Tag Archives: Spitfire screen

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.


Honda CRF250L 3200-mile review

Original 200-mile UK test ride
• Gear review here
• CRF vs XR250 Tornado
KLX250 Mohave and Baja


An invitation to a show in the US gave me a chance to arrive early, collect a CRF bought off Craig’s and pull off a long-planned tour of the fabulous Southwest (see map, right).
My mission was to set forth and evaluate whether the CRF really could be the answer to the long-sought lightweight overland travel bike. America is not an ‘adventure motorcycling’ destination as I define it, but it sure is a great place to go ride around on a trail bike for a few weeks.

Links to the trip reports:

What makes the Honda special is that there seem to be so few bikes like it these days. Besides Kawasaki’s KLX250S (which in the UK comes with efi and can be as cheap as a CRF), other 250 dirt bikes seem to be high performance racers with maintenance schedules set in hours, while we’re told a typical ‘adventure’ bike weighs a quarter of a ton, puts put over 100hp and costs 10 grand. Where are the old XLs and XTs of my early biking years? Yes I know there are ageing DR-Z400s, but apart from that it’s all got too specialised and more particularly just too heavy, although in presumed response to the stagnating global economy there do seem to be signs of bikes fluttering back down to earth.


Most would assume an ordinary 250 dual-sporter is physically too small to carry a travel load in comfort, too fragile to hack the terrain and of course too slow to not get in the way. On this last point the US may not have not a great place to simulate riding through the AMZ where speeds are much slower, but the barren deserts and mountains of the American West didn’t put up much of a fight in terms of busy roads. Other factors, as you will read, did affect the Honda.
Some might even say a 250 is just plain too boring, but that depends on your attitude to combining travel with motorcycling. There seems to be increasing chat about smaller bikes for overland travel, and not merely from an attention-seeking ‘Across the Andes by Frog’ novelty PoV, but simply because that’s all new riders can afford these days, not least when taking into account the cost of obtaining a full license to ride bigger capacity bikes.



What you can’t accuse a CRF-L of is being too expensive, too fuel inefficient or too heavy, despite people getting hung up on the fact it weighs some 144kg.
For the record, mine was not a stock bike and came with 1000 miles on the clock as well as various performance and functional accessories. You can read about the rest of my set up here but in a nutshell they included:


When I first saw and sat on a test bike back in February I was gratified to find it wasn’t too small for my 6′ 1″ frame, nor was it uncomfortable to ride, though a shorter person may not have got on (literally) with my jacked-up US CRF. Over a full day my legs never felt cramped on the pegs, although the saddle was annoyingly high, especially when getting on and off wearing heavy leather trousers and back luggage in the way. It’s all good for the abs and quads, I suppose.

Yes, saddle soreness set in at over 200 miles, or sooner on rough tracks (the Aero pad may have deferred this a bit), but the lack of vibration from the small engine as well as frequent stops of even a minute or two all helped relieve butt pain. In fact, frequent stops rather than burning down the highway like Gheghis Khan aboard a V-Max chariot was quite a revelation. I found it was easier to break the rhythm or momentum when you’re not going that fast in the first place. Standing up on the dirt to spare the bum didn’t really work for me; the risers weren’t high enough and I stooped.


The $70 Spitfire screen (or something like it) was a no brainer. It kept most bugs, occasional rain and what wind blast there was off me without affecting stability too much. The basic handlebar mounting system works surprisingly well and the screen can be removed in a minute for off-roading at where times I did feel it angled back rather too close to my face


Do you know what, I actually think the CRF’s mileage is not so exceptional. I bet if I rode a BMW 650 twin like I did the Honda I’d get to within 90% of the CRF’s readings.

The fuel log is here. It’s divided into three stages: running inefficiently (power was not really affected), running a bit better (less rich) and with the EJK retuned, running correctly.
The tank is 7.8 litres and without even trying, I got close to my 100mpg (Imp) goal a couple of times to know it was achievable. My last recorded fill was an annoying dash 70 miles back to a motel to retrieve something while averaging nearly 60mph. Returning to Flagstaff (climbing from 4000 to 7000′) a couple of times I noticed I was on the throttle stop so this ‘worst possible’ mpg added up to 56US or 67.5UK. Again, I suspect my recent BMW 650GS twin and 660 Tenere before that would have managed the same mileage at similar speeds, but then who rides 650s like a 250 except when you’re running on fumes? Talking of petrol fumes, filling up is a pain to master without splashback; the small tank and two bars blocking the filler mouth combined with high pressure gas pumps you seem to get in the US means there’s often a spurt of gasoline coming back at you. I discuss bigger tanks here.
So, in the final ‘running correctly’ mode over some 2400 miles of dirt, highway and freeway the Honda averaged 72USmpg or 86.7UK. By comparison last year the BMW twin did 57/68 and the Tenere before it 59/72, so the Honda is a good 20% better while running on about 30-40% of the power.

