Thursday, June 17, 2010

Honda XR250 Tornado


In the latest test I had the pleasure of testing the Honda XR250 Tornado once again supplied by Honda Wing George. I had a special interest in testing this bike as I have a particular love for trail bikes and even with my high expectations the bike did not disappoint.

And where better to test it than on the trails!

The first impression as you get on the bike is the seat height. It's considerably higher than even the XL700V TransAlp, but the seat is very comfortable and the suspension plush. Riding off through traffic you find that this bike excels as a commuter around town. The motor is punchy and the bike quick and sure footed. The high seat gives you an excellent view over traffic and the overall package inspires confidence.

I hit the first gravel up Montagu Pass the first thing I noticed was the excellent suspension. The Tornado features a telescopic 245mm front fork and the 242mm pro-link rear suspension unit that makes this XR a pleasure to ride even in the roughest terrain. I am quite a bit heavier than the average person but even with the added weight the suspension performed very well indeed. In fact, in the whole ride the bike never bottomed out once. Even over speed humps it felt like you're just gliding along.

This is a seriously good looking bike. Of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but in my opinion this is the best looking bike of the three bikes competing in this market in South Africa (the others being the Yamaha TTR250 and the Kawasaki KLX250). Yes, I might be a wee bit biased.

But don't let the modern styling fool you, this is still a XR like the indestructible XR's of old. The built quality is, as you can expect from Honda, top notch. The Tornado boasts among others a robust semi-double cradle type steel frame and the 21" and 18" wheels sport aluminum rims. At the heart of the Tornado is a low maintenance, high torque four stroke Single Overhead Cam 249cc air-cooled engine that's already proved it's reliability after years of being on the market.

On the trails this bike really comes into it's own. It's confidence inspiring and such a hoot to ride! I positively fell in love with this bike. I had the opportunity to test it on gravel, sand, mud, uphills and whatever I threw at it, the bike soaked it up with a smile. It seems like it's just good at everything that might come it's way on a trail ride.

The view from the cockpit:

The XR sports a modern digital instrument cluster with all the necessary information and then some. And that's exactly the kind of scenery you'd like to see over the handle bars!

So in my opinion it's a great trail bike, but how does it fare in what it was designed to do?

The Tornado is not a MX bike. It was designed for pavement hopping and short distance commuting and as a commuter it excels. It's comfortable and more than punchy enough to handle town or city traffic. It might frustrate on the highways though. Pulling away in 1st I was surprised. It felt stronger than I expected. At 40km/h you hit second and it still pulls strongly through the rev range to 60km/h. 3rd takes you to 80km/h where you hook 4th and still it accelerates briskly to top out at 100km/h. It's all fun till here. 5th gear however felt sluggish. It will take you to 115km/h but there's no oomph left after that. With my weight 6th gear was all but useless. I did try a high speed run on a short tar downhill where the bike topped out at an indicated 132km/h in 6th.

This really is the only complaint I had in what is a truly wonderful package. And it's not a big problem. If this was my bike (and I might very well own one in future) I would re-sprocket it down to maybe a top speed of 120km/h when it runs out of revs in 6th. This will give you even more punchy performance in the lower gears while improving the ability to keep the speed in the higher gears, not to mention making the higher gears (especially 6th) usable.

In South Africa we have the Yamaha TTR250 and Kawasaki KLX250 competing with this bike and although the three offerings have slightly different strong points and focuses, the Tornado, being the cheapest of the three, offer a very good package indeed. The frugal fuel consumption and comfort makes it a perfect bike for commuting during the week and playing on the trails over the weekends.

Use it for what it was designed for and it would not disappoint you. In my opinion Honda has a winner here.




Anonymous said...

I have also purchased a XR250 for my son (2009) and share your comment on 5th & 6th gear. Have you downsized the sprockets? 1 size down at the rear?

Dirk Vermeyen said...

I have a Honda XR 250 Tornado for a few months now and I am very happy with it. But i would like to change the sprockets. Upsize the rear or downsize the front. Any idea where I can buy those sprockets ? I m working and living in Haiti ...

Dirk Vermeyen said...

Down at the rear ??? That will increase the problem pall. You should upsize the rear or downsize the front. That's what I would like to do with my Honda XR 250 Tornado. I m very happy with it, except from the sprockets. Just as Trailrider discribes. Where could I buy those sprockets ? I m living and working in Haiti ...

Anonymous said...

I bought my bike a while back.. early 2010 and it rocks.. pick a direction and go, low on fuel and fun all the way.. very forgiving. I found that as I rode the top speed has actually increased from 110 to 120 in the same conditions after the pistons seat themselves. Took it slow and steady for 500km then rode it like I stole it. Only trouble that apparently everyone gets is that the clutch cable needs adjusting only one time about 3 months after purchase. I am totally in love with this bike. I just want a bigger tank so I can go further... mods are simply not available in SA by the looks of it.. if anyone knows where I can get a huge tank for my XR 250 Tornado buzz me on please :) Happy trails.

Anonymous said...

I would also like to upsize rear or downsize front sprockets on my XR250 Tornado but where do you get them,cant find sprockets that would fit in South Africa?

Anonymous said...

I am looking to buy a xr250 tornado do not like the drum brake so much though, will it be possible to convert it to a disk brake system????????? please reply to thanks Rudolph

Anonymous said...

Well I wrote earlier and still haven't found a bigger tank but I am still loving the bike, no problems. I can recommend it to anyone anytime.. though there are still no aftermarket parts I have come to realize the bike is probably best just as it is.

Anonymous said...

any idea about suzuki dr200se??? im confused between dr200se and xr250 torando.

Anonymous said...

Well I have a XR 250, I bought it a year ago and it has almost 12000km on the clock. For my 1st bike, it's an awesome bike.My friend said for what I use it for, it was the best I could buy. I live in Rustenburg, I go to Randburg once a month and I ride a nice 240km trail we have around the Magaliesberge here once a month. I got a Michilen T63 for my first tyre change at the back and I love it. It looks very off road and preforms excellent on and off road. Fuel consumption I get about 25km/l but when we ride off road, well then I sometime get 30km/l. I got polisport handgaurds and they look excellent, I have the red and black XR like in the review, so most of the extra's I get, I get in black.

I adore this bike, the other day we went for a quick ride, I had my trusty XR and my friend his KDX 200 and his friend a KX 450, it was just after a nice rain fall, very muddy and slippery. there was this one place we had to go over a spruit. It was cleared earlier the week so it had these 2 piles on the side. the 2 kawasaki's over rev'ed to go over and i went over it smoothly, my friend was very impressed and said it was down very nicely. Water wasn't an issue, because on the path we went into turf and the water was alot! the kx had a bit of trouble somewhere down the "new" river and my XR had no prob. But my tyres were finished so the clay became a very big problem for me. When I have a new set of tyres and a new chain, i wana go and try it again!

Crowley exhaust said they can make an aftermarket exhaust for me, but the cost was just too much, R 3000. So I'm just changing small things to make my bike more custom, to make it say this is my bike!

Unknown said...

I took of the end cap of my exhaust and cut the outlet out using with a hobby grinder and took the muffler tip out. Opened up the hole and welded the end-tip of a standard vw golf exhaust in its place. Cut the hole in the end cap to size and riveted it back. Then cut an opening in the airbox underneath the seat. Started small and went up 'till i got the mix right again. Got a lot more push, but expect to burn more on fuel.