Owning an immaculately restored vintage motocrosser can be immensely satisfying; riding one less so. There are enthusiasts like Motorcyclist’s own shop foreman Michael Candreia who are perfectly happy racing 1970s-’80s dirtbikes, but we like how the Elsinore Factory approaches this vintage itch from a different perspective. Owner Rusty Staten (cousin of Rex, the former factory motocross star) builds bikes that channel the spirit of works motocrossers, but uses more modern (read: reliable) components to achieve performance comparable to today’s machines.
The bike we sampled looks like a pristine 2000 Honda CR250R, but actually started out as an ’04 CR125R. Why? Where the ’00-’01 CR250R employed a second-generation aluminum frame, the ’04 CR125R used a third-generation version with a slightly steeper steering-head angle and a shorter wheelbase.
Staten starts with a used ’00-’01 CR250R engine, but completely rebuilds it with a new crankshaft and a later model ignition. The cylinder is modified and other performance goodies such as Boyesen reeds fitted. The 125’s frame cradle is removed and replaced with mandrel-bent aluminum tubing made to secure the 250cc engine. Then the engine is dropped into the freshened-up chassis with a new pipe, plastic and graphics.
Each bike is custom-built to order. The one we rode had hard-anodized suspension, a conventional Suzuki fork, tricked-out wheels and a powdercoated frame and swingarm that raised the price from $5800 to $6500. On the track, there is nothing vintage about this motorcycle. It feels crisp and fresh, and not at all like a remanufactured used bike. The modified engine and cone pipe offer excellent performanceas good or better than any Honda of this vintage we’ve ridden. Power comes on low and strong, with better response than the stocker. Honda CR250s of this era suffered against Yamaha YZ250s, but this engine is competitive with any modern two-stroke. It is fast without being brutal. The engine carburetes cleanly and barks out of turns. All in all, it’s a very fun bike to ride on a modern motocross track.
Despite this high level of performance it will allegedly run on pump gas, though it was slurping VP C12 when we rode it. Not enough power for you? The same bike can be had with a 330cc version of the CR250R or with a CR500R engine.
The heritage of the 125’s chassis remains, so handling is nimble, crisp and active. The bike has a very light feel, whether the wheels are on the ground or in the air. Suspension action is good, but the shock works better than the fork. We love the look of the right-side-up fork, but we’d opt for the upside-down one that came with the chassis for even lighter steering and more solid input.
Some riders are bored by the monotonous sameness of modern motocrossers, so try to make their bikes look special. We can honestly say this CR250 draws a crowd whenever it’s parked. If you have a soft spot for vintage works bikes but your riding skills haven’t gone soft, check out what the Elsinore Factory has to offer.MC