Tag Archives: Project: Yamaha WR250R

Yamaha WR250R Project – Stage 1

WR250R 4000-km review
WR Introduction
WR250R Stage 1
WRing about in Wales
WR250R ready for the desert
Morocco 4000-km trip report, 1–9
Fuel log

First up for the WR, an 18-litre IMS fuel tank that’s wider than it is long. And at the 31kpl I got on the way back from Holland, that should mean well over 500km, though 400 may be more realistic.
On the forums you read various horror stories about the IMS tank: misalignment, poor fittings, plugs falling out and so on. I was expecting aggro but it all went without a hitch or too much head scratching. The fuel line unclips from the pump, the OE tank lifts off, once unscrewed the pump lifts out of that and the chunky Yamaha tank mounts swap onto the IMS just fine. At the back though, no amount of jiggling could line up the mounts (above left) with the frame if using the locating washers. Without washers it crammed in OK. I didn’t bother with the screw-in stud on the back of the tank to locate the seat front either. It stays on well enough with the seat tongue going under the frame tab.


The IMS comes with a small low-pressure lift pump inside (the grey metal unit, left) to get to the fuel at the bottom. It’s powered by vacuum off some intake hose which you cut and tee into. Once all was plumbed up and bolted down, the bike started first press and ran normally. Hallelujah.
The tank splays out quite widely and the outer edges will get knocked about on falls, but they also protect the radiator better than the OE shrouds so it’s a good use of volume. On the road full up, I can’t say I noticed any unbaffled sloshing as some sensitive riders have reported. Looks like a good, solid unit. The pic at the bottom of the page shows it with 3 litres in and room for 15 more.

yamaha3d71390710WR250Rs are known for having dodgy fuel pumps (more here) which can behave erratically in hot weather after a few thousand kms, failing to prime (no buzzing on key turn). They might recover once cooled down but eventually will pack up for good. No one really knows what the problem is. One suggestion is fuel varnish coating the inside seizes the turbine when hot.
Early 2008s were very prone, although later WRs pack up too after a few thousand kms. It seems not living in Phoenix, AZ helps, and you do wonder if ropey US fuel has something to do with it or if it’s a case of the squeaky hinge getting all the oil? Don’t know but in the Sahara WR bike will get hot for sure.

A complete Yamaha pump with housing goes discounted for about $300 on amazon, and although the part number changed (from 3D7-13907-00 for 2008-12, to 3D7-13907-10 from 2013-onwards) suggesting an updated pump, some people still report failures on the newer pumps. wrfuelpump
Being a popular bike in US and Au, there are various aftermarket pumps from just £20 cheapies on ebay to £105 for a California Cycleworks unit (left, also made in China). They all require carefully dismantling the white plastic housing as above, to replace the actual fuel pump unit. Not really a trailside job. Aftermarket ones fail too, especially the cheaper ones, which makes you think it’s modern fuel or an over-pressurised system, as I also read somewhere. I’ve not heard of other efi bikes having hot weather fuel pump issues, but anyway I cracked and bought a Cycleworks. I’ll will get round to fitting it and carry the OE unit as a spare.


Next job: pannier racks. Long story short, choosing from the above selection, at $170 from Rocky Mtn Adv the US-made Tusk racks (a Rocky Mtn sub-brand, afaik) looked by far the best value for money, and when they turned up I was even more impressed – nice to see chunky ¾” and the all-important back brace to stop them folding in when heavily loaded on rough terrain. The unbraced Moto and Barrett may rely on heavier gauge tubing to not cave in. That looks neater but I found with the Rally Raid racks on the CB500X it didn’t really work out like that, to be bend-proof and light you need a back brace. Once I removed the unwanted bracketry for mounting Tusk hard boxes, the added weight was < 4kg.


The fitting video on Rocky Mtn is especially helpful, but mounting the back underplate (right) could only be solved by cutting away with a red-hot knife. It’s possible my bike’s non-original plastic numberplate holder might have complicated things. That apart, the rack lined up just right elsewhere and will give something to grab when hauling the WR across a dune. There’s plenty of space behind the non-pipe side too, to stash stuff or mount a container.


