2006 Honda CRF450R - First Look & Review - Dirt Rider

Could you just re-release the most dominant motocross bike of last year and have it stay ahead of the competition? By Honda's decision to continue to improve the CRF450R, the answer is no. But how can you make such a great bike even better... and without screwing it up?The answer seems to be in the simple, yet effective changes to the 2006 CRF. Basically, leave the prize winning motor alone and go to work on the handling. This was accomplished by lowering the crankshaft 5mm in the chassis, and moving everything else around to fit in, while at the same time tightening the center of gravity (CG).Dirt Rider headed out to Glen Helen Raceway to get the first ride on the new CRF and we came away impressed to say the least. After our initial impression of the bike, we can say that even if you can't see the changes on the bike, you will most-certainly feel them. Interestingly enough, some of the first comments mentioned here weren't what we expected to feel, but were nonetheless solid performance gains when compared side-by-side with the 2005 CRF450R.Power wise, the '06 is the same as the '05, especially considering we were running the NCYQ needle (now stock in the '06) in our '05 for most of the year. It has a more-crisp delivery off of idle compared to a stock '05, but lacks some snap when you crack the throttle—all jetting related. It is as smooth, predictable and as powerful as you'd ever need, which is status quo for a CRF450. Where the handling differences stood out depended on the rider.I felt that the new bike had less compression braking (most likely from less weight on the rear wheel going into turns), a lighter steering feel and more plush suspension with better bottoming resistance. Test Editor Corey Neuer really noticed the improved front end feel all the way through the turns. He commented on less pushing in the turns and noticed that the bike was less eager to stand up when really getting on the gas out of turns.Could we feel a difference in weight? Not at the fast National track at Glen Helen. But the bike is already at a tighter and more-technical track for more testing and abuse. Soon we'll have plenty more info, riding impressions and photos coming for the full test. Keep an eye out for it in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rider magazine.