2005 250cc Four-Stroke Dirt Bikes – Test Ride – Review – Dirt Rider

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Over the last few years, 250cc four-stroke motocross bikes competing in the 125cc class have swelled from a single Yamaha YZ250F to four potent, easy-starting, fairly light track weapons that are all but unbeatable on starts. So you see why the class has become one of the most popular: It’s all about power. A 250cc thumper doesn’t make any more peak power than a good 125cc two-stroke, but it makes usable power over an rpm range that is up to twice as long as a 125′s.

Along with tractability a two-stroke can’t match, that makes the small weight penalty seem like a bargain. In large part, the 250cc four-stroke has gone from unconceivable to a class-changing replacement for many 125cc two-strokes. We see that trend slowing a little, but these machines remain hot news. The big question is: Which one is the best?

We have the answer, but we were amazed at how good all the bikes are.The overall high level of these machines motivated us to change our shootout format a bit. Throughout Dirt Rider’s history, we have evolved the format to ensure that we bring you the best possible information.

Our aim is to supply every detail to make an informed purchase if you’ve waited, and the best settings for each machine if you haven’t.With the bikes being so close in engine performance, we employed additional scientific yardsticks as well as more-intense seat-of-the-pants impressions. We began our initial testing at the introductions of the bikes.

From there, the Dirt Rider test staff visited five tracks, coming up with basic setup and learning each bike’s weak and strong points.We began our group testing while doing photos at Staben Ranch’s private supercross track. After finishing up our shots, the riders switched around a bit to get a feel for the bikes on the hard surface and large jumps. We regrouped at RaceTown 395 for its fast and rough outdoor-style track with a surface that varies from desert sand to packed clay.

We augmented three of our core test riders with enough pilots to assemble three groups of four riders. We had a novice moto, an intermediate skill group and a quartet of pros. We put each group through four motos in which they rode a different machine in each heat and raced each other. Through race simulation, our testers were able to pick aspects they liked and didn’t like in situations you can only feel when really pushing the bike and your body to the limit.

Next we put each bike through a series of tests using a radar gun to compare acceleration, top speed and stopping distances. Only then, after the track was well and truly hammered, did we begin our normal shootout testing. Our final day was conducted at Piru Motocross Park, where we continued learning more about jetting and suspension settings.After the roost settled, it was clear that each bike has a distinct power delivery and unique handling as well as varied rider compartments.

All four bikes are good–good enough that when the gate drops, it’s ultimately up to the rider. Our race simulations and lap times proved it’s the rider, as all of our testers had consistent lap times and moto finishes on all four bikes. The bikes definitely feel different, but switching from one to another didn’t affect who finished where in any of the three groups–at most, it only closed up gaps.

This shootout really came down to nuances, but when bikes are this close in performance, small things count big. One bike had the details dialed, felt great to every rider and indeed was the unanimous winner. But earlier we stated the question was “Which bike is best?” A better question would be “Which bike is best for me?” The honest answer is it depends on what is important to you in a motocross bike. So read on to figure out which bike best suits your needs.

Motorheads These bikes are all about motor. Since they have basically the same chassis as 125cc two-strokes, and they do still weigh a bit more, if it weren’t for the quantity and quality of the power that 250cc four-strokes produce, they wouldn’t be so popular. And make no mistake, all of these engines are a tough act for a 125cc two-stroke to stay ahead of.

All four machines have engines best described as refined rather than fully revamped, but all start reliably and consistently, run cleanly and make beaucoup power.The motor on the 2005 KX-F/RM-Z250 twins is quite an eye-opener. The claimed changes seem almost insignificant, but the motor proved extremely potent. Our test riders loved the hard-hitting motor character. Off the bottom, the motor pulls hard, though not as low or as smoothly as the CRF.

The KX-F/RM-Z power builds strongly all the way to the rpm limit. On the track, the motor revs the furthest and builds revs the fastest, but it almost feels as though it has two powerbands: one that pulls from the bottom up through the upper midrange and a second rush during the overrev. That is, the engine gets a little lazy up top, then kicks in again for the overrev portion of the power.

