MCN Fleet: Honda CRF300 Rally - It’s part of the family

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Yes, it’s small, but the Honda CRF300 Rally is a proper do-it-all – and it’s massive fun, too.

Some machines are a bit of a one-trick pony, but the CRF300 Rally is at the opposite end of the usability spectrum. Even though it’s only 286cc, the little Honda will do everything to the best of its ability when pressed into service.

Back in May last year I had planned a family holiday to the Lake District. The CRF had just arrived in time, so I was able to ride up with my wife and son following up later. With just myself to worry about, I chose pretty much the longest route possible from my home in Lincolnshire to the Lakes.

With no time restrictions, I chose three waypoints to give my Garmin Zumo XT some steerage and set it to adventurous routing across Derbyshire taking in the Peak District National Park before picking my way up into the Yorkshire Dales National Park for a welcome tea break at the Penny Garth Café in Hawes.

Refreshed, it was back on the bike for a spot of off-road along the Bainbridge byway. What a stunning place to ride.

From Bainbridge it was back on tarmac, I found this such a nice way to ride a bike on all the forgotten roads that everyone else avoided because they are too slow. Mile after mile, and hardly a soul around.

More long-term tests

These smaller A-roads and winding B-roads really suit the CRF. The bike feels lively and nimble because you never get to use its full potential, it is only when you hit a fast dual carriageway to link two parts of the ride together that, at 70-75mph, you are nearing the Honda’s upper limits. Yes it’ll do it, and a bit more besides, but it is so much happier going up and down the rev range and taking in some bends along the way.

After a thoroughly enjoyable full day’s riding to the Lakes, I was ready to get off and relax before the arrival of my family.

My eight-year-old son had brought along his Oset Electric trials bike which he was desperate to get on and explore the wide-open spaces on our friend’s farm. The following morning, he was chomping at the bit to get out and ride.

There were some great little farm tracks on the way to the bottom of the fell, and I got my first opportunity to roost through a big cowpat – my son was not impressed – but now I have sown the seed, I know it is only a matter of time before he gets me back. Best keep my goggles handy at all times.

Honda CRF300 Rally previous updates:


Update eight: Top 5 Mods to the Honda CRF300 Rally

Published: 28.01.2022

Top mods on the Honda CRF300 Rally

In the past eight months since taking delivery of the Honda CRF300 Rally, I have been slowly making my mark on it.

Honda have done a great job of updating the hugely popular Honda CRF250 L/Rally models that have been around since 2012, and every owner I’ve spoken to who has had a 250 version speaks very fondly of their time with the bike.

More long-term tests

That said, they are equally as keen find out about the new 300 – with a lot of the bolt-on goodies from the 250 unable fit the enlarged machine. Here are five of the best I have tried.

1. Suspension upgrade

This is the single most important mod I have made so far – or, more accurately, that K-tech  have made. The rear has been replaced with a Razor R Light shock (£456.49) and the forks have been uprated with an SSK piston kit (£180.19) and HPFS fork springs (£63 plus around £90 for labour).

These changes have made the bike a joy to ride both on and off the road and eradicated any bad traits the bike has on its standard suspension.

Shock on Honda CRF300

2. Satnav and mount

I’m not one to shy away from using a good old map, in fact I thoroughly enjoy poring over one. But when in a rush on a wet and windy day, the satnav wins hands-down. I had a new Garmin Zumo XT(£429.99) to fit on the CRF, and the Rally has the perfect spot just above the dash.

After some research I found SW Motech make a very neat handlebar clamp (£25.96) with a 1in ball that fits onto the screen subframe, one of those satisfying five-minute jobs that pays off.

Sat nav mounted

3. Handlebar risers

This is one of those simple designs that just makes me think, why were these not around years ago? The SW Motech bar risers (these were for 22mm bars and raised by 30mm, £42.95) are available for both 22mm and 28mm bars and range from 15mm-50mm in height.

The 30mm units are just high enough for me – plus, if you go any higher you’ll need to fit longer control cables to cope, meaning additional expense and time.

Handle bar risers

4. Exhaust system

I do like a bike that sounds nice, so the standard system had to go! Yoshimura offer a full stainless RS-4 which is made in the USA (£714 from www.performanceparts-ltd.com).

