HONDA CRF250L (2012 - 2018) Review
- Highly capable off-road ready trailie
- Represents decent value for money
- Should prove reliable and entertaining
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£120|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
If you want a lightweight dual sport trail bike that can handle a short commute in the week and then head into the countryside on green lanes at the weekend – the Honda CRF250L is it.
The CRF is a friendly trail bike, ideally suited to novice riders or occasional off roader, but lacks the focus of its relatives. The ride inspires confidence with stable handling and a neutral feel. The engine is friendly and won’t intimidate you, even on loose surfaces.
The bike was given a slight makeover in 2016, and then in 2019 a more major update was announced for the whole CRF range, and the CRF250L was among the models included. Finally, in 2020 it was announced that the CRF250L and CRF250 Rally would be replaced by the CRF300L and CRF300 Rally respectively.
It’s not often that a sub 25hp motorbike gets us excited, but this is a real world machine, that will give anyone with the slightest inclination for off-road a bike that will deliver performance and classic days out for years.
- Related: How to ride your motorbike off road
Honda CRF250L vs CRF250 Rally
And for those who are after something a little more hardcore, the Honda CRF250 Rally might be worth a look. The protection the extra bodywork gives the Rally model is significant, giving the rider improved wind protection which makes it much more capable of high mileage.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
Good ergonomics, suspension and chassis means that the CRF is well balanced either on road when you’re sat down or off-road stood up. It weaves slightly at speeds over 65mph, but this could be just down to tyres.
- Related: Best off-road motorbikes
The CRF250L certainly looks the part but despite its motocross styling is incredibly easy to ride making it a great novice-friendly machine.
It has relatively low bars, which is harder on the wrists than some of its rivals.
EngineNext up: Reliability
The CRF uses a de-tuned Honda CBR250R engine with the benefit of more low and mid range power. Soft, user friendly delivery will help you make good ground without getting you into trouble. It’s also very quiet, ideal for trail riding.
Derived from that of the CBR250R, the liquid-cooled single has been tweaked to produce slightly more torque and bottom end power. As a result its delivery is progressive and predictable. There’s nothing wild, lairy or particularly exciting about it. Instead it’s a solid, reliable bike that gets you pretty much wherever you need to go. It’s a road bike first and a trail bike second but that said, after an hour my arse began to ache. Even so, the CRF easily raised a smile and I was more than happy to just potter along.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
Our Honda CRF250L owners' reviews show a very strong score indeed. There don't appear to be any common faults to report. There are comments about the lack of damping on the standard suspension, but that's not unique to this bike by any stretch of the imagination.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
We've done a few group tests over the years with the Honda CRF250L and its rivals. You can find our verdicts below...
Honda CRF250L vs CCM GP450 vs Yamaha XT660
If you’re not going to ride off-road a lot the GP450 isn’t the bike for you. CCM is offering customers a machine capable of long distance travel yet one that has serious off-road credibility. And that potential to go off the beaten track - and do it exceptionally well - is the CCM’s biggest selling point. While both the Honda and Yamaha are perfectly competent, they’re not in the same league. Both are primarily road bikes with off-road abilities while the CCM strikes a closer 50/50 balance. That’s why the CCM wins this test – it truly is the best of both worlds. For long road miles with the odd fire track, take a Ténéré. It’s versatile, robust, and works well on road. If you’re going to be commuting and want a weekend escape bike, buy the CRF. It’s light, easy and will do everything you ask of it for half the price of the CCM (but for half the excitement). If you’re serious about taking on the world and plan to be riding off-road as much as on asphalt then it’s the CCM that sets pulses racing.
Honda CRF250L vs Kawasaki KLX 250 vs Yamaha WR250R
In comparison to the glory years of lightweight trailies where all the major manufacturers produced comparable bikes (see panel) the current 250 trail bike sector is a limited one.
Kawasaki produce the proven KLX 250 which is on our test. Yamaha’s WR250R is a great bike but is more off road focussed than its rivals and the £6000+ RRP has actually meant that Yamaha have stopped importing the bike into the UK. With no Suzuki model in production we added the Reiju Tango into the mix.
Honda CRF250L, £3950 new
The CRF uses the same engine as the CBR250 but is detuned with better bottom end power and more torque. And in the real world of off-road riding it works. The power delivery is smooth and predictable.