For that reason, we say the Yamaha pulls longer and harder on top.Most of the time, and during most track conditions, the KX-F/RM-Z’s power is snappy and usable, and the stock Kawasaki jetting worked great at all the tracks at which we tested. Suzuki states its model (built by Kawasaki on the same production line) has different standard jetting. Our bike came jetted like a Kawasaki, but Suzuki claimed it had rejetted the bike while breaking it in.

The transmission worked well, and the bike shifted with ease under acceleration. But we did notice that the transmission is sensitive and wants fresh oil at all times. We experienced a few shifting problems with dirty oil in the KX-F; once we changed the oil, it shifted fine.

The clutch works well, but our bike was ridden hard and we suffered some slipping. We changed the clutch springs at the first sign of slipping, then had no problem for the remainder of our test. Keep an eye on them.

One of the biggest differences observed, and loved, was that the twins now start with ease. Even after a tip-over, we had no problems re-lighting the motor.Even more welcome, our bikes ran cool with zero radiator boil-over during the test, thanks to much-larger radiators. The transmission has stronger gears, and they gave us no trouble, but we didn’t expect anything this early, either.Since the YZ250F first arrived in 2001, the motor has been the strongest part of the bike.

For 2005, it still has a ton of meat. Off the bottom, the motor is a bit soft and will hiccup or hesitate if you try to roll the power on quickly with the throttle. It requires a bit of clutch to get going, but once the revs pick up, it generates a very strong midrange and top-end with a nice dose of overrev.

Both the CRF and the twins will roll on at lower rpm, but once the YZ-F engine catches on, the power never feels sleepy or slow-revving as with the KX-F/RM-Z. The Yamie feels as though it pulls harder than the other bikes, especially on top. The power just never seems to go flat.

On the dyno it does pull the hardest up near the top, but it never matches the peak torque numbers of the KawaZuki.Out of tight corners, with some clutch the Yamaha makes it easy to get the power to the ground and tackle any obstacle in its way. Intermediate- and pro-level riders will love the high revving and hard-hitting power. The transmission shifts smoothly under power, and the clutch has a nice, light pull to it with zero fading.

Of all four bikes, the YZ-F feels as if it has the brute muscle, yet at the same time it has the best reputation for mechanical longevity. Yamaha has been criticized for the weight and complexity of its dry sump engine, which carries the oil in the frame. That design complicates removing the engine from the frame, but having the oil in the frame lets the frame itself act as a giant oil cooler.

No doubt that accounts for some of the Yamaha’s reliability.For 2005, Honda engineers made a few minor changes to the motor, and those mods help it bolt out of tight turns faster and harder. Our ’04 model struggled with the uphill pulls and right-out-of-turn jumps at Piru MX, but the ’05 shines there. As with the ’04 CRF250R, the ’05 is deceptively smooth and consistent at very low rpm.

The CRF250R is extremely rider-friendly for beginners and novices; the power is usable and easy to find. The midrange is where the power comes on strong and pulls hard into a really quick top-end with a bit of overrev. The CRF doesn’t produce a hard-hitting sensation as does the YZ-F or the KX-F/RM-Z and is also a little shy on total boost. The difference is more noticeable when the track surface is soft, sandy or muddy than it is on packed terrain.

The power is very smooth. In fact, at times you feel it’s not going to be enough to get you over obstacles on the track, yet it always does. Compared with the other three bikes, the motor on the CRF has clean roll-on power at a lower rpm, a trait loved by our novice-level testers. The power gets to the ground in a controllable fashion, and you can tell what the bike is doing at all times.The transmission shifts smoothly under hard acceleration, and false neutral is hard to find.

The clean shifting is a help, since the Honda demands slightly more gearbox action than the other bikes. There are times when the others clear sections effortlessly in third gear, while the Honda just doesn’t have quite enough in third. No doubt there are gearing changes that would help, but the other bikes don’t need them. The CRF clutch has a light pull to it and worked well, but it was completely smoked on the last day of our test at the tight Piru MX track.

We replaced all the plates and springs. The stock clutch is still fragile under constant abuse, and as with the KX-F/RM-Z, it’s important to keep the oil fresh. The Honda is the only bike with separate oil chambers for the transmission/clutch and the engine.

