CleanMPG Reviews the 2008 Honda CRF230L

Discussion in 'Reviews' started by xcel, Jan 7, 2009.

  1. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    [​IMG] Fun and fuel efficient for warm weather. Commuting never felt so good!

    [xfloat=left][/xfloat]Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG - Jan 7, 2009

    2008 Honda CRF230L – the EPA rating is maybe 80 mpgUS?

    For CleanMPG’s second bike review, we traveled to Los Angeles, California, home of fun in the sun and Honda’s US headquarters. Traveling to the LA Autoshow and launching the 48-Contiguous State FE_world record drive was a wonderful experience. Riding and reviewing the CRF230 on the same trip was icing on the cake -- a true instance of Honda’s past meeting its present.

    Honda’s roots are found in its bikes

    Honda’s first bike was named the Dream, a name that seemed to represent Honda itself. This machine was the embodiment of the company’s vision of becoming a full-fledged motorcycle manufacturer. Today, Honda's cumulative worldwide motorcycle production has surpassed the 200 million-unit milestone during the 60th year anniversary Dream's introduction. It was just 11-years ago that Honda produced the one-hundred millionth vehicle.

    [xfloat=right][/xfloat]The 1949 Honda Dream that started it all

    Honda’s motorcycle business began with the mass-production of the Dream D-type in 1949. The Dream D-Type was Honda’s first full scale motorcycle that no longer had the look of a bicycle with an auxiliary engine. The design had evolved into something appropriate for a motorcycle with a clutch-less transmission -- innovative for the time.

    Production outside of Japan began at Honda’s motorcycle plant in Belgium in 1963, and since then Honda has been expanded its local production to many countries around the world. This reflects Honda’s commitment to “build products close to the customer.” Honda first cultivates new markets and establishes a business foundation with motorcycles... then builds upon it with automobile business. Honda currently produces motorcycles at 32 plants in 22 countries around the world. Moreover, Honda has established local motorcycle R&D operations in the U.S., Germany, Italy, Thailand, China, and India dedicated to developing motorcycles meeting the needs of local customers.

    Honda Motorcycle Milestones

    1949 - Honda Dream launched
    1951 - Honda’s E-Type 4-stroke
    1959 - American Honda Established
    1963 - Motorcycle Production in Belgium
    1969 - Honda CB750 Four
    1976 - CG125 Large Scale Production in Brazil
    1979 - Return to the Motorcycle World Grand Prix
    1997 - 100 Million Motorcycles sold worldwide
    2008 - 200 Million Motorcycles sold worldwide

    Honda’s annual worldwide motorcycle sales exceeded 10 million units in 2004. Honda envisions sales of more than 18 million units per annum in 2010.

    All of this brings us to the 2008 Honda CRF230L.

    Honda last offered a dual-purpose 250 cc or smaller bike back in 1991 in the form of the XR250L. With 17-years of built up demand for a bike with a low initial up front cost, on/off-road capability and fuel economy that would make a hybrid owner envious, the CRF230L is already a tremendous success in the marketplace. More importantly, just like the XT250 we reviewed a few months back, the CRF230L promises to be a fun yet extremely fuel efficient commuter.

    Lead up

    Since we were traveling light to LA, I had to rent a full-face helmet and jacket locally which in and of itself was a story. This is LA after all and there has to be a bike shop of every make and model every 6-blocks right? Wrong!

    After an hour of driving around LA in the HCH-II, I succumbed and finally picked up the phone. As any wife would say, “Men.” :rolleyes:

    I met a some interesting folks at a bike and gear rental shop called Hog Feathers. Their last Full-Face was still out so I spent some time talking to Jennifer (the manager) about all things bike related. Later, Bob (the boss) arrived and told stories about “Iron Butt” rides he led as head of the local LA Hog chapter. Some of the shenanigans that those rides produce are hilarious! :D

    Thank you Bob and Jennifer for getting this review on the road!​

    Next stop, Honda HQ’s in Torrance, CA

    Jon Seidel, Honda’s MC Press rep, greeted me for a walk back past the many garages. Cars, ATV’s and Power Generation equipment filled multiple industrial sized garage bays from one end to the other. You haven’t seen toys until you have walked through one of these garages! And finally, the on/off-road bike and ATV garage filled with press bikes ranging from the CRF230L I was going to test to the mighty CRF450F Motocrosser up on stands being prepped for its next ride by an unknown journalist. Dan Shaver, the shop foreman, gave me the new rider overview and I was on my way.

