2013 Honda CRF250L vs. 2013 Kawasaki KLX250S - Video

Honda's all-new lightweight 250 shakes up the sleepy dual-sport class

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Similarities in each motorcycle’s chassis are many. Both bikes use a semi-double cradle-type steel frame paired to an aluminum swingarm. A single brake caliper and rotor in front (and out back) easily reels in speed on either bike, but we preferred the Honda’s brake lever for its larger surface area that gave us a better sensitivity to brake feel – a simple thing, but we felt it noteworthy.

The CRF’s off-road footpegs are wider, thereby providing more area to rest bulky protective wear like motocross-style boots. The Honda’s seat is wider, also, with supple seat foam density, which may or may not be more comfortable depending on length of time in the seat. Unfortunately, the passenger grab strap on the Honda seat is positioned directly beneath the rider’s bum, which makes it an annoyance sooner than later.

2013 Kawasaki KLX250S and 2013 Honda CRF250L

Impressions of overall ergos are that the Honda feels like a bike of larger displacement. The Kawi has a slimmer waist thanks to a narrower seat, and scores a lighter ready-to-ride wet weight (298 lbs vs. 320 lbs) – both positive qualities for riding in technical off-road terrain. Seat heights are within a half-inch of one another: 34.7 inches for the Honda, 35.0 on the Kawi.

In ’08 we gave the KLX250S the nod for having 16-way compression damping adjustment on its 43mm inverted fork, and a shock with spring preload, as well as 16-way compression and rebound damping. The CRF’s fork and shock offer no means of adjustment.

2013 Honda CRF250L seatSurprisingly, during test rides, we found the Honda’s suspension – built to serve an array of riders and riding – so well sorted that we couldn’t find a good reason to think it needed much tuning out of the box.

If a gun was put to our heads to come up with one shortcoming in the CRF’s suspension, our minor gripe would target the 43mm fork’s 8.7 inches of travel to be closer to the 10.0 inches offered on the Kawi. As noted in the CRF250L’s single-bike review, its fork would occasionally reach the bottom of its stroke when tackling larger ruts, rocks, and the like. Rear suspension travel is a draw, with the Kawi at 9.1 inches and the Honda offering 9.4 inches

“I found the CRF’s non-adjustable suspension nicely sorted for the intermediate off-road riding to which this bike will most likely be subjected,” said Tom. “If this is where Honda saved money, it was a smart decision and makes it more affordable compared to the KLX and its adjustable suspension.”

Ride quality and handling, on and off road, from both ’cycles is sufficiently up to snuff in our estimation. Steering response is precise and low effort during canyon carving laps, and neither dual-sport felt twitchy or unstable at higher speeds when darting through Greater Los Angeles area traffic.

2013 Kawasaki KLX250S and 2013 Honda CRF250LThese characteristics carried over to dirt riding. The KLX and CRF handled our rough Jeep trail route confidently, allowing as spirited a riding pace as we wished. Additionally, the Honda’s extra 20 pounds didn’t hurt its stability when plowing through sandy sections.

Creature features are few and far between on motorcycles of this ilk. Still, both manufactures took the time to add an amenity rarely seen these days: helmet locks. “Why is it,” asked Tom, “that bikes such as these have helmet locks but you won’t find something as useful on a $15,000 cruiser?”

An easy-to-read LCD gauge comes on each bike, yet we didn’t see much benefit in the KLX’s graduated bar graph tachometer. The Honda’s digital fuel gauge is far more practical, and the exclusion of a tach on the CRF wasn’t missed in the least.

“Most of the time on Singles, you usually make gear changes by engine sound and feel, so a tach seems extraneous,” noted Tom.

We also preferred the field of view from the Honda’s wider mirrors when compared to the KLX’s round units. And, well, the Honda’s mirrors looked slicker, too. What we can’t figure is Honda’s thinking by installing a detachable (locking) chrome gas gap on what is ostensibly a sometimes-dirtbike.

The Kawi’s locking gas cap is hinged, so you won’t ever leave it behind or drop it, and its black finish likely won’t show wear as soon and is more congruous with dirtbike styling. The KLX also has a brush/crash guard around the rear brake, and its aluminum wheel rims are from Excel – a brand familiar in off-road riding circles.

2013 Kawasaki KLX250S LCD

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