We’ve had the best clutch life and performance running a two-stroke gearbox-specific lubricant in the Honda transmission. Fork During our ’04 shootout (Jan. ’04), the CRF’s Showa suspension is what put the Honda ahead of the competition, and this year was no different. Although the Yamaha’s new Kayaba suspension is close, the Showa fork is unmatchable. The Showa unit on the red flyer can do no wrong! The stock setting worked great for just about all of our test riders.

Making changes to the fork was simple, as the Showa unit responds to the smallest adjustments. The fork soaks up anything in its path under braking, and you can pick any line you want at any time. Changing lines at a moment’s notice is worry-free as the fork keeps the front wheel firmly planted. The beginning of the stroke is a bit soft, but overall, the fork is progressive and works great when riding hard or just cruising.

The fork also has great bottoming resistance with absolutely no stiction.2005 marks the first time in a long while that Kayaba has made huge strides in development, producing a fork that will give the Showa Twin Chamber a run for its money. The new Yamaha fork is a twin-chamber design, but Kayaba calls it the Air/Oil Separate System. The fork is more progressive while offering a plusher ride and major bottoming resistance.

It has a finish so soft and smooth that some test riders never felt it bottom. Photo model/tester Matt Armstrong had a scary moment when he overjumped a big tabletop by almost 35 feet. Armstrong was amazed at how well the YZ-F’s fork soaked up what he thought was a landing that would put him on his head.

The fork stays perfectly straight under braking bumps, and the front tire always feels planted under braking and during acceleration.The single major shortfall in the KX-F/RM-Z package is the suspension. The bikes’ Kayaba components didn’t get the best reviews last year, and surprisingly, they made basically no changes for ’05 other than a new low-drag fork seal.

We expected to see the new Kayaba Air/Oil Separate System fork or a Showa Twin Chamber, and that lack ultimately cost the KX-F/RM-Z a shot at the top of the podium. The fork works great in smooth conditions, but once the track gets rough, the fork gets “the jitters.” The fork misbehaves the worst over braking bumps. It’s hard to get the front end to settle once the bike is leaned over.

During our initial tests with both the KX-F and the RM-Z, we noticed it took adjustments of three to four clicks to feel a significant difference. The initial portion of the stroke works OK, but partway through, the action gets harsh. It goes from not being progressive enough in the beginning of the stroke to being too progressive at the bottom of the stroke. At the same time, bottoming resistance isn’t great.

Basically, it gives an inconsistent feel; and in rough conditions, it’s hard to hit the same lines all the time. These factors make the bike tiring to ride. We played around with the settings and were able to reach a few positive results, but clicker adjustments are not the answer.

This Kayaba fork doesn’t come close to the suspension components on the Yamaha or the Honda. Shock As with the fork, the Honda’s Showa shock is all but flawless. The spring rate worked well for any test rider who would conceivably race a bike this small–at least as long as the sag was set to each individual’s weight. Under power, the shock soaks up acceleration bumps and keeps the rear tire hooked up and driving forward.

Bottoming it out is hard to do, and when it did bottom, that wasn’t a big deal. The shock feels very controlled and consistent; there are absolutely no surprises. At the ultrarough RaceTown 395, the CRF was the bike of choice. Kris Keefer felt he could go faster, longer because the bike didn’t fatigue him as much or as quickly as the other bikes.

He loved the way the shock soaked up the high-speed natural-sand whoops. Keefer also felt the Showa shock stayed the most consistent during long motos; the shock never faded as it heated up. On our final day of testing at Piru, the track formed hard-packed, razor-edged acceleration bumps, bumps that were a must to avoid on the KX-F/RM-Z. Even the Yamaha struggled with them every once in a while, but the CRF simply ate them right up.

Bottom line: The shock is one of the strongest points on the Honda. You can choose any line you want, smooth or rough, and the bike is going to act the same and give you nothing but confidence.Like the Yamaha’s fork, its Kayaba shock received some fine-tuning that went a long way. The shock on the blue falcon works much like the fork: It offers a very progressive feel while swallowing anything in its path.

