The new Honda CRF250R was late, but it’s here now and we have logged enough time on it to have a good feel for where it stacks up. Last year, this bike was the biggest news that the motocross world had seen in a very long time. New bikes come and go, but very rarely is one so completely and thoroughly redesigned as this. The new motor was an electric-start, DOHC replacement for the old Unicam powerplant. The chassis was based on that of the new generation 450 that showed up the previous year, titanium fuel tank and all. It still had a twin-muffler exhaust system, but all the other concepts were brand new to the 250 class.
The Honda was much faster, cornered well and had suspension that was vastly improved. Despite all that, the Honda finished third in the 2018 Dirt Bike 250 MX shootout. There were two issues that held it back. First, it was heavy. The bike was 228 pounds, which made it the heaviest bike in the class. Riders still like the overall handling, but you can’t give away 10 pounds in such a competitive class. Then there was low-end power. There wasn’t any. To make the Honda go, you had to keep it pinned all the time.
Now, the 2019 version is here, somewhat late, with some promising changes. The EFI system has been rethought with a 2mm smaller throttle body and an injector system that sprays twice per intake cycle. Honda also redesigned the cams profiles. They already were fairly aggressive, which is made possible by finger followers between the cams and the valves, but now Honda engineers have gone a little further. There have also been changes in fuel mapping and a few cosmetic licks like the new black rims.
The twin pipes are back. We still don’t get it, especially on a bike that’s already overweight.
First off, it still turns like magic. Interestingly enough, it’s no longer alone as the class heavyweight. On our scale it lost a single pound somewhere, but that wasn’t what did the trick. Yamaha’s move to electric start placed the YZ250F at 227, as well, so the two bikes are co-holders of that dubious record. We still love the Honda’s overall handling, though, so we’ll forgive the figure on the scale.
As far as power goes, the new bike is clearly improved. On the bottom, it starts making torque sooner and then carries a nice bonus all the way up and over the top. It was already a screamer and still is. How much faster is it? We already took the bike to Pro Circuit for testing on their Dynojet dynomometer. From bottom to top, it uniformly has at least one horsepower more than last year’s bike. Is one horsepower enough? In the past, it’s made the difference between winning and not winning a shootout.
At this point, we have very little time on the new Honda. That will change. It will be tossed directly into the viper’s nest of our 2019 250 motocross shootout next month. Stay tuned.