Riding on dirt and mud has become my passion ever since I bought a Honda CRF 250L with my life's savings (at the time), 7 years ago. As dirt riders, me and my buddies have reached places where commercial tourism has not spoiled the area yet. You could say some could be called a hidden paradise inside the jungle.
The CRF 150L at the back roads of Montalban, Rizal.
Unfortunately, the CRF 250L was designed by Honda without the word 'enduro' in mind. It tips the scales at 144 kg, or just 2 to 3 kg less than KTM's 690 Enduro R. When off-road riding, weight is a big factor. It can mean the difference between getting out of the jungle and getting back to your loved ones on the same day or spending an extra night in the jungle from the fatigue of lifting your heavy bike from a puddle of mud or deep rut along the trails made by rainwater. When I was contacted by our friend from Honda Philippines, Ms. Tin Garcia-Medina, I became excited to see how a little 150cc dirtbike would fare in our usual off-roading exploits.
The CRF150L on a steep slope. (photo courtesy of Cho Delos Santos).
The new CRF 150L is powered by an air-cooled, 149.15 cc engine, based on the TMX Supremo's engine. It has some minor upgrades like different cams, transmission and electronic fuel injection (EFI) and more to make it more suitable to the CRF's role as a dual-sport motorcycle. Although the engine is small, the CRF 150L has decent power and torque — enough to climb some gnarly single tracks inside the jungle even with the stock sprockets. Riding the CRF 150L in the city is also superb, it has a pretty decent acceleration to pull you out on stop lights and is light and nimble to filter yourself in and out of the traffic standstill.
The CRF 150L is also a capable errand bike, parked here in Quiapo, Manila.
Its meager top speed of only a little more than a hundred kilometers per hour is negligible, anyway, this bike was not designed with speed in mind. The CRF 150L's engine was also kept as simple as it can, with no liquid cooling and kick start available which is also a big thing when doing trails. Less stuff to break the better, and the kick start could also be handy should the electricals fail.
Simple LCD display panel with fuel, trip meter A and B; odometer and speedometer.
The CRF 150's design is obviously inspired from the “Little Red Pig,” its bigger brother the CRF 250L and has distinctive features, such as the front Showa inverted forks, large 21 and 18-inch aluminum wheels and its headlight - all these are distinctively the same as the 250L.
This is the only time I fell down while riding the CRF 150L, at the single tracks on the way to Malasya Falls in Montalban, Rizal.
When I took the 150L in the 85-kilometer General Nakar-Dinggalan trail (and as with any off-road expedition), the suspension played a very crucial role in keeping me on top of the bike, no matter how rocky or muddy the terrain was.
The CRF150L already comes with dual-sport tires in stock form.
The suspension played so well that I didn't tip over the entire journey. Even more surprising was the fuel efficiency. Over the entire 170-kilometer roundtrip journey of steep climbs, river crossings, and some sand, it consumed less than one full tank, or just a little less than 6 liters.
Both the front and rear disc brakes return pretty decent bite for the CRF 150L's weight.
The trail ride has pretty much torture tested this loaner CRF 150L. Yet after it all, it proved to be a very tough bike; even tougher than its bigger sibling, the CRF 250L. It's not as powerful, but tough. For those thinking of taking it to the trails, there are also fewer things to break, e.g.: radiator or exposed oil filter - and the 150L doesn't have them. These give you fewer things to worry about when riding the single tracks inside the jungle. The only thing that I would suggest to those thinking of taking this bike to trail riding is to change the brake and shift pedals to foldable ones, as the currently installed pedals don't do much good vs. rocks or even soft soil when the bike is dropped, which happens frequently when riding off-road.
If you're taking your CRF150L trailing, swap the shift and brake pedals with foldable ones. The footpegs are fine even when standing-up off-road.
At only 119 kilograms, low seat height and non-intimidating power output, I would highly recommend the Honda CRF 150L as a starter bike to newbie riders who would want to dip their toes in off-roading before moving up to bigger and more powerful production bikes.
I let a friend and his son, try out the CRF150L and he loved the bike's performance. He bought his son a brand new CRF 150L a couple of days later. For those planning to buy this bike for off-roading, just change the gearing to 13T front and 51T rear sprockets for a more optimal pull on the inclines. A change to a lighter exhaust system would also go a long way.
For those looking into the CRF150L as a daily commuter, it is not a comfortable bike as with any dual sport or dirt bike, but since the seat height is low, your pillion won't have a hard time hopping on the CRF 150L. The fuel consumption is comparable to a 125cc underbone, it gives you the feeling that the fuel tank never runs out of gas!
It is a bit pricey at PhP134,900 though, but capable performers like this come at a price.