2023 Honda XR150L Review – First Ride

Cait Maher
by Cait Maher

This entry-level offering checks all the boxes for new riders and seasoned enthusiasts alike

Photos by Jay McNally
Photos by Jay McNally

The Honda XR150 has been in production since 2003, though up until recently it wasn’t available in the US market. Selling most of the units in Asia or Latin America, the XR150 platform is one of the most popular entry-level dual-sports, and its introduction to the US comes with some welcome perks; time tested engine and components plus a 20-year history of available parts – both OEM and aftermarket. Honda’s reliability is legendary, and this little XR150L is likely no exception.

2023 Honda XR150L

The 2023 Honda XR150L is an entry-level Dual-Sport, designed with comfort and reliability in mind, and it has proven to be a popular motorcycle around the globe.

Editor Score: 86.5%




















  • Very comfortable seat
  • Plenty of range
  • Lightweight and nimble


  • Footpegs are too small for how wide the seat is
  • Reaching highway speed is a struggle
  • Stock tires are more street oriented

I headed up to the hills of Santa Ynez to meet the Honda team and get a first glimpse at the XR150L, the windy roads over the pass building the anticipation to try another small dual-sport in one of my favorite corners of California. While I’m a seasoned long-distance rider, I am very entry-level when it comes to off-road riding, and I’m exceptionally conservative when it comes to riding shiny new press bikes, especially off-road! Happy to see a few familiar faces in the crowd, we settled in to get the Cliffs Notes on the XR150L and get an overview of what the next day’s adventures had in store for us.

2023 honda xr150l review first ride

Our intro presentation also included a few nuggets of wisdom from MSF Director of Ridership Expansion, Corey Eastman, who highlighted the need for more small-but-capable motorcycles in the US market. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has been responsible for a truly overwhelming number of motorcyclists on today’s streets and, in my opinion, has been formative in shaping a safety-minded community of motorcyclists across the country. I’d love to see these XR150L’s pop up on training courses across the country, if for nothing else but to also show new riders that training both for street AND dirt is the key to a well-rounded motorcycling life.

2023 honda xr150l review first ride

First impressions

At first glance, the XR150L fits the mold of the standard entry-level dual-sport. Lofty seat height, high-arched plastic fender, long-travel suspension, and not-quite-agressive-enough stock tires. A quick look over the controls and gauges keep things simple, and throwing a leg over instills immediate confidence in how light and nimble the bike will be. Weighing in at 282 pounds wet, the 149cc motor doesn’t have to work too hard to propel you away from the curb and into an adventure. One of the few new production bikes with a carburetor, it’s an excellent idea to warm up the engine before take-off, though the engine is so quiet it was hard to hear it purring away with earplugs and a helmet on. Light clutch pull and smooth shifting are sure to make any new rider at ease while tooling around a parking lot or dirt trail alike.

2023 honda xr150l review first ride

The wide, plush seat is a surprising comfort, the shape reminiscent of those you’d find on a bigger bike. Think of the last time you needed to do some long roads back from trail riding, and how much you’d have loved a cushy seat to sink into while pinning it back to camp. My only reservation here is that with the wider seat, the footpegs are not quite long or grippy enough to make standing for any length of time comfortable. Otherwise, the handlebars and ergonomics of the bike are great for sitting and standing, easily transitioning from one to the other as the trail needs change.

2023 honda xr150l review first ride

Equipped with the largest fuel tank in its class, the 2.8 gallon tank is easily accessible through a locked gas cap, though you’ll find you won’t be fueling up very often! Honda claims that the range on a full tank is 346 miles, which has to be the highest miles-per-gallon average I’ve ever seen at 123.6. For those who need a bit of a visual, that’s the equivalent of riding from San Diego to Las Vegas, albeit very slowly, and still having a few spare miles to tour the strip and take a snapshot at the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign. Personally, I would love to know what the off-road miles-per-tank is, as we all know fuel usage is very dependent on how much you’re struggling in sand, and for how long.