Oil, water, drive chain, tyres
In the first 1000 miles, when the fuelling was off the bike got through an oil-level window’s worth which was surprising. Once the fuelling was fixed it used no oil over the next 2000 miles, and may have even gained some. Maybe it was still running-in and it was nothing do with running rich? Who knows. No coolant was ever used and the chain, lubed most days, never needed tensioning.


Tyre wear was a bit of a shock – that’s some soft IRC rubber they’ve slung on the back, worn out and split just 3200 miles from new. For me that’s a record on any bike, and from the condition of the CRF it wasn’t like the original owner caned the Honda. Dirt or pavement I ran both tyres at about 30psi and by the time I sold it at 4200 miles the front had about 4-5mm left. They performed fine on road and trail – as did the replacement Maxxis Desert. I suppose hot days and the combined weight of 280kg on the two OE tyres was too much. It certainly wasn’t due to pulling ‘blackies’ out of gas station forecourts!


Not having ridden the bike in totally stock form and spending most of my time at elevations greater than Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak (4406′, right), it’s a bit difficult to judge true performance. Then there was 10% ethanol fuel in AZ and maybe CA too, but regular fuel in Nevada? Does that make a difference?
I experimented with various octanes but can’t say 91 RON was better than the usual 87 (Honda recommends 85 or more), though one time after a remote and expensive fill up the bike was noticeably down on power (‘stale’ fuel?) until the next fill a few hours later. Note: US Octane ratings are several points lower than Europe: 97 octane “super unleaded” in Britain is roughly equivalent to 91 octane premium in the United States.
Tuning the EJK correctly in Truckee didn’t noticeably produce lots more power, just much better economy, though when I did return to Phoenix right at the end of the ride (1100′ elevation) I thought I did notice more acceleration, but perhaps that was just because I was frequently stopping and starting at traffic lights for the first time in over a month.
At times above 6500′ I thought I could notice a drop in power, even though at nearly 10,000 feet I could still do 50mph on the level. They say air density drops 4.5% every 1000 feet or that at 10,000′ the air pressure is 70% of sea level, but I don’t know if that means proportional oxygen levels too or if it all gets exponential as altitude increases. I suppose a 30% loss of power at 10,000 feet is plausible – 12hp still being enough to propel the 250 at 50mph.
High or low, the efi fuelling was perfect – never a stutter or a stall nor a surge when hot, as the BMW did last year in Morocco, With the Honda just some brief hunting as it warmed up in the mornings.
Like all 250s, hills and headwinds are the killers of speed, though not necessarily economy, as the fuel log shows. With me and the full load on it (additional combined weight equalling about the same as the Honda) the L simply hasn’t got the power to punch effortlessly up hill at 6000′ or against a headwind. On a more powerful machine you can just wind it on and pay at the servo later (a guy on an 1150GS told me he got as little as 120 miles to a tank against severe headwinds in the mid-West).
I don’t think the EJK running on the stock engine (apart from air filter backfire screen removed) added more than 1 or 2hp if anything at all, and I suppose a small engine is more affected by relatively small levels of power loss. If I’d stayed up there in the Great Basin I think I’d have experimented with upping (richening) the settings on the EJK, even if it cost a few mpgs. It might have cooled the motor too.


Overtaking on the highway was an extremely rare event and at high elevations I was sometimes down to 45mph in 5th gear, more commonly 50mph. That sounds a bit inconvenient or unnerving on a two-lane blacktop with a 65 limit, but in practise the traffic was so light and daylight visibility so good that it wasn’t unsafe. But it did mean you had nothing to spare.


