Ever since Yamaha introduced the show-stopping WR426F to the public in 2001, off-road enthusiasts have eagerly awaited an appropriate response from Honda. However, years went by and there was still no answer. Then in 2003, Yamaha fired off another shot when it upped displacement to 449cc and added an electric start, but still no answer from Big Red, despite the fact that a phenomenal platform in the CRF450R was winning championships in Motocross trim.
We all knew a bike was in the works, but Honda delayed the release of its off-road thumper until they figured they had it just right. When Honda finally unveiled the 450X to the world earlier this year, it proved that good things come to those that wait.
Well, after years of waiting, we finally have the big-bore rivalry we’ve been hoping for and we can put these two big-bore off-roaders together on the same trails for the battle of millennium. Okay, so we’re currently wading in the shallow end of four-stroke technology history, but we have a feeling these two will be duking (no offense, Danger) it out for years to come.
Yamaha must have had its clandestine spy operation on red alert because it knew the release of the 450X was coming, and it revamped its WR450F gladiator for battle in 2005 accordingly.
The WR450F cockpit is improved for ’05. It has Renthal bars and it’s slimmer too. Although it still feels tall, it actually has a 20mm lower seat height than last year.
Yamaha made the new WR slimmer and with a seat nearly an inch lower than previous, and it’s better suspended thanks to a new twin-chamber fork and swingarm more than one pound lighter. The WR’s engine received a new head design which resulted in slightly lower compression (12.5:1 down to 12.3:1) for a less aggressive power hit at low rpm. The intake ports are now 9% smaller and the carburetor and ignition settings have been altered to provide a smoother, more manageable powerband. Air/fuel delivery is improved thanks to a double-lipped joint on the intake side, and the fuel line can now be moved to accommodate aftermarket tanks. Rounding out the power delivery is a beefy new clutch with 12 % stiffer springs.
These changes help make what many believed to be the best off-road machine on the market even better. But Honda has made an indelible mark with the X in 2005 (for a full techno snap shot, read our CRF450X First Ride), and it’s evident in the overall design of its off-road racer.
This off-road duo poses an interesting dilemma for riders looking to upgrade their steed of choice. They bikes feel, look, and function much differently than one would imagine, but the end result is the same – killer trail-eating machinery.
Swing a leg over either machine and it’s obvious the color of these two bikes isn’t the only noticeable difference. Much like their small-bore brethren, the WR450F and CRF450X are the result of differing ergonomic philosophies. Yamaha presupposes that a narrow machine is more easily maneuvered in tight terrain, while Honda has devoted countless engineering hours to developing a compact engine that offers a low center of gravity.