CRF 230 - Review of bike & mods


31 replies to this topic
  • burgester72

Posted November 21, 2010 - 11:52 AM

#1

In October of 2010 purchased a 2004 CRF 230 that had been barely ridden for $1500.00 off Craigslist. I did this because I my 1998 WR400fk needed "more" work and I was ready for a change. I bought the WR 2 years ago for $900 and have rode it much on Missouri trails and had a blast with the never ending power of the radial 5 valve high compression engine and wonderful suspension.

Let me back up....I have been riding trails (nothing professional) since about 1978..I am currently 38 and am not married and need a hobby to exact vengeance upon the stresses that life creates. Riding is perfect for this. I am about 5'10" and weigh anywhere from 178 - 185 pounds pending upon if I am doing P90x or eating loads of pizza, etc...lol.

My skill level is probably a 5-6 out of 10. I'm not a novice and have days where I shine on the trail and can hold my own.

Ok back to the CRF230. I rode this bike on 40 miles of trails varying from mild to wild difficulty and was comparing it to the WR400 most of the time as that was my last bike and I had nothing else to go on. The CRF failed in every way to meet up to the WR. The old WR would blow the plastic off the CRF in each category hands down. I was feeling like there was no way I was going to be happy with this trail bike.

Problems with the CRF that I noticed immediately: Suspension is very, very poor. I googled and read account after account from new and old CRF 230 owners that this was a known issue and there were several fixes to the problem. I noticed the power was OK but not real crisp. Luckily enough when I bought this bike it came with a Honda Power up jet & front sprocket kit so after installing those plus removing the air breather insert just under the seat and removing the baffle from the exhaust the bike powers just fine now and I am happy.

I rate this bike as basically dangerous on "real" woods trails with factory suspension. You will crash and burn several times if you are aggressively riding this bike in soft, hard, loose, etc. trail conditions. The front dives left and right wildy and feels all wrong and jittery, the rear isn't terrible but hops around alot and feels like it's not helping you climb hills, etc. It's all too soft and made for mild playing around in a flat field or something. I am not sure but my guess is that Honda scored a great deal on a boat load of cheaply made shocks and that's what they used on the CRF 230's. I've ridden lots of bikes and have never felt such poor suspension and never felt like any of those bikes posed a threat due to such poorly tuned/crafted suspension.

I was going to sell it. I was going to keep it. Couldn't make up my mind. A friend of mine just paid $1,000.00 for a '99 YZ 125 and said he had no issues at all. I was about to let the CRF go. The CRF 230 is so close to being right in every category but so close to being wrong that following a logical price to value thought process was....tough to say the least...if I spend more on this bike then why didn't I just buy a WR250f or CRF 250? I don't want to end up with a $4000.00 investment in this 2004 230 cc bike....not good, not good.

Then I remembered why I bought it. This bike brings alot to the table in the way of reliability. It's a Honda product which means it's easy to work on, get parts for, etc. Lots and lots of Honda support out there for shade tree mechanics like me. This bike is very easy to navigate through dense trees and winding trails. Need to turn around on a tight trail? No problem. Fell down and need to lift the bike, maybe drag it a few feet, push it for 30 feet to a flat spot on the trail...uphill or down hill...no problem at all. None of these things were easy on a WR400. And electric start is always nice! No more kicking while fiddling with a compression lever, hot start button, etc. This feature earns alot of thumbs up from me. People call it the "Magic Button" for a reason. Makes a 40 mile trial ride on a Saturday alot easier...especially when you are not a 24 year old man anymore.

So I tallied all these positive attributes up in my mind and I thought if I could fix the CRF's wear areas for under $500 I would be happy. So I start searching for suspension mod's that get good reviews. I find lots of $650 rear shocks from well known companies but that is not for me. Part of this hobby that I enjoy is never having to spend "loads" of cash at any one time (after the initial purchase of course).

I read alot about the BBR front and rear suspension mods. Many guys have had good things to say about it. So for less than $200 I installed the front and rear suspension springs from BBR. The fronts are cake - pop top caps and slide out old springs, slide in new ones, replace top caps, done! The rear is harder and more time consuming if you have never done it... here is the easiest way.

