First Ride: CSC Motorcycles Cyclone RX-3 Review
CSC brings the 'fun factor' with its light and nimble 250cc Adventure Bike.
The Adventure Touring category has grown prosperous over the years by focusing on liter-class Adventure Bikes that generate the most profit. Meanwhile, many riders are discontent with the current options. They seek an inexpensive, light and nimble Adventure Bike to explore the world on; a bike that’s easy to maneuver and pick up when the inevitable fall occurs off-road. A motorcycle that comes equipped for long-distance touring from the factory, without the need for excessive aftermarket modifications.
CSC Motorcycles, a California importer of small Chinese bikes, saw there was a huge gap in the market and decided it was time to shake up the industry. It was a bold move when CSC announced last August that they would begin importing a small Chinese-built Adventure Bike to the United States. Not only would they need to convince people that a 250cc Adventure Bike is a smart choice, but they would also have to overcome public perceptions about Chinese build quality.
ADV Pulse was one of the first publications to inspect the CSC Cyclone RX-3 and considering the low price, we were left impressed with what we saw. It’s a legitimate Adventure Bike with a modern fuel-injected liquid-cooled counter-balanced engine, 6-speed transmission, touring windscreen, large fuel tank and lockable luggage. The bike has a lot to offer off-road riders as well, with a metal skid plate, crash bars, wire-spoked wheels, tapered handlebars, platform-style footpegs and an adjustable rear shock.
The CSC Cyclone RX-3 may be small in stature but with a price tag of just $3,495, it’s a lot of bike for the money. With its modern Adventure Bike styling, it’s also not a bad looking bike either. While we didn’t find many nits to pick during our initial inspection, we reserved judgement for the day when we actually had a chance to ride the bike.
Last week we got the call from CSC Motorcycles inviting us to a full-day of testing the Cyclone RX-3 in Southern California. The guided tour offered a chance to evaluate the bike on a combination of highway and city riding, along with some world-class twisty asphalt and rocky fire roads in the Angeles National Forest.
In The City
Our ride began on city streets where we got a feel for the Cyclone RX-3. It’s always a big shock jumping on a 25 horsepower bike after just riding in on a 100+ horsepower machine. You instantly feel how much lighter and maneuverable the bike is, and the Cyclone seems even lighter than the claimed 359 pound dry weight. Tall gearing on a 250cc bike means acceleration is less than impressive and you spend a lot of time at full throttle, but the power is more than adequate for quick overtakes on city streets.
The riding position is compact but doesn’t feel cramped for 6-footers. Handlebars and footpegs feel comfortably placed for longer rides and the two-piece seat is flat, firm and supportive. The seating position provides a commanding view of the road ahead, while the attractively styled mirrors offer a vibration-free look at the road behind you. A modern digital display shows speed, time, odometer, trip mileage and water temperature. An electronic fuel gauge and gear indicator are a nice touch on a budget bike, while the simple analog tachometer makes it easy to keep an eye on the revs for perfectly timed shifts.
The EFI fueling feels spot on with no hesitation, surging or flat spots under acceleration. The six-speed gearbox is smooth-shifting, but can be difficult to get into neutral at stop lights. The front brake offers linear and predictable braking but requires a solid squeeze with three fingers to be effective during emergency stops.
Merging on to the freeway onramp provided an opportunity for a full throttle acceleration test through the gears. The Cyclone’s single-cylinder motor makes a nice whine when revving up to the 9,000-rpm redline. The engine doesn’t make much power until you reach 7,000 rpm; anything below that and you’re just making noise. Yet, staying in the powerband and choosing the right gear are all part of the fun of riding a 250cc motorcycle.
On the freeways of Southern California, the flow of traffic typically moves between 75-85 mph and this is where the Cyclone feels least at home. The bike is happiest if you settle into a cruising speed of 65 mph. The bike has enough torque on tap to keep up with traffic in the slower lanes, but passing takes some strategic planning. There is a noticeable buzz under full acceleration, but this smooths out once you get up to speed. Under hard acceleration, we encountered a false neutral between 5th and 6th gears on a few occasions, but the problem was easily resolved with more deliberate shifts.
The tall windscreen does a good job of keeping the air off your body and head, providing enough wind protection to ease fatigue; it’s also short enough that it doesn’t obstruct your field of vision. We noticed the speedometer is overly optimistic though, indicating 75 mph when our GPS showed we were traveling at around 65 mph. CSC has informed us that they are aware of this problem and they are working with the factory to ensure production bikes have better calibrated speedometers.
One of our biggest questions before the test was how would the Cyclone compare in acceleration to a Kawasaki KLR650. The KLR650 is probably the closest competition for those in the market for a low-cost fully-equipped Adventure Bike. On paper, the power-to-weight ratios of the two bikes are similar, so we brought a 2008 KLR650 along for the ride for comparison. On the highway, we had an opportunity to perform some rolling acceleration test to see how the two bikes compare. Accelerating from 55 mph to 75 mph, it became clear right away that the KLR650 has a significant power advantage. The little RX-3 always felt stable at high speeds though, even during a high wind advisory that had us all leaning sideways into the wind.
Turning off the highway, we arrived at a dirt road in the Lytle Creek area of the Angeles National Forest. We rode on graded dirt roads for 6.5 miles to get a feel for the bike’s off-road characteristics. Most of the trail was smooth and offered few challenges, but one section did include a steep descent with large rocks.
