2023 Honda CRF250R Review [Long
The 2023 Honda CRF250R is a continuation of the company's latest-generation motocross bike introduced in 2022. With an all-new motor and chassis package, this generation of the CRF250Rs shares its frame with the CRF450R, which is said to add rigidity. Along with suspension updates of the new CRF250R era, we have a lot to focus on, so let's dive in!
Starting with the motor package, it's important to note that the previous-era CRF250R was known to be slow off the bottom but performed well in the high rev range. That type of power delivery is excellent for fast riders who ride and race at high levels. However, the sluggish bottom end may not serve vet or novice riders who like to lug third gear around corners.
The 2023 Honda CRF250R still likes to be revved to the moon but has much improved bottom-end power. The engine delivers a punch in the low-to-mid range, making it easier to lug third gear around corners without bogging or lagging corner exit speed. For long, fast tracks like Glen Helen Raceway or Fox Raceway in Southern California, this power characteristic is lots of fun and doesn't require frequent shifting. Peak horsepower comes in at just below 40 horsepower at around 11.5k, which is not the highest peak horsepower in the 250 class. Still, the motor is willing to rev out, not signing off until 14,000 rpm. Put it all together, and the overall power delivery is majorly enhanced for performance and rideability for less-than-pro riders.
With the power increase, it is vital to maintain a clean engine. I always stress the importance of regular maintenance, including changing oil and air filters to preserve maximum performance. For as much as I ride, I love teaming up with my mechanic and filter provider, Jonathan "Hoodie" Lower at DT1 Filter Service, who does all the dirty work keeping my air filters clean. For racers or frequent riders, I recommend you send your filters into Hoodie.
Three map selections come standard on the 2023 Honda CRF250R, with a map switch on the left side of the handlebars. Map 1 is the standard setting, Map 2 is mellow, and Map 3 is aggressive. Map 1 won out as my favorite. Map 2 is a little too casual for me, though it seems like a great setting for a rider moving up to a 250. The aggressive setting was fun, too, and it had a noticeable increase in bottom-end power. However, power drops off a bit in the overrev zone.
With the added engine performance, Honda made some changes to the suspension department. To account for the improved motor package compared to the previous CRF250R model era, Honda increased the spring rate on the Showa closed-cartridge fork, making it a bit stiffer. I am a 5-foot-9, average-build rider weighing in at 170 pounds, and the stock fork settings were too firm for me.
With the added rigidity of the new frame, the front end of the 2023 Honda CRF250R felt loose and unpredictable in rough conditions. The stock fork settings left the front end struggling to stay planted on fast, rough straights and across corner-entry breaking bumps.
Right away, I adjusted the clickers. I softened the compression damping and sped up the rebound damping, trying to keep the front end planted. While the adjustments made the CRF250R more comfortable, there was still some headshake, and the front end could be unpredictable
To add some stability, I lowered the fork legs to flush with the upper triple clamp. That adds the stability I like in the rough straights, but I noticed a bit of difficulty in the corners. So, I took the bike back to the garage to raise the fork legs about 3mm above the clamps (stock is 5mm), and that seemed to be the sweet spot for me.
The Showa piggyback reservoir shock is pretty good out of the box. The standard settings are softer than the fork, so the balance is off. However, the shock does not require as much love as the fork. A few clicker adjustments to the shock with about 105mm of sag did the trick.
The 2023 CRF250R took more time than most bikes to set up to my liking, something most current generation CRF250R owners find out. It's not necessarily a negative characteristic of the red machine; it's just the nature of the beast. However, once I found the right balance for my riding style and weight, the 2023 CRF250R became a lot of fun to ride.
Once I found a good setup, I could ride for fun without being in test mode. Putting in lap after lap reveals that the 2023 CRF250R is designed to turn. I took it to several motocross tracks around Southern California to test it in all conditions.
My favorite track for the CRF250R is, by far, Cahuilla Creek MX in California's Anza Valley, about 4000 feet above sea level. It is a fun, flowy track with lots of jumps and turns, and the dirt is probably some of the best you’ll find in California. This particular track does not get as beat up as a track like Glen Helen Raceway or Fox Raceway. You won't find a ton of breaking bumps or harshly rutted corners at Cahuilla Creek, and the track remains pretty smooth throughout the day, even when the dirt gets dry. At Cahuilla, there aren't a lot of fast straightaways. Instead, you get long, swooping turns and big jumps. Combine smooth track conditions, lots of turns, and a flowing layout with the 2023 CRF250R, and you have a match made in heaven.
Even with the right suspension balance, the front end remains somewhat unpredictable and twitchy in rough track conditions. However, the Honda CRF250R is designed to be a front-steering motorcycle with a nimble feel to the chassis, and the great thing about the CRF250R is it is very responsive to rider input. Throughout my long-term testing of this motocrosser, I never felt like I had to fight the bike to put it where I wanted to go. It shines in the corners, feeling effortless to lean and grab any line at a moment's notice. It's nice to be aboard a motorcycle that obeys my commands.
For riders looking to improve their cornering technique, the 2023 Honda CRF250R is ideal. The chassis likes your weight far forward and, despite being a front-end handling machine, it insists the rider be on the gas through the rough stuff for best handling and results.
Whenever the front end gets a little out of control, I can twist the throttle to power through the chop or rutted corner and it responds incredibly well. I also noticed that on corner entries, it's best to be on the brakes later rather than sooner, again staying on the gas. On acceleration, more weight shifts to the rear and the front end doesn't bounce around as much.
Although the 2023 Honda CRF250R requires more TLC to get it right for my riding style, it is one of my favorites among the 250 class. The brilliantly balanced ergonomics add a high level of comfort that boosts my confidence. The responsiveness to rider input is a beautiful thing about the chassis. The suspension, yeah, it will need extra special attention should you decide to go out and buy the latest-generation CRF250. Happily, it is a ton of fun once you find your perfect setup.
Photography at Perris Raceway by Don Williams
2023 Honda CRF250R Specs
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
2023 Honda CRF250R Price: $8199 MSRP2023 Honda CRF250R Specs ENGINE CHASSIS DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES 2023 Honda CRF250R Price: $8199 MSRP