Peak horsepower is nearly identical, but the X dominates the bottom and middle portions of the power band.
Of course, should your electric starter ever fail, both bikes have a kick starter on backup duty. We never experienced any kind of starting deficiencies during our test, which was a pleasant surprise. Last year, we noticed the 250X's first-generation starter was a bit weak. The '04 CRF was a bit temperamental and usually wouldn't start unless the bike was in neutral, which is exactly what the manufacturers suggest. But let's be honest, there are times when you're in a rut, balancing precariously, hanging on for dear life and that shift lever just isn't the first thing on your mind. It's nice to have a beefy start mechanism that can handle the occasional in-gear starts. We're happy to report both machines in '05 offer such capabilities.
Twist the throttle in first gear and its obvious these two bikes offer radically different philosophies about what trail-bike power should be. Both bikes offer a decent hit off the bottom when the throttle is twisted. However, the CRF has the WR covered from the bottom to mid-range power delivery.
Looking at the Hansen's dyno performance chart, you'll see two radically different power curves. The CRF250X is significantly more powerful off idle, all the way till the rpm climb to 9200. In fact the CRF makes over half of its peak horsepower at 5600 rpm, while the WR waits until 6900 rpm before it reaches similar horsepower numbers. Ultimately, the CRF offers 26.63 hp @ 10,200 rpm which is nearly identical to the WR which churns out 26.54 hp @ 10,100 rpm.
Our WR had a major flat spot in the torque curve, leveling out from 4000 rpm to 7500 rpm. Conversely, the CRF hit hard off the bottom and continues to offer up torque into the stratosphere.
Torque readings also give credence to the X's dominance down low, with the CRF hitting 10.4 ft-lbs of torque at just 5200 rpm, while the WR doesn't reach double digits until 7500 rpm. Peak torque numbers also favor the X, which boasts 15.91 ft-lbs @ 7,900 rpm. In contrast, the WR manages 13.86 ft-lbs. @ 10,000 rpm.
Despite the hard data from the dyno, the WR seemed to be in its element while navigating the more wide-open trails at Corral Canyon. Out there, where there was room to let loose, the WR felt stronger than the X, exhibiting a nasty disposition up top and tearing away from the X in the open.
"The WR gearing was more suited to the faster, smoother trails but it still had plenty of gumption to tackle anything this place had to offer, like short, steep hillclimbs and technical descents," commented Hutchison. "When we left Corral Canyon, I felt that the Yamaha was actually feeling a little bit better than the CRF at that point in the test."
However, once we switched venues and crossed state lines, the CRF flexed its proverbial muscle, and its low-end growl became the weapon of choice for our test riders when the trails required throttle control and more low-end torque than top-end power.
"That little extra bottom-end really helps the CRF accelerate past the WR in the woods," continued Hutchison. "Whereas the WR was a tad-bit more capable on the roads thanks to a taller set of gears, the Honda was nearly as competent but had noticeably less in the acceleration department when the speeds were up."
The X's powerband turns scrubs like Korf into hillclimb champions; put it in first or second and just twist the throttle.
The tight Oregon trail systems we used for testing required scrolling through gears with frequency. There was little discernable difference between bikes, and the transmissions in both performed remarkably well. We never missed a shift that wasn't attributed to rider error thanks to buttery-smooth clutches and seemingly bullet-proof trannys. However, we would be remiss if we didn't mention that a few of our testers, when pressed to find faults, mentioned the Yamaha transmission was a touch notchy compared to the CRF.
Still, the Yamaha was a thrill ride in almost all conditions. We bombed down tight paths, fire roads, and El Cajon's granite trails trying to find flaws in the suspension of either bike, but neither would back down.