Released in 2012 as a 2013 model, the 2016 CRF250L is basically a carry-over from that first launch. Wearing its motocross heritage proudly, the CRF250L brings a street-legal choice to Honda’s CRF stable, joining the XR650L in the dual-sport category.

It’s spunky and fun to ride, but how does it stack up when put through its paces? Overall, fairy well and when you look at the price, it’s not a bad bike for what you get.

Continue reading for my review of the Honda CRF250L.

  • 2015 - 2016 Honda CRF250L
  • Year:
    2015- 2016
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
  • Displacement:
    249 cc
  • Price:
    4999
  • Price:

Design

2015 - 2016 Honda CRF250L
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It’s a street-legal motocross bike. That pretty much sums it up. Honda touts the “comfortable seating position” that I won’t argue with as long as they don’t claim that the seat itself is comfortable. It’s not really meant to spend miles in the saddle, though, and you do have plenty of room to adjust your position sliding forward or back when you’re not standing on the pegs.

Instrumentation is digital — not my favorite, but I get that analog clusters add weight and part of the beauty of this ride is that it is lightweight for easy handling. Adding to its no-nonsense approach, Honda offers only a bike cover in the accessories catalog for the CRF250L, but the aftermarket can supply whatever you think you might need to customize the ride to suit you.

A touch I do like is the cargo accommodations. Honda put cargo hooks under the pillion to let you bungee some gear behind you without scratching the paint and there is a small glove box to stash your bits and bobs.

Chassis

2015 - 2016 Honda CRF250L
- image 677977

Honda designed the frame to withstand the specific rigors associated with dual-sport activities. A pair of steel tubes with an oval cross-section form the main supports while round tubing makes up the rest of the double-cradle assembly, all in mild steel for maximum energy absorption. The bolt-up subframe comes in steel as well, and although Honda could have shaved a few pounds with an aluminum subframe, it did run the muffler through and under the subframe to centralize the mass of the exhaust system. Steering-stem layout leaves us with a 27.35-degree rake with 4.4 inches of trail.

A set of 43 mm Showa front forks support the front end on 9.8 inches of travel, well within the minimum for serious off-road conditions. Although the factory neglected to provide any sort of adjustments to fork performance, at least it went with inverted tubes that reduce unsprung weight dramatically at the front wheel for superior wheel-to-ground contact.

Honda uses its Pro-Link system with a 40 mm monoshock to tame the swingarm with 9.5 inches of travel, but again with the lack of adjustments. Much like with the front wheel, the factory keeps unsprung weight low at the rear wheel with a tapered aluminum swingarm. Light, laced-aluminum rims borrowed from the CRF-R family mount the 21-inch front, and 18-inch rear, dual-sport hoops as a last weight-saving measure to help keep the wheels on the road/dirt/whatever. Also taken from its racing stable are the brakes that come cut in a wave pattern that provides superior heat dissipation as well as a limited, self-cleaning function ideal for off-road work.

Drivetrain

2015 - 2016 Honda CRF250L
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The liquid-cooled, 249.6 cc thumper borrows heavily from the CBR250R, but comes with a number of innovative features meant primarily to reduce weight and lower friction while serving the specific needs of its dual-purpose host.

Barbed cylinder sleeves help increase the stability of the 76 mm x 55 mm bore while aiding in heat transfer to the coolant jacket. The pistons come with what the factory calls a “very short skirt” that boasts a low-friction, molybdenum coating to further ease the piston’s passage, and striations on the piston sides carry a measure of engine oil into the cylinder on each up-stroke. An offset between cylinder- and crankshaft-center and a shot-peen hardened wrist pin round out the friction-reducing features.

Honda downsized the throttle body to 36 mm and plugged in its Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) to deliver the air-fuel charge past the thin-stem valves to the four-valve, pent-roof combustion chamber. Although the factory used a shim-style valve adjustment, the shims can be changed without pulling the cams, so you are saved that aggravation at least. I still prefer the screw-and-locknut, myself, but that’s just me being old-school.

The restriction in the intake, and another in the exhaust header helps provide good power and throttle control at lower rpm ranges for technical off-road work. A six-speed transmission comes geared for the purpose, and a No.520 chain completes the drive. Another improvement over the “R” motor involves the drivetrain, namely the shock compensator that takes the edge off sudden torque reversals and other shocks to the system.

Pricing

2015 - 2016 Honda CRF250L
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MSRP on the CRF250L is $4,999, same as 2015 and comes in red — no surprise. Honda covers your CRF250L with a one-year transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty. You can opt for additional coverage with a Honda Protection Plan.

