Honda has announced that the 2021 Honda CRF300L and CRF300L Rally will be coming to the North American market. There was some speculation about whether or not the United States would see the revamped dual-sport motorcycles after they were announced in Europe and other countries last month. The CRF250L has served as Big Red’s entry-level dual-sport offering since 2012, and the CRF300L is a welcome update, not only delivering more power but less weight and several chassis upgrades.
Spurred by Euro 5 emissions standards, the most apparent update for the CRF300L platform is a larger DOHC single-cylinder engine, bumped up 36.4cc to 286cc by increasing the stroke from 55mm to 63mm; bore is an unchanged at 76mm. The longer stroke netted a respectable boost in peak horsepower, gaining 2.5 points to 27.3 horsepower at 8,500 rpm, and a 2.9 lb-ft bump in torque, to 19 lb-ft at 6,500 rpm. This will surely benefit riders that need to extract the most out of their dual-sports on the highway or when hitting the trail. Engineers have also updated the cam timing, air intake and exhaust system.
The six-speed gearbox utilizes shorter ratios in 1st-5th gears to improve acceleration, while the 6th gear is lengthened and acts as an overdrive gear for highway use. Moreover, the CRF300L motorcycles are equipped with an assist-and-slipper clutch, eliminating unwanted wheel-hop when downshifting aggressively.
More power is always appreciated, but it is a match made in motorcycle heaven when married with lighter weight. The virtually all-new CRF300L is whittled down to a relatively svelte 309 pounds wet, 11 pounds lighter than the outgoing CRF250L. Engineers optimized the steel frame’s tube thickness and redesigned the cast aluminum swingarm that Honda says provides superior lateral flexibility and feedback. These changes bode well for dual-sport riders looking for better grip and feel when riding off-road.
Fuel capacity on the CRF300L is reduced to 2.1 gallons, and cutting fuel load is becoming an increasingly common strategy to reduce overall motorcycle weight. Meanwhile, the CRF300L Rally features a larger 3.4-gallon fuel tank to accommodate greater range.
The chassis geometry is updated as well, with the wheelbase growing half an inch to 57.2 inches. Rake and trail are marginally tightened up to 27.5 degrees and 4.3 inches, respectively. In a boon for off-road riders, ground clearance is increased over an inch to 11.2 inches by mounting the engine higher in the frame. Not only that, but the non-adjustable 43mm Showa fork and preload-adjustable Pro-Link shock feature 10.2 inches of travel at each end (up 0.4 and 0.8 inch, respectively). We do hope that spring rates and damping reflect the needs of a heavier-set North American market. Both bikes ride on 21- and 18-inch wheels.
Ergonomics have an eye for comfort, with the handlebar featuring increased sweep, while the footpegs are relocated further back and lower. The CRF300L also allows increased movement while on its 34.7-inch saddle, thanks to a slimmer seat profile. However, the Rally seat height comes in at 35.2 inches due to additional padding, meant for longer rides. Both machines use a new LCD instrument panel.
Braking equipment varies between CRF300L and Rally models. The standard dual-sport uses a single 256mm front rotor and two-piston caliper, accompanied by a single 220mm rotor and single-piston floating caliper in the rear. Switchable ABS (disables rear only) is available for an additional $300.
The Rally model features a beefed-up front brake to compensate for its additional weight. To that end, a single 298mm rotor and the same two-piston caliper is used in the front. Again, switchable ABS (disables rear only) is available for an additional $300.
What differentiates the CRF300L and CRF300L Rally is evident in photos as they share all critical components. The CRF300L borrows much of its stylistic cues from the CRF450RL, giving it a much more aggressive motocross vibe. Unlike the Rally, the standard dual-sport uses a conventional bulb headlight.
In celebration of Honda’s recent Paris-Dakar Rally win, the CRF300L Rally takes a page from Ricky Brabec’s race-winning steed, utilizing a larger 3.4-gallon fuel tank, handguards, a fairing, and bug-eyed LED headlights. It also uses weights in the handlebar and rubber inserts in the footpegs to reduce vibrations. These extras add up, and the CRF300L Rally has a claimed weight of 333 pounds wet.
Some of the most fun I’ve ever on a motorcycle is when riding dual-sports, and I can’t wait to review these steeds. MSRP for the 2021 Honda CRF300L is $5,249, and the 2021 Honda CRF300L Rally will set you back $5,999. They’ll be available in the U.S. in March.