Honda’s “in between” off-road bike, the CRF150F, is the riding proof that cylinder capacity isn’t everything in this business as it is big enough and fitted with a sufficient punchy engine in order to keep experienced adults entertained, but with the clear purpose of feeling light, being easy to start and ride as well as damn versatile.
Honda is popular for their highly reliable trail motorcycles and the 2009 CRF150F makes no exception as it is built after the “classic” recipe, the only difference being that modern days require a four-stroke banger. So the engine is practically a bulletproof 149cc, air-cooled, four-stroke thumper with SOHC; two-valve unit that is fitted with e-start.
Many reckon that the CRF150F would have managed best with an aluminum frame and we have to admit that, at 236 pounds (curb weight), it is a little on the heavy side, but, as you will see later, that doesn’t affect the handling characteristics in any way as this is an excellently thought product. The Showa suspensions don’t feature damping adjustability, but only 9.1 inches of travel front and 8.9 at the rear. In what concerns the braking equipment, that is as well highly efficient as there is a 240mm front disc in the front and a rear drum brake for old time sake.
The all-new Honda CRF150F entered the scene in 2003 as a replacement for early XR models, basically the XR100 which stopped being manufactured at the end of 2002 as an effect of the CRF launch. First, the bike would have featured a 158cc, air-cooled, single-cylinder, four-stroke engine which benefited of all the advantages of push-button starting and smooth-operating five-speed gearbox. The Showa suspensions have been present from the beginning as well as the front disc brake.
For 2004, the bike carried on with no changes whatsoever, but in 2005, it would have lined up with the motocross series in matters of graphics.
But that was like a preview of what was about to come in 2006 with the totally redesigned CRF150F. Refining the engine was their main goal and it implied lightening it and making it more powerful. Now displacing 149cc, the engine had the same configuration, but the bore and stroke was now 57.3 mm (2.3 in) x 57.8 mm (2.3 in). That results into a 9.5:1 compression ratio, which Honda kept until this day. The electric start was all new and the battery was relocated under the left sidepanel.
The transmission featured new ratios for 2006 and so it closely matched the engine power characteristics. Now lighter and more powerful, the new CRF only needed some revising done to the suspensions and so it featured.
2007 didn’t bring anything new for this dirt bike, but, as expected, 2008 did. The respective model year featured a narrower seat a new carburetor jetting for even better throttle response.
The first bikes on our list are all made by Kawasaki and are called KLX140 (with the additional Monster Energy version) and KLX140L (also featuring a Monster Energy version). All are 2009 model years and rely on the same 144cc, air-cooled, four-stroke single, SOHC, two-valves engine to make a difference and it is quite possible for Kawi’s dream to be accomplishing soon as diversity always attracts lots of customers. The seat height on the small models is 30.7 inches while the large ones feature an extra 1.2 inch and 19-inch front and 16-inch rear compared to the 17-, respectively 14-inch wheels on the smallest and cheapest model.
The price is what always counts so Kawasaki’s suggested retail prices are as follow: $2,799 for the small, simple model, $2,999 for the additional, Monster Energy Version as well as $3,099 for the KLX140L and $3,299 for the Monster Energy version.
Yamaha and Suzuki offer slightly smaller (in displacement) motorcycles as alternatives to the CRF and KLX models, but the little tweaks make the difference so let’s see what they’re up to.
Two models attract our attention in Yamaha’s off-road lineup, the 2009 TT-R125E and the TT-R125LE. The first comes with push-button started 124cc, air-cooled, SOHC, four-stroke, two-valves engine, front and rear drum brakes, a seat of 30.90-inches from the ground. With a telescopic fork with 7.1-inches of travel and a single shock with 6.3-inches of travel, we’ll have to dig deeper for a more capable competitor. MSRP for the small Yamaha is $2,699.
The TT-R125LE might be just the one as it is powered by the same potent engine, but adds extra 1.2-inches of seat height and bigger wheels (19-, and 16-inch ones) while the suspension travel doesn’t significantly increase. This bike is mostly bought for being light weight (189 pounds wet weight). MSRP is $2,299.
