Christini All-Wheel Drive | Future Rides

The next leap forward? Don't dare call it 2wd!

Motorcycle technology usually advances slowly. Every once in a while, however, the sport takes a huge leap forward, like it did with the modern four-stroke motocrosser in 1998. Steve Christini's all-wheel-drive system may be the next huge leap forward.

Make no mistake, the Christini is not two-wheel drive. The reason is the amount of power transmitted to the front wheel. The Christini's front drive runs full-time, but with a mechanical reduction. The rear wheel always goes faster, keeping the front tire "free-wheeling" ahead of the power coming to it. When the rear wheel slips, the power "catches up" with the front tire and starts driving it. It's a "dumb" system-no electronics or sensors-that acts like traction control.

We had a chance to sample a 2007 Christini 250X (a Honda CRF250X in an AWD frame kit) alongside a stock CRF250X. In deep sand, the Christini bike gets such unbelievable traction it feels like you're riding on solid ground. Turning with the power on is the biggest difference: Where you'd normally expect to initiate a turn with the handlebar and arc around in a slide, the Christini magically goes where it's pointed. The front end grabs and holds its line and pulls the bike around the corner. The front end actually feels lighter than on the standard bike, in spite of the additional weight of the front-drive system, because the tire stays on top of the sand.

Riding the Christini in mud gives a similar feeling. It's not as composed as in sand, but it still feels more planted than the stocker.

On trails the Christini continues to impress. Jumping off the stocker is like taking a step up in rider talent-as long as the bike is driving forward. When it comes time to slow down, however, the AWD bike functions like a standard bike with a heavier front end.

Rocks and logs you would normally have to lift a bike over, the Christini crawls right up. One quirk is the engine tends to bog when the front wheel hits an obstacle, which means you need to use more throttle. Starting from a standstill on a steep hill is no problem, and if you get airborne the bike doesn't try to dig in when it lands, even on soft hills.

The Christini does have some disadvantages. It's 13 pounds heavier than the stock CRF250X, with a 2 percent greater front-end bias. You can feel that when trying to loft the front end over an obstacle. Also, if you turn the front wheel in the air and set it down crooked, it will pull in that direction. Last, some riders complained about the bulge and hard edge of the upper drive sprocket interfering with their left knee.

And then there's the price: The Christini AWD retails for $3995 on top of the $6599 cost of a new CRF250X, which means buy-in is almost twice as steep. Available models include the Honda CRF250X and R and the CRF450X, and soon the KTM 450F and 300cc two-stroke. Frame kits are available separately.

Overall, we're impressed. The AWD bike works! Most of the Christini's disadvantages are felt in the wallet and in the garage in terms of increased maintenance. On the trail it offers very real advantages.

TECH SPEC
Price $10,594
Engine type: l-c single
Valve train: SOHC, 4v
Displacement: 249cc
Transmission: Wide-ratio 5-speed
Horsepower: na
**Torque: ** na
Frame: Aluminum twin-spar
Front suspension: 47mm Showa inverted cartridge fork with adjustable compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension: Showa shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Front brake: Single Nissin two-piston caliper, 240mm disc
Rear brake: Nissin single-piston caliper, 240mm disc
Front tire: {{{80}}}/{{{100}}}-21
Rear tire: 100/100-18
Seat height: 37.5 in.
Wheelbase: 58.3 in
Fuel capacity: 1.9 gal.
Dry weight: 257 lbs.
Contact: www.christini.com

Verdict: If you don't buy one, make sure your buddies don't either!

They say: "Unsurpassed off-road capability."
We say: "Ride one and you'll be unsurpassed, too."