The media hasn’t been to a fly away introduction since pre-pandemic times, so it was nice that Honda invited all the media to Mountain View Motocross Park in Sandy, Oregon to try out their all-new 2022 CRF250R. I mentioned in Racerhead last week that there is always one bike that is the most anticipated of each model year release and this year it was the new CRF250R. Honda made significant changes to the CRF250R’s engine, chassis, a weight loss program, as well as suspension settings, but changing a bunch of things doesn’t always mean that it’s better, right? Instead of flying out there for a couple days, I decided to make a road trip out of it and bring my son as well as a couple friends for a few days to enjoy the cooler temps of the PNW. Getting to ride in the Pacific Northwest in the summer is much better than riding in the Southern California inferno. So, thank you Honda for getting us out of Hell’s Kitchen!
As some of you know, I had a small part in the development process of the 2022 CRF250R and I was adamant about a couple things that I thought needed help from the 2021 version. Some of the points of the machine I was vocal about during the testing process was torque feel, chassis rigidity, and better cooling of the machine. Some of you may think that test riders have A TON of say in the production process, but that simply isn't the case most of the time. For this project, the engineers really listened to what the consumer was looking for as well as heard what the test riders were feeling during evaluation days. The Honda CRF250R chassis has been one of the most fun feeling on the track, but getting the right balance is not always easy to do. Improving stability was one of the aspects that I thought the older generation frame needed and the Honda engineers listened and massaged the frame for the newfound horsepower. The 2022 CRF250R's wheelbase is now 10 mm shorter (at 58.1 inches), rake is relaxed by .02º (to 27.32º), trail remains at 115 mm, the seat height is unchanged at 37.8 inches, and ground clearance is increased by 3 mm (now 13.1 inches). Longitudinal rigidity is maintained for straight-line stability, while lateral rigidity is reduced by 20 percent to enhance handling feel when cornering. Those numbers may not mean much to you, but the new frame does feel significantly different than the 2021.
So, let’s get to the important aspects of the 2022 CRF250R. Is it better than the 2021? Yes, in almost every category! Now you’re probably thinking, “Of course he is saying that. He helped Honda develop it!” Well, this is true, but you can ask Honda how harsh of a critic I am of their machines. I am one of the harshest because I expect a lot from them as a manufacturer. The 2022 Honda has more bottom to mid-range torque, which makes it a much friendlier vet 250F machine. I am a huge proponent of using third gear in corners and that is one of the reasons why I love the Yamaha YZ250F so much. The Honda is not quite on par with the Yamaha down low, but it is much closer than before. The CRF250R has an exciting low to mid RPM response and pulls far through the top end. It almost has as much top end/over-rev of a KTM 250 SX-F yet pulls harder down low than the orange bike. If the Yamaha and KTM had a baby, the Honda CRF250R would be born. Its power is a blend of both machines and much more fun to ride than previous red models. Oh, did I mention that the nine-plate clutch system holds up way better to abuse than the old eight plate system? The thicker water pump propeller as well as the new radiator louvers cool down the unit much better than the 2021 bike! Not once did I see coolant puking out of any test bikes during the time I was at the introduction. I couldn’t have said that in previous years. The Honda also has more of a free revving feel to it (similar to a KTM) and is easier to get back into the meat of the power if you make a mistake.
We all know Honda has one of the best cornering chassis’ out there, but it wouldn’t hurt to get some added compliance and straight-line stability from the Honda, right? The 2022 gives you a little more of a forgiving feel on throttle while leaning. Think of a time where you need to go wide into a corner and then start angling back to get to the inside. This is where this updated 2022 chassis is better than previous years. I get some added contact feeling on lean angle that I didn’t have with the older chassis, which I find important if you want to keep momentum on a smaller cc’d bike. With the claimed eight pounds that the 2022 lost, you can definitely feel some of that when you start your lean into corners as well as when you want to stand up around the whole corner. I have always felt like I could stand up more on the Honda than other machines (besides the KTM), but the 2022 just gives me that feeling even more. Maybe this will not grab your attention that much, but it’s nice to have that lightweight feel while trying to maneuver you and your bike in ruts while standing.
I had my 15-year-old son Aden with me to help me dissect the Honda CRF250R a little and he came away impressed enough that he is bugging me to sell his other colored machines, only to have him switch to a red color for 2022. KIDS! Eyeroll! I will say he did look good on the bike, and I could see some added confidence in his cornering versus his KTM. Trey Canard was on hand to ride around with us media and give his take on the machine, so it was cool to watch Aden get to ride with one of our sport’s greats.
Honda did a good job in 2022 in order to be in contention for some shootout wins. I don’t know if it is the best 250F out right now, but it’s leaps and bounds better than it was last year, so it should move up the list for some riders it would seem! We will be getting our test bike soon to shake it down even more, but for now you can watch the complete breakdown video right here on racerxonline.com where we give you three separate opinions on the new CRF250R as well as some set up tips!
Main Image: Aden Keefer, photo by Dallas Dunn