The 2008 Honda CRF250R cleaned house in our shootout. We didn’t even need to tally the scorecards, but we did, and the result was decimating to the competition.
2008 Honda CRF250R
Honda made our job easy this year by giving us the option of spending a lot of written words explaining the 2008 CRF250R, or not. We could go to great lengths to describe the perfect sweep of our scorecards, outlining every intimate detail of the Honda’s domination. If you simply need to know that the Honda stomped balls and was voted unanimously as the biggest of these little bikes, then close your web browser and get back to work – the CRF250R is the ultimate Japanese quarter-liter this year, without question.
We already knew the CRF was a great bike since it won our 2007 shootout by a handy margin, however, we didn’t know just how sweet of a tune those little dual mufflers would sing for ’08. Obviously, like the CRF450R and CRF450X, the big news on our test bike was the addition of Big Red’s revolutionary Honda Progressive Steering Damper. Having run prototype versions of the HPSD on factory bikes for years, Honda had all the kinks worked out before bolting that spiffy contraption on the steering stem of production equipment. The additional stability offered by the system allowed engineers to drop on a set of 22mm offset triple clamps and the result is phenomenal.
The only comparison we missed out on was a direct head-to-head with a ’07 version. All of our testers were able to feel how precise, steady and willing of a turner the 2008 is, but it would have been extra sweet to have had the older version on hand because the differences would have been vast. From our novice to pro testers, the Honda impresses with its razor handling. Not only does the CRF turn in quicker than anything else in our test, but it also holds the high line around a berm with equal authority. Dropping left and right into the rutted esses at Starwest demonstrates the red machine’s nimbleness. The other area where that stabilizer comes into play is on rough straights and through the whoops. Our faster guys were able to feel the benefits through the rockers, but even our slowest rider appreciated the rock-solid feel coming down the many hills at Cahuilla Creek, and especially into the blown-out, square-edged “U” on top. Accelerating down into that sketchy bastard at full tilt can result in an excellent test of the crossbar pad with the bottom of a rider’s chin. The Honda’s unshakable demeanor at the bottom allowed for an upshift on the way in – something we weren’t always comfortable doing with the other bikes.
The other reason the Honda is able to hit obstacles more aggressively are the suspenders. Showa has come up with a super-solid combination that we found easy to tailor, even though it didn’t require much tampering. Our novice had the hardest time coming up with the proper settings, but even he was 100% satisfied with some simple clicker twisting. The chassis and suspension combine for a very confident feel. Bottoming isn’t an issue, but the chatter absorption is wonderful when on the gas or during decel.
Honda has jumped far clear of its competition in 2008. The HPSD was a big part, but overall this is one great package.
Speaking of, getting on the gas was one of our favorite things to do with the shootout winner. Motor performance is more critical in the quarter-liters than perhaps any other racing category, and the Honda puts out more power and torque than any other Japanese steed. Our dyno results proved what our track impressions were screaming – the Honda is fast as hell! The beauty of this little Uni-cam mill is the pop. Most bikes have a surge at one point in the powerband, but the Honda always feels like it’s surging.
“The power is always right there,” says Sun, feathering his right wrist in demonstration. “Considering that it’s a 250F, I never felt like the motor left me needing anything. A stab of the clutch was always enough and the bike really responded well to that.”
Unlike years past, our testers didn’t complain about any bogging off larger jumps, though our pro did notice it occasionally on the Kawasaki and Suzuki. The Honda runs cleaner, stronger and ultimately faster than the 2007 model and any of the 2008 machines as well. It makes more power (34 hp, 18 lb-ft), is the lightest (216 lbs tank empty) and has the best reputation for build quality and durability. Those features alone point in the direction of a shootout winner, so toss in perfect marks from all four testers in the motor, chassis/handling, suspension, brakes and overall scoring categories and there’s no denying the CRF250R its spot atop the podium.
Even in the categories that it didn’t sweep (ergos/rider control and tranny/clutch), the 250R still won. The CRF secured 24 of 28 possible first-place votes (86%) in seven categories, by four testers, compiled from two completely different track experiences. Like we said, Honda made our job easy for 2008, and if you your purpose is winning races or simply having fun, the CRF will make it easier on you as well.
Check out the following links for some extra tidbits about our shootout.
– For My Money
See what each rider would do if they had to drop six grand out of their own pockets.
– Full Score Sheet
Want to see how your favorite bike did in the grand scheme of things? Check out our primary testing categories.
Let us know what you think about this 250F Motocross Shootout in the MotoUSA Forum.