MXA RACE TEST: THE REAL TEST OF THE 2023 HONDA CRF-E2 GREENGER
THE GEAR: Jersey: O’Neal Mayhem, Pants: O’Neal Mayhem, Helmet: 6D ATR-1Y, Goggles: FMF Youth Powercore, Boots: O’Neal Element.
Q: IS THE 2023 HONDA CRF-E2 BETTER THAN THE 2022 MODEL?
A: Anything is better than nothing. So yeah, since there was no such thing as the Honda Greenger in 2022, it is better than the model that never was.
Q: WHO IS GREENGER AND WHAT IS THEIR PART IN THE HONDA CRF-E2?
A: Good question. We had to do some digging to find out the roots of Greenger. This is what we found. The company was founded in 2017 by Simon Zhu. Simon is also the president of an electric bike company in China called Tailg, which makes an array of scooters and electric bikes. Over its short history, Greenger developed into an electric vehicle platform that included on- and off-road two-, three- and four-wheeled bikes. The company was founded in the USA and has operations in international markets. When you look at some of the past Greenger bikes, you can see the resemblance to the CRF-E2.
Now that we know who Greenger is, what part do they play in the Honda E2? At first glance, the Honda CRF-E2 looks like a Honda. And, technically, it is a Honda; however, it is a Honda that Greenger built as a licensed product, meaning the entire bike was built by Greenger under Honda’s supervision. The project took two years. Every aspect of the bike was brought to Honda for their stamp of approval before putting the CRF-E2 on showroom floors.
It might seem odd that Honda would ask another company to build its first foray into the electric bike market, but think of it this way: each manufacturer is either going to have to hire a team of people to design all-new electric technology, or it can partner with a team who already has the knowledge and experience to make an electric bike. Honda took the path of least resistance and put its Pee-Wee electric dirt bike project in Greenger’s hands.
The Honda Greenger CRF-E2 is a bike best suited for young riders new to the sport. Its long-lasting manageable power is great for kids riding in backyards or around the campground.
Q: DOES THE HONDA CRF-E2 COMPARE TO THE ELECTRIC KTM SX-E 5?
A: More no than yes. The KTM SX-E 5 is a ready-to-race model. It is an electric Pee-Wee that can grow with the rider, thanks to its adjustable seat height and power levels. The KTM delivers full-travel suspension and a power output that is comparable to KTM’s top gas-powered 50cc two-strokes. All KTM’s high-end race qualities put the price tag at $5499, which is almost double the price of the $2950 Honda CRF-E2.
The CRF-E2 is neither better nor worse than the KTM SX-E 5 because it’s aimed at a different target audience. The Honda CRF-E2 fits into Honda’s trail bike category, not its competition machine group.
Q: WHO IS THE END USER OF THE HONDA CRF-E2?
A: For dads who grew up in the pit-bike heyday, the Honda CRF-E2 will remind them of the good ol’ days of riding pit bikes in the backyard or venturing onto the trails at the end of their street. The handlebars are high enough for a dad to fit his knees under the bars without worrying too much about hitting them. This bike was not built for the adult pit bike riders of the world, but just like the CRF50F and CRF110F, it could catch on with kids older than the typical 4–9-year-old Pee-Wee riders.
The CRF-E2 is aimed directly at weekend-warrior families who have young kids that they’d like to take riding when on vacation at the family cabin or at the lake. It is a true beginner’s bike with an adjustable seat height and adjustable power modes that allow the power to increase with the rider’s skill. Riders from 5 to 10 years old fit this bike well, although 5-year-olds who are on the small side will have issues touching the ground.
The seat height of the bike is close to that of a Honda CRF110 and about 3 inches taller than the CRF50F. It offers an adjustable seat-height range from 24.8 inches to 25.5 inches. The CRF-E2 is 58 pounds lighter than the CRF110F, even though they are close to the same size, while the E2 is 5 pounds lighter than the CRF50F; however, it is 15 pounds heavier than the race-ready KTM SX E5.