Suzuki is pretty much in the same situation with the DR-Z125 and DR-Z125L so it is all about Honda and Kawasaki in this lineup.
Instead of offering two or even more versions of the same motorcycle, Honda has one and good. Mechanically, we’ve seen that the CRF150F is very competitive, but in what concerns the looks, it is absolutely great. Take in consideration that this is a small motorcycle, destined mostly to beginning riders and it looks like a big boy’s toy.
Features such as the aggressive side panels, side number plates and rear fender could have it easily pass as a motocross bike and with a sharp front fender and front number plate instead of a headlight, I’m actually going to argue about this being a veritable dirt bike. And it actually is, only that one which won’t through you off its seat at every twist of the throttle. The seat is narrow and grippy, blending perfectly in with the overall compact design of the small CRF.
The minuscule engine looks like having no surprises reserved for nobody (how wrong I can be…) as it sits in between those 19-inch front and 16-inch rear wheels.
Like all Honda dirt bikes, the 150F is Red colored with white number plates. In this case, the silencer is black painted which makes it quite distinguishable.
The first ride on a motorcycle is an unforgettable experience for most people, but when teenagers get into dirt riding there’s nothing to stop them and the memories start from there. So I was to test ride the Honda CRF150F from a first timer’s point of view and see how it does.
To begin with, the electric start is the first goodie encountered. This brings a reassuring feel that when you’ll stop the engine there will be no need to go through the kick starting routine or if you invite your friends over to ride your new bike, they won’t be required magicians skills in order to start the small engine.
First gear and away I went steady at low speed. I barely managed to cover 100 yards or so that my luck said its word as passing over a rocky portion. More exactly, the Pirelli-dressed front wheel slipped a little bit and if it wasn’t for those 32.5 inches of seat height, I’d probably be still laughing of the fall I would have suffered.
So I said to myself “stop playing!” and got down to serious stuff. The four-stroke motor deals very well with a rider’s demands as it revs high enough and with immediate response. Power is delivered linear all through the five speeds of the quiet operating gearbox and there’s plenty than you would expect there. The engine shows no weaknesses neither when you do second gear takeoffs or even go for the hills.
Although for a smaller kid, the 236 pounds of CRF would seem a little bit demanding, but still manageable, in these two pair of hands, there was no need for an aluminum frame or for an e-start removal. The bike sits good around turns and spins that rear wheel nicely and with a pretty strong exhaust note.
What I could have appreciated is a pair of fully-adjustable suspensions, but I guess that the approximately 9 inches of travel on both ends get the job done anyways so why add more to the price tag? This is also the case of the rear drum brake: it gets the job done nice and effectively and manages to keep costs down. Still, the 240mm front disc brake is the key feature in what concerns braking. But remember kids: always hit the clutch before strong pulling that brake lever in order to stop. But if you forget, don’t worry as it happens to experienced fellows also. Take my example.
Honda manages to provide a decent MSRP of $3,199, one that is very competitive considering what the competition has to offer and at what price. For those bucks you get lifetime reliability, cheap maintaining and lots and lots of fun.
In conclusion, we can definitely say that the Honda CRF150F meets the purpose of its creation with great accuracy and can be ridded with pleasure long after gaining enough experience to go for something bigger…but no necessarily better.
Being reliable, strong performing and user-friendly, there isn’t pretty much anything else you can ask from it. Just give it gas and it will go on and on forever.
Engine and Transmission
Type: air-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
Bore and Stroke: 57.3mm x 57.8mm
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Valve Train: SOHC; two-valve
Induction: 24mm piston-valve carburetor
Final Drive: #520 O-ring- sealed chain; 13T/48T
Chassis and Dimensions
Suspension Front: 35mm leading-axle Showa fork; 9.1 inches travel
Rear: Pro-Link Showa single shock; 8.9 inches travel
Brakes Front: Single 240mm disc
Tires Front: 70/100-19
Wheelbase: 52.2 inches
Rake (Caster angle): 26.7o
Trail: 87mm (3.4 inches)
Seat Height: 32.5 inches
Ground Clearance: 10.0 inches
Fuel Capacity: 1.9 gallons, including 0.4-gallon reserve
Curb Weight: 236 pounds