Honda CRF250L....give it a chance...I did

I've been reading many posts, some good, some bad on our new kid in town...the 2013 Honda CRF250L.

It is my impression that most of the posts are from riders that either (a) don't have one or ( B) haven't rode one; this is not surprising since they are hard to get right now...the dealers can't keep them in stock. hmmm...pondering...can't keep them in stock.

Yes, the supply is limited due to overseas demands for the little scooter..but still I think, "can't keep them in stock" says something to the market.

I recently traded in my 230L on a DRZ400S and my wife traded her 230L in on the new CRF 250L. WHY? Because we wanted to give up some gas mileage for a bit more speed and better suspension...we got just that on both accounts.

I took the 250L for a little spin down HWY 101 in Washington state...the hilly winding part along the Hood Canal and found this machine to be a breathe of fresh air over the 230L on the tarmac. It could easily keep my 235lb body going 65mph without waiver. It cornered well, handled well, was nice and quiet and achieved 70 mpg.

Then we headed up into the Olympic mountains...the old logging roads and fire roads. The 250L kept right up with the DRZ and had stellar handling compared to its little brother the 230L.No issues of hitting bottom on either end...not exactly a tractor but that's what the shifter and clutch are for when the terrain goes south on you.

Yes, your not going to win any enduro's on this nor astonish anybody on a track or load it down with 200lbs of gear and take off on a 2000 mile trek...but, that's not its purpose.

Let's examine reality for a moment :

Nobody ever has, nor ever will, make the perfect "Dual Sport" bike...this is a pipe dream conjured out of desperation and limited resources...or something related to that sort of mind freak in some way. If one wants to ride "anywhere" one needs at least three, if not four bikes.

We to like to go on the trails but we take our WR250F and WR450F on the trails...that's what they were made for and they're great for that...but not so much on the roads because one just rides from gas station to gas station. (and needs ear plugs and a mouth piece to keep ones teeth from rattling out).

We also like to ride on the highway...on a road bike preferably...nice smooth inline four like my old GS1000, or a Gold Wing, BMW or what have you...don't really care as long as its comfortable and fast.

Next we have the adventure bike...The gentleman's "dual-sport"...sweet on the highway and fine on the dual track but too much work on the fire roads or trails. Enter the F800GS or similar orange bike.

Finally, we get to the Dual Sport; part dirt bike, part adventure bike...good gas mileage, enough suspension for some rocks and logs, street legal and emissions correct. For the days one doesn't want to bother trailering the WR, but still may get into some crap a big bike can't handle without an expert rider at the helm. The 250L is fine for this...what we call "bike packing in the back country"...beats walking by a large margin. Did I say fine? I mean the good kind of fine...not stellar...not a pig...just fine. Honda nailed that with a good price tag...not to much, not to little...just fine.

Myself, at 6'5" and 235lbs, prefer the DRZ400S, but Ive been riding for 35 years and can deal with the high seat...frankly if not just from the size standpoint the DRZ is also...fine. Yes, Honda answered the desire of a whole lot of people, just like us, with the 250L...its a dual-sport and it serves that niche well. Its an improved 230L from our view and that's just what we wanted...just a bit more...not to much...just right.

If one wants an orange bike...shut up and go buy one...they made them for those with your needs and wants. The 2013 Honda 250L is not for you and was never intended to be for you. Most recreational riders of average size, that have a job, will love this little dual sport on the county pavement and the logging roads...Thats where they ride when they say "Dual Sport".

Good Job Honda ! Please make a CRF400L...I'll take two.

I'll never understand those that need to hate something else in order to like what they want...twisted at best....good day.

Edited by Oldmossyspokes

Good take on things, feel free to tell us more about the Honda. FWIW I have 3 DS bikes and still could use another one for all the ride niches one can get into.

You asked for more and shall receive...

First, a little about myself to better define where I come from.

I grew up in the sixties and seventies and started my riding with the Honda trail 90...likely the first dual sport bike. I'm old enough to remember when the XL 175 was all the buzz.

My first true passion was the Elsinore 125 which grew to the water cooled Elsinore 250 by the eighties. Old people reminisce with me...young fellers try to keep up. I'm not a Honda guy...I like good bikes, any good bikes. Some points in my life that meant it had two wheels and ran most of the time.

I used to fly a TM 125 when I weighed 105lbs and had no fear, or maybe no brains. I've had numerous Suzuki's, nearly died on a RM400. I used to think the Yamaha '86 IT200 was the only enduro bike one would ever need. My first road bike was the '78 GS1000E, got that in '84 with just a few thousand miles on it, that was impressive to say the least. The Kawasaki triple two strokes? You young people have no clue what you missed out on there.

