I attended a Honda XR150L ride event expecting to be wholly unimpressed and bored by such a small, low-powered, and low-tech motorcycle. And I predicted a struggle in writing anything positive. I was wrong.
It is true that the Honda XR150L is an air-cooled, low-tech “beginner” dual sport bike. But for 20 years, these attributes have helped the unassuming little bike function in markets like Latin America and Thailand as a super-reliable transporter. And in cultures like these, “suggested maintenance schedules” are probably laughable. But the XR150L has soldiered on for decades and is now available as a 2023 model in the U.S.
Our group of motorcycle journalists and YouTubers rode the bikes hard for a little under 60 miles in beautiful Solvang, Calif. We rode a mixture of rough country blacktop, smooth highway tarmac, and both hardpacked and loose dirt. I had a smile on my face the whole time.
In short: The 2023 Honda XR150L fills many voids, thanks to its easy-to-ride nature and incredibly low MSRP of $2,971. It can hold its own in the garage of both new and experienced riders as a practical and reliable short-distance commuter that can also tackle easier off-road adventuring. All with proven reliability that is hard to beat.
149.2cc air-cooled, 15-degree single-cylinder 4-stroke
OHC, 2 valves
Carburetor w/22mm bore
31mm telescopic fork w/7.1″ travel
Single w/5.9″ travel
Single hydraulic caliper w/240mm disc
Lowest-priced full-size dual-sport motorcycle
Very easy to ride
Incredible reliability history
Limited power and suspension
No rider-aid electronics
Bars can be too low for standing position for some
Honda XR150L: Beginner-Friendly Features
The Honda XR150L stat sheet reads like it was custom-made for new or beginner riders. Nothing on this bike should scare anyone nor impede any part of the learning experience.
First off, it has the lowest seat height in the class at 32.8 inches, which made getting my feet down relaxed and easy.
Next, the 149.2cc air-cooled, carbureted motor revs slowly and peaks out at 12.5 horsepower (according to the EPA). It was tame and tractable by any measure. I’ve found that new riders are usually scared of the bike getting away from them, especially off road. No such fears should exist on the Honda XR150L.
And though the motorcycle is low and small, it comes with a 19-inch diameter front wheel and a 17-inch rear. These allowed it to roll over obstacles easier than smaller wheels, which can be typical on small-displacement bikes.
Finally, the front dual-piston brake caliper clamps down on a 240mm rotor while a 110mm drum brake scrubs speed in the rear. For the bike’s size, weight, and power and for a beginner, I felt this is an appropriate setup.