2020 HONDA CRF250R: FULL TEST

Back in 2018, Honda released a CRF250R that was almost the complete opposite of the previous model. The new model liked to be revved, with the power all up top. Honda changed its image in the 250 class almost overnight from beginner-friendly puppy to pro-level screamer. For 2020 the engineers went back to the drawing board, trying to get more power down low and improve overall handling without losing top-end performance. Did they succeed? 

Test rider Sean Lipanovich scrubbing speed on the new Honda.
Test rider Sean Lipanovich scrubbing speed on the new Honda.

NEW, NEW
Last year Honda made some EFI changes, went to a 2mm-smaller throttle body with a dual-spray injector system and redesigned the cam profiles internally. This did increase performance down low, but not nearly enough to compete for supremacy in the 250 class. Honda is making a real push to improve this in 2020, and the engineers have gone all out. The same basic dual-overhead-cam, 249cc, single-cylinder engine is used, but a new cam profile delays opening of the exhaust valves and reduces valve overlap. The combustion chamber shape has been changed for a more complete burn. Ignition timing has been changed at 8000 rpm to improve performance, while the mufflers have been updated to improve low- to mid-range torque. 

 

 

 

The gearbox also received some attention with the addition of gear-position sensors, allowing specific, dedicated ignition maps for each gear. Second gear also has an overall higher ratio, and along with third gear got a WPC surface treatment designed to improve durability by decreasing friction. Heat has been an issue since the introduction of the new engine platform, so Honda made the left radiator slightly larger to improve cooling, and the clutch springs are 18-percent stiffer for more grab.

Just like the CRF450R, Honda has a handlebar-mounted map switch that allows the rider to change between three different pre-programmed maps on the fly.

The chassis received a significant number of changes for 2020. For starters, the frame and subframe are all new with increased yaw-angle stiffness for more stability. This is basically what was done to the CRF450R model last year, which means a less rigid feel. The battery box has been repositioned 28mm lower to increase mass centralization. The footpegs are 20-percent lighter and have a new shape to shed more mud. Both ends of the suspension got internal updates that translate into increased low-speed fork damping, while the shock received increased low-speed compression and reduced high-speed compression. These changes were made to improve high-speed stability and cornering. 

The new air filter element is 10-percent larger for increased airflow.

The rear brake got some interesting updates via a shorter brake line, new brake pad compound and a longer brake pedal that is somehow lighter. The lower disc guard was removed completely to improve cooling while reducing overall weight. You might be looking at the 2020 model saying it looks a lot like the 2019 model. Honda did make some changes to the graphics, but unless you are really familiar with earlier models, it would be tough to notice the difference. 

The battery box was redesigned, repositioning the battery 28mm lower to drop the center of gravity for handling improvements.

WHAT IT ALL MEANS
Honda is back in the hunt for top honors in the 250 MX class. The bike offers a substantial increase in low-end power without taking away from the strong midrange or top-end performance. Aggressive riders will find the Honda excels with them at the controls. Handling-wise, the 2020 CRF250R is still ranked high on the list, with some testers thinking it is the best 250F they have ever thrown a leg over. We really enjoy the fact that Honda returned to a conventional coil-spring fork. These forks offer more rider comfort and are easier for the average person to understand. 

The 2020 Honda CRF250R returns with a dual-pipe system that was introduced last year with refinements made to the mufflers, and the resonator chamber was removed from the head pipe for improved power.

At 227 pounds, the Honda is tied for the heaviest in the 250 class with the Yamaha. It is a full 10 pounds heavier than the Husky or KTM. We like the adjustability of the Honda with its three programmable EFI maps and the ability to change them on the fly via the handlebar-mounted switch. Honda has even gotten rid of the 7/8-inch-diameter handlebars, and the triple clamps offer multiple mounting options. “Big Red” is headed in the right direction, giving itself a chance at victory come 2020 shootout time.

PLUSES

• Electric start

• Adjustability

• Full-coverage skid plate

• Strong power  throughout

• Great handling

DOWNERS

• Heavy

• Twin pipes

2020 HONDA CRF250R
  • Engine type: DOHC, electric-start, 4-valve 4-stroke
  • Displacement: 249cc
  • Bore & stroke: 79.0mm x 50.9mm
  • Fuel delivery: Keihin EFI, 44mm
  • Fuel tank capacity: 1.6 gal.
  • Lighting: No
  • Spark arrestor: No
  • EPA legal: No
  • Running weight, no fuel: 227 lb.
  • Wheelbase: 58.3” (1481mm)
  • Ground clearance: 12.9” (328mm)
  • Seat height: 37.8” (960mm)
  • Front  tire:90/90-21 Dunlop Geomax MX3S
  • Rear tire: 120/80-19 Dunlop Geomax MX3S
  • Fork: Showa coil spring, 49mm, adj.  reb./comp., 12.0” (305mm) travel
  • Shock: Showa aluminum piggyback, adj. prld, hi & lo comp., reb.,  12.4” (315mm) travel
  • Country of origin Japan
  • Suggested retail price : $7999

Info   www.powersports.honda.com

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