Many thought it was odd that I would buy an RX-3 when I had an R1200GS in the stable. But when this bike was announced, I was immediately hooked. The RX-3 is a 250cc liquid-cooled, fuel-injected adventure bike imported by CSC Motorcycles in Azusa, CA. It comes fully loaded with crash bars, luggage, and almost everything needed for adventuring. All that for only $3,500—how could anyone resist?
So I took the RX-3 into Mono County, home to the most difficult areas I know of in California’s eastern Sierras. Mono County is the reason I bought a GS in the first place, a fitting environment to compare both bikes.
The RX-3 is a LOT of fun to ride. It’s light, too—perhaps the main reason it’s so much fun to toss around in the twisties, and off road it’s very controllable. There are obvious differences from the GS. For one, it’s roughly 200 pounds lighter. And, the RX-3 suspension has only 5.5 inches of travel, harsh in comparison. Obviously, the GS has a big power advantage. When the going gets tough with the GS, I just roll on more throttle and blast through it. With the RX-3, judicious clutch work is necessary to make it up some of the steepest climbs. But on the way down these steep, sandy rock gardens, the RX-3 is actually easier to control.
While the RX-3 is fine doing 70+ mph on the highway, it takes a while to get there. The GS can reach that speed after the second shift. The RX-3 can keep up (mostly) with larger bikes off-road. But on the highway, not so much. It just doesn’t have the acceleration, and on steep, technical terrain it would benefit from a change in sprockets.
The RX-3 makes a tad less than 25 hp, whereas my GS cranks over 100. When I say the RX-3 is a fully capable adventure bike, I mean it can carry you and enough gear to far-off places and get into and out of some tough terrain. I’ve ridden it hard, probably harder than most would, and it performed admirably. Although I had concerns about the stock skid plate, while on Dunderberg Pass I deliberately ran over a softball-sized rock giving the skid plate a big hit. Back at camp, though, all I could find was a slight deformation. It protected the engine better than expected.
I took the RX-3 in some difficult areas where I’d never ridden either bike. A heavy bike can be a handful on a steep, tight, nothing-but-rocks switchback trail. The RX-3 performed well and never missed a beat. And by the way, I was carrying what I consider to be a typical load—luggage about halfway with tools, compressor, tubes, med-kit, 1.5 gallons of water, and a bunch of camera gear—leaving plenty of room to spare. I also had two metal water bottles, one in each pannier.
The RX-3 is fully capable of handling anything the beginning adventurer is likely to encounter. It’s also a great bike for beginning riders to learn on. Support from CSC is also fantastic. They’re fanatical about stocking every part, and all service tutorials are available on the CSC website for free. The bike has a two-year warranty (unlimited miles), and comes with a service manual on DVD.
The RX-3 fills different roles for different riders. It makes a wonderful commuter or an entry-level adventure bike, especially at its price point. I love my RX-3 and think that anyone looking for an affordable way into adventure riding will love theirs, too.
Rob Day is an avid ADV rider. After 30+ years of riding street bikes exclusively, he got into adventure riding several years ago with a BMW R1200GS. He has attended several training camps, and is a veteran of several Backcountry Discovery Routes as well as many trips into the Mojave Desert and Death Valley. His primary riding area is Mono County in California’s Eastern Sierras, where he has spent almost every summer for nearly 50 years.