What I did miss was the surge and the rush of acceleration – the fun factor that is elemental to biking and keeps tyre manufacturers as well as a few nurses in business. Loaded up, there is no real perception of acceleration on the Honda, the numbers simply crawl up the speedo. Exuberant antics like power sliding out of dirt turns (left) necessitated yanking the throttle or very poor traction which simply risked dumping it.
They talk about 24hp with a full-noise pipe, drilled airbox, 1T less on the countershaft and EJK retuned to suit, but my one-day’s experience at that theoretical power level before setting off was merely an embarrassing and unsustainable racket. Teenagers take note: noise ≠ power.

Most of the time I chose to cruise at 55 and with no traffic around was very happy to do so. I could look around, take pictures easily and generally not need to cling on or concentrate too hard. Maybe I should get an H-D? Above 65 the CRF-L didn’t always feel so stable, both with and without the screen or the baggage on or off. It could be the front tyre, front mudguard or just the light weight. The wake of a big truck up ahead wasn’t a great place to ride, and in the very strong winds I experienced on some days the bike got blown about quite dramatically, though never felt dangerous.
The highest true speed I saw was 72 briefly downhill though it wasn’t pinned yet. I had an rpm read-out on the Trail Tech Vapor and although it fluctuated quite a bit, rpm actually wasn’t as high as you’d think. Even with a piston the size of an egg cup the Honda only revs to 8000 and I don’t think I ever went over 5000 in normal riding.

Apart from high-speed stability the handling gave no surprises, but I wasn’t tearing about or intent on chamfering my boots soles. Obviously it’s easy to manoeuvre at low speed and the tyres and brakes were never overwhelmed by the weight or the power, nor the front forks by hard braking.


Note that on my bike the speedo read 8% under (ie: slower than true) and the odo was even worse, some 12% under. Other CRF-L owners have reported over-reading and some have it spot on. Establishing my error early on, I used the GPS or more commonly the Vapor (left) as accurate odometres to determine distance and so, accurate mpg.


Off road riding
On the 500+ miles of dry dirt I rode I never felt the need for more power, nor was the accumulated weight of the bike ever hard to handle. (I never had to haul it out of deep mud, sand or snow). The biggest limitation such as it was, was the tall- but more especially the widely spaced gearing which sometimes made slow, technical riding tricky without slipping and so stressing the clutch – something to be avoided.

Also, what I believe they call a slipping ‘judder spring‘ in the clutch and the way I jacked up the OE shock (left) made the back-end harsh when riding unloaded on bumpy terrain (though it was just right when loaded). It may all have been exacerbated by the lack of a cush drive in the back wheel, too. On the same topic the gearbox was less slick than the Honda press bike I rode in February, but as mentioned that did seem a suspiciously well set-up machine. The forks felt fine and neither end ever bottomed out, despite my 205lb weight, which just shows you how slow I ride!


Riding by myself, loaded up in the hills with no comms and at times helmet-free, I didn’t push my luck and in turn, didn’t push the Honda either, but it was good to know the bike was as light as practicable. U-turns on narrow trails were easily knocked out where a bigger bike would have involved much heaving and shoving. The bar risers I fitted were actually still not high enough to sustain standing on the pegs in a natural posture, but then I tend to sit down unless absolutely necessary or my arse is in meltdown (‘Stand up when you must, sit down when you can’). My theory is sitting keeps you more in touch with the hammering and stresses the luggage rack and tyres are receiving, these being the two most common causes of problems on the long road. How’s that for an explanation! (One guy on the WRT gently told me off for not standing up on a big climb).


Here you have to wonder whether an inexpensively produced 250, even a Honda, is up to the task of long-range, fully loaded travel. It’s best to avoid long spells where you’d need to cane the engine, as well as change the 1.5L of oil much more frequently than the suggested 8000 miles. On a hot day running slow with a backwind it does run close to 100°C for hours (102°C max recorded) at which point the fan kicks in, but although it never boiled over, nor showed a warning light on the dash (if there is one), I tend to regard the fan coming on when not at a standstill as a warning. (Having a water temperature read-out on the Vapor was a great feature).

I took it easy so the subframe took the hefty vertical load without any signs of stress, but like all bikes it’s more prone to side swipes. The only fall I had at some 15-20mph was harmless to me, but bent the bars a little, twisted the forks in the yokes and even tweaked the subframe – all this without a full load in the panniers which can exacerbate stresses. Apart from the bars, that was all set back with some loosening and retightening, but it did make me wonder about the subframe which is any light monoshock travel bike’s traditional weak spot.