Under hard acceleration the shock soaks up bumps, allowing the rear tire to hook up at all times. Even in the windy, extremely dry conditions that we experienced at Piru MX, the rear tire tracks straight and never wastes traction. The shock absorbs big hits, and bottoming is rare and avoidable for the lighter riders.

Keefer and Karel Kramer felt the shock blew through the travel too quickly. The stock spring works well for a wide range of riders as long as the sag is properly adjusted. Making clicker adjustments really changed the way the shock performed, as it was very sensitive to any adjustments we tried, making it convenient to dial in for each of our test riders.Again, as with their forks, the Kawasaki/Suzuki Kayaba shocks received no changes for 2005, and it showed.

The shock has similar characteristics to the fork; it’s very unprogressive and tends to blow through the stroke on big hits. Under acceleration, the shock tracks pretty straight, but if there are bumps out of the corner while you are still leaned over on the gas, it’s hard to get the bike to do the same thing every lap.

We played around with the settings and found the shock to be more tunable than the fork (even without a high-speed compression adjuster), but we could do very little to get rid of the harsh feeling of square-edge bumps. Handling When it comes to handling, the CRF is in a class of its own. Although all the bikes are excellent, the CRF simply outhandles its competition. It takes just a few laps to get comfortable with the Honda; all of our test riders had no problems getting up to speed quickly.

The bike is extremely maneuverable and has a very thin feel to it. The CRF feels light, and its center of gravity is perfect, allowing you to get the bike to do almost anything you want. The handling is so good it almost has you believing you can do no wrong, which helps build tremendous confidence. The CRF is also maneuverable in the air when necessary. This bike is all about trust.

Just ride it and, for the most part, do what you want, and the bike will work with you. Getting the CRF250R turned is as easy as it gets! Because of the incredible suspension and great cg, the bike turns as if it is on rails. In tight, rutted corners, the CRF hooks up from the beginning of the corner all the way through the end.

In dry, hard-packed conditions, the red wonder offers a ton of confidence-inspiring input into the Renthal handlebar just as it gives you plenty of warning before the front wheel slides. We did experience a bit of front-end push in dry conditions, but we monkeyed with different ride heights and were able to dial it in. In tight corners, the bike leans over effortlessly, and it settles perfectly in the suspension’s stroke.

It acts the same every lap; the handling is super-consistent and very accurate.Although the suspension wasn’t rated as highly as the Yamaha’s or the Honda’s, the KX-F/RM-Z has a fine-handling chassis, even if the suspension hides this fact well. It craves midair antics and is very agile when airborne. It feels light, as the center of gravity is perfect. The overall handling works great for any level of rider and is really inviting for beginners and novices.

It’s not top-heavy, and once you get a good feel for what the suspension is doing, the rest of the bike quickly becomes predictable. Dirt Rider test rider Cameron Heisser has been racing an ’04 RM-Z all season long and feels strongly that, with a bit of seat time, a rider can overcome the suspension and capitalize on the great handling.Even with the suspension clouding the issue, riders praised the bike’s combination of stability and dexterity.

The KX-F/RM-Z turns well; the bike feels very light when leaned over, particularly when the suspension isn’t overwhelmed. Moving up into the front of the seat for tight corners comes naturally, and the cockpit almost forces you into an aggressive riding position. When the suspension settles, the front tire stays planted and offers good feedback; the bike’s limits are easy to sense, which, for most of our test riders, was very confidence-inspiring.

When exiting corners, the bike reacts to sudden body-position changes, which helps greatly in picking up the line you want.Handling is a touchy subject with the Yamaha. There is no question the YZ250F has a great chassis and handles well, but almost all of our riders had small issues. In the air, the YZ-F is maneuverable and feels light; but on the ground it has a different feel, much different from the other three bikes.

Some of our testers felt they had trouble getting over the front of the bike and struggled a bit with the handling in sandy or extremely loamy conditions. The stock Renthal bar feels low and swept-back, keeping most of the rider’s weight toward the back of the bike. The YZ-F bar has almost 10mm more sweep than the stock KX-F/RM-Z unit! After switching to a taller, less-swept Renthal 971 handlebar, we found it much easier to get our weight over the front end.

