Weather you’re a professional rider planning to win 2010’s most challenging motocross or supercross closed course competitions or simply a dirt bike rider with plans to go big, the 2010 Honda CRF450R is one of the numerous “tools” for the job. Honda claims they now offer an even more powerful bike with greater handling capabilities, so let’s just see how they achieved that.
The 2010 Honda CRF450R is now improved with a new ECU programming and injection settings for better throttle response and a new auto-decompressor system for easier kick-starting. Furthermore, the Japanese company mentions that the HRC fuel-injection tool and electronics can now be connected without removing the tank, easing adjustments.
In what the suspension is concerned, the fork now has revised valving and needs more oil to smoothen out the ride, while the rear shock has a redesigned piston and different compression adjuster.
Hmm, that’s a rather fast pit stop for the CRF450R, but considering Honda’s decade-old experience in this field, their checklist regarding this model is now complete.
Forty-Plus Years of Four-Strokes
Think the new CRF(tm)450R and CRF250R are starting a four-stroke revolution? Wrong-Honda(r) fired the first shot more than four decades ago.
It’s easy to think Honda’s new CRF motocrossers are the first really successful four-stroke dirt bikes. But you couldn’t be more wrong. Because, with only a short look back, you’ll discover a whole string of revolutionary and successful Honda four-strokes-so many that the two-stroke Elsinore(tm) and its CR(r) progeny might seem just an anomaly in Honda’s history of four-stroke dominance.
One could start with the Super Cub(r) back in 1959, a bike countless thousands of baby boomers used as their first dirt bike. But set that aside, and look toward one of the most significant off-road motorcycle feats of the post-war generation: Dave Ekins’ and Bill Robertson’s first ride through Baja in 1962 on a pair of Honda CL72 Scrambler 250s. These were high-pipe four-stroke twins that, to today’s eyes, look far more like street bikes than state-of-the-art dirt machines. But state-of-the-art is exactly what they were at the time. Ekins and Robertson set off to do the unimaginable—no one else believed motorcycle could possibly travel the length of Baja to La Paz nonstop without suffering numerous breakdowns. But that’s exactly what they did, due in large part to their bikes’ superior four-stroke engine design.
By showing what a virtually stock Honda could do-and even by the standards of the day those two CL72s were painfully stock-Ekins and Robertson and the CL72s paved the way for the annual Baja 500 and 1000 races we have grown accustomed to, just as we have grown accustomed to a Honda XR(tm) winning the overall every year, handily besting the monster trucks, one-off race buggies, and every two-stroke in the field.
Honda adapted the CL72 from a street bike, the 1961 CB72 Hawk(r) 250. And by 1969 Honda was ready to introduce its next-generation dirt bike, a machine in which street bike and dirt bike again shared the overall engine design: the SOHC 350 twins. The resulting dirt bike, the SL350, was the motorcycle that really opened up Baja. Custom shops in Southern California latched on to them and produced machines that flat-out blew off the heavy desert sleds that had dominated the desert racing scene. If anything the 350s were better, faster, and more reliable than the CL72s had been.
But the best was yet to come. In 1972 Honda unveiled the most radical concept yet: the XL250 Motosport 250, the first of the long XR and XL lines. Here at last was a motorcycle still recognized as the defining formula for four-stroke off-road bikes, one that’s lasted for more than 30 years: a lightweight single-cylinder engine with a single overhead camshaft, upswept exhaust system, high fenders, long travel (for the era!) suspension, and capable off-road handling. Yes, those original XL-series machines were street-legal. But unlike the machines before them the XLs had been designed as dirt bikes first, then simply equipped with the necessities to make them civil road bikes, not the other way around. Just as important, they were as tough as a Baja steak.
Honda’s four-stroke XR and XL dominance continues to this day. Along the way the XRs got revolutionary Radial Four-Valve Combustion chamber (RFVC) heads, tons more ground clearance, and single-shock rear suspensions. In 2000 they also broke new ground by debuting the first liquid-cooled four-stroke XR engine, one wrapped in an aluminum frame to create the XR650R. This latest incarnation of Honda’s four-stroke off-road line is its most sophisticated, with a flawless racing pedigree. The XR650R has won every Baja 500 and Baja 1000 it’s entered, as well as the once-in-a-lifetime Baja 2000—all in totally dominant style.
But of course we’ve saved the best for last—the Honda CRF450R and now the CRF250R. The 450 has turned the world upside-down when it comes to prejudices against four-strokes. In 2003 Honda’s Ricky Carmichael’s incredible win streak in AMA 250 motocross—21 overall victories in a row—was finally broken by the only bike up to the task, the four-stoke CRF450R. Flat track racers have discovered the CRF for short-track events, and it’s hardly unusual to see the first two and even three rows mounted on the big CRFs. And the newly rediscovered Supermoto? Owned by CRF riders, who won the inaugural event.
Sure, the CRFs use Honda’s revolutionary aluminum motocross frames. But a peek inside the engine provides the real answer. In many ways, the CRFs are the most sophisticated engines Honda offers for sale to the public. Then there’s the CRF’s unique Unicam cylinder head. It features a single camshaft that directly actuates two intake valves, and employs a forked, low-friction roller rocker-arm. It’s a setup that’s compact, light, strong, and revs like a four-cylinder sport bike’s engine.
While the new CRFs might be sitting in the spotlight today, you can see that rather than standing out, they simply stand at the head of a long, line of Honda four-strokes that have risen to greatness and shown the way in off-road riding. The new CRF250R? In many ways, it is the most advanced of the bunch.
