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Any reason to not by an '03 Vs. 05-08?

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Hey everyone,

So I actually made it through several searches and the entire(yikes!)FAQ thread before posting this and have some questions.

I think I want to get a 450R before springtime and there's a really nice looking '03 for sale at a good price. There's also several '05-08's but close to $1500-$2000 more. The '03 looks completely stock and the others have some minor mods. But the way I see it is I'm going to changing things to suit me anyway, so the mods may mean nothing to me. I'm light and will be riding in the high desert, so a mix of flowy single track and I want to explore the dunes and possibly Colorado next year. My 125 isn't gonna cut it, as I'm already wringing it's neck on my easy home trails.

So, all else being equal in terms of condition is there any reason to avoid an '03? Like horrible handling traits or something expensive that's needed to fix the older models?

I'm a motorcycle tech, so before I do anything it'llI've least get a full or partial tear down and a flywheel weight, handguards, G2 throttle 400 cam, and suspension re-valve. Reading on TT seems to lead up to "get a 250F" for my C-level speed, but my goal is to have a torquey, but quick-handling 450 to ride on a huge variety of terrain and do some off-road races. I'm good with throttle and clutch control, but riding my 125 at race speed for a few hours is killing my elbows(tendonitis) and really tiring from constant clutch work.

Thanks for your input,

Chris

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"but quick-handling 450" to ride on a huge variety of terrain and do some off-road races

 

There is nothing about quick-handling on the 02-08 models, but they are very stable in a straight line.   So for the desert riding it will be in it's elements.  The 05-08's are basically the same bike with some refinements each year.  I've ridden an 02-03 & have owned an 05-06 & also ridden an 08.   I felt the 05-08's are a better bike with the updated chassis & suspension.   The motors are marginally better as well, but not as much of a noticeable difference as the chassis.   If you want a better turning chassis I suggest spending the extra $1,500 & buy an 09+ model as it will feel much lighter & have better low end response due to the EFI.      

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Thanks, good to know. I'm in New Mexico, but my home trails where I'll ride a lot are narrow single track, lots of turning, On my KX125 I'm in 3-4th gear , occasionally 2nd and 5th. But it's definitely not straight, ever. Think more southern southern CO than Baja desert style riding.

Hmmmm, more thinking to do. I was under the impression the CRF of all the 450's was very good at turning, and the "mellow" 450 power interested me. It's definitely more power than I need, hence the taming down with FWW and throttle cam. There are a handful of '05-08's for $2-3K, most look nice, but the EFI's are all still at least a grand over that I think.

My reasoning for not getting a 250F, even though I'm sure they turn amazingly is I don't want to be winding the thing out half the time. I figured it may be better reliability and maintenance-wise to lug around more on a stock torquey motor than high-revving a smaller one. Also, the 250f's on CL always seem to have more damage and wear to them for a similar price.

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02-04 were never mellow powered.. I had an 02, and it had a very strong hitting motor..! It felt very smooth and linear compared to early 2000 yamahas of the day, but compared to new 450's, they were very aggressive motors. They were also in need of a tighter triple clamp offset, because they were heavy feeling in the bars, and they tended to feel high in the front.

 

08' are definitely more low rpm oriented compared to the early models, but I have to agree,  that the fuel injection models take the cake for being best for off road single track bikes.

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Thanks, good to know. I'm in New Mexico, but my home trails where I'll ride a lot are narrow single track, lots of turning, On my KX125 I'm in 3-4th gear , occasionally 2nd and 5th. But it's definitely not straight, ever. Think more southern southern CO than Baja desert style riding.

Hmmmm, more thinking to do. I was under the impression the CRF of all the 450's was very good at turning, and the "mellow" 450 power interested me. It's definitely more power than I need, hence the taming down with FWW and throttle cam. There are a handful of '05-08's for $2-3K, most look nice, but the EFI's are all still at least a grand over that I think.

My reasoning for not getting a 250F, even though I'm sure they turn amazingly is I don't want to be winding the thing out half the time. I figured it may be better reliability and maintenance-wise to lug around more on a stock torquey motor than high-revving a smaller one. Also, the 250f's on CL always seem to have more damage and wear to them for a similar price.

That's why I suggested spending an extra $1,500 for an EFI as it will be a much better turning bike if that's important to you.  Not to mention the difference in weight is very noticeable.

 

Your reasoning for wanting a 450 is on point since you would be better off using the torque of the 450 in the lower part of the rpms instead of being in the higher rpms on the 250f.   Due to the smaller displacement size of the 250f motor it will be working harder in the upper range which in turn will cause more friction on the engine parts & cause them to wear faster.  Which in turn you'll end up having to due more topends at less hr. intervals. Especially if your a bigger guy & putting it under constant load if you have deep soil or sand in your desert terrain.   Something to think about.   