With the high mileages that overlanding obviously involves, you also wonder if you’d be running the motor, if not the whole bike, closer to the limit than a 500cc+ with more in reserve when ridden moderately. Sparing the revs and the gear change as well as frequent oil changes is the best you can do there, but months of bad fuel or unavoidable neglect might take their toll sooner than on a bigger bike. This is all speculation of course, though Lois Pryce did admit her TTR250 was shagged out by the time it got to Cape Town (or maybe it was her Serow 225 on arriving at Ushiaia?). If given a good start to life though, you’d hope a 250 like mine will last better than a clapped-out KLR 650 running on 40 a day. And since then many have ridden CRF RTW with few issues, as AMH trip reports below prove.
The CRF has become a modern classic and the new 300 in 2021 only entrenches that fact.


Passing over ag bikes and posties, something like a CRF is at the extreme bottom end for a practical overlanding bike; at least for someone my size. But for my sort of riding (let alone budget) it’s still far less extreme and much more practical than a Triumph Explorer, Super Tenere, ‘Waterboxer’ or any other of the quarter-ton 12s that seem to exemplify ‘adventure bikes’ to ill-informed entities led by most of the moto media. Perhaps ‘adv bikes’ and what you can see I now deliberately now call ‘overlanders’ or ‘travel bikes’ are beginning to take on different meanings.


In the end I think I was right all along when building up my never tested GS500R: a 500-650 single or twin delivers the optimal level of performance, weight and – with efi- economy for a real-world overlander. Unfortunately these days the price you pay is at least 20 kilos more weight than you want which may simply be down to manufacturing economics. As MTBers will know, a little less weight costs a lot of $$$.
One guy I met in Flagstaff said he liked his big Harley as ‘it sure gets windy around here’, but when I sum it all up, it’s the lightness that makes the Honda such fun, easy to live with, manoeuvre and ride. (The winds I experienced were never unnerving.) Bikes now have masses of power, and at long last also have creditable fuel economy too, but light weight is the element many bikes are lack and why for example we’re right to be potentially excited by the forthcoming 450 CCM and why guys put up with things like a KTM690 (above left – same weight as the Honda but nearly four times the power at nearly double the price).
Loaded up with a realistic kerbside weight of some 180kg (+ me), the L was about as heavy as I would wish a bike, but light enough to be unloaded and pulled out of any ditch or manhandled onto a boat, pickup or plane. The economy was impressive, but then so it should be. But when you think of the typical 30-kilos of payload and accessories that most of us carry on a big ride, for someone of my build the ability to hold 60mph (100kph) on any road is what is wanted to make the ride relaxing. People are using the CRF250L for all sorts of applications so ymmv, but I see now that for me that requires a bit more than 250cc.

I’ve since got myself a BMW 650Xcountry back in the UK and other Project bikes have followed – see the menu above.


Setting up the CRF250L

Original pics for this post sadly lost in the clouds

In Phoenix the CRF was waiting for me, as were a dozen boxes of accessories to finish off the job the first owner had started before he flogged it with less than 1000 miles.

As a reminder, he fitted a pipe, plate, EJK fuel controller, tail rack, 13T, Shorei battery and the white plastics. Most of the original bits were there too.

Lying on the floor there on the left I had a set of Aussie Barkbusters with the large Storm handguards, a Spitfire screen, some bar risers, a 12V socket, a couple of RAM mounts and some Double Take mirrors along with lube, filters, a Trail Tech Vapor and some maps.

The cheap risers and 12V socket were clearly sourced from the reject bin in some Guandong factory and needed redrilling; the 12v socket even had the blue and brown wires the wrong way round which caused a small bang and some smoke! At least there was enough cable on the Honda to get 2 inches out of the risers. The Barks went on easily enough; I refitted the original 14T, replaced the shift lever with a folder, got an AZ plate and some insurance ($28 for half a year!) and then we set about the shock and the side racks.


On the plane over I had a thought that the shock wouldn’t be up to my weight and the load. The L I’d tested in February had been reassuringly firm but when it came to loading the rear spring on my Phoenix bike the collar adjustment rings were factory-set solid. We unbolted the shock (the usual near blind nuts make it easier with two people and the battery out) and Al whacked the collar rings apart. He pointed out a useful trick in turning the loose top sleeve out of it’s notch to give another 5mm of tension, but on bounce testing we decided to go all the way and fabricate an additional half-inch sleeve, splitting a right-diametre tube, fitting it and tacking it in place to rack the preload right up and have a bit more to spare. That required compressing the spring in a press but the shock is otherwise unmodifiable and a decent compression damped unit starts at $600.

