The Honda CRF motorcycle series is one of the most popular and recognizable motorcycle lineups among riders. The CRF line was launched in 2000 as a replacement to the CR series and now 20+ years later includes four-stroke motocross, trail, and dual sport motorcycles.
There are so many motorcycles within the CRF lineup, it’s important to understand the naming conventions so that you can find the right one for you.
Let’s take the CRF250R for example:
There’s much debate among riders about what CR stands actually stands for, ‘Competition Racer’, ‘Close Ratio’, ‘California Racer’, ‘Competition Ready’... Just know, it doesn’t really matter.
In the dirtbike world, it’s widely accepted that ‘F’ means the bike has a four-stroke engine.
These last two are the most important factors when finding the perfect Honda CRF for you.
The number (50, 250, 450, etc) represents the motorcycle’s CC power output.
Finally, the last letter is going to tell you what the bike is built for.
CRF - F: Trail
CRF - R: Motocross
CRF - L: Dual Sport
CRF - M: Supermoto
Once you know what type of riding you’ll be doing and know your desired power output, it will be super simple to select the right Honda CRF for you.
In order to break down these bikes as much as possible, we will be discussing only the “L” series on this page. To look at any of the other CRF motorcycle series click here. CRF F, CRF R, CRF RX.
Ability to ride on a diverse set of terrain
Known for its reliability
Long service windows
Heaviest of all the CRFs
More street bike than dirt bike
The Honda CRF L motorcycle lineup is one of those tried and true fan favorites. Maintenance is fairly straightforward and the bike has extremely long service windows. You know anytime you purchase a Honda you are getting a reliable vehicle and the CRF L is no different. The L series is built extremely tough and durable so it can tackle both on and off-road riding. If you’re not married to the idea of only hitting the trails, the L series provides the versatility that you’re looking for.
Currently, the CRF “L” series ranges from 286cc to 450cc.
CRF300L - 22.7 hp @ 8,400 rpm
CRF300L Rally - 27 hp @ 8,500 rpm
CRF450RL - 38.7 hp at 7,600 rpm
Other than the name, the CRF “L” series doesn’t have a lot in common with the rest of the CRF lineup. The “L” series are great dual sport bikes with a reputation of reliability and hassle-free maintenance. The “L” is the most versatile of the bikes, just like a true dirt bike it handles rough off-road terrain like a champ. Unlike a true dirtbike, it is also built for long rides on the pavement. These bikes have all the features needed to make them street legal, rearview mirrors, tail lights, and a license plate, so you can ditch the trailer and ride your bike straight to the trails. If you’re looking for a motorcycle that can do it all and do it well, the “L” series is a good place to start. At the time of writing this, the 2023 CRF lineup is the most current, so we will be discussing those models.
CRF300L - The CRF300L is the successor to the outgoing CRF250L. Honda made some changes to the engine in both the CRF300L and 300L Rally by increasing the stroke to boost displacement and improving the combustion chamber. In addition, the gear shift has been revised and the power delivery is much smoother due to an all-new slip-assist clutch. The motorcycle has a new exhaust, frame, swing arm, and triple clamp lending to a 12-pound weight reduction. Honda’s goal was to make the bike more maneuverable and increase ground clearance. Both the 300L and the Rally get an upgraded suspension, an LED light display that shows gear position, fuel consumption, and fuel mileage, and a stronger kickstand for improved stability. The updates added to the 300L are meant to primarily improve the bike's off-road performance while keeping it user-friendly.
CRF300L Rally - The Rally includes many of the same upgrades as the standard 300L model. Some additional features that are specific to the Rally include a bump in fuel capacity from 2.7 gallons up to 3.4 gallons, a small windscreen, a wrap-around skid plate, flappy hand guards, a larger-diameter front disc brake, and improved LED lighting. The updates added to the Rally are meant to enhance the bike's long-range comfort without sacrificing its performance.
CRF450RL - The 450RL is widely popular within the Duel Sport segment. The bike is built from the legendary CRF450X’s six-speed transmission and chassis geometry and the 449 cc Unicam® engine, twin-spar aluminum frame, and premium long-travel suspension make it a stellar performer in the dirt as expected. But more surprisingly, the bikes on pavement riding is incredibly smooth and features like a quiet muffler and a vibration-damping urethane-injected swingarm make the CRF450RL that much more enticing for on-road riding.
CRF300L - $5,349
CRF300L Rally - $5,999
CRF450RL - $9,999
The age-old debate, Team Red or Team Blue? The Honda CRF L and the Yamaha WR250R are two of the most popular dual sport motorcycles among riders. Truthfully they are very similar bikes and if you compare them on a spec sheet, nothing is going to really stand out and differentiate the two. The Yamaha has more horsepower, weighs less, and has a fully adjustable suspension, while the Honda is more user-friendly, has better fuel consumption, and is less costly. We’re really just comparing apples to apples with these two bikes and the best way to know which is right for you is to hop on each one and take them for a test ride.
If you thought the decision between the Honda and the Yamaha was tough, buckle up because the Honda CRF L and the Kawasaki KLX250S are as similar as two bikes from opposing manufacturers can get. Aesthetically they both showcase a sporty look, a nod to their motocross heritage no doubt. They both have a water-cooled DOHC four-valve engines, six-speed transmissions, and have similar chassis dimensions in wheelbase, seat height, and wheel travel. You really can’t go wrong with choosing either motorcycle, the only question you have to ask yourself is Big Red or Mean Green?
As a street-legal bike, the CRF L includes all the standard safety features that are required for on-road riding. The bike includes a kick-stand kill switch, a starter safety switch on the clutch, reflectors, mirrors, and a fuel cut so you don’t exceed the speed rating of the tires. Both CRF300L models can also be ordered with an ABS option.
The CRF L has long service windows, but with that being said you want to make sure you are taking care of your motorcycle to help it run smoothly as long as possible. The owner's manual recommends an oil change every 8,000 miles. If you’re familiar with motorcycle maintenance, then keeping the CRF L in shape will be a breeze, if you’re more of a novice then consider taking your dirt bike in for routine inspection every 100 hours of riding.
Many of the motorcycles in the CRF lineup feature Special Editions of the bike that we did not include in this breakdown, so if you’re interested in a Honda CRF but don’t want a basic stock version, take a look at the Special Edition models.
As for aftermarket parts, there are plenty of ways to make your new Honda CRF your own. Footpegs, handguards, and skidplates seem to be among the most common.