It’s been about a year since we heard rumors that Honda would take a shot at the four-stroke toddler class. Over the last several months there seems to have been more hype about the all-new CRF250R than about the war in the Middle East. With the release date getting kicked back more than three months, some were quick to think the new scoot was off to a bad start. After Ernesto Fonseca successfully debuted the CRF250R at a race in Japan, there was still a bit of fine tuning to be done. And fine tuning is just what the Honda engineers did. Knowing the competition would be as tough as it ever has been, Honda cut no corners on the new scoot. Project leader Yasuhiro Nakayama basically designed the bike from the ground up, and it has very little in common with the CRF450R. At first glance, you can see minor differences from the 450. All the differences are performance-driven and serve a purpose. In fact, some of the development on the CRF250R will likely show up on the ’05 CRF450R.Without a doubt, the handling department is where the CRF250R shines. The Showa suspension is super-responsive and seemed to work well for all of our test riders. The forks performed well in all conditions and were very responsive to adjustments. The shock also worked well on all terrain and was absolutely flawless under acceleration. Even over the biggest square-edged bumps the bike stayed perfectly straight and got the power to the ground. The stock spring rates (5.3kg/mm) worked well for all of our testers. The ergonomics are very similar to the CRF450R’s. The ergos are spread out fairly well; our taller riders didn’t feel cramped or as if they were riding a big-wheel 80. Our shorter riders did note that the stock handlebar felt a bit on the high side, but overall the ergos are accommodating for just about anyone. The CRF has super-strong brakes. Honda has always been known for its strong stopping power with no fade.With Yamaha setting the bar with its 250F engine technology over the last two years, Honda had its work cut out. The same team of engineers that developed the CRF450R took the task of developing the CRF250R. Smooth, controllable power is what the CRF250R is all about. After tearing laps on all the bikes, we noticed the Honda doesn’t come on strong until the power curve is in the meat of the midrange. More than a few of our test riders felt they used more clutch than on some of the other bikes. There is not a whole lot of roll-on power; mid to top-end is where the motor really comes alive. The red baron loves to be ridden in the higher rpm range. Test riders found themselves shifting more, trying to keep in the powerband and off the rev-limiter. The “little engine that could” has quite a bit of compression at 12.5:1 and revs out at 13,300 rpm. The motor characteristics are rider-friendly at any level; beginners may like a tad more power off the bottom, but overall the motor runs clean and produces solid, usable power.With the competition stacked, Honda pulled out all the stops with the new CRF. Every part on the bike is well thought out. The motor package is up to par; the Showa suspension is, without a doubt, the best of all the bikes. But the key ingredient to the CRF is the handling. The way the weight is distributed throughout the bike really allows the bike to handle. The center of gravity is low on the bike, and you can point the CRF where you want it to go. Although the bike weighs about the same as its competitors, it rides differently and has a super-light feel to it. The craftsmanship is typical Honda; all the hardware is top-notch and built for the long haul.
| Corey Neuer
ABILITY: Intermediate • AGE: 27 • WEIGHT: 162 lb • HEIGHT: 5’11″
I don’t think I have ever been so excited to ride a motorcycle before. From all the information I had read, I knew this bike was going to be good. After spinning a few laps I was on cloud nine. The bike is just what I thought it would be–a contender! The motor doesn’t have the hard hit that the Yamaha motor has, but the CRF is not slow in any way. The power curve is just different. I think it could use some more bottom-end and a bit more overrev up top. The CRF250R is truly the best-handling bike I have ever ridden. The Showa suspension works great with the aluminum chassis. I played around with different ride heights on the rear shock and opted to run about 106mm of sag. I had to go in a few clicks on compression on the fork because it felt a tad soft on big impacts. I was able to ride with more confidence on the new Honda. Riding the red devil is truly an inspiring experience.
ABILITY: Pro • AGE: 23 • WEIGHT: 145 lb • HEIGHT: 5’8″
The Honda CRF250R is awesome. I like the stock Renthal bars and all the little trinkets it comes with. The quick-adjust clutch perch is functional and rotates easily. I love that you can adjust the levers to your finger size. On the track the bike worked great for me. It turned as if it were on rails. At any time I could pick the thing up and change lines. It has a super-light feel to it. The Showa suspension works great, reacts to any adjustment and was easy for me to dial in. The motor feels strong; it’s a tad weak on the bottom, but everywhere else it has more than enough power.
ABILITY: Vet Intermediate • AGE: 33•WEIGHT: 165 lb•HEIGHT: 5’10″
The motor feels a tad on the slow side. It has a really short power curve–not much bottom-end but strong in the midrange. The Showa suspension is perfect, it went anywhere I wanted on the track. I also really liked the way the bars felt in relation to the seat position. The suspension and chassis are so good you forget about the mild-mannered motor.
ABILITY: Pro • AGE: 18 • WEIGHT: 150 lb • HEIGHT: 5’11″
The CRF250R has a really smooth and mellow powerband. Bottom-end power is a tad on the weak side, but really came to life throughout the midrange and had really good top-end pull. The bike was extremely easy to lean in corners. I could take any line on the track–nothing really upset the bike. The new Showa suspension is awesome and feels as if it’s off a factory race bike. The new CRF was easy to ride fast and didn’t burn me out.
ABILITY: Novice • AGE: 32 • WEIGHT: 160 lb • HEIGHT: 5’7″
The CRF250R feels the way a Honda should. The suspension and chassis are nearly flawless. This bike handles so well, sometimes it feels like it’s doing some of the riding for you. The suspension settings were spot-on for my size and ability. I thought the YZ250F was confidence inspiring, but I think the Showa suspension on the CRF250R is even more willing to gobble up the nasty stuff. The bike is effortless in the corners and predictable in the air. The only thing I’d do differently is go to a lower bar bend.
The motor is strong, and the bike is easy to ride. It definitely has the characteristics that make 250cc four-strokes fun to ride. Although the CRF250R is good, it doesn’t have quite as much muscle as the YZ250F. It just feels a tad flat when compared back to back, and in the 125cc class that’s enough to be the difference maker.