We all have our basic survival needs: food, water and shelter. While we certainly won’t underestimate the importance of survival, most of us seek to live fully rather than merely exist. But the list of things we require to have a rich, fulfilling life is subject to debate. Most dirt riders are convinced that at least one motorcycle is worthy of making this list. The two exotic CRF150R-based, handwrought minicycles featured here, however, are more likely part of a much longer and probably more frivolous “want” list. Honda’s CRF150R is a brilliant small motorcycle in standard trim, and few riders can justify tossing so much of the basic bike aside to build a special. In BBR’s case, the stock frame and radiator hit the spare parts pile. The elemental strength, natural lightness and intrinsic luster of aluminum has always attracted gearheads of all stripes. And the light-alloy chassis kit that BBR used to build this bike is no less than a rolling work of art. But this is performance art made to get dirty and be enjoyed.As you would expect from a company famed for stuffing monster two-stroke 500cc engines into 250cc frames, Service Honda discards (or, rather, sells through its parts department) the entire engine, carburetor, ignition and exhaust system of the 150R and shoehorns in a complete Honda CRF250R powerplant. For the number crunchers among you: For about 10 more pounds than stock, the CRF250 Junior-R gains more than 10 horsepower-better than a 30 percent jump in power. It’s sort of like two-wheeled primal-scream therapy. We spent time on both bikes during the same testing session, so here’s a look at what the bikes are and what they do well.A phone call will get you one of these babies as a complete bike, or you can order the $3299 frame kit and assemble it yourself. The cash gets you the aluminum perimeter frame welded up from machined-billet parts, such as the steering head tube, swingarm pivot spars and extruded tubing. The kit comes with all the necessary parts, including a new plastic tank and two Fluidyne radiators. With just the frame kit installed, the BBR is right in the same price neighborhood as the Service Honda. But BBR (www.bbrmotorsports.com; 888.668.6227) is the maker of all things eye candy, and its customers crave bikes with a custom, not-off-the-rack look, so the test bike was a rolling catalog, with bling at credit-card-melting levels. The result is a bike that stops pit-strolling gearheads in their tracks. We thought we stumbled on an outdoor worship meeting, but the people on their knees were merely angling for a better look at this diminutive race weapon.The BB in BBR stands for Brown Brothers, and you should know that the bros love little four-strokes. Not simply making them, but riding them. A good portion of BBR’s R&D time is spent making little bikes work for adults. As a result, the suspension on this alloy 150R is too stiff for most real mini pilots. If you are actually one of the kids Honda designed this bike for, you’ll most likely be happiest with spring rates somewhere near what the Honda comes with. For those in a second or permanent childhood, rejoice. BBR can make a small bike handle pretty well under a big rider-even one who likes to jump.For an adult, the BBR bike offers compliant suspension and a solid chassis feel-with much less of the squirminess a small bike has with a heavy rider aboard. The smallish (compared with a big bike’s) fork has some flex and twist your big bike doesn’t have, but if you can ride any small bike fast, it will be this one. Will you see a $3300 improvement in lap times? No. Owning this bike is like having a supermodel girlfriend: so hot to look at that you forget about the expense.Opinions
The BBR aluminum-frame CRF150R handled awesomely! I would have liked a bit more power, but it was still really good. It settled down in ruts well, and the cornering was better than a stock bike’s. The front suspension was a little too soft, but it handled well overall just because it was so stable.Kyle Engle/5’2″/110 lb/ExpertYou don’t really notice that the stock CRF150R frame does anything odd until you ride with the aluminum frame. It feels more solid and precise than the steel one. The perimeter frame and hand-built radiators look awesome. The frame has little detail machining, and everything on the bike makes it look like a works bike. I liked the position of the bar with the Tag triple clamps. The tank feels a little wider, but that didn’t bother me at all. For my weight, the adult-spec suspension was pretty stiff. That might have affected the feel, but the BBR didn’t feel different enough to justify the cost to me. Still, it looks so cool I would get the kit if I had the extra money.Honda’s CRF150R frame feels much