A mark of distinction in all-terrain vehicle racing history, the Honda sport ATV TRX 250R, manufactured from 1986 to 1989, was designed for off-road recreation and racing. With a lightweight frame, 6-speed transmission, and liquid-cooled engine, the TRX 250R was one of the most popular all-terrain vehicles on the market until 2003, when the company saw a rise in demand for four-stroke ATVs.
Introduced to the ATV marketplace as a competitor with Suzuki’s LT250R, the Honda sport TRX 250R set the pace for the brand’s quad vehicle presence on the international market. The TRX 250R, essentially a re-built model based on the brand’s existing ATC 250R three-wheeler product, the TRX 250R quad saw re-definition of an existing concept with modified rear suspension and re-tuned engine compatible with the Fourtrax.
The result was a Honda sport ATV TRX 250R ergonomic enough to beat competitors by re-engineering its former ATC 250R model. Outfitted with additional supports to sustain the weight of a quad, the original TRX 250R retained the same engine reliability of the three-wheel predecessor, while improving on its capabilities for optimal all-terrain racing performance. Though three-wheelers went off the market in 1987 in response to a ban by the U.S. Consumer Safety Commission, (“CSPC”), the Honda sport TRX 250R was, again, modified to include bridged intake cylinder remodeling, along with a five-millimeter enhancement to the ATV’s suspension.
In 1988, further engineering enhancements were implemented when the brand adjusted the compression ratio of the TRX 250R engine to boost the power of its quad. Honda raised its competitive edge against similar competitor models in the ATV class by reducing the weight of the TRX 250R’s chassis by 25 pounds from the company’s earlier models. The length of the TRX 250R’s aluminum swingarm shortened, the wheelbase was made slightly longer to shift the weight of the quad to the rear. Relocation of the headlight to the hood from the handlebars was the final modification made that year. The 1988 TRX 250R came with red fenders, exclusively.
By 1989, the TRX 250R was considered one of the most popular quad models on the market. The final year of production, Honda’s quad ATV was subject to few modifications, though a needle bearing was installed on the pressure point of the clutch for added stability while off-road or on the racecourse. Collectors and owners of Honda’s TRX 250R will note, white was the color of the ATV’s final release on the market.
Production of the Honda sport TRX 250R ended in 1999, at a time when the international motorcycle and vehicle manufacturer found itself subject to new rules and regulations associated with increased carbon emissions-reducing legislation both in Japan and abroad in the United States. Like other motorcycle manufacturer competitors, Honda found itself subject to carbon emissions standards and regulations impacting manufacture and sale of its products.
With its expert product research and development team under pressure to produce marketable motorcycle products in regulatory compliance in all its markets worldwide, Honda was put to the challenge of eliminating products not in line with newly-enacted restrictions on ATV emissions. Part of the company’s strategy for sustainable product compliance across the global marketplace, the Honda TRX 250R was taken off the market.
One of Honda’s immediate solutions was to increase the fuel economy of its vehicles. Such a strategy strengthened the brand’s image and its compliance with global carbon emissions reduction policies coinciding with the implementation of the Kyoto Accord in 1998. The result of great attention to research and development, Honda sought an aggressive change in its market position as a sustainable manufacturer of premium motorcycle race vehicles and parts. It was at this time, the company took measures to discontinue its production of vehicles with 2-stroke engines by the year 2002.
Conceived in 1998, Honda initially adopted 2-stroke engines for installation in the brand’s ATV products to assure superior output. By 1999, the company had again transformed the TRX 250R, equipping the most recent release of the model with 4-stroke engine technology to comply with newly implemented environmental regulation. Honda also cited racing industry competitor demand, giving the manufacturer a reason to promote its ATVs with 4-stroke engines in response to market demand for vehicles meeting Pro class qualification in the international, off-road racing circuit’s four-stroke category.
At the time the ATV was placed in production, there were as few as six of the vehicle’s replacement parts once restricted for purchase solely from the manufacturer. Today, it is safe to suggest that more aftermarket parts are available for all years of the Honda sport TRX 250R than any other similar competitor model ATV on the market.
Loved for its 6-speed sequential shift and forward kick-start, the Honda sport ATV TRX 250R was designed for agile handling in the roughest all-terrain locations. If you still own this gem of a quad vehicle, chances are you are still priming it for an off-road excursion. Raced mostly as a factory stock vehicle in its early years, the Honda sport TRX 250R is easy to find brand and aftermarket parts.
Predictably, the parts subject to the highest impact while racing were the priority remakes and aftermarket production following the launch of each TRX 250R release. Still, there are some changes to more recent part production runs, including the clutch basket originally made of aluminum which, subsequently, was found to be too flimsy in construction when subject to high endurance riding on tough terrain. The initial release of aftermarket clutch baskets made of machined steel trademarked under Gary Denton in 1989. A universal clutch component was later manufactured by Hinson Racing. The company’s version of the clutch component with billet aluminum was launched on the parts market in 1991.
The industry witnessed a change when Honda redesigned the 2-stroke ATV TRX 250Rs in manufacturing of the 4-stroke engines, and there was no continuation of the original frames in aftermarket production. After the CSPC ended the manufacture of new quads ending 1989, owners of ATVs demanded more durable replacement frames to support continuous racing performance into the future. C&J released the first aftermarket frame for the Honda sport ATV TRX 250R in 1991 on behalf of CT Racing. The frame was a replica of the original, offering the same precision in stock suspension.
