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Honda XR150L: Tiny Prancer

Dual Sports motorcycling is very different from street motorcycling, and dare we say it, more adventurous. Both schools of riding has its thrills but for riders who won’t stand the terrain getting in the way of their travels, dual sports motorcycling will always get the upper hand. Honda has been proficient in producing some of the best off road and dual sports motorcycles. Their XL and XR series stand on the highest pedestal in Nepal, and for good reason too. A capability the Japanese have proven time and again.

One of the newest offerings from Honda in the segment that looked promising was the Honda XR 150L. It’s not the biggest dog out there, but we know not to rule out a competitor based just on its size. That meant we would be putting the XR 150L to the test.

STYLING:

The XR 150 is one of the newest additions to Honda’s mid range dual sport category. And it’s safe to say, it’s quite the looker. The smaller 125cc XR received a slight bit of criticism on its styling and Honda have taken this to heart and made the necessary improvements. Now, the XR 150L has an extremely appealing façade.26The headlights of the XR 150L are superbly designed, a very significant difference from the 125 and very similar to the one on the splendid CRF 250L. The front fender is also sleeker, once again helping the front end of the XR150L to hold a striking resemblance to the aforementioned CRF 250L.

Plastic decals provide the XR 150L with its motocross styling as well as save you the pains of dented metal when you inevitably push the limits with this fun motorcycle. A drilled 240mm disc up front and a 110mm drum at the back take care of stopping duties, while the long-travel suspension eats up the nastiest of terrain.

Although styled as a motocross motorcycle, the average rider will have little trouble planting their feet on the ground when atop the XR 150L. Plastic bodywork helps keep the weight down to 129kg. An electric starter combines with maintenance-free digital electronic ignition to ensure quick and easy starts. The front forks are fitted with fork boots which means that they stay nice and dry. Mud-protecting suspension gators and mud flaps as standard also mean less maintenance and less messy riders.20The XR 150L is built on a rugged, semi-double-cradle steel tube frame. The rear has its standard ever-present rear carrier for transporting light loads and essential equipment, and chunky off-road rubber.

PERFORMANCE:

Agreed, the motorcycle did its part for looking up to the job of tearing up terrains, but it was necessary to ascertain that it was indeed up to the task. In order to test its dual purpose capabilities, we took the XR150L to the less travelled roads of Godavari.24Right off the bat, you can tell that this machine is a certified workhorse. On the tarmac it has a significant amount of punch and will keep the rider grounded. It provides a pretty decent vantage point and begs to be flicked through traffic and hammered through potholes. The suspension is plush and provides adequate feedback and minimal brunt over rough terrain. Taking corners is a breeze and the purpose built tires ensure that you are planted to the ground with enough traction. The smooth running single-cylinder, four-stroke powerplant gives decent power and it takes up speed fairly quickly and maintains composure as you push it through straights.

However, the rugged and reliable air-cooled engine is tuned for low-to-midrange performance, rather than out-and-out top speed. That’s why it really comes to life when you get off the tarmac and take things offroad. Pliant suspensions come into play when you take the XR through the dirt ridden trails. It has excellent hill climbing ability thanks to its torquey engine that despite its size proves to be very capable.21Point it to a rough terrain you think it can’t make through and it will surprise you. It provides adequate traction through the dirt and powers through obstacles. The slick shifting 5 speed gearbox is smooth. The engine also features a new balancer shaft to reduce vibration for much smoother running, a real bonus when you spend hours in the saddle.25

VERDICT

The Honda XR150L is clearly not a bike that you’d see Travis Pastrana back flipping. What it is though, is a very capable dual purpose motorcycle that has a small engine but packs enough energy to get you where you want. It could have used a little more oomph but there is a totally different segment available for that. But this is a mid range commuter that can do its share of work when it is asked to do so. It returns a pretty decent fuel economy and bears the Honda brand that is well known for its reliability. Combine it with its go anywhere capability and the XR150L might just be the perfect motorcycle for Nepal.19

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