The Yoshi system is straightforward enough to fit, just take the time to read through the very helpful instructions on their website. Make sure you clean all greasy prints off the silencer with brake cleaner before firing up, this will stop any marks becoming permanent.

Shiny new Yoshi

5. Rugged new handguards

A broken clutch or brake lever is a real bind, broken bones in your hand are even worse – that’s why I fit handguards to off-road bikes. The CRF’s standard plastic guards are more for decoration as they would not prevent any damage occurring.

Acerbis X-Factory Handguards (£89.99), on the other hand, are pretty robust. Fitting them is easy enough, the hard bit is getting the old Honda ones off, the fixings inside the bars need to be drawn out, a makeshift slide hammer and some lubrication does the job. Now you’re properly ready to tackle the dirt!

Handguards on the Honda CRF300

Honda CRF300 Rally previous updates:


Update seven: Honda CRF Rally gets the Yoshimura treatment

Published: 06.01.2022

Honda CRF300 Rally Yoshimura exhaust

I have always loved the sound of a big single, especially on older bikes which suffered fewer restrictions. The Honda CRF300 Rally may not be the biggest single in the world, but with its standard exhaust I could vaguely hear its potential when I gave the throttle a blip.

I really wanted to hear this bike properly, and finally the time had come after months of waiting. Due to Covid-19, the delivery time on aftermarket parts has kept getting longer and longer, but the wait is over.

At last, a knock at the door from a delivery guy, ‘sign here’, he had an exhaust pipe sized box with my name on, was this it?

I wasn’t disappointed, the Yoshimura stainless RS-4 Slip-on (£598) I’d ordered a couple of months ago (performanceparts-ltd.com) was now in my hands. Time to get the spanners out.

Unboxed and ready to fit

Well almost, better have a read through the destructions first. Yoshimura put the instructions online and they are simple enough to follow, and usefully point out to clean the exhaust with rubbing alcohol to remove any storage oil or fingerprints. This is a great tip, as any marks when the bike is started will become seared into the finish.

Once I’d got the plastics off, I could see this was going to be a straightforward task. A set of Allen keys, a flat-head screwdriver and 10-12-14mm spanners are all that’s needed. With the stock pipe off I could gain access to the gasket that goes between the front and rear section. I’ve never managed to get one of these off in one piece – and today was no exception. Luckily the Yoshimura pipe goes straight on without a gasket.

More long-term tests

From getting the Yoshi out of the box, to fitting it onto the bike I’ve been very impressed with the quality and fit, but above all how much lighter it is. The stock pipe weighed in at 5.4kg compared to the Yoshi at 3.1kg.

Looking down the can

Now for the acid test. Pipe cleaned and panels back, it was time to hit the start button. Wow, that’s more like it! A crisp deep note without being offensive, and it looks fantastic. I am happy with that.

My impression on the first ride is that the bike feels quicker, more responsive. I know that just changing the tail pipe won’t up the power by much, if at all.

But because it sounds so good, it makes me more throttle-happy, giving me the impression that it is quicker. It has improved my riding pleasure if nothing else.


Update Six: Honda CRF300 Rally explores the TET

Published: 30-10-2021

Old meets new on the TET

I don’t know how it does it, but every year, there is one month that always comes up trumps, and this year was no exception, I am talking about September, it manages to show up August every time.

I was up in County Durham for the weekend to go and discover some of the Trans Euro Trails (transeurotrail.org) that comprises some 31,700 miles of mapped trails running from the top of Africa up to the Arctic circle and all of this has been put together by the TET adventure motorcycle community.

In the UK, the TET routes are densely concentrated in the south of England including the west country, which then picks it way up along the left side of Wales then heads north reaching as far as Lindisfarne in the far North East.

I had planned to pick up part of the trail just outside of the stunning village of Blanchland on the Northumberland and County Durham boarders, with the intent of heading up into Northumberland where there is quite a concentration of trails through the North Pennines.

I had brought along my mate Gary on his 49-year-old (yes, 49) Honda XL250 Motorsport which was Honda’s ground-breaking off-roader back in 1972, the first off-road four-stroke, four valve 250 which set the bar for the time.

