It could have been tricky developing an engine for the dual-purpose use which the CRF250L is aimed at – so Honda used an engine you already know. The CBR250R motor, the heart of Honda’s best-selling roadbike, already had the runs on the board reliability-wise and was easy to re-tune for its new role, so is now the basis for a bike that is bargain-priced and capable across a broad spectrum.
To make it work, there’s a 2mm smaller throttle body (36mm from 38) and a modified header pipe. Honda claims it’s easy to service, the liquid-cooled DOHC engine helped here by a roller rocker arm valve gear. It’s very quiet, so a freerer-breathing exhaust would likely unleash an extra pony or 10.
The steel twin-tube frame isn’t a hand-me-down, it’s designed specifically for the 250L and while it isn’t the lightest, it’s a nice-steering number, supported by a Separate Function Front Fork design. It’s non-adjustable, but it does work over a broad range.
We tested a dirt-spec version with a set of Bridgestone M403/404 knobbies fitted, removed the mirrors, chain guard and the ugly ADR-induced plastic noise suppressor and hit the trails. It’s not the lightest or fastest bike around (a claimed 145kg wet, with 17kW at the throttle) but it’s not there to set lap records – it’s designed to provide faultlessly reliable transport for a wide range of riders.
The $5990 swingtag includes crisp fuel injection, excellent build quality on the main items, and features a quality dash, including a digital fuel gauge, a clock, and an easy-to-read speedo.
It steers where you point it and has a throttle that feels connected to the rear wheel, though I was disappointed with the brakes which never really felt bedded-in. That also helps new riders get used to what the front brake does and how, but more bite would make it a better bike. A change of pads might fix it.
The button fires it every time (there’s no kickstart, but a lot of dirtbikes are similar here), the clutch is light and the suspension is soft. Pushing the limit of the nonadjustable boingers (save for rear preload) isn’t hard, but my 83kg is too much for this bike on the dirt. On the road, it’s less flustered, and had me giggling through the corners. Overall, the bike is very well behaved.
For the price, which is less expensive than any other similarly-specced bike in the class, the CRF250L hits hard, and you know it will keep on chugging along because it’s a Honda.
Configuration Single cylinder, four-stroke
Cylinder head DOHC, four valve
Bore/stroke 76 x 56mm
Compression ratio 10.7:1
Power 17kW (claimed)
Torque Not given
Final drive Chain
Frame material Steel
Frame layout Twin tube
Front: 43mm USD fork, 250mm travel
Rear: Monoshock, adjustable preload,
Wheels Wire-spoked alloy
Front: 21 x 3.0 Rear: 18 x 3.5
Tyres Bridgestone M-404/M-403
Front: Single 256mm disc, twin-piston caliper
Rear: 220mm disc, single-piston caliper
Weight 147kg (kerb, claimed)
Seat height 882mm
Max width 819mm
Max height 1195mm
Fuel capacity 7.7L
Fuel consumption N/A
Top speed 140km/h (est)
Heavy for size
Little suspension adjustment