2019 Honda CRF250RX First Ride Review

The CRF250RX is an all-new model for Honda in 2019 and is designed for closed-course off-road competition in race series such as GNCC and WORCS. The CRF250RX has all of the same features as the CRF250R motocross bike with the addition of off-road-specific ones such as a larger fuel tank, 18-inch rear wheel, kickstand, an O-ring chain, and different suspension settings. Honda invited us to Cahuilla Creek MX in Anza, California, to put the all-new off-road model through its paces on the trails and give it a first ride shakedown.

Engine

The CRF250RX engine has a very smooth roll-on power, decent midrange, and lots of over-rev. This type of powerband allows the gears to be used efficiently. The optional map settings were most noticeable when going from map 2 (smooth) to map 3 (aggressive). Map 1 sits somewhere between the other two and seems to blend in with both. Map 3 is the most preferable as it offers more low-end. Even though the CRF250RX was not around in 2018, it benefited from changes that were made to the CRF250R engine in 2019—particularly the new 44mm throttle body, which is 2mm smaller than the previous unit. This modification improves the torque feeling and throttle response without losing its strong over-rev power.

At first we were a bit disappointed that a six-speed gearbox was not designed into the bike. Although after riding it, we found the close-ratio five-speed transmission worked very well. First gear was low enough for tight rocky sections while second and third gear work best in the flowing areas of the trail. The engine’s linear power delivery allows each gear to be carried longer and therefore reduces the amount of shifting. We experienced some clutch fade when we got lazy and forgot to downshift, but the clutch is smooth and has a fairly easy pull.

Suspension

The Showa 49mm coil-spring fork and Showa shock settings are reasonably close. This bike has lighter springs (one rate less in both ends than the CRF250R) and valving more suited to off-road. We anticipated the suspension would be way too soft. However, after two sessions of motocross and single-track riding, it became clear the settings are much more in the ballpark than we expected. We made a few adjustments to help improve comfort in the rear and reduce a pitching feeling when the back wheel hit square-edge bumps. Two clicks softer on the shock’s low-speed compression helped in both of those areas, but gave the shock a bit of a wallowing feeling, so we went in a quarter turn on the high-speed compression to help with hold-up in the whoops. The fork performed well and only required one adjustment—going two clicks stiffer on compression. This improved the fork’s performance as it held up in the softer part of the stroke when braking and under heavier loads.

Chassis/Handling

The CRF is a compact chassis with a light and nimble feeling. It is a very good starting point for an off-road-competition, GNCC-style bike. The CRF-R and CRF-RX chassis are, for the most part, the same with different base suspension settings. This is an overall chassis that offers excellent rear wheel traction, but the front end can have a bit of a vague feeling at times. Staying over the front of the bike is very important for steering and this will also give you the maximum performance out of the chassis.

Since the chassis has a light feeling, setup and settings are very sensitive and it’s important to make the correct adjustments beyond the basics of sag height and tire pressure. Just one or two clicks on the fork or shock can result in big changes. Because the bike is very responsive to rider position, we experimented with positioning the bar a little farther forward than we normally would in order to put more weight over the front end and found positive results in doing so.

The Honda CRF250RX uses the same tank as the CRF450RX, and that’s one thing we don’t like about it. A lower and narrower tank would be better. Honda could use the additional space available with the smaller 250cc engine to design a thinner unit that doesn’t utilize as much space at the top.

Conclusion

Our first impression of the CRF250RX is very positive. A compact, light, and nimble chassis with a smooth, linear power delivery is a good combination to start with. If you are familiar with the new-generation Honda motocross and off-road competition bikes and like them, you are really going to love this bike. If you are new to the CRF, you might need a few laps to get accustomed to the chassis and how it benefits from a rider being more aggressive in their preferred riding position. Its smooth power also offers a little more forgiveness when you make mistakes in comparison to its big brother, the CRF450RX.

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