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Honda Introduces New, Larger Displacement CRF300L Models for U.S. Market

Announced earlier for Europe, it turns out the U.S. market will be getting the new Honda CRF300L and CRF300L Rally for 2021. Both bikes get a displacement increase to 286cc, courtesy of a longer stroke. In addition to a 2.5 horsepower increase, Honda claims a big jump in torque across the powerband. Both bikes are also lighter, and the Rally model gets a larger fuel tank this year.

Plenty of other changes have been made. All of the details are in the following press releases from Honda:

  • CRF300L
  • CRF300L ABS

Improve upon the motorcycle industry’s top-selling dual-sport model: That was Honda’s mission with its smallest road-legal CRF, and the means was to increase power, reduce weight and improve off-road performance—all without sacrificing the value, reliability and styling that have played such a big part in the machine’s popularity. Additional power and torque were obtained via a 15% displacement increase, while off-road performance was improved by adding suspension travel and ground clearance. Meanwhile, overall vehicle weight was reduced 11 lbs., primarily by optimizing plate thicknesses and tubing sizes on myriad components, following the careful application of Computer Aided Engineering analysis. Styling cues are carried over from Honda’s CRF Performance line, while MSRP remains extremely competitive, so both the standard and ABS versions of the CRF300L are ready to provide low-cost transportation and true dual-sport adventure.

STYLING

Through its bodywork and red, white, black and blue graphics, the CRF300L is designed to mimic the look of the CRF Performance line, including the Baja-dominating CRF450X.

Riding Position
The riding position has been revised to enable improved rider input and vehicle maneuverability. Handlebar sweep is increased for a more natural elbow position and lighter steering, and handlebar weights were added to reduce vibration. While the widths of the seat’s rear and middle areas are unchanged for comfort, the front area is slimmer for improved rider input via the thighs and knees. The foot pegs are also moved rearward, simplifying foot operation of the shifter and brake pedal, while the right swingarm-pivot cover is redesigned to reduce width. Passenger pegs are provided as well.

Meter
A new meter features black characters on a white background, and characters are 6 mm larger for improved visibility. In addition to speed, clock and rpm readings, new functions have been added, including gear position, fuel mileage and fuel consumption. The meter is also .01 pounds lighter.

ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN

Starting with the CRF250L, Honda revised the liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, four-stroke power plant, increasing stroke by 8 mm (63.0 mm total), while leaving the 76.0 mm bore unchanged. This resulted in a 36cc displacement increase, for a total of 286cc, prompting a name change to CRF300L. The longer piston stroke delivers an increase in power and torque across the rev range.

In addition, the camshaft has revised lift and timing to increase output in the rev range’s lower and middle areas, which are used often in both city riding and off-road going.

Intake / Exhaust
The air-cleaner design was revised, and the large, 38 mm throttle body has been retained, while a new exhaust system is incorporated, featuring a lighter header and muffler—this despite a reduction in sound output that was achieved by better controlling vibrations. In combination, these changes deliver improved throttle control, particularly at low rpm.

As before, the engine features a valve train with a rocker-arm design, enabling a compact cylinder head, while the counterbalancer provides smooth running.

Transmission
The six-speed gearbox features updated ratios for 2021, with closer spacing in the lower gears and wider spacing in the higher gears, enabling optimum gear selection while still allowing comfortable high-speed cruising—a great balance between suitability for city, long-distance and off-road applications.

Clutch
Already praised for its light clutch pull, the model gets even lighter pull for 2021 (approximately 20 percent), thanks to a new assist/slipper clutch that also provides improved performance during aggressive downshifting.

CHASSIS / SUSPENSION

Despite the more powerful engine, overall vehicle weight has been reduced thanks to different construction of many components. For example, the lower triple clamp is now constructed from aluminum instead of steel, reducing weight by .1 pounds. This results in not only reduced steering effort but, because the weight drop occurs high on the vehicle, also a lower center of gravity.

