Project Bike: Honda CRF 250L Rally Replica
ADVMoto’s CRF 250L has come a long way since we rode it off the showroom in 2015. Initially, the bike was supposed to be our “B bike”—a commuter we could hand over to friends or special guests visiting from out of town. We trucked it from event to event riding the heck out of it, abusing it, and never quite giving it the credit it deserved. It quietly sat in our garage next to other project bikes—an XR650R prepped for racing, a KLR modded for touring, even our cross-country WR250R. Those bikes have come and gone, and now it's time to finally say farewell to our trusty CRF 250L.
In 2016, we decided to turn our little Honda into a true project bike. One of the benefits of owning such a popular motorcycle is the enormous aftermarket support available. The stock CRF was a “Jack of all trades, master of none.” In a sense, it was boring, and as clichéd as it may sound, this bike—like many others in Honda’s line-up— lacked character. Our goal wasn’t to make the fastest or most comfortable machine, but rather to get people excited about it, to ask questions and take photos. We brought the bike to rallies and shows throughout the year, including AIMExpo, where even the Honda reps were impressed.
The weakest aspect of the CRF 250L’s performance was the suspension. The bike could sustain a brisk trail riding pace, especially with lowered gearing and better tires, but when the East Coast’s rocky terrain got technical, the stock suspension basically gave up. Bottoming out was a problem with any rider who weighed over 150 pounds. To cure the suspension woes, a Race Tech G3-S rear shock and front fork kit were installed. These modifications alone completely transformed the balky, street-based dual-sport into a compliant off-road machine.
The problem with the CRF 250L’s power output wasn’t so much the amount of power (although 18 hp isn’t much to work with) but rather the delivery. Honda tunes these bikes to pass emissions testing, and in doing so the stock CRF ran lean. Flat spots were prevalent throughout the low and high rpms. Dobeck Performance sent us an EJK fuel controller to smooth out the power delivery by tuning the air/fuel ratio for various throttle positions. The result is a bike that pulls linear all the way to red line. It didn’t increase power, but it did make the power we had more usable, similar to our WR250R.
The CRF 250L replaced the CRF 230L in 2013, and somewhere along the way gained 53 pounds. There’s no arguing that the “Little Red Pig” is massively overweight. To help shed some pounds we replaced the stock acid battery with an Antigravity 8 Cell Lithium Battery, removing several pounds from a high point on the bike and increasing the bike’s already balanced feel. An easy way to shed more weight would have been to upgrade the exhaust system, but we prefer our bikes to be as quiet as possible.
MotoZ Tractionator Desert H/T Tires replaced the stock rubber to increase off-road traction. These tires are fantastic in dirt, gravel and sand. The center tread has a unique scoop-like pattern that really pushes the bike through softer terrain. The harder compound makes them bounce off rocks, so they’re a little sketchy in rocky terrain. As one would expect, the aggressive tread pattern makes the tires loud and “vibey” on tarmac. Since the little Honda produces a low amount of power, the MotoZ's have had steller tread life. Stopping power is amplified with Galfer Steel Braided Brake Lines and a Wave Front Rotor. While the stock brakes did a fine job of stopping the CRF, the Galfer upgrades help increase brake lever feel and provide a consistent pull, even after a full day of hard riding.
The CRF 250L’s stock handlebars and footpegs were so weak, they'd bend if someone looked at them the wrong way. Upon purchasing the bike, we had the dealership install Renthal Jimmy Button Handlebars and Enduro Engineering Hand Guards and Deflectors—a set-up we’ve used on many of our dedicated trail bikes. Risk Racing sent us their new Fusion 2.0 Grips, which utilize a unique Fusion Bonding System for fast and easy installation. The stock footpegs were also swapped out for IMS’s Core Enduro footpegs, which greatly increase traction in wet and muddy conditions. IMS has since pulled these from the shelf, although they're still available to racers. The new Core Rally pegs offer substantial traction, with a less aggressive design.
