Updated: Believe it or not, Honda added power to the
CRF250, but lost ground to the competition in the process.
The bad news. Honda’s sudden interest in making
horsepower is too little, too late. These would have been
good numbers five years ago, but they are weak sisters
in 2016. At 11,000 rpm the Husqvarna FC250 makes 2. 7
horsepower more than the Honda. At 12,000 rpm the Husky
is pumping out 3. 6 horsepower more than the CRF250. By
13,000 rpm, the Husqvarna has a 6-horsepower advantage
over the CRF250. The final important number is peak horsepower. The 2016 Honda CRF250 makes 38. 89 horsepower at
peak, while the Husky FC250 produces 44. 34 horsepower.
In dyno terms the Husky is taking candy from a baby.
Q: HOW FAST IS THE 2016 HONDA CRF250?
A: It is faster than last year’s engine, but it just isn’t a
contemporary powerband. While it revs higher and hangs
on longer, the feel of the powerband is hyperkinetic. It
turns over very quickly and runs through its power output
in half the time of the stronger and broader powerbands.
You find yourself shifting constantly to stay in the narrow
bubble. There is nothing to recommend about the 2016
CRF250 in the low-to-mid transition because this year’s
focus was on 10,000 rpm and up. But, every test rider said
the same thing: “It makes more power on top, but it’s over
This engine, even with its mods, is fighting with the
Suzuki RM-Z250 to stay out of last place in the 250cc four-
stroke engine lotto. Neither the red nor yellow powerplants
have the horsepower, breadth, usability or pizzazz of the
green, white, blue and orange engines. Sad but true.
Q: HOW DOES THE 2016 HONDA CRF250
A: The engineers wanted to put a new frame under
the 2016 CRF450, but they didn’t have the budget. Their
solution? They lengthened the fork tubes by 5mm. Why did
they do that? It lifted the head tube, which slackened the
head angle, moved the weight bias rearward and increased
the trail. The result was a slightly calmer chassis at speed
and on the entrance to turns. It is the poor man’s frame fix,
which leads us to the 2016 CRF250 chassis.
The 2016 CRF250 got the same long fork legs, but, unlike
the CRF450, where Honda insists, in the owner’s manual at
least, that owners slide their forks all the way down to the
caps, the CRF250 forks can be moved up and down to suit
track conditions (not that the CRF450 forks can’t be moved
by enterprising racers). The basic setup is to start with the
forks 5mm up in the clamps. In good conditions the CRF250
tries to channel its inner RM-Z traits; however, just like the
RM-Z that it emulates, when the traction isn’t as good,
the speeds are high or the track is rough, the CRF250 is
very busy. There is lots of twitching, head shaking and
considerable wandering. In these situations, we slid the
forks down in the clamps to the same fork height as
recommended on the 2016 CRF450.
It should be noted that apart from the twitch, every
MXA test rider felt at home on the CRF250 chassis. It felt
light; it felt right.
Q: WHAT WOULD WE DO TO THE CRF25O IF
WE OWNED THE FACTORY?
A: Here are our target changes on the day we move
into the big office:
(1) Honda culture. We’d build the most powerful
engine in the 250 class—not one that gives up 5 horsepower to a European bike.
( 2) Twice pipes. We’d drop-kick the twin mufflers
for a single-sided exhaust system. Not only would we
Appendage: “Fashion over function” best describes the
Honda CRF250’s twin mufflers.
Pucker up: The bigger front brake rotor put a stop to both
the CRF250 and test rider complaints.