Honda CRF250R - Dirt Rider Magazine

As we lined up for group photos, it struck us as funny to see most of the Dirt Rider staff at Raceway Park in fresh gear riding state-of-the-art racebikes on one of the best tracks in the nation. These are the bikes we usually glimpse from behind a fence, racing by at speeds we all dream about. But one question always surfaces: How good can a privateer bike really be? After hosting the Dirt Rider East Coast Ride Day in Englishtown, New Jersey, we stayed a second day to test some of the top privateer satellite team bikes to see just how good they are. We roosted Steve Lamson's MotoSport Outlet Honda CRF250R, Josh Summey's Samsung Honda CRF250R, Joaquim Rodrigues' Amsoil Factory Connection Honda CRF250R, Jason Thomas' Subway Honda CRF450R and Ryan Morais' WBR Suzuki RM-Z250. Unlike factory bikes with unobtainable parts, these privateer racers are built with components available to anyone willing to dish out the bucks.Although factory teams get trick components that may never be available to the public, in this era of racing, aftermarket manufacturers work magic into bikes straight from the showroom floor. Race teams force these companies to do extensive engineering to produce trick hardware that works. Today's privateer bikes are far closer to what a works bike is, mostly because they fit the riders for whom they are built. We feel any of the bikes tested here are more than capable of winning races. Since they were set up specifically for each team rider and setups were not changed for us, some things just didn't fit us as well. It takes testing and time to make all these trick parts work in unison, and only a select few riders can really push these bikes to the limit. But that didn't stop us from trying.Steve Lamson'sMotoSport Outlet Honda CRF25ORBuilding a racebike for a former National champion is no easy task. On top of meeting the normal standards of durability and function, the motorcycle has to go above and beyond the call of duty, performing with the same power, determination and ability the rider himself embodies. This is exactly the challenge Team MotoSport Outlet was faced with when building a CRF250R for 1995 and 1996 National Motocross Champ Steve Lamson. But through many hours of hard work, testing and spinning wrenches, the team was able to produce a CRF with the same fierce attitude and personality as the talented rider who would be racing it.I was very impressed by Lamson's CRF250R. My first thoughts were that it feels more like a supercross machine than an outdoor bike. The powerband is very short-all it takes is a quick twist of the throttle to be at the top of the revs. The motor on Lamson's steed feels strong everywhere, with abundant off-idle power that carries well into the midrange. Throttle response is excellent, and there's a distinct bark to the engine that makes short work of loamy corners and tight rhythm sections. It's obvious Lamy really likes to ride on the pipe, seeing as there are no holes in the power.The suspension is extremely forgiving. I found this out when I came up about half a bike length short on one of Englishtown's big doubles, and the CRF250R soaked up the landing as though it were an anthill. From hard landings to square-edged braking bumps, the Honda has a smooth feel to it, riding very evenly all the way around the track. The brakes are extremely sharp, and there isn't much free play in any of the controls. Obviously, Lamson likes his bike to feel tight and sturdy. Overall, this CRF is a great ride, and while the setup feels more as if it belongs inside a stadium, there is no denying Team MotoSport Outlet has its equipment dialed right in. -Chris DenisonMan, someone pinch me! I'm riding Steve Lamson's bike. Lamy was one of my heroes back in the day, and riding his bike was awesome. It feels similar to the Samsung bike: friendly and easy to ride. The motor comes alive in the midrange and pulls long and hard into a high-revving top-end. With crisp and precise jetting, the engine is easy to trust. I love the RG3 works suspension. It doesn't feel stiff, yet you can really abuse it overjumping and landing flat. It's progressive but doesn't produce a harsh feel. The bike feels well-balanced in tight corners, and I never lost the front as I did on some of the other bikes. Lamy is very experienced with the Honda CRF250R, and it shows. -Corey NeuerLamson has been around for a long time and has a reputation for being a good test rider, so I looked forward to trying his settings. The engine has incredible response off the bottom, with a light-flywheel feeling. It revs very quickly and accelerates hard. While the bike continues to pull on top, it seems to run better when it's short-shifted. The suspension feels stiff and prefers to be pushed hard. I felt as if I could flat-land a 20-foot drop without much of a jolt to the bar, but this setup seems to sacrifice a little compliance on the small stuff, at least at my speed. Overall, the bike's well-balanced and lived up to my expectations. -Sean FinleyThis bike is awesome. The motor has a power curve similar to the Factory Connection bike's without the midrange spike. I think they went and looked at my bike and copied all my controls, because I felt as I were sitting on my own bike. It was perfect. Oh, and while they were at it, they must have gone into my brain and seen what I pictured as the perfect suspension setup, as this bike holds tight in and out of corners and is super predictable in all types of transitions. -Ryan OrrTeam Sponsors and Bike Modifications