There is no power band, just smooth linear power and torque which enhances the easy to use character of the CRF. To an experienced off road rider used to competition Enduro bikes the CRF would be considered gutless.
It’s slower revving engine doesn’t have anything like the power of Honda’s CRF250X Enduro bike. But this is a trail bike aimed at green-lining so the balance of power and handling fits the bill perfectly.
Kawasaki KLX250, £4549 new
Off road the Kawasaki is a bike you could ride all day. The suspension is soft enough to absorb bumps whilst maintaining good support and a look at the rear shock and large external gas cartridge highlights its off road credentials.
A lot of thought has clearly gone into how this bike performs off-road and there are some nice touches in terms of features and protection.
There is no aftermarket bash plate needed as there are loops added to the bottom of the frame itself to protect crucial engine components. The rear brake calliper also receives protection as standard. The KLX also comes with a good tool kit located in a neat pouch attached to the rear mudguard.
Reiju Tango, £3199 new
In many ways this bike is the odd one out in the test. Whilst it has some off-road pretence it is clearly lacking the dirt focus of the Honda or Kawasaki which is apparent from the styling, overly soft suspension and low front mudguard.
Physically it’s smaller than its rivals. It feels seriously light and manoeuvrable and the low seat height means that even short riders will easily be able to place both feet on the ground.
Honda CRF250L, £4949
|Kawasaki KLX250, £4549||Reiju Tango, £3199|
|Engine||Liquid-cooled four-stroke DOHC single||Liquid-cooled, four-stroke single||Air-cooled four stroke SOHC single|
|Front suspension||43mm diameter upside down forks||43mm diameter upside down forks, rebound adjust||Paioli 37mm forks, no adjust|
|Rear suspension||Pro-Link single shock, preload adjust||Uni-track single shock, preload and rebound damping adjust||Monoshock, preload adjust|
Watch: Honda CRF250L vs Kawaski KLX250 vs Reiju Tango on video
It’s an off road bike, so not masses available, but it has a neat digital dashboard with speed, tripometers and fuel gauge.
|Engine type||Liquid cooled, single cylinder, four stroke, DOHC, 6 gears|
|Frame type||Steel semi double cradle|
|Fuel capacity||7.7 litres|
|Front suspension||43mm upside down forks|
|Rear suspension||40mm diameter shock with Honda pro link system|
|Front brake||256mm disk, twin piston caliper|
|Rear brake||220mm single piston caliper|
|Front tyre size||21 x 1.6|
|Rear tyre size||18 x 2.15|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||90 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£44|
|Annual service cost||£120|
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two year unlimited mileage|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||23 bhp|
|Max torque||16 ft-lb|
|Top speed||86 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||150 miles|
Model history & versions
2012: model introduced
CRF250M, supermoto version introduced in 2014
Owners' reviews for the HONDA CRF250L (2012 - 2018)
12 owners have reviewed their HONDA CRF250L (2012 - 2018) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£120|
Annual servicing cost: £100
Frugal, fun and likes to be revved. Makes 20hp fun as an introduction to riding on greenlanes.
Brakes are sharp but progressive. Only let down by the suspension which lacks rebound damping making the ride a little vague when pushed on the road. Front end dive is alarming on the brake until you learn to trust it. Bought for learning how to ride off road so perfect for that. Comfort good for about 100 miles but then I'm looking for a break and fuel. No experience of a pillion.
Perky, rather than powerful, but just what I need on greenlanes. Likes to be revved and you have to use the gearbox to keep momentum up on the road. Just as well that the gearbox is typical honda slick.
So far so good but only covered around 500 miles in 2 months.
Will be doing only around 3000 miles per year so a set of tyres and an oil change only the expected servicing requirements.
It has a clock. No frills as this isn't what it is designed for.
Buying experience: Great service from On Yer Bike near Oxford.
Annual servicing cost: £75
Full yoshimura exhaust fitted from new ! Sounds fantastic does 80mph when wanted ! Really great fun to ride ! Can thrash it all day without hurting yourself or getting into any trouble !! done 8500 without any problems cannot recommend it enough !!
