2016 Honda CRF250X Review | First Ride Test

2016 Honda CRF250X Review | First Ride

2016 Honda CRF250X Review

2016 Honda CRF250X Review | First Ride
2016 Honda CRF250X Review

Although the last serious overhaul of the Honda CRF250X happened in the ’00s, the real question is whether or not the mid-size 2016 Honda CRF250X off-road performance bike is still relevant in modern times.

Basically, with the 2016 Honda CRF250X you have a decade-plus old chassis and motor, which means a few things. For instance, it is well tested in the field, and meets Honda’s stringent demands for durability and reliability (though it does have an aggressive maintenance schedule). It certainly has been a reliable mount for us over the years, and in our first ride of the 2016 CRF250X, it was trouble-free, and part of that is because the motocross-based motor is designed to spin up to 12,000 rpm, but is rarely ridden there on single-track and technical trails, where we did the lion’s share of our testing.

The 2016 Honda CRF250X motor remains saddled with a carburetor, and that’s our biggest complaint. Although we did test in at various altitudes, and did not have to reject the excellent accelerator-pump equipped 37mm Keihin FCR flat-slide carb with a throttle position sensor (it works with the CDI’s electronic advance), we still prefer the automatically adjustment to changing conditions that comes with electronic fuel injection.

2016 Honda CRF250X Review | First Ride Test hillsRiding on the technical black-diamond trails locally, the CRF250X motor does continue to impress, despite its age. At the lowest speeds, picking through rock gardens or working our way up brutal switchbacks, the CRF250X refuses to stall.

While this is a given on EFI machines, we’re impressed at how resistant to flaming out the 249cc liquid-cooled, four-valve, SOHC (Honda’s unique Unicam) motor is, even when snapping on the throttle when clearing a log at low speed. We almost feel guilty demanding EFI, but we think a 2016 high-performance off-road bike deserves it.

The technology at work on the 2016 Honda CRF250X is aging, yet it’s still relevant. It has a 12.5:1 compression ratio, to give it that snap we need, a forget piston with short and narrow skirts, titanium intake valves, double-carburized connecting rod, Nikasil cylinder liner, and a twin-sump lubrication design that keeps the engine oil and clutch/transmission oil in separate chambers. All of these features combine to offer increased performance, as well as added reliability.

Power is always delivered controllably and with traction-maintenance in mind. If the rear Dunlop D756 is spinning, it’s because you want it to and you are hitting that 12,000 rpm redline. Certainly, there is tons of over-rev available, but, realistically, by 10k it’s definitely time to shift the easy-action five-speed transmission. The cable-actuated clutch is light, so even when riding single-track all-day, your left hand won’t feel unduly burdened.

Utilizing an aluminum twin-spar frame, the 2016 Honda CRF250X isn’t the narrowest bike in its class, but it is perfectly comfortable on the trail, especially when standing. Sitting, the tank area is a bit wide, thought the seat/peg/grips relationship is pure Honda—perfect. The seat height of 37.7 inches will intimidate newer riders to long-travel bikes – such as those moving up from a CRF230F – but it’s not higher than the competition.

Honda uses an old CRF250R frame and modified the aluminum thickness to give the frame a bit more flexibility, so it’s not harsh on the smaller, lower-speed bumps encountered off-road, as compared to on the motocross track.

The CRF250X’s inverted 47mm Showa twin-chamber forks are nowhere near the 49mm Showa Separate Function Fork, Triple Air Chamber air forks used on the latest CRF250R, but they are comfortable units. Working our way on the slowest sections, the forks are highly complaint, keeping the front Dunlop D7424A on the ground and turning the bike. When those slow sections are uphill, you’ll notice that the CRF250X has outstanding traction, with the soft and supple Showa shock keeping the rear wheel tracking over obstacles, rather than being bounced around. The motor allows the rider to lift the front end over rough terrain, though some planning is involved.

As speeds pick up, the softness of the forks is evident and some wallowing through the 12+ inches of travel at both ends does reveal itself when hitting berms, large and small, aggressively.

