2018 Honda CRF250R
Honestly, fitting all our thoughts on such a new bike into a couple minute long video is quite tough, so we've opted for a Forum QNA with out Test Editor Michael Lindsay. So if you have any questions or need some extended details on a certain aspect of the new bike, head over here: Forum QNA - 2018 Honda CRF250R.
If you want the full tech low-down, hit up our First Look/Tech Briefing here: First Look - 2018 Honda CRF250R
For some written thoughts on the new machine, scroll down.
After how well-received the 2017 Honda CRF450R was last year, it made myself (along with many others) even more excited for what Honda would release in 2018 for the small-bore class. After hearing rumblings of an all-new engine and architecture in design, plus the spy shots from Japan, it was obvious that they meant business with this 250F. For the past few years, Honda has had an exciting 250F due to its snappy low-end and easy-to-throw-around feel. But sadly, a hard-to-adjust Showa SFF TAC fork and a lack of top-end power reserved the CRF to the back of the pack.
After our tech briefing a few months ago, it was obvious we had a lot to look forward to. Obviously, the new 250 carries over the suspension components and almost the exact same chassis as the 450, which gave us high hopes on how it would handle out on the track. So how was it? The most obvious thing in the first few laps was how good the overall balance of the bike was. The first year for the new 450 (2017), the bike struggled with a soft fork, but they learned from that, and the extra year of experience shows, as the 250F is more dialed in to suit the chassis. What this new generation machine offers is a bike that can be tuned for a range of riders. The last two generation Hondas really suited someone who rode the front of the bike, short-shifted, and was more technical with their movements. This bike, however, has reverted back to the generation before that ('06-'09 for the 250F), which could be ridden over the front, diving into the tights ruts...or off the back, sliding the rear end and hanging it out. This really shows with how the 450 has been performing in Shootouts, as nearly ever rider finds something about the bike they prefer. And with just a day on this new 250F, we can confidently say it's following in its big brother's footsteps.
The actual suspension is a solid improvement for both front and rear. Up front, the 49mm Showa spring fork is just so much easier to get used to compared to the air fork on the '17. It's quite plush, so much so that it took us a few minutes of riding to figure out if we wanted to go softer or stiffer as the actual action of the fork was quite good out of the box in the conditions we were handed. Ultimately, we went a couple clicks stiffer, just to keep the front end up a bit in the stroke under the heavy braking sections. Out back, the previous Honda was plush, but the newer model has been tweaked to work more with the new style of chassis. Working even better as you hang off the back of the bike, and drive the machine with the rear end. Depending upon your riding position, the CRF250R could use some stiffer adjustment to the high-speed compression, just to keep it from getting a little too deep in stroke. In our experience, we slowed down the rebound just a bit to keep the bike squatted as the bike would unload just a bit when the RPMs were higher and the rear tire broke loose a bit.
How about that engine? It was easily the biggest question mark heading into 2018...so...is it better? In our opinion that's an easy yes, but it's not better everywhere. As we mentioned above, the '17 model was more low-to-mid power and was quite snappy off the bottom, giving it an exciting feel on tighter tracks...until it fell on its face at higher RPMs. The new engine doesn't offer that same bottom end snap, giving up a bit at throttle roll-on in those low RPMs, but gains so much more from mid-to-top. This might seem like a even trade-off, but it isn't, the amount gained up top is so much greater than the bit of torque missing at the bottom. And honestly, that torque isn't really done, the torque curve is somewhat similar but has just been moved up a bit in the RPM range. This does take the CRF into KTM territory, and it may have even surpassed how long it pulls. It does make you think a little bit more on your shift points and won't let you be as lazy in the corners as say the Yamaha. It's not drastically different from the KTM or Husqvarna, but it's a step off the snappiness the Kawasaki and Suzuki offer from the low range. However, it's so much more rewarding if you just keep those RPMs up a little more as you lay into the corners, unlike what Honda has had before. As for the engine maps, the standard one offers a linear pull, while the aggressive map (number three) gives a bit more snap when the torque numbers start to gain in the mid-range. Map three is more "exciting" in a way, but the standard map offered a bit more consistency which I preferred.
Now what about that weight? Yes, it's now the heaviest bike in the 250F class, but just as Honda has done with their 450 machine, they've hidden it well. When I pulled it off the stand I questioned that weight for just a second, then I punched the electric starter button and rolled out on the track without it really catching my attention again. About the only place I could feel it at all, and I feel like it's a mix of the weight and the new chassis itself...is how it handles dropping into the tightest corners. This is the one place I felt like the '17 had a small advantage...low-speed, tight corners are just a bit easier to drop into. The '18 takes just a bit more effort in these situations, but it holds a big advantage over the '17 as the corners get faster and longer, in which the new bike just rails through much more consistently and with less effort.
As we mentioned above, if you have questions please drop us a note in our QNA or see what others have asked. As for how this bike will stack up against the competition, we're kicking off the 2018 250F Shootout right now, so if you want to know how this bike stacks up...you'll have your answer soon.
- Michael Lindsay
Vital MX - With Honda releasing an all-new CRF450R in 2017, we all knew that meant they would follow it up in '18 with some sort of revision to the CRF250R. And due to the spy pics from Japan this year, we also knew that it would be even more "new" than the new 450 from last year. While we expected it to get the new chassis, bodywork, suspension and down-draft intake layout of the 450...what was unexpected was the change from the Unicam engine design, which the CRF250R has used since its debut in 2004, to a dual overhead cam and finger follower actuated valve system on their latest engine. This means the CRF250R has an all-new engine for this year. For those that want to get things in a video, they can listen to while on the go, we snagged one of the project leads, Bill Weppner, and recorded this piece for you all to listen to. (click play below) For those that want to read on, keep scrolling!
