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November 29, 2022
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HONDA CRF300L VS KAWASAKI KLX300 DUAL-SPORTS: THE WRAP

This week we returned to our roots. It was all about riding small-bore dual-sport bikes. We have the Honda CRF300L and the Kawasaki KLX300. The main appeal to both bikes is price; they each sell for around $5500. Both are made in Thailand and both are more about simple transportation than going fast off-road.

The Honda CRF300L and Kawasaki KLX300 are more about trail transportation than dirt thrills.The Honda CRF300L first appeared as the CRF250L back in 2017, then it got a major update in 2021. The stroke was increased by 8mm to arrive at 286cc. It got new camshafts, and both the airbox and the exhaust were redesigned. The finish is outstanding, the brakes are made by Nissin and the rims are aluminum. You have to get up close to see the inexpensive stuff. The suspension is about as basic as possible. The rear has adjustable spring preload and that’s all; no reservoir, no clickers. The handlebar is ⅞-inch steel, and there are no handguards or frame guards. It comes in at 286 pounds without fuel.

The Honda has the upper hand in mid-range power and ground clearance.The Kawasaki KLX300 has a very different backstory. It’s been blinking in and out of existence since 1994. In its early days, it was one of very few small-bore off-road four-strokes. In technology, it was miles ahead of the Honda XR250R and the Suzuki DR250 of the day, which were both single overhead cam and air cooled. The off-road version of the KLX lasted about 15 years–most of that time as a 300. The dual-sport version KLX250 was introduced in 2006 and lasted until 2014. It disappeared for a brief period and then showed up with fuel injection. The version of the bike you see today came to life in 2021 when the displacement was upped to 292cc. One area where Kawasaki splurged was in suspension. The fork has adjustable rebound damping, and the piggyback shock has adjustable preload, rebound and compression damping. On our scale, the Kawasaki is 282 pounds without fuel.

The Kawasaki gets the better of the Honda in the suspension department. It also is a more compact motorcycle.Both bikes are taller than you might expect. With unladen suspension, the lowest part of the Kawasaki’s seat is 36.5 inches. The Honda’s is 37.2. That changes as soon as the bikes settle under their own weight. They’re soft–very soft. The Kawasaki settles more than the Honda, making it a little easier for the short-inseam crowd to touch the ground. Conversely, the Honda has more ground clearance. Both bikes come with very street-oriented tires. In order to go on an off-road ride of any substance, you need to replace them with full knobbies. We installed Dunlop’s new Geosport EN91 tries, which are knobbies with DOT approval.

Up front, you gotta understand what these bikes are. They were made for street transportation and mild trail riding. One on one, though, they’re great trail companions. Their performance is so similar that you can’t help but have fun riding them together–just don’t invite those guys on 300 two-strokes. The Honda and Kawasaki both make around 23 horsepower and rev out around 9500 rpm. That’s enough power to go respectably fast on level, hard-packed trail. When you get into sandy hills, they struggle. You have to shift like a madman. If you try to stretch a gear by abusing the clutch, both bikes fall flat. If you really pay attention, you discover that the Honda has slightly more low end power. It’s also geared lower in first and second gear. Both bikes could use lower final gearing and be happier on the trail. In the big picture, though, the motor performance on these two bikes is so similar it’s almost eerie.


The seat height is much more relevant. Not only is the Honda a little taller, but it has a wider seat. That means short riders will struggle just to get a leg over it. Riders who are taller and those who are more experienced, on the other hand, will like the Honda’s extra ground clearance. It isn’t just about clearing rocks and stumps, it’s about how close your feet are to the ground. On the Kawasaki you’re nervous about wiping your feet clean off its narrow little footpegs.

The Honda CRF300L weighs 286 pounds without fuel. The Kawasaki KLX300 is 282 without fuel–both measured on our scale.In the suspension department, neither bike is set-up for real off-road riding. They’re made to be cushy and comfortable around the campsite; nothing more. The ride that feels so comfy and plush on the road turns into a pitchy, divey affair in even the mildest off-road terrain. In the case of the Kawasaki, you at least have the option of subtle fine-tuning. You can increase preload on the rear shock and increase both compression and rebound damping. That gives you a little more security, but the range of adjustability is limited. The Honda, on the other hand, has no adjustability and desperately needs more damping at both ends. You can improve both bikes by spending money, but all the money in the world won’t make them into race bikes. Right now we’re trying to learn more about the bike to determine an overall winner. You can check out the February, 2023 print edition of Dirt Bike for a comparison.

BETA 350RR
The Beta 350RR sells for $10,499.Another bike new to the test fleet this week is the Beta 350RR. This is a new model that we didn’t know much about. We were familiar with the 350RR-S dual-sport and the 350RR Race Edition, but now there’s one that splits the difference in performance. It also sells for less than either of the other Beta 350s–although it’s still not exactly cheap. Stay tuned; as we spend more time on the bike we’ll report what we learn.

FUN WITH THE LAWRENCE BOYS

THE CASELLI CUP

Right now the Dirt Bike staff is in the argument stage of choosing the recipient of the next Caselli Cup. We don’t really think of this as a “Rider of the Year” award because we don’t like looking backwards. This is our ranking of the top 25 riders as of the start of the 2023 season. Naturally, the previous year’s results play heavily in that decision, but we try to look past injuries and  misfortune. In 2022, there was a lot of that. Here are the riders under consideration and their results from 2022.

