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Driving report: Honda CRF 450 R
Driving report: Honda CRF 450 R
The waiting is over. Much later than expected, Honda comes to terms with the bosses of the four-stroke segment in the offroad profession ?? Yamaha and KTM – on. A first driving report of the spectacular CRF 450 R.
Peter Mayer, Richard Angot
The year is 1997. Honda sets a milestone in motocross chassis construction with the aluminum bridge frame for the CR 250. At the same time, Yamaha is revolutionizing engine technology in the off-road environment with the four-stroke, high-revving factory machine YZF 400. The scene combined: the Honda frame concept is perfect for the relatively tall four-stroke engines. So Honda will soon be launching a four-stroke crosser. The scene has been waiting ever since.
And she’s still waiting. Because although Honda has been testing the CRF 450 for a season in the US championships and the series version of the racer was presented in person at the German Motocross GP in Gaildorf, the Honda bosses are teasing the tunnel scene. At least in this country. The French have it better. Moto Crampons, the Gallic sister paper of MOTORRAD, managed a test ride on this only CRF 450 R in Europe.
Since then, the scene has been waiting for the first driving impressions. Because the key technical data of the four-stroke Honda were already known (MOTORRAD 13/2001, page 48). Aluminum bridge frame, 450 cm³ displacement, valve drive with only one camshaft. But what would have prevented the engine speeds of over 10,000 revolutions required for this displacement from the outset? if it were designed conventionally. But it is not. Unicam is what Honda calls the mix of two valve train concepts. The camshaft sits namely? like a double-cam cylinder head – directly above the inlet valves and actuates them directly via bucket tappets. The exhaust valves are operated via a short and therefore light angle lever, which is activated not from below but from the side. The point of the matter: With sufficient speed stability, the Honda engineers succeed in enormously compact engine dimensions compared to the sweeping double-cam constructions.
But before colleague Richard Angot kicks off the CRF, the moment of truth strikes on the scales. 102 kilograms is Honda? dry. The pointer stops at 106 kilograms ?? with oil and cooling water, without gasoline. Six kilograms less than the Yamaha, two of which are under the KTM 520 SX.
Then the first kick. For weight reasons, Honda has decided not to use an electric starter, which is very much in vogue among European manufacturers. But it works straight away thanks to the automatic decompression mechanism. In this respect, the additional manual valve lifter on the handlebars seems to be more of an optional extra than an obligation. Just step down is enough.
The first laps, the first impression: the Honda unit pushes hard. It’s clear. But always easy to dose. The performance starts noticeably more gently than with the Yamaha or the KTM. It can be accelerated out of the tightest corners cleanly and without the rear wheel breaking out. Fed up with traction. Not to be confused with too little performance, Richard conjures the blasphemers. Steam enough, just more controllable than the competition. In the upper speeds, however, the Honda surrenders terrain – at least to the Yamaha. Above the nominal speed, which according to Honda is 9000 revolutions, the engine seems exhausted. The strengths of the CRF engine are clearly in the lower and medium speed range. Shift up early instead of revving up – this will be the Honda drivers’ recipe for fast lap times.
But that’s what they could quickly forget, Richard believes. Because the 450 does not know the warning and unpleasant vibrations of a four-stroke single. Even at maximum speed, the power plant runs as well as a quarter-liter two-stroke engine. There is also nothing to complain about when it comes to starting behavior when the engine is warm. Because the 40 mm Keihin flat slide carburetor, which, incidentally, also supplies the Yamaha and KTM with fresh gas in the 41 millimeter cross-section, sits barely reachable between the two frame profiles, Honda pilots can comfortably press the hot start button via a hand lever and Bowden cable on the left side of the handlebar . One kick is enough and the single cylinder thunders again.
Richard is even more enthusiastic about the chassis than about the engine. The Frenchman believes the Honda will be the queen of the inside lane. And for several reasons. First, because the CRF 450 R was traditionally given a chassis geometry that was trimmed for maneuverability. Second, because the stiff frame construction is beneficial for directional stability in turns. Third, because ?? Due to the peculiar valve train, the rotating masses, which are located high above, could be kept to a minimum. And fourth, because those responsible for the chassis seem to have finally succeeded in implanting sensibly coordinated spring elements. The almost proverbial hardness of the shock absorber and the 47 mm upside-down fork from Showa were blown away. However, the basic characteristics of the four-stroke engine should also play a part in this. Because the Yamaha and KTM also benefit in this respect from the less impulsive power output of a four-stroke engine compared to the snappy two-stroke engines.
Anyway. The new Honda is not just one more machine in the circle of the new off-road generation with a four-stroke heart. Whether the unconventional technology will bring you to the establishment of this league straight away will only be shown by direct confrontation. In one relationship, the Honda is already in the lead: At 15,657 marks, the CRF 450 R costs almost 2000 marks more than the competition.
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