The new CRF250 engine screams to 14,000 rpm and pumps out 40. 70 peak horsepower, but seriously lacks bottom-end grunt.
mid power but signed off quickly on top. Although it was
considered slow for a 250F machine, it had its purpose. It
was an easy-to-ride bike that was great for riders moving
up from a minicycle or for an entry-level rider. No MXA
test riders hated riding the 2017 CRF250, but everybody
hated racing it.
The 2018 CRF250 engine is the complete opposite of its
predecessor. This is both good and bad. If it were a perfect
world, we would take the bottom and midrange from the
2017 model and combine it with the top-end power of the
2018 model to make one very good powerband. Even in
fairytale land, the Husky FC250, KTM 250SXF and YZ250F
powerplants would still out-power our imaginary com-bined-powerband dream machine. Even the KX250F would
be biting at its heels.
Getting back to reality, the 2018 CRF250 engine is vastly
different to ride than any other 250 four-stroke powerplant
in its class. To get the most out of this engine, you must
keep the momentum moving while living between 10,000
and 12,000 rpm. Paradoxically, to get through a tight corner without falling over, you must downshift—a lot. This
brings some other engine oddities into play. First, engine
braking in Map 1 is mild. This allows the suspension to
stay calm and not load up so it doesn’t aggravate the rear
end when downshifting into corners. Second, the MXA test
riders liked the power gains from bottom to mid with the
more aggressive Map 3, but engine braking was increased.
This negatively affected the handling when having to
downshift so many times.
The 2018 CRF250 engine will allow you to hold it wide
open in second gear going up the long start straight at
Glen Helen without falling on its face. We like this. If you
don’t want to shift, you don’t have to. The power does fall
flat, though. The engine starts to get loud after you hit
12,000 rpm. Not a concerning loud, just old-silencer-packing
loud. The high-decibel sound makes you feel like you’re
moving faster than you actually are. You feel the bike has
more to give, but, in reality, the optimal shift point has
come and gone. When you do hit that next gear, there’s
a 50/50 chance you will hit the CRF250 engine’s sweet
spot. To find it, you have to be carrying good speed and
not be going uphill. It’s not a very wide sweet spot, and
it is almost impossible to hit it two upshifts in a row. This
engine thrives on high-speed tracks with minimal elevation
changes and struggles on tight tracks, sand and big hills.
Q: IS THERE AN EASY FIX TO GET MORE
BOTTOM AND MID OUT OF THE ENGINE?
A: This is not a fix but more of a Band-Aid. The stock
13/48 gearing combo is too tall for a top-end-only bike.
Going to a 49-tooth rear makes a huge difference. The shift
point’s sweet spot got bigger and easier to find. The power
became more playful and usable. Our Vets and Novice riders opted for a 50-tooth rear sprocket. These riders don’t
carry speed through corners as well as Pros. Slower riders
need a burst of power when exiting corners to get them
moving again. Plus, they were forced to downshift any
time the engine had a big load on it. The 50-tooth rear
suited these riders better but was too low for MXA’s faster
Q: WHAT DID WE THINK OF THE UPDATED
A: The new chassis was awe-inspiring for any rider
who jumped on the bike. You can be fat, skinny, tall or