Honda CRF 450R - First Test & Review - Dirt Rider

Imagine what it was like for Honda to sit back and watch Yamaha soak up all the glory for five years as it dominated the newly created four-stroke motocross market. For a company known to be a technological leader, it must have been hell.Honda's answer to the YZ-F line was a competitive machine right out of the gate. It won Dirt Rider's coveted Bike of the Year award for 2002, and Nathan Ramsey used a works version to win a supercross against one of the toughest fields in recent years.The future of four-stroke technology is still very much up in the air at this point. Everyone knows Yamaha is releasing a mostly new YZ450F and Honda has plans for a smaller version of the CRF. But there's also a lot more that people aren't aware of. So we sat down with a bunch of experts and developed a list of the 13 most asked questions about the new CRF and the future of four-strokes. We think you'll be surprised at what we uncovered.OPINIONS
The CRF450R is an absolute blast to ride. In fact, with the slight refinements made to the bike, it makes me wonder who would ever want to buy a two-stroke! The motor is smooth and seems to pull very low in the powerband, enabling you to ride virtually everywhere with confidence. Cornering is so much easier for me on the CRF than on a 250cc two-stroke, let alone a Yamaha YZ426F. The ergos are great for a rider my size, which allows me to charge into the corners without headshake. I also like the four-stroke engine-braking and the entire package. I know other people still criticize the aluminum frame, but I like it! I think being a little more rigid than the rest of the manufacturers' helps with the added weight, which helps your entrance speed in turns. I also think you go faster exiting corners because the steering is very predictable. I like the fact it's a Honda because durability is rarely an issue for Big Red. The bottom line is for motocross, I don't think you can go wrong with this bike!
--David Barrett/5'9"/148 lb/Pro

I'm in love with four-strokes, and it hasn't always been that way. About 10 years ago, Karel Kramer started forcing things like the Husqvarna 610 on me at every opportunity, and I just wasn't into that whole scene. Yamaha's YZ400F was the first bike to convert me to the world of intake and exhaust valves, and now I'm hooked. Last year's CRF was my favorite motocross bike, period, and I rode it twice as often as I rode the RM250 parked next to it in the garage.My favorite aspect is the ergos. It just feels like a motocross bike should. I can turn it better than a Yamaha or KTM, it feels comfortable and balanced in the air and nothing seems out of place. I also like the starting, but I've never really had a problem with the Yamahas, even when they had the original Keihin FCR carburetor. I just learned the procedure quickly, but it is cool you don't have to worry about playing with a compression release on the CRF. But I'm not ready to declare this the best four-stroke of 2003 just yet. KTM has some cool new stuff and, of course, Yamaha's YZ450F is attracting a lot of attention. Put it this way, if this is what second place is like in the world of four-strokes, I can't wait to ride number one!
--Ken Faught/5'10"/203 lb/Vet Intermediate

Last year's CRF had an abundance of power, good handling and comfortable ergos. Honda took that same great bike and made it better. This year the power is much more responsive off bottom and pulls harder through the entire powerband. The engine has so much torque that it makes jumping short-approach doubles much easier than before. The new machine retained the same predictable feel as last year's CRF, but the added bottom power makes the 450 track better in all conditions. Suspension is very plush, and I never felt any harsh points in the stroke. The new triple clamp is definitely an improvement, giving the '03 better handling in the corners.
--Jason Webb/5'10"/175 lb/IntermediateDR

Honda continues to be tight-lipped about its all-new CRF250R, a machine that is turning out to be the worst-kept secret in motorcycling.
Engineers stiffened the suspension to allow for more aggressive riding.
Steering is more predictable on the second version of Honda's four-stroke. From low-speed hairpins to ultrafast sweepers, the CRF is up to the challenge.
Honda made some very savvy changes to the CRF for '03. Power comes on 500 rpm earlier, and the chassis is more stable. This package is ideal for aggressive riders like David Barrett.