Honda CRF250L Review at 4500 KM’s

CRF250L review at 4500 KM'sI now have over 4500 KM’s on my CRF250L. This is the third in an ongoing commentary on the little red Honda 250L.

I don’t have a ton of experience with dual sport motorcycles, so I’m just sayin’ straight up from a learner’s perspective, how this little dirt and city/highway commuter has performed for me. Maybe you’ll relate to this. Maybe not.

Riding this bike has been a barrel of fun for me. I live in British Columbia, Canada, in a city of about 120,000 people. The population doubles in the summer with tourist traffic; the price of beauty! I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else though. It’s the perfect place to ride a motorcycle, and the CRF250L is an ideal bike in an area like this. We have high grassy areas overlooking deep blue lakes, lush forests and mountains, and bare bones desert areas. Cutting through all of this are thousands of trails and FSR’s deep into the wilderness.

Some review notes on the CRF250L after several months of riding:

  • Odometer reading: 4560 KM’s
  • Modifications: None. The bike is completely stock except for the windscreen, rack, and tail bag.
  • Tire wear: 30% -40% worn. That’s just a guess. Wear is even. Tires are still nicely rounded
  • MPG: Accurately tested on several day trips combining city, fast paved highway, and Forest Service Roads (FSR’s). The average is 85-90 MPG (imperial)
  • Maintenance done: First service was by the Honda dealer after break in period. It included oil change, valve clearance check and adjustment, chain lube and adjust, etc. Since then I have cleaned and lubed the chain a few times. The chain has not required any adjustment since first service. I’ve lubed the cables and adjusted the throttle and clutch free-play. The air cleaner is still good. I emptied the crankcase breather tube. I have not needed to add engine oil, coolant, or brake fluid
  • Paved/dirt riding percentages: 60% paved city and highway roads, and 40% FSR’s with some hard (for me) trails thrown in for a good challenge
  • Surfaces encountered: Smooth fast asphalt, potholed asphalt, gravel strewn asphalt, hard packed dirt, loose gravel, sand, surface mud over hard packed dirt, deep mud, extremely rocky terrain combining deep gullies with fixed rock outcroppings and large rocks in deep loose gravel
  • Gradient: The province I ride in is mountainous. Level roads are rare. We have 20 mile long steady inclines, tight steep switchbacks (hairpins), and roads that undulate and curve over and around the powerful geography
  • Gearing, revs, and speed: My fastest speed on a level road has been 129 KPH (80 MPH) in 6th gear. Hard to factor in wind resistance but that seems pretty reasonable (with windscreen installed). The fastest I’ve taken it in 5th gear has been 110 KPH (68 MPH) with more left in reserve. I can easily take it past 80 KPH (50 MPH) in 4rth gear when the situation demands. First gear is the shortest. 2nd to 6th have quite the range
  • Problems or performance issues: None
  • Handling Characteristics: Highway handling has greatly improved after the tires were worn in a bit. In a previous review I was concerned about the handling of this bike at high speed. I am now satisfied those problems were caused by the stock IRC tires when new. Highway handling is excellent now. City handling is super-nimble, and dirt handling is awesome for a dual sport bike
  • Engine noise: The chatter (a clicking or clacking sound at certain revs) that I noticed from the get-go has lessened. It’s still audible, but it is less of a concern. The more I push the bike to higher revs, the less I notice that noise at all revs and loads

Considering the local terrain and the type of riding I enjoy, you can see why I chose the Honda CRF250L when I decided to get back into motorcycling. I can do pretty-well anything I want with this bike. It is real nice to ride around town, though a bit more power would be better for accelerating from stop lights. 1rst gear is so short, you often have to shift to 2nd before you’ve cleared the intersection. That said, I can accelerate as quick as most cars, so no worries, but a bit more power and a taller 1rst gear would offer more options in traffic.

On steep dirt trails, you get used to the shift points, but there again, 1rst gear winds out too quickly IMO, and I often find 2nd a bit too tall when entering it on a steep uphill. Still, it is manageable by using the gears wisely. I can understand though, why many riders are switching the front and rear sprockets out to obtain higher gear ratios.

