Video: Casey Davis @air_d617
It's often been said that power is everything in the 250cc class, but this year more than ever it seems that just where that power is located is becoming the key factor in a motorcycle's success in the small-bore division. Top racers in the 250 class rely more on momentum and technique than raw torque and horsepower for cut-and-thrust racing that is more common in the 450cc class, and the most desirable machine this year is one that is praised for a high-revving, long-pulling powerband, and excellent handling, suspension, and ergonomics.
Two of this year's 2018 contenders return unchanged (the 2017 Bike of the Year contest-winning Yamaha YZ250F and the too-familiar Suzuki RM-Z250) while three of the machines received a handful of valuable updates (the Kawasaki KX250F, KTM 250 SX-F and Husqvarna FC 250). The all-new machine for 2018 is the Honda CRF250R, as it received the same all-new chassis and suspension updates that the CRF450R did last year, as well as a completely new engine that features electric start and the bike's most visually striking feature: dual header pipes and twin mufflers.
Was Honda's complete revamp good enough to propel the Red Riders to the top of the heap in 2018? We wanted to find out, so we assembled a panel of six test riders of varying age and ability, outfitted all six bikes with Dunlop MX 3S tires to eliminate variances in traction as a deciding factor, and headed to four of SoCal's best tracks to pound out laps and find some answers.