As much as FI is the rage discussion topic, it does not steal the show. That, my friends, is the duty of the weight feel of the bike. Just sitting on the new CRF you get the sensation it has been shrunk. But when riding it you realize this is more than just a cosmetic overhaul: The whole bike is easier to move around on. I wouldn't say it's as light feeling as a 250cc two-stroke or 250cc four-stroke, mostly because the power will always come into play and make this a big bike, but for the most part this is the easiest to maneuver and lightest-feeling 450cc bike I've ever ridden. It is even spectacularly good at staying light when the rpm start getting up there. The bike doesn't get much heavier when screaming, and this was very noticeable when jumping on the throttle. Actually, anytime you got the bike in the air it was very apparent the CRF was easier to throw around and point where you wanted. So much so that it took noticeably less body input to get the machine to do what I wanted, which took some getting used to. And it is thin. Very thin. But with just enough thickness to give your knees, ankles and thighs something to grab on to when the bike starts pulling.The handling takes a big step forward if you like an aggressive and precise-feeling bike, too. Good thing Honda took the baby step with its CRF-Rs last year with the pulled-in triple clamp offset and steering dampers, because the 2009 takes another step in that lighter steering feel and, again, uses the damper to get away with it. Going from a 2007 to a 2009 will be a huge step, especially in the front-end feel. Truthfully, you don't notice the damper doing anything, but you can tune it to get the steering and handling you'd like. It can be compared to trimming an aircraft to get level flight and the right amount of glide. Without this control you'd constantly be fighting the steering, but once set, it lets you, for lack of a better term, put the bike on auto-pilot. Yes, turning is more aggressive than ever, and it puts more demand on the Dunlop front tire and makes tire pressure a pretty big deal. I suspect different tires will make gigantic differences as well.Please don't forget the ultra-important ride height. We were low by just 2-3mm, and it made the suspension harsh. My best setting was around 106mm of sag on the loamy Lake Whitney, Texas, red dirt. I suspect back home, on the harder SoCal tracks, I'll be able to get closer to 100mm to put more weight on the front end. 105mm is recommended.With the all-new KYB suspension Honda found a way to get the plushness back that Red seemed to have lost, especially over the last few years, mostly in the fork. Noticeable in back-to-back riding with other bikes, the old CRF was definitely stiffer than the other marques. Now that stiff feeling, or harshness, is pretty much eliminated, especially in comparison to the 2008. The suspension is balanced, and it has a newfound control of the stroke that was totally obvious when hitting any curblike bump. It handles bottoming really well, often making a clank but not transmitting it to the rider. I even stiffened up the compression a bit on both ends to level the bike better in the turns. And when watching all the different ability levels of other magazine guys and even under our own Karel Kramer, the CRF acted very balanced and rode with a level chassis stance-the wheels moving and doing all the work underneath. This is a definite improvement on the CRF-R for riders of all skill levels.Sure, we must go back to the motor and its 450cc of power. Is it faster? For sure it feels that way on top. The bike got smoother on the bottom and through the midrange when you're riding it on the track like you should on a motocross bike. But riding around in the pits, especially if you are in third gear (since the bike has gear-specific ignition curves, like last year), the cracks of the throttle are explosive. So if you really lug the bike on the track, you might feel it is hitting even harder than before. The motor has a little less of a chug or torque feel, but it revs quicker and faster to a top-end that pulls long and hard even if the info only says it is about 180 rpm more to the rev-limiter. So yes, it is faster, and yes, it seemed easier to ride. Honda looked at lap times as well while keeping this motor exciting.This is not an off-road bike, and it will stall pretty easily due to a lack of flywheel effect, always when the throttle is closed. Once opened, even just a little, the FI has a way of making incredible torque, but having extra inertia to keep things spinning wasn't in the design goals of this motocrosser. A tall first gear, stiff suspension and, yes, a loud muffler. You can ride it anyplace you want, but it isn't an X.