Although the move from 2-stroke to 4-stroke has been painful for some off-roaders, there has been one feature that has made that migration much more palatable—electric starting! The first enduro four-strokes could be bears to kickstart, so most manufacturers have found a way to include a battery and a starter without turning the bike into a battleship.
The 250 four-strokes represent the junior partners to the 450s, but for anyone but the most competitive riders in the woods, the 250s are the superior machine. Out in the desert, of course, there’s no substitute for the increased power the 450s provide, unless it’s a 650!
That brings us to the Honda CRF250X. It’s an amazingly tractable bike with a motor that is more “perfect trail bike” than “race winner.” That’s okay with us, as we spend far more time enjoying the woods than racing through them. One reason for the lack of competition punch are the emissions and sound regulations, which make the 250X barely louder than a kangaroo rat’s cough. That’s also fine with us. It keeps the bike quiet, which, in turns, helps keep riding areas open and dirt bikes welcome. Still, we can’t quarrel with the power delivery, which is smooth from idle to redline, as it is perfectly carbureted by Keihin. While you can happily rev it into five-figures, it will also function as an agreeable trail machine at low rpm. Being a 250 four-stroke, there’s no brutal hit off the bottom, so technical terrain can be conquered with less effort. And, if racing is on your schedule, the CRF250R-based motor can easily be built to Supercross specs, making it a serious performer.
Speaking of the 249cc motor, if you aren’t familiar with the configuration, it’s certainly interesting. It has a four-valve head, with a single cam, but the cam actuates the titanium intake valves directly and the steel exhaust valves via rocker arms. A twin-sump design keeps the oil supply for the crankshaft, piston and valve train separate from the clutch and transmission. This helps keep the clutch cool, and it keeps contamination from the clutch and transmission out of the motor. Also, you can tailor your oil select to each specific job.
The suspension is properly matched to the friendly engine. The nicely cushioned ride reduces fatigue, though it does get overmatched in the whoops. On a performance-oriented off-road bike, the suspension is highly dependent upon setup. If you’re the right size and skill, you can often fine-tune the stock suspension and have it work quite will. However, there’s no substitute to customized valving and springing from a competent suspension modification shop. Having said that, the 250X worked well for a variety of riders, but there is the expected room for improvement.
When we were out in the desert, we would have loved to have a sixth gear. Yes, you can get the wheels spinning quite quickly in fifth, but the motor is buzzing equally fast, so something of an overdrive would be helpful. However, the 250X isn’t really a desert racer, as a 450X is a more obvious choice.
In the woods, where the 250X is bred to perform, it’s a easy riding bike with enough performance in reserve to satisfy you when it’s time to be serious.