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.
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.