Yes, its a wonder I'm not in a wheel chair with all that steel and stiff suspension we used to think was king. It all has came a very long way in the last 45 years.

So the 2013 250L you say?

How we got there...some years back my wife wanted to start riding bikes, up to that point she had only rode three wheelers and quads. We got her an old XR200 to wreck a few times with, then she ran out and picked up a VZ800 and started down the highway, got addicted and has never looked back.

We decided she was ready for the trails and got her a WR250F. That turned into riding enduro events and wanting a dual sport also. (damn the luck, man) I didn't have a DS at that point...thinking back to the trail 90...the 230L looked good enough for me and easy enough for her and likely would run for a good many years.

We both found the 230L to be great for what we wanted it for...at that time the state of WA was not allowing plated dirt bikes and we needed plates for the forest service roads.

The 650L and every other mid priced DS was to big for her skill level. And I knew it would be a drag to have a larger bike than her while she was getting some time under her belt. Shortening the story...she improved dramatically but fell in love with the 230L.

When the 250L first appeared to us last May she wanted one ASAP. Yay! I no longer had to pretend to be satisfied with the 230L. We ordered two 250L's but only one came in...again, Yay! In my horrific disappointment I settled for the 2011 DRZ400S that the shop had sitting next to the 250L where my 250L was supposed to be. hmmm... A fine bike for the money indeed.

She can keep up if I don't get to cocky and its a similar spread to what we have between her WR250 and my WR450...now things are in balance at last in our DS arena. FYI, I weigh 35% more than her.

That 250L is light years ahead of the 230L...nice bike for the money. Its everything we thought it would be and a bit more. We were pleasantly surprised to see a fuel gauge and the lack of a fuel petcock is stellar as she was always forgetting to turn her gas off. Yes, no reserve...just a fuel gauge. No big deal we always carry a few gas packs with us. Her Cortech soft bags and trunk strap right on...just need a little loop by the muffler to be double damn sure she won't burn the stbd bag. Her Cortech tank bag straps right on and looks good to.

The improved rake and trail over the 230L is very apparent on the gravel and the tarmac. The longer throw out back was an excellent upgrade. The inverted forks do what they should and the non adjust-ability of it all means I don't have to monkey with it all the time.The factory set up feels great at her weight and aint bad at mine.

The first mod is adding hand guards...always, and the mirrors had to be swapped out for the Double-Take mirrors we run on everything. Add a few Ram balls here and there for the cell phone and the bear spray and its ready for business.

The 140 mile trip range is a little lacking...thank god for RotoPax and the fact that where we ride, in the Olympics, we are always within 70 miles of a gas station.

The power is way better but the gearing is for the road...will need to step it down a bit for go slow mode.

We ride in some pretty rough terrain and steep grades, as unlikely as it may seem the 230L did all we ever asked of it and I'm confident the 250L will follow suit. The riding position is better than the 230L but the seat sucks just as bad as any other bike these days. We put Corbin's on the 230's and found that to be the best upgrade ever. Will likely do the same after they make one for the 250L.

The bike is a work of art...not that it matters, but we find it pleasantly appealing especially next to the DRZ...what an ugly duckling that is. The engine is likely one of the cleanest I've seen in a few decades...almost feel compelled to wax it. The drag brake is a bit soft but the steering brake is plenty adequate. The engine braking is what you would expect from the 250 street engine that it is. Won't skid the tire unless you have the R's wrapped up.

That engine is great in a DS, its whisper quiet and it shifts like a dream...the only way you can tell it went into first is the neutral light goes off. We don't have our break-in mileage complete yet so I haven't red lined it , but I'm sure its way up there.

Too bad it doesn't have a tach...it should. Smooth is the defining factor...that balance shaft does what they are for, no doubt.

Although the turn signals look hard they are actually quite resilient...will likely survive the odd tree here and there. What more can I say ?

Oh yes...I'm making it out to be a chick bike...whatever...I would have been happy to ride her all the way to my wife's next jump...sounds like it'll be a F650GS...YAY! That should bag me a F800. Spousal tax is key guys...wake up and live the dream.

Edited by Oldmossyspokes

A bit more before we ride today...heading up into the Wynoochee basin likely...if your in the area and see a white bike with a red bike that's us. As soon as this marine layer lifts were outta here.

For fits sake I should allude to the fact that my wife is 6'2"...if your a "5 foot 8 incher" like most average size humans you'll find this bike to be an excellent fit just like the height of your stock shower head or the length of your bath tub. We see "vertically challenged" from the other perspective...yes, way up here/ hello down there.

Even at 6'2" she can get relatively comfortable compared to the 230L. The bars are nearly high enough for her to feel in control when standing on the pegs...we do a lot of that. Likely will add some bar risers to give it that tall guy fit.

