So, a couple weeks ago, I did a silly thing. I bought a brand new CRF250L. I didn't even have my motorcycle endorsement yet. I have, of course, wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle for a good long time. We have a quad, and I thought a dual sport sounded like a good idea so we could have two sets of wheels out on the trails. After months of research I decided that the Honda had what I was looking for in my first motorcycle; a simple design I could mostly maintain myself, and good on and off-road capabilities. I wasn't looking for a big tourer or anything, just something to scoot around town with and take up the mountains to get dirty on the weekends. I had already signed up to take Oregon's version of the MSF course the first weekend of October, and when a local dealership had one available a few days before that, I went and checked it out. I couldn't test-drive it without my endorsement, but it felt right to me. I fell in love and bought the thing, and had them deliver it to my house. I named her Starbuck. The BRC course went smoothly. It was my first time on any sort of motorized two-wheeled vehicle and I learned a lot. I was surprised that no one dropped a bike, though one guy almost ran over an instructor and didn't show up the next day. Everyone else passed the course and on Monday I went down to the DMV to get my endorsement. Time to take my first street ride. My first day was a little rough. I stuck to quiet suburban neighborhood streets. I stalled it more times than I could count and I did sort of tip it over into some bushes at one point, giving it a little scratch on the muffler guard, but no real damage. The bushes were relatively unharmed. Day by day I took it a little further, and after a week I had mostly mastered the transmission and was pretty comfortable on the roads. I was taking it to an unused parking lot nearby hone my skills and I took it on a few twisty little back-country roads. It performed admirably in my unskilled hands and at no time did I feel like it underperformed or let me down in any way. In fact, I would say that it is a remarkably easy bike to ride and a great bike for a beginner. It averaged about 70 mpg through this sort of riding. This simple street riding was not the real test of it's capabilities, however. At the end of the month firewood permits go up for sale in the Tillamook forest, and I would be going up in Oregon's coastal mountains, along with our pickup truck and an ATV, to collect the leftovers from logging operations. I needed to know that the bike, and I, could handle it. I made a couple of mods to get it ready for the dirt and the woods. Cycra Probend handguards. Ricochet aluminum skid plate to replace the plastic OEM. A Ka-Bar Kukri Machete, because it comes in very handy in wood gathering. And I mounted an old backpack I had to the frame so I had a place to stow some tools, water and gear. I had 260 miles on the bike, and I felt it was ready for a real test. A ride up to Brown's Camp, Oregon, to ride the trails with my buddy on an ATV. The ride out there yesterday morning went smoothly. We'd had a lot of rain in the last week and the roads were damp, but they were clean and we only got a light sprinkle on the way out. The bike performed well on the highway, it got up to 65 easily enough, and it was a comfortable ride at that speed, but acceleration past that point was very slow. It's what I expected, and all I ask for, from a 250cc engine, so I was not disappointed in the least. The six speed transmission was smooth and felt well-geared for all speeds. Someone who wants a little more zip on the highway might find it a little lacking, however. 40 miles later, we got up to the Brown's Camp OHV staging area. I let a little air out of the tires while my buddy unloaded the ATV, a Polaris Sportsman 400. I have ridden a lot of dirt on the Polaris, but this was my first time on two wheels. The off-road playground was ready for us. The trails were torn up from a season of heavy use, and a week of heavy rain left everything wet, muddy and washed out. We hit some pretty rough ATV trails, full of whoops, rocks, ruts, washed out roots, and puddles up to my ankles on the pegs. We even tackled a 10" log with no difficulty. I fell a total of three times, and both sides of the bike got it. All three times were in ruts and I was unhurt, though I did get a leg pinned under the bike once (that's why you don't off-road alone). Aside from a few scratches and a wonky mirror that was easy to fix, the bike was unharmed. The handguards probably saved the controls and the skid plate gave me some peace-of-mind. The rough stuff was challenging, but the bike was very capable and all of the failures were mine, not the bike's. The suspension was great and for the speeds I was going, first and second gear were more than adequate. I didn't run into anything that gave me difficulty going up and over, and if I had been a little braver and more experienced, I could have easily caught some air in a few spots. I kept things to a speed appropriate for my skill level, and all was well. After the third time dropping the bike it was getting heavy and we were worn out from two hours of rough trail, so we decided it was time to hit the logging roads to scout out some wood for our next expedition. By the time we made it back to the staging area, the temperature had dropped and it had started to rain. My gear was keeping me dry for the most part, but there was a little water coming in at my crotch and my gloves were clearly not waterproof. I've spent a few cold and wet days at fall and winter camps in Oregon, so it was no big deal. We set off. The CRF handled the gravel and hardpack logging roads with ease, and after a couple of hours of throwing it around on trails it was a downright relaxing ride. About halfway up the mountain to the fresh logging areas, however, the rain started coming down in sheets. Then it started hailing. I had taken off my goggles and replaced them with sunglasses earlier because the wet conditions and low speeds we were taking on the rough trails made it impossible to keep them clear. The sunglasses fit me well and are high-impact, so my eyes were well protected, but the hail did not produce a pleasant sensation on the exposed areas of my face. We figured the hail would pass soon enough, so we pushed on at a slower pace. The hail did pass, and it was replaced with snow. The bike was doing great, but the ride was no longer fun. We made it to the first area we had wanted to check out, noted that there was, indeed, wood there, and turned our asses around. The ride back to the staging area was very cold and wet, and I found myself wishing that I hadn't taken the face shield off my helmet. I learned why people install heated grips, and that is something that I am now looking into. We made it back to the truck safe and sound and we spent a good hour in the cab, just reveling in the heated air and drying out as much as we could. Then we strapped down the ATV and headed home, him driving the truck and me on the bike. The ride home was about the longest 40 miles of my life. I was cold, wet and sore, but I kept good form and made it home without incident. The bike chugged along in good spirits and after a hot meal, dry clothes and a good night's sleep, I can say that it performed remarkably well and exceeded expectations in everything I asked it to do. Here she is after the adventure. If I had any complaints it would be that the bike could stand to lose a few pounds, and another gallon of gas would go a long way, but over all I would say that this is a wonderful bike for a beginner, provided you're tall enough for it. Some people have complained about the seat, but I haven't found it uncomfortable at all. If you want something you can learn to ride both on and off-road with, it is a fine choice. It probably wouldn't be the best touring bike, though I am sure it would have no problem going wherever you want it to go, just not with as much speed, gear and comfort as a larger bike. I think Honda built a winner, and they priced it to sell. I expect to see a lot of these bikes on the road in the next few years. I don't think anyone looking for a 250cc dual sport would be disappointed in this bike, and I see a lot of happy miles in our future. Ride safe out there.