Frame
Through optimization of its main components, the frame’s weight has been reduced by .3 pounds, while lateral rigidity is reduced by 25 percent, improving maneuverability and rider feel: The down tube is 30 mm narrower; the down-tube gusset is smaller; the main pipe is 20 mm shorter; and diameter of the cradle tubes is down 3.2 mm, to 25.4 mm.

In addition, revisions to the frame and crankcase designs enable a 1.2 inch increase in ground clearance, reducing the chance of interference during riding in rough off-road conditions.

The kickstand is stronger to resist bending, and its foot plate is now 10 percent larger for improved vehicle stability while parked.

Swingarm
Similar to the frame, the swingarm’s lateral and torsional rigidity have been reduced by 23 and 17 percent, respectively. Width near the pivot is reduced by 15 mm, and the component’s overall cross section was revised to deliver a more uniform distribution of twist, resulting in better feel and more predictable handling. The swingarm’s weight has also been reduced by .08 pounds—a reduction in sprung weight that in turn delivers improved suspension action
.

Suspension
As before, suspension comprises a 43 mm inverted Showa fork and a Pro-Link single-shock rear system. However, suspension stroke has been extended, resulting 10.2 inches of wheel travel front and rear, an increase of .4 inches and .6 inches, respectively. Settings are also revised, and a new rear link and connecting rod are used. The combined result is improved suspension performance, particularly during off-road riding.

Brakes
Hydraulic brakes are used front and rear, with 256 and 220 mm rotors, respectively, and available ABS for smooth, controlled stops in varying conditions. A new rear-brake master cylinder incorporates the reservoir, similar to the design used on the CRF Performance line. This allows elimination of the hose that connected the remote reservoir with the previous design, for a cleaner appearance. Conveniently, ABS can be turned off at the rear, providing a different riding feel in off-road conditions.

Wheels
As with high-performance off-road machines, the wheel sizes are 21 inches at the front and 18 inches rear, enabling smooth rolling over rough terrain. Compared to the 2020 model, the black aluminum rims have been polished, resulting in a glossy appearance and making them easier to clean.

The rear sprocket is thinner in certain areas and is attached with smaller bolts (M8 replacing M10), achieving a .04-pound combined weight savings. The rear axle is now hollow, shaving almost .03 pounds.

ACCESSORIES

A number of Honda Accessories are offered, including hand guards, a skid plate, an electrical socket, wider foot pegs, a top box, a rack and more.

  • Meets current EPA and CARB standards
  • California version differs slightly due to emissions equipment

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30 Comments

  1. joe b says:

    I came back to this article, and reread the many comments, they are all over the map. Only a few people seem to see this bike for what it is. the 90% negative comments, its too heavy, too small, too old, too big, too small, has too much, doesnt have this doesnt have that, isnt a mx bike, isnt a street bike, makes me shake my head and wonder. Honda is known for the durability of their machines, duty cycle, quality some would say. Comparing this to lighter competition that needs heaps more maintenance and cheesy components, or bigger street models, misses the point. This isnt a best selling bike for no reason? You would think, making it a smidgen lighter, with a smidgen more HP, would make everyone applaud with approval, but those people dont come here, they just buy it and be happy. It makes me think less of the those that criticize it, than the machine. Has most everyone gone coocoo-crazy? I have a 94 XR250L, and was thinking of replacing it with this, mostly because it has an electric start, and it ticks all the boxes, but i dont need another bike, just because. All I would say to those who are so critical, these arent the droids your looking for. And, just what bike do you ride?

  2. If only it were a 305 like Kawasaki’s GPz305…If only it weighed a whole lot less than a McDonalds Fappy Meal…I just know these manufacturers can make a bike that I’ll pretend to want to buy but won’t and it’s cuz they just don’t wanna…I got some weights for Christmas but can’t use ’em cuz the manufacturer coulda made ’em lighter but just refused to do so to make me feeeeee!l like a pussy…I passed a buncha broke down Harleys on the way to the Piggly Wiggly on my really cool nude bike and I was skin’s 160 up hill…i was on my GPz 305 with 309 kit in it. She’s real fine my 309.

