James Oxley spends a day riding the trails of Thetford forest on the CRF300L and finds himself in need of some medical attention
So, there I was, sat in the Urgent Treatment Centre of Coventry Hospital being prodded and poked in my injured chest by a very nice doctor.
“I’m planning to do my motorcycle test soon,” he announced after telling me I could put my jumper back on.
“That’s great,” I winced. “What bike would you like?”
“I’m middle-aged and a doctor,” he replied with a smile. “I’m going to buy a Harley-Davidson, of course.”
I wanted to espouse the life-changing joy he’d experience at becoming a motorcyclist, but I struggled to find the words as I sat there in agony after falling off my Honda CRF300L long-termer.
It was in no way the bike’s fault. I’d clipped the edge of a rut while riding in Thetford Forest, Suffolk the previous day and high sided, landing on my chest with the bike on my leg. It was an unfortunate end to a brilliant day of riding onboard Honda’s little trail bike.
That morning, I’d ridden 70 road miles from a friend’s house in Luton to reach the trails and the bike did a sterling job of keeping up with traffic. While it wasn’t the most comfortable journey I’ve made, the Honda cruised happily at 60mph and, despite enduring a couple of hours of windblast, I arrived at Thetford Forest feeling relatively fresh.
And while the bike performed admirably on the road, it was when we launched ourselves on the forest’s byways that the real fun started. As someone who predominantly rides big adventure bikes, it was a joy to thrash around on a comparably lightweight machine (although at 142kg it’s not the lightest dirt bike around, I know).
Clad with a set of Dunlop Geomax Enduro hoops, I happily plunged through the muddy lanes, the bike feeling lively yet stable, and I enjoyed feeling it slither beneath me on the sandy sections of trail we came across.
On a larger adventure bike, I may have slowed to pick my line a little more careful, but on the Honda, I simply barrelled in and enjoyed finding out what would happen. It’s the sort of bike that can’t help but instil confidence on rugged terrain.
However, it was on the seemingly never-ending whoops that I started to tire of the spongey suspension which in turn made the handling, well… a bit of a handful. I soon came to learn that this bike was happy to cruise along soaking up the lumps, bumps, and bogs in its way at a sedate speed, but as soon as I upped the pace, it needed more manhandling to hold a line.
As a 6’ tall chap, I also struggled with the standing position which felt awkward and pitched me too far forward for my liking. A set of bar risers are an early upgrade I would make if I was to buy one.
And then, as I was cruising along contentedly between 20-30mph, I caught the edge of a rut which instigated a chain of events that culminated in a very nice doctor telling me about his dreams of riding a Harley-Davidson.
Thankfully, I didn’t break any bones, but I did tear some tendons in my chest which didn’t feel particularly pleasant, and still doesn’t. And the bike? Well, that’s fine and ready and waiting for my next greenlaning adventure.