2013 CRF250L: After First Service Impressions

CRF250L first serviceI took Clyde (my CRF250L) in for his first service after break-in yesterday afternoon. He and I had a little over 1000 km’s of fun on the clock, so it was time to have him checked over: nuts and bolts, brakes, clutch, oil and filter change, chain service, and valve adjustment.

My previous article, CRF250L Owner’s First Impressions details my thoughts at the 600 km mark. Since then, Clyde and I have had great fun together, but I developed two concerns that I raised with the service manager yesterday. They were…

UPDATE: For additional review notes on the CRF250L, written since this post, read my post detailing…
How the CRF250L has performed after 4500 km’s of riding

CRF250L high-speed handling and engine chatter

  1. Now and then the bike feels like it wants to squirm around beneath me at speeds above 80 kph. It’s not unsafe or anything. I can handle it fine. It just feels a bit top-heavy and super-sensitive to changes in the road surface. I realize that since this is my first dual sport bike, I might just be unaccustomed to the feel of riding a motorcycle with such narrow and knobby tires, and a 21″ front wheel. Still, I wanted to see what Honda felt about this.
  2. Since new, I have noticed a chattering noise. It is always audible when cruising along in certain gear and speed ranges, i.e. 3rd gear at 50 kph, or 4th gear at 60-65 kph. It sounded like valve chatter to me. It disappears if I roll the throttle off or on. It is not apparent when revving the engine in neutral. It is also not evident when lugging the engine. I don’t know what this bike is supposed to sound like. The chatter could be a normal engine sound for the CRF250L. But as with the high speed handling concern, I just wanted to ensure that Honda checks it out.

Honda’s response to high-speed handling issues and engine chatter on the CRF250L

So Clyde spent the night at the Honda Powerhouse dealer here in town. They wanted to ensure they could work on the valves when they were cold.

This morning, Adam the Honda service manager, called to say that Clyde was ready to ride. Awesome! My Wife was out with our other vehicle so I decided to walk. I took a shortcut across the railway tracks. When I walked into the Honda service entrance, a customer eyed me and said, “it looks like a load of burrs have followed you in.” I thought he said “a load of birds,” and so I immediately ducked and looked around. Then of course I saw the thick bunches of burrs, not birds, clinging to the cloth bag that held my helmet and gloves. It seems I had collected them in my hike across the tracks.

But I digress. Here is what Honda said about my concerns:

  • No abnormal noises from the motor.
  • Because the CRF250L puts out a lot of power for a little power plant, it will make more noise when under load.
  • High-speed stability issues are normal for a dual sport of this type.
  • The large 21″ front tire with no balancing, and the soft suspension for off-road riding, make this bike unstable over 75 kph.

My thoughts regarding Honda’s conclusions on the CRF250L issues

Though I think their remark that the bike is unstable by design over 75 kph, is an overstatement, I see what they mean by that. They are saying that it can seem unstable at speed compared to a standard, or a sport bike. I get that, and I agree with them. The mechanic test rode Clyde for about 20 minutes, before and after the service. I am satisfied now that nothing amiss is causing the handling characteristics that I notice. That’s all I needed to know.

And by the way, Clyde’s New Wind Screen smooths out those high-speed instabilities by quite a degree. I highly recommend the windshield if you ride highways a lot. The mechanic’s test ride was done without the wind screen.

As for those engine noises, I am comfortable with their assurance that it is normal engine noise for this motorcycle. It is way too easy to become paranoid about sounds, so I won’t sweat it anymore. They have ridden enough CRF250L’s to know what they typically sound like. I’ll trust their conclusion. Plus I have it in writing from them, so I’ll put my overly sensitive ear to rest and continue to enjoy riding Clyde. That said, I did notice a reduction in the chatter after the valves were adjusted.

So it is all good. My concerns were respected and answered, the bike has had its first service after the break-in period, and even though I brought Clyde to them all muddy from a ride into the hills, I got him back all cleaned up and ready for more fun. Bonus! The people at Honda Powerhouse have given Clyde and I excellent service thus far.

Have you had any concerns with your CRF250L? How have you resolved them?

Over to you now…

10 thoughts on “2013 CRF250L: After First Service Impressions

  1. James aka slolane

    Great site, thanks for sharing. I’m subscribed and looking forward to additional posts.

    1. J. R. Post author

      Thanks James. More posts should be coming soon. Even sooner if it would quit raining :-).

      Cheers!

  2. PadrePoint

    I purchased a CRF 250L a couple weeks ago and am waiting for snow to disappear (4 inches today). It’s my first motorcycle since having a couple of very small ones during my early 20’s (I’m 59). I based the purchase on my son’s recent choice of a CRF 250L for HIS first motorcycle (he’s an effective researcher) and lots of positive reviews that I found on my own. My “test ride” was four blocks… it was all I needed to think this would be a good, enjoyable purchase.
    I found the idea quite appealing of having a “fast enough” cycle that could also go off-road. I don’t have a need to be on a freeway (or over 60 mph for that matter) or an interest in long road trips on a cycle (I have my car for that and I typically drive more than 50K miles/year.) I’m looking at getting a trailer for my car that could let me get closer to places that would be interesting to ride… and still have air conditioning for the long hauls.
    I’m having a great time getting in some initial miles… between snowstorms. My ride home from the dealer was on Good Friday, the one day we’ve had with temps above 45 degrees and sunshine… it was a great 100 mile trip through Wisconsin backroads… I even found myself doing some gravel miles through a worksite I didn’t know about… it added to the day’s fun.
    I stumbled into your blog and am enjoying the read. Thought I’d give a comment.
    My son is exceeding my miles so far… but, maybe I will start catching up, if white ever ceases to be the primary ground color (he lives 150 miles south of me and has a riding “advantage”.)
    Ted

    1. J. R. Post author

      Hey PadrePoint,

      We have a lot in common. I am still waiting for spring to officially kick winter in the ass, and I am also a resurrected rider from decades past. You are 59, and I am 62. My past bike experience was with slightly larger displacement bikes than the CRF250L, but they were 2 strokes. And heck, it was so long ago. I have to relearn everything again. But that’s cool though. I am enjoying the process. I imagine you are also.

