I just bought a Honda CRF250L

Dailies, Reviews -



I just bought a Honda CRF250L. It defies logic. I’m not a retiree looking to revisit motorcycle riding, nor am I 21, and swinging a leg over a bike for the first time.

 I’m 36 years old, married and, with regards to motorcycles, I would consider myself experienced. I’ve owned a slew of different bikes and though I’m not sure Honda knows who they’re marketing this bike to, I’m probably not the target market.
How did I get here?
I haven’t owned a bike in the last 24 months, so my desire to be on one had recently been overwhelming. The hardest part was figuring out what it was that I wanted to buy. Money is relatively tight, and this purchase would be the only one for 24 months or longer, so be smart I told myself, be smart.
So running down the list, I’ve owned the following: F4i, RC51, Brutale, Monster, Hypermotard, and real motards, lots of motards. I’ve owned a KTM LC4, 650R, SMR450 and a DRZ SM. Once you ride a dual sport or a motard in The Bay, it changes everything. Near death experiences happen less often. Even better, you arrive at your destination with a smile on your face, and more often than not you get there faster than you would on xyz sportbike.
So once again I had narrowed down possibilities of ownership to something dual sport or motard in nature. I also knew I wanted to buy new. In California, you can’t plate anything with a headlight, like the rest of the country seems to be able to do. There would be no WR/CRF/RMZ with a plate for me. Someone pointed me to KTM, but the Freeride is MIA and the other KTM models seem nearer to $10,000. Unbeknownst to me, Husqvarna had killed off the SM610 and SMR range, all of which would have been contenders in my search, so I was left wondering what to do. I could buy an older XR650L/R but it struck me as crazy to pay a premium for a 10-year old bike, just because it had a plate. For example, a dealer near me was selling a 2005 WR450 with a plate but they wanted $5,500. Additionally, an older bike concerned me because we share a garage, and space is limited, so wrenching at home isn’t really that easy or fun.
I had read Wes’ articles on the CRF250L and it seemed really interesting to me. The bike has a low MSRP, awesome fuel range, and all in a reportedly competent package. The threads on ADVRider and Thumpertalk seemed to reaffirm the competence of the package. So I hit the local dealer. It took me 5 visits to see one, as his stock was revolving on a daily basis. Bike came in, bike went out, repeat, repeat, repeat. When I finally got check one out, I was incredibly excited, lined up next the 250 and 450 ‘R’ models the 250L didn’t look like some weak beginners bike, or bad marketing idea. I wasn’t embarrassed to push it outside and start it up. Even better was that it looked like, felt like, and rode just like a Honda, even one made in Japan. There was no “I’m made in Thailand” look or feel to be found. I don’t even know if that is a stigma, but none the less. Again, I was blown away, standing in the dealers parking lot, clicking through the 6-speed transmission, in California, on a dirt bike with a plate. Done deal, paper work signed, the bike was mine.
The 250 Experience

In short, the bike is awesome. If you’re ok with knowing you’ve got the throttle open to the stop, and you can enjoy what that means, then there is no reason not to buy this bike. The build quality is Honda-perfect. The DRZ always felt kind of sub-par, I don’t know how else to say that. The Honda doesn’t, it feels a lot like the $8,500 dollar CRF450R. The dash is a favorite of mine with its pale white luminescence. You leave the line in first and quickly find yourself in 6th doing 60+mph. The weight and stance of the bike are what saves it from being mundane. In the city, or out in the hills, you change your line with the most subtle of gestures, and you do it with the throttle open, feeling like a Moto2 rider as you carry corner speed.
I remember a friend’s BMW 450X he had just bought, and when I asked him what it was like to ride and he just pointed to the motor and said, “that thing screws.” I instantly imagined a WW2 torpedo rocketing out of a U-Boat towards its target, no drag, all thrust. I rode the bike a few moments later and he was right, it was like zero to g-force in an instant, it even shamed by SMR 450. The 250L doesn’t screw, it kind of winds up, hits its sweet spot, and then everything afterwards is noise.

On the SMR you could downshift to second, take a right hand turn in the city and, as you exited the apex, just open the throttle and pick the front end up. That hasn’t happened on the 250, I’m not sure that it will. Instead, you down shift, and make the right hand turn foot down, motor spinning, covering the brakes but not on them, and carrying speed. I feel like I’m riding a power assisted downhill mountain bike. In San Francisco your bike is too slow if you leave the line at a green light and the pink vespas and clapped-out Elite 80s drop you. The CRF doesn’t get dropped, the torque is strong, and the stop light to stop light drag races are good—its capable enough. On the highway I’ve done an indicated 75 so far, and the motor is still tight. Riding my SMR on the highway I was afraid to ever go over 70 and even then I would ride it to 70 and hold it, then back it off to 55 and throttle it back up to 70 and repeat, it was hellish.
And The Future Brings

I find myself incredibly appreciative of the bike, and want to change little. I plan on getting the suspension sorted, cleaning up the rear plate/light monstrosity, and otherwise just riding the heck out of it. The front fender catches wind at speed and in turn it makes the front end a little twitchy, so I’ll probably change it out for an Acerbis supermoto fender. I come from a Dunlop family and the stock tires say IRC so I’m not sure what that means but they’re going on Craigslist once I make it to the first service at 500 miles. I think I’ll try a Dunlop D606 on the front and a D803 Trials tire on the rear. The seat strap is ridiculous and positioned perfectly so that I’m always sitting on it, so that’s coming off too. I think the vibe for any accessories added to this bike will be OEM plus. I want to make sure that this isn’t my personal Range Rover Evoque, that rather than just play at adventure, I actually get out there and ride the bike. So next week I’m going to hit a OHV park local to me, and later this fall find some backroads into Yosemite.