I splashed out on some Rox bar risers giving a 2-inch lift and a bit of fore and aft adjustment. Fat bar sized plus with adapters for ⅞s, they can carry over to later bikes, like my old Barkbuster Storms. Talking of which, the Barks can stay in the box as the handguards that came with the WR look OK. There’s just enough room left on the bars to add my Spitfire screen mounts (left).

I have a nice shiny Flatland bashplate waiting to clamp on, but the old hex bolts on the OE bashplate were not playing ball. Instead they wanted a game of rounders, and so rounded out they now are. One for the shop when they MoT it next week.


I put on my old round Double Take mirror; it helps where I park the bike. But a run to the Overland Event near Oxford proved it vibrates on the WR just like it blurred on other bikes I’ve tried them on. The new asymmetric Double Take Adventure model (right) has done away with the stalk to reduce vibration, but now means you have to buy a hefty 6-inch RAM arm for another 20 quid (plus a bar-ball mount for another tenner). As I have those bits I may give the new one a try as it is handy to have one bombproof mirror.


Picture right: my original desert bike, the ally-tanked ’76 XT500 I rode to Algeria in 1982. The WR is bike #57. For the first time since the 80s I’ve again had more bikes than birthdays.


Other jobs include re-fitting my Trail Tech Vapor to give accurate speeds because, according to my GPS the WR speedo reads 12% fast and odo some 4% over. But I’ve also just fitted a Speedo DRD chip (left) from Totally TTRs. I was hoping the WR’s OE kph digital speedo could be reset to show mph, like my XT660ZE from the same era. But annoyingly, it seems WRs sold in kmh markets can’t flip their speedos to mph, while Brit and American mph WRs can changed to kph. WTF WR?


Like those nifty fuel controllers, the DRD is very easy to programme and can also flip to mph to make the bike UK legit, as well as correct the large speedo error, even though the Vapor technically does that job too. As a reminder the Trail Tech Vapor can also display ambient and engine temps – the latter a vital reading on any bike, IMO – as well as a GPS compass and altitude, rpm and, yes even the time of day.


As for lighting, I’m assuming the standard little headlight will not wake the badgers. Some say you can fit a super-bright $60 HiD bulb and fry burgers with it; other find the cut off is unsuited for road riding. I must say on a travel bike I prefer the idea of a secondary light; a back up should the main one fail.
I’ve had a Vision X 5″ Xmitter narrow beam (left) sitting around for ages. They say this is the best model to get for travel bikes, so now will be a good opportunity it fit it to the WR.


Wakey wakey! A mate gave me a rear Sava MC23 Rockrider which he reckons are the new black (and round). At 140-80 it didn’t fit his TTR250 and I don’t think oversized tyres work on a WR (120/80-18) any more than noisy pipes make more power. More weight; more drag and over-stiff tyres on light bikes can be counterproductive in deep, soft sand. They’re just too stiff to sag usefully, even at very low pressures, to give better traction, as I found decades ago running a Mich Desert on a Tenere right down to 5psi. The MC23 is 4 plies tread and 3 in the sides – sounds stiff. I won’t be that loaded up nor riding hard, and the WR will lack a Tenere’s grunt to hook up, for sure.


In the US they all rate the Dunlop 606 on WRs, but they don’t sell it in the UK. Either way, something from the list on the left will do the job. The Mitas E09/10s I’ve been wanting to try don’t come in WR rear sizes. With Sava/Mitas it’s the MC23 or nothing and in the end I succumbed to online tyre fatigue and clicked on a 120/90 Rockrider for £56. It may not hook up in the sands of the Erg Amatlich, but it won’t puncture up on the plateau, either.
To keep it company I also bought a front MC23 Rockrider – £42 from Oponeo, so that’s £98 all shod. This came branded as a Czech Mitas as Mitas have lately bought out Slovenian Sava. Just as well because as tyre names go, ‘Sava’ is even worse than Golden Tyre. I hope to at least mount the rear tubelessly, doing a better job than I did last time on the Tenere. Enough tyre talk.


