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CRF250F vs CRF250R – Which Dirt Bike Is Best For You?

Looking to get a Honda 250 four-stroke but not sure if the CRF250F or CRF250R is right for you?

One is a trail bike, while the other is an MX bike. I’m going to cover all of the practical info you need so that you can decide which dirt bike is best for you. 

CRF250F vs CRF250R differences

These Honda dirt bikes have very distinct characteristics and are completely different types of bikes. 

The CRF250F is an air-cooled trail bike, and the CRF250R is a liquid-cooled motocross bike. The 250R is a high performance bike, but that doesn’t mean it’s better. 

Keep reading to learn more about each Honda dirt bike and to figure out which is best for you. 

What does the F stand for?

The F in CRF simply means four-stroke. The F in 250F means that it’s the trail bike version of their 250cc dirt bikes. 

Is the CRF250F a good beginner bike?

The CRF250F is an excellent beginner bike if you’re over 5’4″. It’s a much better beginner bike because the power is smooth, predictable, and very forgiving. 

2021 Honda CRF250F CRF250F vs CRF250R - Which Dirt Bike Is Best For You?
Honda CRF250F

Which is better for trail riding?

Depending on what type of trails you’re doing, the CRF250F is better for trail riding. The smooth power, soft suspension and wide ratio transmission are better for most types of trails. 

A CRF250R would be better at more open, fast-paced trails if you have the skill to ride aggressively. 

Horsepower & speed

The CRF250F has about 21 HP with a top speed of 60 mph and the CRF250R has about 39 HP with a top speed of about 70 mph in stock form, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

HP vs Torque (The real story of the power curve)

Most people rarely use all of that “peak horsepower”, so you want to look at the power numbers below peak and see how smooth that line is.

For example, if you have a 250 that makes much better torque at 2k RPM (just above idle) with a slow and smooth build up to 8k RPM, it’s going to be much easier to ride and handle.

On the flip side, if the power is pretty weak until about 6k RPM and then goes up much quicker until about 12k RPM, it’s harder to ride because it has more of a “hit” that will put you back on the rear of the seat – you also have to rev it up more to get it to accelerate, which means that picking the right gear to ride in is more important.

2021 Honda CRF250R CRF250F vs CRF250R - Which Dirt Bike Is Best For You?
2021 CRF250R

CRF250F vs CRF250R power

Both bikes are 250cc 4 strokes, but the engines are vastly different. The CRF250R engine is tuned for maximum horsepower, while the CRF250F is tuned for low-end torque and rideability. 

The 250R requires you to rev the engine much higher to accelerate quickly. It’s harder to ride and will wear you out quicker, but the powerful engine is best for racing on a motocross track. 

The 250F has a smooth power curve, making it easy to ride. You can ride at a much lower RPM, and it’s forgiving because it won’t surprise you with too much power of you rev it out. 

CRF250F vs CRF250R maintenance comparison

While most dirt bikes are pretty stinkin’ reliable these days, the maintenance required between these Honda 250 dirt bikes are quite a bit different, depending on how you ride.

CRF250F maintenance

Since the CRF 250F has an air-cooled engine with about half the power, it’s not going to put as much stress on the engine parts and oil. This means you can generally go longer between oil changes, valve checks, and engine rebuilds.

2021 Honda CRF250F 2 CRF250F vs CRF250R - Which Dirt Bike Is Best For You?

If you’re just a casual trail rider, you can probably go 10-20 hours on an oil change, and the engine will likely last 500+ hours with ease. The air filter is almost important to keep clean so that dirt isn’t getting sucked into the engine – this is key for any motorcycle.

CRF250R maintenance

With a high-performance, liquid-cooled engine, you have more parts and more heat being produced. Since heat is an engine’s biggest enemy, it’s naturally going to wear parts out faster.

The more you rev the engine and bang off the rev limiter, the more maintenance you’ll need to do. You might have to keep oil changes to every 5 hours and rebuild the engine every 50 hours or less.

2020 Honda CRF250R 2 CRF250F vs CRF250R - Which Dirt Bike Is Best For You?

With that said, if you’re conservative with the throttle and clutch, you could get 200+ hours on the top-end before needing a rebuild. However, the CRF250R motocross bike is not a good choice if you’re just looking to “putt around” or ride conservatively.