Competitors

2015 - 2016 Honda CRF250L
- image 677985
2015 - 2018 Yamaha XT250
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When looking at a competitor for the CRF250L, I want to stay in the dual-sport arena and try to keep the engine size as close as possible. While there are a few models that fit that bill, I’m going to look at the Yamaha XT250.

Yamaha makes the XT250 somewhat more accessible for shorter riders with a 31.9-inch seat height, not exactly low, but certainly lower than the 34.7-inch seat on the “L.” Best of all, the Tuning Fork Company keeps the seat lower yet manages to provide more ground clearance at 11.2-inches against the 10-inch clearance on the XT. This is significant given the curb weight difference; 291 pounds for the XT and 320 for the “L”, so you can expect the Honda to feel a bit more top-heavy by comparison.

Part of this weight difference surely comes from the water-jacketed, 249.6 cc motor in the Honda that not only boosts the tare, but also complicates the entire engine. Yamaha neatly sidestepped that issue by opting for a lighter, and simpler, air-cooled 249 cc mill. Fuel injection and electronic ignition is constant across the board, and other than cooling methods there is little to choose between the drivetrains besides the six-speed gearbox on the “L” versus five speeds on the XT.

Honda lists the 2016 CRF250L for $4,999, just a skosh cheaper than Yamaha’s $5,190 sticker on the XT250, but I don’t expect that to be a dealmaker/breaker by any means, and the main difference to buyers should be how you plan to use it. Honda makes the more road-centric product of the two, with the Yamaha showing slightly more dirt-tastic tendencies.

He Said

My husband and fellow motorcycle writer, TJ Hinton, says, “Dual-sport is an interesting class, but so far it seems manufacturers choose which surface to favor while paying little more than token attention to the other. I realize it’s difficult to cover all the bases on dissimilar surfaces, especially when you consider the tires, but to be brutally honest it seems most dual-sports out there are glorified enduro bikes with a kitchy new marketing name/ploy with more in common with the old enduros than enduros shared with their immediate predecessor, the scrambler. In spite of all the cheerleading from the factories, the evolutionary curve seems to be flattening out quite a bit at this point. I can’t decide if that is ’cause the manufacturers got it right, or ’cause they are out of ideas.”

She Said

“If you plan to spend a lot of your riding time off-road, you might want to consider changing the tires, though that shouldn’t be a surprise. It seems that a lot of the time, the stock tires aren’t as off-road-tastic as we’d like. So why would you buy this instead of the CRF450X or the XR650L in the dual-sport category? Well, it all depends on what you want to do with it. The 450 is a proper competition motocross bike so if you’re serious about motocross-type riding, that makes more sense for you. If you plan to do some gnarly dual-sport riding over rough terrain, the 650 might be more appropriate for you. The CRF250L is a spunky little dual-sport that gets good mileage, so it’s good as a commuter or for some off-road fun on dirt roads and trails. It won’t take you up the side of a mountain, but if you want to go knock around in the woods and have a little adventure down a newly-discovered dirt road, it’s your huckleberry. It won’t whack your wallet and it’s easy to pick up if — or should I say when — you lay it down. Sometimes life isn’t about how big the engine is, and sometimes the biggest engine available isn’t the best choice for your intended purpose.”

Specifications

ENGINE:
Engine Type: 249.6cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
Bore And Stroke: 76mm x 55mm
Induction: PGM-FI, 36mm throttle body
Ignition: Computer-controlled digital transistorized with electronic advance
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
Valve Train: DOHC; four-valve
DRIVE TRAIN:
Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive: #520 chain; 14T/40T
CHASSIS / SUSPENSION / BRAKES:
Front Suspension: 43mm inverted fork; 8.7 inches travel
Rear Suspension: Pro-Link® single shock with spring; 9.4 inches travel
Front Brake: Single 256mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Rear Brake: Single 220mm disc
Front Tire: 3.00-21
Rear Tire: 120/80-18
DIMENSIONS:
Rake: 27°35’ (Caster Angle)
Trail: 113mm (4.4 inches)
Wheelbase: 56.9 inches
Seat Height: 34.7 inches
Curb Weight: 320 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 2.0 gallons
Miles Per Gallon: 73 MPG
Ground Clearance: 10.0 inches
DETAILS:
Model Id: CRF250L
Available Colors: Red
Warranty: One Year Transferable, unlimited mileage limited warranty; extended coverage available with a Honda Protection Plan
Price: $4,999

Source: Honda CRF250L Brochure

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