Unfortunately, delays in receiving paperwork to complete UK registration (added by my own confusion in how to set about the task efficiently) mean it’s unlikely I’ll have a UK plate and logbook in time for my Morocco tours in a few weeks. I’ll have to rent something down there. Can’t say I’m bitterly disappointed at missing the chance to cross Spain and back in early winter on an untried 250. Last couple of years I’ve been lucky with the rain in Spain. It can’t last and it all gives me a chance to get the WR in good shape for the proper desert trip we have lined up in the new year. It also means those rally tyres won’t get wasted running mostly roads.


I do wonder if it has been worth the faff and expense of buying a bike from Holland just to get some top-grade Hyperpro suspension (this is the first WR250R to have HP). All I know is if it works as well as my HP X-Country, then the answer will eventually be yes. You just wonder how many trees have given up promising futures to certify the re-registering process of this motorcycle.

Have to say, after having a close look, so far I’m impressed by the WR. The easy disassembly and access to things, nifty hinged air filter door, minimal-sized components where possible and solid parts elsewhere, like triple clamp and subframe. It’s like a Jap KTM, and grails don’t come much holier than that.


One thing I’m pretty sure I won’t be doing is meddling with the airbox flap, EXUP valve, silencer or other stuff to squeeze 3% more power out of it and save a few ounces. Like most things, the WR-R already is what it is: lighter and more powerful than any other Jap trail bike, with a travel workable oil-change interval and excellent mpg. That should do nicely for the next desert ride or two I have in mind.


On the way to the Overland Event I had a pile of heavy books I was hoping not to bring back. Once loaded up it was great to just crank up the Hyperpro Hydraulic Preload Adjuster (HPA) knob which still fits nicely alongside the new rack. At a pinch you can almost do it on the move, though probably not while texting.
I haven’t yet had the heart to run the WR at the revs it’s supposed to handle. What’s probably a true 55-60mph seems fine for now, but unlike a CRF-L or KLX, you do have a bit of spare oomph when you need it. For the first time in years I’m very much looking forward to getting my latest project bike on the dirt.


Mohave with KLX250S

• KLX250S main page
• Baja Gallery
• KLX – mountain and desert

With the KLX set up, I took off for a few days. The plan was to explore the Mohave desert between the Arizona border and the Sierra Nevada. Along with Baja, this has been an unfulfilled biking destination for as long as I’ve been trail biking.


In the late 70s I gobbled up the seminal Dirt Bike magazine from cover to cover – and most of their riding was done out here, east of LA. DB founder and editor Rick Sieman wrote up his ‘Dirt Biking Years’ as Monkey Butt, the memoir of an increasingly bitter individual who saw his opportunities to gun across the Mohave scrublands slowly eroded by the rise of the Joshua Tree-hugging environmentalists. In the good years the iconic, non-competitive Barstow-Las Vegas run (‘B2V’, below) had a start line of some 3000 bikes spread out a mile wide. By the late 80s the B2V got outlawed by the BLM, Rick Sieman did time for protesting/trespassing then emigrated to Baja in disgust. But as the fully legal  LAB2V, a form of the event still survives.


You don’t have to be an old fan of DB to recognise that besides low-flying Maicos, countless movies have also been shot out in the Mohave, a short distance from Hollywood. Time Rider (Back to the Future meets TT500 desert racer) will be known to many riders my age, but be it a zombie western, a road movie, teenage slasher or Mars on the cheap, the arid scrubby, mountain-rimmed playas east of LA have provided the space and landscapes to spin a yarn. In 1991 I well remember watching a B-grade road movie called Delusion with its climactic shoot-out outside a 1930s deco motel at Death Valley Junction (left). Death Valley Junction – what a great name. A few days later I rolled up right outside that very motel (and passed it again on this trip,now reopened). Your road trip becomes your road movie out here.


It may even go back even further than that. Childhood telly like The High Chaparral, BonanzaLost in Space, and movies like Planet of the Apes all included locations out here. If you’ve ever watched telly or seen a film, chances are the Mohave backdrops will be in your blood. Painting yourself green and wearing a salad bowl for a hat? Well, that’s just down to personal choice. Hell, we’re in California!