Maybe by the time I’m bored of the 250, Honda will have released a 400 or 500 version.

You’ll be able to follow my experiences with the 250L on Tumblr.

  • PenguinScotty

    Great read. The only thing left right now would be to get a SuperMoto setup as well, so you can switch inbetween!

    The D606 is a great tire, running it on the 450 EXC when offroading, but if you are going to only run one set of tires, check out Heidenau (Lots of info on ADV Rider regarding them). Running those on the 950 Adventure. Great tire, bit sketch in the wet, though.

    Would be cool if you guys could do a “Long Term Test” sort of deal with it.

    Thanks again!

    • Dylan

      I second the Heidenau. Definitely the best all around dual sport tire with great wear and pretty decent offroad too

  • http://bloodfalcons.blogspot.com motoguru

    Nice. I too always felt my DR-Z SM was “sub par”, but that was probably due to my coming from a motocross background. The 250L seems like a great machine and I’m sure it’ll take a good couple decades of beating.

  • bluemilew

    Agreed on the DRZ quality. Going from a RMZ450 to a drz, some parts just felt cheap.

    Any plans for a set of 17′s?

  • pplassm

    Just rode the Shenandoah 500 last weekend (East Coast Dual Sport event). There were at least six in the event, and we ran into more on the trails. Everybody seems to love them. Honda has a hit here. $5k seems to be the right price.

  • pplassm

    Oh, and I tried a Pirelli MT43 trials on my DRZ400. Trac-shun city! Good wear, too. It’s also DOT approved. D606 on the front washed out way before the rear lost traction.

    • David Dawson

      I was coming in to post this. The MT43 is almost as good as the D803 overall, but can actually hold up to street use. I prefer the ride and handling of knobbies over trials tires personally, but they are great at getting traction in the worst terrain imaginable.

      Agree on the DRZ400S comments too, mine was really good but there was always something lacking… most notably the lack of 6th gear.

      Enjoy the bike! Nothing better than a lightweight capable dual sport for riding all over!

  • http://www.facebook.com/phobos512 phobos512

    Even though I only upgrade to a CBR1000RR in July, I find there’s something about this bike that intrigues me. Thanks for the article. I too would be interested in a more long-term series of updates.

  • http://www.TroyRank.com Troy R

    This bike keeps nagging me to buy it:) The last dualsport I had was a DR650 and I really loved it. How does this compare? Will I miss the power? I won’t miss the fuel econ I’m sure.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      The CRF250L is about 80lbs lighter and has a ton less power. It’s also shorter, probably better on the road and way more fuel efficient.

      • http://vtbmwmov.org Eben

        I don’t know about a TON less power. The DR usually dynoed around 33-34 hp.

        I went straight from a KLR650 to a WR250R, which is probably a similar shift. You’d notice the loss of low-end torque, but once you get used to that, the overall capability of the modern 250 isn’t far off the old 650.

        • http://www.TroyRank.com Troy R

          Low end torque was nice… Lighter is better, though. Also being 5’5″, my hips will appreciate the lack of hyperextension.

  • John

    The problem here is that we SHOULD be the target market. That’s what’s missing. A sense of the marketplace. Who buys what and why. And more importantly who ISN’T buying and why.

    Honda seems like, after 20 years of being MIA, they might actually be figuring out the market is evolving beyond crotch rockets and cruisers.

  • oldnick

    Thanks for the article. I’ve been thinking of getting some experience in the dirt after a long time away, and have been thinking of getting this bike to sit along my road bike. I hope you follow up with your longer term experiences, especially if you take the bike on a trip.

  • http://www.faster-faster.com fasterfaster

    Jesse Street!
    (san francisco riders know what I’m on about)

    • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

      Clear an intersection lately?

  • Philip

    No mention of the Yamaha WR250X or R? I’ve got an X, haven’t seen another 250 I’d rather have!

  • pplassm

    Some of us old farts never gave up dirt riding. You guys need to get out there!

  • A Richard Garrison

    I am returning rider considering a used 690 Duke or Street triple. I drive a sports car now and one of the things I’m excited about having a motorcycle again is the ability to safely pass cars over double yellow lines, on back roads. The higher vantage point, slimmer profile and acceleration of a bike will make such possible. Is this bike quick enough to pass cars that a are going 40mph or so, over double yellow lines while on back roads?

