4 years ago

Dirt and Trail July 2018 issue 2

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Honda’s XL250 Rally.

Honda’s XL250 Rally. Price: R84999.00 Single cylinder fuel injected 250cc 4-stroke. Fuel consumption: 28.6 kilometres per litre. When they launched this bike last year, Honda SA dragged us off to the Karoo for a two day ride. We thrashed the bikes back then and can state with absolute certainty that these are amongst some of the most bulletproof machines out there. They had their standard ‘L’ along on the same launch and some of our colleagues derided the Rally as nothing more than CRF250L in Africa Twin livery — the same bike, pretending to be related to Honda’s Dakar bike. That wasn’t fair, and turned out to be not quite true. The Rally, while still tame by Dakar standards, included some upgrades that gave it considerably more capability. If you don’t already know, the 250L is a budget bike that Honda manufactures in Southeast Asia. The bike’s technology is modern, a fuel-injected, DOHC, four-valve four-stroke with a six-speed gearbox and electric start. It’s not, however, known for its performance. It makes less than 25 horsepower and has inexpensive components everywhere. The Rally is more than just a dressedup version of the 250L. In addition to more powerful front brakes, a windscreen, blacked-out wheels and that “Rally-style” color scheme, there are several areas in which the Rally is a more capable bike than the 250L — off-road and on. Honda took the 2016 250L and gave it a larger throttle body (38mm from 36mm), a big front brake rotor (296mm), a new exhaust and then added adventure hardware. That includes a 2.7-gallon fuel tank, a floating windscreen, an asymmetrical LED headlight, radiator shrouds that blend in with the bodywork and a radiator fan. The suspension is longer on the Rally, coming out to 11 inches in front and 10.3 inches in the rear. That brings the seat height up almost an inch over the standard L model. The suspension has no clickers or preload adjusters; what they give you is what they give you. The layout is roomy for a medium-sized man. Women and teenagers might struggle with the seat height, but it’s no taller than a full-sized off-road bike. The clutch is smooth and the gearbox is easy to shift, as long as your feet aren’t too big. In overall quality, the bike far exceeds anything in its price range. Even though this doesn’t come out of mainland Japan, Honda clearly demands that its satellite factories adhere to the same standards of quality control. There are no sloppy welds, bad castings or anything to suggest third-world quality Honda says that the curb weight is 346 pounds. You can have abs brakes if you want, but that will cost you an extra 0. Although sharing the 250L liquid-cooled engine, six-speed gearbox and chassis and strapped with the same 18” rear and 21” front wheels, the Rally version stands taller, has more ground clearance, and has more suspension travel than its little brother bike. This immediately tells you that this one is aimed squarely at the off-road brigade rather than just the commuter fraternity. And let’s not forget one of the most important features – Honda absolutely nailed it with the styling on the Rally. There’s nothing to give it away; it looks every bit as legitimate as an Africa Twin. It’s flippen pretty. It seems that our riders were pleasantly surprised by the rally. At 100KPh, the Rally had enough power to keep up with traffic and offers enough wind protection for a rider to stay unbuffetted and comfortable. There were plenty of times when we wished for more power, and plenty of times when we had to drop a gear to maintain pace. The gearing on the bike is quite low, low down and high in the higher gears – so we’d probably fiddle around with that a bit to make it a bit more balanced in the power department. Up and down the pass, the Honda really shone – we made good use of the 21-inch front wheel, off-road tyres and the , 11 inches of front end suspension travel. These got us nimbly through the nasty sections and off the mountain pass without too much drama… If you’re not interested in aggressive trail riding, blitzing freeways and aren’t planning to rip up any sandy hill climbs, the Rally ably answers a lot of motorcycling needs. It simply does everything well… 70 DIRT & TRAIL MAGAZINE JULY 2018

Donovan Says: First impression - let the fun begin !!! It looks like a smaller version on the African Twin. Looks the part of a small adventure bike and looks ready to take on Africa. It is the tallest of the bikes we road on the day but that was perfect for a bigger guy like me. Great riding position and super comfortable. On the road the motor does feel a little under powered at first but once you out and about on the highways and hitting the dirt it makes sense, geared to do long trips and the Honda is super comfortable cruising along at 120km/h on the highway and has the best wind protection of all the bikes. A gear indicator would be nice. Once you hit the dirt the little 250 comes into its own, so planted on the dirt, it’s tall, soft suspension soaking up all the bumps. Its wider foot pigs and handle bar positions lets you stand up and enjoy the dirt roads to the fullest. Climbing the rocks on the Honda was a breeze , 2nd gear and you stand and just go, suspension allows you to point the front wheel and go. This set up with a little stronger engine, maybe a 350 or 450 and Honda would have a peach of a small adventure bike… Michelle says: Hits: • Loved the Honda. • Looks the part. • Light. • It doesn’t have all the add on’s you don’t need. • I could get off and move it around no problem Misses: • It’s a little tall for me Corinne says: If I had a young son who wanted an entry level adventure bike, this would be it – super looking, slim and no bulky plastics. It handles really well in the dirt and rocks and not too shabby on the tar as well. A bit tall for me but the suspension is good and I felt quite at home in the saddle. A nice all round bike and would be my first choice out of the 5 bikes tested. Bryan says: Hits: • Feels like a Dakar type bike but way lighter. • Super soft plushy ride. • Great revving engine. • Looks the part • Comfortable dirt bike Misses: • The final drive gear ratio way too long. About 5 teeth bigger on the rear should wake it up a bit… • Bit too much plastic for fall overs. Kurt says: This was my second bike for the day and I would have liked some more dirt time on the Honda, but this was not to be, on tar wind protection was good, and 140km/h on the level sections quite easy, comfort was good, high end equipment justified the higher price, but more on this later… After riding all 5 bikes, the last section home, which was to be mostly highway. I found my way aboard the Honda 250 Rally again. By now I knew that the biggest ally of a small bore bike on tar is momentum, everything must be planned ahead, no twist and go that I am used to on big bore bikes. The Honda coped well, by now it was getting cold, wind protection was adequate given that I am tall, comfort was good, and although the Honda Rally only has a 250cc motor, it has a big heart - I even passed a Harley on the highway, which we all know is quite difficult to do. I hit rush hour traffic, the little Honda breezed through it all with ease, the bright headlight letting everyone know I was coming through… And Kurts finisher was perfect to round this story off: This whole exercise made me realize that we don’t really need these huge horsepower big bore adventure bikes to have fun, all 5 of these bikes handled the route very comfortably, I think each of us had a favourite bike, and I don’t think any one bike was the favourite to all. Although prices vary, so does equipment and features, but I think fun factor was pretty similar throughout….. I for one was quite glad to be re-introduced to Breedsnek on a smaller bike than my own personal bike, but next time, it’s the big orange and I… DIRT & TRAIL MAGAZINE JULY 2018 7 1