2017 Honda CRF250R
A Year Older Not A Bit Different.
- Very familiar to those that know the 2016 model.
- Light handling and very agile.
- Novice riders gel with this bike quickly.
- No changes from 2016.
- Honda smooth and rideable power isn't impressive.
- The same Honda CRF250R you've come to know.
In 2016 Honda made just enough refinements to their 250F to keep it in the game. For 2017 they largly forgot about it. They have been focused on the all-new CRF450R for sure. But it still has some very strong points even if they are the exact same ones as last year.
There is an all-new sticker on the side of the frame that says the bike is a 2017. That is all.
- Smooth and easy to ride spread with no standout zone.
- FI is flawless and the throttle response is always crisp.
- Excellent clutch action and great shifting.
Honda is notorious for not having the strongest stock motor in the 250cc class. 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, neither torque nor 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 in comparison to other bikes. 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. Though this year there is no difference.
Honda kept the mapping adjustment button that they added in 2015. It is super cool and convenient. It comes stock with 3 different settings: Stock, Aggressive and Mellow. We rode the bike in either Standard or Aggressive. Most of the faster riders who rode the bike preferred the aggressive setting especially in better traction conditions. Stock seems to have just a little less pick-up and over-rev where the mellow map felt slow on the bottom then surged a bit as the top end comes on.
In the past we have used the HRC tuning tool to install a special snappy map in the second slot inside the ignition. It can be used to add pick-up out of the turns. We had planned to test some more maps but found out at the track that the upgrade to Windows 10 will not work with the HRC software. So talking to the bike with our laptop was no longer possible. A handheld tuning tool would be nice, especially for this motor as it has potential, which we know from past experience. And standard, the number two map is a waste for most riders and we'd love to fill it with another map. Where is our old computer?
Another note on the push-button map switching. It is far from on-the-fly as the throttle must be closed, the RPM must be down near idle and you have to hold it for three seconds. So you won't be changing maps mid-moto.
The CRF starts easily and has a louder exhaust note than in the past, the larger openings in the mufflers let more sound out. 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.
Engine durability for stock bikes is very good provided you don't ride the rev limiter. Or let dirt through the air filter. You can modify the bike and easily boost performance but with only a single cam getting the huge power gains that some top-level racing requires gets expensive and durability drops quick.
- Very tunable Showa SSF Air fork.
- Front and rear work as a team.
- Great stock settings.
A lot of riders feel 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 in 2016, the possibilities are endless. One fork handles the air-spring function and the other does all the damping. That being said some riders who don't like to check the tire pressure would be better served with a conventional spring fork.
We set the sag on the shock to 105mm, used standard settings in the fork and just rode the bike. Riders from senior expert to schoolboy novice were all happy and would not bother to change much for most conditions. The different air pressure adjustments lets you adjust the ride height of the front end and helps prevent bottoming out too, but after testing a bit last year we agreed with Honda on their setting aside from dropping the outer chamber pressure to feel more of the track.
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.
Chassis - Handling
- One of the lightest feeling 250Fs.
- Confident for smaller or more novice riders.
- Steering Damper helps keep the bike tight in the turns even if most riders do not "feel" it.
If there is a standout personality for the CRF it is the handling--the bike handled like a dream. Most riders feel the Honda steers by following the front wheel but 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. Riders moving up from 125 two-strokes or even from minis will agree. 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. The Honda felt nice and thin through the shrouds and normal in the mid and rear section. The bike felt smaller than most 250F’s which favors the smaller rider. It is light in all directions when moving up and down, front to rear and even in steering side-to-side. The effort ion the bars isn't too light and ads to a stable feel.
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. 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. We ran ours at almost full-stiff.
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 newer design bracket must work, yet we didn't have issues with the older design either.
Is the 2017 Honda CRF250R the right bike for you? If the 2016 CRF250R was then you can't go wrong with this new one. Because it is exactly the same. We expect an all new one next year but for now you have to look at the bright side. All your special parts from the 2016 will swap right over, no questions and the MSRP is a few hundred dollars cheaper than the competition.
This is a good solid 250F, we will tell you that right now. Our novice tester who has ridden a few of the 2017 250Fs and is currently riding a KTM 150SX came right out and said that this CRF was the best bike he has ever ridden and was now in love with Honda. It gave him confidence and allowed him to work on his riding and not fight the bike. Expert riders feel the bike is slow but their lap times do not confirm this. The CRF is easy to go fast on, you just don't feel fast doing it. Just look at the guys racing these at the top level, the platform is there.