Honda dealers and riders have been screaming for a lightweight road legal enduro bike for years, and with the arrival of the CRF250X their prayers have been answered.
Yamaha have been able to challenge Honda for the #1 sales spot in Australia in recent years directly off the back of their WR250F and WR450F road legal enduro bikes. At one point the tuning fork brand claimed to have taken Honda’s almost customary #1 spot, but ‘Big Red’ is back to try and ensure that never happens again with the arrival of the CRF250X. This important new model will then be followed by the CRF450X early next year, this will then give Honda a full armoury of road legal enduro weapons in what they hope will be a profitable move to extend their position at the top of the charts.
Australia is the only country in the world where Yamaha’s WR is road legal, and is also now the only place where the CRF250X can be legally ridden on the road. This is not because we are treated as a special case by Japan. It is because the Australian Yamaha and Honda arms have gone to great lengths to locally modify the base machines for ADR compliance.
We are very lucky indeed that they have gone to this trouble. It opens whole new areas for exploring as registered machines are granted access to the same areas where licensed four wheel drive vehicles are legal to venture. While it is easy for legislators to enact laws which ban unlicensed vehicles from areas, they are presented with many more problems when it comes to preventing legally registered vehicles from gaining access. This works in our favour, it would be a brave government that decided to allow only four wheeled registered vehicles in certain areas but to ban similarly registered motorcycles. That would be grounds for a full scale revolt against the government in question I would reckon!
Anyway, I digress, back to the bike…
I was lucky enough to recently spend two days exploring the northern parts of the Australian Alps aboard Honda’s new weapon and somehow came away without so much as a scratch. Climbing peaks as high as the 1421 metre Mount Coree was a daunting task, but thankfully the CRF250X did all the work, I just had to keep it pointed in the right direction. An easy job as the CRF250X chassis is faultless.
Showa provides the components and the 47mm forks responded to every vagary the challenging terrain presented. I certainly found no need to alter any of the clickers. However frantic knob fiddlers will be happy to hear that they can twiddle to their hearts content with 13-step adjustable low-speed compression damping, 3.5 turns of high-speed compression damping, and 17-step rebound damping to go with the normal threaded collar set-up for preload. More than enough to tune yourself to a standstill…
My favourite trait of the nimble front end of the CRF250X is the amazing stability the machine displays in rocky terrain. The complete lack of deflection when striking rocks and trail irregularities means that fatigue levels for the rider remain quite manageable, even when in very harsh terrain. Twin-chamber Showa forks have always offered fantastic response and excellent damping control, unsurprisingly the CRF250X also exhibits these qualities. The super aggressive will plump for stiffer springs, but most mortals will never manage to bottom them out.
One thing that is definite to need no tweaking for personal preference is the fourth generation twin-spar aluminium frame. This sturdy backbone is more than up to any task, and any rider.
In the engine room, the CRF250R derived donk is tuned for more bottom end pull in road legal CRF250X guise. I really appreciated that fact as I climbed what seemed like endless ascents with extra challenges like rocky outcrops and large erosion banks thrown in for good measure. The CRF250X took it all in its stride and displayed unbelievable stability.
Faster pilots used the erosion banks to jump their way up the climbs. The CRF250X also put up with my ham-fisted plops over each ridge on the ascents. I didn’t quite have the confidence to jump these ridges on the nastier uphill sections and as a result I lost some momentum due to my fear factor, but the healthy mid-range enabled me to quickly rebuild that momentum which saved my bacon each time. At many points I was out of my depth, thankfully the CRF250X was well within its performance envelope and it made up for my shortcomings.
Steep and rocky descents can be even more challenging than ascents, here the CRF250X also excelled. The 240mm front brake offers plenty of power, but just as importantly, excellent feel is available at the lever and engagement remains consistent even under repeated heavy use. The rear brake also works well, but an old war wound (fused right ankle) means that I do not have as much control on this lever as I would prefer. As a result I had to rely on engine braking and the fine control available from the front brake to complete tricky downhill sections unscathed.
To fully comply with ADR requirements Honda have also enlarged the capacities of the brake master cylinders. An extension fitted atop the trick integrated rear master cylinder and reservoir looks after that end. While at the front a new larger master cylinder is fitted to ensure that enough fluid is available even when the brake pads are extremely worn. A braided hose carries that fluid to the anodised aluminium caliper pistons.
An 8.3 litre fuel cell feeds the premium unleaded through to a 37mm flat-slide Keihin. The fuel/air mixture is then squashed against a heady 12.9:1 compression ratio before being burnt by a spark plug which resides between the forked exhaust rocker. Spent gases are then expelled via a stainless steel exhaust system which terminates in an upsweeping oval shaped muffler. The ADR muffler baffle is removeable for competition use.
