2011 Honda CRF250R Project Bike Update 1

April 27, 2011
JC Hilderbrand
JC Hilderbrand
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Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA's Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn't matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.

2011 crf250r
We’ve found reasons to keep the 2011 Honda CRF250R around the garage for a little longer.

Every year during shootout season we get asked which motocross bike is best for off-road. We leave our motocross comparisons on the track because that’s where the OEMs designed them to work. However, we’d be stupid not to acknowledge that MX bikes get ridden in the desert, woods and everything in between. We’d also be liars because we like to ride them there too! So, we snagged the 2011 Honda CRF250R and dedicated it to multi-use. After blasting around the SoCal motocross circuit we carted it off to Oregon. Our 2011 250 Motocross Shootout winner has been swallowed up by the MotoUSA garage as a long-term project bike. After a couple rides in stock trim we started ordering parts and bolting on accessories to help make the transformation a little easier. Here’s what we’ve scraped together so far. 

IMS Large Capacity Fuel Tank 
MSRP: $275.95
Honda did a marvelous job with its fuel injection system, providing consistent, flawless fuel delivery that has benefits for motocross and off-road use. We ride off-road much wider ranges of elevation and climate conditions than we do motocross, so EFI is a huge advantage. The only downside is lowered fuel capacity. A fuel pump resides inside the tank, robbing a slight amount of space which would otherwise be used for gasoline. Combined with Honda’s already small fuel cell and the CRF250R isn’t going very far from the truck. IMS is a top name in oversized tanks so we grabbed

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Take a quick walk around our red crossover and see it in action in our 2011 Honda CRF250R Project Bike Update Video.

one that almost doubles the capacity at 2.7 gallons. IMS uses polyethylene crosslinks in the tank construction for strength and durability and the brass thread inserts are very solid. We have no need for a quick-fill so the standard screw-on cap style remains instead of a dry break, though they are available.

Installing the larger fuel tank is a cinch. The fuel pump assembly has to be swapped over which only takes a few minutes and a thicker O-ring which is supplied. A small bracket extends from the bolt at the steering head which meant relocating the hour meter. We found a home for it on the right side of the steering column where it tucks nicely out of the way. It would have been perfect except I didn’t do such a great job of securing the lead wire and it slipped down and was crushed against the frame by the steering stop. Now we’re keeping track of time on the engine like in the good old days – estimation. The radiator shrouds fit, but it takes some elbow grease to get things lined up. Loosen the radiator mounts to help float everything into place before tightening down. 

Two Brothers Racing V.A.L.E. M-7 Slip On Exhaust
MSRP: $389.98

two pipes two brothers pipe
The Two Brothers Racing M7 V.A.L.E. exhaust fits easily and adds spark protection. Power feels robust with delivery characteristics similar to the stock pipe.

The stock Honda muffler is pretty great. Power spread is smooth and even, and the CRF registered the quietest during the shootout. One thing it doesn’t have, obviously, is a spark arrestor. We need to make things legal in the woods so we called Two Brothers Racing and requested a new M7 V.A.L.E. slip on exhaust in stainless and aluminum finish (also available in stainless/carbon fiber) which comes with a screen installed. Not only does it help with fire safety as the summer months approach, but it shaves a bit of weight. The TBR muffler weighs in at 4 pounds, 4 ounces, while the single-piece stock muffler/midpipe weighs 6 pounds, 1 ounce.

Installing the pipe is very easy thanks to the V.A.L.E. inlet design, which features an adjustable clamp joining the muffler and midpipe that eliminates all springs and allows for custom fitting. This is especially handy if the subframe is a bit tweaked or the pipe gets knocked around. Simply loosen the clamp, realign and tighten again for a secure fit. Decibel output seems louder than stock, though we haven’t put it next to our dB meter yet. It’s a pleasing note and the Honda runs strong throughout the rpm range. Two Brothers offers different muffler tips to help customize power output.

