When we first saw the new 2017 Honda 250L Rally bike, we fell in love with its styling (read the Rally preview article). Inspired by the factory CRF450 Rally machine raced in the Dakar rally by Team Monster Energy Honda, the new single-cylinder dual-sport is ready to hit the local trails in style.
American Honda hosted the press introduction out of the Johnny Campbell JCR race shop in the hills above Murrieta, California. The hilly Southern California trails gave us a good opportunity to test the 250L Rally on some fire roads and tight and twisty asphalt.
According to Big Red, the target audience for this new bike is the 35-year-old plus rider who wants to head out of town on an easy-to-ride adventure bike. A machine that has enough power to get the blood flowing, but not too much to intimidate, and doesn’t weigh as much as a typical 500-pound plus ADV bike, according to its research.
With a longer-travel suspension compared to the standard 250L, the Rally is aimed more at someone who will actually the motorcycle beyond pavement. As such, it comes stock with a skid plate, hand guards, and a larger capacity 2.7 gallon fuel tank for extra range.
The throttle body is increased to 38mm (2mm larger) to improve the engine response and give better low- and mid-range torque. Other upgrades in the engine include a tweaked airbox, larger diameter headpipe, new muffler, and updated ECU programming.
On the trail you are quickly reminded that the 250L Rally is not a race machine. If you want to go on a fun, but mellow cruise, then this is the perfect bike. However, if you wish to line-up at the stating gate of the next WORCS race we’d suggest something more robust.
American Honda claims 24.4 horsepower from its 249cc liquid-cooled Single. There isn’t a lot of power at the business end of the 18-inch dual-sport rear tire, so the riding style is all about maintaining momentum. Plus it’s important to be aware of gearshifts to get the most out of the engine’s more limited lung-capacity.
Still we can’t knock the little engine too much. Push-button electric start and fuel-injection mean that it’s easy to get the engine lit, regardless if you’re riding at sea-level or in the mountains. The transmission shifts between each of its six gears precisely and the cable-actuated clutch has feather light pull. If you’ve always dreamed of riding off-road but are intimidated by big horsepower, multi-cylinder motorcycles, then this Honda Rally bike will suit you well.
The suspension works well semi-technical downhill sections, that is, as long as limit speeds to a moderate pace and don’t upset the suspension by trying to bonsai downhills.
On the tarmac, the nifty-looking Rally-type windshield worked great at helping protect the rider from the effects of the road or trail, however it lacks height adjustment. The sleek-looking radiator shrouds are another nice touch.
The headlights are asymmetric to match the 450 factory racer, with LED bulbs that are exceptionally bright at full beam. We didn’t have a chance to ride the bike at night but based how bright they are in daylight we bet they’d work well for past sunset rides. The cockpit of the Rally features a simple, but functional LCD, similar to the display on the CB500X, with speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, and a clock. To the right, there is a button to temporarily disable the ABS if you’re treading off-road.
The black aluminum wheelset, in standard 21-inch front, and 18-inch rear off-road sizing make this CRF-L look tough, and with front and rear disc brakes, quick stops aren’t an issue. The Rally bike is shod in more budget-oriented and tubed IRC Trail rubber, but the semi-knobs work well on and off-road. ABS is also available as a $400 up-charge. The rear suspension has a new link and connecting rod that helps with ground clearance, and keeps the Rally balanced with its longer-travel front fork.
Affordable dual-sport riding in style is what the $5899 CRF250L Rally edition is all about. If hunting fire roads is what the day’s riding mission calls for you simply can’t go wrong with the easy handling and ride qualities of Honda’s 250 dual-sport. Although it lacks the firepower for serious off-roading, this Rally bike proves there is a sweet spot between price, performance and style.