TWO-STROKE racing isn’t dead, but it’s surely looking for life support, and one of the nails in its coffin is the Honda CRF150R.
As Grand Prix and large capacity motocross have moved to four-stroke engines, the change is also taking place in the smaller classes, although it’s taking longer. Honda, however, signalled, its intentions when it was the first company to offer an alternative to two-stroke 85cc machines with the release of the CRF150R in 2007.
The bike remained unchanged until last year, when a new carburettor was fitted to make tuning easier, redesigned much of the engine’s top-end and modified the valving in the Showa USD forks and Pro-Link rear suspension.
The Cycle Torque CRF project bike is an CRF150RB – big wheel (19-inch front, 16-inch rear) – model. The same bike with smaller wheels (17-inch front, 14-inch rear), for younger competitors, is also available (the ‘B’ on the end of the name is for Big Wheel).
The chassis is steel, not alloy, and I suspect that’s because the mums and dads in the paddock can’t afford alloy – and we can’t afford fuel injection either.
With a RRP of $7440 the CRF150RB is at the top-end of the kids’ bike MX pricing scale, but I was happy to do the deal on the machine with Western Motorcycles, Penrith, because I hope Damien gets a few years’ service from the bike – and then we can pass it on to his little brother.
You have to be 12 to ride a big wheel 150 four-stroke in competition, and you can ride one until you’re 16 – but Damien will be physically too big for the bike by then.
Who’s it for?
The CRF150R isn’t a great first bike – the performance is probably too high for most youngsters who never tried to negotiate a clutch, throttle and brakes before, but for a kid stepping off a smaller MX or fun bike – our project bike pilot, Damien, has been riding a Kawasaki KLX110 for a while – it’s a great bike which will hopefully last him a few years before he grows out of it.
While it might not be suitable for the raw learner, it’s still a whole-lot more user friendly than the 85cc two-strokes it will line-up against on race start lines though.
I’d hate to teach kids who’d never ridden a bike how to use the clutch on one of those… I enlisted our motocross tester and coach, Todd Reed, into helping Damien learn the ropes on riding the CRF – I’m not a Dad who thinks he knows everything about a sport he’s never competed in.
The first thing Todd did was adjust the clutch lever to better suit Damien, so he could pull it in easily and get great feel. “Use all four fingers Damien, and you don’t need to use the clutch when changing gears today,” Todd told Damien.
I was surprised, I’d thought down-changes might be ugly without a clutch, and I thought MX riders only use one or two fingers on a lever… “That’s all true, Nigel, but when kids are learning they need all the feel in the lever they can get, and complicating downshifts with the clutch isn’t necessary yet,” Todd explained.
Damien loves his new bike – he’s especially proud of the wheelie he pulled, despite it being a bit accidental – but it was captured on video, which is all that really matters.
I also wondered what sort of maintenance schedule I would need to adhere to with the little four stroke wonder. Todd has this to say on the subject, “Keep the air filter clean and oiled – do this every time the bike is ridden – and you’ll get at least 50 hours out of the motor before you have to touch the top-end.
“Also don’t be frugal with oil changes. Modern four stroke dirt bikes rev hard and offer loads more performance than those built 20 years ago so regular oil changes are a must.
“Other than that the bike needs a good set of alloy handlebars, an hour meter and not much else”, added Todd.