Recently, we published our Lightweight ADV Shootout which involved the CSC RXR, Kawasaki Versys-X 300, and Honda CRF250L Rally. I rode the Honda home and had it in my garage until it needed to be returned to Honda’s headquarters. This gave me a bit more time with the rally-inspired 250 and I found myself reaching for the keys more often than not.

First off, I own two big, fast, intimidating motorcycles. It was nice having the gas-sipping, lightweight Honda in the garage as an option when running errands around town. My Tuono V4R gets me between 25-30 mpg on average so having a motorcycle in my garage that averages over 60 mpg was a nice option.

2017 Lightweight ADV Shootout

The CRF250L Rally’s relatively light weight at 340 lbs was also a nice departure from my KTM Adventure 1190 R which weighs almost 200 lbs heavier. While the Honda’s seat height is claimed at 35.2-inches, the suspension is so soft, as soon as you sit on it your feet become much closer to the pavement. Not the case with the KTM’s 35-inch seat and much stiffer suspension.

The general versatility of the Honda is another reason I enjoyed having it a few extra days after our shootout. This isn’t necessarily specific to the CRF250L Rally, but rather the entire on/off-road motorcycle category. Having a motorcycle that offers generous ground clearance, a little extra suspension travel, and some knobbier tires open up an entirely new world of riding. In this case, for under six grand. You have vastly more options of routes and rides than a 20-plus thousand dollar Ducati Panigale. You’ll get to experience scenery that streetbikes never will.

2017 Honda CRF250L Rally Review – First Ride

On a whim, the Sunday before the Honda was to be returned, I decided to set off on a light off-road excursion close to my home to use the Honda the way it was meant to be one last time before we had to part ways.

One of the downsides of living in a major city is that I have to ride 100 miles of pavement for 22 miles of off-road riding. The great thing about having the Honda in the garage was that I could do exactly that with no problem.

I spent my Sunday out away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoyed the spectacular views offered from the trail. Being able to use one motorcycle to get to where the pavement ends and to keep going is what I love about dual-sport motorcycles.

I was speaking to a friend yesterday evening about this exact topic. Dual-sport motorcycles are really the most versatile, cheapest way to get into motorcycling. You can find them for reasonable prices used, and even new, they generally aren’t terribly expensive.

Bigger dual-sport motorcycles also offer carrying capacity even if you may need to purchase an aftermarket rack to do so. For me, though, the icing on the dirty dual-sport cake is never having to turn around. Okay, that may be overstating things, but being able to see what’s down that dirt road full of rocks and potholes and the general ability to explore is what I love about this genre of motorcycles and what makes them infinitely more versatile than other motorcycles.

Get yourself a sense of adventure and a dual-sport motorcycle. You’ll open up an entire new world of riding for yourself.

  • Craig Hoffman

    Looks like Santiago Canyon. Used to ride there in the 90s when I lived in SoCal. Dual sports are the essence of motorcycling. Here is to Honda bringing in a 450cc version of this bike, since Yamaha does not seem inclined to do it.

    • gjw1992

      The demo/concept CRF450L Rally shown by Honda UK at least looks hopeful if not promising. at about 6:00 mins

  • Sayyed Bashir

    I had exactly the same experience when I recently got my KTM 500 EXC-F (which has a dry weight of 240 lbs) compared to my KTM 1190 R which weighs 540 lbs. I have been exploring narrow hilly paved and dirt roads around the area where I live which I never dared with the bigger bike for fear of not being able to turn around and of falling down due to the seat height and top heavy weight. As you said, the smaller bike settles down when you sit on it so it is not as intimidating, especially due to the very light weight. I have yet to drop the little bike whereas the 1190 R has bitten the dust a dozen times. I also reach for the smaller bike when I have errands to run in the local area. The big bike is better for longer distances. I call the little KTM the local adventure bike and the big KTM the long distance adventure bike.

    • Alaskan18724

      Violently agree. Admire your stable. Never argue with a man who has two KTMs.

      • hipsabad

        Hey i have two KTMs–you will loan me twenty bucks, right? 😉

    • Craig Hoffman

      Being the nut I am, I have the following and can justify them all!

      1) ’10 Husaberg FE450 enduro, with smoked by the DMV license plate, for the same reason Sayyed here has his 500. It is a light ADV bike, good for long dirt ADV rides that involve some street.

      2) ’13 Husaberg FE300 two stoke, cuz it is super light, and sometimes, I need a 2 stroke hit. This is for off road only rides.

      3) ’06 Yamaha FZ1 with a pile of mods to it. Cheap, fast and has proven to be reliable as the sun rising. A good bike for up to 250 miles or so, after that my knees hurt and my ass wants to go up in a ball of flames.

      4) ’14 Yamaha Super Tenere, for long distance journeys that might involve some dirt roads and such, and it is as comfortable as my Lazy Boy 🙂

      5) An ’01 CR250 that belongs to a buddy who flies in 2-3 times a year to CO from FL to ride, because, well, he is cool and more bikes in the garage is better than less 😛

      My garage is full, no more room. That is a pity. I kinda want a track day bike – haha…

      • Sayyed Bashir

        Wow! You have one more bike in your garage than me. My Harley is super comfortable and fast for long rides. The longest non-stop I did on my previous Harley was 1224 miles from Daytona Beach, FL to Fort Worth, TX in 23 hours. The Suzuki Bandit is my sport bike fix.

  • Old MOron

    Bravo, Ryan. That 100 miles of pavement before the 22 miles of dirt is what keeps me from getting a dual-sport. But maybe it’d be worth it.

