By: Adam Waheed
In an effort to keep pace in the hotly contested 250 four-stroke motocross racing class, Big Red continues to enhance its 2012 Honda CRF250R dirt bike. Like its big brother (’12 CRF450R), it gets a host of intelligent refinements making it a better overall platform to campaign on the racetrack or trail, as demonstrated at Southern California’s Piru Motocross Park.
Since its last major overhaul in ’10, the CRF250R has been known for its strong mid-range engine performance. However, that performance has come at the cost of rather dull bottom- and top-end engine power. To help broaden the powerband engineers modified the shape of the cylinder head as well as fitted an updated camshaft and smaller 46mm throttle body (from 50mm). A fresh fuel-injection map caps off the list of powertrain improvements.
The same chassis updates on the 450 also can be found on this model. A new rear shock linkage allows the motorcycle to sit a little lower when in motion. Updated valving and improved chain roller design complements the changes and allows the rear suspension to respond more actively. The front suspension also received a new valve shim spec, and re-engineered front axle collars add some stiffness to the front end for increased steering precision.
More improvements come in the form of oversized footpegs, a feature that has long overlooked on Honda’s motocross lineup. Lastly, it now rolls on Dunlop MX51 Geomax Intermediate Front Tire and Dunlop MX51 Geomax Intermediate Rear Tire in unchanged sizes (80/100-21 front, 100/90-19 rear).
Lift the bike off the stand and it’s readily apparent how light it is. Though it gained two pounds compared to last year’s model, 229 pounds (claimed) with all fluids including 1.5 gallons of fuel, it’s impossible to notice the difference.
Like before, the starting procedure is as simple as a well-timed kick or two of the kickstarter. The need to flip the fuel petcock was eliminated when the bike received electronic fuel-injection in ‘10. A fast-idle knob on the throttle body can be used for when riding in cooler climates.
As soon as you fire up the engine you’ll notice two things; first how quiet of a motorcycle it is courtesy of its 94dB muffler. Secondly, how responsive the engine sounds as you blip the throttle during warm-up. It was equally as noticeable out on track according to pro-level test rider Matt Armstrong.
“I’m really happy with the changes on the bike,” he says. “They really improved the motor which was one of the weaker points on last year’s bike. The throttle response felt snappier and the engine has more bark, especially off the bottom. This made it easier to get out of corners even when you’re not carrying much momentum.”
Midrange power continues to be strong with a wide spread of smooth power at high rpm. Top-end power feels deceiving because there is no hit, just a steady stream of propulsion and the engine feels like it will never stop revving.
In the turns the Honda continues to impress and you’ll be hard pressed to ride a dirt bike that steers as effortlessly as this one. In the past, maneuverability came at the price of stability, not any more.
“It felt a bit more planted in the corners” notes Armstrong. “That helped my corners speed a bit and made me feel more comfortable. The footpegs are bigger and sharper and that helped a lot too as it allowed me to have more control in the air and when I land.”
The switch to Dunlop’s latest generation off-road tire was another welcome change with the tires offering good grip in the varied loam and hard pack terrain that is typical of Piru’s track.
As usual the Honda’s CRF250R continues to prove why it’s one of the top bikes in the 250F class. With its smooth and consistent engine power, nimble and more stable chassis, not to mention Honda’s track record for high durability, the $7420 CRF250R ($221 increase over ’11 model) is a good choice for both amateur and professional dirt bike racers.
Originally published in the September 2011 issue of Motorcycle-USA.com