Honda Improved The Improvements For 2018

Back in ’17, Honda rebuilt the CRF450R pretty much from the ground up, so I wasn’t expecting much in the way of new stuff and expected to see a straight-up carryover. Boy, was I mistaken. A new, lightweight lithium-ion battery drops enough weight that the factory decided to keep the electric leg and rely on it alone, having offered push-button start as an option last year as a market test. May as well, most of the other big-name MX producers have already done so and it will be expected from now on. Besides, it only adds five pounds to the bike, and that’s only likely to get lighter on subsequent models. Updated suspension settings and a lower center-of-gravity deliver a superior ride as compared to the ’17 model. Plus, tweaks to the engine result in quicker holeshots to help you establish and maintain your lead right out of the gate. All-in-all, a more capable machine meant for competition on the MX course, at least according to the factory prose. Let’s take a look for ourselves, shall we?

Continue reading for my review of the Honda CRF450R.

  • 2018 Honda CRF450R
  • Year:
    2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    single cylinder
  • Displacement:
    449 cc
  • Price:
    9149
  • Price:

Design

2018 Honda CRF450R
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Honda toes the current line with a sleek, minimal and modern overall design that sports just the bare minimum of plastic.

Honda toes the current line with a sleek, minimal and modern overall design that sports just the bare minimum of plastic. The CRF450R starts out with the class-typical, high-mount mudguard that transfers its weight directly to the tripletree in order to keep unsprung weight down and suspension response up. Tucked away within the frame, the 1.7-gallon fuel tank has a minimal amount of rise in the fuel-tank bump for a clean profile and a nearly straight back. A Spartan bench seat surrenders to a subframe that tapers down to nothing with a low-drag exit for the slipstream. Contrasting nicely with the red saddle and body panels, the high-mount dual exhaust comes tucked away behind white panels. Short-rise bars work with the footpeg position and saddle shape to leave the rider room to throw around as much body English as they dare while also allowing for a standing riding position and freedom to pull all your jumping tricks and such.

Chassis

2018 Honda CRF450R
- image 736583
Overall, the bike feels quick and responsive, with supple suspension and race-readiness right out of the box.

A beam-type, CRF-aluminum frame serves as the bones of the beast with a new extruded subframe extender that replaces the previous gen with a 20-percent drop in weight. The steering head comes set at 27.22 degrees of rake, and the front suspension length and 21-inch wheel diameter give the CRF450 4.6 inches of trail. The titanium fuel tank shaves 1.1 pounds off the previous gen and contributes to the lowered center-of-gravity even though this model picks up five pounds for an overall greater weight than before. Oh well, at least you don’t have to kick the damned thing.

A set of 49 mm, usd Showa stems float the front end with adjustable rebound- and compression-damping values and 12 inches of travel at the axle. The Showa monoshock out back tames the aluminum swingarm with the above tweaks plus adjustable spring preload for near-complete ride control all around.

Honda chose the wave-pattern brake discs for their superior heat dissipation and self-cleaning capabilities with a single, 260 mm disc and twin-pot caliper up front and 240 mm disc and single-pot anchor out back. Aluminum rims do their part to keep unsprung weight down, and the CRF450R runs a 19-inch hoop in back to go with the 21-incher up front with Dunlop MX3S hoops all around. Overall, the bike feels quick and responsive, with supple suspension and race-readiness right out of the box.

Front Suspension: 49mm inverted Showa fork with rebound and compression damping adjustability; 12.0 inches of travel
Rear Suspension: Pro-Link® Showa single shock with adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping adjustability; 12.3 inches of travel
Front Brake: Single 260mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Rear Brake: Single 240mm disc
Front Tire: Dunlop MX3S 90/100-21
Rear Tire: Dunlop MX3S 120/80-19

Drivetrain

2018 Honda CRF450R
- image 736584
The previous gen had a significant kink in the intake tract, but the factory straightened that out and gave the induction pipe a more vertical orientation for less restriction, and hopefully, greater volumetric efficiency.

Honda taps its 449 cc thumper to drive the CRF. The water-cooled, four-stroke mill uses Honda’s “Unicam” system to time the four-valve head with 38 mm titanium intake poppets and 31 mm steel exhaust valves. Significantly oversquare, the 96 mm bore and 62.1 mm stroke gets the compression ratio up to the top of the range at 13.5-to-1, which is, of course, from whence the 59.9 max horsepower comes. The previous gen had a significant kink in the intake tract, but the factory straightened that out and gave the induction pipe a more vertical orientation for less restriction, and hopefully, greater volumetric efficiency.

