My 1986 Honda CR250R

1986 Honda CR250R, originally uploaded by evanfell.

I have now owned a couple different 1986 250 two-stroke MX bikes. My first real dirtbike was this 1986 Kawasaki KX250 which I haven’t written about yet – but here is a photo.

1986 Kawasaki KX250

This Honda CR250 was a little beat up but I was able to buy it for a song. When I bought the bike it had low compression, the plastics were faded and a couple bits were worn, but all in all it was a fairly solid old ride.

The 1986 Honda CR250R was the last year of the rear drum brake. It boggles my mind why Honda was still running a drum brake in the rear when the other manufacturers had updated to discs. I don’t know for sure, but I would be willing to be that the factory Honda racers in 1986 had disc brakes on their race bikes. (Anyone know a little history about this? I’d love to hear it.). However, Honda did jump right to a dual piston front disk brake, which sort of compensates for the weak rear.

Despite the low compression I was able to get this bike running real well. It needed a new piston and rings for sure, but that didn’t stop me from putting a little saddle time on it. It amazes me how little the performance of off road bikes has changed over a 20 year period. Sure new bikes have better suspension, the motors run a little crisper, and they’ve shaved off 15 pounds, but to an amateur rider all of those factors amount to very little. Most off-road riders and racers run new bikes simply because of the hype and marketing. The fact of the matter is that any good rider on a bike from the 80’s will still whoop the pants off an amateur on the latest model 250. Once liquid cooled motors and mono shock bikes became common place, the rider was the only thing that made a real significant different on lap times.

This 1986 ran very strong. I don’t recall what carb it had, I know my 1986 KX250 had an enormous Kehein that was the size of a bible. The Honda is certainly a little better carbureted and pulled harder up top, but this could be purely a factor of superior jetting rather than components. The CR250 suspension was also a bit more progressive than the KX250 with an inverted front fork, the KX250 had a bit of a spongy quality to it which made whoop sections tricky.

By all accounts the 1986 CR250 was the superior bike to the KX250, save the rear brake. Dirt, mud, water, and fast motors simply do not mix with drum brakes. Goofy.


By ef

Hey, I'm Evan and this is one of my motorcycle sites. You can find more about me on my homepage, or visit me on Google Plus: +Evan Fell


  1. I also have a 1986 Honda CR250R dirt bike. One part is broken. I need the arm for the right rear brake. The rear brake cable attaches to this arm at the rear brake drum. I think the manufacture’s product number is 43410-KA3-710. Apparently Honda doesn’t make this part anymore. Do you know where I can get one? Thanks.


  2. Hi Brad,

    Unfortunately a lot of these old parts are discontinued. It makes it kind of a pain in the butt to get things in a timely manner.

    You really don’t have much of an option other than to watch eBay. You might also become a member at or s few of the other forums I list on this site – then just ask around in the vintage bike sections. It’s worth a shot, there is a wealth of information in those places.

    Good luck.



  3. hello brad,
    i was looking at the honda and i was wondering if the inverted front forks were stock on the ’86 models or if you put them on for more of a modern motocrossers look


  4. Actually Evan, as a collector of mid-80s dirt bikes I can answer most of your 1986 CR questions. I have a CR250 that I’ve owned and raced since new which I’m currently having restored. Your observations about the performance of bikes as of the mid-80s at the amateur level are largely correct. As to braking, the only company that made rear disks on *any* of its fullsized bikes in 1986 was Kawasaki. Why? With the rear disks in this period, the main problem (at least, according to all the literature) is that rear disks were way, way too grabby. Your 1986 KX250 was notorious for flameouts when the rear brake was even a little applied– and continuing through later year bikes (like my 1988 RM250), the rear disk will still *easily* kill the motor without super-lightning fast reflexes on the clutch. This is no problem on the trail, but on the MX course– and, trust me, NOBODY in the 80s made more serious racers than Honda– this problem was potentially catastrophic. Thus: rear drums. (And if you think Honda’s rear brake is bad, just try riding one of the era’s 500 bikes, any of which could touch 100 mph– and all except Kawie sported a rear drum.) Your intuition about the works bikes brakes of 1986 is correct, partly. Ricky Johnson’s RC250 *did* have a rear disk by the end of the 1986 season. But, all the rest of the team bikes used drums throughout the season. And this year (1986) was one of the most successful seasons US HRC ever had, even absolutely dominating the MXdN in Maggiora, Italy, with these bikes. By the way, the USD forks on your bike have been back-fitted (Honda didn’t mount these until 1989), which means that someone gypped you! The 1986 conventional cartridge Showas are still known as some of the best forks ever put on a production MXer (in fact they were the previous year’s works forks, even Kawasaki and Suzuki ran them). Great site! Check out the ongoing restorations of my 1981 RM125, 1982 RM250 and 1986 CR250 at Cheers, James (currently trapped in Texas but still SoCal in my head) Steel frame CRs forever!


  5. Hi James,

    Thank you for your very insightful comments on the mid-eighties MXer’s. You definitely know your CR’s and it’s great to have such a knowledgeable reference around.

