It might take a while for the dust to settle, but once it does you’ll realize that the Honda CRF230M may very well be the first attractive dual-sport… kind of. Clean lines, combined with sleek and stylish bodywork make the CRF230M one of the best looking dual-sports (kind of) around. A comfortable ride and peppy acceleration certainly add to the fun, but when you look this good, does it really matter?
What do we mean by kind of? Keep reading.
Engine Size: 223cc
Price (new): $6,399 CDN/$5,399 USD
Comparable bikes: Yamaha WR250X, Suzuki DR200SE, Yamaha TW200, Yamaha XT250, Suzuki DR-Z400S
Our Honda CRF230M Review:
The Honda CRF230M looks like a dual-sport, and feels like a dual-sport, but in actuality is more a motard than a dual-sport. A quick Google search will reveal people posting incredible things about the CRF230M, including fuel economy claims upwards of 90 mpg! If you are like us, in that you’re skeptical of any and all outrageous economy claims, you’ll be a bit taken back. After all, anything achieving 100 mpg is worth a look, right?
So how did Honda do it? Well, for starters, the CRF230M only weighs in at 276lbs. With 14 hp and 12 ft-lbs of torque, it also isn’t packing too much of an accelerative punch. However, a slick six-speed transmission that is geared efficiently goes a long way. In this case, it’s likely the reason that this motorcycle pushes as much economy out of it as it does.
When riding the Honda CRF230M feels responsive. This is a bike that you can feel comfortable leaning over, as its light weight removes that feeling of awkwardness that many new riders will experience when tilting over a larger motorcycle. Once you’ve had a bit of practice you can literally “flick” this bike through the corners, leaning it over while simultaneously providing input with the throttle.
For a bike that takes a fair bit of time to get up and go (designed for economy, not speed, remember?) the CRF230M is a surprisingly large amount of fun. You don’t need to hit 60mph in 5 seconds when the machine you’re riding feels like a roller coaster ride every time you lean it over. And, when you decide that you actually have somewhere to be, this beginner motorcycle will cruise all day long at 65-70mph.
We don’t feel it to be as good a trail bike as the Yamaha WR250X or the Suzuki DR-Z400S, but that doesn’t mean it won’t go there. Dirt, gravel, and sand are no match for the raised suspension and grippy tires.
But what takes us back the most is the capability this bike provides while still managing to look good. Yamaha never accomplished that feat with the WR250X, and Suzuki definitely didn’t come close with the DR-Z400S. But Honda hit the nail right on the head. In our estimation, the Honda CRF230M is the best looking dual-sport/motard out there.
The Bottom Line:
It’s not an off-road monster, but it does return excellent economy in what should be a relatively maintenance free package (it uses many of the components, including the engine, transmission, and frame, from the excellent CRF230L). We like the Honda CRF230M a whole lot, and for a motorcycle that was just introduced for the 2009 model year, that’s a bold statement to make.