Rediscovering delight in a dual sport bike

    Honda CRF 150L (Photo by Gregory Bautista)
    Honda CRF 150L (Photo by Gregory Bautista)

    OFF-ROAD riding was where I started on motorcycles.

    The wrong notion then was, landing on the dirt was softer and safer than scraping oneself on concrete or asphalt. It was partly true, riding of road required a different skill level than starting off on solid ground.

    I weaned myself from riding for nearly 2 years now. The bikes which I borrow from my dad have been mothballed at home and he was am considering selling most of them. Then Honda sent over a CRF-150L and now he seems to be hooked back to what he truly love to do with wheels. I myself like the freedom of riding and going on trails. The CRF ignited that passion even more.

    Trail riding has been a passion which the CRF, with its inverted Showa forks, dual disc brakes and the long drawing, high torque engine and active gearing, has brought me back to what I knew as fun. Honda’s PR firm PRC, took charge of this surprise lend, which I spent over 60 hours seat time and 125 kilometers or a full and half a tank of gasoline. My dad did another 260 kilometers, but that is his story to tell.

    According to Honda’s website this CRF 150L uses TMX-based 149 cc engine—shared with the Supremo, a bike used for tricycles. It is not the same engine though. The CRF engine uses a high lifting cam and better-spread gear ratio, an uprated transmission, electric starting and electronic fuel injection (EFI). The EFI makes the biggest difference, allowing for a better power management, along with a taller final sprocket and rear gear ratio. The changes make the CRF’s a true dual-sport motorcycle, and its engine less a puller and more spritely.

    My bike is a Honda CRM 100 which has a comparatively smaller and lighter two-stroke engine. But the small block CRF 150L does not disappoint, and is better than my CRM because the 4-stroke motor delivers power more smoothly. The CRM is lighter and narrower—yet the CRF is equally, if not more nimble.

    There is more than enough power to clear the Tanay trails even on the stock gearing. A little side note on the gearing, which is a “compromise” of sorts—being a dual sport means it has to perform well on the road, in mid-range gearing to accelerate off the traffic light without wheelie-ing, and enough spread to quickly reach speeds good enough for filtering in and out of traffic.

    One cannot ride this bike on the expressways but the long back roads that require more oomph, the CRF can reach about hundred kilometers per hour, or more. But this bike with its tall 21-inch front wheel and 18-inch rear wheel configuration is not designed for speed, it a compromise between getting the job done and having fun on the weekends.

    I did have an electrical glitch with the bike that required me using the kickstarter. Having gone from svelte to plus helped, the engine compression is automatically released and in two kicks the engine roars to life then purrs into idling. The bike is a really simple one. The plastics are superb, and the LCD display panel had the basics–a fuel gauge, two trip meter, and odometer and digital speedometer.

    That being said, the San Pablo, Laguna to Tanay Adventure Camp ride read 102 kilometers via the Pilillia Road. This meant passing by almost every Laguna town after Bay and the ability to stop at every side carinderia and off-road trail possible. After circumventing as much concrete, the total distance read 148 kilometers one way—including a small river crossing across the Umiray River.

    With this path being about 70 percent on road (of various kinds of concrete and asphalt) and 30 percent off road, the CRF’s suspension showed its mettle. I had wanted to take the more hard core routes such as the General Nakar trail from Real, Quezon, or trample through the Famy back roads which was then muddier than usual.

    The knobby tires were great off road but proved slippery on road. Since I had to re-learn riding on knobbies (my CRM is a motard set-up) the CRF’s weight helped me relearn better.

    The seat configuration was also such that it allowed maneuvers standing up with not much fanfare.

    This bike is only 119 kilograms. My CRM is 115 kilos. Combine the low seat height and very moderated power output the CRF 150L is a great starter bike. My son Greg, whose last bike is a Honda CRM 85 found the transition to the CRF quick and familiar. He says the clutch feathers well and the brakes and strong and responsive.

    It costs over P134,000—not too pricey for its level of performance and reliability. It will be great as a daily commuter, and is frugal as a similar displacement underbone or scooter—with the advantage of a being able to transverse concrete-less terrain. It could very well be the millennials’ new ride.