2006 Honda TRX 450R First Ride, by Off-Road.com

Feb. 01, 2006 By Brandon Brown, Quad75

2006 Honda TRX450R

With electric and kick options, it's a great place to "start"

by Brandon Brown
Pro Rider #75


October 2005  •

So there I was, sitting at my computer minding my own darn business, and I noticed an email from the ATV Editor at Off-Road.com. She had the idea that I might be interested in testing the 2006 Honda Sportrax line up - which would include the heavily-upgraded TRX 450R. Yea!! And get this - I'd be required to stay in some swanky hotel in Portland where Honda was putting us up, eat like a king ( I hope my trainer doesn't read this), and here's the worst part - we would get shuttled to Washougal to ride the thing… So after a whole little of mulling it over I agreed.

We (my girlfriend Michelle managed to sneak away for a day or two as well) made it to Portland with time to spare, so we made a couple of stops at some of my sponsors' shops to see and hear the latest and greatest. Then off to the hotel we went. We got checked in, checked the itinerary and noted that we still had enough time to get cleaned up and relax a little before the technical briefing.

When we entered the briefing room there were three quads all looking similar in style. It just happened that with the three models being announced, the TRX450R, TRX250EX & TRX90EX, it looked like a "papa bear, mama bear and baby bear"-type of thing. I had seen the '06 450 and read the write up on the Honda web site, so it was time to see if any of my pre-disposed opinions would hold up or be tossed out.

The first thing I noticed was that the front end wasn't nearly as ugly in person as I thought it was in pictures. In fact, I thought it was a nice change from its predecessor.

It appears that when you take the headlight off for racing situations it won't have such a "something's missing" type of feel to it. In addition, coming from a racing standpoint, I judge body lines on a basis of how easily they will accept numbers, backgrounds and stickers. This new hood is definitely going to be easier to apply those to than the old.

Is it perfect? No. Is it better? Yes.

The next thing on the body that was noticeable was just below the seat there are what appears to be vents to the air box, but at closer look and asking one of the engineers about it, I found that it is just for looks. It does give the quad a little flare though, so I decided I liked it. The rest of the lines on the body are pretty much the same as last year.

I continued to look it over, and of course came upon the battery box. You can't miss it; it hangs out to the left of the air box like some sort of abscess. I asked about bottoming clearances and was assured that there wouldn't be any problem.

As I looked on, I noticed that there wasn't an oil cooler and asked about that. They indicated that with the reconfiguration of the radiator, the engine runs cool enough without one. However it does reduce the engine oil capacity from 1200cc to 850cc.

Another thing that was mentioned was that the transmission oil capacity was increased from 650cc to 800cc, which should help keep the clutches in better shape between services. The last noticeable change was that the countershaft sprocket was reduced from a 14 tooth down to 13.

After we looked everything over for awhile, they had us sit down for a slide show and briefing. They went over the long list of changes, which are as follows:

  • A kick start model weighing in at 357 lbs
  • An electric start model with a weight of 363 lbs
  • Both have bore and stroke that are identical to the CRF 450's 96mm X 62.1mm
  • Valve sizes remain the same at 36mm in. and 30mm ex
  • The intake valves are now titanium, not steel
  • The cam has a hotter profile with more lift to accentuate the new cylinder-head porting
  • New ultra-short-skirt piston much like the CRF
  • Compression has been bumped up from 10.5:1 to 12.0:1
  • A much more efficient 40mm FCR-type carb with throttle position sensor
  • The engine now revs to 9,850 rpm, and with the HRC kit it raises it an additional 1,000 rpm over stock
  • A new freer-breathing air box
  • New air filter with 1.4 times more surface area than the earlier model
  • CRF450X style muffler
  • Closer ratio gearbox, as well as lower final drive and primary drive ratios
  • Redesigned radiator for more cooling efficiency, and they claim it is enough to allow for the elimination of the oil cooler, which they did
  • Just over a ½ in. longer swing arm, with a new linkage to accommodate it
  • Beefier A-arms, steering knuckles and hubs-front and rear
  • Stronger solid spindles with new geometry, replace the old hollow units
  • Stiffer springs up front along with new aluminum pre-load adjusters
  • Rear suspension was increased from 9.0” to 9.3” of travel
  • The handle bars, pegs and seat have all been lowered 8mm

So that's quite a long list of changes and or upgrades - and the big one is yet to come.

