Honda TL250. The winner that didn't make it

ER Classics Desktop 2022

In the early XNUMXs, trial riding was completely hot in the States. And that was noticed by the Japanese motorcycle makers

Honda opted for four-stroke

Suzuki produced the RL250; Kawasaki built the KT250; Yamaha supplied the TY80, 175, 250 and later the 350. They all had two-stroke engines, just like the European makes and models. Honda entered the world of college riders in 1973 with the 125cc TL 125. Small, light and nimble, it was the only Japanese offering with a four-stroke engine. The four-stroke engine weighed more and had less power than the other manufacturers' two-strokes but had a wider power band and more torque at low revs. In a competition context, these were strong advantages. But because the States are not everywhere as flat and low as the Netherlands, the small Honda turned out to lose too much of its power when 'riding at height'.
engines, but offset with a wider power band and more torque at low revs.

The marketers held their ground

Honda's marketing department stuck firmly to the four-stroke approach and was convinced that more engine capacity would solve all problems.
The Japanese hired legendary English master Sammy Miller who built a few prototypes as part of a research and development team, and after testing and some competitions, they thought at Honda they had a winner. With much fanfare and high expectations, Honda introduced the TL 250 in 1975. The curtain fell shortly afterwards.

Its a shame, but there is nothing to do about it

But the Honda TL 250 was never accepted by the competitive testing community. Although it scored with its incredible power and torque at low revs, the '' fat '' four-stroke felt too
tough and lacked the almost nervous liveliness that the most serious trial riders wanted. In addition, the quickly bored Americans quickly tired of the difficult trial riding. After all, they had their preference for heavy machines that could go very impressive and thunderous straight ahead on two or four wheels on pure power and torque. And that walking pace balanced was actually not something for Real Men.

A thoroughbred

The TL 250 was a thoroughbred trial bike. It had a five-speed gearbox with the first three gears close together, lots of ground clearance, a steep front fork with minimal lead and a purely trial-oriented position of the footrests, the saddle and the handlebars. The air filter was high and dry under the buddy. The result was a motorcycle for which no slope was too steep and no corner was too short.

Production was limited

About 5000 have been made. Surviving specimens usually have more than 'patina'. Due to the limited production and the use of plastic parts, which are not very durable but are very transient, restoring a TL250 is more than challenging. And making the aluminum tank tight again is also such a job.

Two years, two colors

The 1976 models had “Shining Orange” livery on the fuel tank and side panels. The 1975 models were "Tahitian Red". Both model years feature fenders, side panels and the optional headlamp with a metal flake “Special Silver” paint and the frame in darker metal flake silver / gray. The headlight brackets and crankcase covers are finished in the same gray. There are only a few very subtle differences between the two model years.
Our photo model has a complete history and a fully documented restoration. Where we found the Honda? At an antique shop in Drempt.


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  1. In the Netherlands, the honda tlr 200 was sold for a while, I worked in a motorcycle shop and I had the tlr200 for a while, beautiful machine, extremely quiet and an incredibly nice running block.
    Now I only have some pictures.

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