    • Joe

      You shouldn’t be passing anyone over double yellow lines regardless of the bike you have.

      • A Richard Garrison

        Sometimes it is necessary and I believe it can be done safely. I just want to know if this bike is quick enough to do so comfortably or not.

        • Scott-jay

          “… ability to safely pass cars over double yellow lines, on back roads …” lives in you, Grasshopper. Same with its comfort.

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

        They’re just lines on the road. When you started riding a bike, you made the conscious shift in your mind that you were capable of making decisions for yourself, not have them arbitrarily made for you.

        Richard: that’s a nebulous question. Acceleration from 40-60+mph is reasonably strong. Vision is also good sitting upright and fairly tall. It’s not liter bike for passing, but it is a motorcycle.

        • ike6116

          Today I learned when you buy ride a motorcycle “arbitrary” things such as the law don’t apply to you.

  • Frosty_spl

    Is it easy to lift the front wheel when riding offroad? Seems like it would be hard to ride if it doesn’t.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Super easy to wheelie. Just clutch it up or scoot way back in the seat and gas it.

  • noone1569

    I recently was in the market for a second bike, a motard or dual sport. After reading the review of the 250L here and the WR250X, I strongly considered both bikes. I checked out the 250L at MotoGP in Indy, and it looked and felt like great components. The WR is obviously top of the 250 Supermoto game, but has the price tag to prove it.

    Instead of going with the 250L or WR250X, I found a low miles 2008 Husqvarna SM610 and snatched that up. I almost wish I would have went with the CRF250L because parts are an issue so far with the Husky.

    My girlfriend wants a CRF250L or WR250X still. I’m trying to convince her to hold out for a CRF250 supermoto.

    • Dylan

      try halls cycles. Thats where I get all my 06 SM610 parts

      • noone1569

        Yep, Raymond over there hooked me up. Just placed a $300 order.

  • noone1569

    The dealership around me sells each one of these as soon as they come in; I need to get over there and ride one.

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  • *

    If I didn’t have to be concerned about theft, for the same price, a used Apriia SXV would be the way I’d go. From what I’ve seen and read, those little things are beasts. As someone who’s moving back to the Bay soon and realizing my xyz sportbike is going to be overkill, I’m still pondering the same question, what supermoto to get? I rode a friend’s CRF230L and was *not* impressed. Tell me the 250 is better besides the extra 20cc’s?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      100% different bikes. The 230 blew.

    • Dylan

      I would definitely not get a SXV for a street bike. Talk about maintenance heavy. If you are looking for a supermoto for around 4k you can’t really do better than a WR250X if you want a small displacement or a used SM610 or a KTM SMC. Much better maintenance intervals than the Aprilia

  • webbiker

    Just noticed that James Bond now rides a 250 Honda in the upcoming movie. It must be cool then?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      CRF450X, no?

  • http://www.worthogbrewers.co.za/forum3/member.php?action=profile&uid=11216 Michel Stanger

    Thanks Getty! We will not wait to have started out!

  • Mike

    Great article, I’m looking at purchasing this bike as well. Sounds like I’ll love it! Thanks for posting!

  • Bullwinkle Eats Vegemite

    Today I test rode the CRF230L and the CRF250L back to back.
    The CRF250L is clearly the better bike and does not feel any heavier than the 230L and has a more balanced planted feel when cornering.
    I almost put a deposit on it, but I might go test ride a DR650SE before I do

    • http://www.facebook.com/jamie.koginos Jamie Koginos

      i bought the 250l a few months ago did some mods if u want ur bike to be soo much better google best dual sport bikes they have a stage 1 power up kit which i bought it makes a huge difference hope this helps i love my bike no complaints so far and remember its a honda they are bulletproof

  • Ratecard

    Looking at this same bike and also live in SF. Anyone have the author’s contact info? Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hockeyrick Rick Rezac

    Now I hear Honda is not making them available any more as the 250M, as in Motard is the new production bike, so may be hard to find an L if one chooses! Motard, gimme a break.

  • mark

    I like the crf250l as well, I bought the first on the dealer recived. I tightened the throttle cable since they loosen them, to keep you from wide open throttle, until after the break in peroid. It took 3 months for the manual to come in to the parts dept. I have three other thumpers, and except for the xl650 this is the heaviest. I have done all the service work so far with 1350 mile under the belt, and when the tires finish wearing I will also ditch the knobbies.

  • Ryan Edwards

    Dude, I just bought a crf250l at the same time in my life for the same reasons and feel exactly the same about it. Great essay.

  • Bob V

    I’ve got around 1500 miles on my CRF250. I thought I might get tired of it and want a bigger bike, but I’m still really enjoying riding it, and haven’t seen anything larger that I like as much, nor has as much maneuverability.

  • Josh

    Hasn’t updated the tumbler blog. what a let down.
    must not be ridding it much haha

  • charles melck

    Swopped out My 2004 Honda Transalp 650 with 60000 km on the clock for a 2013 cbf250l with 3500km enjoying it have a ktm990adv for the longer trips best of both worlds