    Since it was late evening by that time, I did not have time to find a station to press up the Bridgestones or top-off the tank so I headed up I-110 to our gracious host's (Tarabell's) home to park for the night.

    Dan Shaver and the CRF230L with toys in the background.-----------Honda CRF230L in the drive awaiting its debut the next day.

    2008 Honda CRF230L Price, Performance, Instrumentation and Specifications as tested

    MSRP: $4,499 with a 3.99% APR over 36 months incentive currently available. Review bike was equipped with the optional Hand Guards. 2009 Models are currently priced at $4,549.

    The CRF230L offers a 0 to 60 mph time of approximately 12 seconds and a top speed close to 75 mph. Enough to handle any Interstate in America... though that was not what it was truly designed for.

    A simple speedometer, odometer and trip odometer are included but there is no tachometer.

    The bike's full specifications can be viewed here: 2008 Honda CRF230L Specifications

    2008 Honda CRF230L Impressions

    Although I do not have any fuel economy data for a rush hour highway drive, getting used to the bike amongst the LA hordes is an eye opening experience. Tarabell was running cover for me up ahead as I stuck close. With over 800 miles on the bike, it was well broken in with smooth shifts, not so harsh a ride (the tires knobs had their edges worn off), and all the performance needed to take on LA on its own terms.

    With 6 gears, there was rarely a period that I felt the CRF was geared to low or too high. Pull from just above idle at no more than ½ throttle (there was never a need to run any higher) through the gears was smooth and predictable. A little hesitation and vibration was felt in sixth below 28 mph which is where she would begin to lug. As long as you were touching 29 mph or above, sixth gear was your friend with a light turn of the throttle during any acceleration.

    About the only shifting issue I had was occasional difficulty engaging first gear after N while in a FAS at a light.

    Clutch starts from 10 mph on up were completely smooth and little was needed other than to be in third, fourth, fifth or sixth at approximately 10, 16, 23 and 29 mph respectively.

    Under any FAS scenario at lights throughout the ride, not once did the CRF fail to come back up on the small gear reduction starter. I did however test her push start capability and it was a push to 3 mph or so, jump on, release the clutch and she came to life without hesitation. Although some of us will miss the kick starter from days gone by, push starting will get you up and running if you ever get stuck with a weak 12V.

    2008 Honda CRF230L Ride, Handling and Ergonomics

    A handlebar mounted choke mechanism removed the need to bend back over the bike to both engage and disengage the choke controls. Mirror stalks are tall and located far enough to the outsides that a good view of the environment to the rear is easy to obtain. The mirrors themselves could have used a little larger diameter however. Flexible turn signal stalks help on the rare occasion your foot comes over while mounting and catches one.

    As with any bike, the first 2 to 3” of soft suspension travel was enough to absorb minor road imperfections. The Bridgestone TW tires are also more road worthy than what many dual-purpose bikes are equipped with allowing competent pavement handling... though taking a chicane at 75 mph would not be in anybody's best interest.

    The taller you are, the more uncomfortable you will become over a longer ride due to the closeness of the pegs to the seat. Fortunately or not, in the stop light to stop light traffic, I was on the pegs for no longer than a 10-minute period between feet down while waiting for a green. Making sure your ride has a stop every 30-minutes or so will do wonders.

    In the little bit of highway experienced the night before, the standard overwhelming wind noise and buffeting that effects all bikes of this size and weight was readily apparent. Running 100 + miles of highway is probably not recommended if you want to arrive at your destination feeling fresh and relaxed.

    2008 Honda CRF230L Fuel Economy Results

    With only a few hours of ride time available, I began the day by pressing up the tires and topping off the tank at a station near Western and Wilshire Boulevard.

