2016 Honda CRF250R
Staying In The Game
- The CRF's standout character is that it has no standout character. It is an all-around great bike.
- Well built with a more exciting power delivery than in the past.
- A lighter feeling 250F motocrosser that handles great.
- Some riders may want a more exciting bike.
- It is getting a little louder.
- A handheld EFI tuner would be nice, dragging the laptop to the track is too much.
- Honda is looking to boost the power and the image of the CRF250R
For 2016 Honda has made just enough refinements to their 250F so they feel comfortable calling it one of the best bikes on the market. It’s compact cockpit and chassis, lightweight agility and Showa SFF Air Forks aims to make the rider feel that nothing will slow them down. Focusing on horsepower and torque gains across the range with an eye towards handling improvements, is the bike that took five of the top ten places in the AMA Supercross 250SX East the right bike for you?
- Internal top-end changes to boost power everywhere.
- Suspension upgrades for improved adjustability.
Honda made quite a few changes to the 2016 CRF250--most internal and very few visible--inside the motor, suspension and on the chassis. The changes to the forks include a new 3rd air pressure adjustment (outer chamber) and a slightly longer (5mm) fork. It also includes a new and improved inner fork seal and revised fork dampening adjuster that has eight clicks per rotation rather than four. Small chassis changes include a new footpeg bracket design and chain roller design.
Inside the engine and on the top end there are lots of tweaks for more power including lightening the piston and connecting rod, boosting compression, switching to titanium exhaust valves, revising the intake and exhaust ports, adding an exhaust resonator to the header pipe and increasing the diameter of the inner muffler pipe. The capacity of the left radiator was enlarged slightly to aid in cooling.
- The multitude of changed add up to a small but significant increase in power at both ends of the spread.
- Two of the three standard maps are really good.
- Being able to change the map on the fly (not at idle) would be nice.
Honda is notorious for not having the strongest stock motor in the 250cc class but don’t let that scare you away. It still has great power and an all-around great feel. The bike has a decent pull from the bottom end and revs out nicely.It is a gradual pull all the way which makes it super easy to ride for most riders. It isn’t a standout motor in any area like in torque or outright power. It isn’t to say the power is boring or slow, it is just the kind of spread that gets things done. Some say it lacks excitement and character but that is going too far. Riders who are familiar with Honda CRF250R changes say year-to-year the increases have been small but if you skip a year or two it is a big difference.
For 2016 Honda kept the mapping adjustment button that they added last year. It is super cool and convenient. It comes stock with 3 different settings: Stock, Mellow, and Aggressive.We rode the bike in either standard or Aggressive, I prefered the Aggressive setting as did most of the faster riders who rode the bike, especially in better traction conditions. Stock seems to have just a little less pick-up and over-rev where the mellow map was just plain and felt slow. We actually used the HRC tuning tool to install a special snappy map in the second slot inside the ignition and it was good for pick-up out of the turns but we want to play with it more to get additional overrev too.
The CRF starts easily and has a louder exhaust note than in the past, the larger openings in the mufflers, not mentioned on the changes sheet helps with this and we suspect some of the power output increases. It isn’t much louder than other bikes on the track but to the rider it seemed a big increase from what we recall. And we are still not sure of the advantages of the dual muffler, for most any of the handling advantages that are claimed would be hard to notice. It does weigh more than a single muffler and the additional sound damping is not there anymore.
The clutch has a great feel with a light pull but it will also get hot if you abuse it. Shifting is excellent. Transmission ratios are plenty tight but on faster tracks we were surprised at how much we were in fifth gear. Evidently that sleepy motor does pull along quite well.
- The added adjustability to the front fork really helps but will most rider's be willing to use it?
- A very balanced package that worked for a wide range of riders.
Right off the bat I noticed the SFF Showa air forks that come on the CRF250R are truly amazing. With the amount of adjustments you can make to the clickers and the air pressure, also with the new 3rd air adjustment (outer chamber) new for the 2016, the possibilities are endless. One fork handles the air-spring function and the other does all the damping. I’m a smaller stature rider so we set the sag on the shock to 105mm, which was very close to needing a one rate lighter spring. The different air pressure adjustments lets you adjust the ride height of the front end and helps prevent bottoming out too.