Bodywork, Crash Protection, Lighting
The most unique feature on our project bike is a custom Rally Replica Fairing Kit and Tower, made by rally racer Patrick Trahan. This kit was produced using the schematics of HRC’s CRF 450 Rally bikes. A CNC’d frame adapter is used to mount the tower onto the bike, preventing the need to drill through the frame like most other professional level kits. Although Honda currently offers their own version of the CRF 250L Rally, our tower and fairing bolt-on kit is more robust than the OEM option and will sustain higher impact loads. The added wind protection made higher speed travel more comfortable and the beefy protection for electronics gives us peace of mind. Patrick also supplied us with custom made body panels and a beautiful custom graphics kit that really makes the CRF stand out.
The lighting experts at TwistedThrottle.com chose top-shelf Denali lighting for our project and even spliced custom adapters that mated to our stock wire harness. Our tower is a bit raw, being the original prototype for the kit, but Patrick now offers a refined version, with an option for a roadbook holder, ready to be bolted on to your bike at CRF250LRally.com.
Simply put, the CRF 250L’s standard fuel range is poor for anything other than inner-city commuting and short off-road rides. A 3.1-gallon tank from IMS and a 1.5-gallon Camel Tank extended our range to a respectable 300ish miles. The Camel Tank feeds into the IMS’s gas cap and we used a cool rotating fuel line to prevent the line from twisting every time we filled up. The extra weight (mostly fuel) is noticeable but the bike isn’t any less capable than before. For quick off-road excursions, we fill up the IMS tank, and for commuting or exploring, the Camel Tank is also filled for a total of 4.6 gallons.
A proper skid plate and radiator guard are mandatory for off-road riding, and both were sourced from Flatland Racing. The radiator guard had to be modified slightly for the IMS tank to fit, otherwise both protective pieces installed easily. A Scaggs Aluminum Billet Rack helps us carry enough gear for a weekend ride and looks beautiful over the rear fender. It's also pre-tapped to accept a RotoPax. To complete the look, we installed a tidy tail kit from Yoshimura R&D.
Modding our bikes and truly making them our own is one of the most fun aspects of owning a motorcycle and, in a way, we hope ADVMoto’s CRF 250L is “Patient Zero” in what could become an outbreak of rally-styled, small displacement project bikes for the ADV world. Our time with the bike was amazing, from tackling gnarly east coast terrain, to drawing attention to our booth at rallies. The LRP may still be overweight and down on power, but the one thing it doesn’t lack is character.
|Chassis, Bodywork, Lighting|
|Rally Replica Fairing Kit and Tower||CRF250LRally.com||$650.00|
|Renthal Jimmy Button Handlebars||Renthal.com or Revzilla.com(Affiliate)||$79.95|
|Risk Racing 2.0 Fusion Grips||RiskRacing.com||$19.99|
|Enduro Engineering Hand Guards||EnduroEng.com or Amazon.com(Affiliate)||$79.98|
|IMS 3.1 Gallon Tank||IMSProducts.com or Amazon.com(Affiliate)||$274.95|
|Camel Tank 1.5 Gallon Aux Tank||Camel-ADV.com||$399.00|
|Yoshimura Fender Eliminator Kit||Yoshimura-RD.com or Revzilla.com(Affiliate)||$139.95|
|Flatland Racing Skid Plate||FlatlandRacing.com||$109.95|
|Flatland Racing Radiator Guard||FlatlandRacing.com||$59.00|
|IMS Core Enduro Footpegs||IMSProducts.com or Amazon.com(Affiliate)||$159.00|
|Race Tech G3-S Rear Shock||RaceTech.com||$749.99|
|Race Tech Hi-Performance Springs||RaceTech.com||$99.99|
|Dobeck Performance EJK Kit||DobeckPerformance.com or Amazon.com(Affiliate)||$225.00|
|Antigravity 8 Cell Battery||AntigravityBatteries.com||$179.99|
|MotoZ Tractionator Desert H/T Tires||MotoZ.com.au||$229.90|
|Galfer Steel Brake Lines F&R||Galferusa.com||$139.90|
|Galfer Wave Front Rotor||Galferusa.com||$161.00|
|Gearing -1 +2 Sunstar Sprockets||Sunstar-MC.com||$63.90|