1.) Remove seat, fender, side panels, airbox and swing out and away the battery box assembly. Keep all nuts and bolts together...you will thank yourself later.
2.) Spray a lubricant like WD40 on the top of the factory rear shock around the spanner rings. Take a break, come back in 15 minutes. Take a hammer and a socket extension and pound away at the top spanner ring until it breaks free. This will take some force - mine was factory tight and it was very, very hard to break free. Loosen both spanner rings completely. Unloosen the top bolt that connects the rear shock to your frame. Pivot the rear tire while holding the shock so the shock will "point" to the open space you created by taking out your air box and pull the factory spring off of the gas shock, then install the new shock. (I had a friend helping me so we had 4 hands going on this - I would advise getting assistance.) Tighten the spanner rings back on, move rear tire up and down to align top shock bolt and tighten back. Re-install all plastic and you are done. This all should take around 30 minutes probably but I basically took several hours as I cleaned the bike, took pics, etc. I wasn't in any hurry. This is a mod you should do yourself instead of taking it to the local shop.

I set rider sag according to what I found on Youtube, Google, etc. I know I am just about spot on after riding it - setting sag isn't hard, just read about it, if you can use a tape measure and follow directions you got it made.

Setting on the bike after the BBR mods was a whole new world. I had also installed a 1" handlebar riser Kit I had ordered online and was very pleased with just the 1" riser. (Anymore rise than 1" would mean a mojor re route of cables or new cables as my stock cables were very tight - I actually had to move my throttle to the left about 1/2" so turning the handlebars to the right would not stretch the cables. This kit went on in 5 minutes, made a nice difference to the feel of the bike and I think it cost $20.00. I no longer squat down while standing on the pegs - just 1" makes all the difference in the world.

The bike stands up and feels surprisingly alot like the WR400 did - not quite as tall but close. The BBR springs front and rear are advertised as 30% stiffer. I know they are least that much and probably more.

I am pleased. I rode it around the ditches just off the roads close to the house and wheelied and jumped a bit and it's handling like a 250 class machine while still keeping that light, nimble feel that the CRF 230 is famous for.

I can't wait to get to the trails and put the new mods to the test. We ride hard and we ride for 20-40 miles each outing so I'll be back to give my input on the BBR suspension very soon.

As of now I can say that these mods turned this bike from teenager beginner bike to a seemingly apt trail machine from what little I can tell......all for less than $200.00.

I also replaces the factory Pirelli tires. Those tires were brittle and I lost almost all the nobbies on the last rocky trail - maybe the bike had sat for too long and the rubber in the tires were toast, not sure. I went with Kenda K774F Budd's Creek tires - I matched the tirre size of what a new 250cc machine comes with so I will now have a wider rear and a tire compound made for the trails we run.

Here is a link to some pics I took while doing the mod.
http://img404.images...pension002.jpg/

http://img404.images...pension002.jpg/

You can see the 1" riser kit I installed for the handlebars. Incredible the difference 1" made.

I'll review all these mods after my next trip to the trails and let you know my thoughts on the BBR front and rear spring mods.

Good riding!

  • cacka_lacka

Posted November 21, 2010 - 01:19 PM

#2

following a logical price to value thought process was....tough to say the least...if I spend more on this bike then why didn't I just buy a WR250f or CRF 250? I don't want to end up with a $4000.00 investment in this 2004 230 cc bike....not good, not good.

This is exactly the same predicament that I was in with my old 230. Sure, the bike has the potential to be a serious trail bike...but that will require lots of time and $$$. Put that aside, the final nail in the coffin for me was simply the small physical size of the 230...it really just doesn't work for anybody who is 6'+ or 160lb+, IMO. However, the 230 was really fun in the tight, wooded single track (as long as there weren't any rocks for the suspension to struggle on). That's the only thing I miss about my 230...the low CG for the tight, weaving single track.

I guess this is the "fork-in-the-road" that many 230 owners encounter...throw lots of money at the 230 or get a better bike. It's a tough decision that took me a long time to resolve.

Seems like you had pretty good luck with the BBR springs. If I remember correctly, I think a lot of people opt for USD forks and the Works shock...is that next on your list? XR carb? Big bore kit? Rear disc?

Enjoy the bike! :p

  • burgester72

Posted November 21, 2010 - 01:52 PM

#3

I am not planning on doing any more serious upgrades at this time. Once I get the bike on the trail with the current mods I'll be able to see how I can keep up with the 250 guys that are riding XR's. I ride with three friends that all have either a 250cc or 450cc bike. So far I have kept up with them fine until the trail gets choppy and the rocks impede my ability to throttle up and run with them. I am hoping these mods do the trick. If they don't then I'll have to readjust my outlook and see where to go from there...new bike or new mods. I am trying to stay with the mind set that there is a line in the sand where the mods needed might out weigh the common sense ratio. If the bike needs another $1,000.00 in mods still because I am just not happy then I'll have to let it go and then purchase a 250cc bike and be done with the madness.