Looking at the 249cc motor side-on, you can’t help but be amazed at the tiny proportions of the cylinder block and head. This is made possible by Honda’s Unicam design, first pioneered in this guise on the CRF450R. Simply, the single cam design has two cam lobes that directly actuating the titanium 31mm intake valves, while another lobe actuates a forked roller rocker arm which in turn opens the 26mm steel exhaust valves. The skirt on the forged piston is unfathomably short and slides through a diminutive 52.2mm stroke. The 78mm bore is NiCaSil plated.
Honda claim a 26.5kg dry weight for the engine complete with the heavier flywheel, extra gear for starter, starter motor and starter clutch. The kick start CRF250R engine is claimed to weigh just under 24kg, so very little mass is added by the addition of the starter motor and associated components on the CRF250X engine. But of course once you start adding lights and all the other associated street gear the overall dry weight of the CRF250X amounts to 110kg. This is 17kg more than what Honda claim for the motocross specification CRF250R. It certainly hides that fact well. The X model also scores a 20% larger cooling capacity to cope with long days in the saddle.
The engine pulls smoothly from everywhere in the rev range and best results are quite often obtained by short-shifting a little to take advantage of the mid-range. The last few thousand rpm are only really useful for over-rev when between gears. Even though we traversed through a variety of altitude changes the CRF250X just kept on keeping on, and never uttered so much as a cough through the airbox. It does seem to have the strongest bottom and mid-range power of the current crop of high-performance 250cc four-strokes. The top end has been noticeably knocked off with the less aggressive cam timing and a more restrictive airbox. But plenty of power is on tap for most situations. For those that really want top end at all expense, a CRF250R camshaft will set you back around $330, add to that a good pipe and some work to the airbox, and a fair bit more bite is added to the bark.
Honda provide a three-month parts and labour warranty on the CRF250X when the machine is not used for competition, but do remember that any of the aforementioned modifications will void your warranty cover.
A useful design feature of the powerplant is that the gearbox and engine oil reside in separate circuits, this helps to keep the engine oil free from clutch contamination etc. Most competition specification machines only offer small oil capacities, the CRF250X is a little more generous than most, however a strict oil change regimen is still mandatory to ensure good service life. The gearbox oil capacity is 750ml while a separate 850ml of engine oil gives lifeblood to the motor. These numbers sound rather small, but believe it or not the CRF250X actually has a larger oil capacity than that enjoyed by any comparable machine.
The CRF250X is licensed for the road, however this doesn’t mean the machine is suitable for riding to work and back. This is a competition based machine and even in ADR form requires a very strict servicing schedule. If racing the machine you should change the piston and rings every 15 hours. If just trail riding, you are probably quite safe to plan your piston change every 1,000km. But if riding hard then stick to the competition schedule. The price of a piston and rings is under $150 so it is fairly cheap insurance.
Of course one of the most important pieces of preventative maintenance that you can perform yourself is to ensure that your machine always breathes through a fresh pair of lungs. By that I of course mean the easy task of cleaning and oiling your air filter. This job is made even easier on the CRF250X as the airbox door is hinged. This means that if you carry a spare oiled filter on the trail in really dusty conditions, like all well prepared trail riders should, you don’t have to put the airbox lid down in the dirt when changing your filter. Good thinking Batman!
The eight-plate clutch seems sturdy enough to put up with plenty of abuse. The pull at the lever is just about right; it certainly is not too soft but at the same time never becomes tiresome. Thankfully most Japanese manufacturers have woken up to the fact that they can’t produce a decent set of dirt handlebars and now source them from specialist manufacturers such as Honda has done with Renthal. The bend felt just right for me and with the CR125R holders set in their middle position I found the reach also quite comfortable. The bars can be moved fore and aft through a 6mm range to further tailor the machine to individual rider preference. The bars are rubber mounted and I never experienced a problem with vibrations reaching my Fly gloved sausage-like fingers. Similarly the stainless steel pegs caused me no drama, and my Sidi size 10s had no problem with maintaining a good grip on them.
To be honest I never even gave the five-speed gearbox a second thought. To me this means that it must do its job very well as I can’t remember missing a shift, and I certainly never wanted for a ratio that wasn’t available. The gearbox on the CRF250X is a wide ratio unit while the CRF250R has a much closer set of ratios.
An automatic decompression system makes kick-starting a breeze, a hot start lever is also provided. Thankfully I only needed to test the kick-starter for my own peace of mind as the magic electric start button never let me down.
