Trail Bike Comparison: Honda CRF250F vs. Kawasaki KLX230R



The 2022 Honda CRF250F and 2022 Kawasaki KLX230R.

The 2022 Honda CRF250F and 2022 Kawasaki KLX230R. (Jeff Allen/)

In case you trip bikes, you in fact know that pink and inexperienced characterize two of essentially the most well-known bike producers on the earth—Honda and Kawasaki. Whereas their company colours could differ, one of many many issues these corporations have in frequent is the power to provide high-quality, recreationally targeted trail bikes which are equally as pleasant to the rider as they’re to his or her pockets. Sure, these are actually enjoyable, versatile bikes for not some huge cash.

Honda’s CRF230F carried Large Crimson on this class for years, however it was changed in 2019 by the CRF250F. The following 12 months, Kawasaki unveiled its KLX230R aiming to take a bit of the path bike pie. Pricing for the 2023 fashions (our testbikes are ‘22s) is kind of shut: The Honda CRF250F’s MSRP is $4,899, and the Kawasaki KLX230R’s MSRP is $4,749.

In deep sand, full throttle must be applied.

In deep sand, full throttle should be utilized. (Jeff Allen/)

Whereas the Honda CRF250F and Kawasaki KLX230R four-stroke engines have related specs, their air-cooled singles have displacements that aren’t an ideal match (CRF is 249cc and the KLX is 233) however are actually shut sufficient for comparability’s sake—and the bikes are positively aimed on the identical buyer. The Honda not solely has extra displacement, however it additionally contains a four-valve cylinder head in comparison with the Kawasaki’s two-valve design.

Each fashions characteristic normal full-size off-road wheels with 21-inch fronts and 18-inch rears, offering an abundance of aftermarket tire choices. Each producers have additionally fitted their respective fashions with almost similar brakes: Twin-piston calipers and 240mm rotors are discovered up entrance, and single-piston calipers squeeze 220mm discs on the rear.

For 2023, both bikes are green-sticker legal, meaning you can ride them year-round in California.

For 2023, each bikes are green-sticker authorized, which means you may trip them year-round in California. (Jeff Allen/)

Engines

That includes a bigger engine than its predecessor together with digital gas injection (EFI) and electrical begin, the CRF250F is prepared for the roaring twenties (2020s, that’s). On our in-house Dynojet 250i rear-wheel dynamometer, the quarter-liter Honda made 20.1 hp at 7,500 rpm and 15.5 lb.-ft. of torque at 6,000 rpm. The rev limiter kicked in at 9,100 rpm.

Honda’s 249cc air-cooled single-cylinder engine produces 20.1 hp at 7,500 rpm and 15.5 lb.-ft. of torque at 6,000 rpm.

Honda’s 249cc air-cooled single-cylinder engine produces 20.1 hp at 7,500 rpm and 15.5 lb.-ft. of torque at 6,000 rpm. (Jeff Allen/)

The CRF’s SOHC four-valve powerplant impressed with its linear powerband and quick-revving nature. It has good, usable energy all through your entire rpm vary. A big a part of our time testing this mannequin was on tight single-track and choosing our manner by way of rock gardens, the place lugging the bike round in second gear wasn’t an issue. With loads of bottom-end to blip the bike out of corners or up over rocks, the CRF250F was simple to trip in tight and technical terrain.

With a 17cc (6 percent) displacement advantage and larger throttle body, the Honda CRF250F produces more power than the Kawasaki KL230R throughout the entire rev range.

With a 17cc (6 p.c) displacement benefit and bigger throttle physique, the Honda CRF250F produces extra energy than the Kawasaki KL230R all through your entire rev vary. (Robert Martin/)

2022 Honda CRF250F Dyno Chart.

2022 Honda CRF250F Dyno Chart. (Robert Martin Jr./)

The CRF engine’s tractability and ample flywheel mix with glorious gearing within the five-speed transmission (working by way of a 13/50 closing drive sprocket combo), which positively contribute to the bike’s potential to get into movement from a near-dead cease in second gear. Even on the tightest path we might discover, shifting right down to first gear felt pointless so long as we had any rolling pace in any respect. From a real lifeless cease, first gear was brief sufficient to make the bike tough to stall and to provide the torque it’s essential simply get happening steep hills.

The cable-actuated clutch is easy and simple to interact, offering a fast surge of tractable energy at a dip of the lever.

The Honda CRF250F offers great handling and superb front-end grip, perfect for throwing roost.