Suspension & handling

The forks and shock couldn’t be more different between these two bikes. That doesn’t mean one is always better than the other because they’re each targeted for a specific type of rider. 

The CRF 250F

The CRF250F has conventional style forks that are very simple and not externally adjustable. They’re good because they’re reliable, soft, and plush to soak up rocks, logs and roots on the trails.

They’re not good for jumping or racing because you’ll be bottoming them out very easily. The shock is soft and non adjustable as well, aside from the preload. 

2022 Honda CRF250F CRF250F vs CRF250R - Which Dirt Bike Is Best For You?

As far as handling goes, the CRF250F is shorter and steers quicker due to its frame geometry.

This simply means that it turns and handles better at lower speeds, making it good for right, single track trails and learning to ride in 1st or 2nd gear. 

Can the CRF250F be raced or jumped?

The stock suspension is just too soft to be safely jumped with, but it is possible, especially with some mods. You’ll just be bottoming out the forks and rear shock – maxing out the suspension travel.

This is not only dangerous for the bike, but you as well. If you repeatedly bottom out the suspension, you can break parts. It will cause you to get out of control when you land and can buck you off, causing an injury.

The CRF 250R

Want the latest in suspension for jumping and racing MX? The CRF250R has high tech suspension with more travel.

It’s much more complex than the trail bike, but it can be safely ridden at aggressive speeds. The forks and shock are much stiffer and have more travel, allowing you to do big jumps and whoops without bottoming them out.

The CRF250F vs CRF250R comparison is not even close; they're completely different bikes.

The CRF250R is built to handle corners and ruts on the track well, but it’s taller and longer, making it top heavy and slower steering.

This is better for jumps and whoops, but not for tight single track trails. At low speeds on bumpy trails, it will feel harsh and wear you out from being bounced around on the rocks and tree roots.

Can the CRF250R be trail ridden?

You can ride a CRF250R in the woods, but it won’t be as comfortable or functional as a trail bike, especially on tight and technical trails. With a lightweight flywheel, it’s harder to get traction when the trail is slippery, and it’s also much easier to stall.

The close ratio transmission will make it harder on tighter trails because you’ll have to slip the clutch a lot, which also makes it overheat more easily. You can use different size sprockets for shorter gearing (lower 1st gear speed), but then you won’t be able to ride fast in 5th gear when needed.

2020 Honda CRF250R 1 CRF250F vs CRF250R - Which Dirt Bike Is Best For You?
2020 CRF250R – it’s an MX that’s built for riding on the track

But you’ll still have stiff suspension if you’re an average size rider, making it harsh and uncomfortable on most trails. You can do a bunch of mods to make the 250R a woods bike, but you’re better off starting on a trail bike or enduro bike.

Sound levels – something to seriously consider

Maybe something you might not think about is the sound that a dirt bike makes but can make a difference in where you’re riding. If you ride in a noise-consciense area where your neighbors might complain about loud noises, then a quiet dirt bike is ideal.

When it comes to these two Honda 250 dirt bikes, the CRF250F is very quiet with the stock exhaust. This allows you to ride and not annoy anyone close by because it sounds like a sewing machine going by.

On the other hand, the CRF250R is very loud even with the stock exhaust. It’s made for closed-course competition, so at about 96 decibels it’s going to be very annoying to someone close by that doesn’t like extra noise.

Price difference

There’s a pretty big price difference between these two bikes, especially when buying new. A CRF250R is $7999 MSRP, while the CRF250F is $4599. 

Which is better for you?

So, if you haven’t figured out which Honda 250 is best for you, I’ll break it down even more for you. 

You should get the CRF250F if you:

  • Are new to dirt biking
  • Plan to ride trails at a conservative pace
  • Prefer simplicity and reliability
  • Are transitioning from a small or midsize trail bike
  • Are an older guy/gal getting (back) into riding off-road

You should get the CRF250R if you:

  • Plan to ride/race motocross
  • Have riding experience and are confident in your control off-road
  • Are an aggressive trail rider on faster trails

How to become a better rider faster

If you fit the bill for choosing the CRF250F, then I want to help you become a better and safer rider so that you have more fun and don’t get hurt.

To be in control and confident riding off-road, you must learn proper riding technique. This is where many new riders make bad habits, because they’re just trying to figure it out on their own. 
So, I want to give you some proper riding tips to get started. Click here to learn more.