The aftershock of last year’s big shake-up
Weight: 240 lb (without fuel) MSRP: $9199.
Honda rattled the MX world last year with an all-new
CRF450R. It had a completely redesigned motor with a
downdraft intake, a coil-spring Showa fork and a different way of looking at motorcycle design. Clearly, though,
there were factions within Honda that felt the job wasn’t
finished. So, one year later, the bike gets electric start and
a completely new electrical system. The kick-start lever
is gone, although the mount in the case is still there as a
reminder of the short-lived 2017 model. A high-tech lithium battery replaces the capacitor that formerly brought
life to the EFI system, and Honda made other changes to
the power delivery and suspension to effectively make the
2018 model a major reboot in its own right.
The Honda motor is a brute. It’s the most powerful-feel-ing bike in the comparison, at least from the perspective
of pure rider feedback. The motor has a very free feel and
responds from the first twist of the throttle. It also revs forever, so you can ride many motocross tracks without using
more than two gears. If the power is too aggressive for
some tracks, Honda’s map switch gives you an effective
way to alter the delivery. The Honda also corners very well.
We wouldn’t really say it feels light, but we would say it
steers light. Overall manners are excellent. The suspension
can be excellent but requires some setup time. The bike
responds well to changes in fork height from track to track.
It’s a package that only gets better as you push it harder.
Oh, yeah, it has electric start.
With e-start, the Honda gained weight this year. It’s now
tied for heaviest of the group, which compromises the
bike’s biggest asset from last year—its nimble handling. It
still handles well, but it was good at disguising its weight
before; now, there’s no hiding it. The bike has always been
a little twitchy and busy, and that hasn’t gotten any better.
The clutch remains weak, fragile and stiff without a good
feel. The handlebar is undersized.
Most pros love the Honda. It’s fast, aggressive and a
little bit hyperactive. It’s the kind of bike that keeps you
on your toes and appeals to riders who want to throw it
into turns hard and have the strength to make it behave.
Novices might have a harder time keeping it under control.