MXA RACE TEST: THE REAL TEST OF THE 2024 HONDA CRF250
Q: FIRST AND FOREMOST, IS THE 2024 HONDA CRF250 BETTER THAN THE 2023 MODEL?
A: Nope. The 2024 model isn’t any better than the 2022 or 2023 bike. It’s the same model, only with a $100 upcharge, bringing the MSRP to $8,299.
We were mildly surprised when we found out that Honda wasn’t updating its CRF250. For 2023, the CRF450 received a list of small changes that primarily focused on the 450 four-stroke’s power delivery, but it also gained some frame mods and suspension setting changes.
Of course, the 250 and 450 engines are completely unique and have different needs, so we didn’t expect the longer air intake boot, smaller intake valves or smaller Keihin throttle body of the CRF450 to end up on the CRF250. In fact, Honda was trying to slow down and mellow out the CRF450 by reducing airflow into the combustion chamber. On the CRF250, they still wanted all the power and hit they could get.
Additionally, Honda updated the CRF450 frame last year by increasing the thickness of the forged bridge strut, which connects the frame’s downtube to the extruded rectangular tubes of the frame cradle, by 2mm (from 4mm to 6mm). They made the shock-tower forging, where it connects to the top of the shock, 2mm thicker as well. Plus, they changed the Showa shock’s spring rate from 54 to 56 N/mm. The frame changes were neither here nor there for our test riders. They didn’t solve or magnify any of the issues we already had with the CRF450 frame.
Q: HOW DOES THE 2024 HONDA CRF250 RUN ON THE DYNO?
A: Dyno numbers don’t always reflect how you feel when riding a bike, but they do visually display the power curve so you can objectively compare the numbers to those of other bikes. When the CRF250 was all new in 2022, our testers loved the power. It had a Yamaha YZ250F-style of grunt that came on with authority, making it easy to get up and go. To our surprise, it was actually slower on the dyno than the 2021 CRF250, which had power that we likened to that of a 125 two-stroke. The 2024 Honda CRF250 reaches 40.79 peak horsepower at 11,830 rpm, with a peak torque number of 19.77 pound-feet. In comparison, the “bottomless” CRF250 of 2021 pumped out 42.06 horses at 13,000 rpm with 20.15 pound-feet of torque. Crazy, right? Not really. Honda flipped its power curve and went digging for gold in the form of added low-end horsepower. Some of the performance mods included a new air intake system that benefited from a larger airbox, a larger 44mm throttle body, an optimized fuel-injector angle, dual springs on the intake and exhaust valves, an updated piston and connecting rod, a new rocker arm, increased oil volume, a single exhaust (instead of the twice pipe), nine-plate clutch (up from an eight-plate system) and more.
In 2018, Honda’s CRF250 engine was all about high-revving horsepower, but it sacrificed low-end power. In 2022, Honda did the opposite. Honda didn’t worry so much about top-end power and instead focused on rideability. In conclusion, the dyno numbers aren’t impressive, but the power is still better.Without making any changes, the CRF250 became the lightest 250F in 2024. How does that work?
Q: HOW DOES THE 2024 HONDA CRF250 RUN ON THE TRACK?
A: Honda set out to copy the Yamaha YZ250F powerband when they introduced the 2022 engine, and they accomplished that task. The CRF250 muffler even mimics the sound of a stock YZ250F, which is not a good thing. The CRF250 engine comes on strong with added torque that feels faster than it is. At the crack of the throttle, the 2024 CRF250 is the most exciting and responsive bike on the track.
The CRF250 isn’t as fast as the KTM, Husqvarna, GasGas or Kawasaki 250 four-strokes, but it feels faster because of the excitement it delivers on corner exits. The SX, KX, MC and FC don’t pop as hard initially, and they thrust out of turns with a smoother pull that feels less exciting, even though it is still faster. If you own a Honda CRF250 and you’re happy with the engine, just make sure you never try an Austrian bike or a Kawasaki.
Q: HOW HEAVY IS THE CRF250?
A: The Honda CRF250 hasn’t changed since 2022 when it was tied with the Husqvarna for the third-lightest bike in the class. Now, suddenly, it’s the lightest 250 four-stroke on the market. Jackpot! The 2024 Honda CRF250 weighs 219 pounds. We weigh our bikes “wet” with standard coolant and oil levels but without fuel in the tank (this way a bike with a small fuel tank isn’t rewarded for “saving weight”). The CRF250 has lost a lot of weight since the 227-pound 2021 CRF250.
How did the bike lose 8 pounds? By dropping the dual-exhaust system and switching from a Dunlop rear tire to an ultra-light Pirelli 100/90-19 rear tire, which is too skinny to be taken seriously. Also, the new frame and bodywork that first came on the 2021 CRF450 helped lighten the load.
Q: HOW IS THE 2024 HONDA SUSPENSION?
A: The Honda CRF250 suspension is tailor-made for pro-level riders to use on technical and tacky tracks. The forks need traction and hard front brake pressure to actually work. If you’re riding Supercross, you’ll be off to a good start with the stock Showa forks.