Gary on his Honda XL250

I have a real soft spot for the Supersport as my dad had one in the mid-seventies which he used to commute on back and forth to London, I remember going on the back and loving it. I finally got to ride one for myself in the Lake District when I was 14, I was completely blown away by how good the bike was, it is still on my ‘to own’ list.

Anyway, where was I? Ahh yes, heading out of Blanchland up into the surrounding hills, we approached the Ladycross quarry, where we stopped to take some pictures looking back across to the Derwent Reservoir. The view really hits you and you realise you’re riding through some amazing countryside, what could be better!

The trails were surprisingly dry for the time of year, with just the occasional boggy bit, my Dunlop D606 tyre were more than happy on either surface and always offering up plenty of grip.

Out on the tops I could see for miles, as I hustled the CRF300 Rally along I finally go to appreciate how good this bike really is off-road. Now that K-tech have sorted the suspension for me the bike could soak up the lumps and bumps without bottoming out all the time. When I glanced in my mirror just to see where Gary had got to, he was right up with me, there might be 49 years between them, but it was only a matter of feet behind when we were out on the trails.

A quick comfort stop behind one of the many dry stone walls and a chance to take in the view, I gave Gary the chance to lead the way. The old 250 Motorsport was more than happy taking the lead. It was good to see how the older bike coped with the terrain, this is when I noticed the back end was a bit of a pogo stick.

More long-term tests

At the next stop to go through one of the may gates on the trail, I had a sit on Gary’s Motorsport for a bounce up and down, as I suspected there was very little damping, definitely one for the to do list, some new shocks would transform this bike, I think Gary had just ridden for such a long time he hadn’t noticed the deterioration of the damping.

There may be 49 years between them and an ocean of technology separating them, but out on the trail the old Motorsport still holds its own, remarkable really! That said – I know which bike I’d rather be riding, and that’s the new Rally.

Gary Smith Honda 250 Motorsport

As I live in the flatlands of Lincolnshire, I leapt at the opportunity to spend a couple of days on some North Pennine trails with the XL – a project bike I bought on eBay as a non-runner. After a bit of fettling, it now (mostly) starts first kick, with that throaty bop bop bop soundtrack from its 4-valve single. I actually fell in love with the looks of the ’72 Motorsport long before I knew much about them, with that silver paintwork and cool dual sport design. It’s certainly proven to be very capable too – I tend to run out of talent long before it does!


Update five: Honda CRF300 Rally takes on a bit of moist motorway service

Published: 14.10.2021

If I’m going on a trip of any distance, especially on motorways, I naturally opt for a bigger bike with a bit of wind and weather protection.

Being heavier, bigger bikes offer a bit more stability, too. However, one of these very trips turned up at short notice and I had no option but to press the Honda CRF300 Rally into service.

More long-term tests

I would have cancelled if I could, because after the glorious weather we have been treated to recently, the day I was heading out had a horrendous forecast! Heavy rain all day was set to be followed by more heavy rain with thunder and lightning. Fantastic. Ahh well, nothing for it. Tog up and go.

The route was down the A1, onto the A14 then down the M11 and I can honestly say there were some points on the journey where the rain and spray were so bad, I couldn’t have told you which one of those roads I was actually on.

Honda CRF takes to the motorway

Even though the CRF300 would not have been my first choice of bike for this run, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it performed. Not only will this little big bike keep up with motorway traffic, doing 75mph at 8000rpm, but it will still return 83.3mpg whilst doing it!

The noise of the rain clattering down on my visor was a constant reminder of how bad the weather was, with the occasional one-second interval as I passed under a bridge.

In rain like this it became very apparent how well the CRF300 has been designed. The screen, small but perfectly formed, did a great job of reducing wind pressure and keeping some of the rain from trying to penetrate my waterproof gear.

At the same time the slightly bulbus tank cowlings do a surprisingly good job of re-directing wind and rain around my legs, too. You still get wet, but it’s not as bad as it could have been.

More long-term tests

Since I first got the CRF back in June I have made a few alterations, the main ones being uprating the suspension with the help of K-tech, and switching to Dunlop K606 tyres.

Originally the CRF would feel unstable when crossing white lines between lanes, but the combination of new tyres and firmer suspension has almost eradicated this, making faster riding on bigger roads a much more enjoyable experience.

