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ATC250R History Lesson

Honda ATC 250R historyThe Honda ATC250R all terrain cycle revolutionized the off-road industry. This three wheeled all terrain cycle was produced by Honda Motor Corporation from 1981 through 1986.

It was designed with the intention of being a racing three wheeler. The ATC250R did the racing thing quite well. As a matter of fact, this all terrain cycle improved on excellence in each of its years of existence.

The all terrain cycle had been a popular vehicle in previous years. But the 1981 ATC250R was the first to be released with a two stroke engine. All previous Honda ATC's were equipped with four stroke motors.

This machine was destined to have a lasting effect on the ATV industry in more ways than one. Anyone who was lucky enough to ride or own the first two cycle ATC knows exactly what that means.

Off to the Races in 1981...

The 1981 ATC250R was essentially a three wheeler with a CR250 engine. It featured full suspension which was considered to be leading edge at the time. The engine was an air-cooled single cylinder.

It was also equipped with a metal fuel tank, which today, gives it a the vintage look when compared to the machines that rolled off the assembly line in later years.

Shortcomings for the 1981 model year include the rear brakes on this trike. Honda decided to use drum brakes in the rear which was an unfortunate decision by their engineers.

In 1982 Honda corrected the rear brakes with the addition of disc braking at the rear wheels of the machine. Otherwise the ATC remained mostly the same.


1983 and 1984

1983 was considered to be the start of what ATC enthusiasts call generation two. The 1983 ATC250R was ultimately equipped with Honda's infamous pro-link suspension.

The pro-link suspension on this ATC greatly improved the wheel to ground connection when experiencing a bounce or bump.

Honda's innovative suspension greatly improved ride quality. There were also minor engine improvements, however these engines were air-cooled.

The improvements made for the 1983 250R carried through the 1984 model year as well. Essentially the 1983 and 1984 models are identical.

1985 and 1986

The 1985 and 1986 model years are what legends are made of. Honda redesigned the frame, improved on the suspension once again, and added the liquid cooled powerplant.

Honda ATC modern historyHonda's new 250R engine produced more torque than previous engines thanks to a higher compression ratio. The newer engine design also proved to be very reliable.

Legend would have it that the combination of a six speed transmission and the 246 cc engine pushed these ATC's to 70+mph, a tribute to marvelous engineering.

The 1986 model year was the last production 250R, it was mostly unchanged from the 1985 model. The '86 ATC 250R would be the last chance consumers would have to own a piece of ATC history.

This would be the yeat Honda discontinued their ATC lineup as a result of legal action banning the sale of three wheelers.


Most ATC enthusiasts would agree, Honda would have delivered more incredible updates to their lineup had it been able to proceed. The combination of bad press and a number of greedy, misguided individuals managed to take away the all terrain cycle rom the showroom floor.

On a positive note, Honda and the other manufacturers did well to introduce and propel two stroke, four wheel ATV's in place of the banned three wheelers. These advances would lead to a period of powerhouse two stroke four wheelers, some of which have also become legendary.

If you like three wheelers, then keep the Honda ATC history alive. Use the buttons below to share the glory of the legendary 250R on your favorite network... and Keep on Ridin'...

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Honda ATC250R 2 wheeler