Honda CRF 300 L and Rally get more power

Honda CRF 300 L and CRF 300 Rally
The new CRF 300 L and CRF 300 Rally – Honda’s lightweight dual-purpose bikes receive big upgrades.

Increased engine and fuel tank capacity nudge the CRF Rally into the 300-plus adventure club, to join the Kawasaki Versys-X 300, Zontes 310-T, BMW G 310 GS and KTM 390 Adventure. The CRF 300 L also benefits from a raft of improvements.

A front-three-quarter shot of the The 2021 Honda CRF 300 Rally
The 2021 Honda CRF 300 Rally looks just about identical to its predecessor.

Engine

Unlike the CRF 250 Rally and L, where the engine’s capacity matches its name, the reworked engine does not displace 300cc. Instead, it has a cylinder capacity of only 286cc. Honda created the extra 14 percent cubic capacity for the single-cylinder, liquid-cooled DOHC by increasing stroke from 55mm to 63mm. Bore remains at 76 mm, as does compression ratio of 10.7:1. So, while capacity goes up by just 36cc, power goes up by 10 percent (18.2 kW to 20.1 kW), while torque is raised by a significant 18 percent (22.6 Nm to 26.6 Nm). Honda says the new engine is considerably stronger from 2 000rpm up.

The engine of the Honda CRF 300 L and Rally
The 250cc cylinder received a longer stroke, for a displacement of 286cc.

To match the reworked engine’s additional power, and to smarten pick-up and acceleration, gears 1 to 5 are shorter than before, while 6th gear is taller for relaxed highway cruising. The addition of an assist/slipper clutch makes the lever lighter to pull, while eliminating rear wheel “hop” on rapid downshifts. The top speed for the CRF 250 L goes from 129 km/h to 132 km/h, and 129km/h to 135km/h for the CRF 250 Rally. These increases seem marginal, but they make it easier for riders to maintain their desired cruising speed when going uphill.

Combustion and cooling

Honda says revised timing of the intake cam specifically boosts low- to mid-range response – the rev range most used around town or off road – and works with a redesigned air filter, exhaust downpipe, muffler and ignition timing. An iridium spark plug, along with precise metering of fuel from the PGM-FI injection system, further enhances combustion efficiency while reducing harmful emissions and meeting EURO5 regulations. The cooling system uses a heat-release radiator, positioned on the left of the bike, protected with a polypropylene grill.

The CRF 300 L is meant for shorter distances, compared to the 300 Rally.

Chassis, suspension and wheels

The semi-double cradle steel frame of the CRF 300 L and Rally is completely new, reducing weight by 2.15 kg for each model. The aluminium swing-arm is also new.

The 43mm Showa inverted fork gains 10 mm of stroke to 260 mm, with spring weight and damping settings revised “for precise control over a wide range of terrain and speeds,” Honda says. Pro-Link rear suspension now features a 260 mm axle stroke, from 240 mm.

The front brake uses a single 256 mm disc gripped by a two-piston caliper, the rear a 220 mm disc and single-piston caliper. “The discs feature a wave design – also taken directly from the CRF250R and CRF450R – with exceptional self-cleaning abilities in adverse conditions,” the manufacturer says. Two-channel ABS, that can be deactivated, is standard.

The aluminium swing-arm of the CRF 300
The aluminium swing-arm is new, helping to reduce overall weight by 4kg.

Weight

With a wet weight of 142 kg, the CRF 300 L is 4 kg lighter than the CRF 250 L. The Rally has also shed 4 kg, for a wet weight of 153kg. For context: The kerb weight of the CRF 1100 L Africa Twin (manual) is 226 kg.

“Lightweight aluminium rims reduce unsprung mass. To set them apart from the 250’s, the Alumite surface is polished to a gloss finish,” according to Honda. “Block pattern enduro-style tyres (front, 80/100-21 51P and rear 120/80-18 62P) provide traction in a wide range of riding situations. The 21-inch front wheel and 18-inch rear increase stability on rough terrain and allow the fitment of more off-road specific tyres if required,” the company says.