Motosport Outlet
Ride Engineering
Pro Circuit head and valve work
Renthal chain and sprockets
Dunlop tires
Wiseco piston
Tokyo Mods ignition
Hinson clutch
White Brothers Carbon Pro with tunable tip and Ti headpipe
Twin Air Power Flow air filter kit
Boyesen Quick Shot accelerator pump cover
Renthal grips and Twinwall bar
ASV folding levers
Braking Wave rotors
Lightspeed titanium wide footpegs, carbon-fiber products
Factory Effex Motosport Outlet graphics kit
Acerbis plastic
RG3 suspension
Showa 49mm works fork and shock
Applied triple clamps (22mm offset)
Pivot Works linkage bearings
RCS Ti rear shock springs
Mettec Ti bolt kit
Pro Wheels black race rims
Pro Honda oil products
Cometic gaskets
VP Pro Moto 4 race fuel
Josh Summey's
Samsung Honda CRF25OR
Team Samsung has been around for more than a year and has brought an extremely professional vibe to the paddock. The team is owned by Michael Holigan, who also owns a NASCAR team. The motocross and NASCAR teams were featured on "The Reality of Speed" TV show last year, and this year the show moved to the Speed Channel network and focuses solely on the motocross team. The team has taken on support from American Honda and had some success with podium finishes. Robert "Lucky" Nichols prepares all motors in-house and is a major key to the team's success.It took no time to get up to speed on the Samsung Honda. I was comfortable immediately. The motor has a linear feel with good, usable bottom-end and great throttle response without a single hiccup. Midrange power carries over to a strong top-end with tons of overrev. I love Summey's suspension settings. As with all the other works suspensions I have ridden, this equipment soaks up anything in its path. The Tag handlebar and all Summey's controls are set just where I'd put them. The surprising thing is the bike isn't violently fast nor is the suspension overly stiff as a lot of racebikes' are, so it worked well everywhere on the track. -Corey NeuerI'd hire the guy who built this motor to build mine if I were serious about making a racing comeback in the 250cc four-stroke class-though I should have done it before there was such a thing as a 250cc four-stroke. Its engine package is simply the most impressive thing I twisted the throttle on all day long. Why? Because it has that seamless, smooth, long-pulling power I like in a thumper with a one-to-one throttle-to-wrist connectivity. It pulls from basement rpm and remains smooth and crisp all the way through, to a top so strong I never hit the rev-limiter. There is no hit whatsoever if you roll on the throttle normally, but if you get aggressive or, better yet, tap the clutch, it responds with as much motor as any 250cc four-stroke I've ridden. Deceiving, really, but easy to ride and definitely fast.Just as on the other 250cc bikes, I'm way heavy for the suspension setup and had trouble getting the bike to start a turn, but bottoming resistance and overall valving control of the suspension are things that were found on works bikes only a few years ago. The handlebar and lever setup is traditional, with nothing funny to adapt to. Truthfully, though, most of my attention was hogged by the motor. -Jimmy LewisThe first thing I noticed about the Lucky Nichols-developed Samsung racebike was that the motor is strong right from the bottom all the way through the powerband. It's jetted perfectly, with no hesitation anywhere, which made me immediately confident. In spite of the fact that I weigh a little less than Summey, the suspension feels balanced in all conditions and soaks up small stuff very well. Summey has extremely neutral control settings, and I really like his choice of a Tag bar and grips. This bike works so well I think most riders would be able to appreciate all the modifications. -Sean FinleyThis bike is a tractor. Super strong off the bottom, it runs a little flat midway but doesn't quit up top. This motor, as with all these bikes' engines, shows why us pickup-truck privateers have such a hard time at the Nationals. For my riding style, the bike sits a little high in the rear and is super rigid on smaller bumps. But once I got it in the corner, it railed. -Ryan OrrTeam Sponsors and Bike Modifications
Samsung Wireless
Dep Sport
Volere Watches
Champion Tool Storage
Von Dutch
Carbon Fiber Works
Twin Air
Plano Honda
Motor modified in-house by Lucky Nichols, Billy Bell and Jeremy Nichols
Transmission shot-peened and coated
Custom-ground Web cam
