For dirt bike enthusiasts, the Honda 300EX is the stuff of legend. This 2-stroke machine defined an era of Honda’s off-road bikes through the 1990s and early 2000s. Even today, the 300EX maintains a cult-like following.
But does this 1990s 4-stroke hold up by today’s standards? Is the 300EX still one of the best trail bikes out there? Or is all the hype outdated nostalgia?
This in-depth 300EX review aims to answer those questions. Below I cover everything you need to know about the Honda 300EX:
- Key specs and features
- How it compares to similar bikes like the 250EX and 400EX
- The pros, cons, and quirks of owning a 300EX
- What types of riding the 300EX excels at
- And ultimately – is the 300EX still a worthwhile bike in 2024?
After reading this comprehensive review, you’ll know if the legendary Honda 300EX is the right trail bike for you. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Overview And Specs
First, let’s run through the key specs and features on the 300EX:
Honda 300EX Specs
|Air-cooled single cylinder
|Bore x Stroke
|72mm x 65mm
|Wet multiplate hydraulic
|Independent double wishbone, 8.7 in travel
|Pro-Link single shock, 9.1 in travel
|Single hydraulic disc
|Single hydraulic disc
|Approximately 21 hp
|Approximately between 50 to 58 mph
Please note that actual performance can vary based on factors such as the condition of the bike, modifications made, and the rider’s weight and skill level.
Comparing The 300EX To Similar Bikes
To fully appreciate the 300EX, it helps to see how it stacks up against similar trail bikes from Honda:
Honda 300EX Vs. 250EX
As you’d expect, the 300EX has an edge in power over the 250EX. That gives the 300EX a faster top speed. The 300EX is also slightly heavier.
Overall, the extra power of the 300 is noticeable on the trails. But the 250 can still hold its own as a very capable machine.
Honda 300EX Vs. 400EX
When put head to head against the 400EX, the 300 starts to show its limitations. The 400EX churns out significantly more power. That allows a higher top speed on the 400EX.
The 400EX is also just a bit heavier.
So while the 300EX is peppy, the 400EX dominates in pure power and speed. But some riders prefer the 300’s lighter, more flickable feel on tight trails.
Key Features And Benefits
Now let’s dig into the features that made the 300EX so popular:
- Legendary Motor: The motor gives the 300EX strong mid-range punch. While not the fastest bike, the 300 motor is super snappy and fun on trails.
- Light And Nimble Handling: Weighing in at just around 218 pounds, the 300EX is nimble and easy to throw around on the trail. The light weight makes it less fatiguing to ride for extended periods.
- Excellent Trail Suspension: With over 8 inches of travel front and rear, the 300EX has plush suspension that soaks up the trail. The long travel and soft setting helps keep the wheels planted over rough terrain.
- Hydraulic Clutch & 5-Speed Transmission: The 300EX was one of the early adopters of a hydraulic clutch system. This gives a light clutch pull and smooth engagement.
- Reliable Electric Start: While some hardcores prefer kick-starting their bike, most riders appreciate the convenience of push button electric start – especially when the bike is hot or elevation increases.
- Strong Braking Power: Hydraulic disc brakes provide strong stopping power on the 300EX front and rear.
Pros and Cons of Owning a 300EX
Now let’s get into the pros and cons of owning one of these bikes:
- Strong mid-range power: The motor provides snappy acceleration and usable power for trail riding.
- Light and agile: At just around 218 pounds, the 300EX handles amazingly well, especially on tight, technical trails.
- Excellent suspension: Over 8 inches of plush travel front and rear helps tame bumps and maintain traction.
- Reliable hydraulic clutch: Gives easy pull and smooth engagement compared to manual clutches.
- Electric start standard: Push button starting makes getting going convenient. No more kick starting fatigue.
- Not the fastest bike: With a top speed around 50 to 58 mph, power is a bit limited compared to larger machines.
- Maintenance: Regular maintenance is required for optimum performance and longevity.
- No reverse gear: You’ll need to dismount and manually turn the bike around on hills. A pain compared to modern reverse.
- Older technology: It’s an older bike by today’s standards. But that adds to its charm for many riders.
What Owners Are Saying About the 300EX?
Positive Owner Opinions
“The 300EX has the perfect balance of power. Enough grunt to have a blast without being overwhelming.”