The LCD display also sports a real clock and some trip ODO's as well as total mileage. It has a warning indicator when you have about 30 miles left in the tank...a nice addition to the fuel gauge. Another upgrade we made first thing was the grips.

The stock grips are an undetermined compound with a Rockwell hardness of around 80 (way high on the scale)...reminded me of the grips on the Schwinn stingray three speed I pedaled around in 1970. They no doubt would last as long as your typical Honda engine...which can only be scientifically described in "half life". They are so hard I had to battle them off with a razor knife. Threw on some nice soft Scott's and it feels right now.

The stock mirrors not only appear to be designed in Hollywood they are also great for looking at your shoulders...this why we use the Double Take's. You can swivel them out past the end of the bars on the highway and tuck them in tight for the woods in seconds...no tools required. (don't be fooled into buying a pair of cheap ass "folding" mirrors...they are just light...that's it). The stock mirror mounting locations are fine with them.

The stock tires are great on the tarmac and pretty OK on the gravel and rocks. If it ever rains again we'll report on their mud ability.

"Rain again", brings us to that muffler...that huge muffler...very huge, ginormous hunk of science. If one thinks about global warming and gives a crap, one can feel good about that thing...I highly doubt a hydro carbon atom can make it through there. If your mostly concerned about impressing friends with how light you got the bike...it unbolts same as any bike and I'm sure somebody will make a light weight aftermarket pollution factory and be happy to take your money.

The stock foot pegs are a relatively good OEM attempt to offer "wide pegs". Not like on our WR's, but close...way better than they would have been 20 years ago.

Did I mention skid pan? If you get off the road you will need a full wrap skid plate...the factory plastic one will keep the gravel off the bottom of the engine, bonus, but the side cases are way to pretty to get them scratched up in the rocks and they are not what we call protected.

The OEM tool kit is the typical Honda double hex wrench unit. It'll get the plastic off and that's about it. I was pleasantly surprised with the DRZ's OEM kit, I could likely disassemble the whole bike with it if there were a rock around for impact enhancement. Reality being what it is I guess Suzuki knows you'll need to work on it and Honda is betting you won't even if you had some tools.

OK that's it for now...the fog has lifted.

Edited by Oldmossyspokes

if you see a blue wr250 on your ride today say hi to Toni (and help her get un lost, LOL) she was heading to wynochee up by her self.today

OK, Back at it...

We took the 250L and the DRZ out for hike yesterday and ran up another 225 miles in the back country. We saw some awesome views and had a very nice ride.

The CRF has 568 miles on it now and it still runs and didn't break in half or anything!

We started out with 45 miles of pavement at 65+ mph then engaged about two miles of washboard gravel...the suspension proved flawless and didn't experience any fade...whatever that is.

My wife had no complaints and is still grateful I didn't selfishly compromise the family budget on a pair of $10k bikes with fancy shocks and all the latest unnecessary billet parts. The DRZ did OK to.

We did find out that huge muffler gets way to hot on the highway if adequate clearance is not afforded between the saddle bags and the cowl or cover or what ever that "wanna be" number plate is called. I would say you need a good inch of air gap to be assured it stays cool...can't wait 'til somebody makes something, I'll make my own.

BTW, I'm an accomplished fabricator and work in systems design/ management at a well known production manufacturing facility...which one? TMI, sorry. Its not Honda for sure, however, I am well acquainted with their Lean Manufacturing model.

Back on topic...

We then rode up to the alpine country, had no issues with the altitude or the rocky roads. The bike was very controllable and the wife has the transmission mastered now.

The gearing works well on the grades as long as your not in a hurry which we never are when doing the Dual-Sport thing. We save the hurry for Enduro's or our track.

We make every effort to maximize our gas mileage and extend the trip.

We ran into a couple on a 650L..yes, they were riding double ...that guys good and that bike has some balls. Nothing like big cc's as long as you have a lot of gas or ride very short trips.

We rode until the low fuel warning showed then topped it off with 1.59 gallons...loosely, it seems to go about 35 to 40 miles on "E" consistently. We did finally find some mud to play with...no issue there either.

I'll wrap that account up there to ponder some more opinions.

Seems a bit odd to me that experts now must have fancy bikes to be all the buzz. As a teenager I can remember watching "Experts" ride mid seventies Bultaco 250's on the same enduro trails I ride my WR450F on today. They had 9" of ground clearance and 4 or 5" of suspension travel and could take them things anywhere. Those guy's would have thought the 250L was rocket science...makes me chuckle a bit. It's not the bike...its the rider.

Ride what you can afford and enjoy your freedom.

Edited by Oldmossyspokes

did you make it over to wynochee? my friend said one of the roads was closed.(2270 I think)

did you make it over to wynochee? my friend said one of the roads was closed.(2270 I think)


Yes sir and yes the 2270 was closed from the lower road but you could still go up on top and down the other side.

