The next great Honda?

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A list of awesome things: Honda CBR250R, riding off-road, low prices, accessible performance, lightweight bikes. Now imagine combining all those into a single product. We give you this new Honda CRF250L. Currently planned for Asia and Europe only, Thai manufacturing could, like that CBR, bring it to America at an incredibly small amount of money. Accessible, affordable and desirable, could this be the next great Honda?

Lately, the weak dollar has meant some Honda models (ie the CB1100F) produced in either Japan or Europe would simply price themselves out of relevance here, an incredibly conservative market massively biased in favor of traditional sportsbikes and cruisers. No outside-the-box thinking for us Americans please. But, it’s $4,099 price point and stupendous quality is making that CBR250R a big success. The two bikes are priced identically in Japan at ¥449,400.

This CRF250L uses the same motor as that CBR, albeit detuned from 26 to 23bhp and from 17 to 16lb/ft. There’s talk of more torque at lower revs, which could account for the decreased peak output. We’ll know when we see dyno charts.

And, unlike the CRF230L before it, that low price doesn’t mean it’s too small, too slow and too cheap. Those are 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels suspended by 43mm USD forks with 9.8 inches of travel and a Pro-Link monoshock with 9.4 inches. The Swingarm is cast aluminum. That engine is the same DOHC, fuel-injected, four-stroke in the CBR, complete with high-tech solutions like an offset cylinder (to boost power) and roller rocker arms for the valves. We repeat, this is a long, long ways from being a bargain basement motorcycle.

Unlike that old 230, this new 250 also features strong styling, based on more expensive, CRF dedicated off-roaders. It’s a good mix of evoking performance without coming over all hyper-agressive. In particular, the solid white section running from the tip of the tail to the radiator shrouds stretches the proportions into something strongly resembling an MX bike. Something that’s then reinforced by the minimal graphics, bold colors and angular fender.

Clever solutions and quality components abound. Check out this little tool compartment below the seat. We love classic Honda styling like the white text on the red seat.

Japan has a weird way of quoting fuel economy; the CRF250L is claimed to deliver 104mpg at a steady 37mph and the CBR 115mpg at the same steady, level speed. Honda US quotes 77mpg for the CBR, so expect a slightly lower figure for the CRF (blame the lack of a fairing and upright riding position). One area where the dirt bike beats the street bike is weight; the CRF weighs just 143kg/315lbs (wet) to the CBR’s already light 161kg/355lbs (wet). That’s an appreciable saving.

In Asia and Japan, this dual sport is going to usher in a new era of affordable, economical and accessible but still-capable off-roading. If American Honda can figure out a way to bring it in at the same price point as the CBR250, we hope it can here too.

  • David Dawson

    So… big red is making a WR250R with slightly less power, slightly more weight, slightly less suspension, but could possibly be $3000 less expensive? Sounds like a winner to me, which means we’ll never see it of course.

    • PenguinScotty

      Same thought i had.

      The air-cooled nature is intriguing, but the weight scares me a bit.

      It seems like more of a blend of KLR and WR250.

      I’m not sure, personally, i would get a year old WR250 for almost the same money…

      • dux [87 CBR600, 95 XR600R]

        My XR600 weighs in the 310-325lb (wet) range. So this 250 at 315lb is a bit disappointing.

      • Eben

        It’s liquid cooled.

        I’d probably go for a used WR for about the same price, too. If these end up in the US and hit the used market for under $3K in a year or two, it will drop the value of all those XT225′s to nothing, I would think. Cheaper options everywhere.

        • Andy Gregory

          Don’t know where you guys are finding these cheap used WR’s, seems all the ones I see for sale are still $5000+ unless it’s been thrashed.

          I know price is speculative on this, but if it comes in around $4000 I’d go for this plus $500-1000 worth of pipe and aftermarket parts.

          The issue for me to weigh (as a former DR-Z400 owner and current XR650 owner) is whether I’d just rather look for another well set up DR-Z or go for something smaller and more nimble like this for the off road fun factor.

          • Eben


            I’ve seen a perfect one with aftermarket hand guards and exhaust for $4200. The lowest I’ve seen was, I think, $3300 for one with some serious rash.

            • Andy Gregory

              Nice. Yeah, maybe it’s a regional thing, but those never pop up around here, especially with an aftermarket can, for that cheap. Here’s the best I’ve found:

              At $4500, a stock 2009 is still not as attractive to me as other options out there.

        • PenguinScotty

          You’re right. No idea how i missed that. Would definitely explain the extra heft, then.

  • GoFasterPB

    Only remaining question is how to convince my gf to replace her cb450 with this so i can borrow it.

  • Thomas

    if it comes to usa i will buy one, posibly two. hint hint honda

  • Toby

    Planning to pick one of these up to complement my CBR250. The Thai bike market keeps getting better!

  • Paul

    the crf 230L aint small, sorry

  • Campisi

    You say Asia, but I can all but guarantee that Korea won’t see it either.

  • Andy Gregory

    This thing sounds awesome, especially if it comes in around $4000. C’mon Honda, do the right thing and bring it to the states. Serious WR killer. I’d buy one in a heartbeat.

    • Sean Smith

      Check out photo 11. Looks like it’s already been here long enough for someone to ride it up the snake on the wrong side of the double yellow.

      • Andy Gregory

        Ha, squidly. Thought maybe that was a very SoCal looking part of Japan…

      • Archer

        Er, no. In the following shot, look at the curbstones, the solid white stripes, and the (actually not quite matching) plates. Those shots were taken in Japan. Typical mountain road.

  • Andy Gregory

    Just looked at the pics, and while I like the classic Honda red, I’ll take the white one please. That thing will look good dirty.

    Also impressive that those Asian dudes were able to get matching “2 50″ vanity plates…

  • Devin

    Finally the gallery works on my work computer again!

    The bike looks good.

  • Taco

    Honda should also give us a naked CBR250R.

  • Costa Mouzouris

    The Honda CRF250L has been confirmed for Canada and was shown at the Montreal Motorcycle show in February, pricing hasn’t yet been released but should be around the same as the CBR250R. Should be in showrooms sometime in July.

  • rvfrules

    Two things wrong with this bike: low power 23hp/2.2kgf-m torque and a tiny 7.7 liter fuel tank. Not too useful for a day out exploring trails and forestry roads. In contrast, the XR250 Baja that Honda produced through 2006 made 28hp/2.6 kgf-m torque and had a 14 liter fuel tank. My 2006 Suzuki Djebel 250XC has 30hp/2.8 kgf-m torque and a 17 liter tank. While it’s good to see Honda back in the 250 DP market, the CRF is a bit of a disappointment compared to past 250 DPs sold here in Japan.

  • WAN