It is popular to say that the forks on the 2017–2018 Honda CRF450 and 2018 CRF250 are production versions of the expensive Showa A-Kit forks. While it is true that the Showa coil-spring forks on the CRF450 and CRF250 share many of the design features of Showa’s A-Kit coil-spring forks, so do many other forks. It was the exotic coatings, close tolerances and special valving that made A-Kit forks famous. The latest-generation Honda coil-spring forks do not have those things. And even if they did, the last time any AMA Pro raced with aftermarket Showa coil-spring A-Kit forks was back in 2010. It makes for nice advertising copy, but the tubes, shims and valves don’t make it a great fork. What makes a fork great is the order in which those pieces are configured.

Which is where Factory Connection comes into the picture. The MXA wrecking crew spent a day at Glen Helen with Ziggy and the FC boys working on 2018 Honda CRF250 settings. We wanted to up the plushness, and Factory Connection claimed to have the solution with its new Performance kit. The goal of the Factory Connection kit and re-valve is to dramatically improve the feel of the forks from the moment the rider puts his hands on the bars. They wanted to get that tactile sensation at first touch that signals what the forks are doing, but most of all to reduce harsh feedback from the moment the forks start moving until they stop and reverse direction. Of course, it goes without saying that if you are going to smooth out the stroke, take away the harshness and absorb all the chatter, you will have to improve the bottoming resistance. Thanks to a combination of hard parts, setup savvy and shim settings on the BCV, compression and rebound circuits, the Factory Connection Performance kit was a winner.

In order to make our Factory Connection fork test as useful as possible, we enlisted our lightest AMA Pro test rider and went to the roughest track in SoCal. Why did we go for a 130-pound rider? Why did we go for a Pro? Why did we go to the toughest track we could find? We went with our lightest test rider because that is the target audience for high-rpm 250cc four-strokes. We have no doubt that heavier riders, and even Vets, will buy CRF250s, but Honda’s focus was on building a Pro-level KTM fighter. We went with an AMA Pro because the combination of light weight and speed made this test rider’s results work across a wide range of rider sizes and skills. If a 130-pound Pro likes the suspension settings, then most likely a 150-pound Intermediate or 170-pound Vet will find traits to like also. We went to the roughest track because you can’t test suspension on a pool table with jumps on it.

It’s no secret that the MXA test riders have issues with the 2018 CRF450 forks, but they genuinely like the 2018 CRF250 forks. So, we thought that Factory Connection had bit off more than it could chew. Not so. The improvement they made to our CRF250 forks over an eight-hour test day was phenomenal. The Performance kit ironed out all the Showa glitches and harsh spots and even cured some ills we didn’t know the forks had until they disappeared.

The Factory Connection CRF250 Performance kit is not sold over the counter or supplied through dealers. It can only be ordered directly from Factory Connection. Luckily, there are six Factory Connection locations in the USA—in Barrington, New Hampshire; Ephrata, Pennsylvania; Leesburg, Florida; Muskogee, Oklahoma; Corona, California; and Portland, Oregon.

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