I am really in a predicament. I can’t decide what to buy: a 2006 CRF450 or a 2006 CR250. I ride trails and, every once in a while, at my local track. I know that the CRF can blow away the two-stroker because of its four-stroke charecteristics, but my friends tell me I should get the CR because they say it is much easier (and cheaper) to rebuild a two-stroke engine if it blows up. I was telling them that modern four-stroke will almost never blow up for the type of riding that we do.Am I right to say this? How much more is it to rebuild a four-stroke engine? Do I need to sacrifice the chance to own probably the best dirt bike of all time and get a two-stroke?
Thanks a lot for your time,
JimYour “spot” may not be as tough as it seems, but you might need to broaden your horizons. You actually have two questions: One is the two-stroke versus four-stroke question. The second is whether you should ride trails on a motocross bike. Come to think of it, there may be a third one: Depending on where you live, should anyone ride a 450 motocrosser in the woods?First, if you properly care for a CRF450R it will almost never have a catastrophic failure. If it (or any four-stroke) has a major failure, then yes, both the engine and your wallet have a catastrophe. The most common failures are valves that need replacing. If you run a quality spark arrestor/quiet pipe, are religious about air filter maintenance and don’t suck water or dirt into the engine, the valves should have a decent life span. If you are extremely concerned you can opt for stainless valves that will last much longer.A two-stroke is easier and cheaper to rebuild, but in most opinions not as fun for a less-serious rider on the track. You didn’t say where you ride trails, but if they are fairly open, a 450 can be a lot of fun. If you ride tight woods, then a 450 is not as fun and will require more mods to work well. Options you didn’t consider are different model Hondas. Either the 250 or 450 X-models are immediately great on the trail, but only decent on the track. If you ride tight woods, and want a four-stroke motocrosser, what about the CRF250R? It is just as light as a 250cc two-stroke, works great on the track for any rider under 190 pounds and is much more nimble in the woods. The same warnings about the 450 engine apply to the CRF250R, but the ’05s have been pretty good for valve life. If you rebuild the engine before it breaks, it isn’t that much more than a two-stroke, and the bike is very easy to work on.If you really want a 450, and what we say worries you enough, consider a bike like the KTM 450 XC that is designed to do both trail and easy track riding. If the four-stroke worries you enough to go two-stroke, look at our upcoming 250cc two-stroke shootout. We tested the bikes on the track and on trails in the woods and California’s dry conditions. We liked the Yamaha best in both the motocross (small margin over KX) and off-road (pretty safe margin) conditions.I personally like four-strokes enough to put up with what I see as small financial risks, but I know how to take care of the bikes, and I do care for them. Jimmy [Lewis] talks a big game about how great the two-strokes are, but he owns four-strokes. He’s a bit of a different case since he can always get a two-stroke to moto, but in 2005 he and his wife (she’s better than many men off-road) rode the two X models a lot.Finally, for tight or technical trails the 450R is a lot of bike. At the very least I would install a 96 db spark arrestor—I would use one like the FMF Q, Pro Circuit 496, Akrapovic, White Brothers E2 or Leo Vince rather than one that is an open pipe that runs a plug or restricted end cap to quiet it down (in my opinion, plugging up the pipe at the end creates too much heat). For slippery or rocky riding you will be happier with a flywheel weight, and of course a skid plate and a larger tank. Sort of sounds like an X without the electric starter, right?Take a hard look at how much track riding you do, and how serious you are. If 25% of your riding is non-serious track time, then a dedicated off-road model makes a lot of sense and may cost far less to set up for your type of riding. If you still do a lot of jumps, or you ride rough, jump-filled tracks, then you may need the moto bike, and you’ll sacrifice comfort and civility on the trail. We can’t make that decision.Don’t buy the moto bike for style. You can always take the lights off an off-road bike (or get a model like the XC that looks moto) and run a number plate. Any of the choices are still great bikes, and can be made to suit any type of riding. Just look hard at whether your priority is track or trail, because modern off-road bikes are as great on trails as MX bikes are on tracks.Karel Kramer