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Since undergoing a complete redesign in 2014 with a new chassis, engine, suspension, and bodywork, Honda’s CRF250R has since seen targeted minor changes. This year is more of the same. Rather than returning to the drawing board and revamping a bike that is already a proven contender, Big Red decided to work on the 250’s shortcomings, improving the suspension and motor.

The power department is where the CRF has lacked in previous years, and to remedy this, Honda gave the bike some new internal components. Up top, a new piston and connecting rod cut weight and allow for higher revs, while an increase in compression—from 13.5 to 13.8—helps to improve the power. Titanium exhaust valves and revised intake and exhaust ports help to further enhance the power characteristics. Complimenting the engine updates is a new airboot and revised ignition mapping, as well as a new exhaust resonator to the header and an increased diameter inner muffler pipe. The suspension also got equally as much attention, as the Showa Separate Function Fork Triple Air Chamber (SFF TAC) received some setting changes, which allow the fork more adjustability and bottoming resistance. The outer fork leg is also longer to give the fork more room to be moved up or down in the triple clamps. Other smaller, less significant changes include a larger left radiator, new footpeg bracket design, and a reduced diameter chain roller.

2016 Honda CRF250R off-road track cornering actionON THE TRACK
Reliability has always been the cornerstone of Hondas, and the brand has never lost that key attribute. Over the years, though, performance has varied, and the 2016 CRF250R’s power and handling is an improvement over last year. While not a drastic change, the power of the CRF is better. The power comes on strong on the bottom and pulls into the top-end nicely; however, we did feel that the over-rev is where the bike lacks. We found ourselves having to shift earlier, as the bike stopped producing useable power when we needed it the most. Thankfully, the mapping selection button on the handlebars makes it easy to choose between a slower/retarded map, a standard map, and an aggressive map. It can be done by simply pulling off the track, pulling in the clutch, and pressing the button until the corresponding blinking light on the button is engaged. We found that we liked the aggressive map the most, as it broadened the power and allowed the bike to pull a little further while still retaining a good amount of low-end torque. In short, the aggressive map helped give the bike an added boost of precious power.

2016 Honda CRF250R rear suspension close-up

The handling of the Honda compliments the engine nicely. The chassis has a very nimble feel that is easy to maneuver in the air, allowing you to place it exactly where you want, but we did have to tweak the suspension settings on the Showa SFF TAC fork and shock, as well as the steering damper, to get the bike to the sweet spot that we’re used to. Initially, the suspension felt soft with a bias on the rear end. The bike handled well down fast rough straights, but because the rear end was lower, turning was hindered. To fix this, we stiffened up the high-speed compression on the shock, softened the fork’s outer chamber pressure from 12 PSI to 8 PSI, and lastly we went two clicks stiffer on the low-speed compression. To help stabilize the bike at speed, we also went two clicks stiffer on the steering damper. All of this combined to give the bike a more planted feel in corners, while improving the bottoming resistance on big jumps and the ride stance down rough straights. After those changes were made, we had a blast aboard the CRF.

2016 Honda CRF250R static side viewTHE VERDICT
With only minimal changes to the suspension and motor, Honda has improved upon an already solid package for the CRF250R. The motor is faster and revs more freely than last year, and the suspension provides good smooth action. While we found it too be slightly soft at first, it only took some minor adjustments to get it to where we wanted. Once that was achieved, we were happy. Overall, the CFR250R is a worthy weapon for any skill level, and one that when in the right hands, can be a consistent race winner.

-Improved power over last year’s bike
-Strong off the bottom
-Handling is solid and confidence inspiring
-Good straight-line stability
-Chassis has a nimble, yet stable feel
-Three-map ignition selector switch on the handlebars is very convenient
-Strong brakes
-The Showa fork and shock offer a lot of adjustability

-Suspension is soft for faster or heavier riders
-Could still use some more top-end over-rev
-HRC Setting Tool is complicated to use—and requires a laptop—when reprogramming the ignition mapping

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