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Honda's experiment

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So the new Honda CRF chassis has been for a few years now. As usual with any new development there have been refinements to get it to its potential. Honda openly admits it wants to build bikes that are "easy to ride" .  For the average guy this generally means smooth but potent low end power, a mild top end to avoid trouble, and a geometry that has a light feel during direction changes. I have been focused on the chassis and am wondering. We all want a bike that is easy to ride. We all want a bike that can cut inside lines, etc etc. However  we want these things in a stable chassis. The average rider doesn't care too much about these things as their speeds are slower. They don't tend to get into situations that push the chassis. The hope with the new chassis buy many of us was to get a light feel and quick steer with stability. Many assumed the steering damper was going to accomplish this, BUT, as Honda says the damper is not really designed to give straight line stability at speed but to help calm the front end down at the entrance to turns.

   I wonder. While this type of geometry might be best for the average rider, I'm starting to question if its best for fast guys and pros? There are bikes that are known for not turning well. Or at least not as well as we know they could be. BUT talented riders are able to make them turn just fine. In my own experience I have had a few bikes that really didn't turn well. That is until you rode aggressively enough to make them turn. When your speed goes up a bit more and you enter turns with a bit more momentum , you have that momentum to work the chassis. You can modulate breaking and body position to put enough load on the front to alter the geometry to work well in the turn. Then when you exit turn everything returns to stability mode.

 I have also been watching the crashes of the pros on the new chassis. Maybe its just coincidence but I seem to be seeing similarities in the crashes of a number of pros on this chassis. They tend to be front end stability, auger the front end , knife the front wheel into the ground and pitch the rider type get offs. I have seen this similar type of crash from REED, TOMAK, CANARD,.  

 To add fire to this It seems to me that ALL of them except Canard have not been happy with the new direction.

 

Ok so look I realize this is open to much debate and I may be all wet , but like I said I wonder......

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Very interesting. It seems since the 09 version of the 450 (and 10+ of the 250) there is a mixed bag about the Honda chassis and that continues with the current version. The negative feedback of Barcia and Reed make me curious but there is still an unreal amount of pro privateers on them (especially in the 250s). I personally think they are good handling bikes, but I am not pro speed. It seemed to me that the 13-14 fork was more the complaint on the current 450 than the overall chassis but I could be wrong. 

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A lot of the pro teams take various measures to steepen the steering axis angle because it makes the bike turn more willingly and push less.  Depending on whether the trail is correctly matched to the head angle, it can also make the front track more precisely during a corner, and better able to make fine corrections at speed.  The trade-off for the "average" rider is a loss of stability over very rough surfaces, including a loss of some resistance to the "knifing" and "tucking under" that you mentioned.

 

When Reed was on a YZ, he ran a custom set of offset bearing races in the steering head that were said to decrease the head angle from the roughly 27 degrees stock to around 25.5. 

 

When analyzing this sort of thing by observation, particularly of pro teams, it's always an open question as to how similar the bike in question is to the production build specs.

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Yea I hear ya . I too think at least the latest version is a good bike. Dont get me wrong. BUT with a chassis that verges on instability it is likely more difficult to get it just right for speed. There may be a finer line, a smaller sweet spot, a Target that's a bit harder to hit. Super talents have a way of transcending  bike issues BUT as I understand it many pros didnt like the 09 and it seems that a number of the top guys still arent sure about the direction.

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Well im 55 and have seen the bikes develop from the 73 CR125 to what they are today. Also the sport develop from MX to SX. Even the MX tracks have become more like SX tracks now. So the bikes have became more SX bikes now. The top speeds are lower now I dont think the pros ever use 5th gear. My 88 CR500 with stock gearing would do 89 mph. My 08 CRF450 with one tooth bigger countershaft 78 mph. For the last 10 years Honda has been pulling in the front end because of it.

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one tends to feed the other. Start with a steep head angle. Bias the front with more weight. The result is a head angle that goes from steep to steeper very quickly as the front suspension compresses.

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All I want to know is what to do about the air forks. I ride offroad only and do not-will not trust them for all day rides. Do I really have to swap them out or go the MX Tech route. No cheaper alternative?

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I'm going to weigh in here. Having ridden my 2010 (mod) and the latest gen (14 so newest at the time) stock, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed the 14's handling. Now I have been riding for coming up on 15 years and like to think I'm fairly quick on a track (race A stuff in canada so like mid to back pack B in the states speed wise) and direct comparison, I prefered the handling of the 14 with no suspension set up. Granted I wasn't happy with the suspension, front end in particular, it felt great in the air and when I got it to corner the way I wanted it too it was ok. I compare the feeling to that of a supermini. I remember when the 14 first came out and it was labeled for "generation scrub" it fulfilled the hype as it felt so nimble and easy to throw around. BUT having said that, my 10 with a good bit of $ dumped into it blew it out of the water everywhere else. Weather that's because of pure power or the 14 just or being set up for me I do not know but I would love to get some seat time on a 14 that had some mods and the likes on it. I feel like I would enjoy it much more than my 10. Basically if I could get all my go fast goodies in a 14 I would prolly be a pretty happy camper hahah.

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