2009 Honda CRF230F

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Diversity is what Honda knows offering best and the CRF230F is an adequate example of that. Perfectly filling the gap between Honda’s race-bred CRF250X and the CRF150F, the bike is addressed at those who search for a great combination between performance, versatility, a low seat height and the convenience of electric start. Add a six-speed transmission to that list and you’re in for one hell of a ride.

 

Introduction

Mostly used for recreational purposes, the Honda CRF230F is a bulletproof trail motorcycle powered by a 223cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled, four-stroke engine that stands as the source of all fun and excitement. With a wide rpm range and smoothly delivered power, this bike’s engine makes it good for beginners to start on, but the best of it is the e-start system ensuring easy cold starts. Now, in order for the air-cooled engine to keep up with different power plants of Honda or other manufacturer’s models, they mate it to a six-speed gearbox which is there to provide even more when you’re expecting to be flatting out.

The chassis is designed for fast cornering and agility although not made out of aluminum. But the swing arm is, and together with the Showa suspension package it offers a plush ride no matter how hard you may feel like pushing it. Also, with a 34.1-inch seat, you may want to buy some special boots because you’ll be soon scraping your feet into corners. That’s how inviting the CRF230F actually is.

History

Honda CRF230F

Honda first released the CRF230F in November 2002 as a replacement for the old XR200R, a machine powered by a 195 cc, air-cooled, four-stroke, single-cylinder; SOHC, 2-valved engine that was valued from the very beginning through a six-speed transmission with chain final drive. Lightweight (223 pounds), highly reliable, fitted with Kayaba suspensions and managing a decent 60 mph top speed, the XR200R was a good bike to start on so it paved the road pretty well for the CRF230F.

The all new off-road motorcycle was to start being produced as a 2003 model year and brought front and rear disc brakes instead of drums and a redesigned body as, quite frankly, it really needed it. Most importantly, the engine was upgraded to 223cc, they replaced the Kayaba forks with Showa units and they started producing it only with CDI ignition instead of both kick start and CDI.

Things haven’t changed much from the 2003 Honda CRF230F as the bike meets the purpose of its creation perfectly.

Competition

Honda CRF230F

Yamaha doesn’t miss this very important market share as the 2009 TT-R230 is perfect for raising a few question marks in a rider’s heads. Now which one should I choose? Be it the proven Honda CRF with its attractive looks and life-long mechanics or the Yamaha TT-R with…the exact same things. Damn it!

Yamaha inspired TT-R’s design on those aggressive YZ dirt bikes, but instead of racing engines, they’ve developed the air-cooled, 223cc, four-stroke; SOHC, four-valve engine which delivers predictable power, making it also perfect for those who just start riding. Like on the Honda, the engine is electrically-started and there’s a constant-mesh six-speed gearbox as well. How about the seat height? Well, is 34.2 inches good enough for you? Yep, I’m shocked too.

In the “disadvantage” section I would have to mention the steel frame and the drum rear brake, but that’s all.

With an MSRP of $3,699, I guess Yamaha calls itself even with Honda. It probably is, anyways.


Exterior

Honda CRF230F

How would you imagine a motorcycle that is meant to go on the trails, accommodate riders of different sizes and yet exert attraction like a track motorcycle? The CRF230F seems like a perfect balance between compactness and motocross style, a tweak often encountered on bikes in this category.

With the need of a low seat height and low center of gravity, designers started from there, resulting into practically a motocross replica. There is a nice and aggressive front fender on top of the 21-inch front wheel and a sharp rear fender covering up the 18-inch rear wheel. In between those two, you can count the pieces on the fingers of one hand: aggressive side panels and graphics covering up the 19 gallons gas tank, the narrow seat and sharp number plates.

The color of choice for Honda trail bikes is generally Red, including the CRF230F. In combination with the white number plates and aggressive black and gray graphics, they seem to have sorted out this model quickly and efficiently. By the way, it looks modern even though not changed for quite some time.

Test Ride

Honda CRF230F

With a bike such as the Honda CRF230F you simply know you’ve made the right choice as it fulfills your expectations in almost every matter. Not with much, but with enough to get you hooked.

Seeing this bike is like meeting an old friend, the XR200R, one that instead of growing a beard has slimmed down and refined in a way you just knew it can. The engine starts easily with the push of a button and idles nicely underneath you providing a healthy (for its cylinder capacity) exhaust note. I had no problems flat footing the ground and at a 34.1-inch seat height, no teenager will be disappointed either.

But this is an air-cooled engine, meaning that you either hit first gear and rev your way into the forest or shut it down. I certainly went for the first alternative and noticed that the first gear is fairly short, but the bike handles beautifully at low speed. It is quite inviting and yet forgiving to a beginning rider, but my recommendation is to leave it guided you as the CRF knows best.

