskin cover, the seat was miserable for all day riding. When we hit the pavement sections of the route, oncoming semi-trucks nearly blew me off the road on the tall, light bike. I tried adding a windshield to cut down on wind buffeting, but it was only a moderate success – and an expensive after-market option for the dirt bike. I also replaced the stock tiny foot pegs on the Yamaha with larger pegs for another $100. All these modifications are unnecessary on the well-equipped RX3.
Second, an adventure bike needs to seamlessly transition to unpaved roads.
When we reached the end of the pavement in Canyonlands National Park and the start of the White Rim Trail, all we needed to do was reduce the pressure in our knobby tires on the RX3’s to provide more cushioning and better traction.
Of course, this means that an adventure bike needs to accommodate knobby tires. The RX3 includes a popular option for a larger 19-inch front wheel. This size provides many options for knobby tires. Note that “adventure bikes” are not the same as motocross bikes. We are going to be riding unpaved ROADS – not dirt bike trails. For this reason, it is not necessary to have the standard 21-inch front wheel found on dirt bikes. In fact, the slightly smaller and wider 19-inch front wheel provides more stability on both paved and unpaved roads.
The RX3 has simple and proven spoked wheels with steel rims. Tubeless tires on cast wheels are not repairable in the boonies. I used to own a DL650 Vee-Strom and when riding on extended trips I still carried a spare inner tube and bailing wire to repair damaged tubeless tires. Standard knobby tires with inner tubes are by far the most dependable at lower psi and easiest to repair.
The RX3 includes the features required of a good adventure bike that is designed to be ridden off the pavement. Engine guards are included as standard equipment. I spent hundreds of dollars adding protective guards to my previous bikes. The RX3 has wide fenders spaced properly above the knobby tires. My expensive Triumph Tiger 800XC that I used to own had minimal spacing above the front tire. Even after adding more space - at additional cost - I still broke off the $250 front plastic fender in the sticky Utah mud when the tires clogged. The RX3 also includes a base steel skid plate, with a larger and more protective aluminum skid plate available as an option – shown above.
This is a different set of requirements than a rider who is looking for a “dual sport bike”. If you want a motorcycle that you can take on short trips AND race single track and do hill climbs you are not going to want a CSC RX3. If you want a street-legal bike that can double as a woods bike for jumping logs you should consider the CSC TT250. Most lightweight dirt bikes simply don’t meet the comfort requirements of a true adventure motorcycle designed for 100’s of miles in the saddle.
Third, a great adventure bike should be designed for multi-day extended travel.
Every other “adventure bike” that I have owned required hundreds, even thousands of dollars to outfit for long distance, self-sufficient travel. My single biggest complaint related to dirt bikes converted into dual sport bikes is the cost to add a larger gas tank. It should be obvious that when a motorcycle is equipped with a gas tank of TWO gallons (or less) that it was never designed for extended touring.
Many dirt bikes have been converted to “adventure bikes” with a new gas tank, typically costing $400 or $500. You sacrifice the original tank for a plastic accessory tank. Your gas gauge (if you had one) no longer works and you never know how much fuel you have – unless you choose the ugly translucent plastic version.
In contrast, the RX3 Adventure comes equipped with a 4.2-gallon steel gas tank with a locking gas cap AND a fuel gauge on the dash! This is just right for an adventure bike, providing well over a 200-mile range between refills. The right-sized gas tank on the RX3 also means we don’t need to buy extra gas cans and mounting brackets, nor add extra weight to the bikes when refills are spaced within 200-miles.
Virtually all “dual sport” motorcycles also require that you spend lots of money adding racks and luggage. You can’t add a rear top case until you first buy the accessory rear rack. Before you can mount your expensive side cases, you need to spend several hundred more dollars to buy the supporting side rack system. There are multiple suppliers who have built profitable businesses just selling the necessary hardware to properly outfit your “adventure bike” – over and above the cost of the motorcycle, not including hours of installation labor!
Once again, the CSC RX3 Adventure comes equipped – as standard equipment – with a rear rack and top case and side racks and side cases. This luggage is designed for the motorcycle, and is not added on. In fact, the three cases even use the ignition key to lock! You could literally spend over $1,000 to outfit any other motorcycle with comparable luggage and racks.