The top speed of the E2 limits the bike’s capabilities. On level 1, the bike tops out at 11 mph. Top speed in level 2 is 21 miles per hour (when fully charged). That is 15 mph slower than a Honda CRF50F and 30 mph slower than the CRF110F. If we are talking about acceleration, the E2 hangs with both of Honda’s gas-powered bikes, but at top speed, it doesn’t stand a chance.
The real question is why did Greenger cap the top speed? The answers are simple: (1) They wanted to extend the ride time per charge, and that is easiest to achieve by limiting the power output. (2) Greenger, and by association Honda, wanted to cater to lower-level riders. To have fun, a kid does not need to go over 20 mph. (3) Parents’ trepidation over putting their darling child on a high-powered machine is eased by the Honda CRF-E2’s speed-limited output. (4) Price range anxiety kicks in when parents are buying their 6-year-old a very expensive plaything (that he may lose interest in quickly), so Honda wanted to keep the price as low as possible. The easiest way to achieve that was to spec a smaller and less dense battery pack and a 3.4-horsepower electric motor compared to KTM’s bigger battery and 6.7-horsepower electric motor.
At 13 pounds the battery isn’t as heavy as the batteries on bikes wit more power or longer run times.
Q: WHAT ARE THE INS & OUTS OF THE HONDA CRF-E2?
A: It is a unique machine, to say the least. The instrument panel is a cool touch that acts as a speedometer, tracks the mileage and battery level, and is used to switch between modes 1 and 2. You also can set a password on the bike so no one can ride without it! The only issue we found is that sometimes we forgot to turn the key to the “off” position, which meant the display was left on. The good thing was after a few days of leaving the key in the “on” position and the LED display lit, the battery was still full.
If you have never ridden an electric bike, it takes some time to get used to it being on. This is why companies have different ways of shutting the motor down automatically so the bike doesn’t just take off when someone grabs a fist full of throttle in the pits. The CRF-E2 is turned on and off by a key located behind the front number plate that is easy to access. Then to turn the motor on, the button on the right side of the bars must be pushed. After you hear a beep, the motor is engaged. If the throttle isn’t touched for 10 seconds, you will again hear a beep, and “OP” will display on the LED screen, indicating the motor is shut off.
The bike itself was built more like a CRF motocross bike than a CRF-F trail bike. We say that because of the wider MX-style footpegs; twin-spar aluminum frame; lightweight, beefy disc brakes and more. We abused this bike with a 200-plus-pound adult rider just to see how much punishment it could take. It was impressive, to say the least.
Besides the adjustable seat height and power levels, the brake levers are also adjustable. Yes, both the front and rear brakes are at the levers, and there is no foot brake. We liked the adjustably, but we didn’t care for two things: (1) The brake components are overdone. They are much too big and beefy for a young rider. (2) We think that a younger rider should ride a bike that will teach him to ride the bike next in his class. Sure, engaging a foot brake may require a learning curve if coming off bicycles, but even the smallest beginner bikes, such as the PW50, offer a foot brake. It was harder to control the bike and even harder to get the stopping power we wanted using our hand.
The seat height of the bike is adjustable.
Q: HOW LONG DID THE BATTERY LAST?
A: We were impressed with how long the 13-pound battery lasted compared to our experience with other batteries. The KTM SX-E5 can go about 45 minutes with a low-level rider and only about 20 minutes with a fast rider. The CRF-E2 went more than an hour with a 200-plus-pound grownup on the bike going wide open on level two. With smaller riders, it lasted more than two hours no problem. This was a nice touch. The one thing we didn’t like was when the battery indicator got to one bar, it would shut down soon after and throw an E081 code on the LED display, which means “battery under-voltage.” The first time this happened, we were in the middle of nowhere. Before calling for help, we tried turning the key off and then on again and made it home after another 20 minutes of riding. The second time this happened we were even further from home base. Again, we turned it off then on and put it in level one. It worked like a charm. We started thinking of this indicator as a low-fuel light.
