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2003 Honda CR85R/CR85R Expert: MD First Ride


Skylar (14) keeps a close eye on Evan (12) mid-flight

With the capable assistance of 14-year-old Skylar Crowley and 12-year-old Evan Edge, MD recently had the pleasure of being the first members of the press in the United States to test the new 2003 CR85R and CR85R Expert (essentially the same machines, with the expert model featuring larger diameter wheels and tires).

A few years ago, Kawasaki started a trend by taking its stock displacement to the edge of the “80cc class”, which permits 85cc displacement. Yamaha and Suzuki soon followed Kawasaki’s lead, but Honda stuck with its 80cc model until the 2002 model year.

For 2003, Honda steps up with an 84.7cc stock machine that also features a stronger frame, a thicker third gear (a weak point in the old 80cc transmission) and new “Team Honda inspired” body work.

Honda met MD at Lake Elsinore Motocross Park with both models (standard and expert). The taller Skylar (5’4″) rode the expert model, while Evan (5 feet tall) rode the standard model. Skylar (riding since the age of 9) and Evan (riding since the age of 5) have plenty of experience, and they quickly got with the program.

With experience on several competing models, both Skylar and Evan had a good point of reference to evaluate the new CR85 from Honda. Interestingly, their comments about the handling of both models were quite similar, despite the wheel size differences.

The new CR85R, in a manner characteristic of many Honda motocrossers, past and present, feels light and nimble on the track. It drops into turns easily, and inspired confidence in both riders.

Stock suspension is fairly plush, with the 97 pound Evan coming close to bottoming the suspension through the whoop section, while the 118 pound Skylar did occasionally bottom the suspension on flat jump landings (both boys were over-jumping the smaller obstacles and landing flat). In our brief riding session, it should be noted that MD’s riders did not play with the suspension settings. The fork and shock do offer adjustable compression damping, and the occasional bottoming probably could have been dialed out with a click or two of additional compression damping in the fork and the shock.

Neither rider complained that the fork or shock felt harsh, and they were generally pleased with the suspension action.

The new 85cc engine puts out some serious horsepower. It is a classic 80-style engine, making the bulk of its power from the mid-range on up. Low end power is weak (typical for the class, with the exception of Suzuki’s torquey RM85), but, after a minor jetting change (Honda’s Eric Crippa increased the size of the pilot jet on both bikes during our testing), the bike carbureted cleanly off the bottom and found its way into the beefy mid-range easily and controllably. Initially, the boys complained about some bogging right off of idle, but the richer pilot jet cured this problem. We were testing close to sea level at approximately 75 degrees farenheight.

As we said earlier, from the mid-range on up, the motor makes tons of horsepower. The transition from the low-end to mid-range boost is smooth, however, and both boys felt the motor was very controllable and usable.

Like most 80s, aggressive riding will require liberal use of the clutch exiting the corners, but no complaints were registered regarding clutch performance by either rider. Same story with the transmission — both boys immediately felt comfortable with gear changes.

Like most, experienced young riders, both boys like to jump, and are very comfortable in the air. Here, the CR85 clearly shines. Observing (and photographing) the boys drove home the point that the bike is balanced (no tendency to land front wheel high or low — flying fairly straight) and “whipable”.

All in all, MD came away very impressed with the new CR85R. It is a light, nimble and very fast 85, but is probably geared towards the more experienced, more aggressive rider. Skylar was overheard asking his father about price and availability of the CR85R Expert. Both bikes will be available in the United States at your Honda dealer within the next month or so. U.S. MSRP of the CR85R Expert is $2,999 and the standard CR85R is $2,899. Visit Honda’s web site for additional details and specifications.