Words: Mat Pics: Paul and Kerry
It’s pretty hard to get excited about a 250 with a number plate these days, but when I laid eyes on the Honda CRF250 Rally, I knew I had to give it a go! With its Rally Raid inspired design, which takes cues from the HRC-campaigned, CRF450 Rally, that would have broken KTM’s Dakar winning streak this year, if not for an unfortunate team-wide penalty, the CRF250 Rally is one of – if not the – best-looking, road-going traillies out there.
It’s not just a cool-looking machine, but a frugal one as well. With its 250cc, single-cylinder engine, Honda claims the Rally can get a meagre 3.3L/100km which, when combined with the 10.2-litre fuel tank, means a usable range of 200km or more. Then there is the sheer potential of this little machine, which is so far, the most adventurous of the 2017 contingent of small capacity adventure machines to land on our shores.
Despite its rally raid looks, you won’t be taking to the moto track or beach races with the 250 Rally. As Paul put it, the Rally is “more mountain goat than motocrosser.” When you strip away the rally replica plastics and 10.2-litre fuel tank, its essentially a CRF250L wearing high heels. But the aforementioned accoutrements have undeniably given the Rally much more appeal than the standard 250L.
While it would have made sense to have based the 250 Rally on the CRF250R (or even the 450) to match the looks with some brawn, the highly strung powerplants of the real dirt bikes just don’t have what it takes in the real world, where we have to get to the trail as well as handle what’s on it. Sure, Honda now does a 300cc engine (which features in their learner road bike, the CBR300R) that they could have used instead, but the 250 variant is a reliable little motor, which has been proven on trails worldwide.
With 24hp and 22Nm on tap you’re not going to be winning any races with it (unless it’s a slow race), but it’ll go forever while sipping gas at a constant 110km/h, and has enough beans to keep you entertained on the loose stuff. It only needs servicing every 12,000km too, which you definitely can’t get out of an MX bike!
As an entry-level adventure machine, sophisticated electronics such as those found on the hero of the family – the Africa Twin – are a bit much to ask for. But that doesn’t mean the Rally doesn’t have its own party piece.
With ABS now being a requirement for all bikes over 125cc to attain Euro4 compliance, Honda has given the Rally a switch to deactivate the rear ABS just like the Africa Twin. ABS is great on the road, but off-road, it’s another story. Simply by holding down the ABS off switch for three seconds, you can lock the rear brake up and skid to a stop, just like you did as a kid on your BMX!
It soon became clear that – despite the 249cc engine’s low power output – when the road gets rough, the little Honda comes alive. With eyes peeled for every opportunity to take the Rally onto the road less travelled, every ride felt like an adventure, and each time the knobbly IRS tyres hit gravel, I felt like a hero thanks to the easy-going nature that filtered through to the Rally from the CRF250L.
Due to the low 157kg kerb weight, the lack of power isn’t so much of an issue on the highway. This 250 will hold 100km/h all day long, and I even found myself overtaking the slower country traffic on my adventures with the Rally. It is no speed demon though, and runs out of momentum when the digital display reads 130km/h, which is still plenty of speed to annoy the local constabulary.
Like any bike built to a price, there are a few niggles and the Rally does show its modest Thai-built origins in places. The suspension is VERY soft and heavier riders will notice the mono-shock running out of stroke with the factory settings, so turning up the preload will be a must for many riders.
The other niggle of note was the durability of the plastics and cool HRC graphics, which were showing wear after a handful of rides. Not ideal when you’ll be hitting the dirt as much as possible on the Rally. But with that all said, the Rally is a fantastic, budget adventure bike for the money, and at only $8,695, you can’t really ask for much more from this little Dakar hero wannabe.
2017 Honda CRF250L Rally Specifications
Price: $8,690 + ORC
Engine Type Liquid-cooled, Single, DOHC
Engine Displacement 249.6cc
Bore x Stroke 76 x 55mm
Compression Ratio 10.7:1
Max. Power Output 24 HP (18.2kW) @ 8500rpm
Max. Torque 22.6Nm @ 6750rpm
Fuel Tank Capacity 10.2-Litres
Fuel Consumption 3.3L/100km
Clutch Type Wet multi-plate hydraulic
Transmission Type 6-speed
Final Drive Chain
Frame Type Steel Twin Tube
Dimensions (LxWxH) 2210 x 900 x 1425mm
Caster Angle 28.1 degrees
Seat Height 894mm
Ground Clearance 269mm
Kerb Weight 157kg
Type Front 43mm Telescopic Upside down Fork
Type Rear Prolink
Rim Size Front 21-inch
Rim Size Rear 18-inch
Tyres Front 3.00-21 51P
Tyres Rear 120/80-18M/C 62P
Brakes Front Single 296mm disc with twin-piston Nissin caliper
Brakes Rear Single 220mm disc with single-piston Nissin caliper
ABS System Type 2 channel