First Ride On the Surprisingly Good and Inexpensive 2015 CSC RX3

A full-featured ADV for less.

The bike bears a certain resemblance to BMW’s F800GS and has a similarly upright and relaxed riding position.Photo: Brian Hatano

They say: A great motorcycle at a great price. We say: Surprisingly good and incredibly inexpensive.

We've grown accustomed to adventure bikes with big engines, hefty curb weights, and high price tags, so it's refreshing to see a versatile ADV that's less than extravagantly priced. The RX3 is a 250cc, 386-pound (claimed, dry) dual-sport with an astonishing $3,495 price tag. It's by far the most affordable option for a full-featured ADV, and after spending a full day on the bike we feel confident recommending it to anyone looking for an economical adventure.

Designed and built by Zongshen—one of China's biggest manufacturers—the RX3 is distributed in the US by the California Scooter Company. CSC made its name selling reproductions of the classic Mustang minibikes and through that venture developed a relationship with Zongshen that led to importing the RX3.

The RX3 was actually quite fun in the twisties. Even when provoked during a short off-road jaunt, the suspension didn’t bottom.Photo: Joe Berk

At first glance we were sure the RX3 parked at CSC’s Azusa, California, headquarters had been slapped with the accessory catalog. Outfitted with a tapered-aluminum handlebar, crash cages front and rear, LED turn signals and taillight, cleated footpegs, and locking luggage (that’s keyed to the ignition), the RX3 is impressively equipped. It even has two 12-volt pigtails under the seat for accessories. But besides the hand guards (a $50 option), the bike we rode is entirely stock.

The RX3 dash checks all the right boxes. There’s a big analog tachometer and digital speedometer, plus a gear-position indicator, fuel gauge, temp gauge, tripmeter, clock, and odometer.Photo: Brian Hatano

The bike bears a certain resemblance to BMW’s F800GS and has a similarly upright and relaxed riding position, but the RX3 is not derivative. The SOHC, water-cooled, fuel-injected single is Zongshen’s own design and idles with a gentle patter. Power is modest but consistent all the way to the 9,000-rpm redline, and the transmission and clutch are light and smooth acting. Freeway travel is doable with an 80-plus-mph top speed, but the motor is wheezing. Bring the speedo back to 70 mph and the engine is much more relaxed.

The brakes, while plumbed with stainless lines, are feeble. The rear is more powerful than the front, but both must be used in tandem to slow the bike with any kind of aggression. Suspension action is surprisingly good given the price point, and handling is light and neutral. The springs are soft, but damping is adequate so the ride quality is comfortable on bumpy roads and composed in corners. The RX3 was actually quite fun in the twisties. Even when provoked during a short off-road jaunt, the suspension didn’t bottom. For off-road adventures, a 19-inch front wheel (stock is 18-inch) is available for $200.

At this point the RX3 likely looks like a pretty appealing machine, and it should. There are some downsides, however. The brakes are the biggest issue, and the plastic luggage doesn’t appear too sturdy (larger, all-aluminum cases available for $800). Another negative point is the 2,500-mile valve-service interval, but at least the screw-type tappets are easy to adjust. Product support shouldn’t be an issue, since CSC has an established relationship with Zongshen.

Based solely on its function and features, the RX3 is a remarkably good bike for the money. There’s not much else on the market for that price and nothing that comes close to the RX3’s level of amenities.

The RX3 is impressively equipped with a tapered-aluminum handlebar, crash cages front and rear, LED turn signals and taillight, cleated footpegs, and locking luggage that’s keyed to the ignition.Photo: Brian Hatano

TECH SPEC

EVOLUTION  
Zongshen’s full-featured dual sport, rebadged and tweaked for the US.
RIVALS  
[Honda][] CRF250L, [Kawasaki][] KLX250S, [Suzuki][] DR200SE, [Yamaha][] WR250R
TECH  
PRICE $3495
ENGINE 250cc, liquid-cooled single
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 24.8 hp @ 9000 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 16.6 lb.-ft. @ 7000 rpm
FRAME Steel twin-spar
FRONT SUSPENSION Zongshen 37mm fork; 5.1-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Zongshen shock adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping; 5.6-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Zongshen two-piston caliper, 262mm disc
REAR BRAKE Zongshen two-piston caliper, 258mm disc
RAKE/TRAIL 27.0º/4.6 in.
WHEELBASE 55.1 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 31.3 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 4.2 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 386 lb. dry
AVAILABLE Now
CONTACT [cscmotorcycles.com][]
VERDICT  
The definition of bang for your buck, the RX3 is the most affordable ADV you can buy and a totally competent machine.