Throttle response is immediate, but not surprising while a smooth clutch makes for easy engagement and contributes at building confidence. This doesn’t take as long as on other off-road bikes and because I was quite familiar with the package, I went for the whole thing. Have it go through small rivers, pass over logs and climb hills and notice that this bike is practically built for this kind of activities. They shake the stress away and again add experience.

In my “courageous” incursion down an open field, I’ve managed to push it up to 60 mph, in sixth gear and the motor sounded like it could definitely do more. Hell, even the 195cc XR200R could manage with 60 mph.

Even though a little bit heavy (249 pounds) but quite small, it is very easy to handle the thing and, as I mentioned before, it requires motocross-like turns above 20 mph or so. The chassis does a great job in maintaining stability so handling feels natural and the bike’s moves are quite anticipative.

Coming from an early Honda XR200R, what impresses me are the more than nine inches of suspension travel front and rear as well as the effectiveness of the front and rear disc brakes. In collaboration, these two offer a plush ride and a reassuring feel that is very often increased by the rider’s legs being dragged on the ground, but hey…that’s how we all were at the beginning.

Price

Like in the case of the Yamaha TT-R230, the 2009 Honda CRF230F manages with a $3,699 MSRP which is good considering that the Honda is slightly superior to the Yamaha (I mean it has a disc rear brake instead of a drum unit and it is a little bit lighter).

Conclusion

What I would expected to see was adjustable damping suspensions, some weight loses and a slightly punchier engine, but Honda doesn’t revamp the 2009 CRF230F, just carries it on as the same reliable and easy to ride off-road bike. These kinds of bikes rarely change (take the example of the XR200R) as they are successful packages right from the start, but when they do there’s nothing to stop them.


SPECIFICATIONS

 

Engine and Transmission

 

Displacement: 223cc
Type: air-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
Bore and Stroke: 65.5mm x 66.2mm
Compression ratio: 9.0:1
Valve Train: SOHC; two-valve
Induction: 26mm piston-valve carburetor
Ignition: CD
Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive: #520 O-ring-sealed chain; 13T/50T

 

Chassis and Dimensions

 

Suspension Front: 37mm leading-axle Showa fork; 9.5 inches travel
Rear: Pro-Link Showa single shock with spring preload adjustability; 9.0 inches travel
Brakes Front: Single 240mm disc
Rear: Drum
Tires Front: 80/100-21
Rear: 100/100-18
Wheelbase: 54.1 inches
Rake (Caster angle): 27.3o
Trail: 112mm (4.4 inches)
Seat Height: 34.1 inches
Ground Clearance: 11.7 inches
Fuel Capacity: 1.9 gallons, including 0.4-gallon reserve
Curb Weight: 249 pounds

Features

 

Engine/Drivetrain

 

  • Dependable 223cc single-cylinder air-cooled four-stroke engine offers plenty of user-friendly power and torque spread over a wide-rpm range.

  • 26mm carburetor for crisp throttle response.

  • Electric start for ease of starting.

  • Lightweight aluminum crankcase.

  • Maintenance-free CD ignition.

  • Heavy-duty clutch offers smooth, progressive engagement.

  • Smooth-shifting, versatile six-speed transmission.

  • Heavy-duty O-ring-sealed chain for durability and reduced maintenance.
  •  

    Chassis/Suspension

     

  • Box-section aluminum swing arm is first in its class.

  • Lightweight semi-double-cradle, high-tensile steel frame.

  • 37mm leading-axle Showa front fork offers 9.5 inches of suspension travel.

  • Fork boots keep dirt and moisture away from fork seals.

  • Heavy-duty Showa rear shock offers 9.0 inches of travel.

  • Pro-Link® Rear Suspension.

  • Snail-type chain adjusters for easy maintenance.

  • Powerful 240mm front disc brake.

  • Lightweight rear drum brake.

  • Strong, lightweight rims with straight-pull spokes.
  •  

    Additional Features

     

  • CRF®-R-inspired bodywork and graphics.

  • Engine design produces low emissions that meets both EPA and California Air Resources Board (CARB) off-road standards.

  • Motocross-style seat is low and comfortable, and allows maximum rider movement.

  • Easily detachable number plate.

  • High-impact plastic skidplate protects lower engine cases.

  • Folding shift lever.

  • Reusable, foam air filter for reduced maintenance costs.

  • Front and rear steel sprockets for durability.

  • High-quality handlebar with comfortable grips.

  • Extra-wide, cleated, folding, self-cleaning footpegs and brake pedal for secure footing.

  • Quiet, USDA-qualified spark arrester/muffler.

  • Maintenance-free sealed battery.

  • Keyed ignition switch.

  • Transferable six-month limited warranty.

  • When you buy a new Honda Powersports Product, you may be eligible to receive a complimentary one year membership in the Honda Riders Club of America, which includes an exclusive Members-only magazine, rider training benefits, access to the Members-only Clubhouse website and much more.

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