2023 Honda CRF300L Owner Review (Initial)

Review Last Updated: July 9, 2024
Vehicle Type: Dual Sport
Evaluation Period: 360 km

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Pros

should be reliable, low maintenance, full instrumentation, reasonable weight for the class

Cons

twitchy throttle response (fuel injection), front brake line obscures instruments, side stand is too short, rear turn signal mounting not robust, thin paint, small fuel tank

Overview

I purchased my 2023 CRF300L new in 2024. I’ve owned a few dual sports (DR350S, KLX250S, DR650SE), several street bikes, as well as a few dirt bikes (CRF250F, XR200R, …).

This has been mentioned in many other reviews of the CRF300L, and that's the routing of the front brake line. The bike has a gear position indicator but the view of it is blocked by the brake line. The brake line also partially obscures the speedometer. There is no excuse for this design flaw which could be considered a safety deficiency. How this ever got approval is beyond me. There should be a recall for this. The problem still exists on the 2024 model.

Another problem is that the side stand is too short by about 2 cm. The bike leans too far over when on the side stand.

The fuel capacity on the CRF300L is only 7.8 l, which is comparable to the KLX300. This isn't enough for a lot of the rides that I typically like to do. By comparison, our DR200SE has a 13 l tank. So, my options include installing an after-market fuel tank (expensive) or packing a fuel container (inconvenient).

The paint on the frame is quite thin (as is the case on our CRF250F and KLX140L) and will wear through within a ride or two where it makes contact with your boots if you don't have some kind of frame protection. As a preventative measure, I applied white electrical tape to the sides and front of the frame before I rode the bike.

I've read a number accounts of the rear turn signals breaking off in a tip-overs. Upon inspection, it is evident that the way the rear turn signals are mounted is not robust at all. They should have been attached to metal brackets, but they are only attached to the plastic inner rear fender. This is another design failure.

Riding Impression

I've mostly ridden the bike on pavement (city and rural roads), but I have ridden it about 30 km on good gravel road and about 10 km on a narrow, little used FSR. I plan to ride the bike about half the time on FSRs and trails (twin track).

I'm still in the break-in phase, so I've been a little easy on the throttle. I can't really say for sure what the capabilities of the bike are yet, but I can provide some general insights. I generally like the bike so far, with one exception: the fueling. The bike starts fine, and accelerates okay, but the throttle is like an on-off switch. The ride is quite jerky when trying to hold a steady, low speed on a level (horizontal) road, for example riding at 30 km/h. At higher speeds (and gears), the problem is not so pronounced. When there is load on the engine, it's also fine. Transitioning on and off the gas will have your head rocking back and forward.

I've also found the steering to be a little light. The bike does not feel as stable or planted on the road as my DR650SE does. It's not really a problem, rather it's just a characteristic to adjust too.

There has been a lot of online criticism of the suspension on the CRF300L. Many complain that the suspension is too soft and under-damped. There has also been criticism about its lack of suspension adjustment, other than rear spring preload. So far the suspension seems fine to me, and feels similar in performance to that of my DR650SE, which I find acceptable. As I spend more time riding the bike on the trails and riding it more aggressively, my opinion may change. Granted, I weigh less than some other riders. I probably weigh about 73-75 kg (160-165 lbs) with gear and my backpack. I'm also about 173 cm (5'8+") tall.

One thing that surprised me a bit was the level of high-frequency vibration produced by the engine which is quite noticeable in the handlebars. I wouldn't say it's a problem, but it is more pronounced than in our CBR250RA, whose engine is the basis for the engine in the CRF300L. I haven't been revving the engine out on the 300, and I may find the vibes are less at higher RPMs. I'll comment on this again when I update this review later.

I can't really provide an assessment of the power as I'm still breaking the bike in. Gear changes have been smooth and trouble free. The brakes feel fine, but I haven't fully tested them out (no hard braking yet). I'm undecided about the tires. The seat doesn't feel any more comfortable than the one on my DR650SE. The clutch lever pull is very light. I don't like the horn button. I'm fine with non-LED lights as I don't ride much at night, and bulbs are cheaper to replace.

Either I'm getting used to the bike, or things are improving as I ride the bike more.

Maintenance

Service Info

According to the owner's manual, the initial maintenance is due at 1000 km (600 mi). The first service basically includes just an oil and filter change as well as servicing the chain. The valve clearances do not need to be checked until 25600 km.

Accessories

I installed an Acerbis plastic skid plate.

Comparing the CRF300L to other bikes

The main competitor in this class is the Kawasaki KLX300. Other bikes in this class include the discontinued Honda CRF250L, discontinued Kawasaki KLX250/KLX250S, discontinued Yamaha WR250R, Suzuki DRZ400, Yamaha XT250 and the Kawasaki KLX230/KLX230 S. I've owned a KLX250S, and I have had short test rides on the DRZ400, CRF250L and XT250. We may be buying a KLX230 S.

The 2023 CRF300L has a 286 cc, fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, electric-start, four-valve motor with a 6-speed transmission. The seat height is 880 mm (34.6 in) and the curb mass is 139 kg (306 lbs) with a 7.8 l fuel capacity. The suspension is non-adjustable except for the rear spring preload. It has front and rear disc brakes. Instrumentation includes a tach, fuel gauge and gear position (plus more). The MSRP for the 2024 CRF300L (non-ABS) is $7672 CAD, including $773 for fees, + taxes and comes with a 12-month warranty. The ABS model lists for $200 more. I'm not aware of any changes over the four model years, 2021 - 2024.

The 2024 Kawasaki KLX300 has a 292 cc, fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, electric-start, four-valve motor with a 6-speed transmission. The seat height is 895 mm (35.2 in) and the curb mass is 137 kg (302 lbs) with a 7.5 l fuel capacity. The suspension is adjustable front (compression damping) and rear (compression and rebound damping, preload). It has front and rear disc brakes. Instrumentation includes a tach (plus more). The MSRP for the 2024 KLX300 is $6999 CAD + fees + taxes and comes with a 12-month warranty. ABS is not available.

I sold my KLX250S a long time ago, but if my memory serves me correctly, the KLX250S felt more dirt bike-like, and I didn't enjoy riding it on the highway. The engine was less vibey, but the seat was horrible. The steering of the KLX250S was very light requiring you to constantly focus on your lane position when on the highway. I liked the suspension of the KLX, but the bike had a very week bottom end (the CRF300L feels much stronger).

Comparing the CRF300L to the Suzuki DR650SE, I have to say that so far, I prefer my DR650SE on the road (paved and gravel). The throttle response and feel is so much nicer on the carbureted DR650SE than on the fuel-injected CRF300L. The engine in the DR650SE doesn't have the high frequency vibrations as the one in the CRF300L, either. The DR650SE has a lot more torque than the CRF300L. The DR650SE is also more stable and planted on the road than the CRF300L is. The CRF300L is a lot lighter and has lower gearing than the DR650SE, so I expect the 300L to outperform the DR on the trails.

Last Words (so far)

It is too early to provide a final judgement on this bike. I'll update this review as I put more km on it.


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Service Info
Source: 2021-2022 Honda CRF300L Service Manual, 2021

2021-2022 Honda CRF300L/LR Service Info v2 (may apply to other model years and models)
2023 Honda CRF300L Air Filter and Battery Access (applies to other model years)
2023 Honda CRF300L Chain Adjustment (applies to other model years)
2023 CRF300L Oil and Filter Change - refer to the 2012 Honda CBR250R Oil and Filter Change document for now
2023 CRF300L Valve Adjustment - refer to the 2012 Honda CBR250R Valve Adjustment document