A Gutsy Dual-Sport That Challenges Your Opinion Of Chinese Motorcycles

CSC Motorcycles — a west-coast importer for Chongqing Zongshen — brings us a dandy dual-sport bike in the TT250. With a 230 cc engine that offers manageable torque and horsepower, the TT250 gives us Enduro styling in a street-legal dual sport for off-road fun or economical commutes at an amazingly affordable price. It’s a gutsy little Chinese bike that is easy to start and runs quite well, so if your preconceived notion of Chinese bikes is that they’re crap, you might want to take another look.

Continue reading for my review of the CSC Motorcycles TT250.

  • 2017 CSC Motorcycles TT250
  • Year:
    2017
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-1
  • Displacement:
    230 cc
  • Top Speed:
    60 mph
  • Price:
    2195
  • Price:

Design

2017 CSC Motorcycles TT250
- image 723773

CSC made a splash a few years back with its RX3 “Adventure,” and the one-shop operation looks to expand its footprint yet again with the addition of the TT250. This dual-sport ride boasts a 16-horsepower engine in a light terrain defeating rolling chassis that carries all the hallmarks of the mainstream, enduro: generation two models flooding the market from almost everyone who makes a dirt bike of any sort. As a genre, small dual-sports are showing themselves to be very attractive to a few different types of buyers, so manufacturer Chongqing Zongshen certainly has its work cut out for it. If the success of the RX3 teaches us anything, it’s that the perception of Chinese products may not necessarily be applicable in every instance.

One of the unique things about this importer is that it assembles its products in-house if you are lucky enough to live near the single outlet in Azusa, California, or it will ship it in kit form nearly anywhere in the lower 48. Good news if you like to turn wrenches on your own ride. The company makes it easy with online documentation and even how-to videos, so even persons with very little experience have a reasonable chance of getting it right.

It’s clear at a glance that the TT250 came off the same drafting table as its adventurous cousin (we all have at least one), the RX3. A relatively graceful sweep pervades the design, starting at the stylized flyscreen that’s molded into the headlight can atop the tripleclamp-mount mudguard, too bad the headlight itself seems to be like lighting a match on an inky night.

Upper engine shrouds put some “shoulders” on the ride that flow into the fuel tank with the aforementioned curvature in the upper member of the shroud that gives the tank a sort-of knee pocket look, if not function. The flylines slither down the backside of the tank to the rider seat that comes with the merest of rise to the pillion pad. Unlike some of the bigger names (I’m looking at you, KTM), the seat is actually fairly comfortable even if its 34-inch altitude may be a stretch for shorter riders. Oh well, it is meant to be able to tackle the brown after all, and that 11.5 inches of ground clearance has got to fall out somewhere.

A pair of Oh shit handles join the subframe-mount, fold-up footpegs to finish off the passenger’s amenities, and they provide a handy hardpoint for strapping down cargo. An underslung tail light and whisker turn signals finish the rear end with a stylish heat shield on the right side to protect the passenger’s leg and hand. Overall, it’s about what one expects from a dual-sport machine, and it’s actually better looking than the offerings from the Big Four which tend to be a little blocky, more utilitarian and desperately un-sexy.

Chassis

2017 CSC Motorcycles TT250
- image 723774

Tubular-steel members make up the single-downtube, double-cradle frame, and while the factory could have saved some weight and money by using a stressed-engine setup, the cradle rails serve to protect the engine and drivetrain a bit. That’s good news for a bike meant to tackle terrain. Suspension components at both ends of the bike come with adjustable preload — a fact that cracks me up just a bit considering how many of the big-name manufacturers act like any sort of adjustment feature on the front forks will be cost prohibitive.

Inverted, 48 mm front forks with 37 mm inner fork tubes buoy the front on 6.2 inches of travel with a monoshock to support the back on 6.5 inches of travel, measured at the axles. Needless to say, this is pretty plush on the road and really isn’t too bad in light terrain, but it’s only about half the travel one can expect from a pure off-road machine, so keep that in mind and manage your expectations.

A single, 265 mm front disc and 220 mm rear works with the twin-pot anchors to control the 309-pound wet weight. No ABS or linked brakes, but, who would even want that on such a ride, anyway? A 21-inch, laced front wheel leads the way for some true, terrain-busting capability with an 18-incher in back, and both ends come with gnarly street-knobbies that are meant to be dual-surface capable, but obviously come with an emphasis on soft-surface traction. In other words, be ye careful riding this thing on the hard in inclement conditions.

Drivetrain

2017 CSC Motorcycles TT250
- image 723778

A simple, air-cooled thumper powers the TT250. Slightly oversquare, the 67 mm bore and 65 mm stroke gives us a total displacement of 229.5 cc and a compression ratio that clocks out at a relatively-low, 8.7-to-1. Not only does this allow for the use of cheap pump gas, but it also means that it won’t beat the bearings out of the bottom end, and that alone bodes well for the longevity of the service life. A tomato can meters the fuel for the simplest of induction control with a two-stage choke to help with cold starts, yet it still manages around 65 mpg while meeting emission requirements.