Al Jesse was also using my bike to try out the prototype of  the new MonoArm rack he’s designed. Jesse mount systems are typically cunning affairs with minimal metal; my version is a bit heftier until the final form is pinned down.

I didn’t know what to expect but what we have here is a q/d platform rack no less (he must have read my mind) onto which I’ve chosen to semi-permanently attach my Magadans (I could as easily remove the pans from the plate, but the whole point is the rack itself is q/d). Each side plate locates into corresponding slots and the mounting system’s special feature you’ll learn about later makes it particularly well suited to slinky sub-framed dual sporters like the L. Removal of the platform with bags attached is with a nut and spacers, but production versions will use the tamper-proof QRDP lock by the time it’s all out.

Sunday Al put a cooler full of water in his KLX 250 S’s top box and we went for a ride up in the Weaver Mountains around Castle Hot Springs to see how my adaptions weighed up and pull off an mpg test. I was concerned the EJK black box might might have affected this as the original owner had intimated. Even then, with the Honda’s tiny tank (I’ll have a 5-litre fuel bag and may need another) it’s going to be stops every two hours to pay out for 8 bucks of fuel at a time.


First impression was a lot of noise and no jaw-dropping gobs of extra power over the Honda test bike I road in February (I do wonder if that press bike had been fine tuned…). With pipe and airbox and EJK, power should have been up some 30% (18 to 24hp supposedly) but Al’s Kawasaki was having no difficultly keeping ahead. We’d already tried to quieten the FMF ‘Q-Pipe’ by fitting a restricting washer up it’s spout and though it made a small difference in the garage, once on the road I couldn’t see myself living with that racket. Acceleration was especially noisy; we hoped the holes that had got drilled into the airbox side might address that, but back at Al’s, tapping them up made no difference. Luckily the stock pipe was at hand and easy to refit.


Other than that all was well. By the end of four hour’s riding the old backside was getting warm; that shock is pretty firm now and chattered into bends, but should be on form with a load. Standing up the bars were still two inches too low – Al’s KLX by comparison was just right. Not sure how to get around that without cable issues. Tyres at street pressures were OK and the brakes a bit touchy on the loose gravel inclines, but that will just be me getting used to the bike. The Slipstreamer Spitfire screen too felt a bit close to my face when bashing over ruts but the ‘pressure balancing’ gap at the base caused no turbulence on the highway. I did think it could pull still more gearing but there’s no room in there for a 14T so it will have to be 3 or 4 teeth off the back end. Unfortunately it was the din that left the biggest mark.

As for mpg. Al’s KLX recorded 96 miles on the loop; the Honda 83.5 – an unlikely 15% discrepancy so one odometre was out; tyres and gearing were standard on both our bikes. Assuming the Kawa’s distance reading was correct then the Honda was doing an impressive 62.3 US or 75UK mpg. If the Honda’s 83.5 miles is in the ballpark it’s more like 54.2 US but still 65UK mpg, what I recorded last March on the stock press bike. We were going pretty slowly (no more than 55mph on the KLX or 50 on mine) so I suspect somewhere in between is right.

Back at base I checked the speedo against a Nuvi satnav and up to 30mph it seemed spot on for speed  though over a mile the odo was 10% under. A closer test with my Garmin 62 or even the Trail Tech Vapor unit will get to the bottom of it. And it sure was nice to ride the back streets with that quiet stock pipe back on, even if at 12lbs it’s double the weight of the Q Pipe.

Unfortunately the proto side rack doesn’t fit round the fat OE can and needs to be modified a bit. That and the fact that my  ‘two-day’ helmet delivery is still with UPS meant I was running out of time to get to South Sound BMW for Saturday. We talked about good routes on the weekend but a 250 is not the best machine when you need to cross a continent in a hurry.
The northwest was never my plan on this trip and my decision to fly up north (about the same price when you add it up) was made easier by today’s weather warnings across the Southwest. Here in Phoenix it’s been baking at over 30 Celcius last few days but today in Flagstaff it was snow and 60mph gusts –  undesirable conditions aboard a skimpy 250.

It all gives me more time to get the Honda in shape for a shorter ride for a presentation at Roseville, CA before swing back through Utah’s Canyonlands.

Next instalment here.