You always want a bit more bhp
Love the crf red colour
Buying experience: A dealer from leeds del free and they fitted yoshimura for free as well i paid about £4200
Annual servicing cost: £99
Swapped CB500x for this bike quality is ok but not as good as the CB500x. Fuel tank could be the bigger tank as the rally has fitted found the ignition key fiddly with other keys on the fob, im 5.8" tall and struggle to get on with bike gear on. Fuel cap is also an issue with the better hinged cap on the rally. Tyres take a bit of getting used to and will be changed out for better dual use tyres. The bike itself is great to ride and easy to use, clutch and controls are smooth and easy to use plenty of power for what im doing daily commute and some a road trips
Tyres could be more road focussed as this is where the bike is mainly used don't inspire confidence
good enough for what im doing mainly commute 14 miles per day £6- £10 per week in fuel
Not up to the same level as the CB500x but still to Honda high standard
first dealer service done by Eccose Motorcycles Aberdeen last week £99 great job throttle adjusted chain etc lubed and adjusted
switch gear is similar to CB500x but fuel cap etc could be better
Buying experience: Bought from Eccose motorcycles in Aberdeen this is the second bike I have bought from them sales guys are good and service dept is also good to deal with all minor issues resolved quickly they are always happy to chat when in for a coffee
Annual servicing cost: £100
I would recommend this bike 100% just remember it is a 250 but it is no slouch. Best features smiles per miles per cost is fantastic value. I managed to get it for £4100 on the road. Ride it on any roads, but it really shines on single track country lanes I cant get enough. I rode it for seven hours no problem couple of comfort stops.
Again I've given the bike a 5 due to the cost of the vehicle. You are not getting showa suspension or brembo top notch brakes. It isn't the fastest, it isn't the most comfortable nor are the tyres the best. But what it is just a fantastic little machine. Pillion passenger is a non starter unless you weigh about six stone each it ain't going to happen.
Another 5 from me as said above remember what you are buying it is a 250 accept that and ride it for that. Then you will not be disappointed its not going to be slow, slow, slow, by any means but it wont break the speed limit either. You will see 70 on the clock and it will gladly cruise 60/65 no problem. The little engine is a gem keep it in the right gear and you will be rewarded with lots of fun.
The bike has been no bother whatsoever faultless runs bob on. Word of warning I put on Oxford heated grips and cracked the throttle body and had to buy a new one at £34.00. Reason being the plastic on the throttle body towards the end where switch gear is very thin. This is due to the plastic being drawn up from this area in production to make a disk sort of. This stops the grip sliding along the throttle body onto switch gear. If your not confident and want them get dealer to do it. But serously easy enough just wish someone had warned me!
The first service was £100 as said above but from now on I will do my own. Its going to be very cheap/reasonable not going to break the bank. The bike is very frugile on fuel I did 80 mile at a cost of £5 when fuel was £1.28 litre. Tyres are wearing well, when I take my bikes out least mileage will be around 80 miles. When I get home always clean and re-wax chain. Doing that makes them last a very long time. I use dry lube for the purpose of not flinging it every where.
For the money rear abs switchable, clock, fuel guage, rev counter and thats about it. I put on barkbuster storm hand guards, oxford heated grips and I have run usb power to the handle bars. I have put on phone holder and the usb feeds power to this, handy for sat nav. Now the tyres well what can be said about the stock tyres all I can say is Mmmmmmmmmmm! They add fun to the ride they are 50/50 road off road supposed to be. Fast road riding is very entertaining and because it adds fun I will be very, very tempted to fit them again. I get little if no feedback when fast riding on tarmac. I have not yet been off road with the bike having to much fun on the road at the moment.
Annual servicing cost: £100
I've done it all on this bike - taken it off road, climbed hills, ridden mountain passes in the highlands, tried long distance, and plenty of busy city riding. I've even tried a bit of green lane riding with a pillion (exciting, but not something I will be doing too often). It has performed flawlessly in everything. I've had it only for 4 months, but have done 4000 miles on it, and would buy this bike again in a moment. I traded in a 170bhp super bike for this, and I've had more fun on this already than any other bike I've owned. Having only 24bhp on tap will mean you'll have to change your riding style somewhat, but in this frame and set-up, it's perfect.