    I plotted a course to hit most of LA’s more famous routes. Continuing north up Western Ave., I made a left for a quick ride down Hollywood Boulevard and the infamous Walk of Fame. With that behind me, a long ride down the famous Sunset Boulevard up into the Beverly Hills area ensued. Amongst the gated mansions, Rolls Royces, exotic sports cars and full-sized SUVs, there was some guy riding a Honda CRF230L right past the Beverly Hills Hotel. :)

    First measured fill

    What I did not expect was a climb of about 400’ of vertical behind me as I stopped for her first test --the fill-up. Considering the climb, heavy stop light to stop light traffic among the tourists and not knowing the bike or area, I did not have high hopes. Boy was I shocked.

    19.9 miles from top off to top off on just .175 gallons for an unheard of 113.714 mpg on her first measured ride.​

    After her first fill, I continued down Sunset Boulevard towards the coast. At the I-405, it was a long ride south down Sepulveda Boulevard, past LAX and finally back onto the Pacific Coast highway. It was time for her second fill and I had thrown some intermediate and advanced techniques at her. I had also dropped over 400 feet in elevation... which had to do wonders for this segment even in the stop light to stop light traffic.

    The second fill was a shocker!

    22.2 miles from top off to top off on just .154 gallons for an unheard of 144.156 mpg.​

    And with that second fill, it was time to head back towards Torrance to drop her off with Honda.

    Although I did not have the time to run a 5 to 10 mile fuel measured highway loop at speed, an off-road loop or a competitive P&G route as we did with the XT, the heavy traffic, stop light to stop light, stop sign to stop sign urban drive encountered during the two fills was easily a test beyond what I could have devised in northeastern IL or southwestern WI. What more can be said? The fuel economy achieved under those conditions would have topped everything including the Insight 5-speed, the Prius-II and the XT, all running to their strengths while throwing the book at them.

    From speeds ranging as low of 15 and a high of 40mph, using the Kill-switch to FAS in a std. P&G scenario and of course shutting her down at each and every stop allowed the excellent results shown. Around town cruising at 100 mpg plus is almost easy with this bike. Add a mix of basic and advanced techniques and 130 mpg plus is as good as in the bank.

    The next time I am in LA, I will attempt to get the bike back to knock out a highway test loop as well as a full blown competitive level P&G segment. I am very curious as to what this one is really worth when pushed to its limits! :)

    Honda CRF230L FE Data

    FE Rating OriginEPA RatingCleanMPG Observed FE
    US* 80 mpgUS128.0 mpgUS
    British Imperial96 mpgIMP153.6 mpgIMP
    European Metric2.940 L/100 k1.838 L/100 km

    * CleanMPG Estimate of EPA rating.
    Review MPG data: 42.1 miles on .329 gallons = 127.964 mpgUS.


    2008 Honda CRF230L - Conclusion

    The CRF230L is not really a highway cruiser but like all short stature, dual-purpose bikes, it is an excellent commuter with any amount of stop light to stop light and slower speed travel a rider may have to contend with. While doing so, it will return FE above any gasoline powered automobile or bike that CleanMPG has been fortunate enough to drive.

    Whether you ride the pavement to work or a trail to a far off the beaten track location, you cannot go wrong with the fuel miserly ways of the Honda CRF230L.​

    Individuals behind the scenes

    I would like to thank Jon Seidel of the Honda Motor Corporation for allowing us the opportunity to take this special bike out for a spin. He also sent me the complete service manual for the detailed specifications page (linked above). I would also like to thank Daniel Shaver, the Honda shop foreman who not only prepped the bike but also answered some last minute technical questions for the review. Finally, thanks to both Jennifer and Bob at Hog Feathers for their help in procuring gear while out in LA far away from home.

    Last edited: May 11, 2009
  2. nighthawk

    nighthawk Well-Known Member

    fyi, this bike is now available as the CRF230M with 17" wheels and street tires.
  3. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi Nighthawk:

    ___Although I have not ridden the SuperMoto styled M bike, we reported on it over a year ago at the 2009 Chicago International Motorcycle Show.

    ___I did speak with Jon Seidel at the 2010 Chicago International Motorcycle Show earlier this month about the M and the F with regards to upgrades in order to stay competitive with Yamaha and Kawasaki. He said there is simply no R&D budget for the small displacement bike given the severe fall-off in bike sales here in the US. In addition, he mentioned that it would be highly unlikely Honda would update or improve the F or M in the near term. Both really need FI, upside down front forks, a new display and a little more suspension to compete with Yamaha and Kawasaki imho. Honda is charging nearly the same price for the 230M as Kawasaki charges for the KLX250S and the disparity in equipment is very evident.