“It’s so light and nimble. I can ride for hours without getting tired.”
“The engine may be old school but it runs great. Just do the basic maintenance.”
“The suspension really soaks up bumps. It’s nice and plush even compared to new bikes.”
“Starting is effortless with the push button electric starter. Beats kicking any day.”
Negative Owner Opinions
“It’s annoying not having a reverse gear. Moving the bike around takes more effort.”
“The technology is outdated compared to modern bikes. No fuel injection or mapping.”
“It shakes and vibrates more than I expected. My hands get numb after 30 minutes.”
“The oil injection system can be finicky. I switched to pre-mix gas for reliability.”
“Parts are getting harder to find as it gets older. Thankfully the aftermarket is still there.”
What Types Of Riding Is The 300EX Good For?
While the 300EX may have its shortcomings, there are certain types of riding it excels at:
- Trail And Technical Sections: This is where the 300EX really shines. It’s light and nimble handling allows you to swiftly maneuver through tight, technical trails. The easy-to-manage power band is confidence inspiring on slick terrain.
- Wide Open Spaces: With its peppy motor and stable feel at speed, the 300EX is a blast to rip around open deserts and fields.
- Intermediate And Expert Riders: The 300EX rewards experienced riders who can take advantage of the full power band and advanced capabilities.
- Casual Trail Riding: Despite being high performance for its day, the 300EX retains a friendly, easy-going nature. It’s happy to putter along trails at low speeds without stalling.
Why Does The 300EX Have Such A Cult Following?
Although the 300EX was last made in 2004, it maintains an almost cult-like following over 15 years later. Here are a few reasons why this bike left such an impact:
- Perfect power level: The motor hits a sweet spot between beginner and expert without being intimidating.
- Balanced abilities: It handles trails brilliantly while still capable of going fast in open areas.
- Reliable and tough: The bike just works. It takes abuse in stride thanks to the simple motor and rugged components.
- Nostalgia factor: For Gen X and Millennials that grew up riding dirt bikes in the 90s, the 300EX stirs up fond memories and nostalgia.
The 300EX checks all the boxes for a favorite all-around bike for generations of riders. It left an impression that holds strong even today.
Owning and Maintaining a 300EX
If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a 300EX, here are some ownership tips:
- Oil injection – Keep the oil tank full as it lubricates the engine. Check the oil lines for cracks. Pre-mix fuel for added protection.
- Top end rebuilds – The piston and rings will need replacement more often than a 4-stroke. Rebuilds every 100 hours or so helps maintain peak performance.
- Suspension servicing – The springs and seals deteriorate over time on those old shocks. A rebuild or swap out for newer suspension is recommended.
- Carb tuning – Proper jetting and adjustments are needed to keep the carburetor running in top shape.
- Routine maintenance – Change oil, air filters, plugs, and check chain & brakes as you would any dirt bike to avoid breakdowns.
- Finding parts – Many parts are no longer available from Honda, but the aftermarket and used OEM parts keep them going.
Some basic mechanical skills go a long way towards owning and maintaining a 300EX. Thankfully there is a strong enthusiast community to provide tips and part resources.
Finding a 300EX for Sale
The 300EX is long discontinued, so you’ll have to scour the used market to find one. Here are some tips:
- Check local classifieds – You can find 300EXs for sale on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or local forums. Private sellers often have the best deals.
- eBay Motors – There are often 300EX bikes and parts for auction on eBay. Cast a wide national net to find inventory.
- Dirt bike dealers – Some dealers resell used models. Their service departments can inspect a bike before purchase.
- Dirt bike forums – Post on forums like ThumperTalk that you are bike hunting. Members often know of bikes for sale.
- Auctions – Government auctions sometimes have 300EX bikes or parts come up for bidding after being impounded or abandoned.
When evaluating a used 300EX, look for signs of proper maintenance and no obvious damage. Ask sellers for maintenance records if possible.
Well-maintained 300EXs with some life still left in them trade for $1,500 – $2,500 depending on age and condition.
