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1/2 the cc's, 10x the fun

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I’m a new 230F owner who is sharing my first ride impressions and what I think about this bike. My guess is, there are plenty of people who are in my shoes, wondering if a 230F is right for them. Warning: this could get a little long.

First off, I got back into riding about 6 years ago after a 30-year break. I rode and raced in my teens. I’m 6’5” and about 260 lbs, so I’d naturally lean towards a larger bike. Over the last 6 years, I’ve bought an XR600R, an XR400R, an XR200R and XR100R (for my boys), and finally, a WR450F a couple of years ago.

I kept the 400 (which is a restoration project), the 200 (for my youngest son) and the 450 for me. I thought the 450 would be the be all, end all for my needs - single and dual track trails up here in northern Idaho.

The 450, while a nice bike, isn’t all that great for the riding around here. It’s better on faster, more wide open spaces. It’s tall and carries its weight high, and the engine doesn’t lug like a big XR does - I loved both the 400 and 600 for their tractor-like pull. I didn’t love kickstarting the 400 or 600. I want the magic button.

So I spent the past year trying to figure out what my next bike was going to be. I ruled out the KTM’s, Beta’s, Husky’s and other high-priced bikes. I actually preferred an air cooled bike after working on my XR’s. I thought strongly about an AJP PR4 (we have a dealer in Spokane), though I had concerns about parts and the Zongshen engine long-term. The AJP lust did shift my thinking towards a small displacement bike.

I turned my attention toward the CRF230F and the TTR 230. I started reading the forums and blogs, and the CRF had an edge with the aftermarket stuff to make it better and faster. And, my own XR experiences were pleasant.

I watched Craigslist for a while - lots of modded bikes that were at the ceiling or a little beyond what I wanted to spend. I figured I’d be looking at a mid-2000’s model to fit my price range, which means a 10+ year old bike could be a gamble. Fortunately, for every ratted-out looking 230, there was one that was a girlfriend’s/daughter’s/older-adult-bike that was hardly ridden and stock. I found one of those - a 2004, bone stock, and pretty clean. So I bought it a few days ago.

I mounted up a Shinko Trail tire on the back and a new knobby on the front, went to Canfield Mountain and spent a couple of hours getting lost on the network of trails. Canfield, the locals know, has some rocky trails, some mudded and deeply rutted trails, some thick brush and tree cover, logs, and a few trails I would never think about going up or down on my 450.

I was really amazed how this stock, 13 year-old 230 could haul me around! Throttle response was great for a carbureted 223cc engine - I spent most of my time in 1st and 2nd gear, and even in 3rd and 4th, roll-on was tractor-like. It never seemed to bog or hesitate; it pulled without complaint. I stalled it once due to my hesitation early on in the ride, going up a very tight, rutted section. Later on, as I got familiar with it, I trusted it to get up or down wherever I was going.

It is nimble. It feels a little small for me, but not pit-bike small. I will probably find someday that a rear-disc brake might be better in some situations - I rode through some water and didn’t notice any fade. The riding was too slow to really test out the suspension - it worked just fine. I would probably put $$$ into suspension over the engine, if I had to choose between the two. The motor is amazing considering it’s a small, air-cooled 2-valve, carbureted 6-speed. Like I say, ½ the cc’s and 10x the fun of the big bikes.

Am I glad I bought it? Yes - I wish I would have bought one 6 years ago! Would I buy another one? Hell yes! Would I recommend this bike to others (especially people over 6’ tall and over 250 lbs)? Absolutely. I’d recommend it to people who live in wooded, single-track areas (maybe not desert areas if you want to ride fast). I’ve read many comments about the 230 keeping up with the KTM’s and other wood warrior bikes in the gnarly single-track area - I believe it now. It would embarrass the 450-and-up machines.

One last thought - the Shinko is a great tire for this bike, for these conditions. No lack of traction, and I rode over rocks, in mud, over roots. I’d chalk this up to the tractable engine helping the tire perform at its best.

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That's a good read on the 230 and really close to my own experience. I can definitely give you some advice on how to proceed with your 230 progect.  Uncork the bike first, easy and no cost and very effective.  Work on the suspension next! It is very dangerous in its OEM state.

shock: I have tried several shocks, but I love the fox podium, and you can get the correct spring rate for your weight. Expensive but worth it.

Rear height: use a 150 rocker and link to get another 1".

forks: use your XR400 forks, adjust to get correct front height.

Rox Risers: use these to get the bars up and forward to open up the cockpit, it makes a huge difference.

Once you get the suspension sorted, there are tons of engine mods listed on here. Mine is a work in progress and still fine tuning the engine mods, but I really love the 230.

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts.  I have spent a bit of time on top of XL600 and XR600 and I have often called my CRF230 a Little Red Pig because I feel it is like a small version of an XR600.  Like the XR600 it is heavy but it carries its weight low and the torquey engine is so forgiving it makes just about everything within reason very easy.  Like the XR600 it feels heavy when you have to pick it up and muscle it around but that doesn't happen often.

In the right and intended context these little bikes are just great with a little bit of tweaking.  On top of that the engine is just as durable, reliable, and easy to maintain as the old XR600.  Aftermarket parts are abundant and very reasonably priced and there are overwhelming sources of information here in TT.

It won't win any drag races but neither will an old Jeep CJ or old Toyota FJ.  It is the Do-Anything Go-Anywhere bike (within reason).

Without a doubt riders like Baja Larry and Steve have shown us just what it can do!

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Have to add In my fleet  over 20 off road tour bikes and my own personal bikes. Never did I imagine that I would be able to run a 230 on all rides here. Even my stock motor 230 runs good.The major advantage of the bigger bore stroker 254cc is Grunt  it allows me to run 14/15-45t high gearing. So it has a higher cruising speed  then my 450s with 14/50 gear also kicks the 450s on single track even with street bike gearing. You could never ride my WR 450s with that high gear and do hard single track. Of course if there was a big complaint about ,Why Honda did what they did. On building the 230 it would be endless and why did they put parts and design not as good as a 72 XL250. For me lucky I have a Garage full of Old Honda parts that fit the 230 to improve it. Why they did the big two seat bolts instead of the two quick disconnect pins form Home depot we use now. The brake rod in the rear with no quick disconnect. The Axles with no Stay on Axle head forcing you two use two wrenches. For us guys that like to mod endless fun.   

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I agree with the Little Red Pig nickname! Took it out today and grunted around. Got stuck going down a rocky washout- more like bailed out before ugly became painful. At that point, turning around on a rocky/weedy side hill with nowhere to go, I wish it was 30 lbs lighter, but also thankful it wasn't 30 lbs heavier like the 450.

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On 6/11/2017 at 8:49 AM, bajatrailrider said:

Why they did the big two seat bolts instead of the two quick disconnect pins form Home depot we use now.

Would like to know more details on these pins, pix?

Because, because, because... it is an entry-level bike and the accountants go over every part to shave pennies off the cost to manufacture.

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On 6/12/2017 at 0:01 PM, RedMesa said:

Would like to know more details on these pins, pix?

Because, because, because... it is an entry-level bike and the accountants go over every part to shave pennies off the cost to manufacture.

Only problem with that thinking. The bolts/nuts cost more then the pin and hitch pin. Just Honda at its best.

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