FARM TEST | HONDA CRF250F
Honda delivers an air-cooled 250 with an uncanny resemblance to the old XR! This little trail machine is the ultimate beginners bike.
Honda delivers an air-cooled 250 with an uncanny resemblance to the old XR. The CRF250F makes an excellent beginners’ bike, but you’ll need recreational registration or private property to ride it. People might think it’s a bored out CRF230F but that’s not the case. Having started as a 100cc bike, it’s a stretch to make the 230 go any bigger and the 230F will remain in production, with a MY20 version to be revealed soon.
The $7199 CRF250F features a 250cc single-overhead camshaft engine with Keihin fuel injection. Honda told Australasian SXS the CRF250F has 16% more power (2kW) and 21.7% more torque (3.9Nm) than the old $5999 CRF230F.
A new tubular steel frame works with a 41mm conventional fork (up from 37mm on the 230F) and Honda’s proven Pro-Link monoshock has been completely revised and has 230mm of travel with preload spring adjustment (I had one in my first XR back in the early ’90s) to deliver a great trailbike feel. Honda has gone with quality running gear as well, including a set of hydraulic brakes front and rear (the 230F only has a disc on the front), a five-speed gearbox (as opposed to the 230Fs six-speeder) and electric start. The bike has also been given similar styling to the CRF motocross range and a handy low fuel light (no tap) and “key on” indicator light.
HOW DOES IT LOOK?
The CRF250F looks, to the untrained eye, like a CRF230F with fuel injection. It’s a similar size (about three-quarters of full-size) with a low seat of 883mm and conventional suspension.
HOW DOES IT GO?
Our tester, 28-year-old Bec Wilson said it has more power than the 230F right through the rev range and the EFI makes it more responsive. Having EFI also means starting is a breeze. There’s no long waits to go riding on those cold mornings or if you’ve had a tip-over. It sports a smaller fuel tank than the 230F (down to 6L from 7L) but Honda claims the EFI system actually gives it more range than a 230 (there is no speedo so testing this is difficult) and reduces the weight.
When she went over bumps the seat was well padded and provided a soft landing. The seat was at a perfect height because, at 170cm tall, she could still get both feet on the ground, which made it easy to balance the bike. It didn’t feel top heavy when stopped or when riding but, after a little stack, it was harder to pick up than a 110 or 150. It actually felt quite heavy but after a few goes at picking it up I worked out the right technique. Turns out it wasn’t that heavy after all (120kg wet, up 7kg on the CRF230F).
When twisting the throttle, the power came on straight away, making it easy to manage the speed because there was no lag. At times I would accidently twist the throttle over bumps and speed up, but I slowly got used to controlling my hand over bumps. The gears were easy to change.
The bike was able to rev really low without stalling, which is great for a beginner. The throttle on the bike was easy to get the hang of and the power delivery was really linear but strong.
When starting and stopping the bike, Bec only ever used the front brake as this felt more comfortable to her. It was easy to slow down and to come to a smooth stop. She had to use two fingers for the clutch to get a good grip on it and, despite using it all the time, her hands and fingers never got sore. As a beginner, the bike was easy to manoeuvre and get the hang of quickly.
After a few laps on the track we did some riding in the paddocks and over a few rock passes. I went slowly over these and thought I’d fall off and that it would be really bumpy. The bike went straight through and I felt very sturdy on it, the suspension was good, and I hardly felt any of the rocks.