In 1986 the Honda had a cartridge Showa fork that was an
industry high point for years. That same year the power valve
was changed and was much more effective than the original
1997: Everything changed with the coming of aluminum.
The 1997 Honda CR250R was a mindblower with its twin-beam aluminum frame based on technology Honda had
gleaned from the superbike world. Not only was the frame
new, the motor had a heavy re-do, and the bike was nothing like its predecessor. But it was like 1981 all over again.
The bike was not well received. It was a very harsh-riding
machine with a top-end motor. Only pro riders warmed to
it, which sent Honda’s R&D team back to the drawing
board immediately. For two years they could only make
minor changes while a new frame was prepared. In this
period, the Yamaha YZ250 hit its stride in most magazine
2000: The second-generation aluminum frame finally
arrived, and it ushered in another period when Honda was
on top. It was the lightest and fastest, and even though
some DB test riders of the time still preferred the Yamaha
YZ250, it was a very close call.
2002: Once again, everything changed, and once again
the Honda suffered a setback. The 2002 CR250R got a
new motor with an electronic power valve. It looked good
on the dyno, but that never translated to a good feel on
the track. The Honda motor just felt sleepy. Power was an
area where the Honda had long shined, but that would
never be the case again. The frame and suspension, on
the other hand, were excellent—basically not that different
from the stuff on modern Honda four-strokes.
After that, the writing was on the wall. There would be
no further development of the CR250R, only minor
updates. In the spirit of Soichiro Honda, the company
made an announcement that it would make no more two-strokes after 2007; thus ending the greatest dynasty in the
history of motocross.
Even though the final years of the CR250R were not its
best, the bikes still do well on the track. In the used-bike
market, they have proven to be almost unbreakable. The
electronic power valve was driven by an underpowered
motor. On the works level, Honda quickly found out how to
In 1997, 1998 and 1999, the Honda 250 was a super-rigid aluminum frame and a top-end motor. It was so harsh that the
rest of the dirt bike world was slow to embrace aluminum as a
By 2000, Honda had time to redesign the frame for more compliance. The next two years were golden for the CR250R.
make the motor sing, but the change was never put into
Those last models are still competitive, but the real
prizes on the used market are the models from 2000 to
2002. They are like gold to savvy riders. Yet in classified
ads, you commonly see them selling for around $1800.
Going back a few years, the 1996 version is a keeper,
although as with any 15-year-old bike, condition is more