2013 Honda CRF250L Review
Honda has re-entered the 250-class dual-sport motorcycle market with the new CRF250L. With its relatively low price, high quality, modest operating costs and excellent fun factor, it’s designed to attract newcomers to motorcycling and keep them interested. Combining styling from its CRF motocross line and an engine from the CBR250R, Honda has managed to contain costs without compromising performance or appearance. The CRF250L, like the CBR250R, is manufactured at Honda’s Thailand production facility and the two bikes share the same basic engine architecture. This new-generation four-stroke liquid-cooled 249.6cc single-cylinder engine utilizes a dual overhead camshaft (DOHC) layout for improved power and efficiency. Roller rocker arms reduce friction for ease of maintenance the valve shims can be replaced during valve adjustments without removing the camshafts. The short-stroke engine has a bore and stroke of 76mm by 55mm respectively, which allows it to rev freely. A primary balancer shaft is incorporated into the engine to quell vibration. Although the CRF250L and CBR250R share basic engine architecture, the CRF250L receives changes to broaden low-end and midrange torque delivery. The CRF250L has a unique ECU to control ignition and EFI mapping, plus a new airbox; intake manifold; head pipe, muffler; and throttle body. The smaller 36mm throttle body for the Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) system improves response at lower engine speeds, especially in off-road applications. Other changes include a new clutch with a “judder spring” to absorb shock loads through the driveline, plus a beefed-up gearbox with wider gears and strengthened shift dogs. Lower final gearing is achieved via a 40-tooth rear-wheel sprocket in lieu of a 38-tooth sprocket. Chassis The CRF250L features a brand-new steel frame design with twin oval-section main spars and semi-double cradle layout for rugged off-road riding. A lightweight, round-section steel bolt-on rear subframe can be easily replaced if damaged. The wheelbase of 56.9 inches along with a 27° 35’ rake and 4.4 inches of trail allow a tight turning radius and maintain stability. A stout 43mm Showa inverted fork offers 9.8 inches of travel. Pro-Link rear suspension delivers 9.4 inches of rear-wheel travel; the Showa shock absorber with spring preload adjustability is a single tube design with a 40mm diameter cylinder. The tapered aluminum swingarm helps pare weight. The front brake uses a single 256mm disc gripped by a twin-piston caliper, while the rear incorporates a 220mm disc and single-piston caliper. Enduro-style tires, 3.00-21 front and 120/80-18 rear, provide reasonable traction both on and off road. The 21-inch front wheel and 18-inch rear make fitment of a wide variety of off-road tires possible. Riding Impressions Honda’s feisty liquid-cooled DOHC 249cc single-cylinder four-stroke powerplant starts instantly and produces smooth usable torque at low rpm suited to off-road riding, yet delivers decent high-rpm performance for the street. Power is comparable to other 250cc singles in this class, and top speed is about 85 mph, which allows a reasonable cruising speed on the highway. The counterbalancer controls vibrations effectively, for rider comfort. Clutch-lever effort is light and the six-speed transmission is smooth and quick shifting. A maintenance-free sealed battery combined with electric start make it easy to recover if you stall the engine. Riding position is upright and provides good control, and seat height is a tall 34.7 inches. However, I found the handlebar too low to allow me (at 6’ 1” tall) to stand comfortably on off-road sections (this can be corrected with a handlebar swap). The motocross-style seat is narrow and allows rider movement, but feels hard after an hour. There’s a digital multi-function speedometer which is easy to read, but no tachometer. The CRF250L’s off-road-oriented chassis, with long-travel 43mm inverted fork and single-shock Pro-Link rear suspension, soaks up bumps nicely and maintains its composure in most situations. The disc brakes provide ample stopping power and are easy to modulate. Impressions in Terms of Rider Level This is a machine that beginners should be able to handle, provided their legs are long enough for the tall 34.7-inch seat height. Intermediate riders should be able to explore the performance envelope of this lightweight model and enjoy riding it enthusiastically on back roads. Expert riders will probably enjoy its nimbleness and ease of handling, but wish for more power. Comparison to Competitors Kawasaki’s KLX250S is perhaps the closest competitor to the CRF250L. The KLX is slightly lighter, and has more adjustability in the suspension, but currently costs an extra $500. Yamaha offers the XT250, which now has fuel injection, for $5,190. It has a five-speed transmission but is lighter and carries slightly more fuel. Summary of review and pricing Honda has produced a rider-friendly motorcycle that is both fun and easy to ride. It exhibits quality construction and excellent fit and finish, and the suggested retail price is very competitive. The CRF250L offers low-cost transportation as a weekday commuter, yet is a genuine dual-sport adventure bike. Potential buyers in this category should familiarize themselves with all the models available, including this offering from Honda. SPECIFICATIONS Base Price $4,499 Model Year 2013 Manufacturer Honda, powersports.honda.com Model CRF250L Category Dual Sport Motorcycles Fuel Capacity 2.0 gal. Engine Liquid-cooled DOHC single Transmission: Six-speed Seat Height: 34.7 inches Fuel Capacity: 2.0 gallons Curb Weight 320 pounds Fuel Economy Estimate: 73 MPG * calculated estimates of fuel consumed during laboratory exhaust emissions tests specified by the EPA, not during on-road riding. Your actual mileage will vary.