We first heard news of the new Honda CRF 300L in December of last year. It was in March of this year that we finally saw the new “little red pig” (LRP) in Honda PH showrooms, with an SRP of PhP259,900.
As an owner of a CRF 250L myself, I was very interested in trying out the new 300cc version and see what improvements Honda did to the successor of my dirt bike. Thanks to our friends from Honda Philippines, we were able to take a zero-mileage Honda CRF 300L to a “happy place” where it really belongs.
Design and performance
The new CRF 300L’s design is directly inspired by the championship-winning CRF 450X. Unique to the Philippine market is the slim LED headlight. The double-contact LED turn signals are inspired by the Honda CRF 1100L Africa Twin, which we reviewed late last year.
By now you want to hear about the engine and what Honda did to it. First off, to increase displacement, Honda increased the stroke of the piston by 8mm, giving the new 300L an additional 36cc displacement to make it 286cc in total. Honda never really increased the bore on the new 300L.
This was done to improve performance and at the same time keep up with current emission regulations. The result is more linear power and torque delivery throughout the rev range.
Additionally, the ratios of 1st to 5th gears had been made shorter compared to the outgoing 250L. This is obviously to improve the 300L’s performance off-road. By contrast, 6th gear was made longer to provide a more relaxed, low-RPM ride on the highway.
Besides the improved power and torque delivery of the 300L versus the 250L, the clutch feel is also lighter by 20% (as claimed by Honda), thanks to the addition of the new assist/ slipper clutch.
This also reduces "back torque" (when the wheel turns faster than the transmission) when downshifting, especially during off-road riding. It is now more manageable too.
Though on paper, the new CRF 300L is only 4 kilos lighter than the outgoing 250L, sitting on it and actually riding it felt like the difference between heaven and earth.
Several upgrades account for this. First of all, the triple clamp is now made from aluminum instead of the heavier steel. A new, lighter, and shorter exhaust was equipped, while the frame and swingarm have been revised to make them narrower and lighter.
Balance and handling
Other components were repositioned to improve the 300L’s weight distribution, like the radiator which now sits on the right side, improving its lateral balance. Even the 300L’s CRF450X-inspired LED headlight and turn lights make it lighter.
The 300L’s suspension has 10 and 15 mm more of travel, respectively, resulting in more leeway to tackle hard and bumpy terrain. The 300L also possesses a superior gapang (crawl) on tight, uphill off-road tracks, thanks to the improved transmission gearing and valve train design.
The new Honda CRF 300L is heaven compared to my own LRP, the CRF 250L. What I liked most is the suspension's performance, which is now close to how a competition bike’s suspension performs off-road.
Second is the power and torque delivery on- and off-road. With the 300L, there’s finally an abundance of both power and torque across the rev range.
Finally, I liked how Honda revised some components to improve the weight distribution. Compared to my 250L which is top-heavy, most of the new 300L’s weight was down below, lowering its center of gravity and making it easier to maneuver.
If you want to learn to ride off-road or wanted to explore the backroads of the Sierra Madre or the Cordilleras, the new CRF 300L is the right bike for you.