2011 Honda CRF250R Project Bike Wrap Up

October 17, 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.

Our Honda has seen significant race time on and off the motocross track.

The 2011 Honda CRF250R started life as MotoUSA’s 250 Motocross shootout winner. From there it was enveloped into the long-term testing fleet and subjected to further motocross, WORCS and cross-country abuse. Our first step was to increase the fuel capacity with a 2.7-gallon IMS tank to help with the longer GP-style events. Along with the tank we installed Bridgestone M204/204 tiresJake I.D. Strap and Two Brothers Racing V.A.L.E. M-7 Slip On Exhaust. For more info on those components, check out the 2011 Honda CRF250R Project Bike Update 1.

The 250 continued logging hours through the summer and we headed off in search of better suspension performance. We opted for starting with basic components that any rider or racer might change on their own, but went to a suspension company that is making big news this year in multiple racing disciplines for guidance.

Stillwell Performance Suspension
MSRP: $290
The stock suspension on the 250R is very good, but our riders wanted more forgiving performance on mixed terrain. Stillwell Performance has been tuning the suspension for its own race team and other top riders like EnduroCross competitor, Geoff Aaron. Kevin Rookstool hails from our neck of the woods and we took notice of his success this season as he challenged for championship points in the EX series one week and then lined up with the best MX racers in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship the next. That’s the type of versatility we were after!

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Take a look at the project Honda in action with our 2011 Honda CRF250R Project Bike Wrap Up Video.

Alan Stillwell is the man behind the sticks and he chatted with us about our riding goals for the CRF250R. His experience with the Showas has him convinced that there’s plenty of performance within the stock valving for most riders. Instead of talking us into a high-dollar custom setup, he recommended starting off by dialing in spring weight, oil height and sag settings. The first order was to fill out a Rider Info Form which takes into account the rider’s physical stats, skill level, terrain and even the type of gear they ride with.

Stillwell Performance installed a heavier spring rate in the fork (0.46 kg/mm vs. 0.45 kg/mm) with 5mm of sag to help keep the fork up in its stroke. All fork fluid was drained, including the cartridge fluid, and replaced with Maxima 85-150 fork fluid (5WT). Outer fork volume is 350cc. While he was freshening things up, he installed a new fork seal to fix the leak. The shock was left alone with suggested sag of 103mm, and he provided starting points for compression and rebound at both ends.

We were immediately happy with the fork. The stiffer spring helps keep the front end from packing down and the result is less deflection. The fork oil settings also seem to help keep the front tire following the contour of the ground with improved rebound control. We have no problems with bottoming the 48mm Showa. Out back the suspension works well, but with the improved feel up front it feels like the shock needs more attention. Our testers are over 200 pounds with full gear and they noticed bottoming, especially toward the end of longer outings such as a WORCS race.

Stillwell Performance perked up the front end with stiffer springs and lighter fork fluid.

The beauty of the suspension mods is that they can easily be performed during a regular fork or shock maintenance. When the time comes for a freshen-up, check with Stillwell Performance to see if your bike can benefit from a spring change and alternate oil heights/weights. If needed, full custom revalves are available. 

Fasst Co. Flexx Handlebars
MSRP: $349.99
While we were waiting for the fork to come back, we installed a set of Flexx handlebars with 12-degree Moto bend – the comparable offering for the stock CRF250R Renthal bar. All Moto bars are 32-inches wide but there is an Enduro version which is 31 inches and they can be purchased in a variety of bends and sweeps. Flexx bars require oversized clamps so we used the ProTaper Universal Bar Mount kit. These accept the bigger diameter and also raise the bars which allowed us to get the standard Moto bars rather than a High option.

These unique bars have different polymer inserts to allow varying amount of bump absorption. Changing between soft, medium, firm and rigid only takes a single bolt and it can be done with the bars mounted in place. This makes it great for trying different settings out at the track or adapting to changing ground conditions between the first and second moto of the day. We’ve heard that some riders struggle to get used to the sensation but both of our riders started with the softest setting and had no problems. Having a small amount of give spares the rider from sharp impacts. Off-road they are working constantly with rocks, roots, trees and holes, and they’re equally impressive on a motocross track where square-edges, braking chop and jumps are the norm. During a WORCS race at Washougal Motocross Park, the off-road course was full of silt which hid one or two main ruts. Not being able to see the rut means the rider has to feel the edge as the tire comes into contact. We had the soft inserts installed and they gave a vague feeling in this scenario which made it more challenging. This was the only time we weren’t in love with the bars.

The Flexx bars immediately impressed us and we can’t imagine anyone not wanting a set of their own. The amount of abuse they take out of the equation is phenomenal, saving wear and tear on wrists and shoulders. The only downside is that the crossbar makes mounting other accessories like hand guards a bit more challenging. We were forced to take off the Cycra Pro Bend Racer Pack initially, but Cycra does make a set of Flexx-compatible mounts. Fasst Co. also offers different crossbars to accommodate a steering damper. At $350 they are way more expensive than traditional handlebars, but they’re like having custom suspension work. They are also heavy, but the tradeoff is incredible strength and durability. In the event of crash damage, the entire bars need to be replaced for maximum safety. Fasst offers a warranty program that allows the original purchaser to ship in their damaged bars and purchase a replacement set at half price. Combined with the suspension changes, our Honda’s front end has a magic feel that lets us ride harder with greater control and less fatigue. 

