XR250R Suspension Settings- Trail vs Desert

I am entering my 2nd season of off road riding (long time street rider) and trying to learn the desired suspension settings on a stock 2003 XR250R.  I have decided to leave the bikes suspension stock for financial reasons and realize it is undersprung for my size.  I walk around at 180 pounds and am 5'10.


I rode in my first poker run yesterday which was a desert setting (Dirty Poker Run, Vantage Wa.) with various types of sand and lots (I mean lots) of whoops.  My previous year was primarily trail riding in the PNW which has alot of rocks of roots.  I had my compression and dampening set to their softest settings and had some real issues yesterday in the sand and the whoops.  I found my back wheel sliding alot (like I was on ice) and my front plowing frequently. I think the plowing was coming from my front compression being too soft and know that my struggles in the whoops was alot of technique issues and most likely dampening too soft as well.  Watching the other riders fly by me only confirmed this.


Am I correct that my suspension should have been firmer for the sand and whoops?  Would I be better served just to leave the suspension in their factory settings (manual calls for 8 out I believe).  I realize riding an older, stock trail bike can't compare to the KTM's and Husky's that flew by me all day but I am hoping to at least maximize what I am working with.

Thanks for your help and advice.


At minimum , install stiffer front springs . I think the rear is fine for your weight.

If you are broke, try to turn compression 1 click from full compression dampening (Hard = slow) 


On the rear, if it is pitching you up and sideways put in more rebound control. If you are not getting good traction take out some rebound.


The stock suspension was terrible for me. I bought heavier springs, and took the shock and had it revalved by Cannon Racecraft and the forks and had Bruce Triplett do the Terrain Tamers mods and now the forks are "Excellent" and shock "Very Good". Spent about $900 on suspension now I am racing those KTM's and Husky's. I have along way to go with lots to learn but out of 97 riders who finished the B race Sunday I beat 92 of them. All name tags. Stock motor on my 250.


I should add that it was a woods race.. rocky and technical with some fast creek sections. Next race will be sandy and desert like I don't know if I will fair as well there with limited horsepower. 

Edited by Firestone

Your back wheel sliding sounds like a tire issue, if in fact it was sliding and not hopping.  Your tire probably wasn't suited for the terrain you were riding.  As for your suspension, that is a very personal issue.  Guys have spent tons of money on XR suspensions and love it.  I haven't had to , I can keep up with guys on CRF450Rs with very little problem just as long as it isn't a horsepower race.  And that's with stock suspension.  I'm 205 lbs., have stock springs and have never bottomed the front end.  Yes, there is deflection due to lack of rebound, but after 13 years on my 03 I guess I've learned to adjust for it.


As for the lack of hp, that has been discussed here numerous times.  The best bang for your buck is a big bore kit.  I'm very satisfied with the power of my ~280 kit, but there are some that say don't bother and go 300, but its more expensive.  Exhaust is a total waste of money (other than a bit of weight savings).


Disclaimer:  I don't race, just ride fast and have for a lot of years, so if you are racing, guys like Firestone can give you a better point of view. ;)

Thank you all for the advice. When it is recommended to "add" some damping, that means turning clicker towards "soft" correct?

Adding damping would be increasing compression resistance, so clicking towards hard

If you're riding sand. Slide the fork tubes down in the triples.  Till they're flush with the top.  Being since you're bad undersprung for the stock stuff you're going to want to go in on the compression on both the front and rear from the stock settings.  Turn the compression in on the front to keep it higher in the stroke and keep the front end from diving and transferring weight to the front wheel.   Rebound in the front is non existent unless you want to do a shim swap.  But that is very time consuming to change and even harder to dial in.    Compression on the back you may want to leave close to stock, or maybe go 3-6 clicks harder from stock.  This should keep more weight transferred to the rear and keep the front end lighter.  For the rebound on the back, you'll want to also turn that in for sand to deaden the rear end.  Don't want to go too much otherwise you'll start to pack the rear shock down in the stroke and it will become harsh and kick side to side.  


You'll have to see what works for you, but this will give you a direction to head.   Overall you want to keep the balance of the bike so that you don't dive in the corner, but also keep it from pushing in the corner.  Think more chopper ish than up on the bars ish.  (if that makes any sense)  lol 


But in reality, the XR250R suspension is going to be leaps and bounds away from a modern suspension, so if you've rode a modern bike and have now switched to the XR don't be looking for some magic pill to help solve the issues.  

Thanks all....good stuff.

I've had and raced several XR 250s, last one I had was a 2003 I bought new. It was 100% stock except heavier Fork Springs. I did really well on that bike always a top 20. XR 250 is a great bike. I'm an a-level Enduro expert level desert racer. I had a KTM 450 before the XR, KTM wonderful bike but the XR gave the guys fits.

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