Honda’s CRF250R has always been a great handling bike, but in the 250F class riders crave as much power as possible, a department that Honda has struggled with for a while. For 2016 Big Red made a number of changes to the 250 engine, looking to resurrect hidden horsepower, while also revising suspension components.
Visually the 2016 CRF250R engine looks much the same as the 2015, but internal changes were about making more power, increasing rpms and improving reliability. A lot of little revisions and tweaks can add up to a substantial change, and this is exactly what Honda has accomplished for 2016. The revised Honda CRF250R engine is strong off idle, pulls well through the mid-range and continues to put out stronger power all the way to the increased rev limiter. The CRF is two horsepower stronger than last year’s engine, with the increase coming in the upper rpm range. Thankfully Honda was able to increase top-end power without sacrificing bottom and mid. In 2015 Honda wasn’t the fastest bike in the 250F class, in fact, it was one of the slowest, but a great handling chassis helped make up for the engine’s lack of power. This year riders will be much more satisfied with the Honda engine, enjoying the higher rev limiter and increased power. The difference on the track is night and day, confirming Honda made good engine change decisions.
Switching between engine maps is quick and easy thanks to the CRF’s engine mode select button located on the handlebars. The CRF features three preset maps, with mapping selection indicated through blinks from the blue LED in the button itself. Almost all testers preferred the aggressive map three, which doesn’t increase power but improves throttle response and makes the engine feel crisper.
Overall the 2016 Honda has a very comfortable and balanced feel. It’s plush and forgiving while still holding up well in the bigger bumps and hard landings. The revised Showa TAC air fork works well on the CRF250R and are improved this year, providing a plusher ride than before. The Showa TAC air fork on the CRF250R doesn’t feel like a typical air fork, which is part of the reason why we like it.
Cornering prowess is what the Honda CRF250R is known for, and, thankfully, that didn’t change in 2016. Subtle revisions to the suspension retain the CRF’s balance and, as always, the Honda remains a very easy bike to get along with for all skill levels, especially when the track gets rough. The CRF is at home railing ruts or carving a nice arc in a flat corner. Some testers felt busyness and nervousness at high speeds, but with the now 5mm longer fork legs, riders have the option to slide the forks down in the triple clamps, increasing overall stability. The Honda steering damper can also be adjusted to help curb some of the headshake issues.