Probably every time I “road-test” a scooter, I go on about how convenient and economical it is to keep a medium-sized scoot around the house for all those short trips and small-item errands. And if my kid is also around the house, he rolls his eyeballs and tells me how gender-preference-indeterminant I look every time I ride around on one. A couple other pals who are less secure in their manhood can also be counted on to come up with some sort of snide comment. Come to think of it, I haven’t had a date in quite some time…
I think we have the solution to the cool vs. convenient conundrum in the form of this here Honda CRF250L. What could be mas macho than a dirtbike? The little Honda looks just like a real CRF MXer to the unbroken-collarboned eye, but it gets 60-plus miles from a gallon of gas. It weighs a feathery 327 pounds, you don’t need a stepladder to climb on, the old Wolfman tail bag I’ve had since the Clinton administration bungees easily onto the back seat thanks to the four stainless attachment points Honda provides, and then the bike carries quite a few comestibles. It even has a helmet lock (!) that’s easy to get to and a (tiny) locking storage compartment big enough for one cheese sandwich. The price has gone up a bit since Honda launched the CRF250L in 2013 (uprated from the previous CRF230L), but retail is still just $4,999 thanks to production taking place in Thailand rather than Japan – that’s $1,600 less than Honda’s Forza scooter.
The kicker is, even though the CRF is every bit as convenient as a scooter except that you have to shift gears, you can also take part in the latest craze all the 50-year-old kids are into – adventure riding! No, it’s not a KTM 500 EXC, but if you’re not Taddy Blazusiak, it may not make much difference. It’s also less than half the $$$. If you’re only going to potter around the local mountain fire roads (like what I do when I say I’m going “off-roading”), the CRF is a surprisingly effective little tool on its big-boy 21-/18-inch spoke-wheel combo, able to climb steepish, rocky trails easily enough and pick its way slowly back down them as well. If you’re tall, a taller handlebar for standing up will be a good swap, and hand guards would be good while you’re at it. If you’re heavy, it’s not hard to bottom the fork. But the bike comes with a toughish plastic skidplate to protect its underbelly (with a nice hole to access the oil drain plug), so it’s really ripe for mild abuse right out of the box.
This one uses almost the same latest-tech liquid-cooled Single Honda put in the CBR250R (before it became a 300), where it produced around 23 horsepower last time we dyno’d one; the CRF gets a 36mm throttle body instead of the CBR’s 38mm one, and a longer exhaust header of smaller diameter to shift the meaty part of the powerband a bit lower. At no point will it yank your arms off; then again, it always seems willing to attack bigger things than it should, like an undershot lapdog. The rest of the time, it starts up instantly, runs great, and again, got 63 mpg during the course of the last few weeks in mixed on- and off-road use. I have seen 83 mph on its digital speedometer, maxed out in top cog on flat freeway.
The transmission’s not the slickest, but it’s fine and is still breaking in at 1488 miles. In fact, it’s the same gearbox as the CBR’s, feeding power to a 40-tooth rear sprocket instead of a 38T. We hate to judge motorcycles by their ancestors, but if the CRFs turn out to be anything like the XR series, this bike should be as close to indestructible as modern motorcycles get. Clever roller rockers slide to the side for easy DIY valve adjustments. Change the oil now and then, clean the air filter. Done.
Unlike an XR, it gets a nice bright headlight, a surprisingly wide, comfy seat for a “dirtbike”, and a swell LCD display with a clock and a fuel gauge. So, you’ll never be late or run out of gas again. Not that you usually have anyplace to be when you roll out into the urban fringe on the CRF, except maybe home before dark.
For all you sad sacks who want to know where all the cheap, simple, inexpensive little bikes like the ones we used to ride have gone … here it is, better in every way and probably even cheaper if you have time to go all Dick Rubble and look up the list price of an XL250 and the consumer price index from 1977 or whenever it was. Almost makes you want to forgive Honda for the RC213V-S, especially since roosting around in the dirt a bit on this thing got my juices flowing a little; I feel faint stirrings, my mojo re-emerging. Maybe I’ll roll around to the Senior Center after my siesta and give the ladies a break? I think the CRF might be the cure for the common scooter.
|2016 Honda CRF250L Specifications|
|Engine Type||250cc liquid-cooled four-stroke Single; DOHC; four valves|
|Bore And Stroke||76mm x 55mm|
|Induction||PGM-FI, 36mm throttle body|
|Ignition||Computer-controlled digital transistorized with electronic advance|
|Final Drive||#520 chain; 14T/40T|
|Front Suspension||43mm inverted fork; 8.7 inches travel|
|Rear Suspension||Pro-Link single shock; 9.4 inches travel|
|Front Brake||256mm disc with twin-piston caliper|
|Rear Brake||220mm disc|
|Trail||113mm (4.4 inches)|
|Seat Height||34.7 inches|
|Wet weight (MO scales)||327 pounds|
|Fuel Capacity||2.0 gallons|
|Fuel economy||63 mpg|
|Warranty||One year transferable, unlimited mileage|