In a welcoming move to further entice new riders into the market, Honda has lowered the seat height of its already hugely approachable CRF300L dual sport motorcycle, bringing us the 2023 Honda CRF300LS. It is difficult to oversell how much fun this small displacement bike is, and for newer riders who are still building their confidence, the CRF300LS is the perfect ambassador.
- The seat height on the CRF300LS is fully two inches lower than the standard CRF300L. As we know, nothing spells confidence and reassurance like getting one’s feet flat on the ground. While there are plenty of cruiser bikes with very low seat heights, the barrier to riding street and off-road bikes can climb quickly, leaving a lot of potential riders on the sidelines. While the 32.7-inch seat height on the CRF300LS may still sound lofty, throw a leg over the narrow seat and see how the chassis settles with your weight added. I’m easily flat-footed in Alpinestars’ J-6 Waterproof shoes and my 30.5-inch inseam.
- Suspension travel is shorter on the CRF300LS than on the L. You gotta give some to get some, and Honda traded around an inch of wheel travel at each end to contribute to the lower seat height—the rest comes from a thinner seat. That’s fine; few riders will feel compromised by this reduced travel on the street. Fortunately, the nine inches of wheel travel at both ends leaves room for an average-sized rider to tackle the conditions on suburban dirt roads and trails without bottoming the suspension.
- The reduced-travel suspension and ground clearance could be an issue off-road. Those taking the dual sporter off-road have 1.6 inches less ground clearance to work with than the CRF300L. At faster speeds or over rougher terrain, depending on rider weight, the chassis’ capabilities may be overmatched. If you plan to spend more time in the dirt than the street, the CRF300L is better suited to your ambitions.
- The CRF300LS has the immediately welcoming ergonomics that make dual sport bikes so versatile. The upright seating stance is natural and comfortable, making it easy to see and be seen when riding in urban and suburban environments. Slipping through lanes of traffic is effortless with the 300’s slim physique, though keep an eye on the width of the bars.
- With a 311-pound curb weight, the CRF300LS is not a handful on the street. While considerably heavier than a pure off-road motorcycle—it weighs 46 pounds more than the CRF250F trail bike—the CRF300LS weighs five pounds less than the street-only Honda CB300R, with the wide handlebars of the LS providing plenty of leverage for easy maneuvering. Paddling at the gas station or in parking lots is not a stressful activity, though the CB300R does have an inch-lower seat height, making it a natural choice for a new rider who won’t be venturing into the dirt.
- The torquey 286cc single is easy for entry-level riders to get comfortable on. Power delivery is smooth, and you can adjust your speed by simply rolling off the throttle, thanks to plenty of engine braking. If you downshift too aggressively, the slipper clutch reduces the likelihood of skidding the rear tire. The assist function on the clutch keeps the action light, which is especially helpful in traffic or off-road.
- The six-speed transmission shifts slickly. With the broad powerband, there’s always a proper ratio available, and it doesn’t matter if you’re one or two gears off, even when leaving from a standing start. However, the transmission can be reluctant to shift down to 1st from 2nd or 3rd gear at a stop.
- The IRC Trails GP tires capably take care of both riding environments. Around town, the tires take on all manner of asphalt and concrete surfaces and transitions. Feel free to jump a curb—that’s one of the benefits of a dual sport bike. Off-road, the IRC’s semi-knobbed pattern offers enough traction for loose-but-moderate hillclimbs and rocky conditions, while the traditional off-road 21-/18-inch wheel combo enables you to roll over larger obstacles on the dirt or street. The tires, as well as the handling of the CRF300LS, makes casual canyon runs part of the program.
- The 2023 Honda CRF300LS is short-hop freeway capable. While it’s a small displacement engine, it’s willing to push beyond the legal speed limit and feels relatively stable. The IRC tires wander a bit on rain-grooved pavement—the higher the speed, the more they drift—but the ride is stable. Surprisingly, even in the mid-70s there isn’t much windblast though you will notice the single-cylinder buzz in the footpegs and handgrips at the higher rpm. Heat off the header pipe discourages high-speed rides on high-temperature days, even in technical riding jeans.
- The single 256mm front disc brake perfectly matches the expected use of the CRF300LS. Engagement from the brake lever is appropriately soft, so less experienced hands will not get into trouble, though there is enough power to slow the bike. Always remember that the contact patch afforded by the dual sport tire will limit your braking power, so don’t expect to stop on a dime. Supplement with the rear disc brake for quicker deceleration. ABS is standard, and the rear-wheel ABS can be switched off—something many off-road riders prefer.
- A basic LCD dash and convenient details make the CRF300LS everyday useful. The digital dash includes valuable information that is easily read at a glance. The speed is displayed in a large font, along with smaller gear indicator, clock, fuel gauge, tach, and tripmeter readouts. There’s a small storage box on the left side of the bike, and cargo hooks if you want to strap a bag onto the seat.
- The CRF300LS is a terrifically fun, versatile bike, perfectly suited for around-town riding, short commutes, campus life, and local trail riding—especially under-the-radar urban dirt roads and trails. It’s quiet, friendly, and fuel efficient. The willing personality of the LS makes it welcoming to novice riders while still making a seasoned pro smile. More serious off-road riders will want the suspension of the standard CRF300L, while pavement-only enthusiasts will look to the CB300R. The 2023 Honda CRF300LS is for the rider who wants a bit of off-road motorcycle potential, or an urban street rider who simply prefers a dual-sport bike’s rugged look and functionality.
Photography by Don Williams
2023 Honda CRF300LS Specs
- Type: Single-cylinder
- Displacement: 286cc
- Bore and stroke: 76 x 63 mm
- Compression ratio: 10.7:1
- Valvetrain: DOHC; 4 valves
- Fueling: EFI w/ 38mm throttle body
- Cooling: Liquid
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Clutch: Wet multiplate w/ assist-and-slip functions
- Final drive: 520 O-ring chain
- Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable inverted 43mm fork; 9.3 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-assisted non-adjustable shock; 9.0 inches
- Front tire: 80/100 x 21; IRC Trails GP-21F
- Rear tire: 120/80 x 18; IRC Trails GP-22R
- Front brake: 256mm disc w/ 2-piston caliper
- Rear brake: 220mm disc w/ single-piston caliper
- ABS: Standard; rear-wheel defeatable
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 56.7 inches
- Rake: 27.5 degrees
- Trail: 4.3 inches
- Seat height: 32.7 inches
- Ground clearance: 9.6 inches
- Fuel capacity: 2.1 gallons
- Color: Swift Gray
- Curb weight: 311 pounds
2023 Honda CRF300LS Price: $5699 MSRP
2023 Honda CRF300LS Review Photo Gallery