The Honda ATC 250R is remembered today as one of the leading lights of the three-wheeled craze that swept the motorcycle world in the 1970s and 1980s.
Ultimately these three-wheelers would be replaced with quad bikes due to safety concerns, many amateur riders were injured and some where killed when they flipped their three-wheelers, this was particularly common on sand dunes and other hilly terrain.
The Honda ATC 250R Specifications and Model History
The Honda ATC 250R was first introduced in 1981 with an air-cooled, two stroke, single-cylinder engine and one intention – to dominate three-wheeler racing.
All Honda three-wheelers had been four strokes prior to this, the 248cc two-stroke that was used in the ATC 250R was far more suitable for racing, Honda coupled it with front and rear suspension (which unusual on a three-wheeler at the time), and a chassis designed for racing.
The first generation ATC 250R was the fastest three-wheeler in its class by a significant margin, it recorded a slew of race wins and established itself as the trike to beat in top flight competition. Honda invested heavily in the model and its development, every couple of years brought significant upgrades to keep it ahead of its competitors and establish Honda as the de facto choice for aspiring racers.
The single cylinder two stroke motor had a balancer shaft to cut vibrations at higher RPMs, a 5-speed transmission, and what was essentially a live axle rear bolted to a swing arm with a fully adjustable monoshock.
The first model in 1981 had a front four-pot disc brake and a rear drum, 1982 saw the rear drum replaced with a disc. Both the 1981 and 1982 models were fitted with front and rear suspension offering travel of 6.7 inches and 4.3 inches respectively.
The next generation landed in 1983 and sold through 1984, it included improved suspension and brakes, now fitted with Honda Pro-Link suspension offering 8.7 inches front travel and 8.1 inches in the rear, with disc brakes front and rear as standard.
It would be the 1985/1986 models that are now remembered as the fastest and most extreme examples of the Honda ATC 250R. Front and rear suspension travel was now 9.8 inches and it utilised the same Pro-Link technology from the previous generation. Honda redesigned the frame for added strength and rigidity and perhaps most importantly they added a new, higher-performance liquid-cooled motor.
This new power unit was a two stroke with notably increased power from the same capacity, a 6-speed transmission was also added meaning the top speed of the final iteration of the ATC 250R was a hair-raising 70+mph.
By the mid-1980s the writing was on the wall for three-wheelers. There were thousands of lawsuits proceeding through the courts in countries around the world challenging the manufacturers on the basis that these bikes were inherently dangerous. For skilled riders this wasn’t a significant issue of course, but the problem was that most three-wheelers were being bought by weekend cowboys with no training or experience.
Production of the ATC 250R ceased at the end of 1986, though rumours abound that there was a 1987 model developed and a small number was sent to dealers. Honda instructed that these bikes have their engines removed and the frames be cut in half before disposal.
The surviving examples of the Honda ATC 250R are now highly desirable with enthusiasts and collectors, particularly the later 1985 and 1986 models. The only issue is that it can be difficult to find them in good condition with no obvious accident history.
This Incredible 1985 Honda ATC 250R Survivor
The Honda ATC 250R you see here is an original, unrestored survivor in remarkable condition throughout. As a 1985 model this trike benefits from the best Pro-Link suspension that was ever offered with this model, as well as front and rear disc brakes, and the uprated liquid-cooled engine.
Mecum list the bike as being a 100% original, unrestored survivor, meaning it’s a very rare machine indeed. Looking over the images it’s clear that the bike is in excellent condition throughout, now waiting for its new owner. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can click here to visit the listing.
Images courtesy of Mecum
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