My first proper ride on Honda’s new CRF450RX happened to be at the final round of the NZ Cross Country Nationals, and I can certainly say that it is run in now!
Heavy rain on Thursday and Friday had turned into blue sky for the day of racing, and loads of people came out of hiding. The Cambridge MCC had marked out a wicked circuit with sections that would have challenged riders even without the heavy rain. This was not the kind of open blast through farmland that I associate with NZ Cross Country, it was much more fun that that.
Ben Townley and I joined in for the fun, but one look at his bike showed that Ben had put a lot of effort into this event. He was serious, as were the regular riders who had done the rest of series. Fortunately for me the new RX Honda already has most of the fruit on it needed for this type of event.
Although my forks were not massive 52mm units like Ben’s, the 49mm Showa’s are pretty special on their own. My 7.2 litre tank and 18 rear wheel were all ready to go, and I even left the side stand on for the event. Although I may take it off for the next big race, it meant I didn’t need a stick for the Le Mans start, nor did I need to lie it down when helping a rider stuck under their bike.
Not-so Secret Weapon
What Ben didn’t have was an electric start, and I put this to good use. At the shotgun blast I came around the first turn inside the top ten, and within a few minutes I had made it into the lead. Not having to deal with water and mud flying from the other riders was a big help.
I soon had Ben and Brad Groombridge tagging along as I navigated the track for the first time. After a while Brad made a pass, only to crash on a hidden section of pallets that were meant to help us across a bog. Ben passed me while I adjusted for the surprise, so I followed along. It was great to see how he carried his speed through the technical sections that he could see, while being careful for the parts that he couldn’t see.
After his crash, I thought Brad might have been way back. He had soon caught and passed me however, obviously on a mission to race with Ben, only to end up stuck under a fence. I considered stopping to help him but seeing as he already had the series wrapped up I enjoyed a chance to gain that position.
Adrian Smith was next past me, proving why he is such a force to deal with in this type of racing. He proved to be the only rider to stay anywhere near Ben, finishing in a well deserved second place.
That put me in third, but I lost a few positions by stopping for fuel on just my second lap. The problems started compounding from there as I got stuck in a rut, deciding to pull into the pits for a new set of gloves on my next lap even though I had made my way back into fourth place. It was all in vain, however, as I got worse as the race went on, eventually falling outside of the top ten after having to pull my bike out of many more bad situations.
My lesson was in not taking time to assess my line options enough. These conditions required more caution than I had given the track credit, and with my bike time having been limited lately I was definitely rusty on my rut riding.
The 450RX was a brilliant bike for the mud and open terrain, it was mainly the technical bits where the two stroke machines excelled. In saying that, the map select button was brilliant as I really needed that soft option.
From here I plan to race the final round of the Enduro Nationals near Tokoroa on the RX, which will no doubt bring back many memories of the last time I was there for the International Six Days Enduro in 2006, aboard this bikes predecessor, the CRF450X. We will have much more feedback to give about the bikes suspension by then, as I work up to the real goal of the Tarawera 100.