Note: the standard cases on the RX3 are not large. Larger cases are available as an option from CSC. But I see most adventurers carrying WAY too much stuff. I would recommend trying to carry everything you REALLY need in the standard cases provided PLUS a small duffel bag across the passenger seat. You can also add loops for a second stuff sack on the lid of the top case, as I did. But overall you will find that smaller is better, especially when traveling light on the 250cc RX3.
Finally, an adventure bike needs to be light, simple and dependable.
The trend today is for new motorcycles to be big, heavy and complicated. This is the opposite of what you want for trouble-free, extended travel. A motorcycle that has 1,200 cc’s and weighs 600 pounds – BEFORE you add gas, gear and the rider is NOT a realistic adventure bike (despite what Ewan and Charlie have popularized in Long Way Round.)
You want a bike that you can pick up by yourself! You want a bike that you can manage if no one else is around, or if your riding partners are around the bend or over the next hill. The CSC RX3 is not a featherweight at 385 pounds, but that also includes all the equipment that would need to be added to other bikes that start out weighing less.
You also don’t really NEED three different traction modes, four shift patterns and multiple braking options to enjoy an adventure. Keep it simple and ride! Besides, no dealer is going to have the part in stock when these finicky components fail so you are setting yourself up for delays and frustration.
The RX3 has a dependable Delphi fuel-injection system and electronic ignition. Beyond that, the simple 250cc single cylinder 4-stroke engine can be repaired by most shade-tree mechanics. In fact, parts are covered by the CSC warranty for 2 years and labor is covered for 1 year – and you can go anywhere for repairs since there are no restrictions due to designated dealers. There are NO dealers – you deal directly with ONE company, the sole importer, CSC Motorcycles. The engine manufacturer, Zongshen, builds over 1 MILLION motorcycles per year, including private-labelling many well-known name brands. These motorcycles are sold worldwide, including hundreds of thousands in markets where the bike is the sole means of transportation and not just for recreation!
Simple doesn’t mean that the RX3 Adventure is stripped down. It also includes features not found on many motorcycles at any price! The bike has a 300-watt alternator to accommodate electrical accessories. It also has two accessory switches already installed on the handlebars. There is an analog speedometer and a digital tachometer, a fuel gauge, trip meter, and temperature gauge on the dash. Accessory 12-volt and USB outlets are also available and are designed to be added to the dash, not tacked on.
One more thing: an adventure bike needs to be FUN to ride!
Many of us have more than one motorcycle. If you could have only one motorcycle, I can make a strong argument that you can’t go wrong with a CSC RX3 Adventure. But - if you have more than one bike - there is always one gets the most attention. This is the case with the CSC RX3 Adventure. It is just plain fun. Get on, rev it up, and simply ride it anywhere and everywhere.
The RX3 Adventure is comfortable to ride for long distances. It is lightweight and maneuverable. It sits lower than dirt bikes so it instills confidence on sketchy surfaces. Compared to bigger adventure and street bikes, the RX3 feels “flickable” on the road and in the dirt.
Of course, you can always make modifications and further customize your RX3 Adventure. For example, I removed the rear cases and racks for trail riding and lost over 30 pounds. I added a guard to protect the headlight from rocks. I am happy to report that both replacement parts and a wide selection of accessories are great values from CSC. You do not need to pay exorbitant prices elsewhere!
Here is the bottom line: you can spend A LOT more for an adventure bike. But you are not going to have more fun, go farther, or create better memories of your adventures. In fact, at the low cost of ownership for an RX3 Adventure, you can start NOW and use the money you save to rack up more miles! The fun is riding.
There are endless arguments as to what is the perfect bike for adventure riding, including the many options of planned routes like the Backcountry Discovery series and the Trans-America Trail. Having ridden these on other motorcycles, I would now choose the CSC RX3 Adventure. I would give up nothing over the bigger and more expensive bikes that I have ridden. I would gain comfort and capacity over the small bikes I have ridden. And I would have spent one-half to one-fourth as much to log the same exact miles!
If we can ride the White Rim Trail, you can ride any of the BDR’s or the TAT on your own RX3 Adventure!
See my videos of the White Rim Trail on my YouTube Channel: rbrADV
For more information on CSC Motorcycles, see: www.cscmotorcycles.com