Great bikes tend to be preceded by legacy, and that’s the case with Honda, where riders loved the XR250L and CRF230L, forerunners of the CRF250L. The 2012 CRF250L combined the proven CBR250R single with an off-road frame and suspension for a dual-sport with pleasant road manners, a generous maintenance schedule, and stalwart reliability. For 2017 the 250L got a little bump in power and the Rally model joined the party with a new look, larger fuel tank, wind protection, skid plate, and other bonus features. Riders were left a little hungry, however, for the displacement and power bump the CBR, CB, and Rebel models saw.
Finally, for 2021, the displacement bump came, and we got the CRF300L and CRF300L Rally. Both models got a well-deserved reworking and Honda didn’t go the easy way out with just a motor swap and “bold new graphics.” The new models see revisions throughout, with a focus on weight savings and performance. Additionally, model-specific changes based on rider feedback aim to satisfy owners of the 300L off-road and give Rally owners the versatility to tackle any adventure while adding only $50 to the price tags. Honda recently flew me out to the Copper Horse Riding Ranch in beautiful Agua Dulce, California, to swing a leg over the pair.
DRIVETRAIN AND ENGINE IMPROVEMENTS
Starting with the heart of the bikes, Honda stroked the thumper from 249cc to 286cc, resulting in a welcome increase in power and torque that’s delivered exactly where you need it in the low and mid RPM ranges thanks to a new cam profile. Intake and exhaust revisions improve throttle response and help the engine breathe a little better while reducing noise and vibration.
Working their way through the drivetrain, Honda took another pass at the six-speed transmission, optimizing first through fifth with closer spacing and stretching out sixth for better highway cruising. Last, but certainly not least, a new assist/slipper clutch is a welcome addition, with a lighter pull on the lever and less worry of detrimental traction loss on aggressive downshifts.
SUSPENSION & REDUCED WEIGHT
Weight has been a long-time gripe of the 250L and Rally models’ detractors. Honda addressed this by dropping 11 pounds from the 300L and nine from the Rally, bringing the non-ABS versions to 309 and 333 lb., respectively. The chassis and swingarm are both lighter, with reduced rigidity for better maneuverability and feel. The weight loss is spread over the entire bike wherever Honda could find fat to trim, including fenders, body work, hardware, a new aluminum lower triple clamp, and license plate bracket.
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