by Jay Newman
I was excited to have the opportunity to test out the new Honda 2016 CRF250R. I’ve heard and read so many things about it. With quite a few engine changes and tweaks, it left me wondering why they felt the need to improve an already great machine. With all the impressive write-ups, I was excited to climb aboard and test it for myself. I admit, I was a newbie to 4-strokes. I’ve always been a 250 2-stroke guy.
In Honda’s words:
Engine: “With its high-compression head, increased cam lift for 2016, new piston, new con rod, new valve springs and titanium exhaust valves, the CRF250R’s engine produces more power this year. It’s easily the most rideable engine in the class.”
Forks: “The CRF250R’s 49mm inverted Showa® SFF-Air TAC fork weighs less than a conventional-spring design, it’s easier to adjust, and it helps keep the front end planted. This year it’s also five millimeters longer to enhance the bike’s stability.”
Exhaust: “…our CRF450R, the CRF250R uses an exclusive twin-muffler setup. The mufflers are way shorter and lower, tucking in much closer to the bike’s center of mass. That helps make the CRF250R a better handling machine, and also contributes to the bike’s improved power. For 2016, the mufflers’ outlet pipes are bigger, too.”
What does all that mean to an average off-roader like myself? What about to experienced rider? I wanted to find out both answers so I brought along a test rider to not only push the bike past the limits of my own ability but to also give me the opportunity to snap some great shots.
Terry Lemonis, the test rider shown in these images, is a very accomplished bike athlete. Everything from BMX to DH MTB to MX. His skills are top notch and his knowledge of the working internals of every part of the bike is a huge asset. (Did I mention he builds hi-end MTB’s, he can service any type of fork or shock to pro standards, he is a master wheel builder, and rebuilds his own 2 strokes and 4 strokes… and all of his friends bikes too.)
Behind the bars, the bike felt powerful, more than expected. I ran the gears out as best I could, and had lots to play with, and barely using 5th gear. It felt more forgiving than my 2-stroke 250 yet had all the same power. Of course it was a more linear delivery of power. There was pull everywhere right from low in the gear until I needed to shift. Fifth gear was as far as I got, and even then, didn’t really use it. The power band was consistent and always there, unlike my 2-stoke which will hit like a truck when it comes on. In fact, the CRF250R is so even and well-balanced, it felt lighter than my current 250 2-stroke.
My cheek bones were sore but not from the ride. It was the smile I couldn’t wipe from beneath my helmet.
The new feature for engine mapping is unreal. I’m a decent casual rider and found that the maps add a whole new dimension to my riding.
I stayed in the second map mostly. The track conditions were a bit slippery with some tacky sections. I found there was more than enough power for all of my ability. When I did try the 3rd mapping, I found it was a blast of hard power. I think I would be using that map when I get better and want more out of the bike. As for my expert text rider, Terry Lemonis, he said, “…in these conditions it’s a little slippery, so I tried 1 & 2 maps. The first map was nothing spectacular, it felt just like a stock bike. The second map felt like there was a lot more traction to it… it was awesome! Just gotta stiffen up the fork a little bit.”
My overall feedback for the Honda CRF 250R:
1. I found the weight of the bike amazing. It felt light and flickable. Easy to move when I needed to with no effort. It felt very balanced.
2. The engine maps are great. You have to try them.
3. The Showa forks were amazing. We added 10lbs of air made its awesome for everyone. I’m 215lbs, and rode the bike as I normally would and didn’t bottom them out. We only added 10 lbs of air to the stock set up. The adjustments with air are very easy.
4. The power is every where on this beast. My riding style isn’t as hard as a racer, but I push hard in my mediocre ability. I do jump the doubles and some of the bigger tables, but I’m not pinning it all over, like the faster riders. It just has usable power everywhere and made my ride for the day extremely enjoyable.
5. I loved the fit, I immediately agreed with Terry when he said “It feels like you’re inside the bike, not on top”. Definitely an ergonomics winner.
Here is what Terry had to say about the bike:
“You forever had to get a lowering link for Honda’s because the back would ride high in corners. They were talking about lengthening the lower link, and it made the biggest difference, a huge difference. Honestly it feels like my 450…” [that he put a lowering link on] “just less power.”
“That 250 has so much over-rev to it, it’s just a nice high strung motor, you can ride it high in the revs and still get a lot of power out of it.”
“The over rev is amazing. It pulls all the way through to the top, and that’s great.” When asked if there was anything he didn’t like about the bike, Terry first commented that the compact pegs are more forward making it easier to grab the frame… “but what didn’t I like about it? … nothing. It is solid. For a 250, I was worried about it being under powered, but I was really impressed.”
Motopark, located in Chatsworth, Ontario.
Terry and I met up with Gord Fawcett at the Motopark track in Chatsworth, Ontario. Gord from Motopark was gracious to let us ride their track for this review. Motopark is an excellent track, definitely a few steps ahead of the rest with what they offer on site. The track is designed very well, using natural rolling land features and placing excellent jumps in the right places. It has a great flow and is way more challenging than many tracks in southern Ontario. With perfect daily grooming, rock removal, accommodations on site, both camper style and R.V., they also have a few rooms to offer. There are showers as well. Bike rentals, bike repairs, delicious food on site and a pressure washer that’s included in your daily fee.
They usually separate practice into two groups. Those who jump everything and those riders who don’t jump anything at all and aren’t that fast. It keeps accidents to a very reduced number and elevates the fun factor for everyone involved.
Story author, Jay Newman, couldn’t wipe the smile off his face from behind his helmet during a day of test riding and photography of the 2016 Honda CRF250R.
Jay Newman is an accomplished international model, actor and photographer having spent over two decades on both sides of a camera. He is an extreme sports enthusiast, an active kite boarder, and passionate motorcyclist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org