I left Phoenix on a hot afternoon (as the song goes), looking to get a couple of hours in. Destination: west. I-10 was obviously out on a 250, there was more fun to be had on 60 up to Wickenburg, then back southwest via Salome and up 72 to Parker on the Colorado river.
Just like last time on the CRF, my ingrained thrift saw me fill up on 87 fuel – they wouldn’t sell it if it was bad, right? Wrong. My new ride was soon running like an MZ on watered-down kerosene and hit reserve at only 88 miles, somewhere east of Salome. Still, getting off to top up the bike was a relief. I refilled at a ‘Gas Haven’ roadhouse – the one pictured above is an old Hills Have Eyes movie set in Morocco. You’ll find the real thing all over the Mohave and the Southwest.


Rocking up in a small desert town like Parker can be as thrilling as an Iowa farmer marvelling at Piccadilly Circus. The bright neon signs glow against the inky sky, growling V8s and trucks roll through – it’s all Tom Waits needed in his prime.
The downside to all this road trip romance can be underwhelming food if you try to dodge the fattening fast food traps. Or even if you don’t.


Next day I hopped over the turbid Colorado river which will be sucked down to nothing by adjacent conurbations and irrigation in the next 200 miles. Barely a trickle will reach the Gulf of California.
Hereabouts names on the map can add up to nothing more than a scattering of ramshackle, sun-bleached trailer homes or shacks ringed with dead cars, washing machines and other scrap. Is it a town or just a loose collection of dwellings where a outcasts, loners, rogue chemists or desert lovers pitch up to live on their terms?


Over late brekkie at Chiricao Summit on unavoidable I-10, the penny drops and I fill up with full-fat 93-grade gasoline with added maple syrup. Hey presto, the bike is running like it should. Next turn north leads into Joshua Tree NP, a cool sounding place where like the song doesn’t go, I may find what I’m looking for.

I’d downloaded a free Desert Southwest map for the Garmin Montana but seem to be missing out on juicy dirt roads – or I’m not reading it right (#2 it was). The NP paper map has more legible detail: Old Dale Road spins off the main drag and heads for the hills. ‘Four-wheel drive only’ it says – it’s even listed on DangerousRoads.Org – but after years of wheeling in western Australia I’ve become blasé to all that. Initially it’s a light sandy track and the KLX rattles over the washboard, front end surfing and wandering on its trail tyre. The backlight makes it hard to read the surface so I stop to air down a bit. It doesn’t make much difference but under 30mph the 140-kilo Kawa doesn’t have the momentum to flip out when it gets out of shape.

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Then the track turned a corner and headed into the mountains and, yes sirree, you’d want a fourbie with clearance and low range up here – or be a GS pilot with steady nerves if on your own. On occasions it gets as gnarly as the gnarliest Moroccan tracks I do, requiring confident launches up or around rock steps and over loose piles of stones.
To my relief the KLX takes it all in its stride with its combination of harmless power, light weight and compliant suspension that all helps control the bike, not require fighting it. What a revelation; that’s what I was looking for.

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Up on the heights other numbered but unmapped JT (Jeep Trail?) tracks branch off and my route isn’t always clear. Orientation has to be guessed off the broad-brush NP map with the help the Montana’s compass and a desert rider’s eye for what appears to be the most used trail.

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Out of the hills and back on a broad sandy runway, the bike is handling much better now. It occurs to me the energetic workout has reformatted my reflexes in tune with the bike’s bucking and sliding. Well, that plus lower shadows are now across the track, raising the definition.
Back on the highway near Twentynine Palms, as the sun begins to drop I air up and scoot back into the north side of the park for the 4000-foot high scenic loop where all the J-Trees actually grow. Below, it could be the ‘Poison Forest’ episode straight out of Lost in Space where the green Siren lures in stranded argonauts.