The BBR springs in front and rear have eliminated the small bike feeling totally. I really feel like I am sitting atop a 250CC or 450CC bike now. In fact I have within 3/4 inches the same seat height of my friends 2002 XR250.

I'll probably be able to post an "after mod's" review of the bike's handling and performance in a week or so if the schedule works out.

  • n2omike

Posted November 21, 2010 - 05:04 PM

#4

Read this...

http://www.thumperta...ad.php?t=929361

  • motoman354

Posted November 22, 2010 - 12:38 PM

#5

Well lets reveiw for a moment. You went from a 1998 WR 400 F to a stock CRF 230 F and when you rode it you were shocked at how bad the suspension was? Were you blind folded until you were on the bike? Did you really think a budget priced beginners bike was going to match up in any way to what is basically a YZ 400 F with lights?
Then the solution you are going to "review" is to stuff overly stiff springs onto bargain basement, underdampened suspension. Guess what, it is going to work like oversprung cheap suspension.:p
Sorry for the rant but this gave me a headache just reading it, Jeff

  • CL13579

Posted November 22, 2010 - 09:25 PM

#6

Once you move up to a Works shock, gold valve emulators, 11:1 compression, cam, port work, light flywheel, and remove 46lbs from the bike, you will no longer consider the WR400 in any way competition in the woods.

  • fredallenburge

Posted November 23, 2010 - 06:07 PM

#7

Once you move up to a Works shock, gold valve emulators, 11:1 compression, cam, port work, light flywheel, and remove 46lbs from the bike, you will no longer consider the WR400 in any way competition in the woods.


I read your thread all the way through, very impressive weight savings you did there! Made me decide to pull out the sawz-all, grinder and wrenches and go at my 95 XR250 last Saturday - now I'm in (literally) the middle of the wire harness pulling ounces out one wire at a time :p



-Fred

P.S. Can't wait to ride Burgester's CRF this Saturday, I think it's gonna be a totally different machine!

  • Countdown

Posted November 24, 2010 - 10:38 AM

#8

Then I remembered why I bought it. This bike brings alot to the table in the way of reliability. It's a Honda product which means it's easy to work on, get parts for, etc. Good riding!


"Easy to work on"? Obviously you never had an XR200 or any other Honda XR. The 230 was designed in Brazil and is not really a Honda. It just has an XR200 engine with a starter and screwed up transmision.

I still had my 91 XR200 with a far superior chassis when I got my 230. For about a year I considered just putting the 230 in the 200 chassis but the Carb-air box-battery was an issue so I put a Works shock on the 230 along with XR200 rear brake parts.

Bottom line the 230 is a nightmare compared to the 200 for service.

  • CL13579

Posted November 24, 2010 - 11:01 AM

#9

"Easy to work on"? Obviously you never had an XR200 or any other Honda XR. The 230 was designed in Brazil and is not really a Honda. It just has an XR200 engine with a starter and screwed up transmision.

I still had my 91 XR200 with a far superior chassis when I got my 230. For about a year I considered just putting the 230 in the 200 chassis but the Carb-air box-battery was an issue so I put a Works shock on the 230 along with XR200 rear brake parts.

Bottom line the 230 is a nightmare compared to the 200 for service.


Interesting discourse. I rebuilt so many XR200 transmissions that I could have them out, cleaned up, 2nd gear replaced, reassembled and back in the bike in less than two hours. So far I haven't had to rebuild a 230 trans.

The battery box can be completely removed from the bike by simply using a lithium ion battery pack.

I'm not sure why you would go with the XR200 rear brake?

  • motoman354

Posted November 24, 2010 - 11:36 AM

#10

"Easy to work on"? Obviously you never had an XR200 or any other Honda XR. The 230 was designed in Brazil and is not really a Honda. It just has an XR200 engine with a starter and screwed up transmision.

I still had my 91 XR200 with a far superior chassis when I got my 230. For about a year I considered just putting the 230 in the 200 chassis but the Carb-air box-battery was an issue so I put a Works shock on the 230 along with XR200 rear brake parts.

Bottom line the 230 is a nightmare compared to the 200 for service.


Not really a Honda? Sorry to burst your bubble but the 230 was designed in Japan based on a home market model. It is built in Brazil.
As far as a 91 XR200 chassis being far superior to the 230s please tell me in what way. It has slightly more room for the rider. After that it is a mild steel tube playbike frame of very dated design and if ridden at true racing speeds even with better suspension it is no match for a well set up 230. Jeff

  • Mrh20

Posted November 26, 2010 - 10:49 AM

#11

I am a very long time lurker so my first post. I would like to also hear how the BBR springs worked out for you. I love my 230 I have rode it three times this week. I prefere to take it over the R everytime except at a track. Lets just remember the intended purpose of the bike.



