Honda’s sportbike lineup has a new member starting with 2009, the CRF230M. WHAT? Not only the name, but the motorcycle itself has troubles resonating with what customers expect from a product in this category. Last time I checked, CRF was for the Japanese manufacturer’s off-road bikes and quite frankly this looks like a Motard. Wait a second...that’s exactly what the 2009 Honda CRF230M stands for.
Honda spotted an unexploited niche in fuel-efficient supermoto-like motorcycles that stand for cheap commuting, user-friendliness and fun so their immediate response is the entirely-new CRF230M model. Because this isn’t quite the machine that would require a whole new category, they’ve added it to the sport lineup only because it goes on the road and not off it.
Created both for urban and backroad adventure riding, the new model packs the CRF230L engine, tranny and frame. So while the electrically started 223cc air-cooled, single-cylinder, four-stroke motor translates onto the CRF230M with no change whatsoever (it still features the 30mm CV carburetor), the chassis features new rake (23.90 degrees) in order to go around corners sharply.
With only a pair of new, 17-inch standard spoked wheels with street rubber and a shiny new Black color scheme, the new bike is ready to hit the streets in style.
Being brand new, the Honda CRF230M couldn’t possibly have a reputation, but the CRF230L has a pretty good one and we like to think that this kind of thing transmits together with powerplans and frames. Still, riders would have to see for themselves what the new bike is up to, but until then check out the Honda Dual-Sport Timeline.
2009 Yamaha WR250X
But no matter if old or new, a bike would has to face the competition and, preferably, get out with a clean face. The thing with the 2009 Honda CRF230M is that the base idea recommends it for the battle with the 2009 Yamaha WR250X, but the two bikes are fairly different and implicit address to different riders. For starters, the 31.7 inches of seat height on the Honda are almost incomparable to Yamaha’s 35.2 inches. This determines middle-sized and even short riders to go for the Honda while taller ones will most likely opt for Yamaha.
Clearly a step up bike, the Yamaha WR250X is being powered by a potent fuel-injected, 250cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke; DOHC, four-valves engine which almost makes us get it off the list as it makes the CRF230M look too bad. Yet with an MSRP of $6,190, the difference is made in the marketing departments of both these Japanese manufacturers.
2009 Kawasaki KLX250SF
Suzuki offers the 2009 DR-Z400SM, but that’s too big to be compared even with the Yamaha, not to mention the small Honda. This makes us head to Kawasaki where the closest competitor for this bike is easily found. By its name, the KLX250SF is new for 2009 and it features a 33.9 inches of seat height, which is fairly closer to the one of the CRF. Also, although liquid-cooled, the 249cc four-stroke; DOHC, four-valve single is carbureted so it delivers comparable grunt while being user-friendly. Kawasaki prices this model at $5,299.
Different from its competitors in what concerns the overall appearance mostly due to the lowest seat height in the class, the all-new 2009 Honda CRF230M is courageously considered by us a Super Motard despite the fact Honda introduced it as a sports bike. Apart from the 17 inches wheels with road tires and the handlebars, there isn’t much thing sport about it, but we won’t argue and take the bike as it is.
The off-road inspirations are present all around this model, starting from that front fender (there’s nothing sharp about that) and finishing with the rear one. Everything in between is just a Black CRF230L with Gray and Red graphics. As seen in the picture, the headlight is nicely contoured while the side panels blend perfectly in with the 2.4 gallons tank. Narrow and very low, the 31.7 inches seat positions the biker in the ideal riding position which is right on the middle, close to the handlebars. This also allows for proper handling as the center of gravity is calculated with the rider in its place.
There is also what I like to call a number plate imitation. That is because motocross bikes (which actually need number plates) stand as source of inspiration for off-road ones (which could live without), from which models such as the CRF230M end up being created (you guess the rest). All in all, at least they add extra protection from the exhaust to the passenger already accommodated in some pretty harsh conditions.
The 2009 Honda CRF230M is not only a bike featuring the lowest seat compared to the alternatives we tried to find for it, but also the cheapest. With a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of just $4,749 you can almost consider it a starter model.
What Honda attempts in 2009 is to offer versatility (checked) and affordability (checked) in a powerful and attractive package (well, they worked with what they got in this case) in order to get their fair share of the market. Did they succeed? Partly, they did, but we would have to let time say its word, but most importantly get a feel of it in the near future.