This is an all-new machine for 2013 and shares it’s single cylinder powerplant with Honda’s CBR250R entry-level sport bike. If you squint really hard and only look at it for a half a second, the 250L MIGHT be confused for a 250R because of the race inspired bodywork and plastics, but other than a mild resemblance, it shares nothing with the CRF-Rs or CRF-Xs.
Just looking at the Honda you can see how noticeably low and wide the seat is compared to a typical dirt bike seat. While good for newbies and shorter folk, it makes the CRF’s ergos far from a normal dirt bike. But, the soft butt cushion is comfy and greatly appreciated on long commutes or multi-day camping trips. The speedo has a fuel gauge, which is especially helpful on far-from-home expeditions. Compared to most dual sport mirrors, the street-bike styled mirrors on the CRF are low and sturdy and don’t get knocked out of place easily. It’s a wider bike than standard dirt bikes but that lends to a sturdy feeling rather than being cumbersome.
To quote another staffer, “The Honda can’t get out of it’s own way!” While this is a bit of an overstatement, the CRF has the mild power and is a heavy little bike at a clamed 320 lbs. The engine is probably not as slow as it seems but lags because of the sizable heft of bike. This lack of juice will definitely limit the size of hills and depth of soft sand you can comfortably tackle. Yet, on smooth power line maintenance roads, the Honda shines and the mellow power translates to control. On the pavement, the engine performs well, but doesn’t launch from a stop without a quick jab at the clutch. With EFI, the Honda starts with ease and runs very smoothly without one hiccup, sputter or stammer.
Without any adjustment capability and being very soft, the CRF’s suspension is definitely a weak spot. Combined with the soft power, the Honda has a hard time keeping up with other dual-sports on moderate trails. I got to know the suspension stops quite well as I clacked through tall whoops. But don’t think that this bike can’t handle the dirt, it just has to be ridden at a slower, less aggressive pace and it will get you where you want to go.
Compared to taller street legal dirt bikes, the Honda is a much better street goer. The suspension and low seat height make you feel planted and though it’s heavy, the CRF carries it’s weight well and corners like a champ. Also, the clutch is buttery smooth and the gearbox is complimentarily slick without any missed shifts or vagueness.
Though it’s not the fastest or gnarliest dual sport on the market, the Honda is no slouch. As a commuter, around-towner and grocery-getter the CRF is great and ad in the facts that it can handle most trails (albeit slowly) and is less that $4,500, it’s hard to beat. Just don’t try to race an enduro with one and you should be fine.
• It’s hard to find this much bike for four and an half G’s
• Low seat great for shorter guys/gals and confidence off-road
• Fuel gauge lets you know when to filler’ up
• Has nice street and highway manners
• Super soft suspension
• It’s easy to feel the bikes considerable heft when changing directions
• Very mellow power – hills and quick acceleration are challenging
• Tires have very little grip in the dirt and hard pack
Fuel Delivery: EFI
Fork: Non-adjustable, 8.7” travel
Shock: Non-adjustable, 9.4” travel
Seat Height: 34.2”
Ground Clearance: 9.6”
Claimed Weight (without gas): 320 LB