Available through your Honda dealer you can purchase the HRC kit which they are claiming bumps the ponies up to a full 50hp. There is a lot more to the HRC kit than the kits of the past. It comes complete with camshaft, exhaust tip, head pipe and gaskets, breather, CDI sub harness, main jet, needle jet and accelerator pump bypass jet. Your Honda dealer can set you up for $359.95.

At this point in the evening it was time to head downstairs for what ended up being a great dinner as well as a nice bench racing session. We discussed our schedule for the next day, heard some stories from the people that had been out at the track already and then it was time to crash for the evening.

The next morning it was a quick breakfast, a little more bench racing and off to the track. The folks from Honda were great people and they invited Michelle to come along to the track to try the quads out herself. This ended up being beneficial. For one it kept her from shopping all day, and secondly it would give us an opinion about the entry level machines being introduced for 2006 from an entry level rider. We were stoked.

Read her review notes HERE

When we got to the track it was nicely groomed and well-prepped for the day. Honda had a semi and trailer with their big awning set up to make every one comfy. In addition, they had a couple of pop-up tents with tool trays and mechanics there to take care of any minor adjustments we might need.

Each group was assigned a TRX450R electric start version, then there was a kick start version that every one could take turns on for a comparison. There were also several of the TRX250EX and TRX90EX units as well.

So I got my self geared up and we took a few still shots, then it was time to see how this thing worked.

The first thing I noticed was that 1st gear didn't seem so high, like in the older model. It was easier to putt around on.

The next was that it seemed to rev a bit quicker.

After riding it around awhile it was a noticeably improved machine. Right out of the box it feels as though it has as much power as the 04'-05's had after installing the HRC kit. It doesn't want to push in the corners any more. If any thing it would high-side a bit, but that was nothing that couldn't be easily adjusted with the front suspension.

The back-end doesn't get as lofty and want to kick up over square-edged bumps. When I asked if this was due to the new linkage, I was informed that the motion ratios were pretty much the same as last year's model, so I attributed it to the swing arm's new-found length.

It rides and tracks well, and the stiffer springs up front seem to soak up the bumps a bit better. The brakes are still by far the best I've ridden. All in all, I was impressed.

Next I jumped on the kick-start version and as much as I seemed to like the first one I rode, I liked this one better. I instantly felt much more at home on this quad. I know that six pounds doesn't sound like much, but this version of the machine just feels lighter.

It seems to rev faster as well. This actually makes sense, due to the fact that they have to retard the timing a bit for the electric start version to work properly. But it is noticeably easier to ride and feels much more user-friendly in the air.

So now all I had to do was continue to ride some more. Stop for lunch, which Honda had a local BBQ catering service take care of (and it was the goods). Go ride the smaller quads and evaluate them. Then get back on the 450's and ride until my arms fell off. What a tough gig; I'm not sure about how much of this I could stand.

Author, Brandon Brown lookin' stylin in his new 2006 Moose Sahara gear

Ok, here is my final analysis:

For the people looking for a great all-around sport quad, I think that the electric start version is the way to go. This thing is easy to ride, has plenty of power and is one of the most user-friendly sport quads on the market today. $6,799

From a racer's standpoint, I would have to opt for the kick start option. It seems to be more ridable when you start getting really aggressive with the machine.

Both machines have great power and it will be interesting to see what they are like with the HRC kit installed.

The Honda TRX45OR is a great starting platform for a race machine. It is a whole lot closer to being truly ready to go "right out of the box."

Sure a serious racer will probably want to make some changes and do some upgrades before they put it on the track, but Honda has made it a lot easier for anyone to get out there and be competitive, and a lot harder for the rest of the pack to catch them.



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