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.
2009 Kawasaki KLX140 Monster Energy
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.
2009 Kawasaki KLX140L
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.
2009 Yamaha TT-R125LE
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.