2005 Honda CRF450R Retro Review – Digging Into ArchivesIf the old racing adage, “What wins on Sunday sells on Monday,” carries any truth, there must have been a lot of foot traffic in Honda dealers this year. Riding the 2005 Honda CRF450R, Honda rider Ricky Carmichael did the unthinkable, winning every race of the 2004 AMA National Motocross Championship—a perfect season.Anyone who knows the level of talent and the caliber of machines that line up at the starting gate each weekend at those races understands the statement Honda has made with their race-bred 450cc four-stroke.
First things first: The 2005 Honda CRF450R will frighten the meek and toss the disrespectful. At the same time it will elevate the willing novice, enthrall the astute intermediate, and level the playing field for the expert rider. Make no mistake; Honda built this machine to win races.However, it wouldn’t be a Honda if it hadn’t been designed with the intention of being ridden by a wide range of enthusiasts. With engine and chassis upgrades Honda has created a motocross machine with very little to complain about and very little left to improve on.The heart and soul of the CRF450R is its engine. As can be expected of a 4-stroke, the motor produces an enormous amount of torque at low rpm and the power comes on even and smooth. The 55 horses hit solidly and throttle response is surprisingly crisp with a steady and predictable delivery to the rear wheel resulting in a motorcycle that is fun to ride despite its racing pedigree. For motocross, that translates into less fatigue for the rider.Our test rider could circulate the entire test track in second and third gear, using the abundant power to pull him out of slow turns and the high rev limit—9000 rpm—to get down straights and up hills. With an engine this powerful and forgiving it allows the rider to put more concentration on their line instead of working to keep the bike in its powerband. This renders lower, consistent lap times.The 2005 Honda CRF450R turns exceptionally well, holds its line and goes exactly where the rider aims it. Jumps are an equally predictable affair, with the attitude of the motorcycle being set with throttle input on take-off. Mid-air corrections are made easy with the CRF’s light feel. Honda shaved some weight for 2005, bringing the 450 in at an amazing 218.5 pounds, as well as narrowing the width of the machine where it counts—at the tank/seat junction for rider comfort and maneuverability.Motocross is all about stability and suspension and the CRF450R’s fully adjustable 47mm inverted Showa front fork and Pro-Link Showa shock deliver a full 12.5 inches of travel at each end. Our test rider intentionally tried to get the rear of the bike to step out or become unstable in the whoop section without luck. No matter how he attacked the ruts, the bike’s attitude remained controlled, tracking straight with the suspension soaking up the nastiness without incident.Honda has taken an already potent machine and made it stronger and faster. Transmission, clutch and controls are first rate and bulletproof. Plastic is sleek and simple. When asked what he would do to the CRF450R to make it better, our tester hesitated, considered, then shrugged—a tacit approval from a former National and Grand Prix competitor.The air pollution factor inherent with two-stroke engines requiring an oil/gas pre-mix for lubrication has resulted in an inevitable, eventual ban on their production and use. Hence, motorcycle manufacturers turned their engineers loose several years ago on developing competitive, environmentally friendly four-strokes.Four-strokes have made good progress. Any questions the skeptics had about the potential performance limitations in the 2-stroke vs. 4-stroke battle have been sufficiently answered. Well, squashed actually. Honda factory rider Ricky Carmichael put the period on that statement himself when he wrapped up the number one plate. With the 2005 Honda CRF450R, Honda has begun to swing the door closed on the 2-stroke era and in turn, kicked the door to the 4-stroke era wide open.What rider doesn’t love a look back at the motorcycles that preceded today’s tech-savvy creations? Welcome to the Ultimate Motorcycling retro review archives; we’re revisiting some of our favorite reviews from year’s past, highlighting the machines that laid the rubber for what’s on the today’s showroom floors. Enjoy. – Ron Lieback, Online Editor