2020 Honda CRF250R | Bike Breakdown
VIDEO FILM & EDIT | Casey Davis
The Honda CRF250R was one of the better bikes in its class in 2019. Riders said that the precise handling of the chassis encouraged them to dive deeper into corners or carve a tighter line, enjoyed the high-revving characteristic of the engine, and found suspension settings that gave them confidence for whatever obstacles they encountered on the track. But notice how we said “better” and not outright “best.” As with anything, there is always room for improvement and some stated the engine’s powerband was all mid to high, due in part to internal components and a transmission that had rather short second gear, things that left the bike lacking a low-end hit that’s so critical in the 250 class. Others had qualms that the chassis was almost too responsive and that it felt unsettled in certain situations. Individually, those two things that could have been overlooked and the bike could have taken top honors, but together they made some rank the bike below others.
There’s no denying the Honda CRF250R is a solid bike and that it offers enough to keep a rider entertained and at the head of the field when all is right. That fact is made clear in the two pro championships it earned this year with Chase Sexton in the 250 East Coast region of the Monster Energy Supercross Series and with Jace Owen in his dominant run of the Kicker Arenacross Series. The bikes that those two took to titles did have a few updates and some of the teams’ knowledge was passed right on to Honda engineers for the 2020 CRF250R.
The 2020 Honda CRF250R isn’t an all-new bike, but when compared to its predecessor, the revamped engine package, new chassis, and some suspension settings to match make it noticeably different.
Honda’s biggest objective for the 2020 model was to up the low to mid-range performance of the engine, without sacrificing the top-end. To do this, the Japanese OEM looked at key components and made subtle changes that on their own don’t seem like much, but when together form a long list. The head of the engine features a new cam profile which delays the opening of the exhaust valves and reduces the valve overlap (the split-second when the intake and exhaust valves are open at the same time), and a new piston. The ignition timing was reconfigured, the shape of the combustion chamber was redone for improved efficiency, the resonator was removed from the right-side header, and the internal elements of the muffler cans were changed.
Making a better performing engine is one thing and putting the power to the ground in a usable way is another. A taller second gear altered the transmission’s gear ratio, which was done bridge the big gap some felt between second and third gear on the 2019 model, a surface treatment was applied to the cogs to improve their engagement and durability, and a gear position sensor was added to accommodate dedicated engine maps for each gear. To match the new transmission, Honda increased the capacity of the clutch by 18-percent and dropped in a stiffer clutch spring for a stronger all-around package. The bike again features three pre-programmed engine modes and a launch control start assist that riders can change via the handlebar-mounted switch, but the CRF250R did not receive the Honda Selectable Torque Control that was debuted on the 2020 CRF450R.
Chassis changes weren’t high on the list of demands in 2019, yet Honda still threw a new aluminum perimeter frame and swingarm at the CRF250R. Why? The design of the frame increases the yaw-angle stiffness (that’s technical talk for rotational) without giving up lateral or torsional stiffness, and also weighs less. The Showa coil-spring fork received increased low-speed damping, while the Showa shock got more low-speed compression and lost some high-speed compression. Lastly, the lithium-ion battery for the electric starter was lowered 28-millimeters to be closer to the center of gravity.
Other important things to note are a new rear brake setup which now has a longer pedal, shorter brake hose, and new pad material that together increases the pressure of the entire system for improved performance and durability, a larger left-side radiator for improved cooling, a 10-percent larger air filter, and new footpegs that are lighter and do a better job at shedding mud.