Honda CRF250L Project Update 2

CRF’s Up! CRF250L Long-term Project Update 2

It’s been a while since our last CRF project bike update, October, actually. In case you don’t follow our every move with the intensity of a Harry Potter fan, let’s recap: our mission, which we have apparently accepted, is to take a perfectly good, inexpensive dual-sport and turn it into a kickass, still kinda inexpensive bike that still works pretty well everywhere from single track to San Francisco. Sounds reasonable, right?

We’ve flogged our valiant little CRF in the deserts of Nevada, made it wheeze up in the Sierra passes, slid it on the train tracks of San Francisco, and of course, crashed it (just a bit) at Carnegie. We’ve gotten to know the bike well enough (no, not in the biblical sense) that we have a solid idea of what we need to fix. Make no mistake—the CRF is a great little bike as delivered, but if you start riding it hard, it reveals its weaknesses quickly.

Those weaknesses include a smallish fuel tank, suspension apparently set up for a ninety-pound pre-teen, and absolute shit tires.

Actually, that last one isn’t completely true. The stockers are ok for the street—in fact, when our man Courtney Olive came down to SF for the Dirtbag Challenge (although that may or may not be the official reason he gave his employer) he railed the li’l CRF pretty hard for a couple days and didn’t have too many complaints about the rubber. Maybe it’s a beggars can’t be choosers thing, or maybe the OEM IRCs are just ok for the street. In any case, they suck for the dirt, and I will continue to blame them for letting me down not-so-easy on a rocky trail halfway between Donelle Dam and pavement.

So this month, our update includes solutions to the teacup-sized fuel tank and new shoes. We also addressed the woefully tiny stock toolkit, which contains two hex wrenches, a fuse puller and some foam to keep you from hearing the sad sounds of the hex keys clanking around in a place where at least a few real tools should be.

First, the tank. Perhaps to keep the CRF from being top-heavy, Honda gave it a two-gallon fuel tank. Now, Honda also says that the CRF will get up to 73 MPG, which would be amazing, and give the bike a range of 140 miles or so, from fill-up to “Oh, fuck.”

But when thrashing it in the dirt, I was seeing the ominous flashing of the fuel gauge at 80 miles or so, and putting damn near two gallons in upon arriving (sometimes barely) at a gas station, with just 100 miles on the meter. I started carrying one, sometimes two, fuel bottles. Sure, the Bay Area has gas stations everywhere—not so out in the boonies.

Thankfully, IMS offers a 3.1-gallon replacement tank ($325 at Revzilla) that manages to be almost indistinguishable from stock, except that it replaces the silly chrome (locking) gas cap with a proper off-road looking (unfortunately non-locking) twisty-top.

I haven’t run the IMS tank dry, but here’s some math. I’ve been getting 45-50 MPG when pushing the bike (riding it hard, not pushing it up the trail because it’s out of gas) so let’s say I get excited about the extra capacity and twist my wrist even more and drop my average to a flat 45 MPG. 3.1 gallons at 45 MPG is 139.5 miles—just under what I’d get with the stock tank if I could actually get 73 MPG. Woo! In less abusive hands, there’s a chance the bike could hit 200 miles on a tank—that’s proper range, folks.

The IMS tank looks great, and was pretty straightforward to install. There’s a tiny bit of cutting required to make the radiator shrouds fit the new tank, but fear not—even my caffeine-rattled paws pulled off the chop job with no issues.

Once in place, the tank feels great—solid, sturdy, and still narrow enough to stand on the pegs easily. Bonus: street/dirt cred for being hardcore enough to require a bigger fuel tank. Yes!

All that extra fuel capacity just means I’m gonna twist the throttle even more (see above), and the stock tires already can’t handle the screaming stampede of horsepower that the CRF delivers. Uh… yeah. We need better tires on this thing, whatever the reason. The solution: Metzeler’s MCE 6 Days Extreme tires.

You might think that tires with “extreme” in the name are a little, well… extreme for the CRF. Not so, I say. We put a hard compound 90/90-21 on the front (because we’re hardcore, see?) and a 120/90-18 on the back. (Street price around $85 front / $95 rear, more info at Revzilla.)

The 6 Days Extremes transformed the li’l Honda that could (Maybe? If you’re careful?) into the little Honda that did. The front is unflappable—tracks like a dream—and the rear is super-predictable.

To address the laughably incomplete “tool kit” that comes with the CRF, Cruz tools sent us their Speedkit DMX tool kit ($37.95 at Revzilla), which includes a nice assortment of tools in a compact camo pouch, and fortunately does not include that DMX fellow—he’s a handful.

The Speedkit weighs 1.75 pounds and includes an assortment of common-sized wrenches and hex keys, a screwdriver with Phillips, flathead and Torx bits, a 2-in-1 spark plug socket and handle, locking pliers and of course, a tire pressure gauge. The pouch is nice and compact, at about 2″ by 7″—unfortunately just a touch too big to fit where the stock tool kit goes, but plenty small to go in the Wolfman tailbag that’s almost always on the bike. It also is TSA legal, since the screwdriver is less than 7” and there are no sharp things in the bag—although trust me on this one, TSA isn’t especially fond of tattooed guys bringing semi-concealed tool kits on planes. Semi-concealed, as in “it was in my backpack.” Whatever—it’s a great little kit, overzealous security measures be damned.

So what next? Well, if the suspension was bad before, well… it’s more badder now. All that traction just overwhelms the poor thing. But let’s face it—this is a $5,000 bike, brand spanking new. We didn’t expect Öhlins, but we’re in the process of seriously upgrading the CRF’s suspenders—in fact, as I write, the poor thing is nearly completely disassembled in CityBike’s secret suspension workshop. We’re also working on a specific street tire setup—stay tuned!

This story originally appeared in our February 2015 issue, which you can read in all its original high-res glory here.