Also, unlike on the KTM SX-E5, the battery is interchangeable if you buy a second battery at $999.99 It takes just a few minutes to change out the battery once you get used to it.
With the E2, it takes about four hours to charge a dead battery to 100 percent and about 3.2 hours to charge it to 80 percent. This isn’t ideal; however, Greenger makes a quick-charge system that cuts the charge time in half.
The battery swaps out with ease.
Q: WAS THE GREENGER CRF-E2 FAST ENOUGH?
A: Yes and no. The pickup off the throttle caught every rider off guard. It is a bit on the aggressive side. Once you get moving, the power is metered. It took some time to get our younger riders accustomed to the jolt of power when taking off. For first-time riders, it was too much, even in level one. Yeah, they got used to it, but it wasn’t a good first impression. It would be nice to tone the pick-up down even to something like the metered KTM SX-E5 power off the bottom.
Once the rider got moving, the power was smooth. We did notice at about 3/4 of the throttle that there was nothing extra there. You technically were wide open after 3/4 of a throttle. We held it wide open just in case.
In terrain where there was a lot of stop and go, the Greenger was hard to manage in tight slow turns and up hills. It was kind of like a 125cc machine with the jetting slightly off. Was this a deal-breaker? No way. Our testers had too much fun.<
The on-screen display is a cool feature.
Q: WHAT DID WE HATE
A: The hate list:
(1) Brake controls. We loved the disc brakes and adjustable levers, but thought the controls were overkill.
(2) Charge time. The quick charger should come with the bike. Four hours is a long time for little Johnny to wait.
(3) Battery indicator. We liked the battery indicator letting us know when the bike was running out of juice, but when it stopped earlier than expected it threw us off. Ultimately, we used it as a low-battery indicator.
(4) Wheel size. The bike sits high in the rear due to the front and rear wheels being the same size. The CRF110F comes with a 12-inch rear and a 14-inch front. We think the balance of the bike would be better with a bigger front wheel.
(5) Power delivery. The pick-up off the crack of the throttle is punchy. You have to have a metered right wrist to be in control—not something that every young rider has.
(6) Grips. The full-waffle grips are too big and bulky for little Johnny’s hands.
(7) Top speed. It should be competitive with the bikes that are in its class (yes, we are the ones who put it in a class), such as the CRF50F and CRF110F. Twenty miles per hour won’t cut the mustard. We want a level three, even if it cuts the battery time in half.
Q: WHAT DID WE LIKE?
A: The like list:
(1) Maintenance. This is the simplest bike to work on because you don’t have to. It is great!
(2) Levels. We love that the bike comes with different levels of power for a young rider to grow into.
(3) Heat. What heat? We love that the bike, save for the brake rotors, does not get hot.
(4) Adjustability. The adjustable levels and ride height are a nice touch.
(5) Forks. At first, we didn’t like that the forks were not adjustable. On the flip side, the setting couldn’t be more perfect for a wide array of riders.
(6) Footpegs. These footpegs are the real deal. We don’t get why any bikes still come with skinny footpegs.
(7) Instrument panel. We liked that we could know how fast we were going, how far we had gone, could enable a passcode, and could see what level the battery was at—all at a glance.
(8) Warranty. No gas-powered bike comes with a 12-month/3000-mile limited warranty. Very cool.
(9) Power. Once the bike got rolling, the power was easy to use and metered.
(10) Aesthetics. This is one good-looking machine!
(11) Greenger. Greenger did a good job representing the Honda name.
Going with taller gearing will help mellow out the abrupt power.
Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?
A: We love where this is going. Electric bikes bring more freedom to riders. The Greenger CRF-E2 is a great starting point for new riders and young families. We think that you will see more and more of these bikes popping up at local races as pit bikes for kids and dads and on the trail. The bike has a few peccadilloes, but they are minor quibbles. The company wants to be better, and Greenger is just getting started in this market. For now, we are going to give this bike a thumbs up at this price point for an entry-level bike with accepable durability.