    It’s been several years since I’ve ridden the 1986 KX250 and now I’m anxious to give it a go. I don’t recall having terrible rear lock up issues – but at the time I was using it regularly I was not riding agressively or on the MX track. It would be fun to compare that rear brake stock for stock with a few of my other dirtbikes – though I have a feeling you are a reliable source! Thanks again! – Evan


  6. Hi Brad, I am shocked to have come accross this photo, I have good feeling i own your bike now. The biks is in perfect running order. I replaced the top end as you said it needed and it was leaking fluid when I got it, i payed 400.00 for it, but now the back drum needs work cause it pulled out away from the wheel, Hope its just a matter of tighning the axle bolt nuts. cahin is a bit loose too so should replace those while im at it, thought to let to you know, same forks, same scaring on the right case, same breather tube at that I have it,

    I take good care of it,

    Mike, Waterburry CT,.


  7. hey, i just bought i 1986 cr250 which needed a stator. Is there a special tool i need to get the flywheel off?


  8. Zach – yep, you need a flywheel puller. The cheapest you’ll find is probably the Tusk brand puller sold by RockyMountainATV. Or try and borrow one from you local shop.



  9. I bought an 1986 cr250r 6 months ago for my first bike. It needed minor work like tubes,rear brakes and a shifter. I was able to find those things through motorcycle superstore and for anyone looking 4 parts. I love the bike it was difinatly worth the time put into it the ride it gives you for an older bike is awsome!


  10. I’am bying a 1986 kx 125 and i was woundering wat i could do to make it faster with out spending alot of money


  11. This is a great article. I was given a 86 CR250r from a neighbor that couldn’t get it to fire for 10 years. Funny but brought it home and drained everything to give clean fluid in and kicked it for 10 min. and fired right up. Who knows. Re-jetted and minor adjustments and testing it tonight. The only thing I have really been trying to figure out is that it hick-ups when idling or just running with no throttle twist..thinking full and air mixture is off alittle feels like a shot of full is just pushing through once and awhile? But was wondering if besides ebay are there any other places you could suggest for a total rebuild for parts. Would love to bring this back and pass down to my son now three. I think it would be cool to have such a great classic bike past along.
    Thanks for any input.


  12. Hi Evan,
    Ive got an 85 Cr 250 , just like the 86 in the pics,
    I need the cable and the arm and spring and washer for the back brake,
    where do i get clutch, and brake levers from honda, and not copy’s,
    Need side panel’s,& front number panels as well as a good rear fender,
    when I start it?
    Theres a bit of oil spitting out of the front of pipe I think the pipe needs that thick flange and then maybe it wont spit out junk all over my right leg,
    The clutch cable pulls hard and is sticking,
    Im thinking a new cable would work, and not have to replace the disc’s in the basket,
    I start it up and i put it in 1st and slowly let the clutch out and the bike stalls,
    but when its warmed up,
    its fine,
    Im freshening this bike up to be right,
    And to ride,
    so things are right on it and not all messed up,
    need help on this,


  13. wanting a 72 Husky 400 cross, or WR,
    seen alot out there redone but wanting alot for them,
    The money dont count,
    but the person selling it does,
    Seen alot of guys trying to squeeze juice out of a turnip,
    No way dont work,
    No basket case’s,
    Good running bike and in good cond,
    No museum bike’s,
    Fair price,


  14. I also have an 82 honda CR 250,
    Need engine , carb,tank & seat,
    Of course cables and assorted other things for it,
    Have pipe, and bars,spare head and sproket,
    Bike is all there except for engine tank,seat,
    & fenders and side number plates,
    Just needs cleaned up,
    Im gonna try that S 100 cleaner,
    And I think alot of the grunge will come off,
    Was thinking maybe to get gold Excel rim’s for the 82,
    But,,,,, Get it together,
    Then pretty it up.


  15. ive got an 85 CR 250 and its pretty good
    but it needs freshened up on a few things,
    It fell over on the right side and now i see oil leaking out above the right bottom engine frame,dripping realy slowly,
    maybe a seal I hope so as i dont think the case would just drip really slow like that if it was really bad,


  16. hi guy ive got an 85 CR 250R like your 86,
    it was running decent,
    but then carb was cleaned and the powervalve was cleaned too, but the guy didnt put a kit in the carb to freshen it up,
    also i got it back from the guy, (hes a dirt
    bike mechanic),
    I put a delco plug in it and from then on it didnt fire,
    i did this thinking that the model number of the delco was the same as the NGK,
    but maybe the heat range is different on the delco than thwe NGK,
    I puklled the plug out , pluged it in to the plug wire and cranked it over about 4 times?
    nothing, no spark
    a couple times berfor ethis, 2 days ago, ?
    i pulled it outtas the garage and tried it and took the plug out and it was wetting the plug, as i caould smell gas on the plug in it,
    so i took the newer delco out as i got 2 new ones thinking that model numbers were the same but heat range is different?
    the kid i got the bike from this last summer, siad he put a new CDI unit in it,
    He didnt say if it was new or used?
    but now I just checked the spark across the head with the new plug and nada, nothing. zilch,,
    I know its wetting then plug a little,
    so its getting gas,
    reeds are ok,
    no problem,
    has had top end done about 8 months ago
    never raced to my knowelege,please help,
    Kirk C, from kansas,


