Since the 2010 Honda CRF250 received a complete overhaul (along with great feedback I might add), the only thing left to do for 2011 was a little fine tuning. So even with the rain threatening all of So Cal the other day, none of us could resist from taking a little trip down to Perris Raceway to ride the 2011 CRF250 and critique the new changes – Yes I know, rain doesn’t sound like a big deal, but come on, it’s Southern California, we don’t ride in the rain – Well don’t worry, it wasn’t too hard on us, the skies held back and we ended up with just a slight drizzle all morning. It may have been hell for the photographer’s, but man if it wasn’t perfect for riding. The ground was moist, the turns were loaded, and we had the track all to ourselves.
I would have to say one of the biggest changes for the 2011 CRF250 would be the 94db Exhaust system. It may not sound like much (pun intended!), but Honda isn’t one for just bolting on a muffler, so this change resulted in a lot of other changes. First off, to make up for the quieter muffler, the CRF250R received different mapping and also changed the rear sprocket from a 48 tooth to a 49. This resulted in better throttle response and a much improved bottom to mid range power. How does this help us? Well, the 2011 CRF is a lot snappier than the 2010, and it’s now able to pull higher gears at a lower RPM. This makes for a great bite in the lower gears, or if you want that smooth delivery, than shift up a gear for controlled roll-on power. We were all surprised with the roll-on torque of this machine because it is not common on 250Fs, especially for the larger riders. Honda has definitely figured this one out. So the little Red engine improved over 2010 with better response, better torque and a much more expressive motor, all while dropping the sound down to 94db. The funny thing about the 94db muffler is that it doesn’t sound a lot quieter, but it gave the bike even more of a deep throaty growl compared to last year’s model – Not bad at all in my book. And to show Hondas attention to detail, the subframe, side panels and rear fender were also changed to accept the new muffler. Well, maybe not only to accept the new muffler, because now, most of the CRF250 parts are compatible with the CRF450. That makes the subframe, all the plastics, gas tank, and of course most of the already matching hardware interchangeable.As for the handling, well the CRF250 has always worked amazing. It’s light, nimble, easy to throw around, while still being very controlled and stable. It doesn’t take much time for the majority of riders to feel right at home on this machine. So for 2011, Honda decided to give us even more of that feeling. They started off with a larger piston in their Honda Progressive Steering Damper – Going from 20mm to 24mm on the damper piston givving the new CRF improved tracking traits over last year. We didn’t have any complaints, so she must be doing her job.
Next, Honda improved on a very touchy component – suspension. It’s hard to put together a complete suspension package that will impress everyone from first time rider to Pro. Actually, I believe it’s down right impossible, but it doesn’t keep them from trying and it’s a good thing, because they are getting closer and closer. The new CRF250 front forks have been revalved for more hold up and better bottoming resistance – This was without a doubt tested on some sharp faces and hard landings at the jumpy Perris Raceway – And the CRF did not disappoint, we were impressed with how well the forks soaked up the hard hits without delivering a harsh impact to the rider. The rear shock was also revalved to match the forks. This kept the bike balanced and tracking straight. Honda spent some time on their new setup because we didn’t even have to mess with the clickers. As a matter of fact, all Kris Keefer and I had to do was change the sag for our weight differences and we were set. He didn’t have any problems with harshness and I had no issues with bottoming, even at my weight. Unfortunately, the track didn’t get very rough so we didn’t get a chance to see how she handles in the chop, but no complaints here, it just gives me another excuse to take her out to the track before our 250 shootout.
The 2011 Honda CRF250 gets an A+ in my book. Honda lowered the noise level while improving the power over last year – the suspension suits a wider range of riders – The already excellent handling saw some improvement with Honda’s larger steering damper – And now, even more parts are compatible with the CRF big brother. We can’t wait to get this bike out on some other tracks and put her up against the other brands.