Right up front, I have to admit to not being a fan of the Honda CRF250L Rally. Its styling and name overpromised, making it a less-competent version of the standard CRF250L on the street and dirt. It did look cool, however, but that was it. However, before we get deeper into it, the new 2021 Honda CRF300L Rally changes all that. Although it doesn’t look like it, it is a virtually all-new, far more capable version, particularly off-road. With that spoiler revealed, let’s go riding.
- The 2021 Honda CRF300L Rally’s motor is the obvious change, and it’s a big one. The additional 36cc created by lengthening the stroke by 8mm makes a huge difference, but Honda didn’t stop there. Breathing has been improved thanks to a new air cleaner and lighter exhaust system. Honda focused on low-rpm power, and the new 286cc motor delivers.
- To make the CRF300L Rally more effective off-road, Honda tightened up the lower gear ratios. This change makes the Rally far easier to ride off-road, as there’s no chasm between the cogs. The combination of increased low-rpm power and shorter gaps between gears is a massive improvement in the dirt. The Rally is always pulling this year, where it felt doggy before. This makes the CRF300L Rally far easier to ride for a new rider, and more fun for an experienced off-roader.
- Where the CRF250L Rally’s motor always felt overwhelmed by the 342-pound chassis, the more powerful 286cc engine does quite well by the lighter 333-pound CRF300L Rally. Only good things happen with a 13 percent increase in power and 3 percent decrease in weight. Fortunately, there’s even more to the story.
- Honda shortened and improved the suspension on the CRF300L Rally. The CRF250L Rally had suspension of meager quality. It made the bike too tall off-road, without the benefits of long-travel suspension. For the CRF300L Rally, Honda shortened the fork travel by 0.8 inches and the rear-wheel travel by a hair. More importantly, the action on the CRF300L Rally is greatly improved. It’s firmer than the standard CRF300L, adding to the Rally’s rally persona. Although the suspension travel is still longer than it needs to be for this friendly dual-sporty application, the CRF300L Rally is much more at home in the dirt. The new suspension is as significant in the success of the new Rally as the motor.
- The CRF300L Rally’s ergonomics are much better for the dirt. The handlebar has a more rearward bend, and the footpegs have been moved back. The result is a more natural position for off-road riding, while not making it uncomfortable on pavement. The footpegs have rubber inserts—take them out off-road, as they can get a bit slippery. Honda offers larger footpegs as an option, and we recommend them for off-road riding.
- The Rally’s new seat is a comfortable improvement. Honda widened it about three-quarters of an inch, and the difference is instantly noticeable compared to the previous Rally and the standard CRF300L. Given that the new Rally has a fuel capacity 2.8 quarts larger than the 250, you can ride much farther between stops with 3.4 gallons to work with. The seat and new ergonomics don’t just make that possible—they make it more enjoyable. Honda also rubber-mounted the new seat, adding even more comfort. Someone at Honda noticed Rally in the name and did something about it.
- While the frame is all-new, it’s hard to tell with all the readily apparent improvements. Honda made all sorts of changes to the widths and lengths of frame tubes. About a third of a pound has been trimmed, which you can’t notice. However, the lateral rigidity is reduced 25 percent. Although that’s something you won’t feel unless riding the 250 and 300 Rallys back-to-back, it undoubtedly reduces fatigue on all-day rides. Fortunately, the lessening of the rigidity did not negatively impact the handling. Honda also tightened up the rake by two-thirds of a degree, which improved low-speed maneuverability. Add in the torquier motor, tightened lower gear ratios, and the new lighter chassis, and it’s easy to see why the CRF300L Rally is so much better in the dirt over its predecessor.
- The 2021 Honda CRF300L Rally is a superior street bike to the 250 version. For city use, the increased torque and smaller transmission ratio gaps are great for urban riding. I did like the old 250 in the city, as I enjoyed the view from the 35.2-inch-high seat. The CRF300L Rally has the same seat height, with more power and better suspension for doing battle with traffic and crumbling city streets. In the canyons, the firmer suspension makes for a more confident ride and, yes, more power is better. Again, these improvements will satisfy both a new rider and a pilot with experience. The throttle response is much more intuitive—you twist, it goes, in a predictable and controllable manner. Also, bar-end weights smooth out the grips at highway speeds.
- The IRC tires are a decent compromise selection. Dirt riders will want to go for something more aggressive, such as the Dunlop D606, while commuters can look into more pavement-friendly options—the Shinko 705 comes to mind. For those who want both, the stock IRCs do work. Although the CRF300L Rally has better power, it will still not light up the rear IRC Trails GP-22 tire unexpectedly. The front IRC Trails GP-21 bit better than I expected—move forward on the seat when turning for better front-end feel.
- Braking is fully intuitive, front and rear. Honda made a minor change in the rear master cylinder. Regardless, the disc brakes behave exactly how you want them to. ABS is an option, and worth the $300 premium. While we didn’t test the ABS version, the rear ABS is defeatable, so we can recommend it even for off-road oriented CRF300L Rally owners.
- Honda celebrated the new CRF300L Rally with a new dash. Okay, so it’s not a TFT. Still, the black-on-white readout is spacious and easily read. The speedometer is huge numerals, so you can check your velocity in a flash. The gear position indicator number is also large, if you keep track of that sort of thing. The tachometer is superfluous—you’ll know when to shift the slick gearbox.
- Speaking of shifting, the new assist-and-slip clutch is a winner. The assist function makes the pull on the lever so light you have to get used to it. Once you do, you’ll love it, especially in traffic or on technical off-road routes. The slipper function isn’t a problem in the dirt, and it’s a nice safety feature for both new and aggressive riders on the street.
- Honda paid obsessive attention to details in this update. Along with the countless tiny weight-saving touches—lower triple clamp, front fender, side covers, toolbox, license-plate holder, dash—the engineers found time to update the kickstand. It’s more robust, and the foot is larger—nice.
Photography by Drew RuizRIDING STYLE2021 Honda CRF300L Rally SpecsENGINE
- While still not a rally bike, the 2021 Honda CRF300L Rally is a huge improvement over its predecessor. I just can’t get over how much better the CRF300L Rally is than the 250 version—it’s truly night and day. Previously, I recommended the standard CRF250L over the rally version without reservation. Now, the roles are reversed. If you don’t mind spending the extra $750 and aren’t too concerned about the extra plastic to break, go with the Rally version of the CRF300L. It’s a fine motorcycle on- and off-road, and its performance is now closer to its persona.
- Type: Single-cylinder canted forward 25 degrees
- Displacement: 286cc
- Bore and stroke: 76 x 63mm
- Compression ratio: 10.7:1
- Valvetrain: DOHC; 4 valves
- Fueling: EFI w/ 38mm throttle body
- Cooling: Liquid
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Clutch: Wet multiplate w/ assist and slip functions
- Final drive: 520 O-ring chain
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable inverted 43mm fork; 10.2 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-assisted spring-preload adjustable shock; 10.2 inches
- Front tire: 80/100 x 21; IRC Trails GP-21F
- Rear tire: 120/80 x 18; IRC Trails GP-22R
- Front brake: 256mm disc w/ 2-piston caliper
- Rear brake: 220mm disc w/ single-piston caliper
- ABS: Optional ($300)
2021 Honda CRF300L Rally Price: $5999 MSRP
- Wheelbase: 57.2 inches
- Rake: 27.5 degrees
- Trail: 4.3 inches
- Seat height: 35.2 inches
- Ground clearance: 10.9 inches
- Fuel capacity: 3.4 gallons
- Color: Red
- Curb weight: 333 pounds