CV4 Engine Components valve springs, valves, valve seats and guides
Wiseco pistons
Hinson clutch (complete)
Pro Circuit clutch springs
Mixture of steel and aluminum clutch plates (depending on track and conditions)
Pro Honda Racing oil with Blue Marble
Rev-er up additive
Engine Ice coolant with 1.6 radiator cap
Tag XT1 Factory-bend bar, medium-soft grips with all waffles cut off,front 13T and rear 51T sprockets
Works Connection clutch perch and lever with hot-start
Pro Circuit Showa works 49mm fork and 18mm shock
Pro Circuit 22mm-offset clamps and bar mounts with bar set more forward
PC titanium wide flow-through footpegsDunlop tires
Ferodo front and rear brake pads
VP Pro 4 race fuel
One Industries seat cover
Hammerhead shifterJoaquim Rodrigues'
Amsoil Factory Connection
Honda CRF25OR
(Josh Grant suspension)
Joaquim Rodrigues' CRF250R is one fast dirt bike. From the second you swing a leg over the red machine, you notice how unbelievably quick and powerful it is, while at the same time remarkably easy to ride and friendly. In order to meet the rigorous, high-speed needs of Rodrigues, the mechanics at Team Amsoil worked hard to create a complete package complementary to his unique, revved-out riding style. The end result is a Honda that is simply amazing to ride, with a motor and handling that would make your jaw drop.It's no secret that the Factory Connection bikes are fast, and it seems one of the FC riders is always in the hunt for a holeshot. The very first thing I did on Rodrigues' bike was practice some starts. I did five starts and was blown away by strong and consistent power. Down low the bike has almost no pull. This bike is all about high revs and hard-hitting power. Although there is no bottom-end, I love how the bike just hits and revs to the moon. It is really fun to ride since it actually made me feel fast. The Factory Connection Showa Works suspension is a bit stiff for me, but overall I like the way it works. -Corey NeuerHave you seen these bikes in the front at the first turn lately? Don't be surprised! Aside from great gate timing, all it takes is some really fancy footwork banging gears at the peak of the power. I don't think there is anything in the class much faster. Its motor has the most midrange power of any bike this size I've ridden. It isn't overly smooth on the bottom or the top-the bottom lacks and the top surges with power-but if you ride this thing from the mid to the top, it is serious. How much mid? When the motor came on the pipe, I used the clutch to smooth the transition. It was better for me to keep the revs up and stay on top of this. -Jimmy LewisThe FC bike was exactly what I expected from a top pro's racebike: well-refined, with an extremely fast engine that likes to be revved. The engine doesn't pull as well off the bottom as I would like, but I know I don't ride the bike the way most (or probably any) National-level pros do. The suspension (which was straight off Josh Grant's Southwick racebike) works well for me even at my relatively slower speeds. It is especially good at braking. -Sean FinleyThe motor feels strong right from the bottom (though Editor Lewis says what I call bottom-end power is what he calls midrange!) through an unreal mid-rev peak. On top of that, it never falls flat when pulling through to the rev-limiter. The brakes are insane without any fade, and they always stay strong. I don't think there are words for the suspension and handling. The plush initial feel keeps the tires on the ground, especially into turns. My only complaint is that it got a bit soft deep in the stroke. -Ryan OrrWhen I first hopped on Joaquim Rodrigues' CRF250R, I had to double-check that it was in fact a 250. Heading down E-Town's start straight, I was caught off-guard by the bike's incredible power. It increases steadily from a strong pull into a monstrous, revved-out explosion on top. Once you get to the top of the revs, the engine still pulls like crazy! I felt I didn't even touch the rev-limiter, and there was still a lot of meat above the point at which I was riding the track. The engine has an outdoorsy feel, with a long pull that seems suited to high-speed tracks. Rodrigues definitely knows how to charge into sections with a lot of speed, which is apparent in the momentum-favoring engine curve.The CRF doesn't have the tightest cornering abilities, but turning is still decent and works well at high speeds. The suspension setup gives the bike a long feel but works great over large jumps. The rear end bounced around a tiny bit in whoops and extremely rough sections, but this just calls for more of an over-the-rear-wheel riding style. It's clear Rodrigues is constantly finding traction, because there's no stopping the bike once it hooks up! The FC machine is an outstanding motorcycle, one I'm very grateful not to be racing against. -Chris DenisonTeam Sponsors and Bike Modifications
Rockford Fosgate
Scott USA
PF Gyms
Bridgestone tires and tubes
Cycra front and rear fenders, shrouds, number panels and vented front number plate
