I'm hesitant to post again after the reception my last thread got. It blew up into anti-china political rhetoric and the mods closed it down: https://www.advrider.com/f/attachments/86973b16-a842-4c41-a5bb-b789a2f2cafe-jpeg.3498065/
Please refrain from bringing politics or anti-china sentiment into this thread, as it will just be shut down again.
For a long time I've been thinking about a bike to cafe. I was really into the Yamaha SR400, until I actually sat on one. It was SO tiny. I was mulling over the Royal Enfield 650s, and then came across the SG400 (Known as the RE3 Cyclone overseas). It was $5555 delivered, and it had some seriously radical cafe styling that I really fell for. The price was remarkable too. Not only would I not have to build it into a cafe racer myself, the purchase price was lower than either the RE or the Yamaha. So... I got together some play money and bought it in October 2021.
I wanted the blue one, but they didn't have it in stock yet. That container was supposed to arrive 6 months before and hadn't yet. (goddamn Covid) So I ended up with a gray one, and bought the blue tank and fender later. BUT, I didn't just buy it and have it shipped. I bought it, flew to LA, rode around california for 2500 miles, flew home, and THEN had the bike shipped to me.
So, you guessed it, this bike Chinese. It's a Zongshen RE3 Cyclone. Here it's branded as a CSC (California Scooter Company). CSC made their bread and butter on a 24hp 250cc adventure bike from 2016-2020, and have now started importing more interesting, modern, and advanced bikes. This RE3/SG400 is a 380cc parallel twin with 36 horsepower. Screw/locknut tappets, water-cooled, tubeless spoked rims, fuel-injected, 6-speed, and near 100mph top end with stock gearing. (98 indicated, 96 actual). It's geared for 115 at redline in 6th but can't actually make that, so a tooth or two larger rear sprocket should get it all the way to 100. It's got a remarkable amount of power for only 380ccs. It's pretty docile and meek until you crack the throttle wide open. Then it's still docile and meek, until the revs hit 7000 rpm. Then it surges forward and continues to gain speed all the way to the 10,000 rpm redline. When kept in the power band there is plenty of power for passing on backroads, even multiple cars at a time. There's also plenty of overtaking ability on the highway as well. The bike will cruise at 80 without vibration or any drama other than the wind and helmet-lift you get with any naked bike. It shifts smoothly and positively, the ABS works pretty well, and it's overall a pretty nice package. The only thing really wrong with it is the rear shocks. They're set up for a 90 pound asian man, and they have ZERO rebound damping. Stock the bike will pogo four times after hitting a large bump. In China there are 3 different specced versions with different shock configurations, and CSC unfortunately chose the cheapest shocks to import. Bad call on their part. I've replaced them with a quality pair of YSS shocks, and that made a huge difference.
Other than that, I can't say I've noticed any corners cut. I mean, it's a budget bike, but the fit and finish is excellent. The design is well thought-out and made for DIY maintenance. There's no voodoo necessary to adjust the valves for instance. Tank comes off, wires come off, and valve cover lifts straight out. Everything fits together well and looks good. I mean, there are some obvious hints it's a budget bike. The gas cap ring is plastic instead of aluminum and the handlebar switches are a bit plasticy. The shocks of course were a big problem for me, and exacerbated because I'm a fatass and the bike was overloaded with gear. But otherwise, you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between this Zongshen and a Honda if you had no motorcycle knowledge at all.
Everywhere I went in Cali, this bike brought out curious people. Some thought I had restored an old bike, others instantly knew it was a production bike, but had no clue who made it. I had great conversations with sport bikers, harley riders, adventure riders, and everyone inbetween. I had the first oil change at a harley dealership in Fort Bragg, california and the owner and mechanic were astounded that I bought the machine for $5500 out the door, and impressed with the quality of the machine. Never once did I get bashed for buying Chinese. Everyone was curious and friendly.
This Zongshen RE3/CSC SG400 has almost nothing in common with the garbage Chinese bikes sold on Amazon, or the pitbikes sold for years by everyone from your local dealership to Jiffy Lube. The engine isn't a copy of anything, it's Zongshen's own design. It's a much higher level of quality. The metallurgy is better, the castings are beautiful, and the welds are done skillfully. Basically, the exact same thing that happened with the Japanese in the 1960s is playing out now with the Chinese, at a much accelerated pace. There's a mix of garbage and quality machines, and eventually there will be a few big players and the garbage bikes will be forgotten entirely, just like the shitty Japanese bikes from the 50s and early 60s were.
Here are some pics from my california travels:
And here's how the bike sits currently. The saddlebags and hand guards were just used for the trip, I much prefer the naked style here.
I'm waiting on a tank logo and the OEM stripes (in white instead of black) to finish out the tank.
This machine is great fun, and completely worth $5555 OTD and delivered. There's nothing else quite like it, and I enjoy having an underdog of a machine. Especially since it's such an eye catcher and draws people into conversation. In Covid times, I need all the social interaction I can get!
I know I could have gotten something japanese and used for about the same price, but I really dug the looks of this bike, and after buying it I have no regrets at all. It's a great bike, suitable for beginners or any experience level right up to "old fart", which I almost qualify for. (I've been riding for 25 years). There's really nothing in the same category and price point. The next closest is the Royal Enfield GT650, which has an MSRP $500 more than this bike cost delivered, and I've never met a dealership that didn't add $600-$900 worth of extra fees. The Yamaha SR400 is a tiny 3/4 scale motorcycle and also retailed for $500 more (plus fees) than this bike cost delivered. Other than those two, the only other bikes with the retro look are Triumphs and the Kawasaki W800. All of which are many thousands of dollars more costly.
Overall I'm really pleased with my purchase, and I must say that other than the rear shocks, the bike exceeded every expectation I had, and blew my mind on how downright GOOD the thing is. I really was expecting something more... chincy... and was happy to be proven otherwise. Even the Chinese tires stick great and are lasting pretty long. My V65 Magna eats rear tires every 3000 miles. My Benelli eats dual sport big block tires every 3500 miles. I already have more than that on the SG400 and the tires still look new. I'm not babying it either, I'm riding it balls-to-the-walls pretty much everywhere.
Love them or hate them, the Chinese are coming, and they're bringing really cool niche motorcycles that nobody knew they needed. Next they'll start racing, and then we'll have Chinese superbikes to contend with. This is a wild time to live in, motorcycle-wise.