Honda’s 2-Stroke: The 1975 MT250 Elsinore

With Honda’s tradition of producing 4-strokes, many were caught off guard by the lightweight MT250 Elsinore.

| July/August 2015

Top Speed: 76mph (period test)
248cc air-cooled 2-stroke single, 70mm x 64.4mm bore and stroke, 16.69hp @ 6,500rpm (period test)
Weight (wet)
: 280.5lb (127kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG:
2.2gal (8.3ltr)/45-55mpg
Price then/now:
$870 (1974)/$1,200-$2,500

Given the conditions in which they were used, early motorcycles were, by default, dirt bikes — pioneer motorcyclists didn’t have any choice in the matter.

They rode and struggled over gravel tracks and clay ruts, and had to contend with dust when it was dry and gumbo when it was wet. As the motorcycle industry progressed and roads improved, though, machines became specialized for the specific task at hand, whether that was commuting, fast road racing or playing in the dirt.

Offroad machines built by European companies such as Bultaco, CZ, Dot and Greeves dominated the dirt market in the 1950s and 1960s. By the late 1960s, however, Japanese manufacturers dropped a bombshell as they began introducing lightweight, easy-to-handle offroad bikes. Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha all built 2-stroke powered dirt and enduro-style bikes, starting a craze for hitting the path less traveled. Hitting the competition circuit, Suzuki was the first Japanese manufacturer to claim the 250cc MX World Championship, in 1970.

Honda’s entry

By comparison, Honda had been building scrambler-style 4-stroke powered machines, such as the 305cc CL77, for several years. They even launched the dual-purpose 4-stroke, single-cylinder XL250 in 1972. Given Honda’s tradition of 4-stroke production, it was something of a surprise when, in 1973, Honda unveiled the CR250M Elsinore, a dedicated and lightweight motocross machine powered by a 2-stroke engine.

The CR250 weighed in at just 214 pounds and featured a 248cc 2-stroke, piston-port, single-cylinder engine with cast magnesium cases.

John Stanhaus
12/19/2017 2:05:44 PM

The MT was my first bike, purchased as soon as it came out while at student at CU in Boulder. I believe I addressed all of the shortcoming noted: knobbies, Koni shocks, smaller front sprocket, Bassani pipe, removed the turn signals, mounted a smaller tail light, that kind of stuff. Someone at the Honda shop in town did all this and the CR top-end, swap. Wish I had simply bought that bike, but just as well I learned on my own. It wasn't fast, but was as reliable as a stone, and took me on every dirt road and mining train within thirty mile of town. After graduation it retired to a farm in Missouri where my father and I enjoyed riding it along the levy, and where I'm sure it is still running. Thank you Greg for writing the nice history, and congratulations to Anthony on your restoration.

John Stanhaus
12/19/2017 2:05:42 PM

The MT was my first bike, purchased junior year at Boulder. Addressed most of the issues, smaller countershaft sprocket, koni shocks, Bassani pipe, removed all signals. It wasn't fast, but it was loud with the pipe, and reliable as a stone. It also took me on every dirt road and trail within 30 miles of town. After school it retired to a farm in Missouri, where I'm sure it is still running. Appreciate the story.

7/16/2015 10:22:29 AM

Tell Anthony that if he can find the head from the similar-vintage CR250 Elsinore, it will fit on his MT250 El-snore & wake it up. Unfortunately not the same case for the 125 models [the CR125 used 6 studs, the MT125 like I once owned, only 5.] The MT doesn't have as radical porting as the CR, so he won't get a peaky monster by making the swap, just a livelier version of the relatively broad "enduro" powerband. Ride on!

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