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2006 CRF250R Project Bike Part II

Wednesday, October 4, 2006
Cruising on mountain roads can get butt-numbing on a motocross seat. Standing up helps eliminate that and our raised bars made that more comfortable for long distances.
Our 2006 CRF250R's transformation from whoop-wheelying to bridge hopping involved another wave of aftermarket upgrades that kept our bike progressing in leaps and bounds.
Now that the 2007 machines (and even a few '08s) have been unveiled, you're certainly salivating over the many options coming soon to a dealer near you. While anguishing over the enormity of your purchasing decision, your bike sits alone, longing for a gentle stroke of the kickstarter and an affectionate twist of the throttle.

Everyone wants a new bike with all the latest and greatest technology, but we know that isn't a realistic scenario for most people. For this reason we threw a few aftermarket accessories onto our trusty 2006 CRF250R. We figured that people are going to be modifying their machines anyway, so we took ours in the direction of an off-road utilitarian with the goal of creating a do-all machine at a reasonable price.

Right away we chalked up some standard off-road fare to give our motocrosser a more natural feel in the woods. You can read all about the specifics of it in our first installment, but basically we raised a set of oversized Renthal bars and added some pimpin' protection with ASV anodized levers and Acerbis Multiplo Enduro handguards. We also spiced things up with a new set of custom MotoUSA decals from TSS Graphics.

Mere aesthetics weren't enough to complete our transformation which required some performance adjustments. Tuning the suspension specifically for woods riding and cleaning up the jetting was first on our list. Additionally, we hoped to coax a bit more than the 35.8 ponies we pulled from the dyno during our MX shootout. For simplicity and affordability, we elected to stay away from time-consuming internal modifications on any of the bike's components, be it motor or suspension. That being said, here's how we worked around our self-imposed limitations.

Shipping off our Showas for a complete re-valve and personalized massage didn't really fit into our goal of a budget-minded project. Besides, to get the most out of an expensive suspension job we would have needed to decide whether MX or off-road would be our primary riding application. Our innate noncommittal tendencies as men and our love for both riding forms made choosing one over the other impossible.

Our simple suspension adjustments proved adequate for moderate off-road use. If someone wanted to make this bike a full-blown GNCC racer then internal modification would be necessary  but four our bipolar weekend steed  its ability to suit different needs by twisting clickers was impressive.
Our simple suspension adjustments proved adequate for moderate off-road use. If someone wanted to make this bike a full-blown GNCC racer then internal modification would be necessary, but four our bipolar weekend steed, its ability to suit different needs by twisting clickers was impressive.
To shed some light on our situation we called our good buddy Tom Watson over at Watson Performance to see if he could recommend an appropriate action. Though an accomplished engine builder, Watson's specialty is suspension tuning, and hailing from the Northwest he's well versed in dealing with this particular sticky wicket. After explaining our intentions, Watson was quick to point out that the stock suspension components could offer a wide range of use with the proper application of a flat-head screwdriver. With an initial list of recommended settings, we twisted the clickers and made weekend plans with strict orders to call again if there were any problems. We haven't talked to him since.

The first thing we did was set the shock preload to 107mm, slightly more than a standard motocross setup which typically ranges up to 105mm, in order to ease the initial movement. Concerns about minimizing the super-precise steering so desirable on the MX track were outweighed by the added plushness and the fact that off-road riding can get away with a tad less. Low-speed compression was softened to 14 clicks and the high-speed knob was opened fully.

"If you're taking a motocross bike to the woods, that thing (high-speed compression adjuster) is probably going to work better dialed out," Watson assures. "It will allow for rock or root impacts to bleed more efficiently."

We softened the fork all the way down to 15 clicks, seven more than stock, and went from nine to 11 notches on the rebound. It took a little while to get used to our new handling characteristics which were slower but much plusher on trail debris. Having become accustomed to the moto settings, the fork seemed mushy at first but we soon realized that the softness and decreased rebound allowed the front end to absorb rocks and roots and get back into contact with the trail better than before. We enjoyed a lot less deflection and increased traction on the front end which ultimately allowed us to ride longer and faster.

