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Honda CRF250L (2012-2020): Review & Buying Guide

Massively experienced road tester



2012 Honda CRF250L Review Used Price Spec_03


Price: £2500-£5000 | Power: 23bhp | Weight: 144kg | Overall BikeSocial Rating: 5/5


If you are considering entering the muddy world of green lane riding and require a suitable bike, then look no further than Honda’s CRF250L. An absolutely bulletproof workhorse of a dual purpose bike, the CRF makes the ideal companion and is a firm favourite with members of the TRF. It may not be the fastest bike out there but if you are looking at exploring the 6000 miles of green lanes in the UK (yes, 6000 miles!) with minimal hassle and maximum fun, then there is simply no better machine out there. Prices are surprisingly high in the used market, but that is purely a reflection on just how good a machine the CRF250L is.


  • A brilliant green lane bike

  • Bulletproof reliability

  • Light weight and easy to manage – on or off-road

  • Terribly soft suspension

  • Limited when it comes to covering distance

  • Very real threat of theft


Honda CRF250L (2012-2020) Price

Since its launch in 2012, prices for a new CRF250L have always hovered around the £5000 mark with the new CRF300L (which arrived in 2020) currently upping this to £5749 or £6499 for the Rally model. Due to its popularity, used prices remain very high with the bottom of the market around £2500 for a 2012 model and rising to £5000 for a 2020 version. Naturally, there are a few far cheaper rotters out there...The CRF has been updated a few times but generally the updates don’t seem to affect its used price with older models not depreciating any more when an upgrade arrives. If you are serious about your green lane riding the Rally model, which arrived in 2017, features a bigger fuel tank, longer travel suspension and enhanced bodywork. The Rally isn’t as common in the used market and generally buyers opt for the stock model and spend their cash upgrading its suspension. If you want a Rally, prices start at about £4500. The great thing about the CRF250L is that no matter what you spend on one, you know your money is safe as they hold onto their value incredibly well. Unless you cannon it into too many ditches/trees/barbed wire fences...



Engine and Performance

To be brutally honest, there isn’t that much special about the CRF250L’s engine when it comes to its performance. A pretty run-of-the-mill 250cc water-cooled single, it has a four valve head with twin cams and a rocker/roller arm valve train but only makes a fairly subdued 23bhp with 22Nm of torque. Out on the open road it will hit 70mph (with a lot of vibrations...) but it is revving quite hard at this speed and you do feel somewhat cruel holding it there. But it is incredibly reliable and despite its small size and rev-happy way it is generally ridden, it retains 4000-mile service intervals and only needs its valve-clearances checked at 16,000 miles! Faults are also incredibly few and far between with no real major worries aside from the occasional oil leak (generally caused by a nipped gasket on the oil filter cover, which is located on the right hand side of the motor) or an over-tightened sump plug (it should be torqued to 24Nm) causing damage to the sump. A lot of CRF owners do their own servicing as it is a very easy and cheap bike to work on so you do need to carefully check these areas. Generally, if the bike fires up from cold (carefully touch the exhaust to check it is indeed cold before the seller starts it) and there is no smoke from the exhaust or worrying grumbles from the motor, all should be well. CRFs aren’t known to drink oil, however as the bike only holds about 1.5 litres it is quite easy for it to run low, hence the need to listen out for grumbles that may hint at internal damage. The CRF has been fuel-injected since 2012 (the system was revised in 2016 alongside a few engine mods) so there are no carbs to worry about but always check for an Fi warning light as sensors can fail.

While the CRF can be used as a commuter fairly happily, it is off-road that it really comes into its own and that’s where most are found. The little single has a beautiful throttle connection and is perfect for plugging away gently at low speed along muddy or gravel paths. When green lane riding there is no requirement for much pace and in this role the CRF is ideal. In fact, a lot of owners swap the front sprocket to lower its gearing, which is recommended – just take it easy on the engine when driving on the tarmac between green lanes as your top speed will be reduced.



Honda CRF250L (2012-2020) Handling & Suspension

Again, the CRF doesn’t really excel in the handling department but what it does do is provide a solid foundation to work upon. On tarmac the combination of a large and skinny 21-inch front wheel and an 18-inch rear make the CRF a bit loose in bends, especially if fitted with chunky dual-purpose tyres. And this sensation isn’t helped at all by the suspension, which is set decidedly on the soft side. Approach a bend and when you apply the brakes the forks dive quite a lot and then rebound when you release the stoppers, leading to a lot of pitching back and forth. This is the area that draws the most criticism from owners and is where nearly all CRF’s are modified. A replacement shock (the OE one is terribly soft and only has spring preload to adjust) and a fork re-valve kit (the OE forks have no adjustment) transforms the ride quality both on and off-road and is an absolute must. Do this and you can certainly enjoy the lightweight CRF on the road, although a degree of caution is advised as the two-piston single brake caliper is pretty weedy (switchable ABS arrived in 2016) so you will need to also apply on the rear.