In the real world, on a real track, the front deflects off the bumps and pushes the front wheel coming into corners. It’s hard to imagine Honda continuing to press “copy/paste” on these very stiff CRF250 forks, but this is the third year in a row without a single change to the valving inside these forks.
The shock isn’t bad on the CRF250, and we don’t have many complaints with it when we set the sag to 105mm. Usually, when the forks are ultra-stiff (like they also are on the 2024 Kawasaki KX250), you can raise the sag on the shock to 100mm or raise the forks up in the triple clamps to put some more weight on the front end and help find some front-wheel traction. However, on the Honda chassis, this is the danger zone. With its twitchy front-end characteristics (mostly on the CRF450), you have to be careful weighting the front of this bike. We’ve even seen factory HRC Honda riders like Jett and Hunter Lawrence run steering stabilizers on their CRF250s both indoors and out, which is not very common in the 250 class.
The dyno numbers aren’t great, but the CRF250 has a strong low-end grunt.
Q: HOW DOES THE 2024 HONDA CRF250 HANDLE ON THE TRACK?
A: Not so well. As mentioned above, the Showa spring forks are far too stiff, and the CRF250’s handling issues start there. We appreciate that the new-generation Honda was made lighter, which helps with hopping over bumps and clearing jumps, but the rigid suspension and frame don’t complement the weight loss. It actually makes our test riders miss the oh-so user-friendly 2018–2021 chassis with its weak-sister engine, plush suspension and balanced frame.
We tried Ride Engineering’s 23.5 offset triple clamps (in place of the stock 22mm clamps), and they changed the trail, lengthened the wheelbase and improved stability. The Ride Engineering clamps fit on both the CRF450 and CRF250. Because the 450 is much faster and more difficult to hold onto, the benefits of the offset clamps are more noticeable on that bike. Plus, if you’re a light rider, you can buy the Honda HPSD steering damper and mount from Ride Engineering to help with head-shake.
We also mounted Pro Circuit’s shock linkage on the chassis, creating a more linear rear-shock motion that starts out plush and ramps up as you get further in the stroke. Pro Circuit works closely with Johnny Campbell’s factory JCR Honda off-road team, and they helped develop this linkage to find stability and balance on the Hondas.
It’s hard to imagine Honda continuing to press “copy/paste” on these very stiff CRF250 forks, but this is the third year in a row without a single change to the valving inside these forks.
Q: WHAT DID WE HATE?
A: The hate list.
(1) Suspension. The Showa forks are way too stiff. We would rather go back to the 2021 forks that we complained were too soft.
(2) Tires. The Pirelli MX32 100/90-19 rear tire feels like a compromise to save weight.
(3) Sound. Even when it’s brand new, the CRF250 muffler sounds like it’s blown out. The stock muffler on this bike and the YZ250F both sound horrible.
(4) Radiator cap. Every high-performance motorcycle that comes through our stables with a 1.1 kg/mm2 radiator cap overheats. Switch it out for a 1.8 Twin Air high-pressure radiator cap to protect your engine.
(5) Grips. The stock Honda grips are overkill.
(6) Airbox. The big vent is good for power, but the upside-down air filter gets dirty quickly.
(7) Balance. As with the CRF450, it’s hard to find a happy medium on the fore and aft balance of the CRF250. A change to the front ruins the rear and vice versa
The CRF250 has a cable clutch while the CRF450 is hydraulic.
Q: WHAT DID WE LIKE?
A: The like list.
(1) Engine. The peak horsepower isn’t there, but the CRF250 is easy to ride. It gets up and goes, allowing for smooth corner exits.
(2) Weight. The Honda dropped weight in 2022, and not a single thing has changed since then, but somehow it went from being tied for third-lightest bike to being the lightest bike in 2024. How did that happen? The simple answer is that the Austrian trio gained weight.
(3) Maps. We like that you can change the maps easily on the handlebars and that they make a fairly noticeable difference on the track.
(4) Clutch. It’s a more durable nine-plate system, and even though it’s not hydraulic like the CRF450, it holds up well.
(5) Skid plate. The lightweight and flexible plastic skid plate is nice.
(6) Bodywork. The bike looks amazing.
(7) Airbox. The CRF250/450 airbox cover isn’t as easy to remove as KTM’s, but it is one-bolt easy.
(8) Ergos. The Honda footpeg-to-seat-to-handlebar relationship is ergonomically perfect for motocross.
The CRF250 shock comes with a 50 N/mm spring.
Q: WHAT DID WE REALLY THINK?
A: Our opinion hasn’t changed since this version of the CRF250 came out in 2022. The then-all-new bike switched from an easy-to-use chassis and hard-to-use engine to an easy-to-use engine and hard-to-use chassis. We’d pick the latter option all day long because the 250 class is all about power, and even though this bike has less actual horsepower now than it did a couple of years ago, the power is more usable and feels much stronger on the track.
As for our chassis complaints, they can be resolved with the help of a good suspension technician and a rider who isn’t afraid to make changes regularly. Since Honda hasn’t updated its CRF250 one iota since the new-generation bike was first introduced in 2022, we are hoping they have a bag of cash set aside to invest in 2025 Honda CRF250 updates.