The Honda has a plush but firm ride. When set at standard you feel a lot of the ground. We took some pressure out of the outer chamber to take away this feel and it really worked. We matched the back by taking a click or two of compression away. On smoother tracks this really works for both feel and traction. As tracks get rougher going stiffer can help but it was depending on the rider. The CRF is balanced and both ends have great bottoming resistance even with our heavier riders on the bike. We never had issues with the performance of the suspension on any parts of the track, most of the time we were just tuning for different riders comfort levels on the bike.
My best setup included adding air pressure to the fork’s air spring so the front end rode a little higher than stock allowing it to squat more in the rear which I like. I’m 128-pounds and we got the stock suspension to ride fantastic! The bike felt extremely stable and well planted on square edge bumps and the little chop coming in and out of corners. The front end felt very guided so coming into the entrance of corners it didn’t want to tuck or dive. I’m still not strong enough to fight this off like larger riders so this is important. The bike flew very level and the control off the face of the jumps was great. The CRF handled the landings like a dream--which if you ask me that’s extremely hard to come by if you’re that light and on a 250F.
Chassis - Handling
- The CRF has a balanced ride that most riders get along with.
- It is one of the lighter and smaller feeling 250Fs
- Thin and seamless rider compartment that is high on comfort.
If there is a standout personality for the CRF it is the handling--the bike handled like a dream. Even though most riders feel the Honda steers by following the front wheel, for me it steers phenomenal with the back end too. You can plant the wheels or slide and maneuver it with ease. Honda chose the Dunlop MX52 tires and they are good for durability and work most everywhere so we can't complain. Tires wear out and everyone has their favorite and our experience is that the Honda isn't so affected by the tires.
The compact cockpit makes the CRF feel like you’re in complete control. It is the kind of bike that you throw your leg over it for the first time and instantly feel at home. Really tall riders might feel a little more cramped on the CRF and there isn't the adjustability to move the bars forward like on some bikes. Some riders have had issues with the boot catching on the radiator shrouds but we didn't.
There is the light feeling that stands out too. Most 250Fs feel pretty light for riders that are use to big bikes but when moving up off of a Super Mini the weight and getting comfortable on a big bike makes a difference on how a rider feels and how fast you can go. The Honda felt nice and thin through the shrouds. Then the side panels are a little wide which I enjoyed because just in case things get a little wild you have something to hang onto with your boots. The bike felt smaller than most 250F’s which favors the smaller rider.
The Honda’s brakes are as good as most anything, especially in the feel department. Not bad for a bike with the smaller 260mm rotor up front. In fact all of the controls on the Honda, especially when the bike is brand new, have a tight and connected feel. And another surprise might be the steering damper. I didn't even know it was there or take the time to adjust it but out other riders did play with it. It can really change the feel of the bike in the turns and by going stiffer on the setting will help keep the bike from wanting to stand up mid-turn. It does not do much for straight line stability, which is average on the CRF250R, but it mostly works inside the turns. It is actually hard to feel if you are thinking about it and I can confirm that.
Working on the CRF you have two different oil chambers inside the engine which takes a little more time come oil change time. But this also keeps the contaminants separate and can help promote longer top-end durability especially of the rider is hard on the clutch. The air filter is very standard to change. The chain didn’t need much adjustment and all of the nuts and bolts stayed tight when I had the bike. The front disc brake cover is trick but it also makes getting at the air adjustment difficult. We did not have any issues with the footpegs collecting mud so the new design bracket must work, yet we didn't have issues with the older design either.
- Honda has a well built and complete package.
- The CRF's all around performance can seem a little bland to some.
- The boosted power and more aggressive character are needed upgrades.
Overall we were extremely satisfied with Honda’s machine for 2016. If you’re in the market for a new 250F most rider's can’t really go wrong with the CRF250R. It has been described by this web site before as being plain and somewhat characterless. Maybe even Vanilla flavored like ice cream. Being all of that it is not doing anything bad or evil, in fact it does everything really good. Even in feeling slow it turns fast lap times. It isn’t the most exciting and may not even be the lightest bike anymore. It is a well built bike that really performs as a package and does not limit the rider in being able to go faster. Yet no matter if you’re just the average weekend warrior or a serious A class racer the Honda will meet your standards and might likely even exceed them.
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