4th Place Of The 2019 250F MX Shootout: Honda CRF250R
The Honda CRF250R won the 250F MX Shootout after a radical redesign last year. We praised the 2018 bike for its high-revving engine, improved suspension, and nimble handling. One of the areas of criticism was its lack of bottom-end power. Honda addressed that problem for 2019 and made improvements to the already-great ergonomics. In an ever-increasingly competitive class from year to year, the Honda CRF250R finishes one step off the podium in the 2019 250F MX Shootout.
Before the shootout began, we mounted a Dunlop D404 street tire on the rear wheel and ran the CRF on our in-house Dynojet dynamometer. The Honda cranked out 38.43 hp at 11,730 rpm and 18.30 pound-feet of torque at 9,760 rpm, ranking it third in horsepower and sixth in torque. After the dyno pulls were complete, we fitted Dunlop MX33 soft-to-intermediate-terrain tires, as we did on all of the bikes to ensure consistency in traction among them for the entirety of the test.
The CRF250R engine is quick revving and has very little flywheel effect. The power is similar to the KTM and Husqvarna in that it comes alive in the midrange and has strong top-end, but it stills lacks bottom-end compared to all of the other bikes in the class. The DOHC powerplant doesn’t offer as much over-rev as the two Austrian machines either, and those characteristics demand an aggressive riding style. If the rider makes a mistake when shifting or using the clutch, the engine falls off the pipe and takes a long time to recover, usually requiring a downshift or excessive clutch work to get it back into the meat of the powerband. The clutch pull is a bit on the firm side too.
The Showa 49mm coil-spring fork and Showa shock have a performance-oriented feel while still offering plenty of comfort. Both ends have good bottoming resistance and are very sensitive to adjustments. One or two clicks can make a significant difference. The CRF250R has a bit of a pitching feeling as the rear wheel can easily overpower the front end when braking or hitting square-edge bumps, which can lead to some instability. Stiffening fork compression two to three clicks and opening the shock’s high-speed compression an eighth of a turn reduces pitching and improves straight-line stability.
The CRF250R weighed in at 239 pounds on our automotive scales, making it the heaviest bike in the shootout. Despite that, the Honda is the lightest-feeling and nimblest bike in the class. It’s also by far the sharpest-turning bike. The trade-off is that it gives up some stability, especially in rough parts of the track. The chassis is slightly rigid, but not as much as some of the competition.
The Honda has a distinct high rear end stance and works well with 106mm of shock sag. Rear wheel traction is excellent, but you have to stay very far forward on the bike to get the front wheel to track as well as the rear. The ideal rider position is to keep your eyes ahead of the front number plate, in which case, you can steer the bike with the front wheel exceptionally well. The CRF250R’s ergonomics are the best in the class. The rider triangle is nearly perfect with an open cockpit area and a sit-on feeling. An improvement for 2019 is the new Renthal Fatbar, which is positioned 15mm lower than the previous year model and has a more agreeable bend.
Why It Should Have Won
The engine makes competitive peak horsepower, the suspension is very good, and it has the most comfortable ergonomics. It’s also the nimblest-handling and sharpest-cornering bike in the class.
Why It Didn’t Win
The engine still lacks low-end power and requires a lot of effort to ride to its full potential. The chassis can be a bit unstable in rough areas of the track too.