2009 Honda CRF150R - First Impression - Dirt Rider Magazine

Where in the world did all the mini four-stroke buzz go? On September 6, 2006, Honda gave birth to a new market and shook the entire industry with the announcement of a revolutionary machine: the 2007 CRF150R. The innovative little bikes were subsequently praised in the magazines, snatched up by dealers and purchased in bulk by excited enthusiasts everywhere. And then...nothing happened. Race organizers generally shunned the bike from competing with 85cc two-strokes, none of the other manufacturers produced anything new to compete with the 150R and now, more than two years past its introduction, the little Honda has simply faded into line with the other mini MXers.In all honesty, the Honda CRF150R is a pretty radical little machine, and we doubt that the lack of buzz has anything to do with the bike itself. A number of external factors-such as the slackening economy and a recent lack of manufacturer interest in the amateur racing scene-may be the prime reason this bike is largely being ignored. Or perhaps the pre-CRF150R hype was so great, the normal amount of attention the little Honda receives now seems insignificant in comparison. Whatever the case, this bike remains a sweet, solid piece of equipment that any youth racer would give his Tater Tots to own.Let's get to the nuts and bolts of it: Although unchanged for 2009 (other than an all-black plastic option, the '09 is identical to the 2008), Honda's 150R truly rages out on the track. Honda offers both small wheel (16-inch front/14-inch rear) and Expert (19-inch front/17-inch rear) versions of the bike, the latter of which we tested, though both machines have the same motors. Our larger and faster youth test riders feel that the CRF150R Expert is the best of the mini race bunch simply because it makes so much steady, controllable power. The four-stroke powerplant is smooth and strong and will outpull any other stock mini on the track. The torque and bottom-end power of the 149cc Unicam motor make the machine user-friendly, and even some novice testers found it easier to ride than a two-stroke simply because there's less shifting and clutch work involved. Our beginner tester-a female with experience on other small-bore four-strokes-thought the engine was a little too snappy for control in technical sections and that the clutch pull was too hard for her tastes. Still, this bike contains five-speeds of fury that will make any young racer grin.Handlingwise, the 150R's more-than-an-85cc weight, large-tube frame, beefy axles and strong ability to grab traction bring more stability to the mini category than any of the nimble-feeling 85s, and the suspension seems to be on a different level when it comes to balance. You have to remember, though, that the four-stroke powerplant weighs more than any of the other machines' engines, which is cause for a much different all-around feel for the CRF model. Still, our testers were stoked with how the bike rode; hard braking bumps, big jumps and sharp slams are no problem for this little four-stroke. But weight is. Smaller riders can be intimidated by the size and weight of the 150R, and the bike seems to carry a majority of its extra pounds higher up in the chassis. This hinders maneuverability somewhat for little pilots who're used to smaller, lighter bikes. Still, the bike turns on a dime and will take the hardest of hits, even in stock trim. The brakes are solid, and even though Honda didn't give the 2009 the new white rear-end look (it should have), we think the 150R is still pretty stylish.All things considered, the two major downfalls of this machine can be blamed on it being a four-stroke. First, the CRF150R is loud. Sure, two-stroke minis aren't exactly easy on the ears, but the noise this machine emits is considerable when you take into account how small it is, and the sound carries plenty far even with the stock exhaust. Second, kids who are used to starting two-strokes won't have the slightest clue how to get this bike lit. They will simply hack-hack-hack away at the kickstarter, flooding the bike to the point where Dad has to step in. Honda worked hard to put its best jetting in the 150R, but it isn't perfect, and a hesitancy to start and a slight bog down low are two clues the setting isn't spot-on. Still, with some patience and a little education as to how a four-stroke works (top dead center, parents, and a smooth, full stroke), most kids can be taught to handle the thumper. After all, they're going to have to learn sometime!Let's be honest: at $4299, Junior is going to have to mow the whole dang neighborhood to be able to afford this bike. It can be done, but many youngsters on the "unsponsored by parents" plan will probably go for a two-stroke mini-if, that is, they can actually find one. Honda has forsaken the two-stroke market at this point. Will the 150R survive the impending tough times that our sport-nay, our country-is faced with? I think so. But then again, I also predicted that Mini Rider Magazine would one day take over the world. Who knew?

With a solid bottom-end and smooth, controllable power, the 2009 CRF150R powerplant is surprisingly workable.

2009 Honda CRF150R
MSRP: $4299
Claimed Weight (tank full): 187 lb
Actual Weight (no gas): 180 lb
Actual Weight (tank full): 188 lb
Seat Height: 34.0 in.
Seat-To-Footpeg Distance: 18.0 in.
Footpeg Height: 16.0 in.
Fuel Capacity: 1.1 gal.

Opinions****Andrew Silverstein
Height: 4'11"
Weight: 96 lb
14-yr-old Expert

I have a lot of time riding Honda CRF150Rs, and I really like the bike in stock form. This motor has a lot of bottom-end power, but it also has a lot on top-it revs to the moon and feels really fast for being a stock bike. The suspension was a bit stiff for me at first during break-in, but it worked out with more time on the bike. I think the whole package corners really well, and the bottom-end definitely helps pull the bike through turns. It has really good brakes; no complaints on those at all. I like to run the bar back from the stock position, but other than that the setup of the cockpit is really comfortable and suits my size and style. And compared to my modified race bikes, this exhaust seems pretty quiet!Lindsey Lovell
Height: 5'4 "
Weight: 110 lb
22-yr-old Beginner

Although my feet barely touch the dirt, the 150R is a very stable ride with its bigger wheels and taller ride height. Minibikes have come far; I think the big wheel version of the 150 stands above the two-stroke competition, and as a stock bike it hauls butt, even through the harsh desert terrain. I also liked the fact that the motor is powerful enough to keep up with the big boys. At my weight and height the bike doesn't feel like a minibike and there is much room for me to improve my riding skills without exceeding the bike's limits.