TESTING BBR’S $20,000 CR250R/YZ426F EXOTIC HYBRIDStory by Garth Milan, photos by Garth Milan and Simon Cudby
Like it or not, the four-stroke age is upon us in a major way. Gone are the days when valve-and-cam motorcycles were ill handling, weird conversation pieces. Instead, the four-stroke market has been taken by storm thanks to the success of the YZF lineup, which through four generations has helped Yamaha establish a stranglehold on motocross sales throughout the country. With Honda set to enter the market in 2002, it won’t be long before every manufacturer in the industry has introduced a lethal four-stroke MX weapon. Until that happens, though, riders don’t have much choice when it comes to motocross-worthy thumpers: either they ride blue with the YZFs, or go orange with the KTM 400 or 520.
But what about the rider who loves the four-stroke torque and tractability of his 426, yet doesn’t want it in a nearly 260-pound chassis? Or how about the guy who is in love with Honda’s rigid, go-where-you-want-it-to aluminum frame, but wants to feel the “good vibrations” of a solid valve and cam underneath him?
Well, if you’re like the rest of the people on BBR’s mile-long waiting list of customers that wants it all and doesn’t mind coughing up an extra several grand to have the best of the best, then a phone call, six months and 20 grand is all that stands between you and the ultimate four-stroke exotica!
Most famous for their backyard rocket ship minibikes, the Brown Brothers’ latest contraption is the hybrid of all hybrids: a potent YZ426F motor in an aluminum-framed CR250R chassis; a package that weighs in at a full 22 pounds lighter than the 426’s OEM unit and handles like a Honda.
To begin with the obvious, stuffing a hefty 426cc four-stroke engine into a spot that was made for a 250cc two-stroke engine of a completely different brand is quite cumbersome, to say the least. When it’s all said and done, the BBR brothers say it takes roughly 100 man hours to complete the project, which starts with two brand new machines: an ’01 YZ426F and an ’01 CR250R.
Once the two bikes are picked up from the local dealership, BBR strips them apart completely. The disassembled YZ’s rolling chassis and the CR’s motor are both sold to salvage yards, and the games begin.
In order to make the engine switch, the first step is to cut the Honda frame’s down tube off at the head tube, and then the cradle is cut off at the side spars. Finally, the shock tower is also sheered from the 250’s chassis.
You’re probably thinking that with all of this cutting and hacking, there is little left of the poor CR’s frame, right? Well, you hit the nail on the head! The whole bottom of the CR’s frame is chopped and tossed in BBR’s ever-expansive recycling bin.
In order to start erection of the new frame, materials must be ordered. The Brown Brothers insist on using only the highest quality 7005 aluminum (which is nearly unobtainable), but once it is acquired through a hook-up in the bicycling industry, new frame construction begins. BBR nips, twists and tweaks the aluminum in order to make room for the Yamaha powerplant.
Once in place, attention is then turned to dialing the bike in for the customer. Every imaginable selection is offered to the buyer, from the handlebar bend to the bolt composition (Ti being the most popular, of course). Besides trivial options like grip color, serious attention is also given to important services like suspension valving before the Brown Brothers release the bike to its rightful owner. Attention to detail is traditionally impressive in every bike that BBR cranks out, and our test model was no different¿these guys do it right. From the polished and anodized shock body to the billet aluminum gas cap, this bike breathes factory coolness.
ON THE TRACK Okay, we know that on paper and in the bed of a truck the bike is top notch, but what about on the track? Is the CR426F just another cobby kit bbike that looks pretty in some yuppie’s black-and-white checkered garage, or is it a serious threat at the races?To answer this question, we recruited MC’s former mechanic Randy Lawrence to wring the bike out at Glen Helen. Unfortunately, it was all Randy could do to stuff his black and blue ankle into his boot due to a recent BMX injury, but with a bike this trick, RL was willing to go the extra mile. “I got to the track, took one look at that thing and decided that there was nothing that could keep me from spinning laps on it!” exclaimed swollen-ankled Randy. Both he and the other TWMX test riders were in perfect unison when pulling off from their motos and raving about the CR/YZ crossbreed. The Brown Brothers definitely did their homework, and unlike many other project bikes that are similar to the BBR, the hybrid handled like an OEM unit, with no major shortcomings or twitches on the rough and choppy Glen Helen course. Of course, the biggest advantage over a stock YZF was the weight savings. The BBR felt amazingly light and flickable, especially in flight. Mid-air corrections were effortless and cornering was greatly improved. The bike sat down in ruts and railed around flat corners with amazing grace. Our only complaint was that the suspension felt a bit harsh on some of the course’s many stutter bumps, but in all fairness, the suspension wasn’t set up for each tester, but rather for Lance Smail, who was racing it at the Four-stroke Nationals later that week. All things considered, we are truly convinced that for the hardcore enthusiast with 20 grand burning a whole in his pocket, this is the ultimate in accessible, works motorcycles. It’s obvious that BBR mixes their 20 years of experience with a boatload of passion for motocross into everything they do. Though not cheap by anyone’s standards, the Brown Brothers’ CR250R/YZ426F is currently unparalleled in the four-stroke market.