By: Justin Dawes
Honda is on a mission to bring new riders into the sport of motorcycling in every demographic. The recent release of the NC700X, three new 500cc street bikes and the CRF250L are all value-based machines that appeal to new or less-experienced riders. Honda knows that fostering brand loyalty can begin at an early age, and with the all-new 2013 Honda CRF110F, the manufacturer looks to grab some young new dirt fans.
The 110F replaces the CRF70F in the Honda line-up and is positioned between the CRF50F and the CRF80F. While the displacement has grown, the size has only increased marginally in some measurements, and the price has only grown by $39. For that small increase in MSRP the list of additional features is impressive. First and foremost is the electric start with a kickstart backup. While the 70F had three speeds, the 110F now has a four-speed transmission with an auto clutch. Lastly the small CRF has the strong racing lines of the CRF Motocross line.
When the invite for the introduction arrived at our offices, it was requested we bring a test rider of the appropriate age, size and skill level. It just so happened my nine-year-old nephew Ryan fit the bill. He has limited experience on motorcycles, but he’s learning quick and gets more confident each time he twists the right grip. A quick call to my brother and Ryan got a note to get out of school for his first test-riding gig.
Honda chose to introduce the media to the CRF110F at its Rider Education Center in Colton, California. The dirt training course is perfectly suited for small sized off-road bikes and young riders. The two-acre dirt course has a flat training area and numerous off-road single-track style trails that snake through 2500 different plant species and five different ecosystems. This would give Ryan a chance to try out the CRF110F on flat ground, small hills, single-track and even whoops.
Right from the get-go our junior tester liked the look of the new 110F, saying it was “really red” and looked like the big bikes. Jumping on the bike his 4’6” frame fit the chassis well, and the reach from the 26.3-inch high seat was easy with both feet able to touch the ground securely. Starting the Honda was a breeze with a push of the starter button. Later in the day he also tried the kickstart lever with equal success.
The throttle is equipped with a limiter screw to help with keeping new and young rider’s need for speed in check. For our test, the screw was backed out to allow full power from the CRF. With a pull up on the shift lever into first, the 110F patiently idled until Ryan was led around the Honda facility for a few sighting laps. After that it was tough to tear our little test rider off the seat as he rode until the course was shut down for lunch.
During his time on the CRF110F we could get Ryan to stop just long enough to get a few words on how the little red machine worked. Right off the bat he said it was fast, but he also said it was easy to control with the throttle. It never wanted to get away from him, but would scoot when he wanted it to.
Ryan felt the 3.9 inches of front and 3.4 inches of rear suspension was plenty for most of the terrain at the Rider Education Center, but he said the stutter bump section bounced him off the pegs a few times. He added that it was fun in the whoops.
When quizzed on the subject of the brakes, Ryan insisted the front drum brake was “really strong” and he only needed two fingers on the lever. The rear drum was less impressive to him, but he still ranked it as good. The reach to the rear lever was easy from the larger footpegs.
Turning was a breeze for him whether he was sitting forward on the seat per my patented Uncle Riding Tips or when on the back of the seat after rolling through the whoops. Ryan commented it wasn’t too twitchy but it could turn quick if he wanted it to.
No test ride is complete without a crash or two and Ryan didn’t disappoint, going down hard a few times. Two out of three times he tucked the front in a soft corner. When asked why he said that the front brake was really strong and he had to be careful in the loose dirt. The CRF survived its trips to terra firma with just a bent shift lever. It would be easy to bend back, but I would recommend having both a spare shift and brake lever on hand just in case if your little one eats it often.
At the end of the day Ryan couldn’t get enough of the 2013 Honda CRF110F, the ultimate thumbs up for a bike review. Each request to wrap up the test was met with an appeal for just two more laps. Ryan said he thinks the CRF110F is an “awesome bike.” And I would have to agree. The combination of electric start, an easy to use four-speed gearbox and big bike styling makes the $1999 CRF110F a deal at only $39 more than its predecessor.
Originally published in the November 2012 issue of Motorcycle-USA.com.