Believe The Hype
Story by Trevor Hunter
For 2022, Honda made a big push in the 250F ranks with an all-new CRF250R and RX. We had an opportunity to spend two days on the 250R in Oregon last summer, and we came away impressed. The motor took a big leap and the chassis refinements were welcomed on the moto track, but how would all this translate to off-road? In the past, we’ve noted in comparisons that the RX has felt very similar to an R, albeit with slightly softer suspension and a much more torquey engine. Knowing this, we expected a lot out of the new RX and we spent a day in the high desert after a recent rain/snowstorm getting a feel for ‘ol red.
For a complete list of in-depth changes to the 2022 Honda’s, check out our First Look HERE.
Power still reigns supreme in the 250F class, and that’s no different when you leave the moto tracks for trails. Right off the bat, the power gains are noticeable and effective. At the blip of the throttle, the response is instantaneous and almost a bit jerky in tighter conditions. Riding a taller gear helped smooth this out and the added torque and bottom-mid power the bike boasts made this a feasible option, something we wouldn’t be so confident about on the previous generation bike. As mentioned, this new 250RX motor is very torquey, one of the best in its class. The gains in the bottom-mid are about what we expected, which is quite a bit, and the top-end is still potent. In the standard Map 1, the bike is slightly slower revving than its moto counterpart but it builds nicely into a top end that revs loud and proud. Though there isn’t a surge of power up top, it feels every bit as fast as before and is competitive up top.
Suspension is on the firmer side, catered towards faster, western conditions. The coil-spring Showa components carry over a similar feel from last year’s bike, just firmer and more precise. The fork in particular offers a lot of hold up under heavy braking and in bigger breaking bumps, avoiding diving or pitching that are often felt on off-road bikes. Although the forks are firm, they don’t feel harsh or deflect in square edges and holes. It just offers a controlled, progressive feel. We experimented with actually softening up the fork 1-2 clicks to try and find some more movement and comfort, but resorted back to standard settings in favor of the fork riding higher in the stroke. In the last year or two, Honda’s Showa suspension has impressed us with offering KYB-like comfort and blending it with the more typical Showa “performance” feel.
Out back, the shock felt a little on the softer side in comparison to the fork. Stiffening it up 1-2 clicks for aggressive riders in the rough terrain helped the rear end ride higher in the stroke and avoid wallowy sensations. Traction was abundant today, something not always typical when riding off-road, which led to aggressive riding getting on the gas hard and heavy braking. As we venture to other areas and even motocross tracks, it’ll be interesting to see how the suspension responds. One thing Showa suspension is good for is the clickers are very effective and can make a pretty big difference with minimal changes.
We started with a sag of 105mm as a baseline. At this setting, cornering is precise and you get good front end traction, but there is a little to be had in the stability department and upon corner entrance, especially as speeds increase. For someone who tends to prefer a few extra millimeters of sag on just about every bike, taking out ½-1 full turn of preload helps with stability without really sacrificing much in the corners. This bike corners very well for an off-road bike and we felt we weren’t giving much up by looking for added stability.
One thing to note about this RX and it carries over from the older bikes, is the fork has a top out feeling when lofting the front end. While it uses the same components as the R models, it is less prevalent on those bikes. We spoke to some people at Honda and they say Showa’s valving style for the RX models is the root of this. It’s not necessarily a bad thing and it’s not hurting the fork, it just isn’t the most confidence inspiring and if it isn’t expected, you may think something is wrong. But, it is just how the Showa forks are valved which causes this feeling. We’ll be looking into some “quick fixes” and experiment to see if we can stray away from this as we spend more time with this bike.
Handling is nimble and precise on the 250RX, a theme among new bikes in 2022. This new chassis is more of a sharp shooter whereas the old chassis felt long and stable and liked to point straight. The accuracy and playfulness makes the bike feel very light when you want it to, but still offers some of the stability traits of a heavier machine. Again, cornering is very good and the bike likes to settle into ruts or berms with precision. The bike will turn on a dime or settle and flow through ruts effortlessly for an off-road bike.
A couple of the off-road specifics were a nice touch. Handgaurds finally come stock on the Honda and they mount to the levers, saving some room on the handlebars for the dashboard of electronics. A skid plate is featured, though don’t expect to go extreme enduro riding with it. The kickstand stays out of the way and is a good length, holding the bike up even on uneven terrain. Most importantly, the stock 2.1 gal gas tank is much improved over the old one. While it looks big, it doesn’t hinder movement on the bike nearly as much as the old RX tank did. The stock Dunlop AT81 tires aren’t our favorite, and we’ll likely change those out soon for some better options.
Overall, the new 2022 CRF250RX is everything we expected it to be with the host of changes it received. The bottom-mid power and torque is greatly improved, the chassis more nimble and agile, and the suspension is capable. We expect to put quite a few miles on it and possibly even race it a bit in the coming months as we further break everything down that has changed and how it reacts on the track and trail.