Check out our First Ride video at http://www.motocross.com/features/first-ride-2012-honda-crf250r/.
The majority of the 2012 Lites bikes saw a handful of changes that were made to help improve just about everything from the engine to the chassis to the suspension. It’s a good thing Honda put the time and effort into tweaking on the already solid 2011 CRF250R so it would fit into place with the rest of the pack. I really appreciated the handling characteristics of the ’11, and the fact that those traits carried over to the ’12. Honda even added some extra updates to refine the bike into a complete racing package.
After getting some solid laps out of the way at Piru Motocross Park, it was clear what Honda’s main goal was. The 250R is now more aggressive with stiffer suspension settings, better bottom end pull by way of a smaller 46mm throttle body (down from 50mm) and a new cylinder head. The rear shock was revalved to work together with the new linkage ratio. And to brush over the little things, the CRF250R was given new axle collars to add rigidity in the front end, a new chain roller in response to the revised linkage, bigger foot pegs and Dunlop MX51 tires front and rear.
I noticed that last year’s bike needed to be shifted a little too much as it was a bit picky about being ridden in the correct rpm range. The smaller throttle body and new cylinder head spread out the bottom end hit and allowed for a wider range of accessible power up into the midrange. Stiffening up the suspension was also a great addition for this new model. I set the sag to 105mm to get a good stable base setting and was happy with it so I turned to the clickers. As the track got rougher I went a total of four clicks stiffer on the compression both front and rear. Doing this made the bike handle a ton better in choppy sections without jeopardizing how well it handles in turns. Upon exiting bumpy ruts, the rear end squats and handles the chop smoothly. There weren’t any gnarly square edges but the rear end seemed to handle the mellow ones with ease. I noticed last year that the 2011 sailed through the air effortlessly and I was glad to see that the changes for 2012 didn’t affect this trait one bit. This bike likes to be whipped and it isn’t hard to do.
The track conditions weren’t the best at the end of the day and most of the turns became dry and hard packed so finding traction wasn’t the easiest task. Bleeding the forks made a huge difference when it came to the front end tracking so don’t leave your flat-blade at home! One thing I wasn’t sure about at first was the high feeling of the bars, but after a few laps I got used to it completely and didn’t have any issues the rest of the day. There is hardly anything to complain about so far and I’m betting this new red rocket is going to hold its own when we compare it to the others. Stay tuned for a First Test and see how she stacks up with the rest come shootout time in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rider.