Honda XR 125 vs Honda CRF 230

By Hugo Minnaar | Published on 2020-06-15


Honda XR 125 vs Honda CRF 230

I currently own a Honda XR 125. I bought it in January, and it turned out to be a lifesaver during lockdown. We locked down in Prince Albert on a farm. The bike is used almost every day to drive between our cottage and the main house, transporting tools and my wife, going on scenic drives and for shopping in town.

The trusted 2017 Honda XR 125. Our refuge during lockdown.
The trusted 2017 Honda XR 125. Our refuge during lockdown.

During Level 3 of the lockdown the in-laws then bought a 2009 Honda CRF 230 in Pretoria which was shipped down to Prince Albert. It has knobblies, makes a noise and can go anywhere - off-road.

The 2008 Honda CRF 230. It's in a very good condition for its age.
The 2008 Honda CRF 230. It's in a very good condition for its age.

Everyone assumed that I would naturally like the CRF more and predicted that I will soon want to buy myself one as well. Let us see how they compare.

Metric XR 125 CRF 230
Year Model20172008
Weight130kg112kg
Fuel Capacity12 liters7.2 liters
Purchase Price R19,000R17,000 (+R2,500 shipping)
New PriceR32,150R98,000 (CRF 250)

Seat comfort

The XR has an extremely comfortable seat, you can sit on it for hours. The CRF on the other hand has a very narrow and hard seat, granted when driving the CRF there is not much sitting involved, but when you do sit down it will be uncomfortable.

XR 1 – CRF 0

Getting air

I tested both bikes going over natural ramps. I think I even went higher and further on the XR, but that is just because it is my bike and I am less worried about crashing it. The CRF has the better suspension and more power to jump higher and further, but for now I will call it a tie.

XR 0.5 – CRF 0.5

On your marks, get set, go!
On your marks, get set, go!

Riding in soft sand

My BIL and I took the bikes for a spin in a dry riverbed. The XR, without knobblies, managed remarkably well, but the CRF was the clear winner. On the XR we even managed to ride two-up through the soft sand, so it is not a complete fail for the XR.

XR 0 – CRF 1

The CRF has the advantage when it comes to sand, but the XR doesn't hold back.
The CRF has the advantage when it comes to sand, but the XR doesn't hold back.

Carrying passengers and equipment

The XR comes out with a luggage rack and is equipped with pegs for a pillion. The CRF on the other hand clearly states: “No passengers allowed”. That did not stop my wife from getting on the back of the CRF, but in the end, as a pillion, she prefers the XR.

XR 1 – CRF 0

Plenty of packing space on the XR.
Plenty of packing space on the XR.

Farm work

My BIL uses the bike to go check on the water points and sheep. If the sheep were given a choice, they would prefer the quiet XR over the loud CRF. Also, things like seat comfort and carrying of tools come into play here, so yet again:

XR 1 – CRF 0

Fun factor

Riding the CRF is no doubt a lot of fun. Opening the throttle and having instant acceleration is exhilarating, but I get about 80% of the same feeling on the XR. Doing slower technical driving is almost more fun on the XR because it feels ‘naughty’ to take a school runner bike over boulders and into dry riverbeds.

XR 0.4 – CRF 0.6

Who said a XR can only take you to school?
Who said a XR can only take you to school?

Shopping in town

This CRF is not road legal and is thus automatically disqualified from this round. Although, if you live in a small town, no one will care whether you have a licence plate or not. At least the CRF has a key and a kickstand. Put on a backpack for the groceries and you are good to go.

XR 0.8 – CRF 0.2

Final Score

XR 4.7 vs CRF 2.3

The XR is the clear winner here. The next time you find yourself looking for an all-round fun and multi-purpose bike do not forget to look at the Honda XR 125.

P.S. I am clearly biased, and this showdown does not take enduro riding into account. If you are buying something to get into Enduro riding, then the CRF will obviously be a better steppingstone. Although, after some of the riding I have done with the XR I would wager that you can even use the XR to gauge whether you would be into Enduro riding, before upgrading to a proper enduro bike.


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