But Honda didn’t spend that much time refining the design as it did in making sure that the bike meets the purpose of its creation. So what do riders look for before ending up choosing the Honda CRF230L?
A torquey 223cc, air-cooled, four-stroke single and six-speed transmission is probably as good as an answer as it is the lightweight semi-double-cradle high-tensile steel frame, but when you add crisp throttle response and Showa long-travel suspensions there isn’t pretty much anything you can ask for. Or not! In this case, the bike is even better overall as it only weights 267 pounds wet and the rider sits 31.9 inches from the ground.
With the headlight, taillight, turn signals and mirrors as the final touches of street-legality, I believe we’re quite familiar with what doest the trick on this CRF model.
But as much heritage the Honda may have, we should never forget that the rest of the Japanese crowd is always close to the action and this case is no different.
Yamaha is out with the 2009 XT250, their most versatile dual-sport machine, one that not only matches Honda’s engine capabilities with their own carbureted and e-started 249cc, air-cooled, SOHC, four-stroke single-cylinder engine, but also features a 31.9 inches high seat. The ground clearance of the Yamaha XT250 (11.2 inches) makes it more of a dirt roads machine (CRF’s ground clearance is only 9.5 inches) and so is the five-speed gearbox. I guess it is just a matter of knowing where you’ll be riding more often and choose between the Honda (better on the streets) and Yamaha (better on the trails). This last comes with a $4,690 MSRP in order to ease your decision.
With a liquid-cooled, 249cc, four-stroke, DOHC, four-valve single-cylinder engine working perfectly together with a six-speed tranny and yet offering a 11.2 inches of ground clearance, the 2009 Kawasaki KLX250S meets the market’s demands for a stronger pulling dual-purpose motorcycle, one that doesn’t sacrifice the off-road capabilities. Still, the 35 inches of seat height make the situation a little bit tricky on shorter riders. Base price is $4,999.
Significantly cheaper ($3,949), more user-friendly and getting the best fuel mileage in its class (105 mpg) is the 2009 Suzuki DR200SE. The engine behind it is a docile air-cooled, 199cc, four-stroke, OHC single-cylinder fed through a Mikuni carburetor. This is also electronically started, but only gets a five-speed gearbox not because of its off-road abilities, but because small cylinder capacity. The 31.9 inches of seat height also characterizes the small Suzi, but so is the 278 lbs and rear drum brake.
In its natural way, Honda manages to have the CRF230L look like a veritable dirt bike with headlight and mirrors despite being mostly addressed to beginning riders in search of a practical and good looking motorcycle.
The 21-, respectively 18-inch wheels not only help it get over obstacles with great ease, but also add that big bike look to it and compensate for the only 9.5 inches of ground clearance. Between those wheels, the engine and transmission package is nice and compact so it doesn’t seem like ready to make a blast out of it (how wrong can we be!) although that long and thick exhaust gives a pretty good clue of the bang you’ll be provided with.
But let’s quit talking about mechanics at least under this heading. Despite the big wheels, the body is low to the ground for great road behavior. The front fender though is closer to the wheel than you would expect and the square headlight with white housing gives it a nice distinctive look. So do the side panels and CRF-like graphics. These cover the 2.3 gallons gas tank very well and blend perfectly in with the narrow seat.
At the rear end, the fender on the North American model is white painted, like the side number plates, but on the European model you’ll still find the red colored fender which brings us to Honda’s characteristic Red color.
We’re used to bulletproof Hondas, machines that are real blasts out on the trails and a little more docile when the straight road opens up in front of them, but in order to complete their dual-purpose lineup, the Japanese manufacturer also builds the CRF230L as a road-legal model which won’t impress your ordinary beginner rider in any way. And no need to as the bike is there to commute and offer the adventure alternative at all times.
That’s the thought that must dominate your brain when meeting the Honda CRF230L in order to get to like it. That was also my thought when pulling the choke for better fuel mixture and hitting the push start button in a cold Sunday morning. The engine, which is fed through a 30mm CV carburetor, started easily and I was soon hitting the streets in an attempt to get familiar with it. Surprise! This bike feels familiar from the moment you get on it, especially if you have been riding the CRF230F before.
The pavement is no challenge for this CRF as the air-cooled, 223cc, four-stroke single pulls anticipatory and the bike is light and implicit easy to handle. The soft suspensions soak up the road’s imperfections and the front and rear disc brakes are highly efficient even in conditions of wet asphalt as the tires aren’t only made for on-road use. Throttle response is very good so as much as you will try, you won’t manage to get a single cough from it.
One of the bike greatest advantages is the fact that it features a six-speed gearbox with wide ratios. This makes for proper exploiting of the fairly small engine and in top gear you’ll even manage to hit 70 mph, but only on the freeway. Although a little vibrating, the CRF remains stable and reassuring when being ridden at its limit.
Take it on the trails and you’ll notice that the docile behavior doesn’t change that much. Probably the only thing that changes is the rider’s perspective on things, but that’s adaptable too. This is where the low seat height proves truly valuable as the feet dragged through the dust save the day most often. Second and third gears are most likely to be used as they allow better acceleration out of corners and greater experience gathered.
The light and versatile chassis makes the difference off the road as long as you keep those wheels down. The Honda CRF230L does indeed feature long travel suspension, but these are soft and you won’t have any troubles experiencing bottoming resistance just when finally getting excited about the bike.
As long as you don’t demand more than you know it can offer, the Honda CRF230L is a great bike, but doesn’t this scenario apply in all cases? Hmm…that’s curious.
But here’s something that isn’t curious at all about the 2009 Honda CRF230L: the $4,549 manufacturer suggested retail price. This keeps the bike at a disputed level in what concerns the competition so I guess we can call it a good bang for the buck.
Launching the CRF230L only a year ago, Honda made a logical and expected move for the dual-sport lineup in their characteristic style. It seems that the bike already attracted its market share with features such as a reliable and greatly tuned engine and the versatile chassis, but we reckon this was just a logical steady start and we haven’t seen the best of it yet.
Engine and Transmission
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: 30mm CV carburetor
Final Drive: #520 O-ring - sealed chain
Chassis and Dimensions
Suspension Front: 37mm leading-axle Showa fork; 9.0 inches travel
Rear: Pro-Link Showa single shock with spring preload adjustability; 6.3 inches travel
Brakes Front: Single 240mm disc
Rear: 220mm disc
Tires Front: 2.75 -21
Wheelbase: 52.75 inches
Rake (Caster Angle): 26.83o
Trail: 103mm (4.0 inches)
Seat Height: 31.9 inches
Ground Clearance: 9.5 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.3 gallons, including 0.7-gallon reserve
Curb Weight: 267 pounds
High-quality handlebar with comfortable grips.
Honda Genuine Accessories