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In Joshua Tree town the cheap-motel manager claims she’s ‘full’ but then relents and apologises for mistaking me for ‘a local’. I get this suspicion at other lodgings too – presumably highway-roaming two-wheel reprobates with swastika tattoos on their foreheads take the piss or cause trouble. Opposite the hotel the neighbouring compound had a colourful row of what I call ‘Ameri-Cans‘ capping the wall. Inside I try to watch TV for some added cultural immersion, but it’s a lost cause – you can literally channel hop from one commercial to the next.

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There are roads leading north up to Amboy and Kelso next day. I kind of hope they’ll be wide gravel dirt with shady borders, but will take what I get. Out of 29 Palms it’s actually deserted crumbling blacktop, like parts of old Route 66. There are a lot of east-west railroads round here, all converging on LA I presume. At Amboy, an old rail depot, we stop at a crossing to watch a mile-long BNSF train pulled and pushed by six locos. It’s a cue for another song and a ‘so-that’s-what-it-means’ explanation of its lyrics:

And the Burlington Northern’s pullin’ out of the world
With a head full of bourbon and a dream in the straw
And a Gun Street Girl was the cause of it all
A Gun Street girl was the cause of it all

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Amboy has an old roadhouse motel near a former Chloride mine –  another authentic ‘gas haven’ with five-dollar fuel, no coffee and milling tourists. ‘Icy’ warns a sign on the next turn, but not today. Up top I follow a track to a grassy clearing and eat, read and doze, then head down the north slope with dunes on the horizon.

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Kelso – another railroad ghost-depot. I’m wanting northeast for some intriguing backroads into Death Valley, but have to choose west for Baker and fuel (‘He was pulling into Baker on a New Year’s Eve – One eye on a pistol and the other on the door). My paper map seems unreliable, my GPS map has no key of course (but if I zoom right in dirt roads are there) and the Garmin World Base Map is – err – basic in outback California.
With a can on the back, to pass the time I decide to run the bike dry: only 125 miles but 88mpg (73US). Not bad I suppose. I snatch a few extra miles by coasting to Baker, enjoying the cycle-speed breeze. I’m not achieving a lot today, but no one’s watching.

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Baker is alongside I-15 and its famous Pole of Temperature (left) is reading 85°F, but by the weekend the weather is set to turn. Storm off the Pacific, wind and rain by Sunday they say.
Baker’s too close to the interstate to invite an early cut, but up the road in Shoshone there’s no room at the village inn. ‘Pahrump is your nearest bet, honey’. Another 30 miles and it’s nighttime in Nevada. Fill up at the servo – it’s all I ever seem to do. ‘Motels? Right at the lights’. Once installed, I whizz back to casino-lined downtown helmet-less for my bi-annual BK. Is Nevada helmet-free? Probably.

Today I know exactly where I’m going. Up to Beatty for the Titus Canyon track which  sneaks into Death Valley from the east. Other all-terrain recreationists are out in force today. I realise later I could’ve cut through Ash Meadows on the way to Beatty for a bit of dirt relief, had I studied the Southwest GPS map more closely last night on Base Camp. But out here there are no bad route finding decisions. Smooth dirt or broken asphalt, spin a bottle; it’s all good.

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Titus is even better than I recall – a classic one-way route which, after an initial washboard approach, winds up to a high pass from where I’m able to switch off and coast almost right to the canyon mouth, peering across the arid pans of Death Valley. Without the engine distracting you, riding the KLX is like being on an oversized mountain bike, you can focus on the lines and body position while slipping silently past lumbering 4x4s.

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It’s Saturday and even though it’s overcast the word is out: rare wildflowers are blooming following winter rains and the park is packed with petal spotters. I don’t suppose I’m the first person to wonder how this basin can be below sea level so far inland and not eventually fill up with debris from millennia of run-off. The visitor centre puts me straight: tectonics tilt blocks like fallen dominos, the low points happen to be below sea level. Then three tall ranges of Sierra Nevada create a Triple A rain shadow – no moisture reaches DV. Add the glaring radiation bouncing heat up against heat, and what drops may fall won’t even hit the ground so there’s never enough flash flooding and erosion to fill up the valley. Or not for a long time yet.