Instrumentation is minimalist with a basic analogue speedometer in an unremarkable rectangular layout residing next to a bank of warning lights for the indicator, high beam, low oil pressure and neutral. Unfortunately the oil pressure nor neutral lights are wired up. The headlight makes a reasonable glow, the beam does increase or decrease in strength directly in relation to engine rpm. Like most bikes of this type I believe the headlight runs directly off the generator and does not draw power from the battery. Switchgear is clean, simple and poses no problems.
The bikes stood up to the punishment meted out by a dozen or so unforgiving journos unbelievably well. The plastics are excellent and showed little sign of how hard I had been desperately gripping the machine between my knees as I held on for dear life at times. Also worthy of a mention is the attention to detail that is obvious throughout the machine. The Australian conversion to ADR spec with the different lights, indicators and number plate mount etc. exudes quality. This make the CRF250X really stand out from the crowd, even in stock form with road trimmings it is an awesome looking machine. Some of the testers had some reasonable falls, but with the press of the button their machines burst back in to life. Those bikes that had spent time on their side belched some oil smoke out of the tailpipe as they cleared their lungs, before quickly crisping up ready for another merciless flogging.
Honda supplies a comprehensive spares kit with the machine which includes a pair of Dunlop motocross tyres to replace the road legal MT21 Pirelli hoops. Don’t discard the standard Pirelli rubber though as in my experience the MT21s are some of the best road legal dirt tyres currently available.
Also supplied is the non ADR front light and surround, along with the original CRF250R front master cylinder and brake lever.
A larger 53 tooth rear sprocket rounds out the comprehensive spares kit but you will need to secure a new chain in order to take advantage of that sprocket as the bike is delivered in ADR form with a very tall 40 tooth rear sprocket.
The chain used on the CRF250X is a special slim and light T-Ring variety and a chain of the same specification must be used to ensure case clearance. This is a DID 520 MXV – 120ZB item, this can also be brought through Honda dealers under part number 40540 KSC 003. It certainly would have been a nice touch for Honda to have included the longer chain in the spares kit. But the kit is already the most comprehensive supplied with any machine so I guess we can’t grumble too much. Try and perhaps secure the longer chain in with the deal when negotiating with a dealer. Two other items you should have on your purchase list is a bash-plate and some hand-guards, neither of which are fitted as standard.
My only other point to have a whinge about is the fact that the two riders that worked their machines the hardest managed to melt their right hand rear indicator. This is due to the positioning of the indicator in question. It must be said that this only happened on two of the machines and probably would never affect most trail riders. The indicators do seem to be of very good quality and should only cost you $15 through a Honda dealer if you do ever need to replace them. I must have gone through about twenty indicators on my dirtbikes over the years so the low replacement cost may certainly prove to be welcome if you are as prone to breaking them as I am.
If you are after a competitive road legal enduro mount ready to rock straight out of the box, then the CRF250X should be at the top of your shopping list. Similarly, if you are just after a bike that is capable of making your life easy in the tight cut and thrust of enduro loops, with plenty of speed in reserve for you to grow into, then again the CRF250X fits the bill nicely.
But if you want a road/trail bike for a bit of bush bashing, and maybe a trip to work and back every now and then, with little thought to servicing, then you would certainly be better off going for something that is not so competition based. As always, it is horses for courses.
The CRF250X is available now for a recommended retail price of $11290. Visit your local Honda dealer to check this impressive new machine out for yourself.
Model: Honda CRF250X
Engine: 249cc, single cylinder, liquid cooled, SOHC
Bore x Stroke: 78 x 52.2mm
Induction: 37mm Keihin FCR flat slide carburettor
Starter: Electric with kick back up
Transmission: Five speed
Final Drive: Chain
Dimensions (L x W x H): 2174 x 824 x 1261mm
Seat Height: 955mm
Dry Weight: 110kg
Fuel Capacity: 8.3 litres
Tyres: Front _ 80/100-21; Rear _ 100/100-18
Suspension: Front _ 47mm inverted forks, stepless preload, 16 step compression and rebound adjustment; Rear _ Pro Link Showa shock, adjustable preload, low speed and high speed compression and 17 step rebound damping adjustment
Ground Clearance: 348mm
Brakes: Front _ 240mm disc with dual piston caliper; Rear _ 240mm disc with single piston caliper
Warranty: Three months parts & labour
We have a video clip of the CRF250X in action with Jye Harvey at the controls. Both the links below link to an identical video file but one is in low-resolution (2.4mb), while the other version is in a higher resolution (7.4mb).
High-res video (Right click and select ‘save target as’)
Low-res video (Right click and select ‘save target as’)