First Impression: 2006 CRF150F - Dirt Rider Magazine

Does anyone actually like kick starting a dirt bike? I didn't think so. When you combine cool weather in Gorman, CA, with a cold-natured Honda CRF150F engine, you're bound to be doing plenty of kicking. I've found that if you don't learn the cold-starting procedures of Honda's play bikes and adhere to them exactly, both your patience and your right leg muscles are going to be tested.But wait, haven't you heard? The '06 CRF150F is equipped with electric start. I was unaware of this when the CRF was assigned to me for testing. I swung a leg over the little thumper and began the starting drill that experienced dirt riders can do blindfolded: I reached down for the choke lever with my left hand while fumbling for the kick start lever with my right. Then I noticed the little black button next to the throttle. The CRF150's electric start only helps to maximize riding time on a bike with an already high fun factor.When teaching a nervous beginner who isn't sure about the whole dirt bike thing to begin with, wouldn't it be better to tell them:"Pull in the clutch, and press the black starter button next to the throttle" instead of:"Reach down and swing the kick start lever out. Now pull in the clutch, and stand on the pegs and kick down on the lever with your right foot. Yeah... just... you almost... no, don't twist the throttle... almost had it... give it another good kick. I know the bike is heavy, but try to balance. Really give it a good kick. There, you almost... "Very forgiving of mistakes, Honda's 149cc, two-valve engine springs back to life after only one or two revolutions when you press the starter button- even if the bike has been dumped on its side. Not that I'd, um... ever do that. Those scratches were on it when I got there. Eager to please, but ultimately soft in the low-end department, the CRF150's power builds smoothly, with a slight surge in the upper RPM range. Perhaps the desert sands at Hungry Valley had this East Coaster fooled, but the bike could benefit from more teeth on the rear sprocket to lower the gearing. With five gears to choose from, it's much more likely that the CRF's target audience is going to be wishing for more grunt from first and second gear, rather than bouncing off the rev limiter in fifth and demanding more top speed. Speaking of revs, the exhaust system muffles the pulses very well and the sound is subdued- never obnoxious.Chassis-wise, the CRF is a good stopper, but could be even better with a rear disc brake instead of a drum. Unfortunately, the rear brake provides almost a toggle switch action: it does very little when first applied, and then suddenly it's locked up. As a result, the front brake disc was howling and plenty hot, as I used it almost exclusively during the test. Please, Honda- ditch the drum.The seat is supportive but not stiff, while the foot pegs were rather dull and needed sharper teeth. As for the suspension, it's set up well, considering what a play bike was designed to handle. Those that complain about weak suspension are probably too big for the bike (i.e. me), or jumping things that perhaps a play bike ought not to (Jimmy Lewis?).Ultimately, I wish I had more time with the bike to adjust the jetting and try a few different engine mods. The good news for budget-minded parents is that I feel confident that this bike is stifled in stock form. Somewhere inside the engine, there is power waiting to get out. I suspect the minor expenses of jetting the carburetor correctly and installing a rear sprocket with more teeth will liven the CRF150F up a considerable amount. Those who are willing to add performance parts to the engine should be able to see some real horsepower gains as well. The result is a bike that can grow with your child's skill level and allow you to really get your money's worth as it's passed down from kid to kid.Everyone who came out to Hungry Valley with us got a turn at thrashing the CRF150F, and they all came back smiling. Hiding behind those smiles must have been some wicked abuse, yet the bike didn't flinch the entire day. It's also worth noting that the CRF is styled just like Honda's motocross bikes, so kids are likely to love the idea of looking like their favorite racer. Sean, our teen-aged test rider, normally races the 125 class, but indulged us with a few miles aboard the 150F. He praised the electric start and the bike's looks, despite its play bike capabilities. Those of you interested in a possible wife bike or a starter bike for your kids should consider putting the 2006 Honda CRF150F near the top of your list.—Brian Purtymun

Sand? No problem, but a little tighter gearing or some more power wouldn't hurt for larger riders.
The new electric-start CRF150 waits for a day of abuse at Hungry Valley SVRA.
Brian Purtymun puts the CRF150F through its paces. Standing over six feet tall, he wasn't intimated by the CRF's size one bit.