One of the Initial Best Kept Secrets in Motorcycles: The History of the CR250 Elsinore
In 1964, Soichiro Honda, owner of Honda Corp., made a very bold, public statement, “Honda will never build a two-stroke motorcycle.” Their reputation was built upon four-stroke engines during the period, and they were at the top of their game. Why fix something when it’s not broken?
Fortunately for Honda Corp, a couple of rogue engineers did not hold the same vision as Mr. Honda, and they clandestinely began to work on a two-stroke bike that would change the dirtbike world forever: the CR250 Elsinore.
In the world of dirt bikes, even though this legend has been out of production since 2007, it has won more events and continues to do so than any other bike in dirt racing history. I guess that proves that not all secrets are a bad thing.
“It Had BETTER Be the Best in the World”
These were the words the brave engineers were met with when they confronted Mr. Honda with the fact they had been producing a two-stroke bike without his consent. They indeed seemed to do that and more, if possible. This dirtbike changed the history of the sport of Motocross forever.
The name for the bike was derived from a very famous race at the time, as the developers felt that this would be an excellent way to bring attention to the bike. Initially, it did not even carry the Honda name.
The CR250 Elsinore became the standard for performance and action in two-stroke dirtbikes upon its inaugural run in 1973. Not only was it a beautiful bike, but it also offered a ride like no other in its class. Its run lasted over three-decade until Honda decided that it would only provide four-stroke engines for their dirtbike lines. However, as previously stated, these bikes are still being used to this day and are highly sought after by collectors.
Weighing in at just over 200 lbs, this bike could take flight. For its time, it had state-of-the-art 7.1 fork travel. Basically, this bike brought to the average consumer a beautifully built, probably the best built in the world, a powerful motorcycle that could only be found in Europe at the time. Yet, it was available in America, and it was brought to the public at a much more affordable cost than its competitors.
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
This was the initial tendency for Honda where the Elsinore was concerned. They felt that the bike, virtually in the same state it was created, was pretty much where it needed to be in order to be one of the big competitors in the Motocross world.
It wasn’t until the early 80s that Honda started making changes to the Elsinore. Some of the significant changes made to the bike included:
1981 - a new suspension system was used on the CR250.
1984 - this year saw a couple of significant changes for the motorcycle. It included a new exhaust valve and hydraulic front disk breaks.
1985 - 1990 - not many changes occurred during this half-decade. The big differences included a different front suspension system, a larger carburetor, and a switch to a rear hydraulic brake system.
1992 - this year saw a considerable change in the physical design for the CR250. However, many felt that the light steel frame was not strong enough to hold up to the engine’s power.
1997 - this year saw the Elsinore hit the track with an aluminum frame. While this material conversion was preferable to most Elsinore pros, the differentiation did not seem to go over well with the general public, hurting sales, so this frame was fairly short lived.
2000 - in response to the public’s lackluster reaction to the original aluminum fame, Honda came out with a new, redesigned aluminum frame that seemed to sit a bit better with consumers.
2002 - this year introduced a new engine for the Elsinore. It was able to produce up to 45 hp with a 249 cc five-speed transmission.
2007 - Honda made the fateful decision to focus on only producing four-stroke engines from this point forward, so this was the CR250 Elsinor’s swan song and the end of the production line for a Motocross legend.
The History of the CR250 Elsinore: True Legends Never Die
Though these dirt bikes have been out of production for going on two decades, they are still highly revered and sought after by dirtbike enthusiasts the world over.
From the likes of the great Steve McQueen riding a CR250 Elsinore in his films to some of the greatest riders in Motocross history making them their bike of choice, to the average consumer who likes to ride on the weekend and have a good time, the Elsinore was THE choice of dirtbike for virtually any rider who wanted to jump some hills, catch some air, and get a little dirty along the way.
While the owner of Honda had to virtually be sold the idea after the bike had already been created, the decision to go forward with their construction was one the smartest moves he could have made, and the CR250 is probably one of the main reasons that Honda is one of the leading names in Motocross even to this day.
While the Elsinore is no longer manufactured, they are still sought after by riders and collectors alike. This is a legend that will not die any time soon.