Retail Price: $3,599.00.
Transmission: Standard (six-speed).
Engine type: Four-stroke.
The CRF230 was designed, developed and tested to hit a home run when it comes to fun for nearly everyone in the whole family. While Honda didn’t engineer the CRF230 to fit an average-height sub-teenager, they did make sure the bike fit everyone else quite comfortably. The 230 is best mated with beginner and novice trail riders, although it can also be considered a play bike for those who are in the upper realm of riding ability.
Electric Start: What’s not to like about the electric start button on the handlebar? Twist the throttle, make sure the choke is all the way engaged, and the 230 click, click, clicks to life in no time. We were excited to ride a bike that we didn’t have to kick start. And, try as we might, we couldn’t kill the battery either. The CRF230’s battery must have taken notes from the Energizer bunny, because it keeps going and going without hesitation until the bike starts. We like this feature.
Gearing: Seldom do we find a bike with shifting that is seamless from one gear to the next. The CRF230 wasn’t perfect, but it was very close. How close? The gap between second and third gear was a little wide, but every other gear in the transmission had superb gaps. Honda was able to achieve this by using a six-speed transmissionsomething that, in the last decade, has been overshadowed by the more common five-speed transmissions. It’s strange to find an entry-level bike with a high-tech six-speed, but we are impressed. We seriously doubt that a beginner will be clicking sixth gear on the CRF230 very often, but it is always there.
Suspension: Imagine how surprised the MXA test riders were when they discovered that the modest suspension on the CRF230 didn’t break their ankles when flat-landing from jumps. What really blew our minds is that this bike can handle braking bumps with relative ease, can recover from hard uphill landings, and the front end doesn’t dip or dive through the turns like a prize fighter. Just to give you an idea of how good the suspension was, we hammered this bike around a motocross track, and when we got off the bike we didn’t need a gurney to cart us away. Trust us, Honda did their homework when it came to setting up the suspension on the CRF230. Heavier riders might want to bump up to a stiffer shock spring, but otherwise leave everything alone.
Several years ago, when Honda introduced the new CRF250 motocross bike, the red team brought out a Honda CRF230 to use as a pit and camera bike. One MXA test rider, who shall remain nameless, hopped on the CRF230 just to spin a few laps between photo shoots. Twenty minutes later, he came back with a big smile and an even bigger statement: “I can go faster on the CRF230 than on the CRF250,” he said. It didn’t take long for the other MXA test crew members to prove him wrong, but it does show how well the CRF230 performs. As long as you don’t drown the bike in a berm and veer away from steep uphills, it is possible to log decent lap times on the 230but it won’t win any races. That’s where the play bike fun comes in. Anyone in the family who can fit comfortably on the CRF230 will have a blast, since it is suited for riders of all genders and abilities.
Brakes: We’ll say this until we’re blue in the face, “Give us a rear disc brake.” Drum brakes are archaic and inferior. Honda gave us a taste of true satisfaction when we grabbed the front brake lever and the 230’s front end stopped on a dime because of its front disc brake. At the same time, that joy turned to bitterness when we tapped the rear brake. The rear brake either locked up immediately or was nonexistent because the drum had overheated. Not cool. We want consistent stopping power, devoid of any sudden changes during the course of a trail rideand you should too.
WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?
The CRF230 is a well-built bike with a great engine, awesome suspension and a must-have electric start. Don’t read any further. You should be going to your local Honda dealership right now and picking one up. Don’t take any chancespick up two. This is a great play bike. Really great.
For more 2006 Bike Tests go to Top Ten Stories