2012 Honda CRF250X Project Bike Part 2

August 2, 2012
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.

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Check out the details on our latest group of MSR upgrades in the 2012 Honda CRF250X Project Bike Update Video.

The idea behind this project bike is to build on the characteristics of the 2012 Honda CRF250X. Instead of transforming it into a high-speed racer with big engine builds, or even free-flowing exhaust pipes, we decided to keep the CRF as a competent, fun and quiet trail bike. The bike is also one of the most affordable enduro motorcycles available from a showroom floor. That being the case, we utilized MSR’s Hard Parts catalog to find inexpensive upgrades to increase durability and rideability.

Our first batch of products to come from MSR should have been enough to tide us over in the 2012 Honda CRF250X Project Part 1. We installed new Dominator handlebars, ProTaper pillow top grips, grip levers, skid plate, radiator bracesfront sprocket and an Applied Racing block-off kit. We also picked up a set of hand guards but once they showed up we discovered a mounting snafu on the controls and had to put off a portion of the testing. We’ve made the necessary changes to accommodate new testing and have found the need for more tunability with the changing climate conditions. 

The MSR Evolution hand guards protect against crashing and debris.
Switching to a straight bar was no problem for us. The MSR Evolution system is affordable, easy to mount and very rigid.

MSR Evolution Hand Guards and Clamps – $67.95
Like we mentioned in Part 1, the Evolution hand guards will not mount to the MSR aluminum handlebars; the crossbar bracket is in the way. However, they are designed to fit on ProTaper, Magura, TAG and Renthal bars. The aluminum guards can be ordered to fit 7/8-inch bars or oversized 1-1/8th. We opted for the standard size and went back to Renthal bars. The Evolution is a straight bend around the controls which means there’s no contour to allow the hand in and out easier. However, there is a beveled edge that makes it a smoother transition. We never had any problems with the straight bar though we know of some riders who refuse to use them. The mounting clamps are curved which makes room for the brake lines and cables. We were able to position the bars at exactly the desired height, so fitment is excellent. Compared to the Cycra guards we installed with the incompatible MSR handlebar, the Evolution setup is nearly half the cost. The MSR guards’ performance is much greater than its budget price, making this a sweet value. 

Adding the MSR Evolution hand shields is a smart move for off-road riders.
Adding the Evolution hand shields improves the coverage against roost, brush and water. Adding a bead of  silicone is a good tip for all hand guards.

MSR Evolution Hand Shields – $24.95
MSR makes a specific hand shield to go with the Evolution Hand Guards. The Evolution Hand Shields are constructed of very durable plastic. They have resisted small crashes so far and refuse to flex against even the most stubborn manzanita bushes and other overhanging trail garbage. A full line of colors are available to match your bike, but we decided to keep with the black motif. Coverage is adequate without being obtrusive, protecting the levers from being snagged and wet brush from soaking the rider’s hands. Water will get by eventually, but MSR offers large hand shields for truly nasty conditions. There is a rubber insert included on the lower half of the shield, though I can’t see any advantages that it provides.

Mounting hardware consists of four screws and a pair of brackets that connect it to the aluminum bar. The instructions suggested using a bead of silicone to help secure it (though there is none included in the package), which proved to be an awesome tip. Vibrations don’t loosen the screws and there’s no rattling. I’ll be doing this to all hand guards from now on. The cheap price and excellent performance have made this a great product that I don’t hesitate to recommend. 

MSR Fuel Mixture Screw – $19.95
The CRF250X isn’t exactly crisp-running. It’s not unrideable by any means, but the stock configuration has a very restrictive exhaust coupled with a tangle of emission controls and a carburetor. We had already taken off the smog equipment and replaced it with the block-off kit, shaving weight and eliminating the first step in the jetting conundrum. I’m not the type of guy who loves tinkering with carbs. They’re not so bad in a 2-stroke where you can actually get hands on them, but the Keihin stuffed between the Honda’s aluminum chassis and Unicam engine is stubborn as a mule.

We pulled the stock fuel mixture screw  shown  and replaced it with an adjustable MSR fuel mixture screw.
The MSR fuel mixture screw allows the rider to make on-the-trail adjustments.
The stock fuel mixture screw (top) is impossible to access without a special tool. We made it hand-adjustable by switching to a MSR fuel mixture screw (above).

Getting to the fuel mixture screw is a major pain. It takes a special tool or some diligent effort on the rider’s part. But, it’s one of the circuits that can easily make a difference in how the engine runs, particularly on the bottom of the rev range. The Honda has always had a lull off the bottom which we’ve mostly ridden around and cheated with a smaller countershaft sprocket. The MSR fuel mixture screw helps give the rider some control over carb tuning.

Made from 6061-T6 aluminum, the mixture screw is designed to work with 4-stroke Keihin FCR carburetors. It replaces the stock screw and is simply a bit longer with a knurled end that can be gripped by fingers. This lets a rider twist away to get the bike running well. We felt the benefits as well on a ride that took us to higher elevations where we could play with it without having to bust out the fanny pack and four-letter vocabulary. Initial installation is difficult, but the screw comes with the necessary spring, washer and O-ring so the stockers don’t need to be recycled (keep them as spares). Getting the bottom end a little stronger was a major victory, but now we can feel a big taper in the midrange, so the carb gurus out there still have ghosts to chase. As for us, we like the ability to make small changes but still find ourselves riding around delivery flaws. After all, it’s a trail bike that we want to thrash, not a fancy-schmancy, high-strung racer. For 20 bucks the fuel mixture screw is a great place to start and it’s not as intimidating as gutting the whole carb.

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Take a lap around the X-treme Indoor Enduro at the controls of our 2012 Honda CRF250X Project Bike.

The MSR Hard Parts catalog was a place we hadn’t spent much time before, but it proved to be a handy resource for the project Honda. All of the components we sourced are very affordable and it saved us time and headache by getting everything in one place. The handlebars installed in Part 1 are a little cheap, but everything else has been ultra-durable. We’re still bashing the skidplate, dropping it on the radiator braces and bouncing off trees, but nothing has come loose or broken. That’s exactly what we want out of the Honda and it will continue to give us low-maintenance performance for even longer than the stock bike.