EK 520 chain
Ferodo 892 SG front pads, 2139 SG rear pads
Hinson clutch (complete)
One Industries graphics and seat coverPro Circuit cam, valve train, head mods, T4 exhaust and clutch springs
Renthal 997 handlebar and half-waffle soft grips
Showa works fork and shock
Sunstar front 13T and rear 51T sprocketsVP Pro 4 race fuel
Wiseco prototype piston
Works Connection glide plate, engine guards, clutch perch/levers and fill caps
Amsoil SportFilters and oil titanium footpegs
Vortex ignition
Honda works 260mm front brake
Honda works standard-offset fork clampsFactory Connection fork lock downHayden oil cooler (for selected events) Fluidyne radiators
Amsoil 10w40 synthetic engine oil and Super Shift transmission oilJason Thomas'
Subway Honda CRF45OR
It has been just a little more than three years since the Subway team made its debut at the Anaheim supercross with James Polvony and Ted Campbell. Since then the team has grown more powerful with outside sponsorship. Today it's a two-rider effort, with Jason Thomas and Jeff Gibson. Bikes and replacement parts come from American Honda, with a boatload of aftermarket attention to detail.I've watched Thomas race for years, but until I rode his racebike I never realized how short he is. The subframe is cut and lowered; the seat foam is much thinner than stock. He uses IMS footpegs raised a full inch to shorten the distance from the seat to the pegs. The bike rides so low that when I was standing up the seat rested below my knees at the top of my boot. I like to ride using my knees to control the bike, but that's not possible on JT's bike. It made me feel like an out-of-control giraffe; hindering me more was the bar's low bend. The suspension settings were a bit stiff, but the harder I rode the bike, the better it worked. Being a top-level pro, JT puts demands on the suspension I never would. One interesting fact is the suspension uses the stock outer tubes; no works kit stuff, just an MB1 revalve. The motor is very meaty-it felt like the thing had 70 horsepower. It hit hard and quick, not linear at all. I like the immediate throttle response, but the bike is a serious handful and had me searching for additional skills more than once. -Corey NeuerI know the 250cc class is a struggle for power, but with the 450cc bikes it is all about getting the right kind of power. Thomas likes his power served in big strokes and large quantities. In fact, this bike feels more like a big-bore bike than "just" a 450. It reminds me of the '03 CRF450R in its style of delivery, with bigger, more traditional thumps on the bottom, keeping the hefty power pulses all the way up top. It never goes into that blurry rev a stock '05 CRF does, instead making a lot more boost the whole time. It feels as if every bang of the spark plug pushes the bike a little bit farther than it should, making it truly hard to hang onto in the upper Rs. I was riding into turns and letting the bike chug down too low, and I stalled it a few times. Even though it feels as if it has a big flywheel, it doesn't; yet I didn't want the power level that came with the additional downshift and added throttle position.Thomas must have really flexible ankles, because the rear brake pedal and shifter run low and take a reach to make things happen. Since he rides sitting down more than normal, these positions make sense. Also, the triple clamp offset is a tight 20mm, down 4mm from stock, and it makes the bike extremely light-steering. In fact, it got downright shaky when I'd come into a turn hot, surprised again by the rear brake pedal position, then go for a hefty tug on the incredibly strong front binder. With all that weight on the front, I wouldn't mind my front wheel a little bit farther in front of me. But due to the bike's power, the Subway CRF tended to be a rear-wheel turner because the front wasn't on the ground much anyway. -Jimmy LewisTeam Sponsors and Bike Modifications
Ride Engineering braided-steel brake lines
Engine Ice coolant
ARC levers and clutch perch
Plasticwerks vented front number plate
UFO plastic
Michelin tires
50/50 MX103 Shell 96 fuel
Vortex front 13T and rear 50T sprocketsWiseco high-compression piston kitBraking front and rear oversize Wave rotor and front and rear brake padsMB1 suspension
Carbon-fiber works motor, skid plate and frame guards
Pro Circuit modified motor and T4 exhaust
Hot Cams Stage 2 cam
Hinson clutch basket
JP ignition
Griffin 1.7 radiator cap
ProTaper 20mm-offset clamps, Henry/Reed-bend bar and half-waffle grips
Subframe cut down 6mm
Seat shaved for lower seat height
IMS tall footpegs
Ready Filter air filter
One Industries graphics
Pro Wheels race rims
Pro Honda oils and chemicals
VPE clutch stabilizerRyan Morais'
WBR Suzuki RM-Z25O