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I should have booked a hotel – I forgot Saturday’s get busy near big national parks. Back at Death Valley Junction the colonnaded Amargosa Hotel looks great inside the lobby, but with that sort of historical ambience it’s as full as a visitors’ centre car park.
Jeez, is that the time? Must be overdue for a fill up again in Shoshone at more than double the usual price. There’s a WR250R doing the same. Turns out the guy picked it up only yesterday for $7k, equipped. I’m looking for one of these for an upcoming Sahara trip where anything heavier will be a liability – at least at my age. Nice to see a fresh WR in the flesh – a good omen I tell him. Triple clamps off a JCB, they make 30-odd hp, do 70 to Her Majesty’s gallon but don’t require WR-F-like levels of care. Or so they say. The guy is usually a Victory cruiser (like half US riders, it seems), but wants to explore the dirt side. Good on him, I say.

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I try Tecopa Hot Springs, surrounded by a grubby, salt-caked wasteland, but it’s full of orange people swanning around in sarongs, and has no cabins to spare. My paper map shows a track / road heading southeast from here back to I-15. It’s getting late but could be fun. I try to follow it past the date farm but the orientation looks off. Later on, Google and Base Camp showed no link, but with a cig-packet sized screen it’s hard to work all this out on the move with seven-pound specs. Next time I’ll carry big-arsed Delorme/Benchmark road atlases, like I did on the CRF trip. Until they can beam out hologram screens, handy-sized GPS units just can’t give you the full picture. So it’s back to Baker under glowering skies and spots of warm rain.

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I’m resigned to dosing in an abandoned trailer or gas station, but Baker turns out to be less popular than I thought. At the motel he accepts cash and drops a card deposit as I’m ‘not a local’. Baker seems to have every brand of fast food going, apart from the Greek place. Over the road a waitress squeezes me out a Mexican meal from a big tube.

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Next day many people warn me of the strong winds, but apart from a few side sweeps, all it did was slow the KLX down to 49mph in places. I try to plan a route using the backwind and avoiding interstates, but at times there’s no getting away from either. The deserted Nipton Road (old cafe sadly dormant) leads me back past joshua trees into NV and a fat brekkie at Terrible’s Roadhouse in Searchlight. Then it’s back over the Colorado and another refill in Golden Shores to follow windy and windy old 66 via kitschy Oatman where the weekend hoards are lapping up the whole gun-slingin’, gold-pannin’, bar-fightin’ sideshow.

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Near Kingman dust storms are hurtling around the valley looking for something to blow over. East along 1-40 I am sailing but turning south onto 93 it’s largely in my face and when it’s one lane I sense the tailback’s trigger fingers getting itchy. It’s the occasional price you pay for riding a 250. It rains a bit but I dry off even quicker and ease into Wickenburg on fumes.
The day turns into a tiring 9-hour, 350-mile haul of wind-surfing with the butt clearly getting acclimatised to the KLX perch. All up not so bad on a weedy 250. Must be high time to tank up.

Baja Galleria

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Honda CRF250L vs XR250 Tornado


updated 2020

Two 250 Honda trail bikes: one which I used in the UK then owned in the US; the other which I’ve used as a rental in Morocco several times. How do they compare? First, some stats, mostly gathered from the web and referring to the pre-2017 CRF. ymmv.


Scan over them and there looks to be very little in it: same weight fuelled up; same number of gears; suspension travel within an inch. Even the power’s the same, though  the XR’s tank is half as big again and there’s 10% more claimed torque at 1000 less rpm on the Tornado (23.7Nm @6000rpm).


That could be down to the Tornado’s 1980s carb-and-air-cooled technology which makes the same claimed power as the modern water-cooled, fuel-injected pre-2017 CRF. But as you may have guessed, any benefits of the CRF’s greater compression and modern efficiencies are swallowed up by the catalyser and other gubbins to meet today’s demanding emissions legislation.


And that’s the biggest difference of all. Both are inexpensive bikes, but as far as I know there’s no place where you can choose between one or the other, well not new any more. The Thai-built CRF met Euro-3 emissions requirements in richer (or should that be ‘leaner’) western countries. The Brazilian-made Tornado won’t, so got sold where bike emissions were less strict or are not enforced.


