In its full glory, our project CRF250R was a sweet ride. For this first installment, we'll walk you through some of the basics of turning a motocross bike into a woods weapon.
How many bikes are in your garage compared to how many would you like to have? Chances are, the average motorcycle enthusiast only has one or two bikes, and if you ride dirt and street, that probably isn't enough to meet the needs of the range of full moto experiences.
There isn't a bike built that can truly do it all. Some may come close, but different kinds of riding terrain requires different machines. The 2006 CRF250R in the MotoUSA garage worked well on the motocross track, and we decided to see if we could turn it into a woods weapon with the addition of a few aftermarket goodies.
Before you go running off to the dealership this autumn to trade your ride for the new 2007 models coming out, hold up a minute and put some thought into what you could do to your own bike to make it better suit your needs. We got a head start on the 2006 models with a CRF250R on loan from American Honda. We tortured it through our '06 250F MX Shootout
, but while the other bikes were being returned, we kept the CRF tucked away in our van and snuck it back to southern Oregon for a couple months of wet weather testing in the woods.
Back home at the MotoUSA garage, the CRF got put to use right away. Before bolting on any aftermarket parts, we took the bone stock, full-moto version and hit the trails. The preliminary testing gave us a reference point to compare against once the modifications started. One of the goals for our little project bike was to keep things simple and inexpensive. The whole reason that we don't each have a dozen bikes is because of the cost. Not only the price of purchasing them, but maintaining and upgrading them is sometimes equally or more expensive depending on how long you own the machine and how fanatical you are about aftermarket goodies.
What started as a competent MX bike would soon be subjected to off-road servitude. This bike was made to jump, so whenever we came across a chance to get airborne in the woods, we took it.
We know a ton of people who buy motocross bikes and run them in the woods. In fact, we know more of them than we do people who buy pure off-road machines. Judging from all of the past experiments by magazine editors and industry folk, it's easier to adapt a motocrosser to off-road use than vice-versa. The challenges of removing weight, stiffening suspension, boosting power and sharpening the handling of enduro machines is often too much to overcome for the average rider's bank account.
I believe it's safe to say that taking a stock enduro bike onto a motocross track is less fun than taking a stock motocrosser into the woods. Weekend moto warriors are more apt to take a physical beating at the hands of stiff suspension than off-roaders are to replace fork seals bimonthly. So, the performance capabilities and potential fun factor were the reasons for our going moto-to-enduro. Another goal of ours was to keep the modifications easily reversible for a simple maintenance schedule of our double-duty motorcycle.
While we waited for some of our more specific items to come through, the first thing we did was to bolt on some standard off-road fare. Renthal Fatbar handlebars were our first choice for an upgrade the controls department. Our previous experience with the bars has shown that they are not only extremely tough but look good as well. The 1-1/8-inch diameter, shot peened bar doesn't make use of a cross brace like some of the oversized bars available. By eliminating the crossbar it created a more spacious rider's compartment which would come in handy later.
A significant amount of work went into making the control department better suited to off-road riding. Handguards are a necessity and the rest of the add-ons helped with reliability and comfort.
The stock Renthal bars are the standard 7/8-inch which meant that our new Fatbar units wouldn't fit on the rubber-mounted studs. Instead of spending a heap of money on a new triple clamp, we picked up a set of Fly Racing
universal oversized bar mounts. The adapter takes the place of the top bar clamp and fits right into the existing 7/8-inch scoop. Recessed allen head bolts thread into the existing unit and keep everything in place. The bigger bars then sit on top of that and are clamped down by a new top clamp capable of housing the 1-1/8-inch bars. The whole package looks clean and is a quick and easy solution. Besides, if we had demolished the oversized bars, it would have been possible to simply remove the adapter and toss in the smaller-diameter stock bars as a backup. In addition to the inexpensive benefits, we also found that the Fly bar adapters made an improvement in the bike's performance.
Some people voice concern about bar raisers having negative effects on a bike's handling, but we experienced no such thing. In fact, we preferred riding with the Fly bar adapters because they made it easier to stand comfortably while riding. Standing is always necessary at some points during a ride, but long off-road trips can require a little extra time on your feet depending on the terrain and the level of monkey-butt you get from that thin, hard MX seat. The extra 3/4 of an inch makes a big difference, especially for long-legged riders who would normally have to bend over to reach the grips. What started out as a cheap and easy alternative to replacing our rubber-mounted bar mounts, offered a surprise benefit that was easily one of the best things about our project bike. For bikes that have the mounts cast into the upper triple clamp, this option is even more affordable when faced with purchasing a new upper TC.
Our riding schedule isn't intense enough to develop calloused man-hands, so our tender lady fingers require soft-compound grips which we borrowed from Renthal
. Even though they don't hold up well to crash damage and wear, we decided to go with them anyway because we already had plans to cut off the ends. Our razor-blade fury had a purpose, however, and that was to make way for a pair of Acerbis Multiplo Enduro handguards. The units prevent bashed knuckles with a curved aluminum bar that allows for lateral movement of the hand. Mounted to the front is a plastic wind/brush/water shield that is replaceable and matched our Honda with a red/black/silver color scheme. Since the mounting bracket comes separate, we made sure to get one that would handle our oversized bars.
Standing up on the little bike was made easier for tall riders by the Fly Racing universal bar mounts. Brian found that to be a surprisingly pleasant benefit for his 6-foot frame.
