Our Honda CRF250R has continued to be a favorite motocross racer throughout the year and has been a good benchmark for testing.
Honda pulled off a narrow and controversial win in our 2010 250 Motocross Shootout, so we kept Big Red’s 250F for the rest of the year to use as a benchmark tester as well as to see if it could back up its victory with long-term performance. For most of the year, the CRF250R spent time at our SoCal office after busting out motos for the shootout. The CRF shared testing duties and racing glory with our 2010 450 Motocross Shootout podium finisher, the Kawasaki KX450F (see the full details in our 2010 Kawasaki KX450F Long Term Wrap Up) and had to wait its turn as new models were released. Now that the full line of 2011 motocross bikes are out, it’s time to give the CRF back to Honda, so let’s take a quick look at how things have held up over the past months.
If there’s one thing we’ve come to love about the CRF it’s that it lives up to Honda dirt bikes‘ legendary reputation for durability and build quality. Our maintenance schedule was actually a little obsessive with engine oil, filter and transmission oil changed every five hours or so. Considering that the Honda uses split cases, there’s no doubt in our minds we could have gone even longer between fresh quarts, but a few extra dollars and minor time investment is worth keeping the bike’s internals as clean as possible.
Considering that we often put the bike in the hands of our pro testers like Matt Armstrong for photo shoots, gear testing and weekend racing at tracks like Glen Helen, we decided to take a quick look at the valves at the 15 hour mark. Racing REM in the summer heat isn’t easy on any machine, especially 250F bikes as they wind their brains out up GH’s long uphills and massive straightaway. All of the clearances were in spec so we slapped it back together, spooned on a new set of the stock Dunlop dirt bike tires and went back at it. Roughly 10 hours after the valve check, our testers started noticing that the shock tended to fade a bit on the longer motos.
After hanging out as a backup/spare biked during the 2011 Honda CRF450R First Ride at Jeremy McGrath’s ranch, we kept it in the van and headed straight out to LACR before it shut down for another day of testing. While we were spinning laps on the big bike, pro tester Chris See borrowed the 250 for the day. See was more than happy to pull out the CRF and twisted the throttle to the stops around the sandy course. Because the Honda turns so quickly, there’s some need for better front end stability on faster layouts, even with the Honda Progressive Steering Damper turned in. Our solution was to drop the 48mm Showa cartridge fork down in the triple clamps. This became our preferred setup and once we were accustomed to it, we even kept it the same on tighter tracks.
The CRF eventually found its way to the Oregon headquarters for a month of mixed MX and off-road riding so a set of Cycra Probend CRM handguards were installed to ward off trailside debris and provide crash protection. We also put on a set of Pirelli dirt bike tires to give better traction. Dirt Digits preprinted numbers/backgrounds have adorned the bike since our shootout and they’ve lasted extremely well. Once the bike went to Oregon, our rider there managed to peel back the side panels due to his riding style and boots, but he tears up the front few inches of side panels graphics on every bike he rides. We trimmed them back and the rest never came loose. They also look very good despite repeated roosting, scratching and pressure washing.
The flag-style guards were great for roost protection and the
aluminum bars helped give the CRF some off-road versatility.
The two handlebar levers are the only other areas we noticed a change in performance. The front brake has gotten a little squishy, though the brake pads have plenty of life left. A quick bleed or replacement of the hydraulic fluid would clean this up, but the bike is so light and the brakes are so powerful that a little extra lever movement hasn’t detracted that much. However, the clutch lever is starting to give us more concern. Clutch engagement happens at the very end of the throw, making for herky-jerky launches and temperamental clutching. Trying to fan the lever out of corners is more difficult with a very on/off engagement. We pulled the clutch cover off to inspect and were surprised to see the fiber discs in such good shape. But, the basket has a small amount of grooving on the fingers. The bike is due for another oil change and then we want to put a few more rides on it before replacing the plate stack and basket.
One thing we’ve come to appreciate is that despite the diminutive 1.5-gallon fuel tank, the 250R isn’t nearly as thirsty as it big brother. Honda 450 machines have a problem with fuel capacity for long rides, but the smaller engine is much more economical. We raced a muddy 90-minute GP at the 2010 Dick Jagow Memorial GP and never had to pit for fuel.
The hour meter just hit 30, we’re continuing to log miles and there hasn’t been a single malfunction with the Honda. A grabby clutch and tired shock are the worst of it, and those are completely normal in the amount of riding we’ve accumulated. Even the radiators, which are notoriously soft on Hondas, have held up to a few spills and the plastic still looks pretty good. All bearings feel tight, wheels roll smoothly, our fork seals never leaked and the EFI runs great at all altitudes and weather conditions. We’ve loved riding the CRF for the simple fact that keeping our shootout winner in strong-running condition has been a matter of basic maintenance. Spending more time riding than wrenching is how it should be, and that’s a good thing.