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A Beginner’s Look At The 2017 Honda CRF250X

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The subtitle of this article is a little misleading. The Honda CRF250X is not exactly the same throughout its model year history. That being said, there are very few minor differences from the 2004 CRF250X to the 250X you’ll find on your local bike shop’s showroom floor. This is both a good and bad thing. The reason this is good is that, by making a bike that is, overall, unchanged shows that Honda hasn’t had any compelling reason to change it. If it still sells well and they aren’t coming back with issues, Honda will keep making it – supply and demand, right. Secondly, there are a ton of aftermarket parts for this bike and it can become everything from a full-fairing-ed light ADV bike to a GNCC racer to a supermoto machine.

The downside, however, is that the lack of new technology and performance based upgrades and changes means that die-hard off-road riders/racers tend to overlook this bike or think of it just as a beginner or vet bike. And we wouldn’t really disagree. That’s why we grabbed a few newbie riders to hop on a 2017 Honda CRF250X and see what they really thought of the bike.

If you grew up kicking a bike to life, we’re sure you are scoffing at this. One end of the spectrum you might think electric start is for little wimpy people and on the other you might like electric start but feel it is a minor convenience, not a major selling point. We disagree. First off, kick starting a bike on level ground at your truck isn’t really that hard so we don’t see many “macho points” being awarded for that, yet it can be a deterrent for new riders. Secondly, kick starting a bike on a slippery, off-camber, rock-strewn downhill is way more of a challenge and we’ve been saved many times by the magic button when riding in that situation. Sure, we’d give macho points for the dude that could kick his bike to life without stopping or dabbing when in such extreme situations, but why would you? Even the gnarliest of extreme enduro riders ride bikes with e-start. The CRF250X starter works great and is a reliable little friend that reassures you like, “Hey buddy, hopefully you don’t need me on this technical trail, but I’m here for you if ya do.”

Will Steenrod 6'4", 200 lbs, 30 years old
Lifelong street guy. Ridden dirt bikes a half a dozen times. Doesn’t get the need to tuck in his jersey or why his visor should be so high.

2. Comfort = Speed

Newer riders, and even seasoned riders, sometimes give a bike too much credit. Meaning, people think, “Oh, if I just had that 450 or 300 two-stroke that those pros ride, I’d be dancing up rock ledges and dragging fender, no problem.” Well, if someone rides a bike that they aren’t comfortable on, they’ll be most likely dragging a lot more than just fender. If a rider is out of control, scared, intimidated, not strong enough, or otherwise not matched to the bike he or she is on, then bad things can and will happen. Yet flipping the whole thing around, a bike that a rider is comfortable on and can control easily, is a bike that a rider can ride fast. It sounds contradictory but 250X’s comfort oriented suspension and very neutral handling characteristics make it easier to learn on and strategically build speed on. Plus, the suspension can be adjusted to handle more aggressive riders, that’s why there are so many clicker settings on both the fork and shock. And, even if you reach the limit there, revalving and new springs can let you hit things you never thought possible.

Serena Bleeker 5’11”, 155 lbs, 24 years old
Went to the Honda Riding School. Ridden a CRF150F, CRF230F, and CRF250X prior to this test. Clipped a tree, flipped off the trail, never stopped smiling and took it like a boss.

3. Unintimidating Power

For some readers, you’ll read number three as, “slow” but that’s not exactly the case. Overall, no, the CRF250F isn’t the fastest 250F in its class, nor does it have a super exciting powerplant. But what it does have is consistent, controllable power that give tons of traction an it doesn’t penalize newer riders who have horrible throttle control. The power curve is smooth and linear and proves that you don’t need a ton of cc’s to tackle gnarly off-road obstacles. A story we love to tell is from one of our past editors. When Christini’s All-Wheel-Drive (a kit that transfers some power to the front wheel) first came out, it was put on a CRF250X, amongst a few other machines we had at the time. To test if power from both wheels would make a difference that test day included a near vertical rocky waterfall section that was actively pouring down water. Our editor rolled up to the begging of the section, came to a stop and then tried to ride as slow as possible letting the front wheel power pull him up rather than momentum or speed. He made it up just fine but when he got to the top, the Christini tech who was helping that day had a very surprised look on his face. “You know that the AWD was disengaged right?” he asked. Turns out, the toggle on the handlebar that actually turns on the system was in the off position meaning the 250X, with its controllable, smooth power, did it all on its own.

Marry Hannah 5’5”, 135 lbs., 24 years old
Ridden a CRF230. Is actively in the marked to buy a dirt bike. Needed her goggle strap moved up.

4. Stability

A bikes stability doesn’t come from just the suspension or just the chassis, but from the synergistic relationship of both. The Honda has just that. This generation frame (based on the motocross models at the time) was widely praised as a comfortable, planted, yet agile chassis that inspires confidence. And confidence is just what new riders need. Along with the planted suspension, the CRF250X is nothing but stable and predictable on the trail.

5. Ability to Grow

Unlike a CRF or TTR230 or any number of smaller play/trail bikes, it will take most newer riders some time to reach the limit of the 250X, if they do at all. Our web producer, Lindsey, has a 2004 Honda CRF250X as her personal bike and has had if for years. Not only does she trial ride the tires off the thing, she also races National Hare And Hounds on it. Her bike has a lower seat and lowered suspension to better suite her 5-foot-2-inch frame and she would rather ride that bike than any of the brand new bikes that we have in our testing fleet. In our 2015 250F Off-Road Shootout, the CRF250X didn’t win but what was surprising was that Ricky Brabec, the very same gnarly fast desert racer and now Rally dude, ranked it one of the highest as did a few other testers. And lastly to put the icing on the cake, it got 2004 Dirt Rider Bike Of The Year.

For Specs, click here.