Fun and fuel efficient for warm weather. Commuting never felt so good!
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.
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.
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.”
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!
Next stop, Honda HQ’s in Torrance, CA
Thank you Bob and Jennifer for getting this review on the road!
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 Origin||EPA Rating||CleanMPG Observed FE|
|US||* 80 mpgUS||128.0 mpgUS|
|British Imperial||96 mpgIMP||153.6 mpgIMP|
|European Metric||2.940 L/100 k||1.838 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.
Individuals behind the scenes
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.
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.