So after many months of varied riding on all sorts of terrain and surfaces, I am very happy with this little red 250cc Honda CRF250L. It is a pleasure to ride. The more I push it, the better it performs. You gotta love that. And you have to love the 90 MPG fuel economy. All is good then. Down the line I may look into changing the sprockets out, but for now, the stock bike is performing well enough for my needs.

Please ad your thoughts and experiences on the CRF250L in the comments below. If I have missed covering something, please let me know and I’ll respond with info.

Over to you now…

22 thoughts on “Honda CRF250L Review at 4500 KM’s

  1. Keith

    I have about the same mileage on my bike. The only issue I have is the performance of the knobby tires on the street. Given a more asphalt oriented tire, this bike would be a hoot on a twisty low speed paved back-road. Still, I originally bought the bike to ride the dirt roads/FSR roads in the same areas as you know.

    The stock tires are very “dirt” orientated. It’s always going to be a compromise when you consider a dual sport.

    So I am seriously considering a different type of tire when the time comes for a new set. Specifically the Shinko 705 Dual Sport Tire:

    This will still enable me to ride FSR and gravel roads and give a far superior performance on the asphalt.
    But it might/will eliminate rougher trails, mud and sand. It’s always a compromise.

    1. J. R. Post author

      Hey Keith,

      Those stock IRC tires were a real problem for me on pavement until they were well worn. The new nobs (nothing like a new nob eh?) caused some pretty squirrely riding experiences at speed on asphalt. Once they were worn down 20% they steadily improved. Right now, Clyde is a nice ride on the highway. Huge difference.

      I’ve heard from others on those Shinko 705’s. They look like they will perform real well on pavement, while providing satisfactory performance on FSR’s. The thing is though: you’d be reluctant to venture further than good FSR’s. Being that you have two road bikes, maybe you can find a tire combo that is better than the IRC’s on pavement, that will provide even better traction off road. That would give you the most use from the CRF.

      I follow a Vlogger who goes by the name of, RideVictoria. He rides a Yamaha WR250R. He covers a lot of highway miles commuting to work everyday, and he also gets into a fair bit of serious trail riding. He switched from his stock tires to the Dunlop D606. They are a very aggressive off-road design.

      His impressions are that they grip extremely well in all sorts of off-road riding, and also perform well on pavement. He comments about the off road performance in his, Hot, Wet, and Steamy, on the Dual Sport WR250R Vlog, at the 2:45 mark. It’s a great rainy day, muddy, water crossing video to watch. I can’t recall which video he talks about the highway performance on the D606. I might message him regarding this before I choose new tires. I really don’t want give anything up off road. The IRC’s are probably not the best tire to judge the highway performance of other off road oriented tires. I think the IRC’s suck.


  2. Shawn

    i recently purchased a 2014 CRF250L my self have just about 150miles on it i was wondering what the break in period was i have heard between 500 and 1000 miles is there a recommended time or mileage??? thanks and i enjoyed reading your posts cant wait to read the next one

    1. ScootToots Post author

      Hi Shawn,

      The first service is at 600 miles; general once-over, oil and filter change, check the valves, cables, clutch, etc. Those first 600 miles are the major break in period. My personal theory on break in is: ride it under varied conditions and speeds. Put the bike through a full range of its heat and load cycles. Do some hard accelerations and de-accelerations to flare the piston rings out and seat them properly. Ride it hard and varied, but don’t take it to the rev limiter. Avoid long easy rides at constant speed during that time.

      That was also the advice I received from the Honda dealership where I purchased my bike. I was glad to hear that they were on the same page. The first service is a milestone in the break in, but your bike will still be breaking in after that period. By then though, you’ll have a feel for how it is responding to your riding, and you’ll develop a feel for how to proceed.

      I have been neglecting writing more posts. Too busy having fun on the bike I guess 🙂 Good luck with yours. I am sure you will enjoy it.