The first aftermarket geometry frame, designed by JP Racing, offered TRX 250R owners front suspension with mounts on each side enabling longer suspension arms installation; this improved racing performance with extended wheel travel and ride. After 2003, the aftermarket frame market saw a range of new parts innovations in both altered geometry and stock parts manufactured of both aluminum. It is notable that a titanium frame was introduced by Lone Star Racing, though it did not meet American Motorcyclist Association (“AMA”) rules of product composition for race competition qualification.
Initially convinced the detuned original 250cc motor in the TRX 250R release of the Pro-X ATV by Honda could be replaced with a 300cc range by changing the cylinder alone, there were consecutive tests attempting to design an aftermarket cylinder product without additional modification. Since then, aftermarket manufacturers have designed advanced port layout cylinder replacement parts with variegated tuning range.
Modification of the Honda sport ATV TRX 250R’s transmission cases and aftermarket crankshafts and cylinders allowed owners to enhance existing engine capabilities to 500cc performance. The Pro-X cylinder in its final production offered an exhaust operated power valve not installed in the original factory product line, yet widely used by competitors of ATV racing; this is also true for 2-stroke motocross race competitors since the initial launch of the Honda sport TRX 250R in 1986.
With the opportunity to enhance race performance of ATV with aftermarket replacements, owners of Honda sport ATV TRX 250R quads were able to alter transmission limitations to meet their engine expectations alongside competitive innovations in the first issue, industry production. In the 1990s, larger aftermarket engine replacements offered through Baldwin Motorsports and Timken Bearing sold tougher than before aftermarket gears enabling racers with ATV engines of more than 330cc’s to race off-road with an effective result. To present, the Honda sport TRX 250R is the only ATV quad for which a gear product of this type has been marketed. For Honda sport ATV TRX 205R owners seeking parts replacement, here is a list of the original specifications for the 1986 model, and the 1987-1989 model(s).
- Engine Type – Liquid-cooled, 2-stroke cycle, one cylinder
- Ignition – Capacitor discharge ignition
- Displacement – 246cc / 246cc
- Bore and Stroke- Iron liner 2.60 in. X 2.83 in. (66 mm X 72 mm) / 2.60 in. X
- 2.83 in. (66 mm X 72 mm)
- Compression Ratio – 7.5:1 / 7.7:1
- Engine Weight – 26.0 kg, 57.3 lbs / 26.0 kg, 57.3 lbs
- Lubrication – 2-stroke, Pre-mix fuel
- Starter – Forward Kick
- Transmission – 6-Speed Uni-direction, Sequential Shift
- Fuel Capacity – 2.6 Gallon Tank with 0.5 Gallon Reserve
- Clutch/Shifter – Left Foot Clutch, Left Hand Manual Cable Shifter
- Drive – Chain and Sprocket, 13:39 with 520 O-ring
- Wheelbase – 51.2 inches / 49.8 inches
- Dimensions LxHxW – 71.9 in. x 44.5 in. x 42.1 in. / 72.4 in. x 45.7 in. x 42.6 in.
- Seat Height – 30,5 inches / 31.2 inches
- Dry Weight – 357 lbs. / 330 lbs.
- Frame – Steel
- Front Brakes – Dual hydraulic disc brakes, twin-piston calipers / Dual hydraulic disc brakes with twin-piston calipers, 174mm discs
- Rear Brake – Hydraulic disc brakes, twin-piston caliper / Hydraulic disc brakes, twin-piston caliper, 186mm disc
- Lighting – 60/55 Watt halogen lighting mounted on handlebars / 60/55 Watt halogen lighting mounted on nosepiece
- Speed 70+ mph
Image via unsplash
Since the introduction of the Honda sport ATV TRX 250R in the mid-1980s, the quads have been one of the international motorcycle company’s bestselling products, and aftermarket parts on the market. Into the 1990s, the TRX250R continued to dominate MX competitive racing around the world. Over the past decade, there has been a motorcycle racing collector resurgence of interest in the brand’s ATV products.
When the product line was first launched, racers were clamoring for the TRX 250R in pursuit of the ultimate ATV. Already in the know about the ATC 250R, the transformation of off-road racing vehicles from a three-wheeler to a quad ATV held significant promise for riders interested in agility and safety in the all-terrain environment.
From its sleek appearance to its superlative handling, Honda’s TRX 250 launched on the market at a time when advances in modern technology were radically transforming motorcycle engineering and production. What the industry learned from Honda was significant, in the sense that TRX 250R paved the way for the brand’s steel-framed ATV with a liquid-cooled, 2-stroke engine and close-ratio, 6-speed sequential transmission.
Honda may have ceased production of its ATV TRX250R in 1989, yet the ever-popular 2-stroke continues to be relevant in most ATV collector circles today. Collectors invested in this legacy product from Honda will note that as the years pass, the original vehicles are more difficult to locate on the market. Aftermarket parts are still around if you already own one of these ATVs. Interested buyers can find a list of private and licensed dealers on the used motorcycle market selling operable Honda TRX 250R quads.
Today, Honda continues to sell top-of-the-line, high-performance, racing sport 4-stroke vehicles for all-terrain competition and recreation. Though the company has ceased production of 450R to follow the TRX 450R first manufactured in 2009, the interest in future ATV class prototypes has been advanced by new technologies innovations and design inputs showcased in the international motorcycle market. For racing fans of the Honda ATV TRX 250R, trade in for ATV vehicles Is hotter than ever, and the opportunity for a bright future in aftermarket parts is an industry all its own.
Featured photo via Wikimedia Commons