By: The CN Staff
Honda didn't mess much with its latest CRF250R motocrosser. It didn't need too. The 2012 version was already tops among its class; in fact, we liked it so much that it won our five-bike comparison test last year rather easily. We were impressed by its broad, electric-like powerband, cushy suspension, solid handling, great cornering capabilities and overall light feeling. Throw in other great qualities like a light clutch pull, outstanding brakes, pleasing ergos and quality of craftsmanship by which all other bike are judged, and you have a shootout winner, not to mention two Lites Supercross titles. So, it doesn't surprise us at all that Honda made only a few, though noteworthy, changes to its latest midsize motocrosser.
Suspension received most of the attention for 2013. The 48mm Showa cartridge fork now has stiffer springs, new valving and a larger-diameter sub-piston (up from 35mm to 37mm), which Honda claims improves low-speed absorption, resulting in better action and feel over the smaller bumps.
The rear Showa shock's high-speed adjuster-bolt seat diameter has also been increased from 9.5mm to 11.5mm, which, again, Honda says provides for better bump absorption. The Honda is fitted with Dunlop Geomax MX51FA (front) and MX51 (rear) tires designed specifically for the CRF250R and can only be purchased through a Honda dealer. The rear tire is said to be lighter, which Honda says reduces unsprung weight by 0.9 pounds, which is significant. The front tire is constructed out of special material.
The motor didn't get completely ignored. Its Programmed Fuel-Injection system (PGM-FI), which a 46mm throttle body, features new mapping specs designed to give the engine a "bigger hit and more response in the low-end and midrange." Otherwise, Honda left the liquid-cooled four-valve Unicam 249cc motor alone.
Honda introduced the 2013 CRF250R to the media at Lake Elsinore Raceway, the site of next week's final round of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. The track can get quite hard-packed and choppy and is quite fast, making it a great place to wring out the motor. Jumps are quite lofty and most of the turns are fast and sweeping.
In a nutshell, the new Honda feels very much like it did last year, which is not a bad thing at all. In fact, we were probably relieved, more than anything. We liked the motor so much last year, we...well, hoped they didn't mess it up - and they didn't. Whew!
We could detect, however, a bit more meat in the middle of the powerband, which we felt actually did improve the overall feel of the motor. It still pulls hard off the bottom and about the same on top but has a bit more oomph in the middle, and we're okay with that. Sure, it could use a bit more pull on top, but what 250F can't?
Unlike the Suzuki RM-Z250 and Kawasaki KX250F, the Honda has no interchangeable couplers to make mapping adjustments quick and easy, which is kind of a bummer, but the motor works so well as is, we never felt the need to make changes anyway, despite the Lake Elsinore track transforming from moist loam to dry had-pack during our day at the track.
Honda still feels extremely light (claimed weight is 227 lbs.) and is ridiculously maneuverable both on the ground and in the air. It's still one of the most confidence-inspiring motorcrosser we've ever ridden. You get on it and just want to ride it hard and ride it fast. And you can do it for a long time, too, since it's so easy to ride and responsive. It requires little coercing to make it do what you want it to do.
Our Expert-level tester welcomed the stiffer fork springs, which he felt did a better job soaking up the hard landings while still feeling quite supple over the smaller bumps.
We also loved the new Dunlop tires. They saw everything from moist loam, to wet hard-packed, to dry and slick, and they performed admirably on them all, especially up front. They seem to be a pair of outstanding all-around grips.
And probably the best part about the new 2013 CRF250R is that it cost the same as it did last year at $7420. We still have plenty of testing to do on the new CRF250R, but, for now, it appears that Honda, which only made only a few changes to the '13, made all of the right ones.
Originally published in the August 2012 issue of Cyclenews.com.