In the early 1970s, Honda unveiled the CR250M Elsinore — a two-stroke machine destined to become one of the classics of the dirt world. Strangely enough, a team of Honda engineers had developed the CR250 in secret, as Mr. Honda himself had all but denounced two-strokes and stated that his company would never build one. Says Dirt Bike Magazine:
“But the engineers knew that the two-stroke motor was the way of the future and set about building one secretly.”
In 1971, the Japanese press photographed the Elsinore prototype at a race in Yamaguchi, and the project was out of the bag. Honda officially green-lighted the project, and by 1973, Gary Jones had won the bike’s first US National Championship:
“That first year, the Honda 250 two-stroke was a complete game-changer, and it set off a frenzied era of hyper evolution in the MX world.”
The bike evolved much over the years, changing from the CR250M to the CR250R in 1978 and remaining in production until 2007. In that 34-year run, from 1973 to 2007, the Honda CR250 would become the winningest motocrosser in US history, winning 15 supercross championships and 12 outdoor championships. Dirt Bike Magazine has called this reign “the greatest dynasty in the history of motocross,” going so far as to compare the mighty CR250 to the Mustang, P-51, and Schwinn Stingray:
“There are timeless classics in each field, and in the dirt bike world, there’s nothing that has reached that status like the Honda CR250R.”
In 2007, when Honda shut down production on the CR250, they announced they would never make two-strokes again.
Enter one of our favorite builders, Andrew Greenland of Wales, who has a special talent — if not genius — for building nostalgic, resto-modded Honda dirt machines. His NX650 Dominator street scrambler made our list of the 2018 Best Trackers and Scramblers, and his XL600 Dakar is simply one of our favorite builds we’ve ever featured.
Now Andrew is back with this street-legal 1996 Honda CR250R, built in the style of the original Elsinore. Below, we get the details from the builder himself.
Honda CR250R Elsinore: In the Builder’s Words
Basically a 1996 Honda CR250 mx bike with a seventies style, fully rebuilt motor, 17” wheels front and rear.
Re-fabricated rear subframe, 1975 CR250 side panels and front mudguard.
Hond CG125 tank, rebuilt and lowered suspension, road registered, and is a lot of fun ride!
Been wanting to do tribute to the great Elsinore bikes of the seventies, but thought I’d try a more modern machine just to make it more difficult…
I don’t understand this current obsession of flat long seats, with no rear fender. I can’t imagine they’re very comfortable, and offender honestly would look better anyway. More retro, more functional, more sense
The lack of a rear fender, completely ruins, an otherwise stellar build!
I am thinking that this a cool fresh style that is destined to be soon trending. My CanAm 250 street tracker project is one along these lines. I have a set of 03 YZF 450 front suspension but I was thinking that would be too fat on this bike, until I saw the CR here. Please tell me exactly the size and make of the front legs, mine are 46 ml KYB. I think if I black them out too they look thinner. Thanks
That brings back memories. I had the enduro MT-250 Elsinore street legal version when in high school. I put about 7,000 miles on it in less than a year. Incredible bike. The MT didn’t have the top end hit of the CR but was awesome just the same. A common mod was to lift the topend from a CR and bolt it onto the MT. I bought a CB550F four cylinder instead.
I have a hard time believing that the Elsinore was developed in secret, not in its entirety at least. Engineers could dream all they want, even penciling out their thoughts on napkins at lunch. But development of a motorcycle takes dollars (yen) and lots of them. For the Elsinores to be developed, they need company resources right from the beginning. While Mr. Honda preferred 4-strokes the company wanted to win and at that time that’s what it took.