2013 Honda CRF230F | Review

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2013 Honda Off-Road Motorcycle Review

For years, off-road enthusiasts have been mourning the loss of the Honda’s line of XR dirt bikes. While nothing has truly replaced the do-everything XR600R, XR400R and XR250R air-cooled raceable playbikes, Honda has done a good job of keeping fun alive with the smaller displacement machines.

The 2013 CRF230F, powered by a torquey, slightly undersquare, air-cooled, two-valve, 223cc motor nicely takes the place of the 1993-2002 two-valve version of the XR200R. It’s not a competition machine, but it is a capable trail bike that can be taken on some surprisingly technical trails.

The Honda CRF230F has a very manageable 34.6-inch seat height, and the 12 inches of ground clearance keeps the meagerly protected motor out of most trouble. A claimed curb weight of 248 pounds sounds a bit high, but the bike is well balanced and relatively low to the ground, so it doesn’t feel heavy in normal use.

Suspension travel is fairly long for the CRF230F’s modest requirements-9.5 inches in the front and nine-even in the back-and they’re Showa units with linkage in the rear. Action isn’t exactly plush, and don’t even consider anything resembling a double jump or whoop, yet they’re still decently valved and sprung for casual and reasonably spirited riding.

With a flat torque curve and six-speed transmission, plus decent overrev in the motor (it still has a carb), the 2013 Honda CRF230F is always in the powerband. The slick transmission is pure Honda, so it shifts nicely. The clutch did get some hard use on our cross-country track (we rolled the doubles) and highly technical single-track test trail. It refused to misbehave, and it makes riding the CRF230F effortless. The 54-inch wheelbase makes it easy to glide through tight trails.

Getting the power to the ground are Pirelli MT320 tires-they’re okay for mild use. A large percentage of riders will likely be wholly satisfied with their performance. The harder we pushed them-both in speed and difficult terrain-the less satisfied we were with their performance.

Because the 2013 CRF230F has a narrowish 100/100 rear tire, the choices are a bit limited. Still, three highly regarded tires are available as replacements-the Dunlop MX51 GeoMax, and Bridgestone M604, and Maxxis M7304/M7305 Maxxcross, are all good choices, especially for intermediate to hard-pack terrain.

With the improved rubber, we expect the ancient rear drum will have improved feel. Up front, the single 240mm disc is excellent.

Nothing has changed from 2012, but that’s of no concern. The 2013 Honda CRF230F knows its market and delivers friendly performance that will serve as a great mount for the casual trail rider, or a newer full-sized adult rider who wants a bit more time before moving up to something like the high-performance CRF250X.

2013 Honda CRF230F Specs:

  • Engine Type: 223cc air-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
  • Bore and Stroke: 65.5mm x 66.2mm
  • Compression ratio: 9.0:1
  • Valve Train: SOHC; two-valve
  • Carburetion: 26mm piston-valve
  • Ignition: CD
  • Transmission: Six-speed
  • Final Drive: #520 O-ring-sealed chain; 13T/50T
  • Suspension
  • Front: 37mm leading-axle Showa fork; 9.5 inches travel
  • Rear: Pro-Link Showa single shock with spring preload adjustability; 9.0 inches travel
  • Brakes
  • Front: Single 240mm disc
  • Rear: Drum
  • Tires
  • Front: 80/100-21
  • Rear: 100/100-18
  • Wheelbase: 54.0 inches
  • Rake: 26°45′
  • Trail: 4.4 inches
  • Seat Height: 34.6 inches
  • Ground Clearance: 12.0 inches
  • Fuel Capacity: 1.9 gallons, including 0.4-gallon reserve
  • Color: Red
  • Curb Weight: 248 pounds (includes all standard equipment, required fluids and full tank of fuel-ready to ride)
  • Meets current CARB and EPA off-road emissions standards.
  • Price: TBA


  • Helmet: Bell Moto-9
  • Goggles: Progrip
  • Jersey and pants: Thor Phase Vented
Gloves: Thor Phase
Boots: Sidi Discovery

Photography by Kevin Cashman