GNCC XC1


1 JORDAN ASHBURN 267


2 CRAIG B DELONG 225


3 RICKY A RUSSELL 181


4 BENJAMIN M KELLEY 180


5 TREVOR BOLLINGER 148


6 JOSHUA M TOTH 135


7 GRANT BAYLOR 133


8 STEWARD BAYLOR JR 113


9 JOSH V STRANG 84


10 THADDEUS DUVALL 60


11 JOSEP GARCIA 37


12 TYLER D MEDAGLIA 26


13 STEVE HOLCOMBE 19


14 LAYNE MICHAEL 14

GNCC XC2


1 LYNDON SNODGRASS 291


2 RYDER LAFFERTY 229


3 RUY BARBOSA 219


4 CODY J BARNES 191


5 LIAM DRAPER 191


6 MICHAEL WITKOWSKI 190


7 ANGUS RIORDAN 185


8 BENJAMIN HERRERA 183


9 JONATHAN T JOHNSON 160


10 SIMON J JOHNSON 143

NGPC PRO


1 DANTE OLIVEIRA 270


2 AUSTIN WALTON 196


3 COLE MARTINEZ 172


4 TYLER LYNN 150


5 DARE DEMARTILE 134


6 DALTON SHIREY 130


7 JUSTIN HOEFT 123


8 GIACOMO REDONDI 113


9 TREVOR STEWART 107


10 TALLON LA FOUNTAINE 94

NGPC 250 PRO


1 MATEO OLIVEIRA 240


2 JACK SIMPSON 205


3 KAI AIELLO 195


4 JUSTIN SEEDS 145


5 COLTON AECK 142


6 THOMAS DUNN 134


7 MASON OTTERSBERG 105


8 TYLER BELKNAP 99


9 JP ALVAREZ 73


10 COLE ZELER 73

WORCS 450 PRO


1 DANTE OLIVEIRA 240


2 AUSTIN WALTON 195


3 TYLER LYNN 185


4 DARE DEMARTILE 178


5 COLE MARTINEZ 140


6 TREVOR STEWART 132


7 JUSTIN HOEFT 102


8 TRAVIS DAMON 89


9 MATT MAPLE 83


10 TALLON LAFOUNTAINE 80

WORCS PRO2


1 MATEO OLIVEIRA 225


2 KAI AIELLO 195


3 JACK SIMPSON 177


4 THOMAS DUNN 177


5 COLTON AECK 111


6 COLE ZELLER 65


7 JUSTIN SEEDS 50


8 TYLER BELKNAP 39


9 CHASE LARSON 31


10 JAKE ALVAREZ 28

ENDUROCROSS (Incomplete)


1 Trystan Hart 113


2 Jonny Walker 112


3 Taddy Blazusiak 96


4 Cody Webb 95


5 Colton Haaker 90


6 Cooper Abbott 82


7 Ryder Leblond 71


8 Tim Apolle 66


9 Max Gerston 58


10 Ty Cullins 55

AMA NATIONAL ENDURO


1 Grant Baylor 245


2 Josh Toth 204


3 Ryder Lafferty 191


4 Steward Baylor Jr 187


5 Craig Delong 178


6 Ricky Russell 145


7 Evan Smith 121


8 Jonathan Johnson 95


9 Benjamin Nelko 95


10 Brody Johnson 86


11 Thad Duvall 74

AMA NATIONAL HARE & HOUND


1 Dalton Shirey 211


2 Joseph Wasson 145


3 Zane Roberts 138


4 Carter Klein 119


5 Corbin Mcpherson 109


6 Jacob Argubright 107


7 Clayton Roberts 99


8 Taylor Robert 90


9 Brody Honea 78


10 Preston Campbell 71

US SPRINT ENDURO


1 LAYNE MICHAEL 340


2 LIAM DRAPER 254


3 STEWARD BAYLOR 211


4 THAD DUVALL 148

WEST HARE SCRAMBLES


1 Giacomo Redondi


2 Zane Roberts


3 Austin Serpa


4 Mason Ottersberg


5 Jaden Dahners


6 Dalton Shirey


7 Taylor Robert


8 Anthony Ferrante


9 JT Baker


10 Anson Maloney

FULL GAS SPRINT


1 Evan Smith


2 Tyler Medaglia


3 Brewer Cawley

EAST HARE SCRAMBLES


1 MAX FERNANDEZ


2 KYLE MCDONAL


3 IAN POTTER


4 HUNTER BUSH


5 JASON TINO


6 BEN WRIGHT


7 BRANDON RYMARZOW


8 MARK FORTNER


9 DANIEL FORTNER


10 TOBY CLEVELAND

ISDE TROPHY TEAM FINISHERS


Kailub Russell, P15


Austin Walton, P17


Michael Layne, P18


Josh Toth, P22


Mateo Oliveira, P32


Dante Oliveira, P35


Korie Steede, P111


Rachel Gutish, P119

TOP ISDE CLUB FINISHERS


Craig DeLong, P3


Jaden Dahners, P9


Tyler Vore, P12


Kai Aiello, P18

RALLY


Skyler Howes P1 Sonora, P1 Rallye Du Maroc


Ricky Brabec P7 Dakar


Andrew Short P8 Dakar (now retired)


Mason Klein P9 Dakar

See you next week!

–Ron Lawson

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