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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 CRF 300 L is available from Honda dealers at R85 000. The availability and price of the 300 Rally are to be confirmed. (The 2020 price of the CRF250 Rally was R85 000, and R75 000 for the CRF 250 L.)
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