by JohnNicholas on 01/27/2009
Service Honda is well-known as the builder of the Aluminum Framed Honda 500AF. This bike has attained legendary status throughout the world and has been acknowledged as the best of the best by owners and magazines.
The summer of 1997 marks the first time that Service Honda modified a CR250 frame to accept a CR500 motor which was done for a personal project. As we all know, the addition of a new generation frame to the potent CR500 motor was a match made in heaven. The first bike was created by combining parts from two used machines. This turned out to be a very expensive way to build a single bike.
In 1998, the Service Honda 500AF was created as a model. No used parts were utilized in the build, which resulted in improved consistency and quality. Other improvements were made in the finish and durability which brought the bike to showroom quality.
Demand for these hand-built bikes grew quickly, outstripping Service Hondaís supply at the time.
In the years that followed, Service Honda refined the processes used to build these bikes and through an unique agreement with American Honda assembled brand new CR500 motors to exacting Honda standards. These refinements have continued for nearly a dozen years. Service Honda 500AF bikes are renown and coveted the world over.
Fast forward to 2009 and the Service Honda folks are at it again. The result is a bike designated the 250AF. This new model consists of a 2009 CRF250R chassis mated up to the potent 2001 CR250 two stroke motor.
In order to get more information about this awesome new machine, we went to the man that has spearheaded the AF project bikes since the beginning, AJ Waggoner.
AJ could you please tell us about your role in the Service Honda 500AF project?
I am operations manager of Service Powersports and my main duties are as project leader of the various models, in charge of designing, fabrication, promotion, scheduling and general oversight of the many projects.
The first 500AF bike that we built as a completely new Service Honda, was my personal bike. It was in late august 1997 and was a 1998 model we had just got in. Another Service Honda employee and long time racing buddy of mine Scott Miller had built one from combining his 1997 CR250 and 1995 CR500. I was racing a 1997 CR500 at the time and had the idea to build a brand new
one from the ground up and along with that thought to produce it as a model available from Service Honda.
It took off far more than I could have imagined and the level of interest a decade later still continues to keep growing. It was started as a fun project for a class of bikes that I have a passion for and turned into a full production motorcycle that has sold to many different countries and riders around the world.
I feel incredibly fortunate that the interest has been so great in these bikes, and that gives me the opportunity to work at something I enjoy, believe in, and am passionate about.
Just how does a multi-line motorcycle dealership leapfrog some very well-funded factories and become as well known and respected as Service Honda has managed?
I think at its root, it may be because we are riders and full time enthusiasts that really enjoy what we do and that reflects in our customer service and in the final products. It helps in recognizing the wants and needs of riders, perhaps seeing markets that the larger OEMís do not address.
In addition to the 500AF, please give us a run down of the other two stroke models that are currently available from Service Honda?
For 2009 we are offering the following models:
500AFX (off road version)
Junior-R ( CRF150RB chassis /CRF250R 4stroke engine)
Junior X (CRF150RB chassis / CRF250X engine lights and e- start)
Also an ATV, the SRX250R
(400EX chassis/ 2001 CR250 engine in essence a lighter more powerful and better handling version of the famous Honda TRX250R )
The 250AFís are new to our model lineup for this year.
How do you come up with ideas for these new models?
Often from models or features I would personally like to see or think would be a great overall bike or ATV when completed, but that are not available at that moment. Or when I notice a group of riders with particular needs for a motorcycle or ATV that are not addressed.
For example the Junior Xís (and JR-Rís) inspiration came from the growing number of serious women riders or any rider that the modern performance off road or MX bikes weights or seat heights are not comfortable for. They had the choice of riding machines whose ergonomics did not fit them well.. or bikes designed for a less serious off road enthusiast or beginning rider.
So I had the idea brewing for many years to incorporate a great all around and light weight engine, into a high performance chassis with mid-sized ergos. The bike is the perfect size for a particular group of serious riders, is incredibly light and powerful (and the X retains the E start and lights).
Larger riders still canít get the smile off their face after riding it.. and ultimately, much like the 500AFís, that is the reason and inspiration for all of the various models. To put the largest fun factor into riding.
Please tell us more about the new 2009 Service Honda 250AF.
Iím definitely excited about the new 250AF. it is a 2009 CRF250R with a new 2001 CR250 engine.
Iím also offering a 250AFX, an off road version, that is a 2009 CRF250X chassis with a 2001 CR250 engine. This is a bike the off road community has been asking for what seems like decades.
Why did you decide to use the 2001 Honda CR250 motor and not the 2002 Ė 2007 motor?
