By: Ryan Dudek
Don’t let displacement fool you : Not only have 250cc four-stroke motocrossers edged 125cc two-strokes out of the picture, they’ve pretty much created a class of their own. Sure, the Lites class still is full of the youthful spirit associated with 125cc bikes of the past, but the level of performance is higher than ever, thanks to faster engines, lighter chassis and top-shelf suspensions. We now have bikes that are fiercely competitive for fast young racers yet easier than ever for anyone to ride regardless of age, gender or experience.
Honda and Suzuki have added a bit of excitement to the class for 2010 by equipping their Lites machines with fuel injection—a first for 250cc motocross bikes. Yamaha, meanwhile, stepped up with an all-new chassis, Kawasaki improved what had already been a top contender, and KTM stuck to its guns, making only small improvements to its entry’s engine and suspension. All this makes for a high-flying recipe that allows riders to get around the track faster and smoother—and have more fun!
We had no choice but to round up these five fabulous 250s and twist throttles until our hands were blistered and our butts chafed; it took that kind of dedication to figure out which one is the best Lites bike of 2010. Associate Editor Mark Cernicky even soil-sampled every bike here. So, if you’ll excuse a few bent levers, slightly stretched throttle cables, overheated brakes and worn tires, here is the rundown…
1st place: honda CRF250R
With its new frame, engine and suspension, the CRF250R really defines the term “all-new.” It also is the second Honda motocrosser to switch from a carburetor to electronic, batteryless fuel injection. Amazingly, Honda was able to make the change to EFI without any weight increase, and just as impressive is the fact that the 2010 CRF250R actually feelslighter than the previous model. When riding the bike, you almost get the impression that it can be flicked around like a BMX bicycle.
This is why direction changes on the CRF are the easiest, allowing the rider to react to input almost instantly and make quick decisions. The Honda also has accurate steering and tracks around corners very well, though the front wheel doesn’t feel completely glued to the ground as it does on the Suzuki.
Neither does the Honda have the fastest or meatiest engine here, but it is deceivingly quick and has the best power delivery. Fueling is unsurpassed, allowing the engine to be crisp and responsive, with the bottom-end and midrange output providing really stout acceleration. The power falls off on the top end, but the engine revs there so quickly that you almost don’t mind, even though the comparative lack of over-rev means you might have to shift a little more often.
Really, the only thing holding the CRF back from utter perfection is its sometimes twitchy behavior on high-speed straights. But at least its suspension helps compensate for that behavior everywhere else on the track. It’s hard to accurately describe the level of plushness to which the Showa fork and shock soak up chuckholes off jump faces or how the rear tire continues to track over acceleration bumps. And big jump landings on the Honda feel more like you’re touching down on a bed of feathers.
That level of competence and refinement is what this red racebike is all about. Its responsive power, accurate turning, plush suspension, effort-less clutch pull and butter-smooth shifting combine to make the Honda stand out as the easiest and the most fun on which to turn fast laps. No wonder it’s the best Lites-class motocrosser on the market.
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