Honda has debuted a new concept bike, the CRF250 Rally, that covers old ground and forges ahead at the same time.
For a while now, adventure riders around the globe have been asking for a smaller, more manageable adventure bike. While Honda offered such a bike around 25 years ago (the NX250), there’s been no such machine from the Japanese since. A rider looking for a 250-class ADV bike had to adapt a dual sport model (like Lois Pryce with her Yamaha XT225).
In 2014, Zongshen announced their RX3, a made-in-China 250 class adventure bike. For a while it appeared they might have the market to themselves, but Honda has sent out photos of a new bike based on the existing CRF250L dual sport, wearing rally-style bodywork. It looks an awful lot like the machines Big Red brought to Dakar this year, and they’re calling it the CRF250 Rally.
For now, details are slim – we expect to know more once the bike hits the Japanese show circuit this month. The biggest question we have is, which motor does the bike have? The CRF250L had a lightly modified single-cylinder transplanted from the CBR250 street bike. Will the new bike retain that motor, or will it use the 286 cc motor that powers the new CBR300? The extra capacity makes a big difference in a bike this size, used for this purpose.
The other big question we’d have is, what about price point and availability? While North Americans as a rule prefer the stodgy storylines of NASCAR to proper racing like the Dakar rally, the Dakar is extremely popular in the rest of the world, and a bike sold with direct marketing ties to the race would have plenty of appeal in global markets. High sales volume could keep the cost down, but it could also restrict availability – Honda might reckon they wouldn’t sell enough in our market to make it worthwhile to bring it in. That’s already happened with the interesting CRF250M super-moto, and it would be a shame to see it happen again.
On a larger scale, the move is even more interesting when you see Honda’s press release saying that not only will the CRF250 Rally concept bike be on display at the Japanese shows, but also the True Adventure. We’ve already seen Honda’s push to market the True Adventure in the recent past, and it seems they’re committed to the concept.
Honda hasn’t had any real adventure bikes in the lineup in a while; sure, they’ve got “adventure-styled” machines like the CB500X and NC700X, and they have dual sports like the CRF250L and long-in-the-tooth XR650L, but with the Africa Twin out of the lineup and even the Varadero not present in the North American market, the Euro manufacturers (BMW, KTM, Triumph) have dominated the adventure scene in recent years, with Suzuki’s V-Stroms and Yamaha’s Super Tenere also taking up market share. For the budget-minded, Kawasaki’s KLR650 is still selling like hotcakes as well.
Finally, it seems, Big Red has had enough. Honda appears to have the adventure bike market in their sights again, with a strong effort at the Dakar rally and at least two new rally-styled bikes on the show circuit that seem to promise more capability than the soft road-biased machines they’ve released lately.