Now the cams weren't the only thing to get doubled up in '18, as the new CRF250R also features twin exhaust ports leading to twin head pipes. This leaves the new model with two separate exhaust systems, but with head pipes that are unique from one another. The right side is longer, features a different taper, and has a resonance chamber; while the left model is shorter and doesn't have the chamber. Beyond this, the new engine also features a shorter stroke and larger bore when compared to the 2010-17 model engine. This, coupled with the larger valves, down draft intake, finger followers and twin headers all equal to more power which is aimed at the mid-to-top of the RPM range. In short, Honda has aimed for more than a 10% power increase, which they were able to nail on the CRF450R last year.
Beyond this, the CRF250R had one more little surprise, as it will feature electric start only. While the CRF450R came with a kickstarter last year before switching the optional electric start kit to standard, the CRF250R doesn't even have a kickstarter area on the engine case. So it's committed to the button only for the foreseeable future. What it does share with the CRF450R is a new chassis and swingarm, along with the new Showa "A-Kit" type spring fork and shock.
All-in-all, the CRF250R has taken on the finger follower and right side cam chain design we see on the KTM, the downdraft intake from the Yamaha (albeit with a standard cylinder layout), and the twin head pipes we've seen aboard the TM 250F, and combines it all together with some of their own unique features to try and reclaim their spot at the top of the 250F class. With the well-received chassis the 450 gained last year and the switch back to spring forks, we could see it get up there. The only real thing that looks to be holding the new bike back is the weight gain, with about three pounds coming from the switch to spring forks from the previous SFF TAC, and another four pounds or so from electric start, battery and engine layout changes.
To see the official press release, plus some of slides from the presentation we were given at Geico Honda's raceshop, keep scrolling down.
Honda Announces 2018 CRF250R
All-new motocross model revealed at Loretta Lynn’s MX
HURRICANE MILLS, Tenn. (July 30, 2017) – In a special unveiling event with top Honda amateur motocrossers during the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch, American Honda unveiled the all-new 2018 CRF250R. Designed and developed following the same “Absolute Holeshot” philosophy as the CRF450R, the highly anticipated motocross model features a host of updates aimed at achieving maximum power and optimum handling.
“We’re excited to show this all-new, no-compromise model to our customers, and it’s appropriate that we do so with our family of Red Rider amateur motocrossers here at Loretta Lynn’s,” said Lee Edmunds, American Honda’s Manager of Motorcycle Marketing Communications. “The CRF450R has become the top-selling 450cc motocross model, and now that the CRF250R shares many of the same performance-focused updates, we’re confident it will enjoy similar success in the market and on racetracks everywhere.”
In order to achieve their powerplant development goal of increased power (particularly at higher revs), engineers gave the 249cc engine an all-new dual-overhead-cam design, using a finger rocker arm with Diamond Like Coating (DLC). The titanium intake and exhaust valves are larger and have a higher lift and narrower angle, while the valve springs’ coils now have an oval cross-section to keep engine height as low as possible. The engine has more oversquare dimensions, the cylinder offset has been increased, and the piston now features a bridge-box design–a first for a production Honda motocrosser. The intake system is now of a downdraft design for maximum efficiency, there are twin exhaust ports, and the dual exhaust features smoother routing and optimized pipe length. An electric starter is standard, powered by a small, lightweight lithium-iron phosphate battery. The end result of the copious changes is an engine with more power across the rev range, especially impressive at peak rpm.
The 2017 CRF450R set new standards for vehicle packaging in a motocross machine, with highly concentrated mass and a very low center of gravity; the 2018 CRF250R follows suit, with weight reduced overall but particularly up high and at the ends of the vehicle. Layout is slim and low, and the machine has superb rear-wheel traction but minimal front-end lift–ideal for strong starting and acceleration. The main spars of the new-generation, lighter aluminum frame are now tapered to optimize flex characteristics and provide good stability and reliable rider feedback, while a shorter wheelbase improves overall agility. An all-new titanium fuel tank and extruded subframe end save precious weight up high, a new Showa coil-spring fork contributes a plush suspension feel, and a lower, more centralized shock location improves stability. Bodywork mirrors the design of the CRF250R’s bigger brother in form and function, with a minimalist appearance and in-mold film graphics. Dunlop’s superb Geomax® MX3S tires are standard.
As a result of the engine and chassis updates, the 2018 CRF250R enjoys a three-percent improvement in start performance compared to its predecessor, along with improved acceleration and handling.
Increased valve size/lift, narrower valve angle, oval cross-section valve springs.
Higher compression ratio and more over-square bore/stroke dimensions.
Downdraft air intake.
Dual exhaust ports/headers/exhausts.
Lighter frame/subframe with optimized flexibility characteristics.
Revised chassis geometry for lighter handling, improved rear traction, reduced front-end lift.
Titanium fuel tank.
ABOUT AMERICAN HONDA
American Honda Motor Co., Inc., is the sole distributor of Honda motorcycles, scooters, ATVs and Side-by-Sides in the U.S. American Honda’s Motorcycle Division conducts the sales, marketing and operational activities for these products through independent authorized Honda retail dealers. For more information on Honda products, go to powersports.honda.com.