Honda XR150L First Ride

Honda's newest dual-sport

The wait is over: Honda’s 2023 XR150L dual-sport motorcycle has hit American shores. Honda introduced the friendly, inexpensive dual-sport at a late-June press launch in Solvang, California. Expedition Portal was there to ride the XR and report on it.

Running errands on XR150L

Honda Comes Through with the XR150L

First announced back in March, this beginner-friendly bike is aimed at making motorcycling more accessible to the general public. As we quickly found out, it also appeals to experienced riders. And while not a high performance bike, it still provides plenty of fun on two wheels. There wasn’t a rider in the cadre of moto-scribes at the event that didn’t come away smiling. Everyone agreed it’s a lot of bike for just $2971 suggested retail.

XR150L nailing an apex

Proven Honda Powertrain

Honda has been making this same basic air-cooled, single-cylinder four-stroke motorcycle in Mexico since 2003 and selling it in developing countries as economical transportation. With hundreds of thousands (millions?) of miles on the 149cc engine, it’s been proven to have Honda’s legendary reliability. The US model has been modified to meet EPA and California emissions regulations and the bodywork designed to lure an American audience. Otherwise, it’s largely unchanged.

XR150L proven motor

Take It With You

Overlanders will find the XR, with its sturdy rear rack, a good fit for errands, exploring, and riding for fun. Weighing only 282 pounds with a full tank of gas, it will also be easy to carry along. If Honda’s Trail125 isn’t enough moto for you, the XR150L might be.

Honda created a classic dual-sport ride for the launch to show off the 150’s various uses and abilities. After some photos in Solvang, we rode smooth and rough serpentine pavement, spent time on a sandy dirt course, and returned via a short stretch of US 101.

Take the XR150L anywhere

Finding The Limits

The ride tested power, tires, brakes, suspension, and riding skills. The Honda’s horsepower was sufficient to climb steep single-track hills, but the 150 is at its limit keeping up with freeway traffic. Its dual-sport tires clung tight to both pavement and dirt while the brakes, a hydraulic disc in the front and drum in the rear, brought the bike to quick stops. The XR uses a basic single shock at the rear and a 31mm front fork. Though not something you’d go racing with, both ends stayed in control over rough ground and kept the rider comfortable.

XR150L in the twisties

All Day Fun on the Honda XR150L

Honda has also blessed the XR150L with a 2.8-gallon fuel tank for all-day riding off the grid. They claim that the XR returned over 123 mpg in testing (but they didn’t ride it the way we did at the launch). Even if it’s half that, you can see a lot of countryside on a tankful. But if you only remember one number about this motorcycle, it should be $2971.

XR150L in the dirt

But Wait, There’s More

We brought an XR150L home from the press launch. Our full road test is now up.

Photography by Jay McNally

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Arden’s first motorcycle was a Yamaha Enduro, obtained while in high school. It set the stage for decades of off-pavement exploration on dual-sports and adventure bikes. Camping in the middle of nowhere became his favorite pursuit. As a former whitewater river guide and National Park Service seasonal employee, Arden believes in wilderness, wildlife, and being kind to the earth. A self-taught writer who barely passed English classes, he has contributed adventure stories and tested motorcycles and accessories for Rider Magazine and other outlets for nearly 30 years. In that time, he’s worn out two KLR 650s and is currently following the road to the middle of nowhere on his Ténéré 700 and an aging but reliable DR-Z 400S.