Stick to fields, dirt tracks, back lanes, and A and B roads, and this bike will give you as much fun as any other. It will get to 60mph in about 7 seconds, which when done down a narrow lane on something with the dimensions of a large bicycle, is plenty thrilling enough! Flying up through the gears with that single cylinder sound is endlessly fun. After about 100 miles, my behind usually needs a break. Pillions tend to start complaining after about 25 miles. But this bike isn't really for carrying extra people.
This is really what makes the bike. Up to 5k rpm, it's quite restrained. from 5-6.5k rpm you notice a definite pick up. Then from 6.5k + the sound changes entirely, as well as the pace, and you'll find yourself looking for every opportunity you can to give it some. I swapped a litre sports bike for this, expecting it to keep me from being naughty, but it can still easily tempt a person to do otherwise. The engine became noticeably smoother (it was already very much so to begin with), and seemed more powerful after 1000 miles, so it's worth bearing that in mind if buying from new.
It's early days, but so far perfect. Adjusted the chain once, when new, and had to do it again 1000 miles later. The tires were not the best when new, but after about 500 miles improved considerably. The shock preload was set a little low from new, so I turned that up too. The adjustment was a little tricky to reach in-situ, so I removed the shock (which took all of 15 minutes), and did it like that, then popped it back on. It improved the handling on and off road immediately.
£7 will fill a tank, and even with spirited riding, I'll get 120 miles out of that. The first service cost £100, but doing it yourself would be simple. The engine and bike are very simple to work on, everything is easily accessible.
It doesn't have anything it doesn't need, and is pretty well set up from stock. I tried changing the sprocket gearing from a 14/40 stock set up to a 13/42 set up. It is a common modification to gain extra acceleration. However, I wasn't impressed. Fuel economy went down, the speedo was completely out of whack, and it lost more practicality than it gained. The modification would make more sense if your riding was majority off road. Stock gearing is absolutely fine for a combination of terrains however, and I went back to the original set up.
Buying experience: I bought it from a main dealer. It was advertised at 4650, and I got 500 off, brand new.
I bought mine as a winter all rounder and an ex dealer Demonstrator with 600 miles. I wasn't expecting too much from it but have been really impressed. My intention was for a winter bike that can commute and green lane with ease. The CRF was the best choice I could've made. Light, agile with enough low down grunt to keep it interesting, this bike is truly a little gem. Many riders appear to modify them relentlessly but mine will remain stock as it's fine as it is. Very easy to maintain with 8k mile service intervals, running costs are minimal and i'm getting around 80 mpg. A super little bike, it does exactly what it says on the tin with a heap of fun thrown in for good measure. The new 2017 rally version looks fantastic too and will no doubt benefit commuters with that useful screen, ABS, slightly taller height and larger tank range.Honda have nailed it with the CRF continue to produce the goods with this brilliant little bike.
My only gripe...Stock tyres are passable but not fantastic
It's a Honda 👍
Cheap to run and insure ... first service as part of my purchase ....Servicing every 8k... Parts easily available.
Handguards as part of standard equipment would be a nice touch.
Buying experience: Dealer purchased £3490 for 600 mile 2016 reg machine.
Annual servicing cost: £250
Easy to ride and very agile on the trail. Very well put together and never misses a beat.
A quality bike.
Enough for what it is.
Annual servicing cost: £100
As a modern economy commuter bike with some off road ability the only change I'd make is to make the front brake lever adjustable. As a dedicated 250 trail bike it's a bit heavy and the radiator looks vulnerable. I suggest it's a trail bike for the dry, flat tracks in the USA rather than the mud and stones in Derbyshire ( I use a CRF230 for that). I've done 4000 miles on it in 3 months - mostly rural A, B and tiny lanes - I've used it on dual carriageways and adopt a zen like calm as I ride at a relaxed 60mph. I'd like it to have a more road orientated seat - 150 mile rides get a bit uncomfortable towards the end - I'm looking to have the seat remade by a custom guy. If Honda put their 300cc engine in it I'll be straight down the Honda shop with a bag of money, it's one of the nicest bikes I've ridden in the past 48 years.