A kicker backs up the electric starter, and though I can’t remember the last time my battery failed me, I find a certain comfort in having an option other than trying to pop-start the damn thing on a soft surface. The engine cranks out a modest 13.5 pound-feet of torque at 5,500 rpm with 16.1-horsepower at 7,000 rpm. Nothing groundbreaking here, just manageable power, and since it’s a one-lung mill, the spacing of the power pulses give the rear wheel plenty of time to catch a grip with a five-speed, constant-mesh transmission and standard clutch to keep you in the useful powerband. Most riders can expect around 60 mph out of the TT250, but the factory offers optional front and rear final-drive sprockets that allow you to tune up higher speeds for road travel, or tune down for more bottom-end grunt to manage some off-road work.

Price

2017 CSC Motorcycles TT250
- image 723775

Without a doubt, the price is the most powerful selling point for the TT250 at only $2,195. Not only should this appeal to riders on a budget, but it could make the TT250 a good choice for someone just looking for a “funbike.” Assembly at the store will run you $195, and if you have it shipped you can look forward to a $150 crating charge. Even with the additional charges, this is still a heck of a deal.

Competitor

2017 Honda CRF250L / CRF250L Rally
- image 719864
2017 CSC Motorcycles TT250
- image 723780

There’s no shortage of small-displacement DS models on the market right now, and each of the Japanese Big Four has their own version in the game. While one could argue that it isn’t entirely fair to go straight to the heaviest hitters, I submit that this is the market Zongshen chose to challenge, and it is from this quarter that it will receive its stiffest competition.

Honda’s CRF250L leaps out as a top contender with a relatively interesting style overall, though the real sex is in the Rally package in my opinion. That said, the humble TT250’s looks are much smoother, and less helter-skelter than Honda’s design. The Red Riders leave the adjustable front suspension on the shelf, and that gives the TT a leg up in that department though it gets some back with an ABS option that I must admit would be a comfort when running those knobbies on wet pavement.

Honda’s experience shows in the powerplant. While the Zongshen mill appears to, itself, be something of a Honda knockoff, it can’t hold a candle to the 24 ponies, 16 pounds o’ grunt and 81 mph top speed the genuine article brings to the table. If you plan on just bashing about on the backroads, this may not matter too much, but if you think to use it as some sort of commuter the extra speed will be a comfort, indeed.

As expected, CSC thrashes the daylights out of Honda at the checkout. Honda’s CRF250L starts at $5,149 and goes up from there depending on which combination of the Rally trim and ABS you settle on. That’s right folks, you could buy a pair of TT250s and have cheddar left over to buy your riding gear for the price you’d pay for the Honda. Is fit and finish the same across the board? Of course not. Honda is still at the top of the food chain, but if good enough is good enough, there’s something to be said for the charming little TT250.

He Said

“This is definitely an attractive ride, and no matter what you think of import kit bikes in general, you have to admit someone in Zongshen’s design department is doing something right. Beyond the looks, the modest performance and dead-low price are a mixed bag, but if you’re looking for basic, honest transportation, this ride definitely deserves a look.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "You know, I like a manufacturer that will delivery a bike to you in a box, but being a mechanic, I’m probably in a better position to deal with that than a lot of other folks. I like readily available service information and I like this little bike. It has predictable power and just tractors up rough terrain. I know some folks are down on Chinese motorcycles, and I’m not saying that is wrong; I’m just saying this isn’t one of the crappy ones."

Specifications

Type: Single cylinder, 4 stroke, air-cooled
Bore X Stroke: 67mm x 65mm
Displacement: 229.5cc
Compression Ratio: 8.7:1
Horsepower: 16.1 @ 7,000 rpm
Torque: 13.5 ft. lb. @ 5,500 rpm
Oil Type: 10W 40, 1.48 quart
Fuel System: Carburetor
Starter: Electric & Kick
Frame: Tubular Steel
Front Brake: 265mm Single Disc
Rear Brake: 220mm Single Disc
Transmission: 5 Speed, constant mesh
Seat Height: 34 in. (864mm)
Wheelbase: 55 in. (1397mm)
Fuel Tank: 2.9 gallons (11 L)
Front Tires: 3.00 x 21 knobby, DOT approved
Rear Tires: 4.60 x 18 knobby, DOT approved
Front Suspension: Inverted Telescopic, 48mm upper, 37mm lower
Rear Suspension: monoshock with preload adjustment
Suspension Travel: 6.2 in. (157mm) Front / 6.5 in. (165mm) Rear
Ground Clearance: 11.5 in. (292mm)
Weight: 309 lbs. (140 Kg)
Colors: Black, Copper
Price: $2,195

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: cscmotorcycles.com, powersports.honda.com

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