Conventional wisdom says you can’t please everyone, but that’s not stopping Honda from trying. Its new 2013 CRF250L dual-sport has a liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, single-cylinder engine derived from the peppy CBR250R. The company’s goal is to spark the imagination of returning, new and current riders by creating a fun, versatile, stylish and affordable commuter that can also handle off-road adventures.
Parking my bum on the narrow, one-piece, 34.7-inch-high seat and following our leader, the first thing I noticed was how easy the CRF is to maneuver—and we were barely out of the parking lot. As we were led at a brisk pace up a twisty paved road that carves its way through the Santa Ynez Mountains, the engine’s user-friendliness shone through. Rev it up, dive into turns and the CRF feels light on its IRC Trail tires that hold fast to the pavement. The bike has excellent throttle response, light turn-in and suspension that soaks up the bumps and grooves.
At the top, we paused for a dramatic view of the mountains and Pacific Ocean before plunging into the dust on a fire road for 20-plus miles. There were dual perspectives on the semi-knobby tires: Hard-core dirt riders felt that they performed better on the street, while I praised the IRCs for handling rocks and ruts with ease and keeping me upright in loose gravel. An all-new lightweight steel frame is unique to the CRF250L and provides strength for off-road riding. The non-adjustable male-slider fork is set up for a variety of terrain with 9.8 inches of travel, and the Honda Pro-Link rear shock has 9.4 inches of travel and is adjustable for preload.
The engine’s DOHC configuration is in a compact cylinder head with roller rocker arms to reduce friction. They also allow the shims to be swapped-out for valve adjustments without removing the camshafts. Single discs front and rear provide strong braking for the 320-pound machine, and the bike gets a claimed 73 mpg from its 2.0-gallon tank.
Good thing Honda missed the “can’t please everyone” memo, because a whole lot of riders will be delighted with Big Red’s attempt to do just that with the CRF250L.
(This review of the 2013 Honda CFR250L was published in the January 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)