Last year the Honda CRF250R tied for the win in MotoUSA's 250 Motocross Shootout thanks to its easy-to-ride character and excellent handling. Honda didn’t rest on its laurels, however, and redesigned its 250cc-class offering for 2014 in the constant search for more power and improved handling. The CRF250 has always finished near the top of the list in our shootouts, could it do it again this year?
In the last few years the Honda CRF250R has been regarded as one of the easiest 250cc class racers to ride. Just about anyone can jump on, adjust the sag and levers and immediately feel at home. For 2014 Honda’s engineers gave the CRF a new frame to further enhance its easy-to-ride character with a lower center of gravity. A revised swingarm and linkage also intend to make the Honda a ripper. Our team of riders agreed with the changes made by Big Red, ranking it Number-1 in the handling department. It continues to inspire confidence with a neutral feel in the corners and excellent straight-line stability. It always works no matter the situation.
Former WMX racer Sara Price comments, “Overall handling on the Honda
was really good and I ranked it first in my book. I felt quite comfortable when going fast and found myself not wanting to get off the thing.”
“The chassis on the new Honda works well,” adds our resident pro tester Chris See. “I always had lots of confidence on this bike.”
While the handling was top-notch, the suspension did not rank as high for our team. The rear shock is unchanged from 2013, but the 48mm Showa forks features new settings. Even so just about every rider complained of a too-soft set-up and it ranked near the bottom, negating its top finish in the Handling Category.
“Testing the Honda in stock form - it was soft for me and that kept it out of the top spot for sure,” explains See. “But I am also really happy they stuck with the traditional fork on this machine, giving you a nice consistent feel lap after lap.”
The CRF250R has never been known as a ripper when it comes to sheer engine output, but Honda beefed things up for 2014 with a dual stage injector. However, with powerhouses like the Kawasaki, KTM and now Yamaha cranking out big power, the Honda 250 feels like it is just plain slow. The mellow output does make for a more settled chassis and excellent manners when the track is slippery, but when traction is tacky or loam is deep the CRF gets left behind on the bottom end.
“I love how far the top-end revs out, but I feel this bike needs to sacrifice how far it revs out and give it a lot more bottom so it has more forgiveness when you make mistake," explains See.
Pro rider Nick Thiel is kinder to the CRF saying, “The Honda doesn't do anything bad it just lacks the ripping power that those in front of it provide.”
While we were not blown away with the seat-of-the-pants power output, on the MotoUSA Dynojet 250i the Honda held its own with a chart-topping 18.96 lb-ft of torque that crushed all the but the Yamaha by nearly three-quarters of a lb-ft. It didn’t fare as well in the horsepower numbers with a fourth-best result, laying down 34.96 hp.
When the gate drops the CRF250R falls slightly behind with a 3.239-second run to the 125-foot mark at 44.2 mph, giving up nearly one tenth of a second to the class leading YZ250F. It’s excellent torque numbers come into play, however, in the Roll-On test, as it posted a second-place 2.266-second blast from 15 to 40 mph in 95.3 feet.
Other hard numbers in our test show the 2014 CRF250R grabbing top honors in the sound test with a much quieter result from its dual mufflers at 97 decibels at idle and 108db at half throttle. It also earned second-place points on the scales at 235 pounds with its 1.66-gallon gas tank filled.
Back on the track our riders ranked it just behind the Kawasaki KX250F in terms of comfort and cockpit layout. Its larger layout works well for a variety of rider sizes, and the slimmer mid section is a hit with most. Only one rider has any criticism for the Honda’s ergonomics.
“I’m not a huge fan of how when you go to transfer to the rear of the bike you go from skinny and narrow in the middle to wide and chunky at the front and back,” complains See. “I preferred last year’s ergos to this year.”
Honda widened the physical size of the transmission gears for better durability, and our riders all think highly of the CRF’s drivetrain ranking it as the runner-up in the category. If not for some fairly annoying clutch fade, the Honda may have taken top honors as the feel is tight and gearing spot-on.
“The Honda’s gearing is perfect and the clutch pull is really good,” remarks Thiel. “But after two laps the clutch lever is practically to the bars.”
On the brakes the CFR250R ranks mid-pack this year. While the feel and power are excellent, some of the faster riders experienced fade as the end of the moto approached. The rear brake also lacks feel when the track gets slippery and locks easily.
For the first time in a decade the Honda CRF250R finishes off the podium. If not for a lackluster power feel the plucky and always-agreeable Honda would have surely finished on the box yet again. For those looking to ride all day rather than win the 250 Pro Class, the 2014 Honda CRF250R is still a excellent choice. But in our highly competitive 250 Motocross Shootout, the CRF finishes in fourth place.