With their aggressive knobbly pattern, the Dunlops look like masters of the mud, but I didn’t expect them to be much good on wet roads. I have mainly ridden in the dry so far, but in the wet I was surprised how much grip they had and how much confidence they gave me after a few bends.


Honda CRF300 Rally previous updates:


Update four: Honda CRF300 Rally has suspension fully updated at K-tech

Published: 19.08.2021

K-tech upgrades for the Honda CRF300 Rally

Right from the very first ride on the Honda CRF300 Rally I felt it suffered with its suspension… Before we go any further, I will also be the first to put my hand up and say I am not the lightest person in the world at 95kg.

I did take the CRF for a bit of a blast round a mate’s field which features a cheeky little jump in the middle. I wasn’t even going very fast, but managed to get both wheels off the ground, this was fine, it was the landing that was the problem and I managed to completely bottom out both front and rear suspension. Definitely time to see what mods are out there.

Since I have had the CRF I have found there is very little in the way of aftermarket products available, partly due to the late arrival of bikes in this country and others, allowing little time for companies to design and manufacture their products. Covid will have played a part too.

In my first report on the CRF300 Rally, MCN reader Gordon Blackley (who owns the little brother Honda CRF250) said he had improved his suspension with the help of K-tech (www.ktechsuspension.com) .

When I contacted the company, they had just taken delivery of a new Honda CRF300 L and were busy working out what was needed to make the suspension work better. After a couple of weeks, I popped up to K-tech headquarters to see for myself what they had achieved on their test mule.

Their CRF300L obviously looks a bit leaner than my Rally, but the basic bike underneath is the same. It was only when I climbed on the K-tech bike, and I do mean climbed on as the seat height is 885mm, that I could straight away feel the difference without even going anywhere. When I took my weight off my feet, the bike only settled down a little. But the key difference was it went down the evenly front to back, as opposed the rear feeling like it had fallen down a crater.

The plan was for me to take K-tech’s CRF300L for a spin round the local Derbyshire countryside and see how I got on with the suspension set up. My initial impression was ‘boy this is firm’ and it felt like I was riding a very flashy supermoto. The first thing I came too was a roundabout and the bike felt positive and well balanced, I spent the rest of the ride searching for bumpy undulating roads which were easily soaked up by the new suspension.

Suspension loving from KTech

I arrived back beaming. I needed this setup on my bike, so K-tech set about doing the same to my Rally – fitting a Razor R light shock (£456.49). This is available in four different specifications depending on the rider’s weight from any K-tech dealer or from their store site.

More long-term tests

The fork internals were replaced with K-tech’s SSK piston kit and uprated fork spring, again selected to suit the rider’s weight. If you wanted to do the same, you just need to drop your forks out and take them along to a K-tech dealer and they can install everything for you.

The SSK piston kit is £180.19 and the HPFS fork springs are £63. This does not include the charge of around £90 for labour (this is a must as a K-tech approved installer has the tools and training needed to fit the piston kit) .

All done and finished it was time to go. OMG, this can’t be the same bike! The ride back was so different to the ride there. I am really looking forward to going out and having some proper fun now that the Rally’s potential has been unlocked.


Honda CRF300 Rally previous updates:


Update three: Honda CRF300 Rally loses its wheels in search of more capable off-road rubber

Published: 15.07.2021

The small but tall Honda CRF300 Rally is starting to settle in nicely, I have got a few miles under my belt, and I am feeling the bike is becoming part of me, and no – not because it has a narrow saddle, which in fact is very comfortable, even on a long run!

My first change to the CRF is the tyres, I can’t say I was particularly keen on the stock IRC Trails GP tyres. They didn’t fill me with confidence, either on road or off, this was probably not helped by the very soft suspension, so feel is not particularly consistent.

I had done a bit of tyre research for the CRF, and came up with a tyre I have not used before, the Dunlop D606. As I am planning more off-road excursions than road, I felt they were one of the best choices in the adventure trail range, with a 90% trail bias over road.

Knobbly treaded tyres

With a well-spaced and very chunky block tread pattern for all types of off-road riding, not only are their credentials good, they look the mutts nuts, and they’re are not even on the bike yet.

