The diminutive riders among us were unimpressed with the expansive cockpit, but it didn’t stop them from utilizing the Honda’s great chassis and explosive power to annihilate one corner after the next.
Two things come to mind when thinking about modern Honda motocross bikes – durability and aluminum. Honda is the OG of light, shiny twin-spar chassis and, though Kawasaki and Suzuki have virtually cloned the CRF450R frame, years of refinement by Honda’s engineers have kept it on the cutting edge with a seriously competent, nimble and fun chassis.
“The Honda has really come a long way,” says Chuck Sun, who won a 500cc National title for Honda back in the early 1980s. “I found a little difficult of a time with the quick steering of the Honda, (initially) figuring it was more of a pro/expert bike. But within the first few laps I found it was very predictable in the way you plant it and get your weight on the front end.”
Our largest rider felt right at home with the layout and his 5’11” frame, although the mechanical jockeys among our crew found the CRF450R‘s ergonomics outside of their dinky comfort ranges.
A diminutive weight of 229 pounds is the most balanced at a standstill, with 50% of its weight distributed on each wheel. A revised subframe helps tuck the muffler in closer to the motor, all a part of Honda’s master plan for ultimate mass-centralization.
“The bike lays over very well into corners,” says intermediate test rider, Ian Martin. “It’s easy to throw around but still tracks super-straight in the turns.”
The CRF is easy to move around on the track and is even distinguishable from the rest when hoisting onto a bike stand back at the truck. Light weight is one of the key ingredients in motocross and the Honda has it covered. Another is power.
“It didn’t lack anywhere,” says Alvin Zalamea of the 450R’s powerplant. “It had good bottom-end and once you get into the middle part to crack the throttle wide open it will just explode.”
This man has some experience with open-class Hondas. Chuck Sun thought the CRF would be the best bike for someone attempting to follow his footsteps and assault the National tour.
The hard-driving motor was enough to garner the nod from Sun. In fact, it was so strong and usable that he launched into a lengthy anecdote about his old 500cc, 2-stroke Honda motors back in the day – the five-hundy he calls it. Somewhere amid his moto narrative was an enthusiastic two thumbs up for the motor which “immediately impressed with the ease of use and great midrange boost that got me up and over step-up jumps better than all the others.”
Dyno results didn’t reflect our seat-of-the-pants testing but there is no denying the response of all five testers that the new 41mm Keihin carburetor and 1mm-smaller exhaust valves on the Unicam engine are part of a better package for 2007.
Suspension on Big Red was stiff to the point of being harsh. For the slower riders it was blatantly abusive on chatter and even jump landings lacked the finesse of some other machines. However, as the speed of our test riders rose incrementally, the more we heard positive feedback. Our 20-year-old pro rider, Mike Horban, put what the rest of us were thinking into words.
“It had the stiffest feel but was really good the more aggressive I was,” he notes. “The harder I pushed the better it worked.”
Our other pro, Zalamea, was equally optimistic about the CRF’s competitive potential if a rider can match the potent requirements.
“If I was in shape and wanted to compete in the Nationals, the Honda suspension could work for me,” he says. “The fork was really good in that I had confidence to hit jumps with steep faces and feel comfortable coming down on landings. They just bothered me coming into small chop or braking bumps.”
The base package caters to a higher-skilled rider and rewards rough treatment. It’s no secret the masochistic machine has become a privateer favorite on the professional circuits, and for good reason.
Overall Rank: 2nd
Categories Won: Chassis/Handling; Transmission/Clutch/Gearing
Gripper seat is one of the best
Separate oil supplies for added durability
Rear-facing petcock a hassle
Highest MSRP at $6999