In 1959 we laughed at the small-displacement step-throughs Honda brought to America. It didn’t take Soichiro long, though, to establish Honda as the world leader in motorcycle production. Again we laughed when, in 1992, the Korea-based Kia introduced the Sephia to U.S. consumers, then in 1998 merged with Hyundai. Last year the Hyundai Kia Automotive Group was the 5th-largest auto manufacturer in the world. The moto world has been scoffing at motorcycles from China, Taiwan and other Pacific Rim Asian countries for years now. Maybe it’s time we stopped.
The reason behind the arrest is the soon-to-be-available 2015 CSC Motorcycles Cyclone RX-3, a motorcycle with a quality of construction, fit and finish to rival bikes from Japan. And let’s face it, many of the bikes produced by the major Japanese OEMs (who we regard with such esteem) are constructed in factories outside of Japan. Sure, it’s a motorcycle constructed to Honda’s specifications, but it’s still a Honda built in Thailand. Or a Kawasaki. Or a Ducati.
CSC Motorcycles is probably best known for its line of modern Mustangs – the 250cc versions of which are powered by a Zongshen Single. Like Honda, Zongshen is a motor company – producing in the neighborhood of 4,000 engines per day – and one of China’s largest motorcycle manufacturers. The company is also active in a diversity of business ventures in addition to motorcycle production, and boasts of its alliances with companies such as BMW, Harley-Davidson and Piaggio.
Zongshen is the name you’ll see on the fuel tank badge when your CSC Cyclone RX-3 arrives because CSC is not rebranding this bike, instead choosing to promote the Zongshen brand stateside. CSC is responsible not only for selling the bikes but also spare parts, accessories and warranty issues. In an attempt to maintain affordable pricing and streamline after-the-sale service, CSC is approaching the tasks in a very non-traditional format.
Cyclone RX-3 sales are consumer direct from CSC Motorcycles with either partly assembled or fully assembled bikes (optional) shipped directly to the purchaser’s address. Included in the purchase is a complete service manual enabling the home mechanic to perform all necessary maintenance as well as warranty repairs. CSC says it’s working to make available online tutorials for oil changes, valve adjustments, chain adjustments, changing the fork oil, suspension adjustments, etc. For those desiring professional mechanical services, CSC says it will contract with local independent businesses to perform maintenance or warranty work.
As the only one of its kind, the Cyclone RX-3 owns the 250cc adventure-touring category. Comparably sized competitors include cruisers, sportbikes, nakeds, standards and retros from Honda, Kawasaki, Royal Enfield, Suzuki and Yamaha, as well as some lesser known OEMs. But when it comes to a motorcycle resembling a BMW R1200GS or Triumph Explorer in size 250cc, the Cyclone’s the only game in town.
Dimensionally, the RX-3 is a Goldilocks – not too big and not too small. Its 31.3-inch seat height is shorter than full-size A-T bikes but minimally taller than the 250/300cc bikes from the OEMs mentioned above. Looking at the photos, it doesn’t appear that my five-foot eleven-inch, 185-pound frame is disproportionate to the bike. At 386 pounds (claimed curb weight), the Cyclone isn’t the lightest 250 to be found, but it’s sub-400 heft is much easier to manage in off-road circumstances than traditional full-size A-T bikes.
Zongshen claims 25 crank horsepower at 9000 rpm and 17 lb-ft. at 7000 rpm from the fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, SOHC, 4-valve Single, which is in line with the power ratings from many of the 250s from other OEMs. Launching the RX-3 from a stop requires spinning up the revs and finessing the clutch lever. It’d be an easier process if the friction zone was a little wider and not positioned at the very end of the clutch lever’s throw. Throttle response is without issue.
Once underway, the engine exhibits decent mid-range and top-end power. Freeway speeds of 65 mph and above are attainable, but the further you crest 70 mph, the more buzz enters the handlebars. Considering the counter-balanced engine is spinning 7700 rpm at an indicated 80 mph with only 1300 more revolutions to go until redline, there’s not much to complain about in the vibration department. The RX-3’s speedometer seems to be highly optimistic, as the speedo of a Kawi KLR650 ridden alongside registered just 72 mph while the Cyclone indicated 80 mph.
The Cyclone’s pavement prowess seems up to the task considering the speeds its capable of attaining. The front is suspended by a 37mm inverted fork and the rear by a preload and rebound adjustable monoshock. There were no glaring suspension issues, although the firm setting are perhaps a little stiff for road riding, but you have to consider the demand for the suspension units to also perform off-road. Which they will until pushed too hard, such as bottoming out when landing from only a mild jump (front/rear travel 5.4 and 5.6 inches, respectively).
More crucial to the Cyclone’s performance is its 15-inch rear wheel, which negates any real selection of available tires. In stock trim the Cyclone comes outfitted with semi-knobby CST tires that balance the street/dirt performance ratio with a decidedly street bias. CSC claims it will be offering a range of three tires including the tires we tested along with a set of street-only tires as well as a set of street-legal knobbies. The tire manufacturer for these optional tires was undetermined at time of publication. CSC will also be offering a 17-inch conversion kit (rim and laced hub) for $258.95. CSC is also developing a selection of accessories for the Cyclone.
The Cyclone comes outfitted with a single twin-piston caliper, front and rear, gripping a 262mm front disc and 258mm rear disc. Stopping power from the front set-up is dull. A different brake pad could improve stopping performance, but as tested, it was weaker than what it should be. The rear brake was overly touchy, locking up with little provocation, but this could be the result of a rear brake pedal positioned too high in relation to the footpeg.
The six-speed transmission was easy to row, the only real complaint being its elusive neutral position. The Cyclone’s 55.1-inch wheelbase is close to other bikes of equal displacement, while its 4.2 gallon fuel capacity a little larger than other competing models.
If prospective buyers are confident in their mechanical abilities, can get past not having the traditional dealer network, and trust Zongshen to produce motorcycles commensurate to that of what we’ve come to expect from the Japanese, we urge further investigation into purchasing a CSC Cyclone RX-3. In our opinion, you could do a helluva lot worse.
The RX-3 is the only 250cc adventure-touring bike on the market. So, unless you’re going to build your own A-T bike – keep in mind CSC offers a two-year unlimited mileage warranty – give the Cyclone your attention. You can stay abreast of future developments at the CSC blog site.
|2015 CSC Cyclone RX-3 Specifications|
|Horsepower||24.8 @ 9000 rpm (claimed at the crank)|
|Torque||16.6 lb-ft @ 7000 rpm (claimed)|
|Engine Type||Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, single overhead cam, 4-valve single-cylinder with balance shaft|
|Bore x Stroke||77mm x 53.6mm|
|Fuel System||Delphi EFI|
|Frame||2mm thick polygonal steel|
|Front Suspension||37mm inverted fork, 5.1 inches of travel|
|Rear Suspension||Preload adjustable monoshock, 5.6 inches of travel|
|Front Brake||Twin-piston caliper, 262mm single disc|
|Rear Brake||Twin-piston caliper, 258mm single disc|
|Seat Height||31.3 inches|
|Curb Weight||386 lbs|
|Fuel Capacity||4.2 gal|
|Colors||Orange, Blue, White, Red|
|Warranty||2 years unlimited mileage. The first year is parts and labor, the second year is parts only.|