I had arranged to supply the tyre fitter with loose wheels, so all I had to do was whiz the wheels out, easy peasy! Or so I thought. There was one oversight on my behalf, all the motorcycle stands I own are for road bikes with cotton reels fitted. Even the front-end fork stands were no good, as the front wheel is 21”, they didn’t even come close to giving me the clearance I needed. So there was only one thing for it, get the box and blocks out!

More long-term tests

The CRF Rally has a very flat plastic sump guard that would offer very little protection against rocks and stones but is an ideal base to rest the bike on while I removed the wheels. The bike is pretty evenly balanced, so it doesn’t try to tip itself off.

While I was getting the tyres changed, I took the opportunity to fit a tyre stop to the rear wheel, as the rims come predrilled, but don’t have them fitted. Tyre pressures checked and the wheels reinstalled, which by the way are very easy to remove and refit, the only thing I had difficulty with was the front wheel spindle, which needed a 14mm Allen key to undo it, so I bought a 14mm drain plug key, which can now live in the tool kit should I get a puncture and need to remove the wheel. Right all done, we are ready to hit the dirt! Well almost, just the suspension to sort out now.

Honda CRF300 Rally previous updates:


Update two: Stepping back in time with the Honda CRF300 Rally

Published: 11.06.2021

From the moment I got on the new Honda CRF300 Rally I was transported back to my youth, albeit now with a digital dash, fuel injection, water cooling, disc brakes and monoshock suspension. The riding sensation is similar to the old Honda XL250 I had at 17, but very quickly I could feel this was a much more refined package.

The first thing to catch my eye as I rode along getting the feel for everything was a white button to the right of the LCD dash for ‘ABS off road’ – nice and simple. There’s no scrolling through endless menus and the system deactivates it at the rear on rough terrain.

Digi display on the Honda CRF300 Rally

It was not long into the ride along an undulating country lane, that I also discovered the rear shock felt like it would have been more at home on a motocross bike and the moment I got home, it was bike gear off and tools out.

It’s not an easy task to adjust the unit without removing it from the bike, though. That said, it is possible with the machine lifted off the ground and the rear wheel hanging down and I could tap the shock’s top ring round anti-clockwise using a long punch/drift. This allowed me to tap the bottom ring round 2½ turns to pre-load the spring before spinning down the top ring to lock it in place.

More long-term tests

This did make a difference, but not as much as I would have liked, so I think I am going to look into a replacement item to soak up the bumps. I have also lined up a pair of Dunlop D606 tyres to go on, which are a bit more aggressive than the standard ones that come with bike. The OE hoops have a habit of giving the back end a little wiggle when passing over white lines.

I have a few trips planned for the CRF, so in anticipation I have fitted a Garmin Zumo XT. I like to do things properly, so I ordered an auxiliary 12v power connector, as the Honda CRF300 Rally comes with a connector built into the loom inside the front left-hand panel.

I then soldered the power Garmin power lead onto the terminals. This means I can simply plug in my lead to power the sat nav, which is switched on and off with the ignition – meaning there’s no chance of leaving the satnav on and flattening the CRF’s battery.

For the mount itself I used the SW-Motech 1″ Ball Kit handlebar clamp which fits bars from 22-28mm (£25.66). On the CRF Rally there is a frame that the screen and instrument panel are mounted to, with the perfect place for the ball mount and Garmin to go with a perfect view of the screen, spot on! Now we need to get out there and enjoy some freedom.


Update one: Light and nimble, the Honda CRF300 Rally has fun written all over it

Published: 11.05.2021

Honda CRF300 Rally

I’m looking forward to having some mini adventures on the new Honda CRF300 Rally. Light and nimble – it has fun written all over it. Going from 250 to 300cc the 2021 model a little more power and torque, it’s time to head for the hills.

The rider Simon Relph, Senior Designer, 56, 6ft 1in. Daily rider, 47 years of experience, owns 30 bikes. Simon.relph@motorcyclenews.com

Bike specs 286cc | 27bhp | 153kg | 885mm seat height

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Simon Relph

By Simon Relph

MCN Senior Designer - loves bikes old and new, from building them to riding them on and off road