After a couple of years of ownership, I decided that it was time to replace the 2001 Honda XR400R. I reached a point where I was becoming frustrated with the old 2001 tech, specifically the kickstart and the carburetor.
The XR has served me well, for the most part, and had been a trusty steed as I began to develop some trail-riding skills. It never seemed to put a foot wrong, which gave me the confidence to ride it on a variety of trails. It has been touted as one of the best trail bikes ever made, and I can understand why. But she was quite pedantic when it came to starting procedures.
There was a specific routine to follow, in order to achieve success in starting the bike when cold:
- After riding the bike, turn the fuel petcock off and allow the engine to run until the carburetor is empty (it runs out of fuel).
- When ready to start the bike from cold, turn the fuel petcock on.
- Pull the decompression lever and hold it in whilst kicking through on the kickstart ten times. Grab the front brake with fingers, to ensure that the throttle stays closed.
- Raise choke lever to full on
- Ensure that engine kill switch is turned on (to run)
- Using the decompression lever, and with throttle still closed, find TDC with the kick start.
- Release decompression lever and kick through firmly (still no throttle)
- Bike should start in about 3 kicks
- Once started, allow to idle on choke (still no throttle yet). As it warms up, reduce to half choke and then no choke. With the bike operating without choke, the throttle can be used.
Provided the above procedure was followed, the bike would reliably start from cold. However, if the procedure was not followed, all bets were off!
Starting also became a problem if the bike tipped onto its side. I never fell off that bike, but on one occasion I lost my balance whilst stationary and the bike fell to the ground. I picked it up immediately, but it took at least 30 kicks to get it started again, due to fuel either flooding the carb, or draining out of it. Very frustrating.
In November 2021, I went to start the bike. I followed the above procedure (starting at number 2) but she just would not start. I realised that the previous time I had the bike out, I had forgotten to turn off the fuel tap and burn the fuel out of the carburetor. Now I had to pay the price for that momentary lapse. I kicked and kicked that starter repeatedly, for three successive days, until I was finally able to get the bike to start. That was the final straw for me and I decided that it was time to replace it with a bike that had an electric starter and fuel injection.
In early December 2021, I took the XR out for a pleasant ride along the Douro River and on some nearby trails. It was a lovely afternoon ride that would be my last ride on the XR. I took some photos of the bike that afternoon and advertised her for sale.
In less than a week, the bike was sold and she headed off with her new owner.
With the XR sold, I turned my attention towards which bike would replace it. Before long, I had narrowed my focus to two possibilities, and two very different bikes: the Fantic Caballero Deluxe 500 or the Honda CRF300L
Whilst it isn’t styled like an enduro bike, the Fantic Caballero is advertised as a “dual-sport motorcycle, a true scrambler, that handles equally impressively on the asphalt and dirt.” Many scrambler-styled bikes are really just road bikes with high exhausts and scrambler styling, but the Fantic does seem to have that off-road ability. I’ve watched online videos of the Caballero charging around motocross courses and tackling some pretty rough trails. It seems quite capable of tackling the dirt roads that abound throughout Portugal. And it is such a beautiful bike! I love its styling. After reading a lot of reviews and watching several YouTube videos, I was strongly considering buying this bike. But then I was told that it is an unreliable bike – by someone who is very familiar with them. That changed everything, so I turned my attention back towards the Honda.
The Honda CRF300L was only released in 2021, as a replacement for the earlier CRF250L model. To achieve compliance with Euro 5 emission standards, and to improve performance, the engine size has increased from 249cc to 286cc. The engine has gained a little extra power, from 24.8 to 27.3 hp at 8,500 rpm, and more torque, from 16.7 pound-feet at 6,750 rpm to 19.6 pound-feet at 6,500 rpm. The transmission has also been upgraded with the adoption of slipper clutch that has a very light pull. The 300L also weighs in 8.8 lbs lighter than the 250L. The upgrades seem to have made a noticeable difference, and the 300L has been in high demand since its release. The increased demand, along with worldwide supply-chain issues, have resulted in shortages in availability. Buyers in many countries are facing long waiting periods to get their hands on a bike. And test-rides are almost unheard of, as bikes are flying out of the shops as soon as they arrive.
A new 300L, in Portugal, is only 5,500 Euros, making this a very attractive option from a cost perspective. However, to achieve this price, Honda clearly had to make some concessions in the development of the bike. Out of the box, the bike is probably fine for a lightweight rider who will mainly be using it as a commuter and for some light off-road use. But many riders have highlighted some shortcomings, specifically when it comes to more technical off-road riding. The main two issues that are reported involve the tyres and the suspension. The stock IRC tyres are fine for road use but many complain about them when it comes to off-road riding, particularly in muddy or sandy conditions. The stock suspension is also a cause of complaint, due to its soft nature. Honda couldn’t maintain such a low price point for the bike if they were to use high-end suspension components, so the bike comes with a low-end set-up that will suit the casual rider. Those who are heavier, or who want better performance, will have to spend more to upgrade the suspension.
Further, riders who want to venture off-road will want to consider modifications to improve the protection on the bike. Such considerations will include a skid/bash plate, hand guards, frame protectors and others.
When deciding to buy a CRF300L, I did so fully aware of the above-listed shortcomings and had a budget to modify the stock bike to improve it in those areas. Whilst I have made some minor modifications to other bikes that I’ve owned, I have never made a wide range of mods to a brand new bike, so this will be a new experience for me. I decided to purchase new suspension components, new tyres, new handlebars, new trail-friendly mirrors, as well as several other bits and pieces. I also decided to have them installed by the dealer before I take delivery of the bike. My hope is that, by taking this approach, I may get some credit from the dealer for the brand new stock items that will be removed from the bike (such as tyres, suspension, handlebars and mirrors).
I put down my deposit and ordered my CRF300L in December, with an estimated arrival date in mid-January 2022. That arrival date has since been pushed back to mid-February. Meanwhile, I have been busy ordering the new parts for the bike. My stockpile is almost complete, so I am now impatiently waiting for the arrival of the bike.
I will update once I have the bike, along with its various upgrades.