It's tough to find fault with the 2009 CRF250R. Fast riders notice a bog in the motor, but it wasn't a unanimous complaint.
There’s plenty of hype about the flagship motocrosser from Honda this year, but the 250R hasn’t seen the same advancements. But the fact that the little CRF didn’t get a neat fuel injection system means exactly squat in the 2009 crop of 250Fs. None of the other bikes got it either, and the Honda’s motor has been a great powerplant over the past years.
However, one of the major issues with carbureted 4-strokes is the dreaded bog, and the Honda’s 40mm Keihin is guilty as charged. Bigger carbs are typically more prone to this issue and the Honda has the biggest gas-feeder in the bunch. The rest of the machines use a 37mm Keihin, so the red bike really dumps in the fuel mixture. On a track like 395 where the jumps are good sized and there’s no shortage, the Honda got dinged by some of the faster testers.
“It was the Honda’s Number 1 complaint for me!,” says Alvin. “If I landed hard on jumps it would bog and that made it hard for me to relax or try to set-up for the next obstacle. The motor doesn’t rev out as far as some others, but has great power.”
Fortunately, the problem isn’t constant, and a couple riders never mentioned it. What everyone did feel was how potent the power output is from the Unicam engine. We squeezed 34 horsepower from the CRF at 11,000 rpm. The dyno chart reveals a significant advantage over the other bikes from around 10,500 to redline. Our testers agreed that the 250R has a good mill. Three of the five ranked the motor first. Sherri was one who couldn’t find any fault with the Honda. “Top-end to mid or through the low-end, I couldn’t find an area that didn’t produce power,” she says.
“The Honda and Kawasaki were relatively similar at 395,” adds Haaker. “On a 250F you need that extra grunt and immediate snap of the throttle to hold yourself up through the corner; that’s why you rev the piss out of them, so you don’t loose momentum. The Honda and Kawi had that extra motor to lean the bike over and rail or give it an extra blip to stand the bike up more when slightly off balance.”
The Honda loves to turn and the HPSD makes tuning the bike to track conditions easy and effective.
The Yamaha edged it out in the handling department thanks to its never -awkward approach, but where the Yamaha is unshakable, the Honda finds strengths in agility. The handling of the bike is one area where the CRF literally has something the others don’t. The Honda Progressive Steering Damper was really popular when it got introduced last year, and the nifty gizmo attached to the steering head is still one of our favorite things about the CRF.
“The Honda is quick steering and reactive as hell,” says Haaker. "It’s very refreshing and energetic. If you are an energetic rider and not stiff on the bike, it will favor you.”
As a national-caliber trials rider, Colton certainly moves around on the bike more than most, but even our other testers had success getting the bike to turn.
“The Honda chassis has a solid feel to it but there was an issue with the front end wanting to dance a little,” notes Zalamea. “I fixed that by going in three clicks on the steering damper and it helped a bunch. The bike would stay in the ruts and was really stable in the high-speed stuff.”
Having the ability to tune the amount of rider feedback is also a high mark for the Showa suspension. The really fast guys wanted a bit more rigidity and bottoming resistance, but the slowest tester had a hard time pushing the bike hard enough. In all it provides a very wide range of adjustability, but the overall package is definitely one of the more aggressive of the four bikes. The updated valving in the 47mm fork was one of the biggest improvements over the 2008 machine. Last year we complained about a spike in the upper part of the stroke, but ’09 brings a smooth action top to bottom.
What will it be like once Honda puts the EFI on the 250R? Finding faults is already hard enough on our shootout winner.
Sciacqua and Haaker were two of the speedsters who can push the bike past its limits. Tod had some issues trying to get the stock adjustments working for him, but the lighter Colton easily found his happy place.
“The newly re-valved suspension was a bit too soft for how I ride,” says Big Air Sciacqua, “but it still worked well in the turns and places where the braking bumps weren’t so big. I am sure that if I spent more time working with the Honda guys on setup I would have liked the Red bike more.”
“The Honda was exceptional,” Haaker argues. “We sped up the high-speed (compression) a tad and made the front and rear softer. I didn’t want to get off it. I was taking lap times and felt super comfortable dropping into the corners.”
When the dust settled, there was no doubt that the Honda deserves to be at the top for another year. It makes the most power, turns quickly and confidently and has an ergonomic package that could be considered a standard. Smooth, consistent shifting, renowned powerful brakes and good looks helped it finish first in four categories, and add up to nearly everyone’s top choice It's tough to predict what will happen with the 2010 model, but if Honda can successfully transition some of the technology from this year's 450R, it could be a long time before any of the other manufacturers catch up.
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