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2013 Honda CRF250L First Impressions


by Pascal Bastien ,

Honda introduces the 2013 CRF250L, a new dual-purpose bike with a number of great features and attributes for beginners and intermediate riders. recently put it to the test at the Ganaraska Forest Centre in Ontario with the help of the excellent folks at Ontario Off-Road Adventures.

The Honda formerly known as the XL250L, and later replaced with the CRF230L, has always been synonymous with freedom, adventure, and connecting dots on a map in a beeline. However, most dual-purpose bikes significantly increased their displacement from 1995 to 2005, leaving smaller machines behind and widening the technological gap between them.

That's all about to change thanks to the 2013 Honda CRF250L, which is largely inspired from the track-ready CRF R models.

2013 Honda CRF 250L

Road-going R
With aggressive styling, revised ergonomics, and a new engine derived from the CBR250R, the next-generation CRF brings an unexpected breath of fresh air to the segment. And then there's the chassis: 43 mm Showa inverted fork, cradle-type steel frame, cast aluminum swingarm, and Pro-Link single-shock rear suspension.

For good measure, the 2013 Honda CRF250L borrows its petal-shaped disc brakes from the CRF250R. Of course, the callipers aren't as advanced; neither is the suspension, which lacks compression and rebound adjustment. As for the IRC tires, they use a basic, dual-purpose (dirt/pavement) compound.

2013 Honda CRF 250L side view
The result is 23 hp at 8,500 rpm vs. 26 hp for the CBR, as well as a stronger presence across a broader rev range. (Photo: Honda Canada)

Far from cheap
Contrary to what the low price suggests, the 2013 Honda CRF250L is far from a cheap bike. The great paint job, tight panel spacing, precision welding, and modern controls all highlight a smart design.

The superb ergonomics include wide, non-slipping footpegs, a long, narrow seat, and a handlebar riser that's tall enough to allow stand-up riding. Moreover, the 2013 Honda CRF250L features four cargo hooks along with an available cargo net. I also liked the comprehensive tool kit that fits inside a lockable compartment, as well as the digital instrument panel with fuel gauge.

Versatile and rider-friendly
On the road, the 2013 Honda CRF250L proves extremely comfortable and rider-friendly, accelerating to 125 km/h without turning a hair. Beyond that point, you have to show a bit more patience, though. When winding your way through the countryside, there's enough passing power to overtake a slow-moving automobile that compromises your field of vision.

Whether tackling rocks, mud, grass or sand, the 2013 Honda CRF250L generally delivers safe, predictable handling despite the sub-par off-road performance of the stock tires, which quickly show their limitations on slippery terrain. You must do a nice job of shifting your weight forward to avoid understeering.

2013 Honda CRF 250L front view
On the road, the 2013 Honda CRF250L proves extremely comfortable and rider-friendly, accelerating to 125 km/h without turning a hair.(Photo: Honda Canada)

Not afraid of tight trails
The short turning radius, ultra-friendly clutch and transmission, and strong mid-range power make riding on tight trails easier. The engine starts working from very low revs, which reduces the number of gear shifts. It also picks up speed in linear fashion, so riders can make do without a tachometer. In fact, this single-cylinder is so flexible and efficient that you don't need to hold gears as much as possible.

However, on wider, sandy trails that allow speeds of up to 100 km/h, the 2013 Honda CRF250L seemingly runs out of juice. It becomes harder to drift in corners and aim the machine with pinpoint accuracy. Then again, the versatility-minded CRF250L is not a hardcore enduro bike like the CRF250X. You can still have fun through a low-cost, worry-free experience off the road.

Bottom line
Similar to the CBR250R, the 2013 Honda CRF250L offers a mix of attributes that's hard to beat. Dual-purpose bike enthusiasts looking for a modern, rider-friendly machine at a competitive price will love it. And they'll happily venture off the beaten path on their way back from work, and maybe even play in the mud like little boys. Great fun, indeed!

Smooth, efficient engine
Friendly package
Modern design
Good looks

Limited off-road performance of the stock tires