Rally bred resilience

by Andy Bryenton

With warmer weather here many people will be thinking about summer adventures off the beaten track. For those with a love of excitement and power, motocross and off-road bikes exert a magnetic pull this time of year, while for others it’s the promise of dry, winding tarmac that gets the blood pumping. Then again, with initiatives afoot nationwide to get people out there on two wheels, perhaps it’s just ease of parking or fuel economy which appeal.

While there are plenty of motorcycles which push the envelope in each of these directions — road-going power, off-road agility and frugal commuter practicality — there’s one which brings them all together into a happy medium. 

And it does so by approaching from a totally different direction. Honda’s new CRF250L actually has the profile of a working agricultural bike under its sharp panel work — or at least a distillation of all the lessons learned by Honda over decades of building machines that can fulfill multiple roles on the farm. Make no mistake, this is no rural workhorse though. The long suspension travel and high ground clearance, narrow profile for agility and willing 250cc fuel injected single cylinder engine of the CRF250L and its sister bike the CRF350L Rally may be informed by the all-round reliability of Honda’s farming range, but there’s plenty of spice thrown in from the trophy-winning CRF off-road and enduro lineage as well.

The Rally version of the CRF250L goes one better, drawing inspiration from some of Honda’s legendary endurance bikes of old. In the days when the Paris to Dakar rally cut clean through the wilds of Africa, big, high-riding motorcycles duked it out with the 4x4s and trucks of this gruelling race. From such sport bikes like Honda’s NX650 Dominator were born, and now the styling cues of bikes like this — and later adventure models — come together in the Rally spec of the new CRF. With twin headlights, a wind deflector and updated panel work, the Rally looks ready to go anywhere. Which is no illusion. Both iterations of the CRF250 are made to be learner-accessible, ready for the trail and the highway with just the addition of number plates. It’s a great bike for those who live within equal reach of town and country — an inexpensive commuter that can park in spaces too small even for many road bikes, plus a fun trail riding machine on the weekends.

Have Honda hit the nail on the head? New riders seem convinced, with the fuel injected 250s meeting a great reception over the ditch. And if anything, New Zealand has even more of the kind of terrain the CRF250L was made to tame.