Yamaha offers Honda plenty of reasons to send engineers back to the drawing boards now that they launched the reverse-cylinder 2010 YZ450F . With a totally new engine and chassis, this machine will basically reinvent the terms ‘dirt bike performance’ and all the other manufacturers will have to find ways to stay truly competitive. Meanwhile, Suzuki introduces their new RM-Z450 , while Kawasaki takes a thorough look over their KX450F and turns it into a much more potent contender from every single point of view. Broadly, this means more low-to-mid rpm power and a much more responsive chassis.
It is by now clear that Honda plays their safe card with this new CRF450R and they don’t even bother making it look more aggressive or at least different as they know that a year from now, the name of this precise motorcycle will be on everyone’s lips.
Still, Honda won’t be starting quite from scratch as the CRF450R is not a brick. In fact, it features slim bodywork with the least number of plastic parts. Good looks and weight savings were clearly priorities for those designing it and the fact that the 2010 CRF250R now looks just like the 450cc bike shows how satisfied the little fellows at Honda actually are with their work.
For 2010, you get the same red color and unchanged graphics, so you’ll actually have to get close to one and look at the ID plate to confirm it’s the latest model year out there. Not fun.
"The fuelie 450 starts reasonably well for a big thumper, but not great. Once running it pulls too…boy does it ever pull! Instant throttle response and raw grunt from bottom to top make this a brutally effective motocross engine, mated to a slick shifting tranny and a smooth clutch." – motorcycle
“What I really like about the Honda’s engine is just how smooth it is,” comments Armstrong. “Its bottom-end feels mild which makes it easy for the tire to get traction out of slow corners. But the higher you spin the engine, the more power it pumps out. It’s a really versatile engine. Plus the way the power comes on makes it easy to control.” – motorcycle-usa
“While the CRF engine is tractable and smooth off the bottom, it does lack a little of the top-end horsepower that the Yamaha and Kawasaki have and also that some of the earlier model CRF’s were renowned for. Tractability is impressive with the fuel injection change definitely making it easier to get on the throttle.” – mcnews
"The handling complaints they received from the 2009 model were attended to with the suspension settings instead if messing with the chassis. The rear end now flows more easily through the stroke while the front end is basically just stiffer initially. This all adds up to a much more assured ride that keeps you comfortable and allows you to ride more aggressively.” – motocross.transworld
"Everything else that we’ve come to expect from the Honda CRF450R is still there. The brakes are as strong as ever, and the bike turns great, handles well, and just feels tight and compact as always. And it feels light, too, as it should - at a claimed 238.4 pounds, it’s roughly 10 pounds lighter than most of the bikes in its class." – cyclenews
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the 2010 model year is of $8,099 and contributes at the bike’s competitiveness on this constantly evolving market.
In the end, we’ll have to say that the Honda CRF450R did had a successful 2009 year and what we’re now looking at is nothing more that a slightly improved (the word upgraded is too much for it) version, but it should do the trick, just like Honda models of this segment did for more than forty years now.
Engine and Transmission
- Engine Type: 449cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
- Bore and Stroke: 96mm x 62.1mm
- Compression ratio: 12.0:1
- Valve Train: Unicam, four-valve; 36mm intake, titanium; 30mm exhaust, steel
- Induction: Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI), 50mm throttle body
- Ignition: Computer-controlled digital transistorized
- Transmission: Close-ratio five-speed
- Final Drive: #520 chain; 13T/48T
Chassis and Dimensions
- Front suspension: 48mm inverted KYB Air-Oil-Separate (AOS) with 16-position rebound and 18-position compression damping adjustability; 12.2 inches travel
- Rear suspension: Pro-Link KYB single shock with spring preload, 20-position rebound damping adjustability, and compression damping adjustment separated into low-speed (18 positions) and high-speed (1.5 turns); 12.6 inches travel
- Front brakes: Single 240mm disc with twin-piston caliper
- Rear brakes: Single 240mm disc
- Front tires: 80/100-21
- Rear tires: 120/80-19
- Wheelbase: 58.7 inches
- Rake (Caster angle): 26° 52’
- Trail: 114.2mm (4.5 inches)
- Seat Height: 37.6 inches
- Ground Clearance: 13.1 inches
- Fuel Capacity: 1.5 gallons
- Curb Weight: 234.8 pounds
- Color: Red
Features & Benefits
New for 2010
- New ECU programming improves off/on throttle control and allows improved starting.
- New engine auto decompression system with revised decomp pin shape and new decompressor weight/spring enables improved starting.
- New front fork oil seal, oil settings and valving contribute to improved control, fork action and balance.
- Rear shock features redesigned piston, high-speed compression adjuster and all-new valving for improved suspension action and enhanced machine balance.
- PGM-FI tuning connector is relocated behind radiator shroud for easier access.
- Lightest weight in class (10 pounds lighter than the closest competitor) for nimble handling and excellent maneuverability.
- Liquid-cooled four-valve Unicam® 449cc engine produces more than 125 hp per liter.
- Honda Progressive Steering Damper (HPSD)-equipped aluminum frame produces nimble turning and confidence-inspiring handling.
- Programmed Fuel Injection system (PGM-FI) ensures optimum fuel atomization and precisely targeted fuel charge for excellent rideability plus enhanced fuel efficiency.
- High-capacity airbox for enhanced breathing, increased power and handy filter access.
- Innovative exhaust system improves mass centralization.
- HRC Branded Accessories available at genuineaccessories.honda.com.