    ___Good Luck

  4. lasnerjames

    lasnerjames Banned

    Agreed, theres so many people out there that think that you need a 450cc+ bike to have fun! Truth is, you really dont. A bikes a bike, and a bike is fun, no matter how big or small.
  5. OriEri

    OriEri David

    So how freeway safe is this guy? I know little about bikes in general, mostly looking into getting one for FE. Does it have the gearing needed to cruise at 65MPH without undue wear and tear on the engine (when I read you shift into the highest gear at 30MPH I wonder. The specs link says that is about 6500 rpm).

    Also, how important is FI? If I want a bike for 50-60 MPH freeway rides, am I better off with a Yamaha WR250?
  6. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi OriEri:

    The CRF230L is probably not the freeway cruiser you would have hoped. 55 to 60-mph, sure. Much more and she is going to run out of steam by comparison to the mighty Yamaha WR 250X.

    FI makes for quick starts no matter the temperature or barometric pressure. In addition, if you are one to travel over a wide ranging elevation profile, FI automatically adjusts the F/A mixture for a given pressure or altitude. A carb'ed bike will start to run like "****" w/out a jet change.

    As a runabout, the CRF230L is fantastic but Honda raised the price in the middle of the recession to beyond that of the Kawasaki KLX250SF IIRC and that is some tough company to be going up against with a higher price and somewhat out of date technology. Standard fork tubes and not as competitive on the performance front for example.

    I would also look at the all-new 2011 Honda CBR250R which includes not only a competitive FI 249 cc engine but available ABS, a first for the segment. It is also available at a much more competitive price tag at $3,999 to start. It will not be as comfortable given the sport form factor by comparison to the Supermotards or Dual sports but I would love to try one out and even add two teeth to the front and maybe drop two in the rear to make it even more fuel efficient.

    I hope that helped and Good Luck with whatever bike you decide to buy. There are a lot of good ones in the 250cc realm so take your time and match the bike to suit your needs. Low mileage used ones can be picked up for a song as well :)

  7. OriEri

    OriEri David

    Thank you xcel. 55-60 MPH is adequate for what I have in mind. Now for my noob questions:

    Is it bad for the engine to run at 6K RPM for a long time?

    Altitude is going to be between sea level and 2000 feet, but if I went higher is it that hard to adjust the carb?

    Would the 2009 CRF230M (this variant is supposedly made for commuting) have worse FE. I notice the rear wheel is a bit smaller, so that would mean higher RPM at the same speed, assuming the same teeth and transmission. Are those likely to be identical between the L and M variants?

    What is the FE of KLX250 or the CBR250R? I am willing to take a small hit in FE, but not much. I'll look those bikes over with my untrained eye. Thanks. Does it mostly come down to engine size? What about a Kawasaki Ninja 250?

    Once I pick a model or a couple to choose from, where is the best place online to locate the bike I dream of?

    I read someplace that as a new rider I am pretty much guaranteed to "lay my bike down" at some point during the first 2 years. Is that really a given? (So I should invest in a used bike where I am not too attached to cosmetics?).

    Thanks for your time and patience.

    2009 CRF230M at
    2009 CRF230M at
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2011
  8. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi OriEri:

    Bikes are usually ridden for a lot shorter distances over their lifespan than cars ever travel so 6K rpm over 10K to 20K miles is not really a big deal. However, if you travel 100-miles/day, 6K + rpm on the super slab over 7 to 8-month riding season is not going to be good either. As a guesstimate, expect a rebuild every year if you are going to place those kinds of miles on a small bore thumper. In addition, as your speeds on these little guys goes up, your FE falls precipitously. At about ¾ throttle for hours on end on the 10 WR 250X during the (2) Iron Butt’s, I was in the high 50, mid 60 mpg range. I could achieve close to that level of FE on an F 800 GS and it would last a lot longer.

