2011 Honda TRX250X ATV Comparison

Ken Hutchison | March 7, 2011
2011 Honda TRX250X 

The Honda TRX250X has been around since 1987 and over the past decades it has become a staple of the company’s off-road lineup. It is a multi-purpose sport ATV that has evolved into one of the best small-bore four-wheelers on the market today. At the heart of the TRX is a longitudinally mounted, air-cooled 229cc SOHC single-cylinder engine. A five-speed transmission delivers power to the rear wheels via a low-maintenance shaft drive. This setup has been a reliable component for Honda utility ATV’s also, and when combined with the small-diameter rear drum brake, offers decent ground clearance. This powertrain architecture doesn’t leave a lot of room for performance upgrades but we feel this is part of what may be appealing about the Honda. This is the ultimate starter bike whether you are a youth or adult. It sits tall and is roomy for larger riders which will leave room to grow for youth and allow adults a comfortable ride. Everything about the TRX is just easy.

2011 Honda TRX250X ATV Comparison
Honda’s TRX250X is an excellent beginner and entry level ATV. A combination of SportClutch, reverse gear and mellow power make this ATV suited for riders of any experience level.

Honda’s SportClutch supplements the five-speed transmission. The unique clutch keeps the bike from stalling in the same way you would expect from an automatic transmission, and this is one of the strongest selling points of this ATV. It will not stall and can be shifted without using the clutch lever, but a quick stab with the left hand helps the engine build some revs, just like a traditional manual transmission. This helps experienced riders carry the front end over an obstacle or pop a wheelie just for kicks, but it also provides a forgiving way for newbies to learn stop-and-go clutch technique. However, the TRX’s transmission has neutral all the way at the bottom and five gears are available above it. This is important to note since it will only start in neutral. In order to get the ATV in reverse you need to be in neutral, then pull the Reverse Trigger located just below the bars on the right side of the bodywork while simultaneously pressing down on the shift lever. The red indicator light will let you know when it is engaged and the low rpm rev limiter will keep you from backing up too fast. The Raptor 250 does not have reverse and that can be a deal breaker for new riders who inevitably will find the need to back out of predicaments as they learn the limits of themselves and their machine.

2011 Honda TRX250X ATV Comparison
The shaft drive is designed for good ground clearance and low maintenance. This makes the Honda TRX250X easy to ride and easy to own.

Like we mentioned earlier, the TRX has excellent ground clearance (5.9 inches) so getting high-centered or stuck in a hole is the rider’s fault for not paying attention to the trail. The combination of shaft drive and 22-inch front and 20-inch rear tires makes it easy to pick through rocks and ruts. If you live or ride near rough terrain or in the mountains with rutted, root-strewn trails then you will be happy to know you have room to work with on the underside of the Honda. While the TRX quietly navigates the obstacles ahead, the Yamaha scrapes against the rocks. We beat its plastic skid plate to a pulp and dinged the chain, sprocket and brake rotor more than a few times. Meanwhile the Honda’s shaft drive and drum rear brake remained high out of the way on all but the most extreme of obstacles. The 250X utilizes a pair of single disc front brakes with dual-piston hydraulic calipers that offer great feel at the lever compared to the drum rear. While the rear brake can squeal once in a while the front brakes perform without complaint.

2011 Honda TRX250X ATV Comparison
If you try to slide the rear end around it takes some serious body English to keep all four wheels on the ground, and that isn’t a good thing for beginners. Then again, new riders should be going slower and not trying to give it hell like Ricky Bobby. “Help me, Tom Cruise…!”

New and older riders alike felt more comfortable on the TRX too because it didn’t beat them up as much. Part of this is because it arrives there at a much more relaxed pace. It features a taller seat height at 31.4 inches which is plusher than the Yamaha’s foam. Taller bars help make the 250X roomy enough for adults. So far it may seem that there isn’t much to complain about, but the main hitch in the TRX’s giddy-up is a lack of power. On one hand it is so mellow that it will not intimidate less experienced riders. On the other hand it is quickly boring if you are comparing it head-to-head with a feisty machine like the Raptor 250. It is also very cold-blooded and requires a considerable amount of time to warm up.

We turned our significant others loose in the hills of Oregon and every one of the four who had a chance to ride them agreed that the Honda is easiest to get comfortable on. It is their preferred ATV to learn on. It isn’t scary-fast and the SportClutch makes it easy to learn the nuances of clutch-work. It’s not intimidating but make no mistake, this ATV can get moving along just fine. It just takes a little longer to reach the higher speeds. It has decent torque, but the gearing is tall which makes it slower to build up speed. It has pretty good top end if you’re riding on fast gravel roads. The TRX is fun in the sand but for larger riders it doesn’t have the power to make long dune climbs. In the woods this wasn’t as much of an issue but the power deficit was most notable in the sand. It doesn’t help that the TRX tips the scales at 378 pounds with fuel; that’s a whopping 46 pounds more than the Yamaha.

2011 Honda TRX250X Specifications
2011 Honda TRX250X ATV Comparison
2011 Honda TRX250X
Engine: Air-cooled 229cc OHV Single
Bore & Stroke: 68.5 x 62.2mm
Fueling: 22mm piston-valve carburetor
Transmission: 5-speed w/ reverse
Final Drive: Shaft
Front Brakes: Dual 174mm discs
Rear Brake: Drum
Front Tire: 22 x 7-10
Rear Tire: 20 x 10-9
Front Suspension: Double Wishbone 5.9-in. travel
Rear Suspension: Swingarm-Single Shock 5.7-in. travel
Fuel Capacity: 2.5 gal
Length: 68.5 in
Width: 41.8 in
Wheelbase: 44.3 in
Seat Height: 31.4 in
Ground Clearance: 5.9 in
Curb weight: 378 lbs.
MSRP: $4299
Colors: Red, White

Another bone of contention is centered on the tall tires. It’s a bit top heavy in faster turns. On the trails you have to give plenty of body English to keep it planted and at the dunes it’s prone to tipping if you make sharp turns. For new riders the pace is generally slower, but as skill and confidence increase, so does the need for speed. That’s when the sluggish handling comes into play. One easy answer is to switch to lower-profile tires. Our stock tires lasted about two months of regular use. Our final hitch is the parking brake. The design has been used by Honda since the dawn of time and it continues to be just complicated enough that new riders struggle with it. You have to push in the pin, pull in the clutch, flip the holding lever in place and then release the clutch lever. It’s possible for the TRX to drive forward when it’s engaged too because it’s easy to overlook the nondescript brake. New riders tend to take off before they notice it’s on and this can fry a set of rear brake pads pretty quick.

If you are looking for an all-around great ATV that is well-suited for riders just getting into the sport then the Honda TRX250X should be at the top of the list. What we found was that the TRX holds an advantage over the little Raptor on the gnarly trails in the woods and desert, but lags behind on faster terrain or power-robbing sand. This is the better beginner bike of the two small-bore ATVs in this comparison. It features the stall-free SportClutch, has manageable power and is quiet yet large enough to accommodate a wide range of riders. Plus it sips gas compared to the Yamaha. It has reverse and the shaft drive offers low maintenance and high ground clearance. It is comfortable for all day rides and is the type of ATV that will remain a member of the family for many years.

Ken Hutchison

Editor |Articles | The ulcers keep piling on for the warden of the MotoUSA asylum. With the inmates running rampant around the globe, Hutch has opted to get in on the madness more these days than in years past and is back in the saddle again.