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.