Get it off-road and with uprated suspension the CRF is a far happier bike. Where the OE shock bottoms out over bumps, an upgraded item deals with large impacts much better and you will feel far more confident as the bike rides over the undulations with more control. It really is a night and day transformation for less than £800, which is an absolute bargain. Light, easy to haul around (or pick up...) and with an electric start, the CRF is perfect for green lane riding, which is why so many can be found there. But that also means you need to be a bit careful when buying a used one.

Always give a CRF’s chassis a really good inspection as off-road use can be hard on them. A lot of jet washing can blast the grease from bearings, so feel for play, and look for signs of large impacts. All CRFs will have been dropped, it is the force they are crashed that is the worry! Stand behind the bike and check the subframe is straight, ensure the bars aren’t bent and look at the spokes and rims for dings. Also check the engine’s cases for cracks and also the sump and exhaust. A few small dings are to be expected but check for any major issues. And also be very wary of theft as CRFs are regularly stolen. Inspect the engine and frame numbers very well and also see if the steering lock functions as it may have been damaged during a theft-attempt – if in doubt, walk away. Quite often you get a weird feeling about sellers, trust your instincts. Finally remember that green lane riding isn’t off-road, you are on legal roads, and so the bike needs to be road legal and have an MOT and that means indicators and the horn etc all need to be working.



Comfort & Economy

The CRF is actually quite comfortable to ride with a well-padded (for an enduro...) seat but due to its limited speed and performance, you won’t really want to cover too many miles on one. If you do, consider the Rally model with its added wind protection or ideally get the CRF300L (or Rally), which is happier to sit at speed due to its extra capacity. When it comes to economy it is all good news as the CRF will happily record 70mpg all day long, sometimes even getting as high as 80mpg if you are taking it easy.



Honda CRF250L (2012-2020) Equipment

When it comes to equipment, the CRF is quite basic. The 2016-onwards bikes have switchable ABS and all CRFs have a fuel gauge in their LCD dash but that’s about it. You get a tool kit (located under a side panel) and a helmet lock but the beauty of the CRF is its basic nature as there is less to go wrong! However, that doesn’t stop owners upgrading them...

The first thing to change is the suspension, quickly followed by lowering the gearing, and owners always uprate the bike’s crash protection with engine bars, tougher brush guards and meatier bars all common additions. A fair few also upgrade the engine’s covers for more robust items and also the pegs, coolant lines and heel guards. Replacement exhaust systems are both cheap and common but don’t expect huge power gains, it is more a sound and easy replacement after a ding thing. Some people get a bit too excited and upgrade the motor’s cams for more aggressive item, but this isn’t really recommended, if you want more performance without any reliability worries, buy a stock CRF300 or CRF450L.



Honda CRF250L (2012-2020) Rivals

A few have tried but none have manged to replicate the CRF250L’s easy-going nature or popularity and while the likes of the BMW G310GS, KTM 390 Adventure, Suzuki V-Strom 250 or Kawasaki Versys-X 300 claim to be dual purpose, you won’t find many (if any...) on the UK’s green lanes. If you are talking a common green lane ready lightweight dual-purpose bike, the CRF250L is in a class of one.


BMW G310GS (2017-current) | Approx Price: £3000-£6000

Power/Torque: 34bhp/20.7lb-ft | Weight: 169kg


Suzuki V-Strom 250 (2017-2020)| Approx Price: £2500-£4300

Power/Torque: 25bhp/17lb-ft | Weight: 188kg


Kawasaki Versys-X 300 (2017-2019) | Approx Price: £3500-£5000

Power/Torque: 39bhp/19lb-ft | Weight: 175kg



Honda CRF250L (2012-2020) Verdict

The CRF250L is a brilliant example of a bike that while undeniably basic and fairly slow, absolutely hits the nail on the head when it comes to what matters in a lightweight dual purpose bike. Totally reliable, easy to live with and with a huge aftermarket accessories range to dip into, the CRF is a bike that people buy and hold onto. A great machine for exploring the UK’s green lanes on, you can buy one with confidence that is mud-plugging isn’t for you, it won’t lose any money and will be easy to pass on again. Or you could just leave it in your garage for when you fancy another go at it...



Honda CRF250L (2012-2020) spec

Original price


Current price range




Bore x Stroke

76mm x 55mm

Engine layout

Single cylinder

Engine details

Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4v


23bhp (17kW) @ 8500rpm


16.2lb-ft (22Nm) @ 7000rpm

Top speed



6-speed, chain final drive

Average fuel consumption


Tank size

7.7 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

130 Miles

Reserve capacity

30 miles

Rider aids

ABS on 2016-onwards models


Steel semi-double cradle

Front suspension

43mm inverted forks

Front suspension adjustment


Rear suspension


Rear suspension adjustment


Front brake

256mm disc, two-piston caliper.

Rear brake

220mm disc, one-piston caliper.

Front tyre


Rear tyre

120/80 – 18


27.6°/ 113mm

Dimensions (LxWxH)

2195mm x 815mm x 1195mm



Ground clearance


Seat height


Kerb weight

144Kg Wet


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