The Honda CRF230L is the little bike that can, as we recently found out on the press introduction near California City, California. Surrounded by miles of uninhabited Mojave Desert and endless tributaries of trails with highways leading back to the ranch, Cal City was a perfect venue for the introduction of Honda's new dual-sport entry.
New for 2008, the CRF230L combines light weight (only 267 pounds fully gassed) with moderate size for a super-maneuverable bike. A 223cc air-cooled single-cylinder engine with a two-valve head powers the little dual sport. A wide powerband for the little engine is courtesy of a 30mm CV carburetor and an electric start is standard for ultimate convenience. On the back end, an ultra-quiet muffler with USDA-qualified spark arrestor keeps the CRF230L eligible for off-highway recreation areas that require them.
The first thing we liked about the new Honda was its compact dimensions, which make this an excellent bike for beginning riders, especially considering the intimidation factor associated with other big bikes is absent here. With a seat height of only 31.9 inches, and excellent ergonomics, the CRF is easy to control and comfortable enough for all-day excursions. The power of the CRF230L is adequate, but torquey.
Despite a small 223cc engine, the CRF230L is capable of pulling an honest 65 mph on the highway, thanks in part to a precise wide-ratio six-speed transmission that snicks off shift with Honda precision. The fuel tank holds 2.3 gallons with 0.7 gallons of reserve.
In the dirt, the CRF230L is a blast to ride. Both beginner and expert riders found the bike to be engaging, capable, and all-out enjoyable. The suspension is mid-grade Showa with 37mm front forks and 9 inches of travel, while a heavy-duty Showa rear shock provides 6.3 inches of travel. With a stout high-tensile steel frame, the 230L went everywhere the big 650s went-soaking up big whoopers (and landings) with ease, at least with this average-size rider at the controls. Light weight was also beneficial in the dirt, making righting the bike after a "get off" a one-person affair.
While the CRF230L looks like CRF-R with its race-inspire bodywork, it is no race bike. But it is a great little runabout that will get you on the trail and off the trail without a trailer. The bike is fun for beginners and experts alike, and we think Honda has a real winner on their hands. When asked about taking one of the CRF230Ls home with us, a Honda representative told us, "The first ride is free, and after that it'll cost you." We guess it is time to start saving, so it is a good thing the 230L is affordable.
Model: 2008 Honda CRF230L Dual Sport
Base price: $4,499
Warranty: One year
Type: Single-cylinder four stroke
Bore & Stroke: 65.5mm x 66.2mm
Compression Ratio: 9.0:1
Induction: 30mm CV Carburetor
Starter: 12V electric
Emissions: CARB and EPA compliant
Final Drive: No. 520 O-ring sealed chain.
Front Suspension: 37mm leading axle Showa fork; 9.0 inches of travel
Rear Suspension: Pro-Link Showa single shock; 6.3 inches of travel
Front Brake: Single 240mm disc
Rear Brake: Single 220mm disc
Front Tire: 2.75-21
Rear Tire: 120/80-18
Rake (deg): 26.83
Trail (in): 4.0
Wheelbase (in): 52.75
Seat Height (in): 31.9
Ground Clearance (in): 9.5
Fuel Capacity (gal): 2.3
Weight (lb): 267
For the ride, we were set up with a full complement of gear, including gloves, jersey, pants, protection, socks, and gloves from Fox Racing, as well as a Shoei VFX-DT FCR2, and TCX FCX Combat boots-from the gear experts at Helmet House. Check them out online for all of your motorcycle gear needs.