The taller bar made a huge difference and was preferred by all of our test riders over the stock bend. Being able to carry more weight over the front end allowed some of our testers to ride the bike more aggressively and with more assurance.In high-speed sections, the Yamaha is super-stable and never once put any of us through any drama. Changing course on the YZ250F in a hurry was tough to do in slow, sandy conditions as it feels top-heavy compared with the other bikes.

The Honda and the twins lean lightly into turns, while the YZ-F tips into them. The center of gravity feels high, and this is more than noticeable–the front end tends to push. Part of this problem may come from the lack of weight on the front tire and some of it from a slightly higher engine placement in the frame. In hard-packed conditions, the YZ-F works better.

As noticeable as the falling-in sensation is in turns, you will probably never recognize it if you only ride a Yamaha. It’s when you jump from the low-feeling KX-F or the neutral-feeling Honda that you take note. Rider Accommmodations The Honda’s riding position encourages such descriptions as flawless, effortless and even perfect.

Basically, you never think about the bike, you just concentrate on riding. Honda has made the CRF250R as close to one-size-fits-all as possible. It feels roomy; although bean stalks might opt for a triple clamp that moves the bar forward, the greater part of the population won’t feel a bit cramped.

The seat offers plush but supportive padding that doesn’t wear your behind down and is quite comfortable. All the bodywork is tucked in nicely; your gear doesn’t snag anywhere, so it’s easy to move about on the bike. The gripper seat cover offers good traction and is built to last.

The stock Honda hand grips were liked by all of our testers, and everyone loved the stock Renthal 971 handlebar. We give the riding position credit for much of the Honda’s fine handling.The Yamaha has a nice slim feel. All the bodywork is tucked in tight, and it is painless to move around on the bike.

The bike caters to smaller riders; our taller testers struggled to get their weight over the front of the bike. But a taller, straighter 971 handlebar made the bike much more comfortable for our taller riders, too. A triple clamp with a more-forward bar position would be a better fix for NBA rejects. The seat meshes tightly with the gas tank but doesn’t offer a whole lot of padding, especially toward the rear of the seat; there it gets thin and is a bit jarring.

The new gripper seat cover is the best of the four and offers a ton of grip, and it didn’t show any signs of wear and tear.The KX-F/RM-Z ergonomics were roomy once we did away with the stock steel handlebar with one of the goofiest bends we have ever seen. The bar looked as if Kawasaki wanted to increase the distance between the footpegs and the handlebar but didn’t want to invest in a new top triple clamp, so it pushed the outer ends of the bar forward.

The seat is a shade firmer than the CRF’s but well-padded and comfortable. In addition, it offers some cushion for those times you must remain seated over bumps. Our short and tall testers approved the peg-to-seat height, and all but the tallest liked the distance from the seat to the handlebar. After we swapped to a Renthal 971, the ergonomics were very satisfying, as the seat, handlebar and footpegs feel very natural and comfortable while still feeling aggressive.

We did have two complaints about the thickness of the newly designed front brake lever and clutch lever: Both levers are a bit wider and thicker to help stand up in a crash. Stopping Power At least one of our riders was a severe test for the brakes. All four bikes had blued and discolored rotors by the end of the shootout, yet we suffered no fading or squealing from any of the brakes.

While the ratings differed here, all of the brakes are good enough that they shouldn’t be a factor when choosing one bike over another.Honda has always been renowned for excellent brakes, and this year is no different. The front brake offers strong stopping power with no signs of fading. The rear is also strong with no fade and always maintains the same feel on the brake lever.

Both brakes offer plenty of feedback and never lock either wheel without sufficient warning.Yamaha engineers were finally able to route the front brake line “Honda style,” and the front brake offers strong stopping power with no hints of fading. The front has a good feel to it and has consistent modulation. The rear offers good, strong braking power and is very usable.

It never showed any signs of heating or fading.Stopping was never a problem on the KX-F/RM-Z, but the power was a shade behind the other bikes. It takes marginally more lever/pedal effort to halt either of the twins. The lever and pedal always feel solid, and the brakes never suffered any sudden lockup.

