The CRF450R. What more can be said about this best-selling MX-er that won every moto-a perfect 24 for 24-in the 2004 AMA 250 Nationals? Start with the fact that for 2006 it returns even more agile and versatile, with revised engine location in the frame and a lower center of gravity for quicker, sharper handling, plus new ignition and carburetor settings. And then get set to dominate-all over again.
The choice of motocross, off-road, flattrack and Supermoto riders everywhere, Honda’s race-winning CRF450R receives a host of refinements in 2006 to extend its dominance. Its roost-raising power delivery, light, rigid and quick-handling aluminium frame, and supple Works racer suspension systems combine with a wealth of refinements and quieter operation to make this big 4-stroke the overwhelming class favourite and one of the best-handling dirt trackers you’ll find anywhere.
By every standard imaginable, Honda’s CRF(R)450R has come to dominate the motocross scene in a remarkably brief span of time. The CRF450R won every single race in the 2004 Nationals, has won magazine shootouts aplenty and has also won the hearts of thousands of discriminating purchasers. And that’s just motocross: The CRF450R has also racked up national flat-track victories, desert and GNCC wins, and several national Supermoto titles thanks to its remarkable balance, versatility and durability. In fact, many knowledgeable off-roaders consider the CRF450R to be as close to perfection as any motorcycle has ever been. But such accolades did nothing to deter Honda’s engineers from making the 2006 CRF450R even better.
In truth, the 2005 model proved to be an excellent mount. So much so that for 2006, even though the 450R boasts new engine cases and frame, these alterations principally serve to elevate an already great package to the next level. Typically, new engine cases and a new frame signal wholesale revisions. But in the case of the 2006 CRF450R, the main thrust behind these changes focuses on improving the bike’s already stellar handling and steering characteristics.
Basically, the lower frame rails that cradle the engine and the engine cases have been changed to tilt the engine forward and lower the crankshaft 5mm compared to the 2005 CRF450R. The countershaft remains in the same exact position as before, which means the engine has rotated down in front to lower the bike’s center of gravity for improved steering and handling characteristics. Additionally, this change reduces chassis roll figures by 2.7 percent, which contributes to even more responsive steering.
As would be expected, since the cylinder now tilts forward, the ’06 model incorporates new, longer engine hangers to accommodate this change. Despite its repositioned engine, the CRF450R’s ground clearance remains the same because the lowest part of the frame, the area near the footpegs, is unchanged.
Moving the CRF450R’s engine locates the carburetor about 7.5mm farther forward than before, so the entire subframe has also moved forward 7.5mm. The subframe was altered in order to maintain the existing air-box, a critical component of the 450R’s amazing performance. The rider triangle-a much-lauded layout-remains unchanged. As a result of this new engine position, the exhaust system has also been reshaped, but headpipe diameter and the system’s overall length and volume remain unchanged.
For 2006, the CRF450R fork tubes have been shortened 7mm to reduce fork weight 2.45 ounces. The fork tubes were elongated in previous models to accommodate riders who wished to run 20-inch front wheels, but with that option now eliminated, the engineering team took this opportunity to trim some length and weight from the fork. Another important change: The front wheel hub is now made of the same light and strong material introduced in last year’s rear hub. The water-pump cover is also lighter for 2006, and the impeller now features a small pressure relief hole to relive pressure between the impeller and the water pump seal, a change that should double seal life.
One other significant change concerns a new material that has been incorporated into the seat of the intake valves. This new material features a finer grain structure in the metal, a change that will improve valve wear and reduce intervals for servicing.
The final change of note concerns the CRF’s twin radiators, which are now mounted 5mm lower than last year’s radiators, contributing to the bike’s lower center of mass, and further enhancing handling and feel.
Overall, a great number of steps have been taken to enhance the CRF450R’s handling in 2006. Significant R&D work and production changes result in what appear to be minute alterations, but it is this kind of refined attention to detail that make a great bike even better. But expending large amounts of effort to lower the 450R’s center of gravity, better centralize the machine’s mass and increase front wheel traction, Honda has taken the evolution of the four-stroke motocrosser to a higher plane-once again.