  3. Scott C

    Just bought a CRF250L and have about 70km on it. Seems like a great bike. I’ve been riding/wrenching on and off road for more than 40 years and this is, so far, the best dual sport bike I’ve ridden. The Shinko E705 is a great tire, I used them on my KLR650 and will put them on this bike when the time comes. Sold the KLR to buy this and no regrets so far. It was a great bike but a bit big for off road and tight city driving which is the bulk of my riding. People have commented on the suspension being soft but I have been riding with my wife on board and haven’t bottomed out on the trails yet, very smooth. I like the low first gear for tight maneuvering something very difficult on the taller geared KLR. We are in the Philippines and I am counting on Honda’s reliability. Could have bought a new XR200 that they still make here but tho it is dependable, it is a real dinosaur. What lube do you use on your chain? It does not seem to need much adjustment.

    And… the seat needs some help.

    Regards, Scott

    1. ScootToots Post author

      Hi Scott

      That’s interesting about the Shinko 705’s. Come spring I will need a rear tire. This stock tire has lasted now for over 10,000 km’s. The urge to try a different tire is there, but I have had good wear and traction with the stock IRC. That said, if I can find a tire that handles asphalt a bit better while retaining grip off road, that would be awesome. Those 705’s look like they’ll handle the asphalt real well; I just wonder what they are like if you run into a steep section of trail with either loose gravel/dirt or some mud. If you’re running 705’s would that be a turn around point in your experience?

      I was looking at the Shinko 700 as a good choice. Ever run them? Shinko doesn’t make them in 120/80-18 though. The closest is 130/80-18. Not sure of the fit yet on the 2.15 rims, or the advisability of that. I think the added width will still clear the chain, etc. It is slightly taller, but not by much. I switched to the 13 tooth countershaft sprocket, and may end up switching the rear to a 42. That will also impact whether a taller tire will work, as the wheel will be moved forward again when the larger sprocket is installed.

      You asked what chain lube I use. I was using the Honda HP Chain Lube as there is zero fling. I switched to Castrol Chainlube. It flings a bit (onto the brake disc of course) so I have to ensure I wipe it down after lubing, but it doesn’t seem to attract as much dust and dirt as the Honda. Less expensive also.

      You mentioned about the seat. A lot of people find it uncomfortable. It’s okay for me. Maybe I am less picky, as I used to ride a racing bicycle with a very firm saddle for 40 miles per day for many years. This is pretty cushy compared to that 😉 Like you, I find the suspension adequate. I’ve never bottomed it out. Downright comfortable on rough roads and it seems to handle the really rough tracks nicely. I suppose if I were to experience it with the race tech suspension upgrades, I would think differently, but that mod is over $1000. I think the only other change I’ll make is to install the EJK controller.


  4. Scott C

    Hi John,
    I would rate the Shinko 705 as 70/30 on road and off. I never attempted any serious trails with the KLR650 that was shod with them. They were great on the road, good on dirt roads and some wider trails and not good at all in mud. The Shinko 700 at around $60. looks like the right tread for true dual sport use but i do not think going to a bigger tire is going to bring anything to the table for the CRF. If the original tire with its fairly aggressive design does not present a spinning, lack of traction problem then going to a bigger tire is just going to mean more weight to move and more stress on the drive train, albeit minimal. If you like the IRC tire then maybe consider the IRC GP110 it comes in the stock 120/80-18 size, has good reviews but appears to be priced double the cost of the Shinko 700/705. The Shinko 705 is priced about the same as the 700 so the choice comes down to use. Both good tires, so for me, I can not justify spending twice as much. Just remember 120/80-18 is almost the same size tire that comes stock on the XR650L so maybe puts things in a better perspective. I had a 1974 OSSA 250 Phantom that I put bigger tires on and I broke spokes like toothpicks until I went back to near stock size. That was my lesson from way back on mods. Some are ok but usually have a price.
    As far as hill climbing, momentum is your friend, get a good start and be sure the engine is at its peak torque when you hit the hill, you want to keep shifting to a minimum and keep your weight as far forward as possible.
    I usually clean my chain and sprockets with Kerosine and a china brush then wipe it dry and apply gear oil. I have lots of spare time.
    I was surprised at the seats relative comfort. I would not call it plush by any stretch but compared to my 2010 XR200 which had a seat twice as thick (appeared to be) it is more comfortable. It is the only thing at this stage that I will make improvements to. Not sure how to approach it yet, but I do know I am not spending $350 for a nicely carved piece of foam and some vinyl. Still haven’t figured out the aftermarkets penchant for pricing things in the stratosphere relative to cost. What the market will bear I guess.