If there's a formula to building a 250cc four-stroke racebike, then it's a secret recipe, and everyone has a different list of ingredients. Mostly based on rider preference, it is designed to get the right kind of delivery and power to run National motocross speeds. The WBR Suzuki has some pretty serious bark and a controllable delivery, so Morais can hold the throttle wide open and let the motor do the pulling. He likes a very new-school clutch setup, meaning high but regular front brake positioning. His bar is a little on the low side as well.As with all the smaller thumpers, the idle was set high, but this bike has a slightly cammy nature to the low, low rpm, granted in an area the racebike would never be ridden. But as soon as the throttle is cracked it livens up and starts pulling. Its snap will lift up the front end and bring the bike to attention, but the Suzuki isn't really as potent as possible with small or medium throttle openings. It likes to be whacked wide open. It responds instantly with a big snap, but the motor builds rpm more slowly than most full-race motors. It gets good traction on even the slickest of turns and makes really good use of all the gears. Its power delivery is pretty similar to the stock bike's curve, but boosted in amplitude quite a bit and revved out slightly further. Oh, that snap on the bottom is about double!One interesting thing is its slipper clutch. It dramatically reduces compression braking, allowing me to bang an extra downshift going into turns. In fact, I could even do it earlier than normal and then hit the throttle hard on the exit in the lower gear without using the clutch.The WBR RM-Z doesn't feel cramped, even with a low bar setup. Being more portly than these half-sized men racing the small-bore class, I crushed the rear suspension, so I'm not the choice evaluator for this component. But I can say I could ride it faster than stock because the setup has so much control on the stroke, especially in the mid and during bottoming, that it actually worked for me on bumps and jumps. I suffered in cornering because I couldn't get the front turned in; no fault of the bike, as I was most likely pushing near 120mm of sag on the poor kid's machine. -Jimmy LewisI have spent several months aboard the Dirt Rider RM-Z250 and have become quite fond of the machine. Yet riding the WBR bike is an eye-opening experience! I definitely noticed the change from Kayaba to the Showa Works Kit suspension. I liked the way I could charge through huge braking bumps. The bigger the bumps, the better the suspension works. The motor creates most of its power up top, and the bike really revs out. It took me some time to get used to Morais' rear brake since he runs the pedal quite high. That makes the rear brake super sensitive, causing me to stall the bike more than once. -Corey NeuerMorais' RM-Z250 is a little unorthodox. He runs his clutch lever high, making me uncomfortable. The motor is deceptively fast because it doesn't have a hit anywhere, but it definitely makes forward momentum. The bike is very stable in the rough, high-speed stuff. The stock RM-Z/KX250Fs turn well, but this setup seems to ride a little high in the front, which makes it a bit harder for me to turn. -Sean FinleyI had fun on the WBR. What I first noticed about Morais' bike was how well it corners-I didn't feel any unnatural pushing, and the front end stays in its line in every turn. There are absolutely no surprises with the RM-Z's suspension. The bike skips through rollers and across whoops without a single buck or kick, and the fork soaks up bumps well. Morais and I are the same size, and I felt this in the suspension setup, though I didn't slam through the rough stuff nearly as hard as he does!The Suzuki's motor is impressive but definitely has a unique power curve. When on the gas, rather than a hard, initial hit, the power comes on gradually, making its grandest entrance at the top of the powerband. I noticed this on several jumps, where the bike made its hardest pickup near the lip as I rolled the throttle. Still nice down low; I think he likes to ride his bike on the pipe. -Chris DenisonThis Suzuki handles way better than stock. It was hard for me to push it because the setup is a little awkward, but the more I pushed it, the better it handled. I couldn't get used to the slipper clutch, and I thought the clutch was actually slipping, which was sort of strange. In the right gear the bike is strong and has good, usable power. One of the features I noticed the most was its strong brakes. From racing RM-Zs last year, I know they can fade. -Ryan OrrTeam Sponsors and Bike Modifications
Motor built in-house at Yoshimura
Yoshimura exhaust, cams, spark plug cap, water pump cover and impeller
Dunlop tires
Galfer front and rear brake rotors, front and rear brake lines and front and rear brake pads
Sano gas cap
Twin Air air filter, oil filter and screen eliminator
Hammerhead shift lever
Hinson clutch (complete)
RK chain
Excel rims
Works Connection brake reservoir cap, skid plate, engine guards, clutch perch with hot-start, frame guards
and radiator braces
Acerbis plastic
N-Style graphics and numbers
Renthal Twinwall 997 handlebar, grips and sprockets
Maxima oils
MB1 Showa suspension
BRP triple clamp
VP race fuel