Honda CRF 230 F
Honda CRF 230 F


Posted 19 November 2007 – 05:35 PM

First post. Hopefully some might find this useful. I purchased a 2007 Honda CRF230 in November of 2007, and one week later, here’s my review.


I’ve owned and ridden street and dirt motorcycles since 1970. Street bikes have all been Hondas in the 750 class, and dirt bikes have been a 72 Honda XR350 (dual purpose), 83 Honda XR500R Enduro, 86 Suzuki SP200 (dual purpose, bought for my son), and an 83 Maico 490 Spider (beast). My remaining two-wheeler is the XR500R and it is mint.

Over the years I’ve fine tuned the suspension, added a pipe, fine-tuned the jetting, rebuilt the top end with a high compression/larger piston, and lightened it up. It is a 230 pound motorcycle that will pull strongly to 100 mph and blast down a dirt road comfortably at that speed. But I’m getting old and am tired of kick starting, but still want to ride. I was at the Honda dealer last week picking up my Rancher (in for repair), and took a good look at the bikes with electric start.

Not interested in dual sports, I decided to get a brand new CRF230F at $3000 out the door. I am reviewing the bike as a mild mannered trail bike and only expect it to function at that level.

Initial Impressions

Build quality is good, but some of the materials used are of a lower quality than Hondas of yesteryear. It is good to see needle bearings in the neck and swing arm. Used to be, you only got these on advanced models. I also like the aluminum swing arm.

While it is unfair to compare the CRF230F (entry level bike) to the XR500R (advanced, top of the line enduro in its day), I can compare the CRF230F to the Suzuki SP200.

Ride Quality

My home is at 500 feet and the bike is jetted overly lean for this altitude. Its cold nature is exacerbated by the lack of any type of throttle advance on the choke. There was a time (over 20 years ago) when Keihin never had anything but a choke plate (like the CRF230Fs carburetor). Mikuni carburetors always had some sort of throttle advance or enrichening circuit that allowed the bike to warm up while the rider finished suiting up.

Honda finally wised up in the 80’s and Keihin started putting enrichening circuits or throttle advance mechanisms on their carburetors. Both my XR500R and Rancher (four-wheeler) and my 80s and newer street bikes allow you to choke, start, and walk away while you listened to the bike warming up at a fast idle. The CRF230F requires you to sit there, manually keeping the RPMs up while it warms up.

If it were jetted properly, the warm up would be quick but with a temperature of 70 degrees, I had to baby sit the machine for five minutes before it could be ridden. This is a step backward.

The front suspension sag was right on the money as it came from Honda, and I adjusted the back shock for a three-inch sag. Handlebars had to be turned up to bring them more forward, and the levers had to be moved down for a comfortable position when standing. Still, the bike felt cramped for this 5’7” 180 pound rider. The seats lowest section is very close to the tank, and it says “sit here”.

When doing so, the pegs seem too far back. This in turn demands you slide back on the seat. Regardless, the seat is very hard and uncomfortable after as little as ten minutes riding, so standing is the preferred method of piloting the bike.

The jetting does track well from low, to mid, to the high circuit and throttle response and overall drivability is great. Regardless, after three days of easy riding, I removed the air box restrictor (but kept the exhaust intact – I like quiet) and rejetted. Main is now a 132. Needle (from the Honda Power-up kit) is in the third notch.

Pilot is the stock 42. I drilled and tapped the “D” adjustable pilot jet and screwed a one inch 6-32 rod in it with a couple of 5/16” nuts on the bottom end. Easy to adjust now and it is at 2 turns out. The throttle still tracks great through the three ranges with no backfiring, sputtering, or variant idle.

The jetting is good – It warms up much faster, but I didn’t notice a significant power increase. The intake roar is now noticeable but not overbearing. The powerband is smooth. I can’t feel it come on or drop off, and it is a pleasure to lug and short shift.

Honda CRF 230 F
Honda CRF 230 F

I see no reason to get rid of the stock rev limiter – I never came close to hitting it and the engine seems to favor the lower rpm range anyway.

The front and back brakes have plenty of power, and they easily overwhelm the stock Pirelli tires. The back tire has very little traction on loose gravel, sand, and dirt. Seems to be OK on larger rocks. The front tire washes out and will slide away from you and put your new bike into a tree if you aren’t careful. I have some new Dunlop D756’s (110/100 and 80/100) in the garage and they’ll probably go on soon.

These Pirelli ’s are in my opinion, the worst tires I’ve ever ridden on and are a hazard, especially on an entry level bike.

I’m not sure if it’s the tires or the suspension, but on a hard packed dirt or chip n’ seal road, the bike feels unstable at speeds above 40 miles per hour (per GPS). Feels like suspension as the bike wallows around in no particular pattern. Tires would have a more predictable squirrellyness.

At any rate, I wanted to do a top speed run to get the numbers and to check the spark plug but was not confident the bike wouldn’t pitch me. My son’s 86 Suzuki SP200 will go down the highway at 65 mph all day and feel rock solid doing it. I broke out my spoke wrench and run out gages, trued both wheels and ensured the tires were at 15 PSI. To Hondas credit, the wheels were pretty close to true and I didn’t find any loose spokes.

But this didn’t help the high speed squirrellyness. I’ll try 15W in the forks and see if that helps.

The clutch is smooth and has a great feel. The gearshift is lacking that telltale Honda full up and full down free play that lets you know when you’re in first or top gear. Every Honda I’ve ever ridden has this and it is a great feature.

I am disappointed that the CRF230F does not.


The CRF230F is an entry level trail bike and I am satisfied with it for this purpose. Some of us are old enough to remember when Japanese products were junk. We also remember when Hondas came to the US and changed those perceptions. Honda runs the risk of losing a reputation of 50 years of quality by cutting corners where they shouldn’t.

Inadequate tires, suspension, and choke mechanisms do not belong on an otherwise fine machine.

Honda CRF 230 F
Honda CRF 230 F
Honda CRF 230 F
Honda CRF 230 F
Honda CRF 230 F

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