Key Specs and Features Comparison Table
|8.7 in. front / 9.1 in. rear
|8.3 in. front / 8.5 in. rear
|11.0 in. front / 10.2 in. rear
|Hydraulic disc, front & rear
|Hydraulic disc, front & rear
|Hydraulic disc, front & rear
Honda 300EX Average Used Prices
Keep in mind 300EX prices fluctuate based on condition, mileage, mods, and local market demand. But here are typical used prices by model year:
|Average Used Price
|$1,800 – $2,500
|$1,900 – $2,700
|$2,000 – $3,000
|$2,100 – $3,200
|$2,200 – $3,500
|$2,300 – $4,000
|$2,500 – $4,500
|$2,700 – $5,000
|$3,000 – $5,500
|$3,200 – $6,000
|$3,500 – $6,500
|$4,000 – $7,000
|$4,500 – $8,000
As you’d expect, prices rise for newer, lower mileage examples. The 1992-1994 models tend be more affordable.
Best 300EX Alternatives
While the 300EX itself is hard to beat, here are some other great trail bikes that offer similar performance:
- Yamaha YZ250 – A legendary 2 stroke model comparable to the 300EX in many ways. Less low end torque but more top end speed.
- Kawasaki KDX200 – A 200cc trail bike with a milder motor good for new riders. More modern features than the 300EX.
- Honda CRF230F – A newer 4-stroke trail model with electric start and a mellow power band. More reliable and cheaper to own.
- Suzuki DR-Z400 – A 400cc 4-stroke dual sport. Great for trails while still street legal. More modern engine and features than the 300EX.
- KTM 300 XC-W – A high performance 300cc 2-stroke for racing enduro. Pricey but with the latest technology and handling.
So while the 300EX itself is being phased out, there are still great modern trail bikes that capture a similar spirit and abilities at a more affordable price point.
Is the Honda 300EX Still Worth Owning Today?
Even though the 300EX is outdated by today’s dirt bike standards, it still delivers an incredibly fun riding experience in the right conditions. There’s a reason it maintains such as loyal following decades later.
For the right person – say an intermediate rider focused on trail riding rather than motocross – the 300EX is hard to beat. There’s nothing else quite like ripping a light, flickable 2-stroke through tight woods and over bumps.
The 300EX suits a niche rider that appreciates the bike for what it is – an old school machine that delivers big grins when ridden within its comfort zone. It brings a purity of experience that’s hard to replicate on more modern bikes.
Sure, it lacks amenities like a folding shift lever or push button start. And electric bikes and turbocharged 4-strokes blow it away on pure power. Yet the 300EX retains an undeniable charm.
It’s also hard to beat that classic look – the iconic Honda red bodywork over a steel perimeter frame. It just looks like a badass trail bike.
So while the 300EX sadly gets overshadowed by faster modern bikes, it’s still a worthwhile machine. There will always be riders craving the light, flickable feel and snappy power delivery of this 2-stroke legend.
Major 300EX Problems and Solutions
Problem: Engine overheating
- Clean radiator fins and replace coolant
- Inspect water pump for proper operation
- Check for blocked passageways in cylinder/head
- Ensure fan comes on; replace if needed
Problem: Fouled spark plug
- Ensure proper jetting and air/fuel mix
- Check for damaged wire or boot
- Replace plug; use correct heat range
Problem: Engine lacks power
- Clean air filter and check fuel filters
- Adjust carb jetting for conditions
- Check for intake leaks allowing unmetered air
- Compression & leakdown tests to check piston rings
Problem: Hard starting
- Check for fouled/damaged spark plug
- Ensure fuel is reaching carburetor
- Adjust idle screw for proper fuel flow
- Try using partial choke when cold starting
Conclusion – The Legend Lives On
The Honda 300EX carved out its place in dirt biking history through the 1990s and early 2000s. Even today, this two stroke machine maintains a fanatical following as one of Honda’s most memorable trail bikes.
While it lacks some of the amenities and outright speed of modern bikes, the 300EX still delivers an incredibly fun ride. It hits a sweet spot of usable power, nimble handling, plush suspension, and reliability that just works.
For intermediate riders focused on technical trail riding rather than motocross, the 300EX is tough to beat. It’s limitations become strengths when riding tight woods and over rough terrain where momentum and simplicity are king.
The 300EX strikes a perfect balance and shows that outdated tech still has its merits. For anyone lucky enough to own one, it’s a bike that delivers nostalgia and grins in equal measure. The legend lives on.