By The Testing Staff of TWMX
(Whew!) Let us catch our breath for a moment¿ We¿ve been holding it for nearly a full month now. You see, the fellas at Honda invited us out to their 2006 CRF250R press intro back on August 9th, but we were sworn to secrecy and haven¿t had the liberty of spewing any of the finer details your way… Until now, that is!
Rumors circulated for months about the possibility of the ¿06 CRF250R housing dual mufflers in its production state, but it wasn¿t until our arrival at Racetown 395 in Adelanto, CA, last month that we could actually confirm that the rumors were, in fact, true. Yep, that¿s right, the new CRF comes stock with a twin muffler exhaust system. Why, you might ask? With government and the AMA¿s sound decibel requirements steadily dropping, many believed after the rumors surfaced that it was directly linked to goals of reducing sound. For 2006, however, Honda claims that their goals with the new system were strictly to improve the handling of their already great-handling bike. But with that said, we also have a hunch that as the sound decibel restrictions drop even further in the future, Honda¿s new twin muffler system will be more than prepared to accommodate.
So how can two mufflers improve handling, and why didn¿t anybody do it sooner? One of the limiting factors to the dual-muffler concept in the past has been weight. It makes sense that two mufflers would weight more than one, but for 2006, the Honda dual-muffler system remarkably only weighs 6.5 ounces more than last year’s single-can version. The reason? Each of the CRF250R’s mufflers is now significantly smaller, shorter and lighter than the previous single silencer. But not only that, they tuck in much closer to the bike’s center of mass, as the muffler tips rest a full 3.74 inches farther forward than the end of the old single muffler. It is this fact that transfers to better handling.
THAT¿S NOT ALL
The twin muffler system isn¿t the only thing new on the ¿06 CRF250R, however. To help offset the slight weight gain in the exhaust system, the fellas at Honda were able to shave a bit of weight from other parts, including the front fork tubes, which have been shortened 7mm, a re-engineered, lighter swingarm, and the rear wheel and rear shock have been lightened as well. The result is a CRF250R that still tips the scales at 204 pounds dry, just as it did in `05.
Other enhancements on the handling end of things include moving the radiators 5mm downward to aid in lowering the center of gravity, and new valving in the fork and rear shock were thrown in to improve bump-absorption. On the power side of things, because the new dual-muffler system is freer flowing, it actually improves the low-end power over last year¿s bike. In addition, the piston crown now features a more squared-off shape to enhance sealing¿a change that helps to boost the midrange strength of the powerband. The compression ratio has been upped from 12.5:1 to 12.9:1, and the compression ring has been narrowed slightly to reduce power-robbing friction. To build on top-end power production, a 40mm flat-slide carburetor replaces last year’s 37mm unit, the shape of the exhaust port has been altered, and a hotter camshaft has been added.
Although we¿ve only had limited seat time on the new Honda, we¿re quite confident in saying that it¿s going to be tough to beat again in ¿06. Because the bike now carries more of its weight in a more centralized position, the 2006 CRF250R does feel lighter and more responsive between the legs. In situations where rider input is most effective, like through corners or in the air, the new CRF feels more controllable than ever before. The Showa suspension is well balanced, plush and controllable, aand the CRF250R is still an amazing cornering machine. During last year¿s 250cc four-stroke shootout it was determined that the CRF wasn¿t the ¿shining star¿ in any one particular point in the powerband, but that overall the engine did everything very well. Thanks to improved low-rpm torque and bottom-end hit that¿s been enhanced by the dual-muffler exhaust system, not to mention the additional mid-range and top-end overrev that were achieved, we believe that our test riders will have more to say about the CRF¿s ¿stand out¿ power in `06.
We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our ¿06 test unit to continue riding and testing Honda¿s exciting new steed, but for now we can say that the 2006 CRF250R will again be in contention come shootout time. Stay tuned¿
To see video of the bike in action, click the video link in the right-hand column