Lucky enough to book a test ride and on a brilliant morning, I took the bike once round Richmond Park. The CRF300 Rally was fun right out of the dealer’s parking. Firm and sure when filtering in London traffic. A joy to aim straight at Richmond’s many speed ramps and just let the ample suspension and the spoked wheels take the bump. And as it will do that on just road bumps, what will it do on big stuff? So playing a bit in a rocky car park (ABS off) got the dust flying and started to show the CRF300’s potential off the tarmac.
Standing up over Kew Bridge for the view beyond the parapet, I found my knees fitted the tank profile just fine. Out in Richmond Park, speed limited to 20 MPH, standing up worked a treat to see the wildlife. The OEM exhaust wasn’t attracting attention, albeit puttering along in second or third. The red line is way up, I saw 7000 revs and I’m not expecting to go much above that: the CRF300 is quite the opposite of a screaming two-stroke with a narrow power band.
Slamming down a gear worked fine with my boot, though there’s no handlebar shifter and shifts up need the clutch. The brake levers are like a road bike too. But it’s maddening when you’re trying to stay legal that many of the cyclists were clearly going much faster than the park’s 20 MPH limit. On the other hand, they can’t stand up and enjoy the wildlife.
Being critical again (and remembering that these are niggles, I think this bike is basically a great combination of enough power plus a light enough frame and has the potential for a lot of fun), the clutch and brakes were set up soft; the indicator and horn switches are the other way round to my expectations, horn in the middle. And Honda’s small diamond mirrors don’t show you much but (of course) are just in the way when off tarmac. These knobbly tyres are bit untrustable on tarmac roundabouts and made straight line starts a bit squiffy but changing to road tyres would deal with both of those.
I came back from the test ride buzzing and bubbling with enthusiasm for the CRF300. In many ways this is the bike that I have been waiting for, the CB500X is too big and not enough poke, and the Versys 650 that I rode in Corsica was too heavy for me for off-road.
Unfortunately Honda have supply problems on the CRF300. Depending on who you talk to, Honda seem to have said a new order for a CRF300 (either model) will be delivered any time before the end of October. That’s not saying much and salesmen I’ve spoken with will only hint at delivery in maybe 4-6 weeks but no promises. And the demonstrator that I rode isn’t for sale. So I think that’s the end of the CRF300 story for me for summer 2021, alas.
Thanks to Chiswick Honda for the test ride