    1. ScootToots Post author

      Hi Scott,

      Thanks for sharing your experience with the Shinko 705’s. You’ve confirmed my thoughts that they would be unsuitable for the riding I do. The 700’s would have been good, but the lack of a 120/80-18 size rules that out after reading your thoughts on using a bigger than stock tire; all good points.

      Regarding that seat, I like a firmer saddle with straighter lines. You can move around on it easily, and your body language is not taken up and reduced by the cushioning. Small points maybe, but that’s how it feels to me. As for comfort on the butt, I have done a few 6 hour stints and lots of 4 hour rides on it. Just took some getting used to, as most things do. If you want a different seat for less dollars, you could always fabricate a custom seat with the proper foam and vinyl. It wouldn’t take much to modify the stock baseplate. The only part you’d need to farm out is the sewing maybe. Might be a fun project! Perfect for the winter.

      Well, the sun is shining, the leaves are turning color, and the temps have climbed to 9° C. Time to log off and go for ride in the hills. I just got my Drift HD Ghost replacement camera back from Drift, I’ll likely shoot some video while I’m at it 🙂


      1. nick

        Are you happy that you bought a wind screen for your bike? I can’t decide if I’m going to want one or not.

  5. Scott C

    Hi John,

    Good points on the seat, I will wait before making any changes. Here in the Philippines there are many upholstery shops and custom work can be done for minimal cost. The trick here is finding the proper materials.
    If I come across a suitable tire, I will let you know, in the meantime keep up the good work. I really enjoy reading your blog. Look forward to seeing the videos.


    1. nick

      You can buy a different seat and put it on your bike, that’s what I’m planning on doing because your correct, it’s not very comfy lol. it’s a reasonable price and you can sell the old one on ebay/craigslist.

  6. David

    hi Scott
    this is a fantastic blogg…its very informative and interesting to read your experiences with the CRF 250.I currently have a Kawasaki Versys 650. I live and work in Thailand and often go riding with friends on the weekends. However I’m beginning to get bored with just riding on the highways. I’d like to have the opportunity of exploring off road and getting to those places that are not easily accessible by road or highway. I’d also like to spend some time camping and riding down some of the forest trails in the national parks close to my home.
    This is impossible on the versys. The highways and roads over here are highly congested and really not a pleasure to ride on. Most tourist destinations that are accessible by car have too many people so it’s hard to find a quiet spot.

    So I’m going to change my strategy. Instead of traveling such long distances I’ll stick closer to home within a radius of 300 kilometers. I’ll concentrate on looking for tracks or places in national parks that are difficult to get to by car
    Just not sure how I will react to not having that large motorbike in my life! I noticed that one of your readers also had a 650 that he sold and seems very happy with his crf 250. That’s encouraging!

    Would like to read of your camping experiences and how you load up the bike……
    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’ll stay tuned for further updates. …

    Best wishes


    1. ScootToots Post author

      Hi David,

      Thanks for your comment. I want to do more writing for the blog. I’ve been so busy lately (mainly riding), but hopefully I can get down to some writing soon.

      I know what you mean about getting a bit bored just riding the pavement. Not enough sense of discovery in that, especially when you are passing by all those dirt routes. The 250L is much less suited to longer distance highway riding, but it sure makes up for that, once you take it on rough routes into the hills.

      A few minor modifications is all it takes on the CRF250L to overcome any perceived deficiencies. I initially swapped the countershaft sprocket to a 13 tooth. Big improvement. Tomorrow I will be swapping the rear sprocket to a 42 tooth. I should do a post on that subject soon (note to self). I’ll look forward to hearing further news from you.