      I love the account of your first ride on the CRF250L. Taking it away from the dealer on Good Friday for a 100 mile ride home through back roads, on one of the rare days you had descent temps — is awesome. I can only imagine how that must have felt.

      Never fear Padre — spring is here… sort of… almost…?

      🙂
      Cheers

  3. George

    I have noticed the same chatter or rattling, and suspect it is normal engine noise.
    Not really annoying, but it caused me some concern. Hey, it is under warranty, if its going to blow up, should know within a year. Just ride it.
    I also noticed the tires are very sensitive to pressure. I find the bike handle very well at 22 PSI both front and rear. I tried running higher pressure (28) and the bike got “busy” or twitchy, always seeming to hunt on the road, low speed work on asphalt was especially unsettled. The IRC knobbies have a high pressure noted on the sidewalls, but the sticker on the rear fender of the bike recommend the lower pressure.
    It is an easy experiment to convince yourself of the difference.
    Enjoy.

    1. J. R. Post author

      Hi George,

      Yeah, I figure the noise is something minor. I saw a reference on a CBR250 forum regarding the same noise. A member suggested that it may be caused by the cam chain tension mechanism. Sounds plausible to me.

      The recommended tire pressures of 22PSI is best, I agree. The odd thing, or maybe not so odd, is that the handling changed quite a bit after the tires got some good wear on them. Maybe just a timing coincidence, but the squirmy feeling at speed is completely gone. A mystery perhaps, but I am glad the handling is as it should be now. It may also have been influenced by the rear wheel alignment. Just prior to the first service I noticed the wheel was not aligned to the marks equally on both sides (by a fair bit). Now they match perfectly.

      I’m loving the bike. It is so awesome being able to carry on when the pavement ends.

      Cheers

  4. Adam

    I’ve been riding a KLR650 for a few years now, mostly on-road. The bike has a similar problem with squirming around at speed which is exacerbated by wind. On really windy days you can get blown out of your lane if you aren’t expecting it! This is partially caused by the front fender being so large and catching the wind. You can replace it with a smaller supermoto fender…Acerbis makes some generic ones although I modified a KTM one for my bike.

    1. J. R. Post author

      Hey Adam,

      I have watched the front fender on the CRF250L catch the air at high speed. It flaps away madly at times. Replacing it with a more streamlined fender makes sense. Switching from the Honda red to white would also be more appealing visually IMO. Thanks for the lead on the Acerbis fenders.

  5. Bernhard

    Have now done around 1100km on this bike. I notice the same unsettling rattling noise in the engine. I fitted a tach/hour meter and this occurs between around 4500 and 6500rpm under certain conditions, i.e. coming off the throttle or constant speed. Never under full throttle or under brisk acceleration. After its 1000km service it seems more pronounced than before it. Honda and its dealerships may say its normal, but to me it sounds not normal and my confidence in a long engine life has dwindled. That engine noise is being caused by something, either valve train or cam chain. If they maintain its normal, then I suggest they attend to it and have a look at their design to determine how to rectify it. I use this bike mostly for commuting and my expectation is a lifespan of 50000km plus. With this noise I wonder if it will last 10000km. Time will tell. Anyone tried thicker engine oil to see if the noise profile changes?

    1. ScootToots Post author

      Hi Bernhard,

      Honda have a design issue with their “Cam Chain Lifter Assembly.” There is too much play in the rod from new, and that play can lead to further problems. My issue with the same noise you experience lead to a heavy clunking sound that showed up at idle after a mile or less of riding from a cold start. I made a video demonstrating the noise, then emailed the video to my Honda dealer. They told me to bring it in right away, plus they sent the video to Honda head office tech and spoke with them at length.

      The upshot is: they found the cam chain lifter assembly had failed. The lead tech felt that Honda could and should redesign the unit. They installed a new lifter assembly and the bike sounds better than new now, though there is some minor rattle at times on trailing throttle. The design of the unit causes that rattle, and though they at first said it was normal for the bike, clearly my experience and their warranty repair, indicate that it can lead to further problems. Here is a parts view of the tensioner: Cam Chain Tensioner Part number 4 is the lifter assembly.

      Here is a link to the video I made: CRF250L Engine Trouble. I updated the video to show the solution. I also made a video to follow up on the subject: CRF250L Engine Trouble Fixed, plus 1 more Maybe have your dealer watch that first video. It will show them where that rattle can lead. In the meantime, I hope Honda takes the suggestion of the local lead tech here, to redesign the unit. He spoke at length with them about that.

      Regarding oil. Don’t use a heavier weight oil to try and mask the issue. Stick to the recommended oil. That said, since the issue was corrected in my bike, I have switched to Rotella T6 5W-40 full synthetic. I ride all winter when the roads allow, and living in Canada, that makes for some cold starts. I find the Rotella lubes better in the cold and even though it is a tad heavier at operating temps, being synthetic, it flows easier than mineral based oil. Plus, in the summer, we get some extreme heat. I like the oil so far.

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