  17. Hi evan,
    I just got an 86 Kawasaki KX 500 a few days ago, i like it alot but havent filled the engine with oil yet as they have to drain it for shipping or so i thought?
    i was thinking Klotz, or castrol, or maybe even golden spectro,
    I used to run Klotz in his 74 YZ 125 I had once and it ran really good all the time,
    out here in north kansas though,I cant find it , or ill see yamalube 2S or 2R,
    wes thinking Bel-Ray too,
    Until I saw,what this place wanted for it per quart sheesh wow i couldnt believe it,
    $14,00 a quart,
    No Way Jose,
    Whats a good premix oil to use in both bike’s?
    and of course engine oil too?
    thanks alot Evan,


  18. @Kirk

    Toss those Delco plugs and get yourself a Honda recommended NGK plug for your bike. I wouldn’t assume you have a problem with the CDI/Coil/Etc until you get the proper plug, gap it properly, and check for spark again.



  19. @Kirk again

    I’ve always preferred Klotz R-50 in my 2 strokes. It’s a great quality oil, runs real clean, and smells great. It isn’t cheap though – a gallon will run about $40 if ordered online.

    The Yamalube oils are great as well, and just fine for your older bikes. You don’t need a synthetic in a bike of that era. Just stick with a name brand and you’ll be fine. (NO CHAINSAW JUNK).

    For the tranny – I always run ATF – $1.50 a quart and it works great in a 2 stroke transmission. I often run ATF in the forks as well!



  20. hi there. i own a kawasaki kx 250 1985, i quess its a 85 because the drum brake on the rear wheel. and my friend has an yamaha yz250 1995 and my kx beats him by far. and his engine is totaly new restored so? i would want to know more about the 1985 year of kx 250. and exuse my english haha i am from sweden=) bye


  21. Hi Peter,

    There really haven’t been THAT many performance increases in the last 20 years for 250cc 2 stroke motocross engines. A 250 motor from 1985 is fairly comparable to one from 2005 in terms of raw power output. It’s really the chassis where the biggest improvements have been made.

    A good rider on a 1985 bike while still whoop a mediocre rider on a brand new bike. 90% rider, 10% bike.

    You are correct, in 1986 Kawasaki switched to a rear disc brake. They had drums in 1985.

    What specifically are you trying to learn about your bike?



  22. Hey Evan, thanks for the post! I was trying to figure out what year my CR was (VIN plate is missing) and in cruising the net ran across your blog. I just started a full restoration job on my CR and am looking for pointers as I go through it. I’ve never done a full teardown and rebuild, so it will be a learning experience. Any pointers/tips appreciated.


  23. Hi Evan,
    this 85 CR 250 Honda ive got rides ok, run’s good, but the powerband is wayyyy too abrupt and wayyyy too soon, mannn this thing wants to pull like a horse not even half throttle,
    maybe need’s to be rejetted to tone it down a little other wise it a cool bike, need the suspension dialed in as it rides hard and dont bite anywhere, like hopping around,
    leaned it over, gas came out the tubes and then kicked it a bout 3 times and it took right off like nothing,
    whats a good pipe for this bike that has more midrange?
    Theres a DG on it,but its all dark from heat and its carmel colored,
    looks grosse,got the KX done needed needle and seat, so it runs good now,
    was thinking about an older 74 Elsie 250M? Like the 77 RM 370 too,
    maybe the Elsie is too old?


  24. Hi Evan,Kirk again,
    Even Im 5″10′, and 30 in in the seam,
    I like the suzuki RM 370, or 400 late 70’s, can i get on one?
    Or do i have to get the suspension adjusted down?
    Thats the glitch with the CR 250?
    Go to you tube,
    and look at this Vid of this Kid riding his dad’s KX500, up and down this tree lined road,
    says Delta tuned whatever that mean’s,
    Really sound’s good too,
    deep and throaty,
    Name is ME riding Dad’s KX 500,,, Delta Tuned,
    I was listening to this thing over and over as it sounded sooo good,
    another vid is a guy riding an 89 KX 250 thru this low area in slovenia, czech repuplic,
    sounds really good,
    and gritty too,
    cool valley and hill too,


  25. hi Evan, just got the kx 500 back from the shop it had a new needle and seat but it still is actimg like its not getting any gas to start,
    front wheel hs a bit of flex when i turn the forks side to side at the stops?
    take plug out and see if its wet?
    If you see a 86 kx 500 kicklever and ball to the shaft,let me know ok, i need one
    someone welded the wrong lever to the shaft in 2 small spots,


  26. Hi I own a 1986 Cr250R that i have ridden for about 3 years and i went away to school in idaho i came back and did a valve job and noticed my block has a hairline crack i need to replace the block any suggestions on where to find one


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