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Nothing wrong with a '03 at all. I had one new and loved it so much I'm currently restoring one. Also, I like the feel of a carb'd bike over EFI (too snappy/abrupt). Save your money for those suspension mods and live happily. Put a manual cam chain tensioner on it and watch your valve clearances.

The '06 - '08 are better on valves so if your valves ever zero out, buy a '08 head from Big Bore Thumpers. Direct bolt on with '02 - '07 CRF450R's.

'08's are well refined (still needed suspension work) but you can refine the '03 too.

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Wow, lots of good info, thanks. I'm still not quite ready to buy, but being winter it seems like more and more are popping up on CL. The '03 is $1900 and looks like very low hours. Frame rails, cases, and swing arm all have minimal marks which I like. Says adult owned and trail ridden a few times a year. The newer '05-'08 one's have work and mods done to them, look a little more used, and are going for $2,500-4,000. I haven't found an EFI bike for less than $4500 which is well above my budget.

So it sounds like-

- An '03 isnt a bad bike, but heavier and more abrupt power than an '05-'08. Also, the one I'm considering may have low enough hours that it still has the older style valve problems.

- the '05-08 is more refined in the power plant and slightly lighter/quicker steering. Also has the better head design.

- EFI is probably out of the question for me because of price.

Whatever I get will probably need a FWW, G2 throttle cam and the usual skid plate/hand gaurds/tires to my liking. I'm only 150 lbs, so springs and valving are usually needed too.

Any of you guys make the switch from a 250 smoker to this directly? That would be my other choice. I like the simplicity and lightweight of them, but the MX 250 power delivery kinda drives me away and im starting to hate pre-mixing my gas when all my riding buddies don't. If we run into a situation in the desert and I need gas, I'm kinda screwed. I also like that the CRF has a good following among desert and Baja riders, and parts for such riding are plenty.

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One of the refinements done is to drop down to a 48T rear sprocket on the '04 to '08 bikes. That would take some abruptness away. That's what I now have but haven't finished the bike yet so can't give feedback.

In '04, they also went with a slighty lighter FW and a higher compression piston. I may do those mods when I rebuild the engine in the summer. Doing this thing in phases so my wallet doesn't burn my a$$....lol

I ride MX and understand why you would want to go heavier on the FW. I'm wanting to take the big bore kit off this one (450 is plenty for me) and may just do the '04 piston.

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I really like the motor on my 03. I always thought it was pretty smooth, or linear i guess, had more than enough to do anything but would never surprise you.

What i didnt like was the top heavy feel, stalling in tight stuff, or pucking coolant at a slow pace.

My kids on their 250x hated ridding it, but we ride in the woods not in the dessert.

But, it will wheelie at the drop of a hat which makes it a super fun bike to play on.

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But, it will wheelie at the drop of a hat which makes it a super fun bike to play on.

 

I have an 05 , I weight 100kgs and the above is true you can be cruising at 4000rpm in 5th gear and just give it full throttle and the front comes up, 13 /48 gearing.

I have just put a 15oz flywheel weight on and it has taken the hit out of the motor, it hasn’t lost power but has smoothed it out so that all he power is usable, tractable power.

Before In a drag against 250 smokers I would beat them 1 time in 10 because I couldn’t keep the front wheel on the ground even starting in second and sitting on the tank leaning over the front, I had to keep backing off the power until I got to fourth gear and by then it’s too late.

Now with the flywheel weight I can use all the power from second gear onwards and smoke those smokers by a lot 10 from 10, it smooths the hit out, you can still put it up on the back wheel but when you want to, not when the bike wants to, you have a lot more control over the power hit.

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I went from CR250 to the CRF450r.  Well, I still have the CR250 (never ever selling it).  The CR is a great bike and you can make it into the bike you want for under $3k.  Check out the 2 stroke honda forum here. Lots and lots of great info.

I never rode the older CRF's so I can't give my opinion....but my '12 CRF is very predictable, great bike.  If you are riding tight trails the 2 smoker might be a better option if set up properly.  The CRF's don't like slow speeds. 

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Up until about a few weeks ago, a 250 2-smoke was on my radar, and still could be. If I had money for a new bike, well, I still probably wouldn't buy a BRAND new bike. But the new YZ250X looks nice. Or something like a KTM/Husky XC model. Or a KTM 350XC....hell, I'd ride just about any brand if money permitted.

I guess I just wanted to try out a four stroke, and it feels like I'll be only making a small upgrade with a 250F, not to mention the possibly frequent maintenance from high-rpm use.

Also, to clarify, my definition of tight single track is not like the east coast woods, where I just came from. Back in Virginia, I literally laughed at the idea of riding a 450 in the woods! I'd be in first gear 50% of my rides....

What I meant is the trail itself is very narrow, sometimes one foot wide in the straights, which is why I expressed the need for precise turning. But the speeds are higher than "woods". On my 125 I'm in 3-5th, only shifting into 2nd for a second for some hills. And that's on stock 13/51 gearing.

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