When Honda introduced the class-defining CRF150F in 2003, the results were mixed. Many riders were pleased there was finally a playbike built solidly enough to take serious abuse. The 150F has a stout frame with frame tubes larger than any other playbikes’, hubs big enough for a full-size bike and aluminum rims. It isn’t easy to beat one of these chassis into submission. But for many of the riders the bike was designed for, it was too heavy: roughly the same weight as a CRF450R. Honda gave the 150F larger fork tubes than on competing models as well as a strong aluminum swingarm. Despite those facts, the suspension-as on all playbikes-isn’t great. It can take a beating, but the engine and chassis allow a good rider to push the bike much harder than the suspension is comfortable going. For some lighter riders, the 150F was a bit much to kickstart as well. That problem was addressed in 2006 when Honda redesigned the engine. A shorter stroke, larger bore and an electric starter were big engine changes, and the internal suspension settings made the suspension action more supple and improved the front-to-rear balance.Everything about the suspension is better for the 2006-and-later units. The early engine has more grunt off the bottom but doesn’t rev as freely and cleanly as the newer engine. While not a powerhouse, the two-valve engine is as bulletproof as an internal combustion device can be. The combination works, and thousands of riders got to experience a real trail four-stroke without having to grow tall enough to ride a full-size bike.
These bikes are just big enough to be thrashed hard by larger adults, and like many playbikes, the CRF150F appealed to people who didn’t want to work on them. Since they often ended up in the hands of the uncaring or unlearned, maintenance could have been poor. If smoke is coming out the exhaust pipe, the engine is tired. A rebuild is cheap, though, and the bottom ends aren’t usually an issue.Watch out for bikes that don’t shift right. Crashing on the shifter will cause shift shaft and shift fork problems. If you adjust the rod-operated rear drum brake too tight, the brake will drag when the suspension compresses.Too many riders pull out the main baffle, and that makes the bike critically lean if the engine isn’t rejetted and, even worse, less powerful. A bike with a loud exhaust is a sign it may be thrashed. The bike’s power limitation is not in the stock exhaust, it is inside the head.Target Rider
Smaller riders will want the E-start model for sure, but bigger riders will be fine on the earlier units. If you can find a clean one, grab it!This is an entry-level bike for sure. But like all playbikes, anyone can have fun with one. If you’re thinking about racing, look elsewhere.Commonsense Mods
Make sure the engine is fresh mechanically, and that there aren’t a lot of performance parts installed. That indicates the bike wasn’t used as intended.The engine doesn’t work properly with a loud pipe, so look for a quiet one. Any of the quiet aftermarket pipes are decent. We’ve had excellent results with the FMF Q exhaust on the 150. It is quiet, but runs great.The 2006-2010 suspension is much better for a small and light rider. If you can kickstart the bike easily, a bigger rider will be just as happy with the earlier years.Unfortunately, most of the aftermarket suspension parts are designed to allow the bike to be ridden on play tracks by adults, and these “adult-erated” bikes are far too stiff for a small pilot who is hammering the stock parts. Race Tech has some great suspension options, and Works Performance has shocks, too. The best, but most expensive, fork option is a Reger Engineering fork kit. It adapts the CR80/85 inverted fork to the 150F frame and brakes. Reger also modifies the CR80/85 rear shock to fit the 150F. The cost is brutal with brand-new fork and shock components, but very reasonable if you buy used. In fact, it would probably be cheaper to buy a running mini, steal the suspension and sell the other parts. Even with the best suspension mods, the rear of the 150 never matches a two-stroke 85, but it gets much better. Fortunately, the suspension is fine for trail use.These bikes come without lights, but Baja Designs and others can set you up with great lights pretty easily, and the ignition parts to power them.