Is A Cheap Chinese Dual-Sport Any Good?
Some say their quality is questionable, but can you argue with a brand new motorcycle that's cheaper than its used competition?
When you think of a dual-sport motorcycle, you typically think of heavy hitters like the Honda Africa Twin or the Royal Enfield Himalayan. Maybe you think of more common bikes like the Suzuki DR-Z 400, or the Kawasaki KLR 650 (rest in pieces). One name you never hear in the mix is the RPS Hawk 250, yet this is another viable contender in the dual-sport world. Better yet, for just $1,399, a brand new Hawk costs less than most other dual-sports cost on the used market.
Of course, there's a reason why the price is so cheap. The bike is, um... cheap. It's Chinese, which explains both the low price and its reputation. The engine is a direct ripoff of Honda's 229cc single-cylinder engine, an older thumper design that's seen extensive use in less developed countries. Some importers, such as Ricky Power Sports, have been importing these cheap bikes and passing the savings onto the consumers who buy them.
You don't go to a dealer, then ride home a shiny new Hawk. You order one from any number of online retailers. The pallet is delivered to your doorstep, and it's up to you to finish assembling the bike. Some retailers, such as TX Powersports, will assemble it for you for an extra $149, but no major assembly is required. Personally, I'd rather finish putting it together myself, which requires no special tools and would give me the opportunity to thoroughly inspect the bike top to bottom, tightening every single bolt myself.
Another issue is that the may or may not actually be street legal, depending on the whims of your local DMV. It doesn't appear on the list of federally approved street-legal motorcycles. It has all of the equipment it needs to be legal on the street, however—lights, horn, muffler, it's all there. Many people have been able to register them for the street anyway, but some have had to jump through a few hoops to do it, some of dubious legality.
Some may point out that a no-name brand will have a significant lack of parts available to repair it and keep it on the road. However, a great deal of replacement and upgrade parts are available, with the website Hawk250.com listing many of them in one place for convenience. The bike's similarity to some mainstream Honda models no doubt helps its parts availability.
YouTuber MotoCheez has made a number of videos about his own Hawk, including the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of this cheap dual-sport. He's also made a number of upgrades that improve the bike's performance and reliability. Watching his videos have shown me that the bike may not be nearly as bad as its low price and Chinese origins would have you believe.
I wouldn't mind picking up a Hawk of my own someday. I'd prefer it as a second bike, a project bike if you will, despite the fact that I'd buy it brand new. I wouldn't want to rely on it to get to work every day, but southwest New Hampshire, where I'm moving, has a seemingly endless supply of gravel and unmaintained roads that a dual-sport would be perfect for exploring. I will also admit that dirt is my giant blind spot when it comes to motorcycling. I have almost no experience on dirt, and what little I do have mainly involves crashing from using too much front brake. I wouldn't want to learn the ropes of the dirt on a nice Africa Twin, but a cheap Hawk 250 would be a bike I wouldn't cry about accidentally chucking down a trail, breaking, and then fixing up again. I may have to explore this option more closely at some point.