    So one of you boys crack me up. I weep for motorcycling.

  3. Grover says:

    While a 50cc increase is nice, it’s going to take at least 450cc’s to get me into the dealership. I ride a KLX250S and the only sore point is the power. That’s it! It would be the perfect Dualsport if it had more power that would enable it to buck headwinds and climb mountain passes without bogging down. Suspension is great, motor is smooth enough and comfort is acceptable (for a Dualsport). Maybe in 15 years we’ll see a 450cc Dualsport with decent range, weight, smoothness and comfort. By that time I’ll no longer be interested.

    • todd says:

      I think you can fit the 300 piston and cylinder on yours? I had a KLX300R with a FCR pumper carb. It dyno’d at 36rwhp for a whopping 30% increase in power. I knew guys who went to 340cc and 365cc with 45rwhp for not a whole lot of money. There’s lots of room left in your engine, if it’s the same as the old one.

      • STEVEN LOWDEN says:

        Piston is same as 250
        Difference is in the stroke where it been increased by 8mm and then reducing conrod length by 4mm so piston don’t hit the head
        I did the conversion and it made a difference but not huge

  4. ATBScott says:

    Hmmmm… Knocking off .1 lbs here and .04 lbs. there – and they reduced the curb weight by 9 lbs? With a larger tank? Something sounds fishy here… .7 gallons weighs about 4-1/2 lbs by itself.
    The stock Rally is not light – I have one and enjoy the hell out of it. I do NOT ride CA freeways on the bike unless I have to for a short stretch. It is fun to run around town, dirt roads, and I’m looking forward to some light trail exploring at my place in Oregon next summer. With most of my miles being rolling along between 45-50 mph, I tend to get close to 90 mpg – pretty impressive. Did a 124 mile loop from home down and up around Mt Hamilton and through Livermore, having a bit of fun on the twisty stuff. Put in 1.45 gallons when I got home. Can’t knock a little bike for cheap fun! My big bike (R1100RT) has been sitting since I got this. The 300 I am sure will be an improvement, but I own my little 250 and have no real need for more power for what I use it for.

  5. goober says:

    Had a 2013 CRF250L that I rode for about 8000 miles in the mountains (4,000 – 9,000ft). Fun off road, but heavy, and absolutely worthless on the street. Could almost never pull 6th gear (and on the new bike, 6th is even taller)! Maxed out just under 70mph, but a stiff wind would slow me down to 60mph, and it could barely make 45mph going up the mountain passes. Oh yeah, I weigh 155 lbs, and I carried about a 10lb toolkit. Also, the build quality sucked – my bike ate front brake discs until I discovered the front hub was machined with too much runout, all the bolts are made of cheesium, the forks leaked with any hint of dust, the transmission was clunky and full of false neutrals, and the main output shaft splines disappeared (no, the chain was not too tight). But I did get a real 70mpg and it never left me stranded. Waiting to see if the new KLX300 is a better choice, because I’m ready to buy it again with ABS!

  6. mike says:

    having ridden big thumpers and twin cylinder dual sport bikes for the last 16 years sometimes i miss a small dual sport. the 250 offerings have been lacking but the new 300 class bike might be worth looking at .look forward to a review.

  7. Reginald Van Blunt says:

    At 309 pounds curb weight for the Rally, this should be a nice 350 cc. It does not warm my heart to read about all this thinning of parts, with a goal of also making some components more flexible for dynamic response. This is not a grand prix bike for road racers.
    Weight reduction for the plastic front fender ! Gimme a Break. -Little pun, sorry-
    If I squint my eyes a bit, reminds me of my ole 600 TransAlp, only skinny.

