Honda CRF450R and CRF450X
Cycle World's 2006 MX Bike of the Year. Five years in a row. The CRF450R has won pretty much every honour thrown its way - and it seems it has no plans of letting up. Which is why Honda have made it even lighter, more responsive and better handling than ever, retooling the cylinder head and intake valves, boosting the carb to 41mm, and adding a new brake lever linkage to improve stopping power, a new subframe and a better front tyre. Wicked, huh?
Itís been a whileÖ since Iíve ridden a pure off-road bike like Hondaís CRF450R, so it was with a bit of apprehension that I climbed aboard and kicked-started the 450 four-stroker into life. As luck would have it the bike started on the second kick. Thereís a knack to starting these bombers, two kicks with the compression lever pulled in and then the third kick with normal compression and very little throttle - worked almost every time (when it didnít, I wished I was on the ĎXí, with electric starter and all).
Once the motorís thumping away, hook first and ease the clutch out, carefulÖ as the power comes on strong right from the start. I hate trailering a bike anywhere, so we (Dylan and I) rode a short stretch (about three Ks) on tar before we hit the veld. On tar the R will rear itís front wheel at the slightest provocation, as the back knobbly tyre gets maximum traction on the hard surface. Even in the rough you need to go easy in first gear, or you might just flip the thing over. Second gear is great, yet still potent if you find traction, while third, forth and fifth will have you bulleting through the bush at such a rapid rate, everything else seems tame by comparison.
Bear in mind that Iím no Errol Dolton, or Alfie Cox and never raced motocross competitively, yet I still felt in control most of the time. Only once, did I almost lose it, and almost catapulted the Honda into the deep waters of the Klip River. We were riding along the banks of the river, when we hit a soft, sandy, inundated section of trail. As the bike started to lurch forward I tapped off, opened up again as I hit the next bump, tapped off, opened upÖ all the time aware that I was heading towards the murky waters of the Klip. But I managed to regain control and steer away from losing the bike forever. And that was only on our recce of the route we were to take on Sunday. But every minute on the Honda built my confidence and I just got better and better, able to handle the power and handling of the CRF450.
The disc brakes front and rear are also quite potent, especially because of the ultra light-weight (100 kg) of the bike and the grip of the knobbly tyres.
Close-ratio gearbox keeps power on the boil, with enough speed to keep me concentrating 100% of the time, slip up once and Iím sure you could end up in big trouble.
OhÖ and there was also the CRF450X to ride. Of course Dylan and I swopped bikes occasionally, although Dylan preferred the milder, wide-ratio X (think it was the easy electric starting), the Enduro version of Hondaís mighty 450, I liked the R more, for itís brute power, close-ratio gearbox and exciting speed.
Both CRFs are great fun. Both are very similar in height, weight and handling (give or take a few mills here and there), yet quite different in power, and while the X is made for more endurance riding, the sharper R is an out-and-out race bike.
If you're going to set out to build the world's best off-road bike, then you'll need world-class inspiration, right? Enter the CRF450X. Bred from the MX Championship-winning CRF450R, this machine takes trail-riding to a whole new level, featuring the world-class four-valve Unicam engine, enduro-spec suspension, wide-ratio gearing, and hassle-free electric start. No wonder one ride is all you'll need to be hooked for life.
Yeah, I enjoyed the CRF450X more than the R, probably because I think it's a bit more forgiving.
To me the X had more than enough power and handled superbly throughout our rides and had my "fun-meter" at maximum most of the time.
The scariest thing for me was while my 'old-man' was taking the photo next to the old Railway bridge, there was this large, red, man-eating spider (a Red Roman I'm told) running around, trying to find some shade from the blazing-hot sun, while I was holding up the R (no flipping sidestand on the R), I remember thinking I'd much rather be riding the bike, than having this thing running around my feet. If the R had a sidestand I wouldn't have the pose holding the thing up!
But seriously, I liked the 450X more. For me it just suited me better. It felt more predictable, more usable and easier to ride.
And yes, the electric starter is nice to have, along with the lights and bigger fuel tank. I'd rather have the slightly less powerful, slightly weightier CRF450X, than sacrifice all those extras just for a bit more power. Although I must admit, I really liked the R as well, especially when it was given to me with the motor running.
I remember my Dad saying something about how "power corrupts" and watching his face when he took his helmet off, I'm sure mine also looked like that from riding the X.
the 'Enduro' CRF450X and the 'Motocross' CRF450R
Dylan trying out the "R" at Wild Thing Raceway...
and then the "X"
the CFR450R going through a small stream without a hassle...
with the 450X proving just as capable
both the CRF450s are tailor-made for off road use
we eventually followed the Klip River for 30 clicks on the X's trip meter
Dylan shows how easy the CRF450X gets across water obstacles
Dylan in a hurry on the 450X - Photos of Dylan by Kenn
The wilder 450R showing it's prowess - Photos of Kenn by Dylan
ain't that a picture of adventure - low-level bridge over the Klip River.
Backpack contained water for us and juice for the bikes.
Thanks to Joeline Dobrowski and her team at Honda South Africa for the rides,
Dylan and I thoroughly enjoyed the CFR450R and X, we both want one each
Dylan liked the 'strong' X more, while I preferred the "wilder" CFR450R.