2016 Honda CRF250L Review | Dual sport enabled
2016 Honda CRF250L Review |
Earth and pavement fun
The 2016 Honda CRF250L is the smallest and most modern motorcycle in Honda’s two-model dual-sport lineup, and it’s versatile, reliable and economical. Besides these sensible attributes, it is also a pleasure to drive. In fact, he immediately received a favorable comment from a co-worker I had never spoken to while riding in the elevator.
It is not a surprise. A bike like the 2016 Honda CRF250L in the parking lot at work says “casual Friday playtime,” not “Monday morning meeting.” With MX styling that its older, larger brother, the XR650L, doesn’t get, the CRF250L just looks cool.
There are plenty of motorcycles that can do double duty, whether it’s commuting during the week and carving in a canyon or cruising around town on the weekend. But, the ultimate all-around bike has to be a dual-sport motorcycle, taking you from your garage to the track and back.
Alright, so the sports double carries me to work, I still have to change into my office clothes and get to work. But, how much more fun did I have on the way to work? Yes, the 2016 Honda CRF250L knows how to handle the grind of the week; it’s a fun little commuter that requires little effort to ride.
Granted, the bike is high on my toes—the 34.7-inch seat height draws attention to my 30.5-inch inseam. It comes with dual sport territory, but once I throw a leg up and settle into the firm saddle, I can touch my Sidi Livia Leis’ toes on both sides. Still, it’s easier to just lean the bike to one side—it’s pretty light—and keep one boot flat on the ground when stationary, so the CRF250L’s height becomes an issue pretty quickly.
You wouldn’t want to give away any of that suspension, anyway. This is what gives the bike a lot of capability once you get it off the road, but we’ll get to that later. The height of the Honda CRF250L also provides a great vantage point when cruising around town. Whether you’re moving past traffic at a red light or just speeding down the boulevard, you’ll appreciate sitting higher and being able to see over most four-wheeled vehicles.
Even though the CRF250L’s oversquare engine is based on the liquid-cooled 250cc DOHC powertrain inspired by the Honda CBR300R, there’s plenty of low-end and mid-range torque. The bike’s light-pull clutch works well with the low-end power delivered smoothly, so getting started is a breeze. Shifting is light and precise, as you’d expect from Honda – there are no missed shifts or difficulty finding neutral from a standstill.
The CRF250L’s upright ergonomics, combined with a long dirt bike seat for two, low footpegs and wide handlebars, make for a comfortable and roomy ride. Handling is absolute child’s play; with a curb weight of 320 pounds, it’s light and maneuverable on the street, and the long-travel suspension lets you get creative when needed (or when the spirit moves you).
The 2016 Honda CRF250L is the perfect inspiration for a weekend ride across town, from the suburbs to downtown, through narrow, beaten roads in older neighborhoods, or up into the hills to enjoy the view (and maybe find an undocumented dirt road to weave through). There’s hardly anywhere the CRF250L can’t easily take you.
Although the CRF250L is a small-displacement bike, it handles the highway just fine. You’ll need to twist the throttle hard to reach top speed quickly – quickly being a relative term – then settle into the top cog of the six-speed gearbox, which feels like overdrive. Thanks to a counterweight, the thumper has no buzz at the handlebars, seat, or footpegs, and the mirrors are crisp.
At legal highway speeds, the Honda CRF250L is fairly stable, credit the nearly 57-inch wheelbase and over 27-degree rake. The stock IRC tracks The GP-21F and GP-22R tires are surprisingly safe, but once you hit speeds in the mid-70s, you’ll remember you’re riding on dual sport tires.
The tires are also a limiting factor when braking. While the 256mm front disc is easily up to the task of slowing the bike down and has a perfectly tuned progressive feel at the lever, there is less rubber in contact with the ground.
The lack of a windshield and upright seating position don’t lend themselves to an aero silhouette, and the tank is actually too narrow to get a good grip on the knees. So while it’s nice to know that the CRF250L can level up if you need a quick jog (late to work?), the bike doesn’t engender that kind of long-distance ride.
Acceleration is by no means brisk on the CRF250L, even though it is a DOHC fuel-injected engine. If you have to do a quick maneuver, you’ll downshift, turn hard, and back up, and it still won’t be quick. That’s fine, just ride accordingly. Really, the most fun on the CRF250L is at a relaxed pace.
The Honda CRF250L may be liquid-cooled, but it will heat up pretty quickly under your left knee. Especially in those hot summer months, you’ll find yourself rolling around a bit bow-legged to let the rushing air cool things down. Cold mornings are a plus, and you’ll find yourself hugging your legs to take advantage of the warmth.
