First Look: The 2021 Honda CRF300L

Photo credit: Honda SA

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to call the CRF250L one of Honda’s biggest success stories. The pint-sized dual-sport is approachable, capable and wildly popular… and now Honda have made it bigger in a bid to make it better, with the release of the 2021 CRF300L.

The CRF300L is now available in South Africa, so we’re taking a closer look at what’s changed. For 2021, Big Red has bumped the CRF’s capacity by 36 cc, by increasing the single-cylinder motor’s stroke. It now makes 10% more peak power and 18% more peak torque, landing at 20.1 kW (26.9 hp) at 8,500 rpm and 26.6 Nm at 6,500 rpm.

Photo credit: Honda SA

Honda have thrown a host of other upgrades at the engine too. The inlet cam timing’s been revised, and the intake and exhaust systems have been fettled for more mid-range power and torque. The ignition timing’s been fettled too, and the CRF uses a new iridium spark plug too. And the motor is now EURO5 compliant. That all means that the CRF300L should have a little more poke than its predecessor, without losing any of its friendly nature.

The gear ratios have been tightened up from one through five for better response, with a taller sixth gear for open road stuff, and a new slip/assist clutch lifts 20% off the load on the lever. Honda list an increase in top speed from 129 km/h to 132 km/h. Combined with the taller sixth gear, the new CRF should feel less strained on the highway.

Photo credit: Honda SA

Moving to the CRF’s chassis, Honda have shaved a total of four kilos off the bike’s weight, with a new frame and swingarm. It now clocks in at 142 kg wet, with a semi-double cradle steel frame and a cast aluminium swingarm.

The frame and swingarm are not only lighter, but have been redesigned to offer more compliance, with reductions in lateral rigidity. Honda say this should improve handling, feel and the balance between front and rear traction. Weight savings are everywhere, right down to the bottom triple clamp that’s now aluminium instead of steel.

Photo credit: Honda SA

The stroke of the 43 mm inverted Showa forks has been bumped by 10 mm to 260 mm, with updates to the spring weight and damping settings. The rear Pro-Link suspension systems been bumped from 240 mm to 260 mm, and uses a Showa shock.

All these changes translate to an increase in ground clearance (255 to 285 mm), an 880 mm seat height (5 mm higher) and a 10 mm longer wheelbase at 1455 mm.

Photo credit: Honda SA

Just like Honda’s pure off-road machines, the CRF rolls on 21F/18R wheels, with lightweight aluminium rims for 2021, polished to a gloss black finish. There’s more weight saving here, by way of hollowed out axles, a lighter rear sprocket and lighter fasteners.

Braking’s provided by a single 256 mm front disc and two-piston caliper, and a 220 mm rear disc and single-piston caliper. Honda have borrowed a couple of features from their competition machines here; a lightweight integrated rear master cylinder design, and wave discs. ABS is standard issue.

Photo credit: Honda SA

The CRF’s slim bodywork and graphics take inspiration from the competition bikes too. But the changes are more than just skin deep—Honda have revised the ergonomics slightly too, by slimming the 7.8 l fuel tank and the front of the seat. Smaller bits like the front mudguard and rear license plate bracket are new (and lighter) too.

Up top, the handlebars have been pulled back a little, and further down, the foot pegs have been lowered and moved back. There’s a redesigned LCD display in the cockpit, with extra info like a gear position indicator, fuel mileage and consumption, average speed, a stopwatch and a rev counter.

Photo credit: Honda SA

Even the side stand hasn’t been left alone—it has a folding footplate with a 10% bigger surface area, which should make parking it in sketchy terrain marginally less tricky. Honda’s aftermarket list for the CRF300L is small though, limited to a top box and a sump guard.

The other thing that’s bigger on the 2021 CRF300L is the price: it now costs R84,999. Given the rising prices of motorcycles these days, that’s still palatable—especially when you consider just how much Honda have upgraded this beloved little street legal enduro. And given the CRF-L’s near-cult status, expect it to be a top seller.

For more information visit: www.honda.co.za

Photo credit: Honda SA