Honda CRF230 perfect adult starter for the dirt

By Marissa Baecker

photo courtesy of Byron Kane of Legend Photography

If someone had told me in my youth that I would be riding dirt bikes in my forties I would never have believed it. To a youth, forty-year-olds are, well, old, especially if you are a parent. Parents don’t do cool things – that’s reserved for kids and teens. Well I have news for all you forty something parents out there looking to do something cool with your kids – get on a dirt bike.

I admit, I rode dirt bikes as a child but nothing more powerful than an 80cc maybe even a 125cc in my 20’s. One of my fondest memories of being a mother is when I taught my son how to ride his new 80cc dirt bike.

I resembled an elephant on a tricycle from a cartoon circus as my son rode beside me on his Honda 70cc automatic and watched as I pulled in the clutch and changed gears. He got the picture and the neighbors all got a good laugh but that would be the extent of my adult dirt bike career – watching my son enjoying his new bike.

Fast forward to my forties, a cancer fundraiser on an MX track, a team of ladies of similar circumstance, who, like me, were not afraid to make fools of themselves for the cause, and a loaned Honda CRF230F dirt bike.

If you enjoy the outdoors, don’t mind getting dirty, love motorcycles, and are game to try a new adventure – this is the bike for you.

Somewhat skeptical of my ability and lack of knowledge about the bike, I was relieved to see fellow teammate, airplane pilot, Cindy Rogers, arrive with the exact same bike in tow.

As she unloaded she said, “This is the best confidence builder bike. It is a perfect beginner bike. I recommend all the ladies try this bike.”

As we sat around and discussed our various abilities and the challenge we were about to embark on, Cindy said, “I began dirt bike riding on a 2004 CRF230F. My dad and I starting riding about seven years ago as a way to spend some time together in our adult years.”

Henry (L) and Cindy (R) Rogers go dirt biking to spend time together

True to statement, father Henry arrived a short time later and wore the pink with the ladies on the track.

The CRF 230F is the perfect adult-beginner off-road bike for the recreational rider yet still offers enough adversity to begin developing your skills on a track.

To look at the 2012 model, it still has Honda’s signature red seat, tank and front fender just like all its Honda siblings in its class. It’s a mid-sized playbike offering a tall ride with a seat height of 34.6 inches and ground clearance of 12 inches. Don’t plan on being seated and stationary unless you have the inseam to match or you have added a lowering kit. If you are taking it to the track for an experience, well, the seat height doesn’t matter anyway because you should be standing as much as possible.

The rear Pro-Link Showa single shock with spring preload adjustability offers nine inches of travel to absorb that off-road terrain and will bring your feet closer to the ground once your on the bike.

After assisting teammates with kick starting other models, my favourite feature on the Honda CRF230 became the push button electric start. Effortless. I needed my strength for the track after all.

The engine is a 223cc air-cooled, single cylinder four-stroke that delivers even consistent power with a six-speed transmission for an enjoyable ride through the trails. Heading up hills the power is there if you need it but opening the throttle will not give you whiplash like a motocross bike can when you don’t know what your doing. When learning to ride off-road, it is important to start on a bike that you can handle, get used to the movement and develop skills.

“Dad and I go trail riding every other Saturday during riding season,” continues Rogers. “Our favourite place to ride is Bear Creek.”

Bear Creek MX track was the host venue of the fundraiser and all day long, trucks and trailers, RV’s with bikes in tow and bikes alone would drive by the track on the logging road heading for the trail riding staging area.

The area is spectacular. The staging area offers room for groups to gather, unload and even base camp while they enjoy the wilderness and the environmentally friendly trails which are not only marked, mapped and named but also offer degrees of difficulty so riders can enjoy their sport and advance as their skill grows.

As I took my childhood skills to the track for the MX Ride for the Cure, my mind travelled back in time to my early years of rider excitement but my body reminded me that it had aged and I was very thankful to be on the CRF230F. Trail riding is one thing but track riding is completely different.

I tried an MX bike for one segment but quickly returned to the Honda CRF230F as the MX bike was more than I could handle.

The CRF230 handled well in the corners and in the event you do go over, which I did more than once, the bike is a mere 250 lbs and is easily up righted with a bit of help from the hips.

Climbing the hills before the tabletop jumps, the bike offered plenty of power but not the torque that MX specific bikes deliver so my debut on a track was still a challenge but not discouraging.

Rogers time on her bike was apparent as she jumped past mine with a few feet of clearance. I was quite happy to get over the jump still attached to my bike.

By the end of a day riding, my body was complaining but my goggles outline of mud resembled a spring skiing tan and when I looked at the rest of the ladies, the laughs and high fives solidified a return to off-road riding.

All us newbies – five stars for the Honda CRF230F.

The next time we gathered as a group of ladies to go riding, Rogers had herself a new Honda CRF250X – more of a competition bike – that next level of skill development.

“A new bike,” I queried.

“Yes,” she proudly stated. “I realized during the fundraiser that I was ready for a more powerful bike as I was bottoming out the suspension on the jumps.”



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