Honda XR250 Review – Everything You Need To Know About It

Looking to get a XR250? I’ve been around Honda XR’s since I started riding, so I’d like to share my experiences and what I’ve learned over the years from researching to give you the best info on this dirt bike.

What is the XR250?

XR means cross country. In other words, a Honda XR dirt bike is an off-road trail bike. Honda didn’t have any other 4 stroke race bikes until 2002, so it was the top 4 stroke 250 dirt bike available. 

Honda first made the XR250 in 1979 and stopped making it in 2004 in the United States. The CRF250X took its place as their 250cc 4 stroke trail bike.

the xr250 is still a very capable trail bike, but it's easy enough for a beginner to ride
Stock 1996 Honda XR250R – last major year for updates

XR250 vs CRF250 (250R/250X/250F)

Since there’s now 3 different CRF250 models, you have to figure out which bike you want to compare it with.

The XR250 is not even close to the same bike as the CRF250R motocross bike. The CRF250R is a high-strung race bike with a snappy and powerful engine with stiff suspension, and a slower steering angle for more high speed riding.

The CRF250X took over the 250 4 stroke trail bike spot for Honda, but it’s still radically different from the XR250. The 250X is based off of the CRF250R mx bike, so it has a tall seat height, stiffer suspension and a snappy power-curve. It’s detuned and slightly softer all-around, as well as having a wider ratio transmission, but it’s harder to ride in tight and technical single track. It has a fairly light flywheel weight compared to the XR, so it’s easier to stall at slow speeds.

The CRF250F is the latest and closest update to the XR250R. It has fuel injection and electric start, but apart from that and the flatter ergonomics, it’s not much different or better than the old XR.

Model year changes

The Honda XR250 was first made and sold in 1979. There were a few major updates over the next couple decades, but nothing that would radically change this into a lightweight single track weapon that many of us would love to have.

With that said, here’s the major updates of the XR250R over the years:

  • 1981 – Updated to a rear  mono-shock
  • 1986 – Changed to a single carburetor.
  • 1990 – Forks updated to cartridge style. Rear brake updated to disc.
  • 1996 – Updated suspension with more travel, quicker steering from a different rake angle, and some engine updates with less flywheel weight, dry-sump and altered counterweight.  

Is it street legal?

The xr250r is not street legal, but it’s xr250l cousin is street legal from the factory. However, you might be able to make it street legal with the right parts if your state allows it to be registered for street use. 



Engine249cc DOHC air-cooled 4 stroke
Seat Height36.4/36.0 (86-95/96-04)
Weight245 lbs. (without fuel)
Top Speed70 MPH

XR250R vs XR250L

The XR250R is geared and built for off-road and single track trail riding. The XR250L is almost the same bike, but it has accessories added on to be legal and more comfortable to ride on the road. These parts include: DOT tires, mirror, horn, gearing, odometer, etc. 

The XR250L is noticeably heavier and doesn’t handle as well at low speeds off-road. It’s definitely a dual sport type of dirt bike. 

Who is the XR250 for?

While it’s primarily a 4 stroke trail bike for beginners, there’s a few good reasons to like this Honda 250. 

The XR250R is the right dirt bike for you if you:

  • Want a full sized beginner-friendly dirt bike
  • Prefer reliability over performance
  • Don’t mind kick-starting
  • Like to tinker with and modify your bikes
  • Ride single track trails
  • Want plush suspension
  • Like a broad, predictable power curve

The XR250R is the wrong dirt bike for you if you:

  • Want the latest in technology
  • Expect a high performance race bike
  • Plan to jump or go to a lot of motocross tracks
  • Need electric start

What’s the best year to buy?

1996 and newer are the latest updated models, so 96-04 are the best years for the XR250. 

XR250 issues

There aren’t any major issues with this bike. It’s just a rock solid trail bike that needs just some basic maintenance to stay running. It’s not the lightest or faster dirt bike, but it’s as durable as it gets. 

What to look for when buying one used

Like many Honda XR’s, the XR250R is easily abused without completely destroying it. This means that finding one in good shape these days is getting tougher. 

Generally, if it looks really clean and well taken care of, there’s a good chance it will be a good bike. The main things to check are the oil and the air filter. If they’re both clean or close to it, then it’s probably been maintained fairly well. 

Where you can buy your XR250

Nowadays there’s many places to buy a used dirt bike. With that said, craigslist and Facebook marketplace are still my favorite websites to search. 

Price comparisons to other bikes on the market

Since XR250s are getting more difficult to find, their value is slowly increasing. A comparable bike would be the DRZ250 and KLX300R. All of these are somewhat hard to find these days, and they can greatly vary in price for a used bike. 

What are they worth?

So, what can you expect to pay for a used one? It can vary greatly depending on the model year and the condition. What kind of shape it’s in usually plays a bigger role with this bike. 

For a rough value of the XR250, you can expect to spend 800-3000 for a used one.

XR250 Mods

While aftermarket parts for the XR250 are getting harder to find, there were a lot of available upgrades at one point. Anything from a big bore and stroker kit, to big and radical cams, as well as CRF250R fork swaps.

How to ride an Xr250 with confidence

The Honda XR250 is a great bike to start and learn on, but the next step to building your confidence isto learn how to properly ride it efficiently.

To ride safely and confidently, you need to learn proper techniques and how to position your body. I want to help you out, so click here to get started on the right path.


Kelley Fager

I help newer riders learn to safely ride with confidence by teaching basic techniques in a way that's easy to understand. Learn To Ride With Control Here

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