less flexy and the suspension less squishy than a Honda CR85R’s. No doubt part of that feeling is partially due to the less-abrupt power of the four-stroke engine, but the larger axles and beefier frame tubing do their part. But the BBR-framed bike is on another level of chassis rigidity. Just looking at the bike, you can tell the aluminum perimeter frame is orders of magnitude stronger. As a material, aluminum has less flex, and the most delicate of the aluminum-frame tubes used is larger than equivalent steel tubes on the stock chassis. As nice as the chassis feels on the track, it looks better than modern art. If I had the cash, I’d keep one just to look at and never get it dirty.Karel Kramer/6’1″/210 lb/Wannabe mini riderOpinions
There is no need for a front tire on this bike. The wheel is never on the ground! The power is so crazy that you have to keep your weight forward at all times and be careful with the throttle. It was hard to be smooth on a tight track, but it would be super fun on a big track or off-road. You don’t even have to try to clear jumps. Can I borrow it for Mammoth?Sean Foos/5’3″/95 lb/NoviceThis Service Honda 250 Junior-R is a really gnarly bike! There is so much power everywhere in the rpm range, you just can’t keep the front wheel down. It was actually a little out of control because it had so much power. Kyle Engle/5’2″/110 lb/ExpertThis bike is easy for any experienced adult rider to handle, and I can think of at least five of my friends who should have one. I shouldn’t have one. I can’t afford it, and I don’t have room in the garage for it, but I still want one. It is that much fun. Imagine a 450 that shrunk. A good value isn’t necessarily the cost of a bike, but the smile-per-dollar ratio. This one is off the charts.Karel Kramer/6’1″/210 lb/Wannabe mini riderService Honda 250 Junior-R
For the mad scientists at Service Honda (www.servicehonda.com; 219.932.3588), too much is just barely enough. No doubt you have heard of the famed aluminum-framed 500cc two-strokes it builds by carefully transplanting the megapower engines into modern 250cc chassis. Believe it or not, transplanting a 35-horsepower CRF250R engine into a lightweight CRF150R rolling chassis provides a performance leap every bit as impressive as the jump from a 250cc four-stroke to a 500cc two-stroke. Despite having 30-plus percent more power and torque, the 250 Junior-R is surprisingly easy to manage. Breathing through the smaller 150R airbox and exhaling through an under-96-decibel FMF Q4 quiet spark arrestor softens the low-rpm grunt and smooths the hit. On a bike this small and light, controlled delivery is a very good thing.This bike is not legal in any youth motocross class we can think of, so the expected audience consists of compact adults who like to play motocross on small, powerful motorcycles and closed-course-type off-road racing. Naturally, this bike is legal in most vet, senior and women’s classes. It will be interesting to see how the sales numbers shake out on this model. Service also sells a 250 Junior-X that has a CRF250X off-road engine, with electric start, in a CR85R chassis. All but one of those bikes has been sold to a woman for off-road racing and trail riding. Only four of these 150R-based machines had been built at the time of the test, and all had gone to adult males. We see no reason that a female couldn’t ride this kickstart-only version. Starting is easy and consistent, and the machine is noticeably lighter than the X-based model. Despite it being considerably more powerful, the bike can be easily managed through technical sections by a rider with decent throttle control aboard.Visually, it takes a close look to distinguish the 250 from the 150 or even to tell where the frame is modified to accept the taller and wider engine. But once you ride the bike, there is no mistaking the 250. It pulls away from a stop at very low rpm and with a far smaller throttle opening than the 150 demands. Leaning forward is a very good idea as the rpm climb, since the acceleration is astonishing and the possibility of a loop-out is all too real.Adults actually adapted to the bike more easily than mini riders. Adults have experience with powerful engines, and they have developed the throttle control needed. Mini pilots-whether they ride an 85 or a 150-generally set the throttle on puree and control acceleration with the clutch lever. That plan is a poor one on the 250 Junior-R.Obviously, this bike is aimed at a relatively small group of enthusiasts, and that is fine. For a small rider who wants big-bike power without the size or weight, it is great to at least have the option-even if it costs $7999. If you are a power-addict who likes small bikes, the 250 Junior-R is priceless.