Riding the 250s
Although I rode them a few months apart, my impression was the XR was a more agile machine that lived up to its XR prefix. Much of that may have been because most of the time my CRF was loaded with some 15-20kg of baggage plus a rack, bashplate and screen, all which adds some 15% to kerb weight – quite significant on a 23-hp 250. But even unloaded on Utah’s fabulous White Rim Trail (left), I still feel the XR would have been a nippier and better-sprung machine. Fuel consumption is the same – so much for the mileage benefits of efi. Rider weight and payload will have a bearing on this: one light Tornado rider in Morocco was getting close to 100mpg (35.5kpl). I only got close to that a couple of times on my CRF in the US and – interestingly – nowhere near that on a UK test bike direct from Honda.


Suspension felt longer and more supple on the Tornado (in RSA they did a low seat model some 40mm lower; see table above left), the back disc is much better on the CRF. Both can sit on 100kph all day until you encounter steep inclines, headwinds or high altitude. Though it ran up to 10,000 feet without issues, some days my CRF certainly felt the elevations in Nevada and Utah. Add an incline and it struggled to do 80kph at times, though it might have been the local fuel which, in my experience, varies greatly in USA. At 2300m (7300′) on a rough track in the Moroccan Atlas, the Tornado also gets strung out between first and second gear but still fuels surprisingly well once off the pilot jet.


The Tornado felt better all round and were it available in the UK cheap I’m sure I’d have bought one by now**. But maybe that’s the way it is with an ‘exotic’ unobtainable machine, let alone one whose old school technology recalls a simpler era which someone my age can relate to. Apart from being annoyingly tall for some, it’s everything you want from a 250 trail bike: light, good brakes, economical, fast enough and well sprung. For travelling the weak point on both 250s will be the subframe, but people have managed, so long as you don’t load a bike like a refugee’s GS12.


tornado** Fast forward a few months.
I met a TRFer last week and he told me 250 Tornados from around 2003–4 are found in the UK and as I check the usual places I find he’s right. The one on the right had 8000 miles on the clock and looked in great nick but was going for a rather optimistic £2200. In 2016 a UK dealer was even looking for £3500 for a near-new 2004 Tornado! There was another one on gumtree, same age and mileage for a more reasonable £1400.

And in 2015 they stopped importing the Tornado into Morocco where the all-conquering CRF250L joined the line up. The XR250 Tornado is no longer made in Brazil and, at least in South America, has become the XRE300 (left) – a  Tornado engine bored to 291 plus efi, rear disc, optional ABS and cool, rally styling for same price as the CRF250L. However, the 300 has a poor reputation in Brazil; riders even lower the compression to try and make it last. More here.



If you like it old style you can still get a similarly basic XR250Rs until 2004, or TTR250 (right) in the UK until around the same time. They sold new in Australia right up to 2012 but elsewhere are getting on.
As an alternative to the CRF, the injected Kawasaki KLX250B9 (an old carb’d KLX250S in the US) has been around for years, but for some reason never created the impact of the CRF when it came out, even if the suspension is way better than the Honda. The injected version is said to be power restricted in the upper gears, but there’s a dodge or two to get round that here.


Used prices of the more powerful and unrestricted WR250R make it a less obvious choice for a travel bike as opposed to a fun weekend dirt bike, and they’re pretty rare in the UK which stopped importing them in 2008 (still sold new in parts of the EU and the US and Au where the WR has a strong following). Both the EFI Kawa and especially the Yam WR are significantly pricier used in the UK – from £2500. But they’re more sophisticated and come with a higher spec than the CRF which seems to have caught up, price wise.

Rally and L – with a tad more power. Then in 2021 they became 300s.
KLX1 - 30

In 2016 I got a WR250R in the UK and also bought a carb’d Kawasaki KLX250S (left) in the American Southwest, a well put together machine – an efi ought to be even better. More news on how my WR compares with the above 250s here.

• Dual Sport shootout (CRF, KLX, WR_R)
• Tornado thread on Horizons
• Ed’s Yamaha WR250R in Russia
My CRF travels in SW USA 
Honda RSA Tornado brochure