Picking a winner proved to be as difficult as we expected.
In 2001 Yamaha delivered off-road enthusiasts what was universally praised as one of the best machines ever devised for trail riding when it unleashed the 4-stroke WR250F. Boasting impressive power in a trail-friendly Thumper package, few could argue that Yamaha's latest technological marvel was the undisputed middleweight champion of the off-road world.
However, after watching Yamaha hog all the trail-riding glory, Honda sent its challenger into the ring when it introduced the spectacular CRF250X. The red-winged logo had its sights set high and delivered a beautiful motorcycle to the public, subsequently gathering accolades and shootout victories along the way. In fact, we were so impressed with the abilities of the X that we named it Best New Dirt Bike and Best Off-Road/Enduro bike in our MCUSA Best of 2004 article.
Last year, we were unable to procure a blue bomber to go toe to toe with Honda's golden boy, but now after much anticipation we've finally put together one of the most intriguing head-to-head showdowns in recent memory.
We do the majority of our dirt testing in the tight, technical trails of Southern Oregon, however we wanted to sample these two competitors in several different terrains so we took advantage of the awesome Corral Canyon OHV riding area outside of El Cajon, CA. The scenic riding area provided an opportunity for this duo to stretch their legs on the granite roads as well as test their mettle on the technical trails which come replete with trials-esque hillclimbs, some fast berm trails and some strategically placed massive boulders also known as navigable roadblocks.
Of course, on the heels of our SoCal adventure, we brought them back up to Oregon where we flogged them in the tight, technical trail systems that wind through our evergreen populated forests. When all was said and done, these bikes were put through the ringer and we have the video and photos to prove it.
Yamaha enjoyed a monopoly on the small-bore 4-stroke market for years, but with the introduction of the X, the boys in blue knew they had to step up the game. For 2005 the WR got a significant overhaul with goals of reducing weight and lowering the center of gravity in hopes of improved handling in particular.