Pirelli’s MT450 rear tire was better suited to our needs than the matching front. Our local area has plenty of terrain suited to the intermediate hard performance offered by the meat.
Pirelli's MT450 rear tire was better suited to our needs than the matching front. Our local area has plenty of terrain suited to the intermediate/hard performance offered by the meat.
Even though we found great success with the stock Showa components, Watson reminds us that if we wanted to take the bike further it certainly is possible.

"You're pretty much limited by the internal valving of the bike," he says. "Internally, there's a bunch of stuff you can do in there to make it better. You're going to be over-valved on a motocross bike for the woods if you aren't going to open the bike up and dial it in."

An additional aid in the traction department came from a new set of Pirelli tires. After surviving our MX testing and early off-road use, the stock Dunlops were showing their age. We replaced them with a matching set of MT450 treads from Pirelli. A slightly wider 110/90-19 was spooned on the rear for some extra rut-clawing traction. Besides, plenty of factory support teams are running the larger tire on their MX race bikes so we weren't too worried about the additional weight and stress on the motor.

Our local riding area is covered largely by decomposed granite, and we utilize dirt and gravel roads to connect all of our trails. Although the intermediate/hard terrain MT450s suffered slightly in muddy sections, they made up for it with increased performance on the roads and those sides of the mountain with lots of decomposed granite. The rear was much more accommodating than the front in slippery goo so we would have liked to have sourced a more appropriate 21-inch meat like the tried-and-trued Dunlop 756 which we commonly use for our varying terrain. Overall, the tire swap was a good move, and with the air pressure dropped to 10-11 pounds in the rear and 11-13 in the front, we were able to mimic the generally taller, spongier off-road tires to a certain degree.

Not only was Oregon's spontaneous rain and droopy temperatures causing a variety of riding conditions, the inclement weather worsened an existing bottom-end hiccup in the 250R's motor. The first thing we did was get on the horn with Honda's go-to guy, Eric Crippa, to see what he would do in our muddy shoes. A 20-minute conversation and 20-hour wait was all it took to receive an alternate jetting kit for a few factory-recommended air/fuel settings.

Leo Vince’s X3 exhaust is simply beautiful. It was easily the defining piece of our project  and the most expensive.
Leo Vince's X3 exhaust is simply beautiful. It was easily the defining piece of our project, and the most expensive.
Before tearing into the carb and examining the results, we had one more item that needed to arrive before engaging in before-and-after dyno testing. Since we had managed to do everything on the cheap, we decided to splurge a little for an exhaust upgrade. We could have found a less expensive unit than our $1,368 full-titanium/carbon fiber Leo Vince X3 dual exhaust, but we didn't. The dual-muffler unit is absolutely stunning. The top-notch materials and craftsmanship were everything we expected and more. Our little Honda had lost a step or two since the last time we dynoed it. A few months of constant use will do that, but our stock bike was pumping out just over 32 ponies when we strapped it to the Dynojet at Hansen's Motorcycles. You can read the complete Leo Vince product review here, but basically we received about 1.5 additional horsepower from the full-system pipe, a gain of nearly 10%.

An entire afternoon of swapping pipes and main, pilot and needle jets in a number of different configurations finally churned out the top horsepower figure. The results were noticeable from the cockpit and easily defined on our dyno graph. Overall, power was up to 33 hp and the improvement was across the powerband save for a small plateau around 5500 rpm.

We utilized the same jetting for the best results on our Leo Vince system which bumped the power curve even higher. Torque figures jumped slightly more than 2 lb-ft to 18.2, while horsepower maxed out at 34.5 with the biggest gains coming in the upper revs. Given the nature of small-bore machines to get worked at high-rpm, this didn't come as any surprise. Riding the bike with the improved engine characteristics was a pure blast with such a catching exhaust note and the usefulness of those few extra ponies. Also included in the Leo Vince kit was a pair of spark arrestor screens which are easily removable; perfect for our dual-purpose project.

