It was only logical, and since this bike has been available in Japan for over a year now, the CRF230L is now here in the United States. Are there lines at the dealers waiting to see this bike? No. Is it breaking new technological ground? No. Is it filling a hole in the Honda lineup? Yes.And the fact that the two biggest players-Honda and Yamaha-jumped into this market suggests that there's a need for an entry-level or family-oriented small-displacement, street-legal, dual-purpose machine.What Honda did was take the Brazilian-made CRF230F, tweak it to meet a bunch of regulations and standards (which required the bike to be built in Japan) in getting it to be street-legal here in the U.S. For all intents and purposes, it's a CRF230F with a steel gas tank, turn signals, softer suspension, less-aggressive tires, lights and a motor that'll run for a long time wide-open, as Honda has some unique and stringent durability standards for bikes getting licensed. That makes it an "L." For 90 percent of the time you're riding the bike it's just a simple CRF230, no matter how you slice it.Put it up against the hard-core Dirt Rider testing criteria, we, as the gnarly experts we think we are, should scoff at a bike for the littlest of talent. But truthfully, this bike is the launch pad for getting riders into the bigger and badder off-road mounts or even more serious dual-sport bikes like KTM EXCs. It's a bike that a first-time rider can grasp the controls of-not be intimidated by-and ride for a good time. They also won't be limited to the dirt, as this bike can scoot along on the street as good as most subcompact cars. It gets great fuel economy and is so quiet you could easily ride it in your backyard and no one would know or care.But here it is: The electric-start bike is cold-blooded lean and likes the choke to be on for a while. Then it runs with a very linear power spread that won't impress or surprise anyone. It basically goes. And it goes well enough to make riding fun. The surprising thing about the motor is that with a constant-velocity (CV) carb you can be as wacky and malicious as you'd like with the throttle and the bike could care less. It doesn't flutter, sputter or cough, and it seems to care very little about which gear the bike is in. The engine has decent torque and will plug along letting the CV carb worry about getting the mixture right. Top speed? We estimate it to be in the high 70s if the conditions are right.The bike shifts fine and has a great spread, but more serious dirt riders would easily benefit from a larger rear sprocket to tighten the gaps and make first gear a crawler.The chassis feels long and low with a seat height over 31 inches. This keeps it close to the ground. Although the bike has a weighty feel when pushing it around, it isn't an issue when riding. It turns into an extremely stable and planted ride that will have any nervous novice smiling quickly. The suspension goes up and down easily. But if you jump the bike higher than 16 inches, even with a perfect 10-point landing, it will bottom. It takes the ripples out of the ground but once those ripples turn into bumps, be careful. But then again, you'll learn to go around the big ones; good training for the future. And for the kids who jump, just say no!With the 230L, Honda has built a great bike for the bumper of the motor home, the say-no-to-scooter college students scooting around campus or the teens looking for the first set of wheels, specifically two of them. There's even an optional rear rack! I know a lot of older guys, gnarly trail riders who have evolved to CRF230Fs then struggled to get license plates for them; this L solves that riddle. There's obviously a demand for bikes like this, and Honda knows it. For entry-level buyers, we'll see you in two years when you take the next step to the X.Specifications
Seat height: 31.9 in.
Claimed curb weight (all standard equipment, required fuels and full tank): 267 lbWhat's Hot!
Smooth delivery with torque
It has the six-speed
Mirrors all but eliminate gooney goggle strap syndromeWhat's Not!
Suspension is springy and soft
Tires suffer in aggressive dirt riding
Mirrors hate trees