Honda’s dual-sport bike on and off-road

Staff reports
Farm Forum

Should the mood strike you to go trail-riding off the beaten path where there are no roads, or to tool around surface streets of the urban jungle, the venerable Honda CRF250L is not a bad way to bike.

In fact, this Honda is ideal in that it serves up plenty of versatility, making it the ideal dual-purpose bike. Depending on your own preferences, you might want to switch to more modest knobby tires than those found on my test bike, or choose tires more suitable for smooth, hard surfaces with more stability and lateral grip. The Honda CRF250L has seen duty for several years and has gone virtually unchanged, remaining a fun and dependable ride.

The CRF250L’s engine delivers sufficient power and a broad enough torque range for both smooth on- and off-road service. The chassis features a low center of gravity, while providing plenty of ground clearance, creating a bike that is easy to flick around, with pleasing agility.

It’s not really a motocross bike at all, despite its resemblance to the non-street-legal CRF 250R Motocross race bike, but it’s capable of covering a modest, amateur motocross-type course with satisfactory results.

The engine is a 249.6cc Unicam, liquid-cooled, four-stroke single-cylinder engine with a 36mm throttle body and single right-side exhaust. The engine gets the power to the rear wheel via a close-ratio five-speed sequential manual gearbox and a #520 chain; 14T/40T sprocket final drive.

Along with the durable steel frame, the suspension componentry consists of 43mm inverted cartridge forks up front with 8.7 inches of travel, and a Pro-Link single shock with spring and 9.4 inches of travel out back. The Honda CRF250L rolls on Dunlop tires mounted on lace spoke wheels.

Braking duty is handled by a single 256mm wave-style disc with twin-piston caliper up front and a single 220mm wave-style disc in the rear.

The Honda CRF250L has a wheelbase of 56.9 inches and an overall length of 85.9 inches. The ground clearance is a healthy 12.7 inches and the bike tips the scale at a highly manageable 320 pounds wet. The seat is a tall 34.7 inches, but once onboard or standing on the pegs, this is not an issue for those with short inseams.

The foot peg mount features a patented debris-shielding design, and the low-mounted radiator helps lower the bike’s center of gravity. Fuel capacity is 2.0 gallons.

My test Honda CRF250L came with a base price of $4,999, with an out-the-door sticker of $5,309. The bike was finished in red and white with gold anodized front forks and silver-painted mechanical elements.

I didn’t have access to a modest motocross-style course or ideal trails to fully evaluate the Honda CRF250L through the a more rugged terrain — just a large open dirt field with some modest elevation changes, but I found this 250-class dual-purpose bike to deliver capable, stable handling attributes. It’s highly maneuverable with little effort, which makes for a confidence-building riding experience for virtually any rider.

It turns easily and travels in a straight line equally well. Instrumentation includes a digital dual trip meter, odometer, clock, fuel gauge, and speedometer, with warning lights for low fuel, temp, and oil pressure.

The durable composite or plastic elements, such as the front and rear fenders, mini-flyscreen, minimal body shrouding chain, and exhaust guards lend a certain indestructible quality to the CRF250L — a good thing for a bike that’s designed for trekking through the “boonies” or around the urban jungle. In worst-case scenarios, replacement of the plastic parts is certainly less expensive than metal or carbon fiber.

There are really no Honda Genuine Accessories available, while the aftermarket offers several, but it’s a pretty cool dual-purpose ride just as it is. The Honda CRF250L is certainly versatile and can be comfortably ridden on the street or off-road — as the mood strikes you.