  8. Dave says:

    Does anybody else think it’s been a long time since the moto makes should’ve stopped the engineers from writing the marketing copy? Fractions of pounds, percentages of stiffness, air-cleaner updates and frame tube dimensions? All this stuff is meaningless, especially to people who will actually buy and ride this bike.

    What does it *do*? How can I (person considering a 1st motorcycle) use it?

    No wonder motorcycling has floundered in a long running bull market.

  9. Gary in NJ says:

    It’s a play bike…a soft-roader. It certainly looks great, but in the end it’s low on power and high on weight. But it’s a great bike if all you need to do is ride with your kid on his/her CRF50. The Rally version has greater potential with some 17/17 wheels.

  10. Joel says:

    I picked up a 2020 CRF 250L last November as part of a dealer year end close out. No regrets. The exhaust system and other mods I’m making will compensate for the improvements on the 300 model. I’ll be interested to see what the price increase will be for an additional 36cc and a few pounds less weight. By the time I can ride again in Minnesota, I will be 8 pounds lighter (XC Skiing effect), so I just improved my 250 with exercise. It is a great bike . . . if you do a few upgrades like air box, exhaust, and suspension. Just sayin’

  11. paul says:

    I rode the 250 Rally a couple of years ago, it was actually quite good on the highway, even with a brisk headwind. That little fairing up front is very effective. Nice bike so I’m sure the 300 Rally won’t disappoint.

  12. Bob Krzeszkiewicz says:

    Lots of tiny refinements. Every little bit helps. Especially as the Rally is a porker. As such, the stroke should have not just increased to 63mm from 55mm but should have gone to 66mm to get to 299cc. Every little bit helps and on a porker, even more torque should have been given.

    But I get it. The already EPA approved CBR300 is 286cc and has been for a few years or so. They’d have to go through those hoops again at a cost.

    • Jordi says:

      Porker is right. Weighs as much as a XR650L. I don’t see any mention of a heavier clutch on the new model either. Definitely a weak point on the 250s.

  13. todd says:

    It’s a nice bike, for sure. I just wonder why the 650L never got the same love to compete with the KLR, why the 400 was never street legal, and why they didn’t go all “Adventure” with a street legal 650R.

  14. Tom R says:

    Oh man, if only it was a 350…

    • jon says:

      Agree! And i’ll be along in a couple of years after the next refresh to to complain about how if only it was a 400!

    • Mick says:

      You are aware that a KTM 350 EXC-F is street legal, makes considerably more power, and weighs 50 pounds less right?

      Some folks just have to have a Honda.

      • Stuki Moi says:

        LA to the Arctic on a KTM EXC is gratuitous abuse of both bike, bike parts and rider…..

        The 390 Adv OTOH…..

        • Mick says:

          Pick your poisin and your route.

          The 390 weighs half again what even the 500 EXC weighs. No contest.

          I can’t vouch for the current engines. But the 520/525 vintage bikes would change the route considerably while being fully capable dirt bikes along the way.

          Or limit your possibilities to those imagined by the street bike division.

          I’m 59 and I’m just not that old yet.

  15. Marcus says:

    For reference – .01 pounds = .16 ounces
    We’re reducing weights by hundredths of a pound now? Is anybody going to notice?
    Just give me the larger bolts on the sprocket thank you. 🙄

    • Tom R says:

      It’s right up Mick’s alley.

      • Mick says:

        Nope! Sorry. I bought a wiesel to see what all the fuss was about. It had its moments. But in the end it just wasn’t versatile enough.

        Buying the street version of a dirt bike is a fools errand at any displament. Street bike engineers are vile defilers of anything and everything.

  16. My2cents says:

    A perfect 4th bike to have in the garage. Currently have a vintage, a ADV , and a heavyweight cruiser. The L would be the perfect fit to cover the ground I won’t on a heavy ADV bike. The additional displacement should help on the asphalt between home and the trails. Awesome ride.

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