The 4 is for the brakes not the ride quality. The rear is wooden, the front is good but the lever operates too far out. One day I'll get a spare lever and modify it to bring the actuation point closer to the bars. The clutch is smooth as silk and the gearbox is a joy - unless you decide to stop in a high gear for some reason. It doesn't like to click through gears whilst stationary so get down the box as you come up to a junction (as you should). As above, the seat is a bit thin for long days in the saddle - but I don't think the bike has been designed to be sat on for hours. I look for fuel at about 90 miles so I get a rest at least once a day. The riding position is superb: relaxed, upright and roomy. I haven't carried a pillion - I imagine it would be a bad experience for us both.
For a 250 it's fine - excellent economy. As you would expect you need to rev the bike to make it come alive. Riding in a spirited way is very engaging and requires decent rider concentration - excellent fun. As above, put the 300 engine into this chassis and I'd be straight down the Honda shop. I think going from 23 bhp to 28 bhp with the commensurate torque increase would make this a very fine all rounder. I'd like a smaller (and hence lighter) silencer. The one Honda fit to meet Californian emission rules is lumpen and sticks out too much.
So far so good, I'll let you know about the finish after some winter rides - not in salt though.
First service was £98 - without a valve clearance check. As the service consists of an oil and filter change and a poke round it isn't going back to the shop. I checked the valve clearances at 2000 miles - they were spot on, the next check is now due at 18000 miles. The 8000 mile oil and filter change interval seems a bit long for a revving single so I did one last week at 4050 miles. I'll be doing one every 3500 miles. I was getting 82 mpg on the original trail tyres, at 3000 miles the original rear was worn out so I put a pair of Avon Trailriders on it. I have a smoother ride and now get 85mpg. this is excellent economy as I like to keep the engine buzzing. I expect the rear Trailrider to last at least 7000 miles.
The equipment is what I would expect, i.e. very little. I like having the clock and two trips. The mirrors are excellent. I'd love a centre stand but I know that manufacturers won't make provision for them on a putative trail bike. I'd also like to see heated grips as standard on all new bikes. I've added a 12V socket for the phone/sat nav and a rack and top box to make the bike suit my purpose. I shall put muffs on it for the cold weather.
Buying experience: You don't need to pay full retail for the bike. £3900 for a new one is possible from many dealers.
Buying experience: Bought privately @ 3000 miles 2900€
I'd fancied a supermoto styled bike for a while. A DRZ400SM was on the cards, but they were going for silly money. I'd discounted the CRF250M a year ago as I'd never owned a bike with such a small engine capacity and knew that it wouldn't be for me, so I was back to looking at sensible but predictable ER-6Fs, SV650s, Fazers etc. Then an 11 month old CRF250M with only 1300 miles came in to my local dealership. I'd dropped in for a can of chain-lube and it had literally just come in, hadn't been washed or prep'd or anything. I was told to take it out for an hour to see what I thought of it. Well, what a surprise... a smooth, easy to ride, very economical baby-moto. Best of all, it was far more fun than I'd ever imagined a small capacity bike could be. Other than the reasonably wide bars, this bike is made for city work (and is good on the country roads as well). It will even hold it's own on the 70mph dual carriageways. I returned to the dealer, did the deal for £3300, and 2 months on am not regretting it one bit. Having done some basic maintenance & adjustment on it last weekend, I took the opportunity for a spin with friends this morning to check everything was ok. They were all on middleweight and sports 600s and could leave me on the faster A roads, but everywhere else I was up there - country roads, city streets, congestion, I left then for dust. It's the perfect bike for darting in and out of traffic jams, squeezing through gaps like a London bicycle courier, and for a 250 it has an impressive turn of speed in the city. The sportsbike boys were stuck sitting in the jams whilst I just left them. Hilarious that a cheap to run 250 had such an advantage on them in so many situations. You've probably gathered that I quite like this bike. Peanuts to insure, tax, fuel and maintain, but great fun and a little different to the run-of-the-mill bikes you usually see. I thought it might be a stop-gap bike to see me through the Winter, however as things stand at present I'm very tempted to keep it for the longer term :)
Had the bike a week, great bike I brought for £1400 with 70 miles on the clock as a demo bike. Comftable riding position, nice and quick low down. You can ride steady at around 65-70 mph for long periods. You could prolly get it for 80-85mph downhill. For the money it seems reliable, fun. Fun enough to keep me entatained! I really like it :)
fantastic bike to ride on road and off .. iv had offroad bikes all my life and this is one of the best for trail riding