The tower of the CRF 300 Rally
The tower of the CRF 300 Rally. The LCD display is now easier to read.

Design and equipment

To foster easy, light control, the riding position on both motorcycles has been subtly altered: the handlebars have been pulled back slightly, while the foot-rests have been lowered and moved towards the rear, to make gear changes in chunky off-road boots easier.

Just like the CRF 250 Rally, the CRF300 Rally is designed to cover longer distance and its styling reflects this. Derived from the parts used by the CRF450 Rally, the ‘floating’ screen, upper/lower fairing and side shrouds offer defence against the elements. Hand guards offer further protection, both for the hands and the brake and clutch levers. A skid plate protects the machine’s underside and the gear lever features a folding tip.

A close-up of the CRF 300 L's headlight and forks
The 43mm Showa inverted fork gains 10 mm of stroke to 260 mm, with revised spring weight and damping.

Range and comfort

These features do not mean much if the Rally’s tank holds less fuel than Ken and Barbie’s pink Jeep. So, Honda increased the fuel tank by 2.7 litres, to 12.8 litres. With average consumption of 32.3 km/l (3.1 litres/100km) achievable, a cruising range of over 400 km is possible.

To enhance long-distance comfort, the Rally’s seat is rubber mounted and the footpegs get rubber inserts. The seat height is 885mm, 5mm taller than the CRF 300 L’s seat, but 10mm lower than before. It features the same narrower profile up front as its sibling, but with an 20mm width across the seat area to allow longer days in the saddle. The Rally’s face still has the distinctive asymmetric dual-LED headlight.

Both models receive a redesigned LCD screen and the speedo digits are bigger than before. Information on the display includes gear position indicator, fuel consumption, average speed and rev-counter.

A full-frontal shot of the CRF 300 Rally
The face of the CRF Rally remains an acquired taste.

In conclusion

Even if the two CRFs cannot match the other members of adventure club 300 for top speed and highway cruising, they should not be ignored. Compared to the Versys-X, Zontes 310-T and BMW G 310 GS, the Hondas are much closer to being true dirt bikes and this will guarantee them of a particular group of buyers and a loyal following. As for long-distance riding, even the 250 has little trouble maintaining a constant 125 km/h. And, what is lost in outright speed, is gained where the road ends.

The 2020 prices for the CRF250 Rally is R85 000 and R75 000 for the CRF 250 L. Prices and date of local introduction of the 300s are to be confirmed.

Technical specifications

Engine  286 cc liquid-cooled, fuel-injected single cylinder DOHC, 4 valves
Max. power  20.1 kW at 8 500 rpm
Max. torque  26.6 Nm at 6 500 rpm
Fuel tank capacity  12.8 litres (Rally) | 7.8 litres (L)
Fuel consumption 3.1 litres/100km (32.3 km/litre)
Transmission  6-speed, wet multiplate assist/slipper clutch. Chain drive
Frame  Steel semi-double cradle
Seat height  885 mm (Rally) | 880 mm (L)
Ground clearance  275 mm (Rally) | 285 mm (L)
Kerb weight  153kg (Rally) | 142kg (L)
Front suspension  43mm telescopic USD fork
Rear suspension  Prolink
Wheels front and rear  Aluminium spoke
Tyre front 80/100-21M/C 51P
Tyre rear 120/80-18M/C 62P
ABS system type  Two-channel ABS
Brakes front  256 mm x 3.5 mm disc with two-piston calliper
Brakes rear  220 mm x 4.5 mm disc with single-piston calliper
Head- & taillight  LED & bulb (Rally) / Bulb & bulb (L)
Service intervals and warranty  12 000km and 2 years

A view of the CRF 300 Rally from the left
What the CRF 300 loses in outright speed it gains in off-road ability.
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