The Cyclone’s suspension gives riders a feeling of control and provides instant feedback from the trail. Its lower weight and seat height, along with the smaller wheels, inspire immediate confidence on tougher terrain. It’s a highly maneuverable bike that can quickly change direction and most riders can put both feet firmly on the ground when needed. The turning radius of the RX-3 is excellent and you can quickly turn the bike around on a hill without much strain.
Platform-style footpegs provide excellent grip and the handlebars offer good leverage for aggressive stand-up riding (although the bars are a bit too low for taller riders). The tall touring windscreen also remains safely out of contact with your helmet in the bumps. Traction off-road with the road-biased tires was better than expected.
The Cyclone’s chassis feels tight and the suspension is firm and well-dampened. The taught suspension works well for aggressive stand up riding and the bike is able to carry 240 pounds of rider and gear at a high rate of speed. However, the suspension lacked suppleness over smaller bumps.
Steep inclines require a bit of clutch work to keep forward momentum. Power is adequate, but the bike’s tall gearing hurts its climbing ability. The Cyclone’s excellent maneuverability makes it easy to navigate around rocks and other obstacles. However, the small wheels can get a bit jittery, making it harder to maintain a clean line through rocky terrain.
While we only had a short time with the bike on basic off-road trails, the Cyclone RX-3 seemed very capable of handling more difficult terrain. Hopefully, we’ll have an opportunity in the future to put the Cyclone through more rigorous testing to get a better sense of its long-term durability in the dirt.
Riding The Twisties
Back on asphalt, the 250cc Cyclone strained to keep up with the KLR650s in our group as we climbed 2,600 feet over 7-miles on Lone Pine Canyon Road entering the city of Wrightwood. The bike had just enough torque to maintain the 55-mph speed limit up the steep grade. Heading back towards Los Angeles, we continued climbing over the San Gabriel Mountains as we reached our maximum elevation of 8,000 feet. Angeles Crest Highway 2 offers some of the best twisty asphalt in California, giving us the perfect opportunity to see how the 250cc CSC Cyclone RX-3 would keep up with the larger Adventure Bikes in our group.
The Cyclone RX-3 feels right at home in the tight twisties. Ground clearance is plentiful and the tires offer ample grip when leaned over on their edge. Corner speed is key with smaller bikes and the CSC likes to be leaned. Any ground lost on the straightaways to faster bikes can quickly be made up in the tighter sections.
The bike’s small wheels give it a light flickable feel, allowing mid-turn line changes with ease. The Cyclone’s firm suspension helps keep it stable in the turns but can feel harsh on bumpy asphalt and potholes. The firm seat and suspension can begin to cause soreness at the end of the day. However, we didn’t try adjusting the rear shock to soften the ride.
After traveling roughly 100 miles, the digital display began warning us that we were low on fuel already (we expected at least 200 miles from the 4.2 gallon tank). When we stopped for fuel, we were surprised to find the tank was still half full. CSC assured us that this is another known calibration issue that they plan to resolve with the factory before the production bikes arrive in the U.S.
At the end of the day, we were amazed with how little fuel the Cyclone RX-3 burned. After spending most of the day at full throttle climbing 5,000 feet, the bike used less than 2 gallons of fuel in 120 miles. Claims of 70 mpg under normal conditions seem well within reach. We felt like our bodies had used less physical energy as well. The light-weight maneuverability of the Cyclone RX-3 reduced the fatigue we would normally experience after muscling around a heavy Adventure Bike all day.
The CSC Cyclone RX-3 reminds us of all the fun that can be had riding a small bike. With a 250cc engine, you may be limited on power but never short on smiles. It’s a less intimidating entrance into the world of Adventure Riding that keeps the fun factor high and allows new riders to polish their skills.
While we didn’t have enough time with the bike to assess its long-term durability, our first experience riding the bike increased our confidence. Although we did notice at the end of the day that a few screws holding on the plastic chain slider had vibrated loose. It’s hard to be critical of this detail when we’ve seen countless screws loosen on bikes costing five times as much. We expected to find more at fault with the RX-3 because of its budget price, but the truth is the bike doesn’t leave much to want for if you are in the market for an inexpensive, fuel efficient, light and nimble Adventure Bike.
With a sticker price of just $3,495, the new CSC undercuts the Kawasaki KLR650 by $3,100. The Cyclone RX-3 may have an acceleration disadvantage, but its lighter weight and more agile handling give it advantages in the turns; and all that extra cash saved can be applied toward accessories, riding gear and your travel fund.
Check out the video footage from our test of the CSC Cyclone RX-3 here.
Claimed Top Speed:
Fuel tank capacity:
| 55.12 in (1,400 mm)|
8.27 in (210 mm)
31.30 in (795 mm)
359 lbs (163 kg)
331 lbs (150 kg)
4-stroke, liquid-cooled, single cylinder
11.5 : 1
Inverted Telescopic, 5.1 in. (130mm) travel
Link Type Adjustable Shock, 5.6 in. (142mm) travel
dual-piston caliper, single disc
single-piston caliper, single disc
100/R90-18″, Tube Type
130/R70-15″, Tube Type
4.23 gal (16.0 L)
Photos By Bill Lieras and Jim Downs