Best Motocross Bike 4th Place—2020 Honda CRF250R

A great-handling, well-suspended motorcycle held back by its engine.

Back in 2018, Honda completely overhauled the CRF250R. It shared very few similarities to the prior generation (2014 to 2017) model. The suspension and chassis were both an improvement for MY18 and the new dual overhead cam (DOHC) engine, equipped with two completely separate exhaust systems from port to muffler, produced more power in the higher rpm than the outgoing machine’s low to mid engine. However, the ’18 engine lacked bottom-end, requiring it to be ridden ultra aggressively compared to the five other bikes. Since then, Honda has worked on improving the CRF250R’s low rpm power, and while it has improved over the past two years, it still lacks in this area, which holds it back in the overall rankings in a class where having a powerful, well-rounded engine is so important. Aside from that, the CRF250R is praised year after year for its suspension, chassis, and ergonomics.

The Honda CRF250R finishes in fourth place in the 250F Motocross Shootout for the second year in a row.
The Honda CRF250R finishes in fourth place in the 250F Motocross Shootout for the second year in a row.Jeff Allen

2020 Honda CRF250R Engine

The 2020 Honda CRF250R is in its third year of the latest generation production cycle. Coming in at 236 pounds, the Honda weighs just 1 pound less than the two heaviest bikes in the shootout—the Yamaha YZ250F and Suzuki RM-Z250.
Left: The 2020 Honda CRF250R is in its third year of the latest generation production cycle. Right: Coming in at 236 pounds, the Honda weighs just 1 pound less than the two heaviest bikes in the shootout—the Yamaha YZ250F and Suzuki RM-Z250.Jeff Allen

Before we took Honda’s 250 four-stroke motocross bike to the track, we mounted a Dunlop D404 street tire on the rear wheel and ran it on our in-house Dynojet dynamometer, where it made 39.4 hp at 12,300 rpm and 18.8 pound-feet of torque at 9,700 rpm. With these numbers, the Honda ranks fourth in both peak horsepower and torque. At peak, it produces 1.4 hp less than the KTM 250 SX-F, 1.3 hp less than the Husqvarna FC 250, and just 0.2 hp less than the Kawasaki KX250. After the dyno pulls were complete, we fitted Dunlop MX33 soft-to-intermediate-terrain tires, as we did on all of the bikes to ensure consistency in traction among them for the entirety of the test.

The CRF250R makes 39.4 hp at 12,300 rpm and 18.8 pound-feet of torque at 9,700 rpm. With these numbers, the Honda ranks fourth in both peak horsepower and torque.
The CRF250R makes 39.4 hp at 12,300 rpm and 18.8 pound-feet of torque at 9,700 rpm. With these numbers, the Honda ranks fourth in both peak horsepower and torque.Robert Martin

The CRF250R engine’s characteristic is similar to the 250 SX-F, FC 250, and KX250, but it’s the weakest of the four. It has stronger top-end power than the Yamaha YZ250F and Suzuki RM-Z250. It revs fairly quickly, but has an empty feeling. What it lacks in low-rpm power, it makes up for in top-end, so it needs to be ridden higher in the rpm as much as possible for it to be effective. Because of its relatively weak low-rpm grunt, the CRF250R requires lots of clutch work, which can be taxing on the rider’s left hand after a while being that it has the second hardest clutch pull behind the RM-Z250. The CRF250R is quieter than the YZ250F and KX250, but louder than the 250 SX-F, FC 250, and RM-Z250.

2020 Honda CRF250R Suspension

“The Honda lacks the low-end torque of the other bikes. It feels soft and somewhat gutless in the low to mid. The throttle response is decent, but the engine lacks the punch to follow through.”
“The Honda lacks the low-end torque of the other bikes. It feels soft and somewhat gutless in the low to mid. The throttle response is decent, but the engine lacks the punch to follow through.” —Eric StorzJeff Allen

The Showa 49mm coil-spring fork and Showa shock have a good balance between performance and plushness, leaning slightly more toward performance in the initial part of the stroke with plenty of holdup. The components are remarkably progressive, offering very good bottoming resistance and feeling plush in the bottom part of the stroke. The Showa units do not offer as much plushness as the KYB suspension on the YZ250F, but begin to feel plusher the harder you ride the bike. Small changes make big differences on both ends of the Honda, giving it a remarkable amount of tunability, and only minimal changes are required to find the rider’s sweet spot.

2020 Honda CRF250R Chassis/Handling

“The suspension was easy to set up on the CRF250R. Raising the fork in the triple clamps helped prevent front wheel push, while the shock is very plush and absorbent of choppy sections and jumps.”
“The suspension was easy to set up on the CRF250R. Raising the fork in the triple clamps helped prevent front wheel push, while the shock is very plush and absorbent of choppy sections and jumps.” —Michael WickerJeff Allen

The Honda weighs 236 pounds, just 1 pound less than the two heaviest bikes in the shootout—the YZ250F and RM-Z250. Despite that, the CRF250R is the lightest-feeling and nimblest motorcycle in the class, making it easy to put exactly where you want it on the track. It also has class-leading cornering ability due to how sharp it turns and how well it settles in them. Some chassis rigidity is detectable in choppy, square-edged sections of the track, but not enough to cause an overly stiff or uncomfortable ride. The weight transfer characteristic of the chassis gives it amazing rear wheel traction, which is also helped by its soft low to mid power.

The CRF250R’s stinkbug (high rear end) stance initially leads you to think it’s not going to be stable, but it’s still satisfactory in that department. It feels like it has a shorter wheelbase than the other five bikes, but the cockpit is not cramped. Quite the contrary, as it has the most neutral ergonomics and an excellent rider triangle, making it easy to hop on and get used to quickly. It has a sitting-on feeling and is noticeably a little wide between the rider’s legs when standing.

Why The 2020 Honda CRF250R Should Have Won

“The CRF250R could be a good racebike because it has a light feeling chassis, excellent cornering ability, and smooth power. This all adds up to very easy, low-energy-consumption riding.”
“The CRF250R could be a good racebike because it has a light feeling chassis, excellent cornering ability, and smooth power. This all adds up to very easy, low-energy-consumption riding.” —Allan BrownJeff Allen

It has strong top-end power, performance oriented yet plush suspension, phenomenal cornering ability, and the most neutral and comfortable ergonomics.

Why The 2020 Honda CRF250R Didn’t Win

It needs a better powerband to be able to compete with the KTM 250 SX-F, Husqvarna FC 250, and Yamaha YZ250F.

Gearbox

“The Honda handles great! It’s so easy to ride and has a super-comfortable cockpit. It also has great stability coming into corners and stays settled.”
“The Honda handles great! It’s so easy to ride and has a super-comfortable cockpit. It also has great stability coming into corners and stays settled.” —Tanner BassoJeff Allen


Helmet: Arai VX-Pro4