2016 Honda CRF250X Review | First Ride OutdoorsWhen you see whoops or are contemplating big air, be cautious at first. This is a casual enduro bike, not a desert racer or motocrosser. Even jumping through whoops was a bit of a challenge, as the suspension compresses a bit too much on each landing. For the moderate air we hit off-road, it’s fine. If you ride GNCCs that include an MX section, well, this isn’t likely to be your mount unless you’re the most casual competitor.

For the most part, the tighter the conditions, the more you will like the 2016 Honda CRF250X. At a claimed curb weight of 254 pounds with the too-small 1.9-gallon fuel tank filled, its dexterity is its strong suit, along with a sweet motor with an exceptionally wide powerband for a short-stroke 250.

With only a five-speed transmission and only about 28 horses on tap, this isn’t a great desert mount. On dirt roads, though, the CRF250X is a fun ride, though make sure you get your weight over the front end on turns. If you don’t, it will wash out without a whole lot of warning. Stability is not the CRF250X’s strong suit.

Although the latest CRF250X considered an off-road racer by Honda, it is an EPA-friendly Green Sticker bike. Really, it is amazing how well the 250X runs, given its reliance on a carb. Starting can be a bit balking in the morning–yes, there’s a choke–but we didn’t have to use the hot start lever at all, even when running the bike in the 90s.

Our list of improvements to bring the 2016 Honda CRF250X into the ’10s include EFI (the most obvious), the latest Dunlop Geomax rubber (keep the 18-inch rear, of course), tapered handlebars (though the traditional aluminum Renthals are fine), a skidplate (little plastic wings don’t do it in the rocks), and an electronic dash (all you get is a resettable mechanical odometer). We’re happy for Honda to leave the CRF250X’s suspension and motor as is, and let each rider tune it to his needs. The basics are there, and we like them.

While it’s not strictly a playbike like the CRF-Fs, with its Green Sticker and soft suspension, we consider the 2016 Honda CRF250X to be best suited to a serious trail rider who is more concerned about getting wherever he needs to go, and less about how fast he gets there. At $7410 in 2016, the CRF250X not so expensive that you can’t personalize the suspension and motor to your liking, which will leave you with a fantastic trail bike that is durable, incredibly easy to ride, and has the comfortable ergonomics you expect from Honda.

Photography by Kelly Callan

Riding Style:

2016 Honda CRF250X Specs:

  • Engine type: 249cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, four-stroke
  • Bore and stroke: 78mm x 52.2mm
  • Compression ratio: 12.9:1
  • Valve train: Unicam, four-valve; 31mm intake valve; 26mm exhaust valve
  • Induction: Keihin 37mm flat-slide carburetor with Throttle Position Sensor (TPS)
  • Ignition: CD with electronic advance and lighting coil
  • Starting: Electric and kick
  • Transmission: Wide-ratio five-speed
  • Final Drive: #520 T-ring-sealed chain; 14T/53T
  • Suspension Front: 47mm inverted Showa cartridge fork with 16-position rebound and 16-position compression damping adjustability; 12.4 inches of travel
  • Suspension Rear: Pro-Link Showa single shock with adjustable spring preload, 17-position rebound damping adjustability, and high- and low-speed compression damping adjustments; 12.3 inches of travel
  • Brakes Front: Single 240mm disc with four-piston caliper
  • Brakes Rear: Single 240mm disc with two-piston caliper
  • Tire Front: 80/100-21
  • Tire Rear: 100/100-18
  • Wheelbase: 58.3 inches
  • Rake: 27.9°
  • Trail: 4.7 inches
  • Seat height: 37.7 inches
  • Ground clearance: 13.6 inches
  • Fuel capacity: 1.9 gallons, including 0.4-gallon reserve
  • Color: Red
  • Curb Weight: 254 pounds
  • 2016 Honda CRF250X MSRP: $7410


2016 Honda CRF250X Photo Gallery: