The much-anticipated lightweight off-road competition motorcycle from Honda is finally here in the form of the all-new 2019 Honda CRF250RX. We welcomed the CRF450RX back in 2017, and the completely new dual-cam CRF250R motocross motorcycle for 2018. However, we had to patiently wait until model year 2019 for the off-road CRF250RX to hit the dirt.Our initial riding impression took place in the pristine and moist conditions in the hills surrounding Cahuilla Creek Motocross. We tested various permutations of the interlocking system of fresh-cut twisty, rocky, undulating single-track trails that reminded us more of the terrain at the Tecate Enduro than anything associated with an MX park.
1. The 2019 Honda CRF250RX fills the void left by the discontinued CRF250X. Although it’s not Green Sticker legal, the CRF250RX sits between the new CRF250F trail bike and CRF250R motocrosser. The RX’s lineage is closely linked to the latter, with the differences on paper being additional fuel capacity, an 18-inch rear wheel, and kickstand, plus off-road specific suspension and engine mapping settings. With this in mind, we expected a pretty stiff motocross experience with a little more off-road capability thrown in. Instead, we were blown away by the off-road prowess and pure fun-factor that the new CRF250RX dishes out.2. The 2019 Honda CRF250RX feels more like a purpose-built off-road racer than a modified motocross machine. We’re well versed in converting MX bikes for off-road racing use, with all of the inherent compromises. Although that’s what Honda did, the CRF250RX feels like it was designed from the ground up for off-road competition, as well as blasting down the trails for recreation.3. The three handlebar-mounted selectable EFI maps drastically change the character of the CRF250RX. The Standard map works exceptionally well for putting the power to the ground when chicaning through creosote bushes on sandy single-track. The Aggressive map is lively and fun, yet still effective at putting the power to the ground without upsetting the bike. The Smooth map slows the roll-on of the power to create an extremely friendly delivery that promotes the feeling of flow while connecting different sections of trail. The maps are so distinct that you instantly know which one you are in, putting you in control of the power-delivery experience.4. With a redline of 14,400 rpm, the over-rev makes for serious speed on the trail. Let’s face it, when connecting your pivot points through tight single track, the decision to upshift and downshift before the next turn can be a difficult one. You want to be able to get more top-end drive and overrev from your motor, so you don’t have to shift at all. The CRF250RX delivers a high rev ceiling and great top end pull that provides that extra boost without you necessarily having to grab an extra gear.5. The 249cc powerplant makes great power everywhere. The brand-new titanium-valved, dual-cam engine utilizes two completely separate exhaust pipes, each one evacuating a separate exhaust valve. The Honda engineers explained that the right-side exhaust pipe is slightly longer with a resonator chamber or “power bomb” to facilitate low-end torque, while the left-side exhaust is shorter and, without the resonator, top-end power is increased. The feel on the trail is a solid low-to-mid power delivery that keeps on pulling all the way to the redline.6. Handling is superb, with a precise and lightweight feel that doesn’t give up much in the way of high-speed stability. Gassed up and ready to ride, the CRF250RX is stated to be 244 pounds, with the kickstand and extra fuel capacity adding seven pounds when compared to the CRF250R. The chassis has a very light and lively feel, making it easy to switch up lines and pivot off of obstacles, and very responsive to steering through the footpegs, especially when tackling quick left-right chicanes. Carving mile after mile of single track is traditionally very fatiguing, but the CRF250RX does it with such ease and grace, it’s addicting and pegs the fun-o-meter!7. The CRF250RX has one spring-rate softer front and rear suspension compared to the CRF250R, along with off-road specific valving. We set the sag at 106mm for my 175-pound frame, and the suspension worked really well for rocky and whooped single-track terrain. The rear shock settles into corners and creates excellent hook-up and drive on exit. At trail riding speeds, the suspension is balanced. When the pace increases, it holds up in the stroke well with the speed-sensitive fork action evaporating some of the plushness experienced at lower speeds, allowing me to charge at full race pace.8. The Dunlop Geomax AT81 tires are magic. Granted, we were riding in damp sandy conditions, which were just about perfect—still, our experiences with the Dunlop AT81s h great on a wide variety of terrain. In this case, we spent a lot of time turning, and the AT81s have great sidewall knobs for traction when leaned over.9. With a firm frame, excellent tires, and outstanding suspension, handling on the 2019 Honda CRF250RX is impeccable. One of the great things about the CRF250RX is the rider’s ability to put the motorcycle where desired. The CRF250RX feels light on its feet, and goes where it’s pointed. Interestingly, the steering does change with the power modes. In the Smooth mode, it likes to be steered with the bars. Move up to the Aggressive mode, and you will want to move forward on the seat to return traction to the front end, and you spend more time steering with the rear wheel. In a straight line, the CRF250RX is solid.10. Clutch pull is light and progressive, and we never missed a shift. The cable-actuated clutch worked well and never faded, even in the tight and technical terrain. Moreover, we didn’t have a problem with stalling or flaming out when the going got slow.11. The 2019 Honda CRF250RX utilizes the same 5-speed transmission and 13/48T final drive gearing as the R model. With the tight single track of our test loop, we never needed to shift beyond 4th gear, so we can’t attest to 5th gear top-end speeds yet. Thus far, the gear spacing for tight and technical terrain is spot-on.12. The Nissin binders provide great feel and never overheated. The front caliper utilizes a dual piston design with one piston 3mm larger than the other. The Honda engineers explained that using two different piston sizes provides a more progressive feel as well as additional braking power. With the perfect traction on our test loop, we were able to really put the brakes to the test—they performed flawlessly, even for a certified rear-brake dragger like me.13. Renthal Fat Bars are a welcome addition. Even though the CRF250RX doesn’t have the overly stiff chassis feel of a converted motocrosser, I like having an oversized bar with a little flex for pounding off-road terrain. What’s even better, the upper triple-clamp, which has a unique sand-cast pebbly texture to it, has four different handlebar-mounting positions to accommodate riders of different proportions and tastes.14. The CRF250RX’s ergonomics are perfectly neutral. Nothing feels out of place on the CRF250RX. The grips, footpegs, and controls are all where you expect them to be, and the bike is pleasantly narrow.15. The 2019 Honda CRF250RX is serious fun, whether you’re gunning for the podium, or just powering past your buddy. Flicking a potent off-road racer through single-track is the stuff we dream of. Being able to do it in style with minimal effort and huge a smile on our face, well that’s as good as it gets. We look forward to doing an off-road comparison with the highly respected Yamaha YZ250FX; in the meantime, we’re going to spend every possible minute ripping the trail on the all-new Honda CRF250RX.Still photography by Drew RuizAction photograph by Don Williams (except as noted)Riding Style
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!