Not all that long ago, if you wanted an off-road competition bike, you were stuck converting a motocrosser for off-road duty. More recently, if you were looking for a high-performance trail bike, you could either build out an “X” model, or start with a motocrosser and deal with the shortcomings of each where they may fall. My first real dirtbike, aside from the clapped out vintage machines my friends and I would tinker on in our youth, was a KX250F converted for trail duty. It was a great dirtbike to learn on and grow with out in the desert, but it had a fairly substantial list of modifications to get it to that point. With the Honda CRF250RX, the market for GNCC racer-types and avid trail riders alike receives a new performance-based model for 2019.
With Honda’s off-road lineup stacked for 2019 with everything from Rs to Xs and RXs and RWEs, it can be hard to keep track of what all of these letters mean to those who aren’t paying close attention. Most folks will be familiar with the CRF-R motocross models as well as the CRF-X trail models. Though the CRF-X trail models are built heavily on the motocross platform, they are built with the masses in mind. These are bikes that will appeal to a large swath of riders who enjoy spending their weekends out on the trail year-round and can do so with these EPA and CARB-compliant machines. The R motocross bikes are built for racing. These models don’t need to tiptoe the red tape and bureaucracy in order meet standard and are simply built to be the best race bikes possible.
While the X and R models may sound similar, using one for the other’s intended purpose will begin to show the drawbacks of each when they’re out of their element. Enter the CRF-RX models. The RX models are exactly what it sounds like, a mash-up of the two with an emphasis on off-road competition. The RXs are built to be closed competition off-road race bikes, with many similarities to their R-toting siblings. Honda started with the CRF250R platform and swapped out essential componentry to make the track-focused 250R a weapon for the trails. So, what does it take to make a motocrosser an off-road competent racer? Let’s take a look.
Like myself, many off-road enthusiasts were ecstatic to see Honda release the CRF250RX. This 250 model is based on the CRF450RX that came before it. The 250RX is a great factory base for off-road racers and trail riders alike, but what makes it an RX? The 2019 Honda CRF250RX boasts a larger 2.25-gallon gas tank to give racers the fuel range they need for longer off-road races. Trail riders alike can appreciate the extra fuel compared to the motocrosser’s 1.6-gallon tank, though some may still opt for a larger tank for extended trail rides. Out back, the RX’s 18-inch rear wheel helps give the bike a larger contact patch and better overall handling over obstacles. The RX’s suspension has been revised with lighter springs in the fork and shock as well as having dedicated valving to handle varying terrain. Also tweaked is the ECU mapping to bring the CRF250RX’s power and torque lower in the rev-range. An O-ring chain is also used to better last through varying conditions such as sand and mud. Other niceties, such as a skid plate and kickstand, are included. As someone who has had their knuckles rapped by various desert flora, I would have liked handguards to be included from the factory. Alas, there isn’t a model in Honda’s lineup that includes them.
Riders looking to use the RX as an off-road machine will need to consider the bike’s off-road competition only status. Out here in California, that means a red sticker and spark arrestors are necessary for trail use, meaning it can only be ridden during a certain time of year.
Throwing a leg over the Honda CRF250RX and firing it to life via the e-start button – there is no kickstarter – is followed by a series of blinking LEDs next to the kill switch. Via the small blue button above the kill switch, riders are able to choose from three maps: one, which is somewhat of a standard setting between two and three; two, a map for low traction situations which eases throttle response; and three, which gives all she’s got, Captain. I favored maps one and three during most of our riding in the California desert. Map three was kept on most often and was preferred in sandier stretches, while one smoothed out the throttle response slightly for rockier sections.
But that’s not all those blinking lights and buttons do for you. Riders may also choose from three HRC launch control settings which somewhat mirror the uses of the three maps. We didn’t have a chance to test this feature during our time with the bike.
The RX’s 249cc DOHC liquid-cooled Single likes to be revved. The bike makes most of its power in the mid and upper portion of the rev-range. This may not sound ideal for tight trail work, but the bike tackles technical trails with relative ease. With some clutch work, the power can be managed in lower rpm over technical terrain. However, if you find yourself motoring up a long snarky hillclimb, gear choice will be crucial as the bike can flame out if lugged too low. Although the bike is in its powerband when spun up, the motor is quite smooth throughout.The five-speed close-ratio transmission also doesn’t let you forget that it uses the same components from the motocross bike with its tall first gear and short fifth.
Initially, myself and other test riders felt the suspension was rather soft even if the spring rates were only one step below the motocross bike’s springs. After spending more time on the RX, I would describe them as plush. The Showa fork and shock on the Honda provided a comfortable and compliant ride through nearly every type of terrain we tackled on it. After setting the sag to the recommended height, we ended up adjusting the preload and rebound a bit to get a more planted feeling from the front wheel which seemed to help balance the bike.
From the moment I sat on the CRF250RX, I was comfortable on it. At 5’8” with a 30-inch inseam, the stock setup was perfect for me. Taller riders may prefer taking advantage of the RX’s four-way adjustable bars to open up the cockpit a bit, but aside from adjusting levers, I was happy. The bike feels very easy to move around on while manipulating over terrain. Though the tank flares out quite a bit in the front, it’s only noticeable when all the way up on the seat, otherwise the bike feels thin between the knees. Claimed weight is 244-pounds, and it’s nimbleness confirms this figure.
The RX’s front brake is easy to modulate if a slight bit touchy while the rear was solid and easy to control. Off-road protection on the bike consists of a front rotor guard, and skid plate, both are plastic and provide good coverage.
During our time with the 2019 Honda CRF250RX we’ve run it through the gamut of California desert terrain. Heck, I even took it to a motocross track where I found out I need to spend more time at a motocross track to even think about giving my opinions of its performance there. Where the bike shines for me, as an off-road trail riding enthusiast, is in its off-road componentry, switchable mapping, comfortable suspension, and spot-on ergos. Jumping on a bike and immediately feeling comfortable does wonders for one’s confidence. Big Red has produced another great off-road bike. Now we’re just left wondering how it stacks up against the competition…
|2019 Honda CRF250RX Specifications|
|Engine Type||249cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke|
|Valve Train||DOHC, four-valve; 33mm intake, titanium; 26mm exhaust, titanium|
|Bore x Stroke||70.9mm x 50.9mm|
|Induction||Programmed fuel-injection system (PGM-FI); 44mm throttle bore|
|Starter||Push-button electric starter|
|Transmission||Constant-mesh 5-speed return; manual|
|Clutch||Multiplate wet (5 springs)|
|Final Drive||#520 sealed chain; 13T/48T|
|Front Suspension||49mm fully adjustable leading-axle inverted telescopic Showa coil-spring fork|
|Rear Suspension||Pro-Link system; fully adjustable Showa single shock|
|Front Brakes||2-piston caliper (30mm, 27mm) hydraulic; single 260mm disc|
|Rear Brakes||1-piston caliper hydraulic; single 240mm disc|
|Front Tires||Dunlop Geomax AT81 80/100-21 w/ tube|
|Rear Tires||Dunlop Geomax AT81 110/100-18 w/ tube|
|Ground Clearance||13.0 inches|
|Seat Height||37.8 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||2.25 gal.|
|Curb Weight||244 pounds (claimed)|
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