As fun as the CRF250L is to get around town, riding it off-road opens up so many other riding possibilities, and having the ability to drive this bike from your garage straight to the dirt without loading it onto the back of a truck or trailer, is a wonderful thing.
The Honda CRF250L is by no means a pure trail bike—it weighs 66 pounds more than the CRF250X off-road-only trail bike. Thus, off-road expectations are reduced. Still, it does a surprisingly good job of moderately rough terrain once the IRC tires are aerated at around 16 psi.
The engine’s low-to-mid torque allows you to tackle a variety of dirt roads, including technical trails and singletrack, with confidence. The CRF250L’s full-size tires roll well over rocks and roots, and they’re forgiving when your line choice isn’t perfect.
You will have to be patient off-road. You cannot traverse difficult sections with abandon. The bike weighs too much, doesn’t have the suspension to handle hard riding, and the tires aren’t as stable as real knobbies when pushed.
Its ergonomics work well when standing on the footrests, and the foot and hand controls are within easy reach. You’ll enjoy the bike’s roughly nine inches of travel at each end while bouncing over rough, bumpy trails at a modest pace.
Handling becomes more difficult on steep and rocky jeep trails. At this point, I remembered the taller seat and 320 pounds of the CRF250L, which no longer felt as light as it did on the pavement.
The rear disc brake has a good feel in the dirt, so it’s a welcome aid when trying to keep the speed under control on the descents. The front brake is also well tuned and won’t drop you in the dirt with too quick a bite, even with the less grippy dual sport tires. This is welcome for both novice and experienced riders.
The IRCs are a little weak in the sand washes, so you end up feeling a bit like you’re skating even though the bike certainly has the power to get you to the top without working too hard. Fire roads are more fun; the tires have good grip here, so shift into high gear and keep the engine in its happy torque.
Although I didn’t expect my weight and skill level to wear down the suspension, I was still impressed with the stability of the bike when I hit a particularly deep boxy rut perpendicularly, having only didn’t keep your eyes far enough ahead. I expected the bars to be ripped from my hands and send me crashing—a chance to fully test my Alpinestars Stella Bionic jacket—but the 43mm inverted forks soaked up the abuse.
On another ride on a totally fun and challenging Black Diamond single-track trail through Los Padres National Forest, I throttled too hard on a bend, twisted, and blew a sandy berm – pilot error. However, being able to press that electric start button after a fall is a wonderful thing.
Back in my new-rider days, I spent quite a bit of time picking up dirt, dusting and needlessly kicking my flooded 1986 Honda XL250R—a distant ancestor of the CRF250L. The second best thing for a beginner cyclist – the first being the right size bike – is an e-start bike.
The Honda CRF250L is a great little package that continues to offer a lot of value. It puts a big smile on my face every time I ride it, commute to work or play – it’s such a carefree, easy-to-enjoy bike.
As much fun as I get from it as an experienced rider, the 2016 Honda CRF250L is also a perfect choice for first-time riders looking to broaden their skills and horizons, as well as anyone looking for a mild-mannered all-around machine that can do double duty. in the street and the dirt.
Photograph by Don Williams
Helmet: Fly Racing F2 Carbon Animal
Protective glasses: Fly Racing Zone Adult
Communications: Sena SMH10R
Jersey, gloves + pants: Fly Racing Kinetic Women’s Clothing
Hydration: Hydropack Fly Racing
Bullet proof vest: Alpinestars Stella Bionic Jacket
Knee pads: Leatt C-Frame
Socks: Fly Racing Motorcycle Knee Pad
Boots: Alpinestars Stella Tech 3
2016 Honda CRF250L Specifications
Engine: DOHC 4-valve single
Bore x stroke: 76.0 x 55.0mm
Compression ratio: 10.7:1
Induction: PGM-FI with 36mm throttle body
Ignition: computer-controlled digital transistorized with electronic advance
Final drive: 520 chain
Front suspension: 43 mm non-adjustable inverted forks; 8.7 inches of travel
Rear suspension: Non-adjustable linkage-assisted shock; 9.4 inches of travel
Front brake: 256 mm disc with two-piston caliper
Rear brake: 220mm disc
Front tire: 3.00-21; GP-21F IRC Trails
Rear tire: 120/80-18; GP-22R IRC Trails
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
Wheelbase: 56.9 inches
Rake: 27.6 degrees
Trail: 4.4 inches
Seat height: 34.7 inches
Ground clearance: 10.0 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.0 gallons
Estimated fuel consumption: 73 mpg
The Red color
Empty weight: 320 pounds
2016 Honda CRF250L Price: MSRP $4999
2016 Honda CRF250L Gallery