    Not sure what you have in mind, but when you start pushing small bore thumpers towards their peaks, you are looking at Prius FE like territory and a Prius is a heck of a lot safer and far more comfortable if you are considering huge miles.

    Another thing, even while riding with some of the best multi-layered and seasonal gear in the business during the WR Continent crossing ride at > 100 mpg’s, at times I was cooking and at times I was freezing while riding in temps from the high 40’s/low 50’s at night to the 110 degree F range during the day. Bikes are cool and save fuel by the super tanker full but there are but a few that can ride them year round as commuters no matter the weather conditions and still receive better fuel economy than someone driving a much more reliable and safer Prius as an example.

    Regarding the Honda 230M, it is not just the rear wheel but sprockets, gear ratios from crank to sprocket, and overall tire diameter. The Supermotard and dual sport 230’s are probably very close to the same but I would have to look at the specs and the tire diameter to make sure.

    Read the review on the 09 KLX250SF I rode. I have no idea about the CBR250R since I have not ridden it and arrived at a FE capability just yet. I would love to however :)

    A used bike will save you a few $’s and more than likely, you will lay “a” bike down at some point in your life if you ride. I have had two nasty get offs. One from a drunk 14-yr. old in her parents bomb took me out at an intersection about 25-years ago (no life threatening injuries or broken bones but a night in the hospital was in order) and the Antelope taking me out in Douglas, WY last year on the WR with a busted collar bone and three days in the hospital. Both times I was fully geared with the best in the business and it still hurt like hell.

    It is not a matter of “if” but “when”. Just make damn sure you wear your entire suite of gear each and every time you crank her over. You do not even ride across the street without ATGATT (all the gear all the time) because you never know. A neighbor of mine lost his 16-yr. old son about 5-years back when the boy was riding a friends scooter in a local parking lot. He clipped a curb at no more than 15-mph, struck his helmetless head on the curb and was killed instantly. Please, ATGATT, ok?

    Good luck with whichever bike you decide and let us know.

  9. OriEri

    OriEri David

    Hi Wayne/excel

    Thank you for taking the time to respond. I am diligent about wearing a helmet on my bicycle and expect to be no different on a motorcycle, plus flesh protecting gear. I knew a highly educated man at work who had an accident, no helmet and died after a week in a coma leaving behind a spouse and small child. I will definitely ATGATT. I don't mind a bit of discomfort in the name of FE.

    I am disappointed to think that I might as well be in a Prius for FE over extended distances at highway speeds. (I suppose that is plain old physics...but doesn't it seem odd that carting around 400-500lbs of person and vehicle isn't substantially more efficient than thousands? Rolling resistance and wind resistance should be a lot smaller for two wheeler, so it isn't just those.) I want to do better than Prius mileage and don't have the pocketbook for a Prius right now anyway.

    From all that you have said, I am starting to think I should just wait for a longer range (100 miles) electric motorcycle from Brammo next year or I should explore some medium range engines, like 600-700cc (or 400-500 if such beasties exist) with FI.

    If/when I buy, I will let you know how it all works out. In the meantime I will keep reading here.

  10. bill14224

    bill14224 New Member

    Wayne, I can't believe your 100+mpg figures for this bike. You only put a fraction of a gallon in it each time, not nearly enough for accurate measurements. My 2009 CRF230L has 1400 miles on it and I averaged 80.5mpg US on my last three tanks. (322 miles on 4 gallons) No hills or mountains, just suburban commuting with short stops, no bumper-to-bumper traffic. Ideal conditions. The Honda 90 gets 100+mpg. This bike is 223cc. Getting the same mileage isn't possible. For those interested I post my fill-ups on You can track my mileage there, same username. Having said that this bike is fun on the trails and it is an excellent short-distance commuter. (ten miles or so) Six gears is great to have and makes such a small bike enjoyable on the street.

    David, a car is safer than a motorcycle of course but nothing is more reliable or cheaper to run than small air-cooled Japanese motorcycles. I also have a GS500 that averages almost 60mpg and it will cruise comfortably up to 80 or so until it runs out of gas. If you have the nerve it will do 105. Try that with a Prius. Also try to get a date with a Prius. Best of luck to you!
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2012
  11. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Super Moderator Staff Member

    Welcome to CleanMPG, bill! Glad you're loving your bike.

    While you may doubt, this is Wayne Gerdes, so everything is possible. :D

    As for Wayne's fills, he always tops off at the neck both before and after the drive/ride in order to minimize variation. The pump said he used 22.4 fl oz of gasoline. The difference in gasoline in the tank can't have been significant enough to put the mileage below 100mpg.
  12. southerncannuck

    southerncannuck Well-Known Member

    Bill, I've averaged 96 mpg for the last 12,000 miles with my 150cc scooter and it doesn't have the benefit of a manual clutch to allow me to coast.
  13. bill14224

    bill14224 New Member

    It depends who you are. It took me 31 years to lay a bike down on the street. A minor crash, both me and the bike are OK. I learned on dirt first then went to the street later. I think it's very wise to do that. You learn to ride better on dirt than the road. There is also more margin for error and the stakes aren't nearly as high. When I see people who have never ridden a dirt bike take the MSF safety course then head straight to the road I cringe. Nothing wrong with MSF. They're doing God's work, but there's only so much you can learn in a parking lot or side street. Dirt skills are the skills you need on the road to help keep you in one piece, IMHO.

    And yes, used bikes make all kinds of sense for most riders, especially new ones. New riders on new bikes also makes me cringe.
  14. alvaro84

    alvaro84 Homura-chan's selfishness

    Hah! I just have to remark that no hills or mountains are far from ideal conditions ;)

    At least my FE always goes up when riding in hilly/mountain ranges. I've just came back from the High Tatras, and on my second tank I got 90mpg. With a 650. And I know that Wayne is specialized in small bikes, he has some black magic up his sleeves when riding them. Exceeding 100mpg doesn't seem impossible to me at all.

    On laying down the bike: of course I did in a few weeks. Many times in the first two years. Then once this winter, on ice. Then shiNIN's bike this summer. When I noted that you must be extra careful when changing bikes.
  15. shiNIN

    shiNIN Hedonist Beginner Biker

    It surely depends on how you ride but according to my experiences, hills are the best for FE (in my case). I simply can't do a really good tank in a not hilly area (maybe I could if I went insanely slow). Hills gives natural pulse and glide, slower speed if the road is curvy enough and greater fun. I'm not very used to higher mountains so I brake a lot there, even more than inavoidable but still, I did my best tank in High Tatra Mountains a few days ago. I don't really like braking so I don't speed up insanely whenever I see a small stretch of moderately straight road just to brake a lot afterwards. If it's steep uphill, I couldn't do it anyway due to my bike's strength.
    My bike is 250ccm, Alvaro tried to P&G her, without much success. Not a big surprise.
  16. OriEri

    OriEri David

    After discouragement from three of the most important people in my life, my Mom, my best friend and my son, I decided to not buy a motorcycle no matter how juicy the MPG (or MPGe) might be. They are ALL worried about my safety. Maybe once my 15 y.o. son is through college or at least old enough to feel independent. Right now with no siblings and an emotionally abusive mom, I am sort of all he's got in this world.

    I did end up with a 2005 prius, btw. I wrecked my biodiesel Jetta in April, and an older Prius seemed the best way to not throw much money away if i resell late this year or early next for an electric.
  17. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi OriEri:

    It is funny how this works out sometime and your choice of a used Prius is one of the better ones.

    Good luck and I am sure you will enjoy it as much or more than a CRF230L or new CRF250L as well.

  18. EdwinTheMagnificent

    EdwinTheMagnificent Legend In His Mind

    I was planning to buy a car next spring (Prius c ) , but it would be silly to trade in a perfectly good 58K miles Civic to do so. I could just keep the Civic , but I will be getting a free car next summer anyhow when my daughter moves to England. It's the car I originally bought used in 03 , drove it for 5.5 yrs, then gave it to her. It's a 97 Civic 5MT sedan and even with beaucoups miles on her, it runs well.
    Long story short , I will have plenty of cars to play with and little driveway room, so I am buying a motorcycle . The tough part is choosing between the CBR250R and the CRF250L. I like 'em both ! The CBR will handle and brake better , but I kinda like sitting up a bit higher , the way I would on the CRF. I have a good eight months to figure it out.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2012

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