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2017 HONDA CRF250L: THE TERRAIN CONQUEROR

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Flip through the motorcycle history books of Nepal and you’ll find that the Honda name is etched into the pages in bright bold fonts and underlined twice. There was a time when motorcycles were simply referred to as Hondas and the Japanese manufacturers became synonymous with the machinesthat moved souls. While the likes of the CG 125, CM 200 and the occasional CBs ran rampant on the streets, a different breed gained a fan following with the XL Series. Running on knobby tires and longer suspension, these lightweight machines helped Honda expand from the street bikes and reign supreme in the dual sport subdivision.

Better recognized as dirt bikes or trail (mispronounced trial) bikes the XR and XL prospered in the Nepalese market. Elsewhere in the world the 2-stroke dirt slingers came on the rise in the form of CRs. Focused more towards the motocross world, the CRs, were absolute beasts on the track. Furthermore, Honda went on to make the monumental dirt bike CR Elsinore in 1974.

However, two strokes weren’t Honda’s strongest suit. They were better known for making reliable four strokes that you could leave in the garage for a year and still start it with a single kick. They exhibited their ability to make great four stroke off-road machines with the XLs and XRs, which have become an integral part of motorcycle culture in Nepal especially amongst dual purpose motorcycles.

In the forefront of the modern dual sport segment though is the CRF. The successor to the XR, the CRFs are full sized motocross bikes that are equipped with liquid-cooled, single-cylinder fourstroke engines. Built to tackle off-road terrains and still be rideable on the tarmac, the CRF has upheld the legacy set by the XL and XR. Back in 2013, we test rode the CRF 250L; 4 years later, we’re back with the new generation. Here is what the 2017 CRF has to offer

STYLING AND FEATURES

The 2017 CRF250L retains its motocross heritage boasting a tall stance and sleek design with a clean shape and sharp lines. The bodywork and graphics have received killer updates. Inspired by the CRF450R, the new CRF250L comes in one color: Red; and boy does it look stunning.

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Thanks to its aggressive graphics with minimalistic MX design the CRF gets noticed. The slim fuel tank holds 7.8L, and combined with the comfortable, flat seat offers maximum control and choice of riding position.

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Honda has kept the instrument cluster nice and sleek, with a digital console that displays the fuel meter, along with a built in clock with twin trip functions. Two buttons, the select and set, lets you toggle through the fairly simple functions. In lieu with the other tell tale lights on the instrument console.

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Good news for the average Nepali rider; seat height has been shaved down 0.3 inches to 34.4 inches. It might not be much but for many riders, every 0.3inch counts. But the ground clearance remains the same at 10 inches.

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Up front, a two-piston caliper works a 256mm floating wave-style disc. Two channel ABS is fitted as standard and gives the rider the option to switch it off for the rear caliper. A small detail – but a useful one off-road – is that the gear lever now features a folding tip.

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Suspension duties are undertaken by a 43mm Showa inverted fork up front and a Pro- Link rear suspension with the Showa shock absorber is a single tube design with 40mm diameter cylinder. Equipped with knobby tyres, the slim frame of the CRF looks ready to tackle the city traffic and the less traveled terrains. One tiny complaint though: they have switched placements between the horn and indicator switch which takes some getting used to.

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PERFORMANCE

For the majority of Nepali riders who are used to riding street motorcycles on a daily basis, straddling the CRF will be a very welcome change. In true dual-purpose style you get a tall riding stance with an amazing vantage point that lets you scour over traffic or the trail ahead. The ergonomics are very well set with wide handlebars and a slim narrow seat that allows you to grip the bike and move forward or back depending on how you want to move your weight once you’re standing up on the pegs.

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Now remember, this is a machine that’s ready to take on exciting off-road challenges without giving up street-riding accommodations. So on the tarmac it has things well covered. It is extremely filckable through traffic and is right at home scurrying through what remains of our roads.

The compact and sophisticated liquid-cooled DOHC 249cc single-cylinder four-stroke powerplant is quite rev happy and will spin excellently to provide good performance on the streets. While the engine will gladly rev to no end, you won’t be greeted with gnarly mechanical engine notes that the older dirt bikes were known for. Instead, you get a more refined din from the engine.

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And it provides plenty of power when you call upon it. Revised PGM-FI feeds fuel/ air mixture through a 38mm throttle body (up from 36mm) and draws air from the airbox via a direct connecting tube. What this does is it improves throttle response and increases power in the lower and midranges. Considering its ability to maneuver at close quarters in traffic while making light work of the obliterated asphalt, it isn’t difficult to see yourself riding the CRF 250L on a daily basis within the city.

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But doing just that would be injustice. Although it is a capable street machine, you’re not going to get the best of it unless you get it off the tarmac. The 250cc mill produces smooth and consistent torqueat low rpm to aid off-road work and that is where the CRF really comes into its element. Harking back to its motocross genes the relatively calm and composed demeanor on the streets morphs into a frantic menace on the dirt. Nimble, agile and aggressive, the experience of exploring unchartered terrains isabsolutely invigorating on the CRF 250L. Thanks to its knobby tires and surefootedness, it inspires the confidence you need to really push it to its limits.

Point it at almost any terrain and it does its thing. Whether its rocky climbs, loose gravel, technical declines or nasty slush, the CRF 250L does not hesitate. Switch off the ABS, let the tail loose, and you have the world at your hands.

VERDICT

The idea of purchasing a dual sport motorcycle for Nepal is making more and more sense every passing day. Not only have our roads been reduced to complete rubble, motorcycling has become more than just a mode of transportation for many. So apart from tackling the dirt terrain inside the city roads, dual-purpose motorcycles are aptly built to explore terrains that are unimaginable for other motorcycles.

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And on the forefront of the dual purpose race is Honda, it always has been. The solid heritage is an undeniable factor in the Japanese manufacturers’ success in the segment, and the CRF upholds the legacy very well. However, it will probably sear a hole in your wallet since its priced at a whopping Rs.10,25,000. But they say you can’t really put a price on quality; along with reliability and resale value, which Honda has exhibited through the years.

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2017 HONDA CRF250 L | PRODUCT WATCH 

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