04 CRF 250R, 04 CRF 230F, 02 XR 70F, 03 RM/KX 65, 88 Moto 4 80cc

Edited by Mrh20, November 26, 2010 - 10:56 AM.
x


  • motoman354

Posted November 26, 2010 - 11:45 AM

#12

The intended purpose is whatever the owner wants it to be. We do not forget it, we just want more from them. I actually do MX mine but that is why I have modern forks and a revalved works performance shock on mine. The potential for greater performance is what I love about mine.
The BBR fork springs and heavier oil will do wonders for the forks. Emulators even better. However throwing a heavy spring on the stock shock is a waste of money. Jeff

  • burgester72

Posted November 27, 2010 - 09:42 PM

#13

As promised here is my review of the BBR front and rear springs installed on my '04 230. Me and my two Brothers finally got a chance to do about 15 miles of trails today. So here is what my bike has for mod's since I made the purchase:

I installed the "Honda Power Up Kit", I removed the baffle from the stock exhaust, installed a 1" riser kit for the handle bars and am running a different front sprocket (12 tooth). I put the same tire size on the rear that a stock XR 250 runs and went with Kenda Bud's Creek brand tires which might not be the best out there but are a nice improvement over the stock tires which are horrible. BBR front springs installed and using stock oil in front shocks, BBR rear spring installed over stock shock.

I heard positive and negative information prior to making the BBR purchase so I decided to gamble due to the low cost and the possibility that I would come out OK in the end.

I am amazed! The BBR mods along with the 1" riser kit and larger rear tire has elevated this bikes "feel/stance" to that of a full size bike and improved the handling 100%. I can now third gear over football length stretches of 3" to 6" rocks (as found in Disney Oklahoma Dam area) and I have no more control issues from the front and rear of the bike and that was previously the major problem I was having. This goes for nasty hill climbs and descents that are infested with the same kinds of rocks buried under millions of leaves. Hill climbs that are totally unrocky are very simple with this bike with the new tires and BBR suspension. Before I forget to say it - - get rid of your stock Pirelli tires and never look back. They are garbage and are impeding your ability to "push it hard" while out on the trail.

These mods allowed the bike to track straight and have removed the "jitters" from this bike completely. I can jump over large logs and when it's possible to get some good air I don't bottom out - in fact the bike begged for more jumping than I could find places to jump today on the trail!

Hat's off to the 1" riser kit for $20 - it's nice to be able to stand up and not feel hunched over on hill climbs and just tooling around, etc. How can 1" and a small investment of $20 make that much difference...WOW!

The only time my front end got away from me today was when I over used the front brake and that makes the front end slip left or right with the stiffer suspension. The old suspension was so soft that a tap of the front brake would simply make the front squat down so this did take some getting used to out there today.

I can't imagine how awesome a rear gas operated shock like the one from Werks must perform like...however the kind of nasty trail riding we do the BBR mod was 100% adequate. I am thoroughly impressed that the BBR springs are priced around $90 for front and same for rear and it's a mod anyone with a few tools can do in a couple hours. The change in this bike is drastic in a very good way.

The greatest thing is that I have a light feeling, nimble bike that has perfect "trail" power and gearing and e-start. I can go anywhere I want to on the trails now and do not have the feeling that I am about to spill the bike because it's so jittery soft.

With installing the mods I list on this post (all of which I researched on this forum prior to doing them) I now think this bike is one of the best bikes on the market for the weekend trail warrior that isn't planning on racing for cash or doing serious motocross track.

All told I am in this bike just shy of $2K and it makes me smile every time sit on it now with the new suspension mods.........thx BBR!

If anyone reads this and is curious if the BBR suspension mods would work for your specific height and weight then maybe my stats below will help you determine that:

5'9"
185-190 fully dressed for riding.

Good riding fellas and I hope this review was helpful to you and thanks to all the rest of you that posted up helpful information that I could use to get my 230 to a point where I am very happy with it!!

  • Mrh20

Posted November 28, 2010 - 04:35 PM

#14

Thanks for the update, We really like the 230 fun bike great for tight trails just dont know If I want to invest any money into it. I am thinking about selling the F and R and get an X, Electric start and lights are great. Thanks for the update.

  • T30

Posted November 28, 2010 - 06:11 PM

#15

My experience with the BBR springs wasn't so good. Way too stiff causing the back end to come up and hit your ass when you're fly over whoops. I ended up getting the Works shock and using only one BBR up front. That combo works well for me.

