First Impression: 2005 Honda CRF450R

If you¿ve been sitting patiently by your computer awaiting the first riding impression of the 2005 Honda CRF450R, the anticipation is finally over. TWMX took delivery of our ¿05 CRF test unit Monday at Gorman and we¿re happy to report that the bike is dynamite!

We¿ll be the first to admit that Honda started off with a near-perfect bike in their 2004 TWMX 450cc shootout winner, so naturally they had some major work cut out for them to make any noticeable improvements to their 2005 model. Of course with Honda being Honda, however, the bike boasts tons of major changes in `05, all of which add up to make the best CRF ever, bar none.

With an already potent yet manageable engine, the changes made for 2005 centered mostly on refining the bike¿s handling and weight. The engineers somehow managed to shave off another 3.5 pounds this year, and the good news is that most of it was ¿useful¿ weight, meaning that extremity parts like the hubs and swingarm were substantially lightened.

The fourth-generation, twin-spar aluminum frame is also one of the big changes to the ¿05, and combined with the weight reduction and new CRF250R-inspired radiator/shroud combo, the 2005 looks and feels more like a 250cc thumper than it does a big-bore, full-size class entrant. The new frame has also been redesigned with better turning in mind, and the ¿05 CRF features a reduced front fork offset. In the past this has been a popular aftermarket modification that many riders made to previous model years using parts like triple clamps and linkage rods to alter the steering.

Reduced weight, an already killer powerplant, and much better turning manners have all added up to make the CRF an absolute blast to ride. Our bone-stock test unit gobbled up the soft, loamy Gorman dirt with ease, and just as suspected the motor was to every test rider¿s liking. Put the bike in third and gas it¿it¿s just that simple. No flat spots were found anywhere in the powerband, and each test rider commented on how effortless the mighty CRF was to pilot around the track.

We knew to expect a strong motor, but what we didn¿t expect was such tremendous handling from the CRF. Not that there were ever major issues with the red thumper¿s cornering habits in the past (save for the first year, when it had a tendency to push in tight turns), but the ¿05 blows all past models away. Tight inside lines are just as easy to hug aboard the CRF as fast, outside sweepers are to rail around.

As for the suspension, the track didn¿t quite get rough enough for us to do much evaluation, so we¿ll have to wait until we have the opportunity to try the bike out in different conditions before commenting on fork and shock action.

With major changes to the frame, lighter weight and an already exciting motor, the 2005 Honda CRF could very well be the best stock motorcycle ever produced; it¿s that good. Everything that Honda set out to do in 2005 they have accomplished, and the result is a 450 that is nearly flawless. Still, with heavy competition coming in the form of existing 450cc manufacturers as well as new entrants to the class this year, we¿re far from declaring the CRF a shootout winner just yet!