Bridgestone M203 Soft-Intermediate Front Tire
MSRP: $41.44 – $104.37
It’s still pretty soggy up here so we spooned on a new set of Bridgestone soft-intermediate terrain tires. The stock front tire is definitely geared at drier motocross tracks, so the Bridgestone M203 made instant improvements on handling. We struggled with bite and having the front end push out on flatter corners, but the taller, more angular knobs of the M203 help eliminate that sensation. We have a mile-long test loop that includes grasstrack, clay single-track, loamy wooded trails, axle-deep mud ruts, hard-packed S-turns, a multi-tiered downhill and a short, wet, torn-up hillclimb. The Bridgestone was a major improvement in all areas, particularly the grasstrack and muddy ruts. Downhill braking also stands out with amazing levels of feel. We’ve run between 13-15 psi of cold pressure. With 5-6 hours on the tire, we’re still trusting it more and more and finding even better grip in turns. It’s also one of the easiest tires we’ve attempted to spoon on. 

bridgestone M204
Bridgestone’s soft-intermediate
terrain tires work excellent in our
spring-time trails.

Bridgestone M204 Soft-Intermediate Rear Tire
MSRP: $46.06 – $130.65
The matching rear tire is Bridgestone’s M204 which replaced the older M202 a few years ago to offer better performance on a wider range of terrain. It too is surprisingly pliable and easy to install. We set the pressure at 12 psi cold and headed for the loop. Immediately the 204 impressed with its precision. The CRF follows ruts better and is more controllable whenever changing lines. The sloppy uphill provides an impressive demonstration of forward traction and the braking is equally as good. The rear tire is better at adapting to soil out of its target range than the M203 front, but it is losing performance quicker. We noticed a decrease in straight-line drive around 3-4 hours but side-control is holding strong at 5-6. In these conditions we expect to get at least another five hours. We’d be happy to slap these on for a couple races without fear of losing performance and they are more durable than some other soft-terrain treads.

The last tire we tried was a burly winter setup which you can see in the Grip Studs Dirt Bike Tire Studs Review.

jake id seat strap
The Honda seat bolts have a shoulder that can crush the brass eyelets. We didn’t have this problem on other bikes with straight bolts and should have noticed it before installing on the CRF250R.

Jake ID Customized Seat Strap
MSRP: $14.95
Getting unstuck can be a major hassle, especially in a race situation where recovering from a tip-over is crucial. Sometimes it’s difficult to get a firm hold on your machine and after grabbing hot exhaust pipes and ruining our gloves by snagging a muddy fender we’ve learned that a seat strap is one of the cheapest improvements to make. Jake ID can print up to 19 letters on its one-inch-wide nylon strap. Seat bolts run through brass eyelets and we haven’t had any of the stitching come undone yet. Seat bolts with a collar can press out the eyelets, we found out the hard way. This simple American-made item has proven even more useful than we originally thought. Not only is it awesome on the trail, but we use it constantly while maneuvering around the shop or loading in a pickup. Jake ID also makes longer straps for the front fork and gear bag ID tags. All are customizable which gives some extra flavor to an otherwise mundane component. 

Cycra Pro-Bend Center Reach Clamp Racer Pack
MSRP: $124.95
We had a set of the Cycra Pro-Bend hand guards left over from a previous project and we didn’t hesitate to slice off the ends of our grips and install them. The Pro-Bend works flawlessly to make room for the throttle, clutch and brake cables. The fit is perfect and the clamp is secure. We haven’t had to tighten these a single time and they’ve stayed in place despite several tip-overs. The plastic splash guard wards off wet branches and roost while the aluminum bar keeps levers safe from crash damage and trees. Cycra also offers these in a full composite plastic construction rather than aluminum.

Honda CRF250R Project Bike
There’s more to do with our Honda project bike. Stay tuned.

Future Plans
So far the Honda is shaping up. It’s more fun to ride, safer and we don’t even bother bringing a fuel can with us. Our plan is to race it in a WORCS event and a local two-day hare scramble. We might try to set up some Fasst Co. Flexx bars to take some of the sting out of those jarring impacts. The CRF was the supplest machine in the shootout, but it’s still bone-stock motocross suspension. We’ve got a weepy fork seal so those sticks are coming off soon for maintenance anyway. Perhaps we can ship them off for some custom tuning. 

Illusion Grafix sent us a set of one-off MotoUSA graphics (black numbers on yellow backgrounds a-la WORCS – sweet!) which we’re laying on a set of Cycra plastic with Powerflow intake radiator shrouds. This should help as we abuse the little 250 for longer stretches in nasty conditions. Also, the brake pads are shot so I just poured in new Motorex brake fluid and slapped in a set of EBC units front and rear which we’ll bed in and put to the wringer.