HONDA 450R FACTORY RIDE
Honda continued with their bombshell pronouncements at their annual dealer show in Las Vegas. With a crowded floor of over 2500 dealers anxiously waiting, they announced that in addition to the new TRX450R Sportrax debut, they would be signing nine-time ATV Grand National Champion Tim Farr to compete on the new quad at GNC MX, TT, stadium and a select few desert events.
This stunning news marked the return of Big Red to the ATV race circuits it had summarily abandoned some 18 years ago. This about face for Honda concerning ATVs and racing was welcomed by dealers and enthusiasts alike. That the companys plans to include an ATV racer with their other street, motocross, and dirt bike programs certainly does mark a turning point in our industry.
With this new commitment to ATV racing from one of the industryâ€™s leaders, it appears almost certain that the racing scene for quads will heat up in the coming new year.
Farr helped with the research and development of the new TRX450R while campaigning a Z400 on the national ATV race circuit. This experience helped Honda come to the realization that they needed something new to compete with on the ever growing quad race tracks scattered all about the country.
â€œThis is what I have worked for all of my career, â€œ said Farr at the dealer meeting. â€œIâ€™m extremely proud that Honda has chosen me to be their first factory sponsored ATV rider with this machine. We worked with them in the development of the TRX450R and it is an incredible quad. I canâ€™t wait to get it out on the racetrack.â€�
One of the first events Farr is scheduled to ride with the new TRX450R is the Baja 1000, which runs in late November (21-22). â€œWe have raced that event a couple of times now. I have put in a lot time down there with mixed results. Iâ€™m looking forward to having the newest Honda race quad to compete with and feel weâ€™re going to burn up the trail at this yearâ€™s race.â€�
Farr will be racing a quad that has been under development for the last three years. Under a highly secretive program, Honda engineers and technicians have been circulating around the tracks and trails of America seeking out more information on what the ATV riding public would like to see in a new high performance quad.
They did innumerable surveys, opinion polls, and had tons of questionnaires filled out to determine what type of quad ATV racers and performance riders were looking for. Their results led them to built the 2004 Sportrax TRX450R.
One of the single most important considerations on this machine was its engine. Honda does not like to simply â€œbolt-inâ€� one of their dirt bike engines into a quad chassis and call it a day. Their engineers know that an ATV makes significantly more demands on an engine than a dirt bike does. An extra set of wheels with a much larger contact patch will overtax any standard dirt bike clutch and transmission system. These components, and many others, all need to be reinforced and buffed up to stand up to the added abuse a four wheeler adds to the formula.
While the Honda TRX 450R engine basically looks the same on the outside as the CRF 450 dirt bike, internally it is quite different. It has a slightly smaller bore (94mm) and a slightly longer stroke (64.8mm) than the CRF 450, which gives it a tiny displacement advantage of 0.2 cubic centimeters.
A radical looking pancake-style piston with three rings (two compression and one oil) comes on the TRX while the CRF uses only two piston rings. Engine and valve timing are also unique to the TRX but weâ€™re told the CRF 450â€™s cam can be installed in the TRX 450 motor. The 450Râ€™s cylinder also has a nikasil liner for increased heat dissipation and durability.
Honda calls their TRX 450 engine a Unicam design. It comes with a three lobe cam, which directly operates two intake valves. Two exhaust valves are operated by the same camshaft through a low-friction, roller rocker arm. Honda claims this motor designâ€™s narrow valve angle improves its overall performance. It does this, they claim, by shooting the fuel directly into and out of the combustion chamber in a much straighter path. In an effort to save even more weight, the cylinder head cover is made of magnesium.
This unique Unicam engine design allows Honda to have a quick revving, four-stroke powerplant that is lighter than a conventional double overhead cam motor. The TRX 450 comes with a twin sump lubrication system. One is used to feed clean oil to the crank, piston and valve train, while the other handles the clutch and five-speed transmission. This dual lubrication system helps eliminate cross contamination of the oils and negates having to have an additional (and hefty) oil storage tank. It also comes with its own oil cooler.
To fire the Sport 450Râ€™s motor up, a forward kick starter is used instead of an electric starter. It has a built-in auto decompression device that makes kicking it easier. There is also no reverse gear on the manual clutch five-speed transmission (same as the YFZ450). An internal gear-driven, engine counterbalancer helps smooth out the mighty four-strokeâ€™s vibration and drives the engineâ€™s water pump.
A compact, high capacity radiator and fan help keep the liquid-cooled motor cool. The exhaust system uses a lightweight stainless steel header and comes with a very quiet muffler system.
The single Keihin round slide 42mm carb features a throttle position sensor (TPS) that Honda says â€œhelps maintain a linear response throughout the rpm range,â€�
Honda has come up with an all new round tube steel frame for the TRX 450R which comes with a removable aluminum subframe. This helps shave more weight off the machine. The overall claimed dry weight of the 450R is said to be 350 pounds, which is what the new Yamaha YFZ450 is rated at. A one-piece, cast aluminum rear swingarm is hooked up to a Pro-Link equipped single shock rear suspension with nine inches of travel. A piggyback Showa shock is standard on the back end with adjustable preload, compression and rebound.
Up front, a set of conventional double A-arms connect to dual Showa shocks. These Showas come with backwards facing piggyback reservoirs, and are preload, compression and rebound adjustable with 8.4 inches of travel.
From what we can see, these are some of the most heavy duty and most adjustable shocks that Honda has ever offered on any of their ATVs. It certainly seems to bode well for high performance ATV riders looking to fine tune and ultimately race these machines.
Other dimension basics are: wheelbase 49.2 inches, length 72.6 inches, width 46.3 inches, seat height-32.6 inches, ground clearance 4.2 inches, fuel capacity 3.2 gallons.
MORE HOT STUFF
To slow this beast down, Honda has equipped it with a set of dual 174mm front disc brakes with twin piston calipers and a new high pressure front brake line. Out back, it uses a single piston caliper with a 190mm disc. The brake pads will also feature pivot access brake calipers for easy pad replacement.
A convenient oil-level window allows for at-a-glance oil checks, and the TRX comes with a long, narrow seat which is easily removed to access the foam air filter. There are dual, 30-watt headlights mounted in the stylish front grill that give it a â€œcat-likeâ€� appearance when viewed headon.
Plastic engine cases are bolted on underneath for extra protection in the rocks. The TRX 450R comes with LED tail/brake lights and a new, shorter CRF-style adjustable clutch and front brake levers. Shift and brake levers are aluminum and a set of CRF-style hand grips is standard, along with an easy grip thumb throttle.
Instead of the usual Ohtsu radials that the 400EX and earlier 250Rs came with, Honda has mounted new Dunlop radial knobbies on the front and back of the TRX 450R. The tires are mounted to lightweight aluminum, rolled-edge rims.
HOP-UP KITS ALSO AVAILABLE
Honda has even taken the unusual step (for them anyway) of offering a line of aftermarket performance products for the new 450R. Since the TRX 450R motor is designed to meet Californiaâ€™s stringent off-road emission standards, odds are it will need hopping up to bring it up to speed on the racetrack. Now you will be able to find performance products directly at your Honda dealer as soon as the machine hits the showroom floors.
As for availability, weâ€™re told that dealers will be getting the machine sometime in December. Pricewise, the Sportrax TRX 450R will sell for a suggested retail of $6499. That is $400 less than its closest rival, the 2004 Yamaha YFZ450. That should help to make it even more popular as the coming Christmas season approaches. It would certainly look quite at home underneath our Christmas tree, thatâ€™s for sure.