2019 Honda CRF250RX
For 2019 Honda has been on a roll with launching new models. Including the CRF450RWE, CRF450X, and CRF450L, the CRF250RX is the fourth, all new model from Big Red. The “X” at the end denotes this machine as “cross country” focused motorcycle. This is everything from GNCCs to WORCS to GPs to Sprint Enduros. In Honda’s CRF line, they have kept the CRF250X, which is a green sticker trail bike with lights, and not many updates in the last few decades. The RX has been developed to bridge the gap from 250X to 250R.
The CRF250RX is a direct descendant of the 2019 CRF250R. So all the changes the R received this year also ended up on the RX, and then some. Since we’ve already covered all the updates to the R, we’ll focus on what make s the RX different. One of the most visually noticeable differences is the 2.2 gallon gas tank that is a bit wider and taller than the R’s, but makes for “more riding, more fun,” to quote Johnny Campbell, who helped develop the RX. The fork and shock spring rates have both been lowered one rate to better handle more technical terrain. Power-wise, the engine is physically the same as the R, but features dedicated ECU settings aimed at more controllable, linear power. The transmission and final drive is identical to the motocross bike. No off-road bike would be complete without an 18-inch rear wheel, skidplate, sidestand, and O-ring chain. We would like to see handgaurds on that list too, but we can’t get everything we want.
Power - Less Bark, More Bite
We brought our CRF250R test bike out to the RX intro to ride them back to back. If we only rode the RX, we might have not noticed the subtle differences in the engine characteristic but riding them on the same loops, on the same day demonstrated how Honda changed the RX’s power deliver, but more importantly, why they did. Straight up, the RX’s power is smoother in all three maps (base, traction, and aggressive) than the R and some of you out there might be wondering why Honda would smooth out the power when the R is already not a torque monster in the 250 class. The best way to explain this is, you get what you need, not what you want.
The 250RX’s power isn’t less than the R’s power, it is just more linear and a little less barky, which is a good thing for riding off-road. If anything, the power is more spread out which doesn’t necessarily add torque to the bottom-end, it just makes it feel more connected to the throttle. When we took the R on the off-road loop (single track, rocks, bouldery sections) we sounded fast but we were also riding with less control, missing some turns, having to slam on the brakes and, overall, riding a little more spazy than fast. Doing the same loop on the RX, the engine’s smoother delivery had us flowing from corner to corner a lot easier, and using less energy to go the same speed, if not faster. The R has more of a hit in the mid-range that had us riding in third and revving it out. But on the RX we could use more of the bottom end without worrying about a sudden hit of power.
There is also something to be said for traction. When riding on the vet track at the intro, riding both the R and RX hard had different results. While the R felt more at home on the track and we did have a 2 second-faster lap time on it, we were much more consistent on the RX. In some corners where we lost the rear with the R and had to regain traction to get forward drive, the RX’s power had us flowing through the same corners better and getting forward drive the entire lap. Obviously, riders have something to do with this but for the less skilled moto guy or gal, the RX might be a faster bike.
Suspension - Comfort and Performance
The RX gets the same Showa 49mm double coil spring fork and Showa shock that is on the R model, just with one-rate-lighter springs. This keeps the high performance that we like from the Showa suspension while giving more comfort, compliance, and traction over technical riding that you don’t see on the track. For our lighter tester (Mr. Lindsay) the lighter springs felt great and he even went two clicks softer on the fork to get more compliance and get rid of a little deflection on square-edge hits and rocks.
For our heavier tester (210 lbs) with the sag set for him, the balance of the RX was a little too stink-bug (nose down). First the forks were stiffened two clicks which helped hold the front end up through whooped out trail sections but the bike still wasn’t balanced. We then dropped the forks from 5mm to 2mm in the the clamps at the suggestion of a Showa tech on hand. This made a huge difference and balanced the bike out in all sections of the trail, GP course, and on the vet track. Neither tester made any changes to the shock since it worked great soaking up the trail and keeping a connected, planted feel.
Handling - Slice and Dice with Stability
What is really impressive about the RX is that it retains the agility and quick-turning characteristics of the 250R which makes it feel light and flickable on the trail. Even after dropping the forks 3mm, which would usually make a bike turn slower, the Honda CRF250RX still had great turnablity and front wheel precision. We road everything from first gear, S-turn single track to a fast GP course to a vet track and the CRF250RX handled great in all types of terrain. It can be hard for a bike to have a good mix of agility and stability, yet we easily had both with RX. You do feel the extra width of the gas tank when your leg is out and you are laying into a rut, and you also notice a little extra weight at the front of the bike when jumping it.
The 18-inch rear and Geomax AT81 is great combination. It's so much more consistent when steering the bike with the rear. It has more sidewall bite and control when leaning the bike low without something to bank off of. It also offers better bump absorption on acceleration chop, but bounces a little more under braking. The sidestand isn’t something that remotely crosses your mind when riding but when you stop on the trail, it is so nice to have.
Those of you who are lucky enough to afford two bikes, one for the track and one for trail riding, don’t have to make the compromise of having a one bike that works really well at one, but sort of sucks at the other. But with the CRF250RX it really is like having two bikes. We will say that if you are a diehard moto guy that only rides the main tracks and likes to throw whips for Instagram, this bike isn’t the one for you. But if you spend an equal amount of time at the track, on the trail and racing off-road, the usability and practicality of the CRF250RX is pretty hard to beat. Even looking at it compared to the CRF450RX, there is joy to riding a smaller displacement bike that you can’t get on a big bore machine. You really feel like you are riding it, rather than it riding you.