The day came when I was supposed to pick-up the bike and I was pretty excited. I couldn\'t wait to see what kind of trouble I would get into with thing. As the bike was being rolled out from the shop, I was pleasantly surprised by how trick it looked with its black rimmed 17" wheels against the grey and black fairings. I looked at every detail from the neatly tucked wiring and cables to the pea shooter exhaust and mini toolkit tucked under the fairing. The build quality was quite impressive but I would expect nothing less from Honda.
The bike is perfect for those who desire a comfortable upright riding position while being able to plant both feet on the ground thanks to the 31.7 inch seat height. The mirrors were especially useful and the controls seemed to have been placed near perfect for my reach while the gauge cluster was easy to read and clearly visible. This bike seemed to be perfect for beginner riders fresh out of MSF as well as seasoned veterans looking for a small, fun, gas-saver.
The CRF230M looked fun to ride, especially in the hectic streets of Los Angeles County, so away I went to see how fun it really was!
After taking off from the Honda facility, I can honestly say this bike is not built for freeway use at all; a Toyota Corolla could blow you off the road if it passed you. Understanding that, I decided to take the most difficult and longest way back home to downtown Los Angeles (about 26 miles in traffic). Keep in mind this was on a Friday afternoon, around 4PM and you all know how infamous LA traffic is.
I started to get acquainted with the bike with all the stopping and going, weaving in and out of traffic, and red lights. It took some time getting used of the relative lack of stopping power the bike has to offer with its 240mm front and 220mm rear discs. I underestimated my braking distance at the first light simply because I was expecting the little 4 piston grippers to be a little bit more aggressive. Nonetheless, it did stop when I needed it to without scaring the crap out of me (too much). Keep in mind that it isn\'t a racebike with top-of-the-line radial brakes and you\'ll be fine.
The carbureted air-cooled 223cc engine is smooth and accelerated fairly nicely to around 60 mph without rattling your teeth fillings out, while the 6 speed gearbox is solid and nicely synchronized even under aggressive shifting. You will have to keep the revs high during shifting if you plan on getting in and out of traffic quickly, though. But at the same time giving the average scooter a good run for the money won\'t be too difficult. This isn\'t a 450+cc bike but I thought it had adequate power for its class. I actually managed a top speed of 70mph (indicated) on a flat surface road; that 6th gear comes in handy!
Even as traffic started to get hectic the bike responded well to the hazards and obstacles like cars, people, rocks, and your average drunken bum on the streets. (no offense intended to any drunken bums reading this article - Ed.) It was extremely light and nimble and fun to ride in and out of traffic. I give the Honda CRF230M 2 thumbs up in the important “inner city and suburban handling” category.
Since the bike did so well in the city I decided that a trip to the Malibu canyons was in order. Riding in the canyons would allow me to see how well the bike performed outside of the urban sprawl which it dominates so well. Would the little motor in the CRF230M have enough power to entertain a jaded motorcycle rider on some of the best sportbike roads around?
The traffic was surprisingly light as we started our trek up Topanga Canyon for a warm up run. This “warm-up lap” allowed me to get a good idea of the handling characteristics of the bike before I attempted to embarrass any unaware sportbike riders.
After the tires got warmed up and the fog cleared out (actual fog and not the mental kind), I was extremely impressed on how well the bike performed with the stock settings. The Honda CRF230M is light, nimble, and flickable in the canyons right out of the box. It could have used a few more ponies and fuel injection for the climb up in elevation, but gravity helped on the downhill grades! The Dunlop GT401 Arromax tires stuck well and the suspension was surprisingly stable in the decreasing radius and hairpin turns. This bike definitely gets a gold star on the wall for handling; especially when I started creeping up on a number of those unaware sportbikes before riding past them going down Latigo canyon.
Even after a full day of riding pretty hard my body didn\'t feel too bad at all. On other bikes I have ridden, I would have been numb and achy after the first 2 hours. With an evil grin ear to ear and horns sticking out my helmet, I can honestly say, the CRF230M is a blast to ride in the curves!! I totally under estimated this bike.
My conclusion... the Honda CRF230M is a perfect bike for the beginner OR urban city rider. Basically anyone who wants to get to school, meet up with friends for a night out on the town, or cruise beachside while still being able to tackle the curves when needed.
The bike is a sleek, comfortable, fun to ride commuter that is guaranteed to start with 1 tap of the button every time; not to mention its amazing fuel economy. A five dollar bill will easily buy you 130 miles of riding around the city from the 2.3 gallon tank.
With a MSRP of $5399 and some change, the CRF230M is the bike for the beginner or adventurous urban city rider who wants to have a blast getting around while still staying within a tight budget.