    • MyName

      With the bikes stock tank he would have to refill at about the 100mi mark. So 100mi out + 22mi of dirt + 100 back would require 2 fillups or carrying 2.5gal of extra gas.

      • Old MOron

        I’m sure he passed some gas stations along those 100 miles 🙂

      • Ryan

        It was actually 50 mi of pavement, 22 off-road, 50 miles of pavement. I filled up before and made it home on one tank. 2.7 gal. gas tank yields approx. 160 miles.

        • MyName

          I didn’t realize the Rally had a bigger tank than the stock CRF. My buddy has a CRF and I have a wr250r and our main complaint is tank size. It makes me wonder if Honda/Yamaha kept the tank small to reduce the “wet” weight or something. It makes it hard to get too far out in the backcountry without some careful planning.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            The KTM 500 EXC-F normally comes with a 2.25 gal tank. I had the dealership install a 4 gal tank before I took delivery of the bike which gives me a 240 mile range. I ride with a adventure group and I didn’t want the others to have to stop for me to fill up.

  • Craig Hoffman

    The attached shot was taken at Santiago Canyon in the 90s on my long suffering ’83 XL600. Another ride I used to do on that bike was go ride out of Long Beach where I lived on up to Big Bear, and ride around Gold Mountain, then ride home. One time I got a flat rear tire. The tire I had on there was a heavy 6 ply Terraflex type thing. Found if I went over 25 mph, the flat was not that big a deal, and that the bike was completely rideable. Rode all the way home on the freeway at 70 mph, the centrifugal force at that speed made it almost unnoticeable, and the rim locks kept it on the rim. The tire was a little “blue” when I got home. Levered it off, put a new tube in it, and rode some more.

    Ah, the craziness of youth – LOL

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Good observation. Nowadays keep a can of Slime in the backpack. It is messy but it gets you home. Kevin particularly liked your wheelie water crossing.

      • Jon Jones

        The biggest cause of flats offroad is pinched tubes. Slime is great stuff but isn’t effective here. You either need to go with the Tubliss setup or carry a 21″ tube (works f & r) and be adept at changing. Watch videos or have an old pro (like me) show you tricks. Practicing at home is a must.

        • Sayyed Bashir

          I know what you are saying. I went riding in a local OHV park with friends several weeks ago on my new KTM 500 EXC and got a front pinch flat because I had reduced the tire pressure to 15 psi. Bought a can of Slime at the local pro shop for twice the price. Tried half a can but didn’t work, so put in the whole can and rode it around until it held air. Finished riding the rest of the day. Friend recommended replacing stock tubes with Ultra Heavy Duty ones, so I got Michelin UHD tubes and had dealer replace both tubes. Haven’t ridden extreme off-road yet to see if these are better but they are 4mm thick and real heavy.

        • Craig Hoffman

          Agree. Been running TuBliss on my dirt bike, works great. I carry a plug kit and never had to use it, which is how the flat Gods operate. Big side bonus, being able to run low tire pressure in the rear – usually around 7 psi.

          I have a Baja No Pinch tire tool for tubes. It makes putting the tire back on extremely easy.

          • Jon Jones

            There’s a bit of a learning curve mounting tires with the TuBliss system, but they work very well. I find using tire grease as opposed to soap really helps.

  • Jon Neet

    I’ve owned a number of dual sport bikes since I started riding at eight years of age. I’m now 64, and have owned just over 25 in that time. About half have been dual sports. From an old Honda Trail 90 (and an old CL90 also) to a 2005 KLR650 (that being the biggest displacement bike). Two Yamaha DT-1’s, a 1975 Honda XL350, a Suzuki SP500 and a bunch of others. Dual sports can be a great choice in a general purpose motorcycle. Now, I have a blown out right knee, and no way can I hoist my right leg up and over the super high seat heights of most duallies. But, I have tons of memories of riding them. That Honda, the first new motorcycle I bought just as I obtained credit on my own, I loaded up with full camping gear and took off out of Seattle and ran down the Washington and Oregon coasts, and did some off road stuff on that trip too. I was too young and stupid to realize that a guy just can’t tour on a 350cc dual sport bike!! Sure glad I never listened to those bozo’s!!

    • Ryan

      Exactly the point that needs to be conveyed! Thanks, Jon!

  • jeff benson

    Yes. 4 strokes are excellent DPs. MXers, not so much.

  • spiff

    So if I am correct Ryan, you have a Tuono and a 1090r? Good pairing.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      He has a 1190 R.

    • Ryan

      Almost, a Tuono V4R, an 1190 R, a KX250F, and a 340 dual-sport.

  • edbob

    We like the bigger bikes because they have the power to excite. We like the lighter bikes with long suspension because they are easy to handle and correct when there are imperfections along the road/trail or with our riding, and you can take them anywhere you want to go. I think the perfect bike will be light as a wisp with the power of a hurricane.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      The bigger bikes don’t have to be trailered to far away places. They can go by themselves. You can go CA -> UT -> CO -> AZ -> CA on a big bike. Cannot do it so easily or comfortably on a little one while also carrying all your camping gear.

  • Matt Howerton

    I like this little Honda Rally model, but I also like to be able to see a bike’s engine and hate when they’re all covered up. Are the plastic bits removable to be able to show off the little thumper’s heart, or are they needed for cooling and whathaveyou? Just wondering because I know you can see the normal non rally model’s engine.

  • TC

    Every rider should have one (relatively) lightweight bike. Mine is a Suzuki DR650, great around town, okay on the freeway, especially with the Corbin seat, and made for dirt roads. IMS fuel tank gives me 4.9 gallons of range.