The Honda CRF250F gives nice dealing with and excellent front-end grip, good for throwing roost. (Jeff Allen/)

Because the path opened up, the Honda’s willingness to rev shortly paid dividends. Seize a handful of throttle and the Honda places the facility down all the best way to redline. With the assistance of knobby tire, the CRF250F generates stable drive and feels sporty and prepared to go quick. It doesn’t possess the identical kind of aggressive energy supply as a contest mannequin, and that’s completely effective on this class. What this interprets to is a bike that gives the rider with a variety of confidence, even when pushing the boundaries of the machine. How so? Grabbing a handful of throttle doesn’t make you are feeling such as you’re going to be chucked to the bottom however does give a satisfying and controllable surge of ahead movement.

The confidence-inspiring characteristics of the Honda CRF250F enables riders to expand their comfort zone.

The arrogance-inspiring traits of the Honda CRF250F permits riders to develop their consolation zone. (Jeff Allen/)

Workforce Inexperienced’s KLX230R is barely down on energy in comparison with its pink rival, as can be anticipated given its 17cc (6 p.c) displacement drawback. The inexperienced machine’s fuel-injected SOHC engine produced 17.9 hp at 7,700 rpm and 14.4 lb.-ft. of torque at 6,100 rpm on our dyno. At peak, that’s 2.2 hp and 1.1 lb.-ft. of torque lower than the CRF250F, which is 11 p.c much less horsepower and eight p.c much less torque. That’s not insignificant, however it additionally comes right down to how the facility is delivered.

The 2022 Kawasaki KLX230R is powered by a 233cc four-stroke, air-cooled single-cylinder engine.

The 2022 Kawasaki KLX230R is powered by a 233cc four-stroke, air-cooled single-cylinder engine. (Jeff Allen/)

From the seat of the pants the KLX230 appears to have a stronger midrange pull than the CRF250F, however after reviewing the dyno curves, it’s clear the Honda produces extra horsepower and torque all through your entire rpm vary. That seat-of-the-pants midrange pull feeling? It comes from the truth that the Kawasaki’s torque curve just isn’t as linear because the Honda’s. The Kawasaki has a sudden spike in torque round 4,400 rpm that makes the midrange really feel stronger than it really is due to how quickly output rises. Energy supply is slightly flat down low and doesn’t cling on as lengthy on high as does the Honda, however the Kawasaki KLX230R feels perky and enjoyable (partly due to that preliminary spike) within the midrange. Peak horsepower happens roughly 1,000 rpm earlier than the 8,800 rpm rev restrict.

2021 Kawasaki KLX230R Dyno Chart.

2021 Kawasaki KLX230R Dyno Chart. (Robert Martin Jr./)

Trail bikes’ friendly nature encourages riders to take alternative lines.

Path bikes’ pleasant nature encourages riders to take various traces. (Jeff Allen/)

Though each bikes are capable of deal with the identical rocks and terrain, the Kawasaki doesn’t have the moment low-end snap the Honda gives. So as to wheelie the Kawi to recover from obstacles, the clutch must be abused fairly a bit extra. When beginner-level tester Kyle Woertink was requested in regards to the Kawasaki’s low-end traits, he mentioned: “It’s not very sturdy, particularly whenever you want it.” The KLX’s engine additionally isn’t fairly as easy and refined, feeling extra uncooked total and producing extra vibration within the higher rev vary.

Carving through tiger-striped dunes.

Carving by way of tiger-striped dunes. (Jeff Allen/)

Basically, as a result of decrease total output and fewer refined torque curve, the Kawasaki KLX230R engine requires extra administration to make sure it’s within the meaty a part of the rev vary. It isn’t overly distracting, however it provides to the psychological workload—significantly for newer riders—when attempting to beat a tough part. At medium pace and within the midrange, popping wheelies and lifting the entrance wheel turns into simpler. We’d simply favor to get the identical burst of energy decrease within the rpm vary the place it may be utilized at sluggish speeds in second gear.

The Kawasaki KLX230R provides intuitive steering, perfect for quick changes in direction.

The Kawasaki KLX230R supplies intuitive steering, good for fast modifications in path. (Jeff Allen/)

Chassis/Suspension

The Honda’s suspension is, in a phrase, plush. The CRF250F is spec’d with a nonadjustable Showa 41mm fork, and a spring-preload-adjustable shock. Journey is 8.5 inches up entrance and 9.1 inches on the rear, with well-chosen spring charges that maintain up the bike at low to medium speeds. When coming upon tight sections that require slightly manipulation of the suspension by preloading the fork and shock to weight and unweight the bike, the elements supply compliance within the preliminary a part of the stroke then turn out to be progressively stiffer with loads of bottoming resistance—so long as the tempo wasn’t too quick.

Although the CRF250F is categorized as a “trail bike” it certainly knows how to moto when given the opportunity.