I love the CRF230F it fits a great niche. It's somewhere in between my KTM300EXC and my Suzuki DR650SE. Mine is plated which makes it handy for a quick ride to some trails. I may ultimately swap the forks, install the HC piston and cam just for bigger grins.

  • 1moreaccord

Posted November 29, 2010 - 12:48 PM

#16

"Easy to work on"? Obviously you never had an XR200 or any other Honda XR. The 230 was designed in Brazil and is not really a Honda. It just has an XR200 engine with a starter and screwed up transmision.

Bottom line the 230 is a nightmare compared to the 200 for service.


This is such an ignorant statement!

And I hate the common misconceptions that people draw when they say the 230 is designed/built/made in Brazil.
* This does not mean native Brazilian were handed this project from Honda to design and build a 230cc dirt bike!

Sweet Betsy alive it means the Honda motor Company (powersports division) designed a new bike, the 230f. They then carefully constructed all of its parts, engine, transmission, etc. from their personal departments. They send all of the required pieces/molds or w/e to Brazil to be ASSEMBLED! For the warning to be more clear it should read ASSEMBLED in Brazil. But that is their equivalent of MADE in Brazil. good grief.

Brazil is merely the country of origin. Where it is assembled. IT STILL USES JAPANESE HONDA PARTS! :thumbsup::banana::bonk::blah::ride:

carry on :worthy:

  • motoman354

Posted November 29, 2010 - 01:27 PM

#17

This is such an ignorant statement!

And I hate the common misconceptions that people draw when they say the 230 is designed/built/made in Brazil.
* This does not mean native Brazilian were handed this project from Honda to design and build a 230cc dirt bike!

Sweet Betsy alive it means the Honda motor Company (powersports division) designed a new bike, the 230f. They then carefully constructed all of its parts, engine, transmission, etc. from their personal departments. They send all of the required pieces/molds or w/e to Brazil to be ASSEMBLED! For the warning to be more clear it should read ASSEMBLED in Brazil. But that is their equivalent of MADE in Brazil. good grief.

Brazil is merely the country of origin. Where it is assembled. IT STILL USES JAPANESE HONDA PARTS! :thumbsup::banana::bonk::blah::ride:

carry on :worthy:


Well not quite true. The 230 is made in Brazil not just assembled there. This is why parts for the 230 are quite a bit cheaper than other Hondas. However that is only in cost, the quality is equal to what comes from Japan. Honda is not stupid, they are not going to put their name on junk. Jeff

  • Chuck.

Posted November 29, 2010 - 05:44 PM

#18

Let's back up a bit here: the 230 has its lineage developed further from the SL125 than the XR200, The 230 is a street bike in Brazil. In my mind the 230 is just a later evolution of the SL125 than the XR200. Some parts interchange and some parts don't. Compared to a 86-91 XR200 the 230 has about the same power, similar suspension, electric start, lower 5th & 6th gears, much heavier weight, and an evolution of design (whatever that might be).

It is a cheap heavy trail bike w/ electric start, no more, no less. But some TT members have liked the motors (200 & 230) so much that we altered the bikes to suit our wants, or put the motors in other chassis'.

There are things I like very much about the power delivery of these motors for trail riding that just overcome the shortcomings of the suspension. Almost any dirt bike will beat one of these in a drag race but the power delivery is just plain good for trail riding.

  • T30

Posted November 29, 2010 - 05:59 PM

#19

It appears there may be some misconceptions about the manufacturing capabilities of Brazil. They have significant heavy industries. They make passenger aircraft, EMB-120s are even used by some US commercial carriers. They also make automobiles, firearms and other commodities requiring some degree of engineering precision and production quality systems.

Regardless of where the CRF230F is made, it's backed by Honda. The positive track record for this model as experienced by users since 2003 speaks volumes for its reliability and durability.

  • 1moreaccord

Posted November 30, 2010 - 06:41 AM

#20

Well not quite true. The 230 is made in Brazil not just assembled there. This is why parts for the 230 are quite a bit cheaper than other Hondas. However that is only in cost, the quality is equal to what comes from Japan. Honda is not stupid, they are not going to put their name on junk. Jeff


True^^

However, Honda developed the motorcycle, probably built the prototype with exact specifications, and THEN gave Brazilian manufacturers the molds/required metals to use/available parts/nut and bolt specifications. I just don't want ppl thinking it was born and raised in Brazil. It is merely "made/manufactured/assembled/ whatever" there. It's as much Honda as a civic! :thumbsup:





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