Punching trees is something we're not very fond of, but our favorite trails in southern Oregon have been winning the war against us unprotected motocrossers. With knuckle-swelling that makes a UFC fighter's fists look puny, we've learned and re-learned the value of aluminum handguards. The handguards not only saved our knuckles but also our bars, grips and levers every time we took a spill. Another cool thing about having aluminum guards, though we didn't take advantage of it, is the application to Supermoto racing. You'll want that aluminum when it comes time for a pavement high-side.
The plastic brush guards are a necessity as well, especially when riding in the cold-weather riding. Slapping wet branches and then dealing with the freezing wind chill on wet gloves can have a rider spending more time cursing the trail than shredding it.
offers different versions of the Multiplo guards, with Touring and Race versions that provide more and less coverage, respectively, than our happy-medium Enduro model. The Touring plastic is much taller for increased wind protection, while the Race style is a minimalist setup that blocks only enough brush and rear-wheel shrapnel to get you by. Our Enduro units were perfect for a weekend trail ride but would also be right at home on a WORCS or GNCC course any day. Without being too bulky, the Acerbis plastic provided ample protection from the elements and our buddies' mud-hole ambush tactics.
Dodging branches is a huge part of enduro riding. Not only do the Multiplo handguards do that, but they also cut down the effects of wind and water.
Finally, to add a bit more in the controls department, a set of red ASV F-3 Series levers
were bolted on. Needing a hot start for the little Thumper, we opted for the Pro Model clutch lever which offers a thumb-operated lever in addition to the rotating Pro Perch, forged 6061 aluminum construction, adjustable reach and burly quick adjustment knob. The universal front brake lever came in a matching red anodized and laser-etched design, but lacked the benefits of a rotating mount. As "unbreakable" as the levers may be, we've busted almost as many perches as we have levers, so the Rotator clamp was a quick fix to our crash-damage fears.
Let's Get It On Then
After everything was installed, it was time to see how our basic off-road setup conducted itself in the woods. Our stock bike had been fun to ride in full moto form, but the simple aftermarket changes made a huge difference in comfort, fun-factor and style. Though nothing fancy was done to actually make the bike faster, we were still able to pick up speed because of the new control layout. Being able to customize the levers to our hand size helped ease arm pump, which allowed us to ride longer without having to stop and deflate. We never really had to test exactly how unbreakable the ASV levers were because of the crash protection offered by the handguards.
The Acerbis units turned out to be a performance-enhancing mod while offering good looks and immediate off-road credibility. Bouncing off trees without the fear of broken fingers gave us the confidence to enter corners with more speed and practice our bob-and-weave through the single-track at a higher pace. The Fatbars were also capable of absorbing impacts without bending. However, we felt that the oversized bars gave up a bit in vibration and shock reduction, which unfortunately made our off-road ride a little stiff through the rocks and roots.
The addition of aftermarket components accomplished our goal of creating an initial buffer against the abuse of off-roading. As a result of our early adaptations, the CRF250R was more versatile, reliable and easy to ride. We ride bikes because it's fun, and all three newfound characteristics not only made us more capable of riding each weekend, but boosted our desire to as well.
Having fun is what riding is all about, and our project bike brought us more smiles after our initial changes than it did as a stocker. Not being confined to trackside boundaries is a hell of a lot more fun in our book.
With our initial testing raising our enthusiasm for the project to even higher levels, we wanted the bike to start looking like the mean machine we expected it to become.
In order to look the part, we arranged for a set of custom decals from TSS Graphics
. They don't increase the performance envelope by any measure, but we couldn't resist the urge to spice things up a little. Setting up a new graphics package was a way to help distinguish our MXer-turned-enduro from the rest of the bikes on the mountain. Besides, no one can argue that riding a sweet-looking bike doesn't make the whole experience a little better.
"That thing is a blast," said freshly-healed Don Becklin. "Man, that thing is fun!" A former professional road racer, Becklin had spent some time away from off-roading due to a nasty injury to his ribs, but I think it's safe to say that the 250R helped revitalize his enthusiasm for the dirt. Spending most of his time in the woods on his personal 2005 CRF250X, Donny B knows a little bit about what it's like to ride a small-bore Honda Thumper. It only took about five minutes of riding our lightly-modified project bike before his cheesy grin was firmly in place. His comment about the 250R having more power than his X version and something about the handling had barely escaped his helmet when he took off again, leaving the rest of us scrambling to catch up.
The CRF250R's moto roots were quite evident to our testers, but our goal wasn't to eliminate them altogether. Brian made it perfectly clear that having some moto-spunk in the woods isn't a bad thing.
Just as we managed to chase him down, it was time to head back to the shop and get ready for the next wave of aftermarket bolt-ons. At this point our total parts list was relatively small, and so were the accumulated expenses. In the next installment, we'll drop our big money bomb and reveal the final few mods that really boosted performance levels. We tinkered with the carburetion, suspension, exhaust and more to liven up our little 250R and further its development as a respectable all-around weekend warrior.
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 - $135.00
ASV F-3 Series Universal Front Brake - $70.00
ASV F-3 Series Rotator Clamp - $25.00
Acerbis Multiplo Enduro Handguards - $99.95
Multiplo Mount Kit - $31.95
TSS Custom Graphics - $239.85
Finding yourself with a multi-bike conundrum? Share your thoughts on changing things up in the forum