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2011 Honda CRF230L Review


by Charles Renny , Moto123

Honda hasn’t changed the CRF for years. The CRF230L was launched back in 2008, and they did introduce a variant called the CRF230M two years ago, easily distinguished by the size of the wheels; the 230L comes with a 21” front wheel and an 18” rear, while both wheels on the M were 17 inchers.

2011 Honda CRF230L
The Honda CRF230L may not be for everyone, but it does well enough to keep all but the most experienced of dirt riders happy. (Photo: Charles Renny/

Fitting a rider

The large diameter front wheel plays a large part in the Honda CRF230L’s comfort as a dual-purpose bike. It provides nimbleness at low speed and good stability on the road. That large diameter also means that this bike isn’t necessarily for the inseam challenged, as seat height is a lofty 31.9 inches.

Fortunately, the soft spring in the monoshock that provides a cushy ride off road also means that if you can get your leg over and you weigh in around the 150-lb mark you should still be able to flat-foot the bike when sitting on it.

With a total bike weight of about 121 kilos (267 lbs.) and such a tall saddle height, most riders will be able to move the CRF230L around with a fair amount of ease. For some lighter riders, there may be an issue that the bike feels top heavy and a little tough to get it to perform some of the quick moves a sport bike will do. In part that is true, but it’s not a sport bike; it’s a dual-purpose bike and there are some necessary compromises on both the street and off-road side of the equation.

Low-speed riding
Since I tip the scales around the 200-lb mark, I don’t have any problem making the bike move the way I want it on either the road or off. After getting comfortable on the CRF230L, I learned how to do some real slow speed work.

I managed to get the steering at full lock on both left- and right-hand turns without touching down, and how to use the leverage of the wide handlebars to lighten the front so that I could get up rocks and over obstacles without putting a foot down. I’m still working on the four-second stop with my feet up, as that activity continues to elude me.

Highway-speed riding

At the other end of the riding scale, going down the highway in 6th gear took a bit of getting used to. The CRF230L has 14.3 horsepower on tap and 11.7 lb-ft of torque on hand at the best of times, thanks to its 223-cc, 4-stroke single-cylinder. Coming off a stop isn’t a problem; between gearing and the way torque comes on, I could get out in front of all but the most obnoxious of cage drivers.

Working up through the 6-speed gearbox up to highway speeds wasn’t an issue either. Reaching 100 or even 110 km/h was pretty easy; it was getting much past those speeds that was the issue.

2011 Honda CRF230L
The CRF230L has 14.3 horsepower on tap and 11.7 lb-ft of torque on hand at the best of times, thanks to its 223-cc, 4-stroke single-cylinder. (Photo: Charles Renny/
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