      1. nick

        Yes definitely do a topic on that. I’m not sure if that is all you plan on doing, but for an extra 6 HP, you can add an exhaust system and one of those fuel chip things. For I think 16 HP, you change out the cylinder for a big bore they just started making for this, that would obviously make this bike a beast! If you do write one, and remember, email me the link. Thank you, enjoy the bike and be safe!

  7. nick

    I’m getting this bike in a month, as long as I can find someone within a 100 miles that has one :D! I’m so pumped I can’t wait, it’s my first dirtbike ever, haven’t rode one since I was like 10. I’ve done SOOO much research on this and it seems like an amazing bike, for an AMAZING deal. I have not read many negative comments, and EVERY one I have, has been about two things, the power at low gears, and the suspension. Nothing I can really do about the suspension, but I plan on riding mostly on streets, back roads, and trials, not really planning on hitting any jumps or anything extremely hardcore. If you would like a little bit more power as I do, I found a few kits that are said to increase it JUST enought. Most include a complete exhaust system with headers, a preprogrammed thing that increases fuel delivery, and a 13 tooth sprocket, instead of 14, for more power at lower gears. also if you want a BIG HP boost, I saw now they have a big bore cylinder that increases HP A LOT. All together you can increase it ti about 303cc, while also making the throttle smoother, more responsive, and an awesome roar from the exhaust! The guy got it up too 95MPH without even maxing it out completely! PUMPED :)!

    1. ScootToots Post author

      Hi Nick

      Thanks for your comments. I hope you find one soon. It’s a nice bike for sure. Great value and very dependable. Since writing this, I have installed a 13 tooth countershaft sprocket and a 42 tooth on the rear (Renthal sprockets). I also have an EJK Fuel Controller being shipped to me. Should have it in a few days. I am not at all interested in an aftermarket exhaust. The small power increase from that is not worth the added noise, which limits you on trails, and give us a poor rep with other trail users, IMO. The best performance bang for the buck are the sprockets and the controller.

      Re: the seat. That was Scott who said it needed some help. My impression is positive. For me it’s comfortable, and functional.

      Re: the windscreen. You asked if I am happy I purchased it. At first I was, because I was doing a lot more highway miles. The screen makes those miles much more comfortable. Right now I have removed it because I am mainly riding around town and in the hills on rough fire roads and rocky trails. So my opinion now is that I will only use it on longer highway trips.

      Here’s a link to my Google+ Page with videos and photos of rides. The videos were shot with my Drift HD Ghost cam, and so, some of the videos are tests for the camera; others are just rides and thoughts on things. The camera is very new to me, so I’ll get to shoot some more adventurous rides after the winter when I can get back into the hills. Good luck in getting your 250L 🙂


  8. Lee

    Hi. Great videos and great insight. I was wondering if you had any detailed pictures of your 2″ snorkel/air box modification you mention. I wouldn’t want to modify the side of the air box or switch out the exhaust. I would like to have a sleeper stealthy trail bike like yours. Thanks.

    1. ScootToots Post author

      Hi Lee,

      Thanks, the only photos I have of the airbox mod is on my Google+ Photos page. You’ll see two photos dated February 19, 2014. I should have taken shots of the process. I used 2″ I.D. flexible rubber elbow (from your local hardware store) that has flanges on the ends, so it fits into the airbox lid nice and tight. I cut the top side of the snorkel off at a 45° angle, leaving about 1/2″ up from the lid uncut to stop water migrating in. To cut the hole, I placed the rubber elbow over the original snorkel hole and squeezed it into a shape that fit the contour of the lid and marked the shape with a pencil. I use a fine tooth keyhole saw to cut well inside the pencil marking to create a tight fit. I’ll probably silicone seal it when the weather warms up.

      I shot a video about it as well: CRF250L AirBox Mods and EJK Settings. I’m quite happy with the mods I have done, and the resulting power increase. Like you, I wouldn’t want a louder exhaust. My final setting for the EJK after the airbox mod for the first three numbers will likely be Green-1.5, Yellow-2, Red-2.5. In the video I still have the red set to 3, but I think slightly leaner would be better, so I’ll change that next ride out.

