Words and video by Brendan Lutes
Photos by Chris Kinman and Lutes

Over the years, the Honda CRF250R has seen quite a few innovations, including dual mufflers, a steering damper, and most recently, Electronic Fuel Injection and an all-new chassis design. Since the current evolution of the CRF was introduced back in 2010, the bike has only seen small strategic changes aimed at improving the bike. For 2013, it's more of the same for Honda, as the CRF250R has received a few updates to keep up with the current crop of 250cc four-strokes.

The 2013 Honda CRF250R received some minor changes for the new year.

When it comes to the motor, all the internals remain the same for 2013, however, Honda has recalibrated the EFI settings to improve both the low-end and midrange power output of the bike while still retaining good top-end over-rev and pull. In the day and age of EFI, Honda is hoping that this change is enough to significantly boost the power delivery of the bike. As for the suspension, Honda only made a few minor internal updates, changing to a different spring rate up front for better bump absorption and more precise handling. The forks also received a larger diameter sub-piston—35mm to 37mm—for greater adjustability and suspension control. In the rear, the shock was given a larger diameter adjuster-bolt seat for improved controllability and bump absorption. Lastly—and perhaps the most significant change—is the new Dunlop Geomax MX51FA rear tire that is proprietary to Honda and is said to be 0.9 pound lighter than a standard MX51 tire, cutting unsprung weight significantly. Aspects of the bike that have carried over from 2012 are the Renthal handlebars, the Honda Progressive Steering Damper, and the light and agile chassis.

Test rider Jessie Huntley praised the CRF for its impressive low end hit, making powering out of the loamy Lake Elsinore berms easy.

Upon firing up the bike, we immediately noticed how easy it was to start. Even when hot, all it usually took was one focused kick to bring the bike to life. On the track the new EFI mapping was readily noticeable, as the bike produced a very strong low-end hit that lead into a meaty midrange and top-end pull. We found that in spite of the EFI improving the low- and mid-range power, the top-end wasn't adversely affected. Even with jumps found immediately out of corners, where many bikes might need to be shifted from second to third to avoid losing power, we were able to continue in second and rev out the little CRF while still producing enough power to get over the jump.

Where we had to make a few changes during our initial day of testing was the rear shock. While the front forks were stiffer than last year, and did an excellent job at soaking up rough chop and big jumps, the rear shock felt soft and dead before we went in three clicks on the compression and two on the rebound. The changes allowed the rear end to stay up higher, giving better rider feedback without blowing through the stroke as easily. Once we got the shock dialed in, the bike handled very well. Down fast straights, the front end remained stable and under braking, the rear didn't kick or do anything unpredictable. While the Elsinore track didn't have many deep ruts, we found that the bike turned very well without knifing or pushing.

Once we stiffened up the shock, the bike handled very well, staying planted down rough straights and diving into corners.

Last year, Honda produced a CRF250R that was improved over the previous years and performed well in our annual shootout. In our initial testing so far, we've found that in spite of the changes made for 2013, Honda hasn't messed up a good thing, and in fact, improved upon an already solid motorcycle. With improved power and confidence-inspiring handling we're sure that this bike will be a front-runner again during the 2013 250cc four-stroke shootout. As with all our tests, be sure to check out a future issue of TransWorld Motocross for a more in-depth review on the bike. We still have a lot of riding and testing to do aboard this bike.