So now we've owned our project Honda CRF250L Rally for half a year, are we still in love with it?
After waiting a couple of years to get hold of the CRF250L Rally, I was thrilled when it found its way into the garage permanently in late January. This versatile little bike may have a few drawbacks to someone of my size and experience out of the box but for the tasks I want it to be able to do, it's been remarkably well suited to my needs.
During the first couple of month's of ownership I mostly kept the bike as it rolled off the dealership floor. While the bike has a history as a press bike, featuring in all of New Zealand's motorcycling publications and doing duties as a dealer demo unit before I got it, it still had life in the factory tyres and was up to date with its servicing so I didn't need to go pulling it apart.
That said, after a couple of months the need to start making "Rosie the Rally" mine began to nag at me and I hit the net to find some parts and accessories to improve the bike to help tailor it to my needs.
So what have I changed so far?
Removing the pillion Grab Strap
This was the very first modification I did to the Rally, and while small, it made a huge difference in terms of rider comfort.
Yes, while it will be a bit harder to pick the bike up in certain situations off road, the added comfort by not having the strap digging into my backside every ride makes up for this.
Fitting a QuadLock System
With the "navigation tower" as part of the factory CRF250L Rally experience, I figured I needed to mount something up above the dash to help me keep track of where I am. The easiest thing to do was to put my mobile up there meaning I have access to map apps as well as my other phone functions.
The Quadlock is easily to mount your phone to and from, but is nice and secure meaning you don't have to worry about it dropping off onto the road.
It's a very handy and very simple mod, and with the availability of extras such as a waterproof poncho and phone specific cases it is a nice option if using your phone from your bike is of any importance to you.
Fitting a 12v Charging System
With the QuadLock I quickly found my phone was churning through its battery with all the extra use (and the fact my iPhone 6S was getting a bit old). The solution was easy, I popped over to my local Supercheap Auto store in Cambridge and grabbed a simple 12v electrical charger system for the Rally.
The kit simply bolts on to the battery terminals and clamps on to the handlebar, plus with two different outlets (12v and the old style cigarette lighter style port) there is plenty of scope to charge different devices on the go.
In terms of function, the factory hand guards aren't the best in terms of offering protection from much more than the wind. They are flimsy plastic and in the event of a drop are just as likely to break as the levers are. Wanting neither to break, I jumped online and hit up local parts supplier bits4bikes.co.nz and sourced a set of Barkbusters for the Rally with the Jet style plastics.
Fitting the Barkbusters was pretty straightforward and the only special tool I needed was a hacksaw to chop off the end of the throttle roller so that the right-hand-side Barkbuster could be fitted.
While I like the look of the Jet plastics, I think I might actually look at getting a different set of plastic guards for the Barkbusters which offer a larger profile against the oncoming elements, as the Jet still lets a decent amount of weather past them.
Thankfully, I haven't yet put the durability of the Barkbusters to the test but I'm happy in the knowledge that they're going to go a lot further than the factory units regardless.
Perhaps the biggest change to the bike's fit out has been the move away from the factory fitted IRC tyres. With the reality of my riding currently being more on road than off, I was lucky enough to be put in touch with the New Zealand distributor of Avon Tyres and given a set of AV53/AV54 Trailrider tyres in the factory CRF250L Rally sizing to put to the test for New Zealand's Kiwi Rider Magazine.
Without spoiling the review I'm writing for Kiwi Rider, these tyres are roughly a 20% off-road tyre with an 80% focus on road duties. While they don't have the cool knobbly tyre look that the IRCs had, they have made riding on the road so much more fun as I can really lean the bike over with confidence. Plus, with the IRC's pretty worn out by 5000km I've been told I should expect up to three times that from the Avon's.
Even with these changes made to the CRF250L, there are still areas which I feel it could be improved further. As I mentioned in my full review – Honda CRF250L Rally Review | The Redux – the suspension is a major problem area for the Rally, especially with a heavy rider like myself. Having consulted two of New Zealand's best suspension gurus – Taupo's MotoSR and New Plymouth's Kiwi Suspension Solutions – I'm still yet to do anything to remedy the incredibly soft suspension.
That said, once funds become available my next move will likely be to go for the cheapest fix which is to change the rear spring to a stiffer unit to reduce the suspension sag which will roughly be around the $300 mark parts wise.
The forks aren't all that bad so far, but again, once funds become available I'll still be looking at also upgrading these to stiffen them up a bit.
Interestingly, while the bike only sports a 250cc single-cylinder with a max power output of just 17.8kW (24hp) I don't really feel the need to go messing about with the power at this stage.
In fact, this is one of the parts I like about the bike as it is just a happy little commuter when it comes to those trips up to Auckland or bombing around gravel backroads. With a max fuel range of roughly 250km (and as I've seen it as low as 170km when riding it hard), I don't think adding more power to the mix would be particularly worth it without also investing in an auxiliary fuel tank such as a Camel Tank (which isn't the most affordable once you include shipping to NZ) to ensure that the rather short fuel range isn't further reduced.
So after all that, am I still in love with the little CRF250L Rally after 6-months of ownership? Short answer is yet, but damn I wish I'd get more opportunities to get out and ride it!