Wednesday, December 6, 2023


This week we go back to basics. It’s all about riding a small-bore dual-sport bike. We have a Honda CRF300L and a Kawasaki KLX300. The main attraction of these two bikes is the price; they cost around $5500 each. Both are built in Thailand, and both are more about easy traffic than fast off-road.

The Honda CRF300L and Kawasaki KLX300 are more about off-road than dirt thrills .

The Honda CRF300L first appeared as the CRF250L in 2017 before getting a major update for 2021. The stroke has been increased by 8mm to 286cc. It got new camshafts, and the airbox and exhaust were redesigned. The finish is excellent, the brakes are made by Nissin and the rims are aluminum. You have to get close to see the cheap stuff. Suspension is as basic as possible. The rear has adjustable spring preload, and that’s it; no reservoirs, no clickers. The handlebars are ⅞-inch steel with no handguards or frame guards. Weighs 286 lbs without fuel.

The Honda has the advantage in mid-range power and ground clearance.

The Kawasaki KLX300 has a very different backstory. Since 1994, its presence and disappearance has been flickering. In its early days, it was one of very few small-bore off-road four-strokes. In terms of technology, it was far ahead of the Honda XR250R and Suzuki DR250 of the time, both of which were SOHC and air-cooled. The off-road version of the KLX lasted about 15 years – mostly 300. The dual-sport KLX250 was introduced in 2006 and continued into 2014. It disappeared briefly, then came in the form of fuel injection. The version of the bike you see today arrives in 2021 when displacement increases to 292cc. One field where Kawasaki was profligate was in suspension. The fork has adjustable rebound damping, and the piggyback shock has adjustable preload, rebound and compression damping. On our scale, the Kawasaki is 282 pounds without fuel.

Kawasaki is better than Honda in the suspension department. It’s also a more compact motorcycle.

Both bikes are taller than you might think. With the unladen suspension, the lowest part of the Kawasaki seat is 36.5 inches. Honda’s is 37.2. This changes once the bike stabilizes under its own weight. They are soft – very soft. The Kawasaki is more stable than the Honda, making it easier for the short inseam crowd to hit the ground. In contrast, the Honda has more ground clearance. Both bikes come with very street-oriented tires. For off-road riding of any substance, you’ll need to replace them with full knobbies. We installed Dunlop’s new Geosport EN91 for a test drive and they are DOT approved knobs.

First, you must understand these What is a bicycle. They are designed for street traffic and mild off-road riding. One-on-one, though, they’re great off-road buddies. They behave so much alike that you can’t help but enjoy riding them together—just don’t invite those guys to a 300 two-stroke. Both the Honda and Kawasaki make around 23 horsepower at about 9500 rpm. That’s more than enough to get you going at a decent speed on smooth and rough roads. They struggle when you get into the dunes. You have to convert like a madman. If you try to stretch the gears by abusing the clutch, both bikes will fall over. If you really pay attention, you can see that the Honda has slightly more low-end power. It also has lower first and second gears. Both bikes could use a lower final drive and be happier on the track. Overall, though, the two bikes’ motor performance is so similar it’s almost creepy. Seat height is more important. Not only is the Honda taller, but the seats are wider. This means that shorter riders will have a hard time straddling it. On the other hand, taller and more experienced riders will appreciate the Honda’s extra ground clearance. It’s not just about clearing rocks and stumps, it’s about how close your feet are to the ground. On the Kawasaki, you’re nervously wiping your feet clean off the tiny, cramped footpegs.

The Honda CRF300L weighs 286 lbs without fuel. The Kawasaki KLX300 is 282 without fuel – both measured on our scale.

In the suspension department, neither bike is set up for true off-road riding. They’re comfortable and comfortable around camp; that’s it. A ride that feels so comfortable and plush on the road can turn into a bumpy, diving affair, even on the gentlest of off-road terrain. With the Kawasaki, you at least have the option to do minor fine-tuning. You can increase the preload on the rear shock and increase compression and rebound damping. This gives you more security, but has limited adjustability. The Honda, on the other hand, has no adjustability and desperately needs more damping at both ends. You can improve these two bikes by spending money, but all the money in the world won’t turn them into race cars. Now we’re trying to learn more about the bike to determine the overall winner. You can check out the February 2023 print edition of Dirt Bike for a comparison.


Beta 350RR’s Priced at $10,499.

Another new test bike for the team this week is the Beta 350RR. It’s a new model that we don’t know much about. We’re familiar with the 350RR-S Dual-Sport and 350RR Race Edition, but now there’s one that can tell the difference in performance. It also costs less than any other Beta 350 — though it’s still not cheap. Stay tuned; we’ll report back on what we’ve learned as we spend more time on the bike.



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