2020 Honda CRF250R Review: First Ride at Fox Raceway
The 2020 Honda CRF250R is virtually all-new this year, with a host of change. There are significant chassis changes—including a new frame—and Honda has also focused on improving low-to-midrange torque. We went over the changes in detail in our First Look story, so we can concentrate on the ride this time. After spending one-day on the CRF250R at Fox Raceway—site of the 2019 Pala Motocross National—on a perfectly groomed and watered track, here is what we found out.
The CRF250R’s engine has indeed been improved. Honda changed the ECU, cam, clutch, gearing, exhaust, and intake. The muffler core is increased in diameter, and the air filter is 10 percent larger to provide a better breathing powerplant and more torque. A common criticism of the 2018 and 2019 was the lack of low-end power. The 2020 cam profile changes give the 2020 Honda CRF250R more grunt off the bottom. ECU changes were done to complement these enhancements. First impressions are that Honda has made changes in the right direction with its DOHC four-valve motor.
The 2020 Honda CRF250R has three power maps—Standard, Smooth, and Aggressive. The three maps are selectable by a switch mounted on the top-notch Renthal Fatbar, though only with the motor idling. We rode most of the day in the Standard map, and did not feel too much change when switching to the Smooth map. The Smooth option should be more noticeable during longer motos or in slick conditions. The Aggressive map has a noticeable power change in the upper rev range, especially when getting hard on the gas out of deep corners and when horsepower is needed to clear a jump.
Clutch has increased capacity by 18 percent, and the gearing is revised. The transmission is exceptionally smooth and accurate when shifting between all gears. Shifting from second to third is improved by making second gear longer. The longer pull of second gear gives us ample time to exit the corner before needing to upshift. Honda removed the header-pipe resonator, claiming that the change improves shifts from second to third gear. Regardless of how it was accomplished, the result is a flawless transmission.
The chassis is new for 2020. The 2020 Honda CRF250R adopted the frame and swingarm from the flagship CRF450R. Honda says the new frame is lighter and increased yaw-angle stiffness, which is in the front to back direction. The bike has a very light nibble feel to it. The CRF250R gets in and out of corners well, and never wants to stand-up on us when negotiating long, rutted corners.
There are also smaller, though significant, chassis changes. The battery is about an inch lower in the chassis than before to lower the center of gravity. New footpegs have sharper teeth, as well as a more open design to shed mud. The added grip is very noticeable and an important part that connects your body to the machine. Plus, the new pegs are 20 percent lighter.
Suspension settings are updated to match the engine and chassis changes. We found the stock setting to be excellent for a 173-pound vet intermediate, and we ran the stock fork height of 3mm above the clamp. The sag was increased to 105mm to get the back of the bike down just a bit to help traction. We adjusted the hand and foot controls to taste, and then left it alone from there. Fox Raceway has a great variety of jumps and corners that are both high and low speed. However, the track was a bit to well-groomed to fully evaluate the suspension in rough conditions. As the track was set-up, the stock suspension settings were perfect.
The stock Dunlop Geomax MX3S tires provide the 2020 Honda CRF250R with excellent traction and superior bump absorption.
The new longer brake pedal has a short hose back to the caliper, while the calipers get new brake pad material. Additionally, the disc guard has been removed to keep the disc cooler. Honda made these brake changes for primarily for durability, though the overall feel is better as well.
Rider compartment comfort can be personalized, thanks to adjustable bar mounts. The top triple-clamp has two mounting positions for the Renthal bar. We started with the handlebar in the stock (back) position and never felt the need to move to the forward position, which gains 26mm. There is also 10mm of adjustment that can be had by rotating the holder 180 degrees. This gives you four different positions to dial in the feel you desire.
The bodywork has a very smooth layout that makes it easy for the rider to grip the CRF250R, whether forward or back on the motorcycle. We found no spot on the bike that grabbed at our riding gear. The 1.7-gallon titanium tank, with slim gas cap, lays flat and cannot be felt by the rider.
We love the look of the red machine! The black wheels and other black accents give it a very aesthetically pleasing look. The graphics are in-mold, durable, and look awesome!
By bringing the CRF250R’s chassis up to CRF450R spec, while also improving the low-end and midrange power, Honda makes an excellent 250 four-stroke motocrosser even better. We can’t wait to take the 2020 Honda CRF250R out on some rougher tracks and into competition to see how it does.