With its spiritual roots dating all the way back to the 1972 XL250, the current CRF250L is light-years ahead in performance. Departing from the original Motosport 250’s air-cooled, two-valve engine, the fuel-injected CRF has a liquid-cooled, four-valve single with noticeably better smoothness and performance. Although not a purebred dirt bike due to its quiet intake and exhaust systems, relatively flat power curve, and softish suspension settings, the CRF250L does satisfactorily off road, especially if you can master adjusting tire pressures (or, better yet, swapping out the street-oriented tires entirely) to suit the terrain.
A few years ago, Honda doubled down on the CRF250L platform by adding a Rally edition. Featuring a large skid plate, extra fuel capacity, more suspension travel, and a Dakar-style fairing/windshield combo, the smallest Honda adventure bike is a viable partner for all kinds of fun. The downside, really, is the engine. At 250cc, it’s just too small to pull the 318-pound curb weight, rider, and gear down the long open road with much command. And that’s why hard-core adventure riders usually choose bikes with greater engine displacement.
Likes: The modern version of Honda's original Motosport 250
Dislikes: In stock configuration, a performance underachiever
Verdict: Two attractive options for new and returning riders