Fasst Co. Flexx handlebars are magnificent. The inserts are interchangeable and offer different levels of rigidity depending on terrain and rider preference. They require oversized bar clamps and we combined them with Scott dual-density grips for extra comfort.

Scott Deuce MX Grips
MSRP: $12.95
Our bars needed grips so we slipped on a set of Scott Deuce MX hand grips to provide extra comfort. Our riders liked the Red/Grey half-waffle design and dual density. The half-waffle portion is medium density for longer durability while the palm section is soft density for less vibration. We had dirty hands during installation and used some contact cleaner on a rag to clean grease off of the grey section. The adhesive that holds the two rubbers together started to come apart instantly, but it did not continue to degrade under hard use. We triple-wired it to make sure. The cushion is comfortable but comes with a price. The grips are thicker than stock and some testers did not like the extra size. They claim it led to increased arm pump while other testers didn’t mind at all. The grips came with padded donuts for extra cushion. 

Getting cool air to the engine is important, especially in hot temps or mud races where the radiators get blocked.

Cycra Powerflow Intake Race System
MSRP: $139.95
A set of Cycra Powerflow radiator shrouds and vented front fender keep the engine running cooler. Water-cooled motorcycles use the radiator to cool the engine internally, but heat dissipation from the engine itself is an important issue. There’s a large amount of heat that comes off the engine and exhaust which is why riders wrap certain components in heat tape or reflective materials. Typically the air that is supposed to pull heat off the engine has already passed through, and been heated by, the radiator. The Powerflow radiator shrouds use Bypass Airflow Technology which draws cool air around the radiator and channels it onto the engine for better cooling. The Cycralite front fender is claimed to allow 33% more airflow. It isn’t uncommon to see these components used on top-level factory racers. The deeper red and new, shiny finish helped refresh our used Honda and was a much better starting point for installing a graphics kit. The fit is perfect but the shape is a tad different than the stock plastic, which required extra use of the heat gun to make the decals fit. 

Illusion Grafix
MSRP: $200
The new plastics were a perfect canvas for a set of custom MotoUSA decals from Illusion Grafix. This relatively new company is based out of Southern Oregon and we ordered a full set of decals which includes shrouds, front and rear fenders, fork guards, swingarm, airbox and three number plates. Trim kits are also available which do not use include number plates. The preprinted backgrounds can be purchased separately as well.

Installation required the use of a heat gun but we were happy to find that the edges stayed secure after cooling. If stretched during application, often they will ruffle and this is where water and dirt starts to work its way underneath, but the IGFX stayed put. The material is thick and durable and held up to months of riding. The only area that suffered was the airbox decals. One of our test riders is particularly hard on this area and peels off every set he comes into contact with, so it’s not a knock on IGFX. Overall they have held up extremely well. 

EBC X-Series Carbon Graphite Brake Pads

Illusion Grafix set us up with a custom decal kit.
We had to stretch it a little to make it fit on the
Cycra plastic, but it has been very durable.

MSRP: $28.95-33.95
Brake pads are a regular wear items and ours were toast after about 30-35 hours (remember our hour meter went kaput at the 25-hour mark due to a crushed wire). We replaced the stockers with EBC X-Series Carbon Graphite pads. While we were at it the systems were flushed and filled with Motorex DOT4 brake fluid. We gave the pads a chance to bed in and bled front and rear. Right from the beginning these did not provide the same level of feel as the original pads. Initial bite is less aggressive and overall power is decreased as well. It takes a harder squeeze on the front lever to get the bike slowed down. On the plus side, the EBC pads are much more durable. We used them a few times in the mud before switching to summer temps and they have had excellent wear. They are also not the most expensive pads available, so riders on a budget will appreciate the low wallet impact and infrequent replacements.

Stock Fuel Tank
MSRP: $0
Following a two-day instructional school at the Shane Watts Dirt Wise School, we washed the CRF and stored it in the garage as usual. The next day all of the fuel had drained onto the engine and floor. We cleaned the mess and poked around, eventually deciding it was coming from the fuel pump connection, possibly due to grit getting inside. The leaking stopped and we rode it again, only to have the problem resurface. We discovered that three of the six threaded inserts that mount the fuel pump base plate were spinning in the plastic tank. They were very reluctant to come out and we eventually had to grind them off in order to get the pump out. Switching to the stock tank wasn’t a horrible thing. We had plenty of fuel for the hour-long WORCS races, but an enduro, GP, GNCC or just a long trail ride would benefit from the larger tank.

The CRF250R has been returned to Honda since the new model is now available. Read more details about the updated bike in our 2012 Honda CRF250R First Ride. The biggest benefit of our testing with this dirt bike was discovering the benefits of basic suspension modification. Modern dirt bikes have such good suspension in stock form, often it doesn’t require big investments to make it work properly. Also, the Flexx bars themselves are like custom fork tailoring. Overall our 2011 has been a solid workhorse in multiple riding disciplines. Keeping it in good working order only required minor and simple regular maintenance.

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