MXA’S 90-SECOND TEST: 2014 HONDA CRF250
Aside from the Yamaha YZ250F, the 2014 Honda CRF250 is the only 250 four-stroke to receive an extensive number of updates for the new model year. Honda took a three-pronged approach: (1) Boost power. (2) Lower weight in the chassis. (3) Improve the handling. Did they succeed? It depends on your skill level.
The Honda CRF250 is a bike designed to outmaneuver and blow by any other brand on the track. Unfortunately the meat of the power is positioned down low and the handling is suspect. We hoped that Honda would have addressed these issues in 2014. Instead they made updates to preexisting problems that sadly didn’t make much of a difference.
Comfort. The ergonomics, narrowness of the frame, seat foam and wide footpegs make a rider feel right at home.
Handling. The CRF250 can hit lines other bikes in the 250 class could only dream of. There is a caveat to this distinction. On faster tracks the CRF250 suffers from head shake, but it can be alleviated by cranking down on the steering stem bearings, adjusting fork height, race sag and adding more drag to the Honda Progressive Steering Damper (HPSD).
Jumpability. The CRF250 was made for scrubbing and jumping. It feels light in motion and Pro-level riders had no troubles throwing the bike around like a cat with a ball of yarn.
Engine. MXA testers preferred the 2013 CRF250 engine, as it suited a wider range of riders. The revised 2014 powerplant is beginner-level friendly and, at 37 horsepower, not preferred by faster riders.
Dual mufflers. The CRF250 has one too many mufflers. Honda should have learned the error of their ways back in 2006. Two mufflers are heavier, more prone to damage and more expensive to replace.
Suspension. Heavier and faster riders will soon discover that the Showa suspension is too soft. We added oil to the forks and went stiffer on the shock settings.
Head shake. The radical frame geometry creates a give and take relationship. The CRF250 can cut tight inside lines, but at the expense of stability.
Frame cradle. It’s absurd that a special bike stand is needed to make the CRF250 sit level. The slanted frame cradle is to blame.
WHAT DID WE CHANGE?
Here is the short list of things the MXA wrecking crew changed on the 2014 Honda CRF250.
(1) We tightened down the steering stem nut to reduce free play in the front end and combat head shake issues.
(2) We raised the fork oil height, as the stock settings were too soft for our tastes.
(3) We drop-kicked the dual exhaust for a single, which reduced weight and improved the powerband.
(4) We used a Matrix Concepts wedge bike stand so that the CRF250 would sit level.
(5) We removed the front brake disc guard to allow more air to the brake and prevent it from fading.
(6) We installed an oversize front brake rotor to improve stopping power. We like the Moto-Master Flame rotor (www.moto-master.com).
WHAT DO WE THINK?
Are you a Vet, Novice or Beginner looking for bottom end hit and razor-sharp cornering capabilities? That is also one of the most popular bikes among the buying public? Then the 2014 Honda CRF250 is for you. Otherwise move on, because there’s nothing to see here.