Fit, Finish and Standard Equipment Yet another area in which the Honda takes the top spot on the podium–the hardware on the CRF is unmatched as it’s built with quality and fine attention to detail. Every nut and bolt is top-notch–absolutely no cut corners, only the best. The bodywork remains looking fresh and doesn’t fade in the sun.

The Showa suspension is superb, and the stock Renthal handlebar was liked by all of our testers. The aluminum frame is simple to keep looking new, and the bike doesn’t feel old as fast as some steel frames. The sole downfall is the sensitive clutch, but only the extremely aggressive are going to face the clutch problem.The Yamaha seems a bit tougher than in previous years and stays looking new a tad longer, but it shows wear and tear faster than the other bikes.

Although the new aluminum Renthal handlebar has an odd bend to it, it is a clear improvement to a steel bar. The seat cover is new and greatly improved, and as the toughest of the four seats, it showed no signs of tearing and offers good grip. The new Kayaba suspension is super-trick internally and externally; it almost looks as if it came off a factory Yamaha race bike. All the hardware is quality and built to last.

The new fork guards look cleaner and offer a bit more protection.It was great to see both the KX-F and RM-Z come with upgraded fasteners. The hardware no longer looks cheap, and it holds up better after a few wrenching sessions. The oil-filter cover is finally separate from the water-pump housing.

The seat cover held up, and we saw no signs of any tearing. The graphics on both bikes stayed on surprisingly well, but by the end of our shootout, they were showing small tears from the constant graze of knee braces. Both bikes desperately need to jettison the steel handlebar; the steel bar just isn’t cutting it, especially when the other four-strokes come with aluminum units.

The Kayaba suspension is outdated and needs revamping. FINAL STANDINGS

1. Honda CRF250R

2. Yamaha YZ250F

3. Kawasaki KX250F/ Suzuki RM-Z250 For the second year, the CRF has put itself on top of the podium. Given the unanimous decision, we were a little surprised the ratings weren’t reflected in our impromptu motos. Even the much-maligned suspension on the KX-F/RM-Z didn’t affect the outcome. The honest truth: It’s the rider, not the bike!

Yes, you will feel better on one bike over another; but any one of these bikes is competitive. The choice comes down to your personal preferences and needs. All the bikes in this class are more than competitive with each other, and they all have their own strengths and weaknesses.What set the Honda apart from the others was how well it performed at everything and how rider-friendly it was.

It took virtually no setup effort, and most were able to hop on, ride and feel comfortable instantly. The Yamaha has great suspension, a powerful engine and proven longevity. Our 2004 experience says the YZ-F top end should last at least twice as long as the Honda and will also outlast the Kawasaki and Suzuki. When you are spending your own money, that is a major consideration. The KX250F and RM-Z250 have a lower feel and better turning than the other two bikes, and they clearly create power.

Both companies offer excellent amateur support and racing programs that make owning one desirable. If you routinely modify your suspension anyway, why not look hard at them?As always, a good deal and, especially, a good dealer should sway your decision. Serious racers will look hard at the support programs.

Take a good look at all of the charts that we have supplied from our days of testing, and you can see just how close these bikes are in almost every category. Remember, it’s the rider! Redline Report These dyno numbers for the 250cc four-stroke motocrossers are very enlightening.

The graphs show that the Kawasaki/Suzuki has the most power in the class. But, as we felt on the track, the CRF has excellent roll-on and very smooth power. It has less peak power of the others. None of the bikes gets the power to the ground like the CRF, though. The Yamaha begins a little later, but in the upper rpm ranges it overtakes the Kawasaki.

You definitely feel all of these traits on the track. The Honda rolls on at the lowest rpm, the Kawasaki/Suzuki hits its powerband earliest and the YZ-F has it on top. The KX-F/RM-Z takes over again for our small pulse once the Yamaha is done, and continues with the most overrev. Opinions

Four-strokes have always complemented my riding style, and it doesn’t seem to matter what size they are. Surely, the manufacturers didn’t have a guy my size in mind when they built these bikes, and I’m positive that if I were racing them, I would be at a disadvantage. But I’m not racing that much (I am just riding on the moto track), and riding these 250s is a nonstop grin-like-an-idiot blast!