      Cheers 🙂

  9. Bernhard

    Have done 2500km on mine (42 hours on the hour meter :-). The bike is factory stock.
    Your report pretty much sums up my experience. The rattling engine noise remains a concern as I believe that somehow Honda has some kind of valve gear/chain design that causes it and which could probably be redesigned to eliminate it. Only time will tell if it has negative effects.
    The bike is getting better in performance still and the engine noise seems to be less now, but it’s there and it remains a worry, but less so now than in the beginning. It only occurs between around 4000-6000RPM and only when coming off acceleration or on a level road steady speed cruise.
    The tyres are getting better in terms of grip. My front tyre has an irritating whine at speed on tarmac, which can be clearly heard when free wheeling with the clutch pulled in.
    Overall fuel consumption remains at around 3lt/100km (~95 mpg imperial) in town driving. I use it mostly as my commuter to work and back. 80km round trip per day.
    I lube my chain sparingly every 300-400km (once a week at least) or so and have been using Belray Blue Tac on recommendation from a bike shop, which is sticky enough not to throw too much, but is not as “clean” as some of the other wax type lubricants. I’ll try something else once the BlueTac is finished.
    I have also decided to do regular oil changes every 4000km which should prevent any potential premature wear. Will probably use Shell Advance Ultra as the other high end synthetics are not available here. The alternative would be Helix Ultra, but am not too sure if that may negatively affect clutch grip.
    Coming from a XL185S from many years ago, I can say that the gear ratios on that one’s 5 speed box were somehow better gapped and had a longer final drive, something I prefer. I fitted a TTO Tach/hour meter and when I see 7000+RPM at around 120km/hr in 6th, then I wish I could drop that by another 1000 or so RPM.
    The bikes power has improved as said, and I will see when it comes to sprocket replacement time which smaller back sprocket I can fit to drop the RPM.
    The bike has been getting better and better over time and I have the impression that even at 2500km its still not completely “loose”.
    The saddle took some getting used to. It’s hard. I have now found a comfy seating position that is acceptable, but not ideal.
    Had a powder coated carrier hand made based on what’s out there (cost me the equivalent of ~50USD) and then fitted a removable top box which now takes my backpack and rain gear to work and back. That improved things as well as far as seating is concerned. No 5kg on my back anymore, including the laptop.
    I am starting to have the same fun feeling I used to have with the 185 and that was a great bike.
    Confidence has built over time and I am hoping on many trouble free kilometres.

    1. ScootToots Post author

      Hi Bernard,

      Regarding that engine noise, I found that it was caused by the Cam Chain Tensioner Lifter Assembly. It is poorly designed and should be improved. In my case it lead to a rather disturbing sound that prompted Honda to replace the unit under warranty. It is now fine, though I can still hear the rattling now and then, but much less than before, and none of the dangerous sound that it lead to in my case. I made a video detailing that sound it lead to, and another regarding the solution. The videos are on my YouTube Channel. The first one is: CRF250L Engine Problem, and the second one where I chat about the issue is: CRF250L Engine Trouble Fixed, plus 1 more. Maybe subscribe to my channel and you’ll see whatever comes up in future.

      In the second video I also chat about oil change frequencies. And as a side note, I have switched to Shell Rotella T6 full synthetic 5W-40. I’ll change it every 5000 kms. It performs better than the Honda GN4 10W-30 in my opinion. I ride in the winter, so the 5W lower end provides better instant lube during warm-up, and because our summers are very hot, and the terrain is mountainous, the 40 upper end viscosity will better protect the engine at operating temperatures, again, just in my opinion.

      You mentioned “clutch grip” in reference to oil choice. Just make sure that whatever you use is rated JASO MA. The “MA” means that it is designed for wet clutches. The Rotella T6 is good with the clutch, and shifting is smooth. Because it is made in volume for the trucking industry, the price is quite reasonable for a full synthetic. Walmart sells it by the 5 litre jug at less than the cost of Honda’s mineral-based oil.

      Cheers 🙂

  10. Dev

    Sounds like you are loving the crf250. I just picked one up a few weeks also and am still braking it in! Where abouts in the okanagan are you.. I’m up in kelowna 🙂

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