Honda’s smallest motocrossers are now 2009 model years and they features goodies taken straight off their bigger siblings, just like we got used to. Both the award-winning CRF150R and big-wheel Expert models rely on their Unicam engine’s performance and light, versatile chassis in order to beat the competition. So let’s see what they’re up to.
For starters, the idea behind these small machines is a very effective one. Why create two different engines with very close displacement and slightly different chassis and so have another motocross category when you can simply mount the same engine on an upgraded chassis and call it Expert. No reason. As a result, both the small and big Honda motocross models are being powered by the 149cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, four-stroke; Unicam, four-valve engine. The unit proved enough powerful both for the uninitiated rider and the expert one so the only differences that intervene are purely regarding size.
Most visibly, the Expert model features a 19-inch front tire and 16-inch rear one while the normal model features 17-inch front and 14-inch rear rubber. Everything from wheelbase, rake and trail as well as seat height and ground clearance make the difference on the Expert model, but, yet again, the riding feel will be similar as the suspension package is almost the same. I am saying almost because although you’ll find the same 10.8 inches of travel of the 37mm fully adjustable leading-axle inverted Showa cartridge fork, the pro-link fully adjustable Showa single shock features 11.5 inches of travel on the Expert and 10.8 inches of travel on the CRF150R. The brakes feature 220mm front, respectively 190mm single discs on both models.
Apart from the Red color scheme, Honda adds a new, Black, special one that comes in a limited number. No more than 500 of these will be made.
Honda started production of the CRF150R dirt bike at the end of 2006 as a 2007 model year. Because it came to replace the CRF85R, it had to be powerful, reliable and yet user-friendly as the riders to which it addressed remained the same. The smart people at Honda achieved precisely that by combining the features I’ve mentioned above.
The Expert model was there from the very beginning and, apart from graphics and the 2009 color addition, not much has changed during the short time of existence.
In the 2009 lineup, Honda features no two-stroke model, but only the two CRF150R four-stroke bikes which compete with pretty much everything that the Supermini class has to offer: mostly 85cc bikes.
Yamaha, for example, is a fierce competitor for the small CRF with their YZ85 model although the 34 inches of seat height tend to position it against the Expert also. This features a carbureted, 84.7cc, liquid-cooled, crankcase reed-valve inducted, two-stroke engine that is mated to a six-speed gearbox, compensating for its slightly weaker engine and hoping that Honda will not add a six-speed gearbox to their CRF competing models.
In the same situation is Suzuki with the RM85 and the RM85L. Sticking to two-stroke engine performance, this builder fits both its machines with the same carbureted 84.7cc, liquid-cooled, two-stroke motor and six-speed constant mesh transmission. Like in the case of the CRF150R and the CRF150R Expert, the RM85L features 19-inch front and 16-inch rear wheels over RM85’s 17-inch front, respectively 14-inch rear ones. Still, the simple RM carries on to 2009 while the Large model remains a 2008 model year which could signal Suzuki ’s intention to remove that from the lineup in the favor of a four-stroke model. Now that would be some competition.
But, until then, Kawasaki offers – apart from the KX85 – the 2009 KX100, also a carbureted, liquid-cooled two-stroke single only that featuring 99ccs and implicit more power. This would be a good time for Honda to worry as the Kawasaki KX100 features a six-speed gearbox which sets it further apart from those 85cc two-stroke bikes and closer to 150cc four-stroke ones. Also, with a seat height of 34.3 inches, it clearly aims towards the Expert. Ouch!
No matter a bike’s size, it still has to look good, Honda people most likely thought and the results are easy to spot on the 2009 Honda CRF150R and Expert dirt bikes.
Have them Red colored and you’re as close as possible to that CRF450R model that you’re aiming for, but if exclusivity is the thing for you, the special 2009 Black color with those nice, distinctive graphics will definitely manage to fulfill your expectations.
But underneath color is what defines the beauty of any bike and in the case of motocrossers, the presence of a high-mounted front fender, side and number plates, narrow seat and mudguards is a must and the two Honda models make no exception. And so we end up talking about color again. Why? Simply because Honda does a little bit of magic on the Limited model having even the seat and mudguard entirely black painted while on the normal versions, the seat is red and the mudguards are white. Still, they keep both the front and side number plates white in order to lighten up the special coloring.
The exhaust hasn’t been reduced to its limits like on the bigger CRF models, but at least it makes the bikes look more aggressive.
Although it is a little bit strange to spot an almost entirely Black Honda motocross bike, we must admit that it is an eye-catcher.
Because Honda didn’t revised the CRF150R models since their launch back in 2007, it is no problem whatsoever riding such a model so our test bike was a 2008 Suzuki CRF150RB.
