2010 Honda CRF250R Review

All new CRF can do it all

The Lites class, MX2, 250F class…whatever you choose to call it, the 250 four-stroke class is at the front line of motocross development. In a class where winner and loser are separated by tiny improvements, it takes a lot of guts to rebuild a proven machine from scratch. Evidently, Honda has guts.

The 2010 CRF250R is new from the ground up, sharing many components with last year’s massively revised CRF450R. In the process Honda has created a machine that not only excels on the track but flies in the forest. We’ll dig into the versatility of this little bike later on, but for now let’s see what makes it tick.

For the engineers at Honda, combining big power numbers with an easy to ride nature was priority number one. Gone is the old dual exhaust, replaced with a single canister that is both lighter and better sounding. The new cylinder is tilted back five degrees from the old model, and compression is up to 13.2:1. That cylinder houses a smaller bore and new, stronger piston. Revised cam timing and valve springs help the little engine survive a 13,500 rpm redline.

2010 Honda CRF250R (MSRP $7,199)

Feeding that screaming engine is an all-new, battery-less fuel-injection system featuring a Keihin 50mm throttle body with a 12-hole injector. While idle speed is adjustable in 100-rpm increments, major tuning changes will require a Honda EFI tuning tool. The crank sits lower in the new engine, and the clutch has been revised with a Kashima coating on the basket and improved plates. Transmission ratios have also been revised to better suit the new engine.

Like its big brother, the CRF250R features a tiny, adjustable steering damper hidden behind the numberplate. It works, especially at higher speeds.

Other techy stuff? The chassis, while mostly shared with the 450, was carefully adapted to the lighter engine. New forks feature a larger cylinder and shorter springs, while revised outer fork tubes improve rigidity. The swingarm is longer than last year, and the rear shock has been upgraded with a less-obtrusive reservoir. Like the 450, the 250 has a tiny steering damper tucked in behind the number plate. Other good stuff? The new wheels are stronger and the airbox is now easier to access for filter changes. Since the fuel injected engine is better on gas, Honda engineers were able to save even more weight by making the fuel tank smaller.

What’s it like to ride this thing? In a word, fun! We could easily blab on and on about how smooth and strong the new engine pulls throughout its powerband, or how easy to start the bike is even after you do something stupid. We had a crew of Pro, Intermediate, and Novice motocross racers ride the bike on the track, and in all cases they raved about the fantastic new engine and how much fun it was to ride. But they were concerned that the clutch action and shifting were holding it back…not that it was bad, but it was odd-feeling despite fiddling with clutch adjustment.

"What’s it like to ride this thing? In a word, fun!"

The bike feels light in the air and on the ground. The suspension was plush at both ends on the man-made track we tested on. It wasn't overly soft, just smooth, well controlled and easy to dial in for a variety of riders ranging from 140 to 180 pounds. In fact nobody, from spode to pro, rated the suspension at either end below eight out of ten. Good stuff! Other tester comments praised the confidence inspiring turning and stability of the bike. One Vet-Expert tester, with a reputation for being super-fussy, said quietly, “I think this just might be the finest motocross bike ever sold.” Wow, high praise indeed! But there is more to the multi-talented CRF250R than berms and big air.

This bike just may be the easiest to ride motocross bike ever. It makes spodes feel like Pros and Pros feel invincible.

To The Woods!

The little Honda handled so well and the motor was so smooth that we couldn’t resist taking it for a trail ride. Out in the hills, slopping through slimy clay ruts, hopping over logs and rocks and trail junk…guess what? Our instincts were right. This little bike kills off-road, at least in tight Eastern conditions.

See those trees across the way? The agile and friendly CRF practically begged us to get over there so it could show off its ‘do it all’ abilities.

We did a few laps of a National Hare Scramble course, busted the gnarliest hills we could find and pretended to be Endurocross racers whenever we saw a log or a pile of rocks. The spring and damping rates at both ends were just fine off-road with only a few less clicks of compression on the forks.

Gearing? No problem, the fuel-injected engine will chug through even the tightest trails in second gear without a sputter or cough. Powerband? Perfect for the woods, smooth almost to the point of being, dare we say it, too smooth. Electric start? C’mon, the fuelie CRF250R is so easy to start and hard to stall we never missed it. Throw on a skid plate, bush bashers and an O-ring chain and we’d race this thing anywhere, anytime. We loved it, loved it, loved it…except for one thing. The clutch. Its action worsened as it heated up in the woods, becoming an on-off light switch. Now that may have been a problem particular to our test bike. We don’t know. Nothing appeared to be worn out, broken or misadjusted, so we had to say something. We’ll let you know when get the official word on this issue.

Sometimes a good bike is a good bike, no matter where you ride it. The CRF250R rages in the woods right out of the box. With a few simple mods it would make an excellent hare scramble machine!

These days everyone is living tight, so having a ‘one bike does it all’ machine is essential if you want to mix up motocross with some off-road racing or spirited play riding. Honda has built a small-bore race bike that sits at the top of the class, no matter where that class is racing. The all-important ‘fun-factor’ of this bike is off the charts. It’s obvious we really dig the new CRF250R. So will you.

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