It took Honda a couple years to bring the CRF450X from concept to reality and it was well worth the wait.
Two years ago, Honda's revolutionary front brake line routing patent ran out, which gave the other manufacturers the opportunity to finally make up ground in the quest for better braking performance. Yamaha took full advantage with a new more directly routed and shortened brake hose. On the trail, the improvement is noticeable, with more power and feel than ever before. Up front a single 250mm floating disc with twin-piston caliper takes care of braking duties, while a single 245mm disc slows the rear.
Honda's binders are also excellent thanks to a 240mm disc and twin-piston caliper up front, and a 240mm disc and single-pot out back. While they may not be quite as powerful as the WR's, they do provide better lever feel.
"I think the differences between these two sets of brakes are negligible," said Hutch. "If you really want to get picky you can find slight differences, but only after hopping from bike to bike over the course of multiple days and long rides. The WR probably had slightly stronger brakes, while the CRF offered slightly better feel."
Ergonomically, Honda gets the nod for the preferred riding position in our group of testers. The WR positions the rider on a flat plank and the top-most portion of the bike, while Honda positions the rider down and in. Yet, despite the differing seating philosophies, the two bikes offer nearly identical, stratospherically,
tall seat heights with the WR measuring in at 38 inches and the CRF seat rising 37.9 inches. Neither accomodates riders who are shorter than six feet tall. B.C and I could both touch flat-footed, but the more vertically challenged Hutchison, at 5'8" (in Kiss heels), had to sit side-saddle during pauses in the action.
What a surprise, the 2005 Yamaha WR450F has plenty of power to ride around on one wheel if you so choose.
Yamaha went to great pains to shed pounds from its off-road machine; the WR weighs in at 266 pounds, wet, while the CRF is more portly tipping the scales at a hefty 273 pounds. On the trail, the lighter WR didn't gain much of an advantage for all of its weight-saving efforts but lighter is always better around here.
The Honda earns big points aesthetically, with cool graphics laid over red bodywork and a slick integrated LED taillight that looks downright stylish next to the WR's warty lamp.
"Appearance has to go to the Honda," agrees B.C. "The aluminum frame looks far more impressive than Yamaha's steel unit. Honda also wins in the plastic department. Any Yamaha owner knows how easily the blue plastic can quickly turn into a web of white creases, while the Honda fender can bend completely in half and snap back into position with no scarring at all."
Pick a Winner
Issuing caveats and excuses about how hard it is to pick a winner in head-to-head comparisons is wearing thin on readers. I agree and that last sentence is as close to waffling as I'll get in the conclusion.
At $6,599 the 2005 Yamaha WR450F is a real bargain. Plus, we felt it is a better off-road machine than the CRF450X... for now.
At the end of our test, Yamaha's WR wins a very close decision. Our group of testers felt the power on the WR was a little more to our liking than the CRF, and also seemed to be more nimble in really tight terrain, if barely. The rest of the characteristics are basically a wash on these two motorcycles. Really, you can't go wrong with either bike, but for us the WR is the subjective winner in this head-to-head comparison. Yamaha's newly revised WR has managed to hold off the CRF in its first model year. But, unless Yamaha continues to revamp the WR, next year could be a different story for the CRF with just a few miniscule changes.
We have a sneaky suspicion this battle won't end next year, or any time soon. But that's good news for the dirty sect of the motorcycling community. Imagine a world where these phenomenal bikes only get better, joined by yellow and green off-roaders too. I'm getting giddy just thinking about it.
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