Honda is on a roll this year with significant improvements to its CRF line. Revisions to the CRF250R have endowed it with more power, better handling and improved traction, turning a perennial favorite into an even better motorcycle.
In the 250cc four-stroke motocross category, more power is always welcome, but where that power is located in the rpm range and how it is delivered is very important, as well. Engine changes to the 250R include a new cylinder head, camshaft, intake boot and a 46mm throttle body (previously 50mm). These updates give the CRF a wider powerband, with a noticeable improvement in the lower revs. This extra juice is useful when drag racing out of corners and also makes it easier to pull a taller gear when the bike is short-shifted.
Midrange-to-top-end performance is slightly better than on last year’s model, and there is also a touch more overrev; Kawasaki’s new dual-injector-equipped KX250F is more spectacular in these areas, but the CRF gets the job done with a nice spread of power.
A new shock linkage combined with a revised chain roller—the latter was redesigned to reduce torque on the chain and swingarm under load—allows the swingarm to move through its stroke uninhibited. Revised shock valving lets the CRF float over bumps, significantly improving handling through rough corners and allowing the rear wheel to track better at the exits of corners. The enhanced traction allows the rider to take advantage of the engine’s newfound bottom end.
Larger-diameter axle collars result in a more rigid front end. The Showa fork is the same unit as was fitted to last year’s 250R but valving is different. The changes are instantly noticeable on the track; steering feels more solid and precise without transmitting harsh feedback to the rider’s hands. All of this, combined with the switch to new Dunlop MX51 tires, makes the CRF a much-better-handling machine.
Overall, the new CRF250R feels like a more complete package, leaving little to criticize. Honda continues to refine this excellent MXer, and it remains a serious contender in the Lites category.