Since we build the engines in house, from all new OEM parts, we can choose any engine style and I was never really inspired by the case reed inducted, servo powervalved, CR250 engines from 2002-2007.
The 2001 Honda CR250 engine was just a great all around 250 2 stroke power plant. Many riders, myself included, felt this was one of, if not Hondaís best 250cc effort!
Have you tested the bike yet? What do you think of the handling and power as compared to the 2007 CR250?
The power I feel when compared to the 02 and up engines, is a bit more what a 250 2 stroke rider expects, fun manageable and yet explosive enough when you need it. It has good low end, hits solid in the middle and revs out incredibly well.
The handling is improved for sure! Honda had kept the CR250 chassis fundamentally unchanged from 2002 to 2007 when they dropped the model altogether. They had no reason to put any R&D into a model they planned to drop.
In the meantime the 4 stroke line up got all the R&D dollars and major changes to the frame and chassis, as well as 4 or 5 years of steady refinement.
The 2007 CR250 is a 7 year old design at this point and is dated, and when ridden back to back, its a difference easily felt. The newer 09 CRF250 chassis just does everything better, feels lighter and more responsive which really instills even more confidence when riding.
Much like the inspiration for building a 500AF, which was and is, to get a fantastic engine into a modern great handling chassis!
There is talk about 250cc two-strokes being able to compete head-to-head against 250cc four-strokes at the Pro Level. If the rule is approved, would the CR250AF be AMA legal to race in the Nationals?
I feel it would meet the AMAís homologazation rules. The 500AF has gone through that process and has been approved in the past for various AMA Pro racing disciplines, that have classes in which 2 stroke 500cc motorcycles were eligible for. (and holds a few AMA National titles in those disciplines)
So I canít see why the 250AF would not also be. The rules intent is to insure availability of the model and its parts to competitors. We produce the bike in quantity, and any rider would have the availability to all parts according to the rules intent and guidelines.
That said, before lining up a the gate of an AMA Pro racing event, the proper paperwork and approval of the model would need to be made by the AMA. In the past this has never been a problem with models we have had them look into for approval.
Do you think the bike would be legal in AMA amateur racing?
The 500AF is legal and yes the 2009 250AF would be currently legal in AMA amateur racing. (in classes the rider or machine fit)
Who do you see as being the ideal rider for the Service Honda 250AF?
Anyone who likes the ease of maintenance, the light weight, and the fun style of power a 2 stroke delivers.
While there is still debate and indecision on the rules for 2009 in AMA Pro racing, in AMA amateur racing the classes are by rider class and by displacement. A 250 is a 250 regardless of engine configuration.
A 250 2 stroke or 4 stroke, will have certain distinct characteristics. In different track conditions one may or may not have advantages.. but itís good to be able to simply have choices, and to be able to choose which machine fits your riding style, tastes and track conditions.
I hope to provide that choice, and the fun factor that comes with it!
What new bike ideas are on the drawing board?
I have just released a KX250AF.. a 2009 KX250F chassis with a new 07 KX250 engine. I plan to build an off road version of it as well!
We have the YZ300 out now and as a multi line dealership it is likely easy to guess the direction of a few more AF bikes.. in other color schemes.
I would also envision some Service Powersports 125cc displacement bikes of various colors as well.. so stay tuned! We will see what the future brings!
I know Iím stoked and excited about it!
There are still a good many riders who really appreciate the performance, light weight, simplicity and lower operating costs of a 2 stroke engineÖ. I think Iíll be busy!! And hope we can put a few smiles on a great many riders faces!
Do you have any parting words for the readers of our site?
John, I would like to thank you and them, for the continued interest in our bikes and the opportunity to provide them that choice we spoke of earlier!
Itís a dedicated and passionate group of enthusiasts, many who have contacted me and thanked me for continuing the 2 stroke models.
I feel privileged to be in that position, and those encouraging emails and calls really make all the effort worthwhile. It really means a lot to me and makes a huge difference and is amazing.
So to both you and your readership, Thank you!
As itís sites like this and riders like yourselves, that keep me inspired and excited about developing and building each new years 2 stroke models!
Shortly after going to press with this interview, AJ provided us with some photos and infor on the 250AFX.
Starts life as a new CRF250X and gets a heart transplant in the form of a new 01 CR250R engine with added 60watt lighting stator.
Its available now, and pricing well be identical to the 2009 500AF.. $9,999 (USD)
(the 250 engine costs the same or more than a 500 engine to build new)