Why I loved the CSC RX3 Adventure so much I bought it TWICE!
Is the RX3 the dual sport ADV motorcycle other manufacturers should be building? News from the motorcycle industry continues to lament the decline in sales of big, expensive cruisers - and the steady sales of all-purpose, economical dual-sport cycles.
And yet, the dual sport model offerings are unimpressive among the Big Name brands. Why? Yamaha discontinued the popular WR250R. Other dual-sport models haven't been upgraded in over 20 years? (Suzuki DRZ400, Yamaha TW200, and Honda XR650, for examples.) Something doesn't add up?
Dual-sport motorcycles fill my cravings for off the pavement exploration.
I have always lived in areas with an abundances of rural, unpaved farm and forest roads. A few years back I also was smitten by the many mapped "Adventure Routes" across the U.S. including the Trans-American Trail (TAT) and the Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDRs). After owning several Harleys and a 1700cc Kawasaki Cruiser, I made the transition to dual-sports and never regretted it. Previously, I avoided unpaved roads. Now, I go out of my way to avoid pavement!
The term “adventure dual-sport motorcycle” means different things to many people.
For me, a dual-sport motorcycle is one that you can ride from your home, down the highway, turn off onto miles of unpaved roads, and then ride back home. My requirements were a lighter, simpler, and versatile motorcycle. It should be capable of multi-day rides carrying camping gear. A dual-sport motorcycle is not the best road bike and it's not a competitive motocross bike. It is a compromise - sometimes described as the "Swiss Army Knife" of motorcycles.
Why did I buy the RX3 Adventure imported by CSC Motorcycles?
This explanation is going to require a recap of my motorcycle riding experience going back about 20 years. Besides the highway cruisers, I also had owned a street-legal Yamaha 175cc dual-sport. At the time I had also owned many ATVs - but they were banned from the backroads near my home in Wisconsin and my cabin near the Canadian border in Minnesota.
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. On our first tour 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. Enroute we passed two riders on fully-loaded adventure bikes (I think they might have been KLR650’s.)
I was mesmerized. I had owned four motorcycles and I didn’t even know “adventure” bikes existed! I immediately started studying the capabilities of "ADV" bikes. I had spent YEARS of my life camping, hiking, canoeing, hunting and fishing in the remote backcountry. I was MEANT to be a dual-sport rider! So I sold the highway cruiser and bought my first adventure dual sport motorcycle – a Suzuki DL650 Vee-Strom Adventurer, a bike with a solid "ADV" reputation.
What followed was the addicting process of customizing the Suzuki to fit my adventurous goals - specifically, a week-long ride on the eastern half of the Trans-America Trail. 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 options.
As I was riding the first sections of the eastern Trans-America Trail I also was looking ahead to riding the more challenging western “TAT” sections the following summer. In the process, I determined that the 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 owned TWO dual-sports!
My eastern Trans-American Trail ride included about 750 miles by highway from my home in Arkansas to the TAT trailhead in Tennessee. (The TAT has now been extended all the way to the Atlantic coast.) 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. In preparation for 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 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 - but was obviously not intended for extended travel. 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!
The end of this ride began planning for the NEXT adventure – the UTBDR! By now I had sold the highway-capable Vee-Strom and the dirt-capable WR250R. 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, 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.
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 there before heading north. After making a loop around Utah backcountry, my son 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. Mechanical breakdowns, injuries, or weather delays can become life-threatening. I wasn't even done with the UTBDR before I stared planning what my NEXT adventure bike would be!
Spoiler: 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 my buddy 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. Some riders 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, watched every available video, and 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, Denali Highway, McCarthy, Chicken, Eagle, and Dawson City! The Honda NC700XD proved to be perfectly reliable, comfortable and capable for a mainly highway adventure.
Immediately after returning home we prepared to move to Arizona. I would be LIVING in the shadow of the red rocks which created my dual-sport obsession! 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 it was not going to be the right ADV bike for off road exploring. I NEEDED a lighter motorcycle.
