Guest post from writer and fellow trail rider, Ross Tiley.
Follow his adventures here on Instagram @Devonshire_Biker
Is a Dakar styled road bike with a 250cc single cylinder 4 stroke the best compromise between a full on adventure bike and a proper enduro machine, or simply the worst of both worlds? I’m not sure yet…
Picture the scene. It’s December. In Devon. I have moved onto a farm. I own a Triumph Thruxton R. WINTER IS COMING… Do I continue riding the cafe racer through the cold months and risk ruining its beautiful finish or do I pick up something to better handle the daily commute? My first thought was to pick up a little scooter; cheap to buy, cheap to run. So boring. OK, so perhaps I should buy a proper enduro machine for the commute? Unfortunately most people seem to recommend servicing them every 10 or so hours, which means dropping the oil every other week and the headlights appear to offer about as much illumination a hypoxic tea light. Not for me. I don’t think I need a proper adventure bike as the commute is only a 10 mile round trip along country lanes and besides, the budget won’t stretch to anything very interesting. Enter the CRF250 Rally.
25 bhp is enough poke to take it up to 80mph+, at 157KG it’s reasonably light, standard fit LED headlights should be able to deal with the dark winter night commutes just fine and my budget will allow me to pick up a 6 month old machine, still well within its manufacturer’s warranty. Perfect… Now, coming off a 1200cc twin with nearly 100 BHP onto the wee Honda was always going to take some getting used to, but I have gelled surprisingly quickly with the little Rally and have rediscovered a love for riding a slow bike as fast as possible. On pot holed, gravelly, mucky farm lanes I am so much more confident on the CRF, which is making the daily commute a pleasure rather than a chore. On top of this, I’ve been able to take it off the tarmac onto some of Devon’s many unmettled byways, which has opened up a whole new world of riding to me.
Now I must say from the outset that I am no off-road pro. In fact I think I can count the number of times I’ve taken a motorcycle off tarmac on one hand. What I can say is after 5 or 6 excursions onto Devon’s network of excellent greenlanes, I can’t think of a better machine for me to have started on. The CRF’s engine is totally placid, yet torquey enough to pull it up rocky slopes and through knee deep puddles with relative ease. The power delivery (whilst meagre) is very predictable and it’s lack of mass makes it so much easier to thread up a technical lane than a full on adventure bike.
The downside comes when out on dual carriageways and motorways; it’s not that the CRF can’t keep up with traffic (it will happily cruise at 70-75mph) but when you are used to having an almost bottomless reserve of power and torque it does mean having to plan overtakes with more care, especially on uphill sections. Likewise, on fast A and B roads I do miss the ability to quickly squirt past a dawdling Sunday driver. The CRF is definitely more at home on the backlanes and I am trying to adjust my attitude such that I allow myself the time to take smaller roads to get to my destination. I’m yet to load the bike up for a proper trip away, but with just 25hp on tap I suspect packing light may be a good idea.
This is the slowest motorcycle I have owned since tearing up my L-plates and the cheapest since my post test Bandit 600n. It’s also one of the most fun – I had no idea that riding at 20mph, in January, getting soaking wet and covered in mud could be so enjoyable. I implore everybody to get out there this winter, ride up to a blue ‘road not suitable for motor vehicles’ sign and just keep going…