2019 Honda CRF250RX Long-Term Review

Modifications to make the Honda’s 250 four-stroke off-road bike better.

2019 Honda CRF250RX jumping over boulders.
Riding off-road on the 2019 Honda CRF250RX.Mark Kariya

Honda introduced the CRF450RX back in 2017 as the beginning of its new competition off-road models and it's certainly a good start to an all-around bike. It can be a handful at times with its fire-breathing engine and extremely responsive chassis. However, take that same platform and put a 250cc four-stroke engine in it and you have the potential for a very good off-road bike.

2019 Honda CRF250RX in front of boulders.
The Honda CRF250RX was an all-new model to Big Red’s competition off-road motorcycle lineup in 2019.Mark Kariya

After riding the 2019 Honda CRF250RX for a short time, we wanted to get a better feel for the bike and asked if we could do a more thorough shakedown. Fortunately, Honda agreed, and over the past few months, we logged more than 400 miles of off-road riding on it and have taken it to a few different motocross tracks as well.

The single most exciting thing about the CRF250RX is how easily it goes from track to trails. While it’s not perfect, one of the nice things about it was its consistency. Whenever we made a change or adjustment, the result either being positive or negative, we had the same results whether we were riding the track or trails.

The Honda CRF250RX has its strengths and its weaknesses. If you look closely, the differences between it and the CRF250R are not major, and are pretty standard for those who are looking to make a motocross bike more off-road friendly. The key here is that this bike is designed to be a competition model; it’s great if you like to race both motocross and off-road.

2019 Honda CRF250RX IMS 2.4-gallon fuel tank.
The IMS 2.4-gallon fuel tank sits a little lower in the frame and is narrower, making it much easier to get forward on the bike.Allan Brown

The significant changes from the CRF250R to the CRF250RX include different EFI mapping, suspension valving, and spring rates; a larger fuel tank; 18-inch rear wheel; kickstand; and an O-ring chain. What hasn’t changed is the close-ratio five-speed transmission and engine performance components such as camshafts, piston, and exhaust system, making it just as race ready as the CRF250R. All of this results in a bike that is designed for a rider who wants only one bike that he can race motocross on one weekend and GNCC or hare scramble-type events the following weekend.

The Showa suspension is very good and we felt comfortable with just making small adjustments to the clickers and ride height to suit the rider or track condition for each day. Our ideal suspension settings remained very close to stock, and if you fall in the range of 160 to 185 pounds, you will be able to get very close to a comfortable race setting. While we were very happy with the suspension, we discovered a few of the bike’s weaknesses after riding it for some time. Our goal was to work on improving the overall engine power, cornering feel, and ergonomics.

2019 Honda CRF250RX RS-9T full titanium exhaust system.
Yoshimura’s RS-9T full titanium exhaust system not only improved the engine power, but it also reduced the overall weight.Allan Brown

The engine is a little soft in comparison to the KTM 250 XC-F and Yamaha YZ250FX, and could certainly benefit from more torque. Sometimes gearing can help in this department, so we swapped out the stock 48-tooth rear sprocket with a Dirt Tricks Ironman 51-tooth. While this helped, we still wanted to see if we could coax more torque out of the Honda powerplant, so we worked on the mapping using the HRC PGM-FI Setting Tool in conjunction with a Yoshimura RS-9T full titanium exhaust system.

With a little advance in the ignition mapping and the Yoshimura exhaust, the bike came to life. The pipe not only improved engine power but also reduced overall weight. Even more importantly is that most of the weight reduction came from the mufflers, and that is an area where less weight can improve handling. As an extra bonus, the Yoshimura system comes with easily removable spark arrestor inserts for the days you might not need them, such as at a motocross track.

2019 Honda CRF250RX doing a wheelie.
The engine and chassis modifications we made to the CRF250RX improved the power, took away most of its high rear end stance, and opened up the cockpit.Mark Kariya

It’s only a 250F, so anytime you can get more torque and overall power without opening up the engine is a good thing. With some tweaks to the mapping, a new Yoshimura exhaust system, and some race gas for those days you want to get the most out of the engine, the CRF250RX is a competitive machine.

The new-generation Honda CRF line is quite unique. Rear wheel traction on these bikes is absolutely incredible, but at times the front wheel feel can be vague. Compared to the 450, the CRF250RX’s overall weight is less. The weight transfer to the front under braking is less, requiring the rider to be even more forward on the bike. Unfortunately, this can be a bit of a chore as the RX gas tank is quite tall and wide in an intrusive way. We know this bike needs a larger than normal gas tank, so we went with an IMS 2.4-gallon unit. This tank sits a little lower in the frame and is narrower, making it much easier to get forward on the bike.

2019 Honda CRF250RX with added Pro Circuit’s 146mm linkage pullrods.
To transfer more weight to the front wheel and reduce wallowing in the rear, we added Pro Circuit’s 146mm linkage pullrods.Allan Brown

The second item we added was a set of Pro Circuit 146mm (+1.5mm over stock) linkage pullrods. The longer pullrods put the linkage deeper in the curve, meaning it’s starting at a stiffer rate. The effect on the chassis is that it transfers more weight to the front wheel and reduces any wallowing in the rear. With the addition of the IMS tank and Pro Circuit pullrods, we were successful in gaining more front wheel feel, easier cornering, and a better sense of balance.

With these few changes to the chassis, we were able to make great improvements on some of its characteristics. Opening up the cockpit made it much easier to get forward on the bike and lowered the rear, giving it a flatter, less stinkbug feeling. These changes resulted in a more balanced feel and improved cornering. For a little more race prep, we mounted Dunlop MX33 tires and Dunlop mousse tubes front and rear, cut the handlebar down to 790mm, and added Cycra hand guards.

Maintenance on the Honda CRF250RX has been a breeze. The O-ring chain has been very durable, the brake pads have lasted way longer than expected, and the battery has fired the bike to life with ease the entire time we’ve had it. Air filter access has been improved with Honda’s new, more compact battery too.

2019 Honda CRF250RX in front of boulders.
While we were pleased with the Honda CRF250RX in stock trim, we sought to improve its overall engine power, cornering feel, and ergonomics with the use of aftermarket parts.Mark Kariya
  • Primary Use: Motocross, and off-road riding and racing.
  • Main Modifications: Yoshimura RS-9T full titanium exhaust system, IMS 2.4-gallon fuel tank, Pro Circuit linkage pullrods, Dirt Tricks Ironman 51-tooth rear sprocket, Dunlop MX33 tires front and rear, Dunlop mousse tubes front and rear, Cycra hand guards, and ODI lock-on grips.
  • Moment of Glory: Being able to go from riding off-road to motocross without making any changes.
  • Forgettable experience: Swapping the linkage pullrods thinking it would only take five minutes. However, I realized I had to remove the left-side footpeg and footpeg mount because the kickstand bracket was in the way of the linkage bolt.
  • Hours: 35
  • Aftermath: Two sets of Dunlop MX33 tires, one set of ODI grips, four oil changes, and four clean air filters.