Last month, you met our long-term project CRF250L, and heard some vague promises about good stuff to come. In case you missed that intro, our plan is a long-term experiential project, something like “How to Take a Perfectly Good, Inexpensive Dual-sport and Turn It into a Rockin’ Good, Still Kinda Inexpensive Bike That Works Pretty Well Everywhere from Singletrack to SF.” Cool, right?
For this month’s issue, I took the bike to the Carson Tahoe Moto and subjected it to a couple days of Streetmasters classes with Walt Fulton and crew: a day on pavement, and another day of “dirty” (yeah, baby!) Streetmasters. Stay tuned for more on that, but for now I’ll just say this: Streetmasters is awesome stuff—educational and fun.
Before I headed for Nevada, though, I had some upgrades planned for the bike, and needed to address a couple minor “issues” that popped up as a result of my thrashing the bike at Bungee Brent’s Backroad Bash.
First up, I replaced the shifter, which got brutally bent in a pretty spectacular unplanned dismount on a very rocky downhill, with a super-burly CNC-machined, folding lever from Hammerhead. Not only is this shifter first-rate in quality and looks, the folks at Hammerhead are very helpful, and were happy to jump on the phone to discuss a lever for the CRF—finding a direct replacement is a bit tricky. Ultimately, I ended up with a +20mm rubber-tipped lever, and I couldn’t be happier—it works great with my size thirteens, and I expect it will easily survive a nuclear holocaust. Tough as really tough nails, and a bargain at about $65. Get more info at Hammerhead’s website, hdmoto.com.
Next, I replaced the clutch and brake levers with pivot levers from Zeta. These are CNC-machined, hard-anodized shorties, with adjustable reach and a pivot design to let the lever fold out of the way in a crash. Since I don’t have handguards on the bike yet, and apparently like to crash in the dirt, this is a welcome upgrade. They feel great and offer improved control over the stockers. Doesn’t hurt that they look sweet, too. These levers run about $55 each, and are available at shops like crfsonly.com.
I also added an aluminum skidplate from Zeta, and man, I wish I’d put this on before I took the bike out for some serious off-road. The li’l CRF comes with a silly, plastic excuse for a skidplate that is more of an undercarriage dust cover, and I distinctly remember a particular whack! on some big rocks, followed by me thinking “Oh man, I gotta get a skidplate on this thing.” That impact banged up the frame pretty good—there’s a dime-sized dent in the left frame tube. I can’t really complain—this isn’t supposed to be a hardcore enduro bike, and anyway, I understand that some of those $10,000 KTMs don’t come with skidplates either.
The Zeta skidplate is solid, nicely welded, and bolts up easily. It seems to protect the underside of the bike well, and does a nice job of hiding that nasty ding in the frame. The only downside is that it has an annoying bit of sympathetic vibration at higher RPMs, but I figure I can solve with a bit of creativity. Zeta’s skidplate runs about $100. You can get more info about Zeta products for the CRF250L at zeta-racing.com.
In spite of what you may have heard, the stock CRF seat isn’t horrible, at least for off-road—you’re gonna be standing up a lot anyway, right? But it feels an awful lot like a hardwood plank if you’re on the road for more than a few miles—narrow, kind of, well… invasive.
So we reached out to Seat Concepts for one of their famously grippy seat upgrades, which are available as kits or complete seats. Beyond the extra grip, the seat features a wider section further back—so there’s still a nice narrow seat/tank junction, but slide back and you have a proper seat to actually sit on. Comfy and effective, and surprisingly economical at $159.99 for a kit or $254.99 for a complete seat. Seriously, this is probably the best thing I’ve done to the CRF yet. Get more info at seatconcepts.com.
Lastly, but certainly not least importantly, given my penchant for tossing this bike down the trail, I added a Doubletake mirror. This is a genius design, using a RAM ball and arm, with an indestructible, reinforced Zytel mirror body. The mirror glass is 4”, and provides excellent rearward visibility on the street. As soon as the pavement ends, I just twist the knob on the RAM arm and fold the mirror inboard, out of harm’s way. A complete mirror setup with RAM ball and arm starts at $46. Get more information and order yours at doubletakemirror.com.
These upgrades have made the bike more rideable and resilient when crashed—both good things. More serious upgrades like suspension work wait a bit further down the trail, but in the meantime, the stock tires haven’t miraculously gotten better. And even though the bike sips gas pretty slowly when ridden nicely, I tend to ride it like a jerk so the two-gallon fuel tank means I’m seeing a fuel light at less than 100 miles sometimes. So stay tuned for our next idiotically-named project update (CRFs Up, Dude?) where we’ll be upgrading to a bigger tank, some serious tires and maybe some other stuff that starts with T.
This story originally appeared in our October 2014 issue.