I had been watching the CSC RX3 since it was first imported over two years earlier. During this time, I had 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.
The best characteristics of 250cc single “thumpers” are their relative light weight, simplicity and dependability. 90% of most ADV rides is under 40 mph, and many miles even slower, so a 250cc is very capable. But was the 250cc CSC RX3 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. (See also the article: Proven Reliability of the RX3 Cyclone). To bolster confidence in this new brand, CSC was offering a 2-year parts and 1-year labor warranty.
Zongshen builds the RX3 in China, and then customizes the bikes for export to multiple countries around the world. The RX3 Adventure as specified by CSC Motorcycles is DOT-rated for sale in the U.S. and EPA-certified in all 50 states. But the main selling point was the unmatched package of components and accessories. The standard RX3 includes the features still not included on many outdated competitive models like fuel-injection, 6-speed transmission and liquid cooling. I consider these three features to be non-negotiable for a modern adventure bike.
I also chose the RX3 over alternatives because it included features which I had previously added – at great expense – to my FOUR previous "adventure bikes":
Rear rack and top case
Side racks and panniers
LED turn signals and tail light
Wide, comfortable saddle
4.2-gallon fuel tank. This last feature alone was probably the deciding factor. It costs hundreds of dollars to outfit other bikes with a gas tank capable of a 200-mile range. Why do manufacturers supply “dual-sport” bikes with 2-gallon gas tanks? This is just inexcusable for any motorcycle intended for anything more than short trips to the mall!
On top of this, the RX3 includes features not available at any price on many of the competitive models:
Digital speedometer and analog tachometer.
Odometer and trip odometer
Adjustable front and rear suspension
300-watt alternator to power 12-volt accessories
Accessory wiring harness with switches on the handlebars
The RX3 is an adventure-ready package that costs HALF of what it costs to assemble a comparable motorcycle from any other manufacturer
CSC Motorcycles has sweetened the deal by designing more accessories, including a aluminum skid plate, LED headlight option, headlight and brake master cylinder guards. More aggressive knobby tires can easily be added before or after the purchase.
Make no mistake! The RX3 is NOT a motocross bike. It is NOT the bike for you if ALL you want to do is ride rough single-track, pop wheelies, and jump logs. (CSC offers the TT250 Enduro 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. BUT - it HAS proven its dependability as a RENTAL bike for outfitters who book rides up the Haul Road to Prudhoe Bay and back. CSC RX3 owners have now racked up 25,000 to over 50,000 miles on the sturdy 250cc power plant.
For me, the RX3 is the perfect economical and comfortable bike if you want to ride the highway to the dirt roads. 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 Adventure 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 RX3s for the price of most “adventure” bikes and have just as much fun – maybe more fun and less stress and exertion!
Yet, questions linger. Can a low priced import REALLY qualify as an "adventure bike"?
Is riding the White Rim Trail in the Canyonlands of Utah an "adventure"? That's what I and two other RX3 riders did back in October 2016. Here is the first of several videos of our ADVENTURE:
A few years later, several CSC owners met to ride more trails in the Moab area on Rx3's and TT250's:
If you are observant, you notice this time I am riding a gold 2018 CSC RX3. Between these two videos, I had decided that it was time to retire from aggressive off-road riding. Family demands were cutting into my riding opportunities - so I sold my original 2016 red RX3. But - a year later I missed it too much! One call to CSC Motorcycles and I was the proud owner of my second RX3 Adventure!
Is the CSC Rx3 Adventure the perfect dual sport? NO!
Do your own research. You will find that many dual-sport riders have requirements that the RX3 can't match. That is why many brands (including KTM, BMW and Harley Davidson) sell models that cost 500% to 800% more! But - for me - I would rather buy, insure, maintain, drop, scratch, and repair the $4,000 CSC Rx3 Adventure. Learn more at CSCmotorcycles.com. When you call, tell them that Randy sent you.