Honda’s goal was to improve the power via strategic
engine updates, keep it quiet and improve the handling
with the new dual exhaust. Centralization of mass and
keeping their edge as the lightest 450 in the shootout
were the priorities, though the bike did gain 1 pound in
the off-season. The CRF has a new clutch, new frame,
new air fork, new shock, new swingarm and new bodywork.
The CRF450 is not only the lightest bike (232 pounds
with no fuel), it feels positively wispy compared to the
competition. This alone makes it a player. Then there is the
new air fork, which is very plush on full bottoming and levels mid-stroke hack better than any fork in the shootout.
All of this translates into a handling gem with a zest for
rough tracks and long motos. When you consider that it
has one of the top-rated rear suspension systems in the
shootout, super-quiet muffling and easy starting, it’s clear
that the CRF450R has made great gains this year.
This machine makes nice power, but it doesn’t feel fast.
Tractable? Yes. Good on top? Yes. Meaty in the middle?
Uh, no. Honda’s new six-spring clutch is definitely better,
but still lacks feel and engagement. Every test rider complained. They were also unhappy with the saddle. It’s too
soft, very low and the foam breaks down easily. The low-end power is lurchy, with the lack of clutch feel, flame-outs
and stalls abound. Another negative is that the CRF cockpit can’t be adjusted. What if every car came with the seat
and steering wheel welded in place? And, as much as we
liked the action of the air fork, setting the pressure is
tedious and time-consuming. Plus, you have to buy the
CUT TO THE CHASE
It may not win our shootout, but it definitely gets the
award for most improved. The CRF450 is a handling
dream. With a little more motor and a better clutch it’d be
tough to beat.
HONDA CRF450R HONDA CRF450R
Dual exhaust and the lightest
HEAVYWEIGHT MOTOCROSS FACE-OFF