Posted 21 November 2010 – 11:52 AM
In October of 2010 purchased a 2004 CRF 230 that had been barely ridden for $1500.00 off Craigslist. I did this because I my 1998 WR400fk needed more work and I was ready for a change. I bought the WR 2 years ago for $900 and have rode it much on Missouri trails and had a blast with the never ending power of the radial 5 valve high compression engine and wonderful suspension.
Let me back up. I have been riding trails (nothing professional) since about 1978..I am currently 38 and am not married and need a hobby to exact vengeance upon the stresses that life creates. Riding is perfect for this.
I am about 5’10 and weigh anywhere from 178 – 185 pounds pending upon if I am doing P90x or eating loads of pizza, etc. lol.
My skill level is probably a 5-6 out of 10. I’m not a novice and have days where I shine on the trail and can hold my own.
Ok back to the CRF230. I rode this bike on 40 miles of trails varying from mild to wild difficulty and was comparing it to the WR400 most of the time as that was my last bike and I had nothing else to go on. The CRF failed in every way to meet up to the WR.
The old WR would blow the plastic off the CRF in each category hands down. I was feeling like there was no way I was going to be happy with this trail bike.
Problems with the CRF that I noticed immediately: Suspension is very, very poor. I googled and read account after account from new and old CRF 230 owners that this was a known issue and there were several fixes to the problem. I noticed the power was OK but not real crisp.
Luckily enough when I bought this bike it came with a Honda Power up jet front sprocket kit so after installing those plus removing the air breather insert just under the seat and removing the baffle from the exhaust the bike powers just fine now and I am happy.
I rate this bike as basically dangerous on real woods trails with factory suspension. You will crash and burn several times if you are aggressively riding this bike in soft, hard, loose, etc. trail conditions. The front dives left and right wildy and feels all wrong and jittery, the rear isn’t terrible but hops around alot and feels like it’s not helping you climb hills, etc.
It’s all too soft and made for mild playing around in a flat field or something. I am not sure but my guess is that Honda scored a great deal on a boat load of cheaply made shocks and that’s what they used on the CRF 230’s. I’ve ridden lots of bikes and have never felt such poor suspension and never felt like any of those bikes posed a threat due to such poorly tuned/crafted suspension.
I was going to sell it. I was going to keep it. Couldn’t make up my mind. A friend of mine just paid $1,000.00 for a ’99 YZ 125 and said he had no issues at all. I was about to let the CRF go.
The CRF 230 is so close to being right in every category but so close to being wrong that following a logical price to value thought process was. tough to say the least. if I spend more on this bike then why didn’t I just buy a WR250f or CRF 250? I don’t want to end up with a $4000.00 investment in this 2004 230 cc bike. not good, not good.
Then I remembered why I bought it. This bike brings alot to the table in the way of reliability. It’s a Honda product which means it’s easy to work on, get parts for, etc. Lots and lots of Honda support out there for shade tree mechanics like me. This bike is very easy to navigate through dense trees and winding trails.
Need to turn around on a tight trail? No problem. Fell down and need to lift the bike, maybe drag it a few feet, push it for 30 feet to a flat spot on the trail. uphill or down hill. no problem at all. None of these things were easy on a WR400. And electric start is always nice!
No more kicking while fiddling with a compression lever, hot start button, etc. This feature earns alot of thumbs up from me. People call it the Magic Button for a reason.
Makes a 40 mile trial ride on a Saturday alot easier. especially when you are not a 24 year old man anymore.
So I tallied all these positive attributes up in my mind and I thought if I could fix the CRF’s wear areas for under $500 I would be happy. So I start searching for suspension mod’s that get good reviews. I find lots of $650 rear shocks from well known companies but that is not for me.
Part of this hobby that I enjoy is never having to spend loads of cash at any one time (after the initial purchase of course).
I read alot about the BBR front and rear suspension mods. Many guys have had good things to say about it. So for less than $200 I installed the front and rear suspension springs from BBR.
The fronts are cake – pop top caps and slide out old springs, slide in new ones, replace top caps, done! The rear is harder and more time consuming if you have never done it. here is the easiest way.
1.) Remove seat, fender, side panels, airbox and swing out and away the battery box assembly. Keep all nuts and bolts together. you will thank yourself later.
2.) Spray a lubricant like WD40 on the top of the factory rear shock around the spanner rings. Take a break, come back in 15 minutes. Take a hammer and a socket extension and pound away at the top spanner ring until it breaks free. This will take some force – mine was factory tight and it was very, very hard to break free. Loosen both spanner rings completely.
Unloosen the top bolt that connects the rear shock to your frame. Pivot the rear tire while holding the shock so the shock will point to the open space you created by taking out your air box and pull the factory spring off of the gas shock, then install the new shock. (I had a friend helping me so we had 4 hands going on this – I would advise getting assistance.) Tighten the spanner rings back on, move rear tire up and down to align top shock bolt and tighten back.
Re-install all plastic and you are done. This all should take around 30 minutes probably but I basically took several hours as I cleaned the bike, took pics, etc. I wasn’t in any hurry.
This is a mod you should do yourself instead of taking it to the local shop.
I set rider sag according to what I found on Youtube, Google, etc. I know I am just about spot on after riding it – setting sag isn’t hard, just read about it, if you can use a tape measure and follow directions you got it made.
Setting on the bike after the BBR mods was a whole new world. I had also installed a 1 handlebar riser Kit I had ordered online and was very pleased with just the 1 riser. (Anymore rise than 1 would mean a mojor re route of cables or new cables as my stock cables were very tight – I actually had to move my throttle to the left about 1/2 so turning the handlebars to the right would not stretch the cables.
This kit went on in 5 minutes, made a nice difference to the feel of the bike and I think it cost $20.00. I no longer squat down while standing on the pegs – just 1 makes all the difference in the world.
The bike stands up and feels surprisingly alot like the WR400 did – not quite as tall but close. The BBR springs front and rear are advertised as 30% stiffer. I know they are least that much and probably more.
I am pleased. I rode it around the ditches just off the roads close to the house and wheelied and jumped a bit and it’s handling like a 250 class machine while still keeping that light, nimble feel that the CRF 230 is famous for.
I can’t wait to get to the trails and put the new mods to the test. We ride hard and we ride for 20-40 miles each outing so I’ll be back to give my input on the BBR suspension very soon.
As of now I can say that these mods turned this bike from teenager beginner bike to a seemingly apt trail machine from what little I can tell. all for less than $200.00.
I also replaces the factory Pirelli tires. Those tires were brittle and I lost almost all the nobbies on the last rocky trail – maybe the bike had sat for too long and the rubber in the tires were toast, not sure. I went with Kenda K774F Budd’s Creek tires – I matched the tirre size of what a new 250cc machine comes with so I will now have a wider rear and a tire compound made for the trails we run.
Here is a link to some pics I took while doing the mod.
You can see the 1 riser kit I installed for the handlebars. Incredible the difference 1 made.
I’ll review all these mods after my next trip to the trails and let you know my thoughts on the BBR front and rear spring mods.
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