Though the CRF250F is categorized as a “path bike” it actually is aware of the right way to moto when given the chance. (Jeff Allen/)

The fork and shock by no means bottomed when touring at low to medium speeds. Up the tempo by way of tough terrain and the shock blows by way of the stroke and bottoms out in G-outs, whoops, or on different bigger obstacles. For extra superior riders, the hot button is to discover a pleased medium between shifting at a decent tempo but in addition understanding the bike’s limits. “It was higher to trip with extra precision and finesse,” intermediate-level motocross check rider Michael Wicker mentioned. “Riders who cost and plow by way of every thing quick are in all probability not going to be essentially the most snug.”

The short 53.5-inch wheelbase of the KLX230R aided in quick turns when sand surfing.

The brief 53.5-inch wheelbase of the KLX230R aided in fast turns when sand browsing. (Jeff Allen/)

That mentioned, for a low-cost playbike, that is glorious suspension tuning for the meant market; total the CRF250F gives an especially user-friendly trip.

Small bike, big air. The extremely narrow waistline and familiar, moto-like riding position of the 250F provides a sense of comfort when arcing across the desert sky.

Small bike, large air. The extraordinarily slim waistline and acquainted, moto-like driving place of the 250F supplies a way of consolation when arcing throughout the desert sky. (Jeff Allen/)

Not solely does the Kawasaki forfeit dimension within the engine division to the Honda, however it’s additionally geared up with a fork with smaller-diameter stanchions. The Showa 37mm unit is nonadjustable, whereas the Showa shock is adjustable for spring preload. Journey is 9.8 inches up entrance and 9.9 inches on the rear.

Offering nearly 10 inches of suspension travel front and rear, the Kawasaki KLX230R provides plenty of bottoming resistance on flat-ground landings

Providing almost 10 inches of suspension journey entrance and rear, the Kawasaki KLX230R supplies loads of bottoming resistance on flat-ground landings (Jeff Allen/)

The KLX230R could have skinnier fork legs, however the bike has extra suspension journey than the CRF250F entrance and rear (1.3 inches and 0.8 inch, respectively). This elevated journey additionally contributes to a 1.5-inch-taller seat peak, as measured in our check procedures. Though the stance of the KLX230R feels excessive within the rear, the elevated journey permits the fork to remain within the candy spot of the stroke extra typically, whereas providing a extra compliant, snug feeling. This entrance suspension efficiency is the place the KLX230R outshined the CRF250F.

Even when pushing the CRF250F to its limits the red machine continually impressed all test riders.

Even when pushing the CRF250F to its limits the pink machine frequently impressed all check riders. (Jeff Allen/)

The Kawasaki’s suspension just isn’t good although. The rear finish is oversprung in comparison with the fork. To be honest, our check riders have been on the lighter aspect, so heavier riders could admire the stiffer rear settings, particularly if driving seated. We discovered the supple fork contributed to the 230′s agility in tight rocky sections, however at quicker speeds, we had much less confidence within the entrance’s potential to keep up traction when leaned over. This can be a results of the unbalanced chassis and the KLX’s rear-high stance placing an excessive amount of weight on the entrance finish. When hitting quick sections with massive bumps, whoops, or jumps, the rear finish tends to go full huck-a-buck with sturdy rebound. Lowering the preload adjustment on the KLX to its lowest setting softened the rear and allowed the shock to trip decrease within the stroke, bettering the stability of the bike. However, in the end the KLX230R nonetheless maintained a slight stink-bug stance. Adjusting physique place farther again on the seat alleviates this. Nonetheless, on the Honda CRF250F, in the identical conditions, a way more impartial driving place could be maintained. There was no want for the rider to compensate with extra physique positioning; the Honda’s entrance/rear stability was merely higher.

Without the need for radiators, these air-cooled machines feel extremely narrow—perfect for tight single-track.

With out the necessity for radiators, these air-cooled machines really feel extraordinarily slim—good for tight single-track. (Jeff Allen/)

The Honda CRF250F additionally corners higher in most circumstances. It supplies extra confidence on nook entry, is extra steady on the aspect of the tire, and stays planted all through the exit. The Kawasaki KLX230R requires extra consideration when altering path because it was extra seemingly to not observe your instructions precisely. The chassis of the KLX230R felt shorter than the Honda entrance to rear, however taller in peak, giving it a tippy, nearly flighty feeling. It’s a little paying homage to these 130cc pitbike racers that have been in style again within the day.

Although the KLX230R is labeled a “trail bike” it proved to be quite sporty.