2023 honda xr150l review first ride

Our day of testing led us to a quiet ranch tucked away in the hills, where an assortment of marked trails invited us to test the bike’s capabilities away from the pavement. The 19” front and 17” rear wheels (wrapped in tires more suited for the street) could absolutely be coaxed down a trail, bouncing over ruts and rocks with ease. Downshifting to get some more control while aiming uphill was easy to accomplish while standing, and a quick stop at the top of a climb to assess the downhill path was a breeze with the dual-piston hydraulic front brakes and 110mm rear drum brake working in tandem. Faced with my worst fear: a deep and steep sandy downhill, I plunged forward only a few meters before the front wheel turned into a ski and I was up to my ankles in the softest silt central California had to offer. Picking up the bike was almost too easy to be real, a hand on the left grip and another on the rear rack had the bike upright with less effort than I’m used to, and a laugh from my fellow riders at the top of the hill mirrored my surprise! Watching another rider pick up their bike a short while later, the rear tire was lifted clear of the ground before they realized it was overkill. This is absolutely a bike I could spend all day picking up without getting too tired.

2023 honda xr150l review first ride

Now, let’s discuss another ‘too good to be true’ claim from Honda: The XR150L is capable of highway travel. While 150cc is enough to not get arrested for riding this bike on the highway, I wouldn’t count on being able to safely use this for even shorter highway commutes, unless your desired exit is only a few miles down the road. When road testing this bike, we hit just about every type of road you’d encounter in Southern California. Nicely paved canyons, two lane highways, twisty ups and downs winding through the hills, and your average forgotten backroad: patched together with asphalt bandaids that resembled cobblestones more than pavement. On the smooth pavement, the bike progressed wonderfully, only struggling on an ascent through the hills, losing speed slowly but surely until cresting the top and evening out. On a highway downhill we did manage to hit 70 mph, head tucked down and at the end of the throttle, the bike was able to hold that speed until the exit approached, though I doubt I’d feel as confident pushing that hard on anything but pristine pavement. Back to my first point, if your highway or even faster county road has any variation in elevation, you may not be able to maintain the appropriate speed to stay safely out the way of other vehicles, and I’d proceed with caution.

2023 honda xr150l review first ride

Additional perk of this soon-to-be camp classic, the rear luggage rack is included on the stock setup, and the plush pillion seat and rear footpegs make hauling a friend or firewood easy as pie. Aftermarket options that are available include hand guards, engine skid plate, a 12 volt accessory socket, and an assortment of soft luggage, like panniers and a tank bag.

2023 honda xr150l review first ride

As a relatively new off-road rider, I find this bike quite approachable, easy to pick up after a spill on the trail, and at an MSRP just shy of $3,000, an easy choice to make when it comes to taking the first leap into trail riding. The top speed (mid-high 60s) and long mileage range with the 2.8-gallon tank also make it an excellent moto for around town, throwing it on the back of an RV or van for a camping trip, or a quick scoot to the beach for a surf session. I think it’s only a matter of time before we see a pair of these tackling the Trans America Trail or your local Backcountry Discovery Route.

The Honda XR150L is currently available in dealerships across the country, though I expect them to be leaving as soon as they hit the showroom floor!

2023 Honda XR150L Specifications

Engine Type

Air-cooled two-valve OHC, Single-cylinder engine



Bore and Stroke

57.3 x 57.8 mm



Fuel System

20mm piston valve carburetor

Compression Ratio





5-speed manual


Multiplate wet clutch

Front Suspension

Telescopic fork, 7.1 inches of travel

Rear Suspension

Single shock swing arm, 5.9 inches of travel

Front Brake

Dual piston caliper, 240mm disc

Rear Brake

110mm mechanical drum

Front Tire


Rear Tire


Rake / Trail

27°/4.1 inches


81.7 inches


31.9 inches


44.5 inches


53.5 inches

Seat Height

32.8 inches

Ground Clearance

9.6 inches

Curb Weight

282 pounds (claimed)

Fuel Capacity

2.8 gallons

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2 of 9 comments
  • John Stockman John Stockman on Jul 19, 2023

    Great write-up. Looks like you didn't have too much issue with the seat height, looking at some of the pics. I'm drawn to these smaller classes of bikes because of the lighter weight and adaptability for my physical issues/disability. I started out on a KZ250 single and have amazing memories touring around the west and Canada on a bike some told me I couldn't tour on.

  • Richard Kendall Richard Kendall 2 days ago

    I tried to buy one in Phoenix this week. By the time the dealer doubled the shipping fees, added a “luxury fee”, the cloudy sky fee, blue sky fee and the potential alien invasion fee, the price was over $5,000. Sorry, but no sale.