I have fun on any of them, but I get along best with the Honda. It is just so effortless and comfortable to ride, it makes me feel as if I know what I’m doing. I have to say, though, I am impressed with the others. If I were spending my own money, I’d look hard at the YZ-F.

It just holds up so well and has good power and great suspension; I could work with the ergonomics. The KawaZuki just bums me out. It has the best seat, is the most fun in turns and has massive power out of them, but the suspension—and especially the fork—let it down big time.

Not only could it have been a contender but it almost certainly would have been a winner!

Karel Kramer/6’1″/205 lb/Novice Well, my first choice is the Honda, by a long shot. I love this motorcycle. The suspension worked like a dream, soaking up big whoops, big jumps, hard landings, braking bumps, everything. It was very well-balanced, and I felt comfortable the moment I sat on it. I also liked how easily I could corner it; it turned on a dime and gave me a huge confidence boost in the corners alone.

The motor had good bottom and strong mid. It fell a little flat on top but still was a very good motor. The Honda was very fun and easy to ride: perfection!On to my second choice, the Kawasaki.

I know the Kawi and the Suzuki are basically the same bike, but due to different stock suspension settings and jetting, I felt the KX-F better fit my style. The motor was my favorite part—it was strong. It pulled hard from the bottom on up and revved forever. This motor felt a bit stronger than the Honda, but not by much. The suspension felt a little jittery to me, but after making some adjustments, I got it set up pretty well.

This bike felt light and was fun to ride.Third comes the Suzuki, which, with some different suspension settings and jetting, could be the same as the Kawi, but out of the box I preferred the Kawi. Once again this bike is quick, to say the least.Fourth comes the Yamaha, which is a good bike; but I just couldn’t get as comfortable on it as I could on the other bikes. The suspension worked well, not as good as the Honda but better than the Kawi and Suzuki.

It felt stable over jumps and bumps, but I couldn’t get it to corner. The rider position feels really unorthodox; it left me feeling as though the bar was in my lap, even when I put it pretty far forward. The motor is strong, probably the strongest in the class.

It pulled out of the deepest sand as if it were nothing; the Yamaha definitely isn’t lacking in the motor department.Overall, the Honda has the complete package; it does it all for me.

Cameron Heisser/5’11″/160 lb/Intermediate For me, the test reads just as the bikes play out. But what you can’t see is how close they all really are. That’s why we pulled out the radar gun and made our test riders do races, to see if there were any traits of the bikes that would stand out or separate a winner.

As the guy riding the bikes for the radar gun, it was astonishing how different each of them felt, sounded and pulled, yet run after run would yield a similar result in speed and time. And as much as I would try and see or feel an advantage on the track while racing or testing these bikes, they were all the same in power and speed, a big factor in this class.What does stand out are drivability and ridability. And here the CRF shines. It doesn’t feel as if it pulls. But it does, and smoothly.

Everything else—handling, suspension, ergos—just follow in line. About the only complaint I have with the Honda is its spring rates are better suited to lighter riders.The Yamaha was a close second, and neither the weight nor the cramped sizing was an issue for me, as I tend to ride more on the rear of the bike. And I really got along with the YZ-F’s suspension.

I honestly wanted to like the Suzuki and Kawasaki, but any choppy ground took away the motor’s fun lure and the best turning feel of this class.

Jimmy Lewis/5’10″/180 lb/Vet Pro This shootout needed to go to the last day for me to pick my winner. I chose the CRF250R. The main reason for its win came down to the very easy-to-ride feel. You can hop right on it and feel good and go fast. It has great suspenders and does not do anything bad.

Second was the YZ-F. The YZ-F has the strongest gear-to-gear pull of any 250 four-stroke in our shootout. The only thing I didn’t like was the rear shock was a little soft for me. It blew through the stroke too quickly.

Also, I could not get used to the low bar bend it came with. In third was the KX-F. The KX-F/RM-Z turns the best and is good from second to third gear, but it falls short after that.

It does not pull very far. Everything came down to nitpicking. They are all good, raceable bikes!

Kris Keefer/5’11″/170 lb/Pro

Click here for bonus 250F shootout materials including top speed, drag runs acceleration charts and behind the scenes photos.

Kawasaki Square Four 2 Stroke Prototype

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