2013 Honda CRF250R First Ride

August 28, 2012
Frankie Garcia
Frankie Garcia
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Competing in every discipline of motorcycle racing possible, when he isn't mastering his skill of social networking, the new kid will do just about anything to throw his leg over a bike and ride it until he simply cannot hold on anymore.

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Watch the revamped CRF250 in action at Elsinore MX in MotoUSA’s 2013 Honda CRF250R First Ride Video.

Honda has had great success with its CRF250R in the Monster Energy Supercross Lites and Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships. The Big Red Machine concluded this year’s Supercross season with two Lites titles as Justin Barcia claimed the East Championship while Eli Tomac earned the West Coast crown, both aboard Factory Connection Geico Honda CRF250Rs. The teammates would the go on to secure the top two spots in the Las Vegas Lites Shootout and are currently running second and third in the Outdoor Championships. Even with all the success Honda continues to push its CRF250R forward to stay ahead of the competition for 2013.

Unlike the major revamp Honda gave its bigger brother, the 2013 Honda CRF450, the 250 receives only a few key changes for the new model year. The last major CRF250 overhaul came in 2010, and it has benefited from incremental updates every year since. Last year’s model received an array of refinements to the frame, a new linkage, new shim stack in the front suspension, wider footpegs and Dunlop MX51 tires. (Read all about it in the 2012 Honda CRF250R First Ride.) For 2013 Honda refines the suspension even further and has modified the fuel injection settings. The end result is one of the best CRF250Rs we’ve ever ridden.

For 2013 Honda received a new front disc guard and went back to the old style way of mounting it. The bike also got a new generation Dunlop MX51 front tire.
...so we kept on doing it all day long.
(Top) The 2013 Honda CRF250R had plenty of traction at Elsinore MX Park, especially with the new Dunlop Geomax MX51 tires. (Middle) Honda has gone back to the old-school ways of mounting the disc guard with two bolts on the fork bottom. (Bottom) The bike is just as easy to throw around in the air as it is on the ground.

MotoUSA was invited out to Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park to test the 2013 Honda CRF250R. Before heading to the track we met up with the Honda guys at Factory Connection Racing for an overview of the bike and a tour of the facility. After checking out Kevin Windham’s race bikes and learning how the team functions it was time to head to the track to do my best impression of K-Dub aboard the revised CRF.

Immediate thoughts after throwing a leg over the bike are how comfortable you feel from the moment you sit on the cushy seat and place your hands on the grips. As always, the Honda’s ergonomics are spot on. Riders can easily hop on and feel comfortable within the first lap.

The biggest performance enhancement for 2013 was made to the front suspension. The fork now features a larger diameter 37mm sub-piston that has been increased from last year’s 35mm for improved handling. New damping circuitry as well as stiffer rate springs have been applied to the front and rear suspension for added traction and improved handling.

All of these suspension updates are most noticeable in the corners where in previous years we noticed the soft suspension of the CRF would wallow when aggressively thrown into a rut or soft turn. This often would result in a loss of momentum and a troubled corner exit that increased lap times. The stiffer settings eliminate this problem allowing for a more optimized flow through turns, making the red machine even more agile.

The updated suspension also makes for smoother corner entry. Rather than falling in between braking bumps, the stiffer settings allow for the CRF to ride atop the bumps and holes. The new settings also aid in keeping the fork and shock mid-stroke when braking heavily into corners, reducing any kind of dive. Between the updated suspension and Honda’s Progressive Steering Damper we experienced close to zero headshake or bucking throughout a day of riding at Elsinore Motocross Park. Thanks to these new settings we are able to see a clear improvement over last year’s handling characteristics.

Although the brakes have not been changed, they are butter smooth and offer massive amounts of stopping power. Changes to the braking package for 2013 are purely cosmetic, with a new front disc guard that has gone back to the old style two bolt mounting system rather than being mounted to the front wheel spacer. The rear disc guard was slightly changed to match the new styling aspects of the front. 

Although the liquid-cooled four-valve Unicam 249cc engine is unchanged for 2013, you might recall that a new cylinder and camshaft along with a

(Top) We can’t stress enough about how agile and easy to ride the 2013 Honda CRF250R is. (Bottom) New fuel injection settings really gave the bike the bottom end hit it was missing when exiting corners.

smaller 46mm throttle body were updates on last year’s model. A recalibrated fuel injection setting, however, gives the ’13 engine a bigger hit and improves throttle response off the bottom and up into the mid-range power delivery. The new FI settings combined with the improved suspension enables riders to flow through corners with ease. We felt that the changes together made huge improvement over last year’s 250R. Like I stated earlier, the suspension keeps the bike from packing into corners while the new FI settings give the bike added grunt for a better drive out of the turn. On the negetive side, we do notice a difficulty starting the bike when hot, not something we remember from last year.

Last, but not least, a new generation Dunlop Geomax MX51FA front and Honda CRF250R specific MX51 rear tires have been added to the mix. Honda claims the new rear tire is 0.9 pounds lighter than the MX51 used for 2012, that’s less mass that the engine has to spin around. I was never a fan of the Dunlop tires used on the last 250R but these new Geomax offer a noticable improvement in traction and feel which turns out to be a minor change that pays huge dividends.

Overall we are pleased to report that the 2013 Honda CRF250R is even better than it was last year. Priced at $7420 (same as 2012), Honda has once again taken a dirt bike that was already good and made it even better. Our only complaint is after a long day of riding we do notice the grips to be a tad bit on the hard side, but that’s nothing a set up soft compound Renthal grips can’t fix. With its smoother power delivery providing more bottom end and mid-range, improved suspension settings and more tractable Dunlop MX51 tires, the 2013 Honda CRF250 is going to be a force to be reckoned with in our 2013 250 Motocross Shootout.

2013 Honda CRF250R Highs & Lows
  • Strong bottom end   
  • Fantastic brakes
  • Very precise throttle response 
  • Needs an updated appearance 
  • Grips are hard
  • Difficult to start when hot

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