When Yamaha announced the WR250R 4+ years ago the biggest complaint about the bike was it's underpowered and heavy.

So naturally Honda comes out with a similar bike that has even less power and 25 lbs heavier... :lol:

Got friends in their 60's and even 70's that still ride because of bikes like the new honda, ttr yamahas and xt suzuki's. Also younger guys with short wives that ride bikes like that.

They could care less about trick parts and bling, just want a reliable turn key and go bike to do light ds rides.

Got friends in their 60's and even 70's that still ride because of bikes like the new honda, ttr yamahas and xt suzuki's. Also younger guys with short wives that ride bikes like that. They could care less about trick parts and bling, just want a reliable turn key and go bike to do light ds rides.

Exactly, turn key is king...in my opinion. Yes, I like my uncorked WR450 for the exercise and challenge...but for DS its about where I go, not how I get there.

When Yamaha announced the WR250R 4+ years ago the biggest complaint about the bike was it's underpowered and heavy. So naturally Honda comes out with a similar bike that has even less power and 25 lbs heavier... :lol:

My biggest and only complaint about the WR250R was it cost more than I wanted to spend....beyond that its a bundle of awesome in a turn key bike. I still may buy one just for the sake of checking it out and forming my own opinion in real time.

A note about seat height or maybe an opinion...

We like to DS ride in the snow...many times this requires assisting the propulsion along a bit with some leg action. Hard to do if you can't touch the ground solidly.

Shouldn't be an issue on the 250L....was excellent on the 230L. Many times we celebrated the 230L because we were able to get out of bad situations because we could easily walk it along through knots of alder brush in a foot of snow.

Try that with a 37" seat height and a 32" inseam...yes, I know...an expert would just wheely his 12K wonder through it up hill, both ways..at 40MPH..I know...

So your wife is the same height as me? I've been doing some :thinking: about this bike. It's MSRP is 1500$ less than the Yamaha WR250R. Seems like a cool bike to me. Thought it might be too short for a 6'2" fat guy. :thinking:

I'm glad you like the Honda. I was just hoping for a bike with honda's big circle concept it had with it's early CBR sport bikes. I wanted a light weight high performance 250 that would be honda smooth, easy to ride, and reliable. Honda or Yamaha could make a bike this and I'd pay for it $$$.

I found an aftermarket exhaust with good packing was a lot cooler then the heavy stock exhaust on my DRZ.

Well shrubitup...A man of your height will fit and fat guy is likely not an issue either. If you've read my long winded posts you know I'm 6'-5" and 235...I jump on the 250L and find it fairly comfortable except for that damn hard seat...but that's fixable with a $300 bill, max. If the foot pegs were a little lower and a tad aft my 38" inseam would be just fine.

The best part is it'll pull me well past 70mph down the tarmac....can't wait to get her broke in so I can see what she'll do full throttle. Now to be fair to the topic I should express, you may find the DRZ400S more enjoyable if you can through a leg over it...its around the same price as the WR250R, has way more power and can pull off 65 mpg in the hills if you lay off the throttle. I took mine up I-5 from Olympia to Tacoma one morning before the traffic got bad and found it only gets about 40mpg at 70+ mph.

I'm glad you like the Honda. I was just hoping for a bike with honda's big circle concept it had with it's early CBR sport bikes. I wanted a light weight high performance 250 that would be honda smooth, easy to ride, and reliable. Honda or Yamaha could make a bike this and I'd pay for it $$$. I found an aftermarket exhaust with good packing was a lot cooler then the heavy stock exhaust on my DRZ.

I've read that the CBR250 red-lined at like 19.5k when they were first playing with it...is that true? That would be awesome in this 250L on the freeway.

And yes..if Honda would make something that thrilled me but still had the gas mileage I would shell out some cash for it as well.

I has occurred to me that the term Dual Sport is defined by choice in several ways...just to add some clarity:

(1) Motocross and Enduro

(2) Enduro and Trails

(3) Trails and logging roads

(4) Logging roads and highway...maybe some trails

(5) Logging roads and Highway and maybe some interstate

Option #4 is what I call DS in this topic...my observation only...just based on posts I see all over the place.

Dual = 2 / dos / two

Sport = something to do that doesn't necessarily serve any purpose beyond personal enjoyment

Great Thread !!!

I bought a CRF230L just this last May and a CRF80F for my 10 yr old boy. Also I am 50 yrs old and really like the 230 for my current needs but, I like riding it on the dang street too much and it seems that Honda has rose to the ocassion with the New 250 ... I was not planning on buying a new bike next spring but, I just might !!!

thanks for posting !!!

Nice overview of the bike. Thanks.

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