Kickstart this four-stroke little beast and you’ll be impressed by how easily it comes to life thanks to the automatic decompression system and by how strong it idles. Quite frankly, we couldn’t find much difference between the sound of the CRF150R and the one of the CRF250R and, taking in consideration the big bike looks of the Expert, it is very easy to confuse the two if riding simultaneous on the same track.
Hit first gear and away it goes with only a little bit of playing with the throttle. This is fairly short so the gears you will most likely be rolling in are second, third and fourth. No, this isn’t a KTM motocross bike, it has that much needed fifth gear, but it is only needed on long straights, preferably off the track as the bike is capable to go very fast.
With this 149cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke; Unicam, four-valve single, the fun starts around 6000 rpm and that rhythm is sustained all the way up to the top of the rev range which is a more than decent 14,300 rpm. Still, Honda engineers tuned up the engine so that it would require shifts at around 12,500 for higher engine life, but also to teach kids how to exploit an engine’s capabilities best.
Compared to 85cc two-stroke engines which are being fitted on starter bikes, this powerplant determines us not to consider this CRF a kids dirt bike. The whole idea was to create a revolutionary piece of machinery and we reckon that in the engine and transmission chapter they’ve pretty much did it.
In what concerns the chassis, the suspensions are great as they offer enough bottoming resistance in order to manage with the 170 pounds of a fully grown biker. During our test, there have been some pretty high jumps which I must say that would have implied some serious problems for 85cc competing models and with which the Honda managed more than decently.
Handling is easy and very natural and although there have been complains in what concerns the frame being made out of steel, that thing isn’t at all noticeable when riding, but I’m sure it is when paying the bucks. The riding position is quite demanding, but that’s how things are in motocross. Take it this way: at least you won’t be sitting on that narrow seat that would normally split you in half.
This bike really enjoys being revved, but when approaching tight corners the brakes are your dearest pals. These provide confidence and a much needed safety feel if you’ve just started riding, situation in which it is strongly recommended that you don’t push it too hard. The bike is there to provide as soon as you have enough experience.
My best tip for when starting to ride on the track is to avoid that short first gear and go ahead in second. Seriously twisting the throttle will result into linear and continuous power all through the powerband and, hopefully, a first place on the podium.
Honda does not mention how the price varies basing on the model you choose, but, simply mentions the $4,299 suggested retail price of the CRF150R. As history thought us, the CRF150RB would normally come with a base MSRP of $4,399. That’s well above the price of your average 85cc two-stroke motorcycle (around $3,400), but this model represents the future of the Supermini class.
Practically the latest minibikes that ended on the scene, the CR150R and Expert stand both as proofs of Honda’s forward thinking. So now that the amazing opportunity was spotted, we expect more and more such models to start being built and the industry to drift away from the two-stroke engine, a sad, but necessary thing.
Engine and Transmission
Engine Type: liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
Bore and Stroke: 66mm x 43.7mm
Compression Ratio: 11.7:1
Valve Train: Unicam, four-valve; 26mm intake, steel; 22.5mm exhaust, steel
Induction: Keihin 32mm flat slide with throttle position sensor (TPS)
Ignition: Solid-state CD with electronic advance
Transmission: Close-ratio five-speed
Final Drive: #420 chain; 15T/56T (CRF150RB-Expert) / #420 chain; 15T/50T (CRF150R)
Chassis and Dimensions
Suspension Front: 37mm fully adjustable leading-axle inverted Showa cartridge fork; 10.8 inches travel
Rear: Pro-Link fully adjustable Showa single shock; 11.5 inches travel (CRF150RB-Expert) / 10.8 inches travel (CRF150R)
Brakes Front: Single 220mm disc
Rear: Single 190mm disc
Tires Front: 70/100-19 (CRF150RB-Expert) / 70/100-17 (CRF150R)
Rear: 90/100-16 (CRF150RB-Expert) / 90/100-14 (CRF150R)
Wheelbase: 50.6 inches (CRF150RB-Expert) / 49.6 inches (CRF150R)
Rake (Caster Angle): 27°48’ (CRF150RB-Expert) / 27°02’ (CRF150R)
Trail: 96mm (3.85 inches) (CRF150RB-Expert) / 78mm (3.07 inches) (CRF150R)
Seat Height: 34.1 inches (CRF150RB-Expert) / 32.8 inches (CRF150R)
Ground Clearance: 13.2 inches (CRF150RB-Expert) / 11.9 inches (CRF150R)
Fuel Capacity: 1.14 gallons
Curb Weight: 187 pounds (CRF150RB-Expert) / 183 pounds (CRF150R)
New for 2009