These two trusty steeds are often overlooked in favor of the latest and greatest, but they shouldn’t be swept aside.
High-horsepower motocross bikes, burly off-road weapons, razor-sharp racers… These are the bikes we’ve been conditioned to lust over, to need. While the big performers grab headlines and promotion from the manufacturers, there are a host of less “impressive” models that can be just as fun to ride, and even more effective in the right setting. It’s been too long since MotoUSA experienced the riding enjoyment that comes with 250cc off-road bikes. Honda and Yamaha are the only Japanese brands with offerings in this market segment with the CRF250X and WR250F, respectively. Both companies are bringing the 250F enduros into the United States as a 2012 model, so we decided to revisit the original modern four-stroke play bikes.
Perhaps the best thing about these two bikes is that they can provide fun for any level of rider. We call them play bikes because they’re not designed as hard-core racers. They also provide a lot of performance, so these aren’t complete entry-level bikes. Yamaha has the TT-R lineup and Honda makes a series of CRF-F machines that are for total newbies. These two bikes are some of the easiest machines for someone to break into the world of full-size enduros. Also, experienced riders will be plenty entertained without having to wrestle with big power or weight. Both bikes are carbureted and come as 50-state legal off-road bikes. That means they adhere to the most stringent emission standards and come from the dealer with a green sticker for California use. The Yamaha and Honda are known for their durability and rider-friendly power.
The last time Honda imported the CRF250X as a new model was in 2009. As the economy sank, dealers were left with plenty of bikes waiting for a good home. There was enough of a surplus to keep Honda from importing any more of its smallest X-model until now. Finally, the demand has brought another shipment. That’s good news, but it doesn’t bring a lot of big news. The 2012 CRF250X is unchanged from the 2009 model except for a set of updated graphics to bring it in line with the current crop of Honda motocross bikes. It uses Honda’s proprietary Unicam single-cylinder engine with electric start and comfortable Showa suspension. A headlight, kickstand easy access air filter are all features that lend to its everyday appeal for trail riders.
Yamaha has kept its WR250F updated over the years, though not any more extensively than the Honda. Yearly aesthetic updates have been the highlights. Tuning-fork engineers gave the WR an aluminum chassis of its own based on YZ technology, which is much different than the CRF’s alloy frame. It uses a five-valve single-cylinder engine and makes use of Kayaba suspension. It also has easy maintenance features, electric start, kickstand, lights and a class-leading enduro computer.
We took the quarter-liter enduros for a ride through the rocky terrain of Southern Utah. From there we headed into Southern California for off-road riding through the mountains and sand washes, along with a private EnduroCross track. Next it was a trip north to our headquarters in Southern Oregon where the two play bikes have been put to use constantly on our wooded trails. Through it all, these bikes have been proving their capabilities and impressing our wide array of test riders. MotoUSA’s regular dirt riders including Associate Editor Justin Dawes took his turn at the controls along with Editorial Director Ken Hutchison and me as the author. We also had a professional extreme enduro rider sample both dirt bikes as well as a novice rider and female test pilot to get a wide spectrum of opinions. Let’s take a look at how these two long-standing trail favorites stack up.