Though the KLX230R is labeled a “path bike” it proved to be fairly sporty. (Jeff Allen/)

Ergonomics

The KLX230R is considerably roomier than the CRF250F, making it a sensible choice for bigger riders. On the Honda, the format could be very acquainted when it comes to seating place and the connection between the bars, pegs, and seat. The pink bike has inherited some true dust bike DNA from its competition-model sibling, the CRF250R MXer. Shut your eyes and swing a leg over it, other than being only a bit extra compact, this path bike feels similar to the motocross bike.

Where to next? The desert is your playground on these easy-to-ride trail bikes.

The place to subsequent? The desert is your playground on these easy-to-ride path bikes. (Jeff Allen/)

Conclusion

After a variety of testing in tight single-track, open desert, and dust roads with a number of totally different check riders of various talent ranges, it grew to become clear that though these two bikes are aimed on the identical class, they behave very in another way on the path.

The Kawasaki KLX230R accommodates bigger riders higher with its roomier driving place, and its longer-travel suspension offers it a bonus, significantly with the supple and responsive fork. However, whereas we did just like the nimble feeling of the chassis, it wasn’t as balanced or predictable because the Honda’s. Additionally, the engine isn’t as versatile or tractable. It does have a small displacement drawback, however this could be much less noticeable if the horsepower and torque curves have been smoother. In case you by no means rode the Honda, you won’t discover a lot and the midrange feels peppy due to the lumps within the torque curve, however this and the chassis merely made the rider work tougher on related terrain, which on this class is in opposition to the playbike ethos.

You’ll pay $150 extra for the Honda CRF250F (in 2023 pricing), however its mixture of easy, linear energy, immaculate engine tuning, and supple, balanced suspension make the extra value price it. Extra riders might do extra with the CRF in all types of terrain, which is the very definition of a terrific play bike.

The friendly nature of trail bikes allow riders to explore all day. It’s only when the sun went down that we thought about heading back to camp.

The pleasant nature of path bikes enable riders to discover all day. It’s solely when the solar went down that we thought of heading again to camp. (Jeff Allen/)

Finding new lines on the Kawasaki KLX230R.

Discovering new traces on the Kawasaki KLX230R. (Jeff Allen/)

After a tricky hill climb, test rider Michael Wicker works his way down a steep decline.

After a tough hill climb, check rider Michael Wicker works his manner down a steep decline. (Jeff Allen/)

The Honda CRF250F showcasing its nimble handling and agility.

The Honda CRF250F showcasing its nimble dealing with and agility. (Jeff Allen/)

Specs

2022 Honda CRF250F 2022 Kawasaki KLX230R
MSRP: $4,749 (2023: $4,899) $4,599 (2023: $4,749)
Engine: SOHC, air-cooled single-cylinder; 4-valve SOHC, air-cooled single-cylinder; 2-valve
Displacement: 249cc 233cc
Bore x Stroke: 71.0 x 63.0mm 67.0 x 66.0mm
Compression Ratio: 9.6:1 9.4:1
Transmission/Last Drive: 5-speed/chain 6-speed/chain
Cycle World Measured Horsepower: 20.1 hp @ 7,500 rpm 17.9 hp @ 7,700 rpm
Cycle World Measured Torque: 15.5 @ 6,000 rpm 14.4 @ 6,100 rpm
Gasoline System: EFI w/ 34mm throttle physique DFI w/ 32mm Keihin throttle physique
Clutch: Moist, multiplate Moist, multiplate
Engine Administration/Ignition: Full transistorized TCBI digital advance
Body: Metal Excessive-tensile metal, box-section perimeter
Entrance Suspension: 41mm telescopic fork; 8.5 in. journey 37mm telescopic fork; 9.8 in. journey
Rear Suspension: Professional-Hyperlink Showa single shock, spring preload adjustable; 9.1 in. journey Uni-Trak linkage system and single shock, spring preload adjustable; 9.9 in. journey
Entrance Brake: 2-piston caliper, 240mm disc 2-piston caliper, 240mm disc
Rear Brake: 1-piston caliper, 220mm disc 1-piston caliper, 220mm disc
Wheels, Entrance/Rear: 21 in./18 in. 21 in./18 in.
Tires, Entrance/Rear: 80/100-21 / 100/100-18 80/100-21 / 100/100-18
Rake/Path: 26.5°/4.0 in. 26.5°/4.4 in.
Wheelbase: 55.9 in. 53.5 in.
Floor Clearance: 11.3 in. 11.8 in.
Cycle World Measured Seat Top: 34.7 in. 36.2 in.
Gasoline Capability: 1.6 gal. 1.7 gal.
Cycle World Measured Moist Weight: 264 lb. 253 lb.
Contact: powersports.honda.com kawasaki.com
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