Now that we were going faster and farther on our red Thumper, we added one final touch to the control department to keep track of our progress. Trail Tech sent one of its 18-function Endurance computers which gave us plenty of information to digest. Installing the TT computer was simple. All we had to do was buy the appropriate sized drill bit and follow the instructions. The unit uses a magnetic bolt that replaces one of the standard front brake rotor fasteners. By counting the revolutions of the wheel and computing it against a programmable wheel diameter, our Trail Tech computer generates running, average and top speed, trip and accumulated ride time, an odometer, programmable maintenance schedules and a clock displayed on four digital screens.
Our jetting changes really helped the motor come alive. Even more important to us than the extra horsepower was the increased throttle response that is crucial to riding small-bore machines.
Our jetting changes really helped the motor come alive. Even more important to us than the extra horsepower was the increased throttle response that is crucial to riding small-bore machines.

With so many features available we had a tough time remembering all the button combinations to generate the individual readouts. Constantly screwing up the settings had us frustrated and re-entering all the basic data rather than keeping track of our enduro stats. We finally realized that Trail Tech has included a quick-reference sticker on the back of the computer to avoid what is apparently a common user-problem. All a rider needs to do is pop the unit out of its holder and flip it over to access the key. Sheer brilliance.

Fortunately for us, we're in the enviable position where new bikes are going to be accessible for our riding pleasure. However, we don't get to keep them forever, and all of us have our own personal bikes which have permanent residence in our garages. We're motorcycle nuts just like anyone else, but that doesn't mean we have a different colored machine for each day of the week.

The results of our CRF250R project bike pleased us with the effectiveness, cost and ease of maintenance. For just over two grand we were able to create a bike that can hit the motocross track on Saturday and the single track on Sunday with about 10 minutes of wrenching in between. We didn't have to wait for engine builders and suspension gurus to work their magic, though it would have certainly produced significantly higher performance gains.

Our list of changes was an inexpensive and fast do-it-yourself schedule that sacrificed nothing in terms of reliability. While our project certainly isn't the answer to everybody's situation, hopefully it helps ease your bike-buying stress and gets a few extra miles out of that two-wheeler you already own.
Once our work was complete in the shop  the fruits of our labor were ripe for the picking. Not only was our bike better suited to off-roading  but the modifications also offer gains on the MX track while bolstering its appearance  sound and the all-important fun-factor.
Once our work was complete in the shop, the fruits of our labor were ripe for the picking. Not only was our bike better suited to off-roading, but the modifications also offer gains on the MX track while bolstering its appearance, sound and the all-important fun-factor.

2006 CRF250R Parts List with MSRP:
Renthal Fatbars - $89.99
Renthal Soft-compound Grips - $12.99
Fly Racing Oversized Bar Mounts - $46.95
ASV F-3 Series Pro Model Clutch lever - $135.00
ASV F-3 Series Universal Front Brake lever - $70.00
ASV F-3 Series Rotator Clamp - $25.00
Acerbis Multiplo Enduro Handguards - $99.95
Multiplo Mounting Kit - $31.95
TSS Custom Graphics - $239.85
Pirelli MT450 Rear - $97.99
Pirelli MT450 Front - $81.99
Trail Tech Endurance Computer - $79.95
Leo Vince X3 Dual Exhaust - $1,368.00
Total - $2,380.61


Finding yourself with a multi-bike conundrum? Share your thoughts on changing things up in the forum.

(Reach Watson Performance to discuss your suspension needs at 541-386-6911)
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Comments
Tampa Pat -Loved this article  May 13, 2010 05:51 PM
This was one of the most useful articles that I've read. I love that you gave me something that I can realistically do with my bike, and that I can afford to do in steps. This helps readers like me so much. Thanks!! Pat