A 46 mm, downdraft throttle body houses Honda’s Programmed Fuel Injection system, and in addition to the electronic injection and ignition control, the CRF sports Honda’s Engine Mode Select Button that lets the rider flip between balanced, aggressive and moderate power-delivery modes. The factory uses a Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) coating at key wear points in the engine to ease some of the burden placed on the oil, and a scavenger pump sends pressurized oil (rather than splash-and-drip) to the clutch and gearbox for reduced pumping losses and shared lubrication with the engine. The tranny itself is a close-ratio five speed with a chain final drive to carry the power to the dirt.

Engine Type: 449cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
Bore And Stroke: 96mm x 62.1mm
Compression Ratio: 13.5:1
Valve Train: Unicam® four-valve; 38mm intake, titanium; 31mm exhaust, Steel
Induction: Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI), 46mm downdraft throttle body
Ignition: Fully transistorized with electronic advance
Transmission: Close-ratio five-speed

Pricing

2018 Honda CRF450R
- image 736585
Priced a little more than last year, the factory made quite a few improvements for the 2018 MY.

Honda lets go of the 2018 CRF450R for $9,149 MSRP, just $300 more than last year. Since competition models are not covered under warranty, inspect well before you buy.

Colors: Red
Price: $9149

Competitors

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- image 736588
2018 Honda CRF450R
- image 734991
Engines are likewise pretty much from the same neighborhood with 449 cc, water-cooled thumpers in both of them, and although Kawi is keeping its power numbers close to the vest, the 12.8-to-1 compression ratio speaks to a colder engine with lower output.

This is Honda’s top-shelf MX representative, and as such, needs another flagship MX bike as a competitor. Kawasaki provided me with just such a model with its KX450F that fits the popular MX mold to a T. Honestly, beyond a handful of inconsequential details, these two bikes look like nearly the same machine, just with different colors. I suppose that’s appropriate considering that they are meant to be used in competition after all, and to be honest, all the major players have gone to a similar style with little to choose between them, aesthetically. (Again, appropriate.)

The similarities continue into the aluminum perimeter frame with a 28.2-degree rake and 5 inches of trail that falls just a skosh wider/longer than the 27.22-degree/4.6-inch CRF, not a big difference, but one that will make the Honda a skosh more maneuverable. Kawi supports the KX with a set of inverted Showa SFF-Air TAC forks that sport DLC-treated sliders and compression/rebound-damping adjustments.

Out back, the KX runs a Showa monoshock that comes with high- and low-speed compression damping, rebound damping and preload adjustments, and components at both ends give up 12 inches of travel at the axle. Kawi also picks up an ever-so-slight advantage at the brakes with a 270 mm disc up front against a 260 mm on the CRF. I did say it was slight.

Engines are likewise pretty much from the same neighborhood with 449 cc, water-cooled thumpers in both of them, and although Kawi is keeping its power numbers close to the vest, the 12.8-to-1 compression ratio speaks to a colder engine with lower output. The KX also lacks anything like Honda’s EMSB feature, but makes up for it with a Launch Control that retards the spark in the bottom two gears for increased traction during that critical takeoff, and both have accessories that allow the engines power maps to be tuned and customized.

Kawi gets a small victory at checkout with a $8,849 MSRP that slides in a skosh under the CRF. Not enough to overcome brand loyalty, especially once someone works their way up to the 450 class, but savings that may entice the free agents, as it were.

He Said

“As usual, Honda doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the big-bore MX segment, and although it may seem too similar for there to be an appreciable difference, I submit that that’s a good thing since racing should be about the skill of the rider, not the engineer. That said, it looks like the Red Riders covered all the pertinent bases here, but the real story won’t be available until the end of the current racing season.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "The flat tank/tank junction makes sliding fore and aft a smoother operation; less effort means better control. Last year’s model was awesome, but this year, they’ve made it better. Map1 has been remapped for smoother power delivery and the suspension was stiffened up. All the changes just in the chassis made this a much better bike."

Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine Type: 449cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
Bore And Stroke: 96mm x 62.1mm
Compression Ratio: 13.5:1
Valve Train: Unicam® four-valve; 38mm intake, titanium; 31mm exhaust, Steel
Induction: Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI), 46mm downdraft throttle body
Ignition: Fully transistorized with electronic advance
Transmission: Close-ratio five-speed
Final Drive: #520 Chain; 13T/49T
Chassis:
Front Suspension: 49mm inverted Showa fork with rebound and compression damping adjustability; 12.0 inches of travel
Rear Suspension: Pro-Link® Showa single shock with adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping adjustability; 12.3 inches of travel
Front Brake: Single 260mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Rear Brake: Single 240mm disc
Front Tire: Dunlop MX3S 90/100-21
Rear Tire: Dunlop MX3S 120/80-19
Dimensions & Capacities:
Wheelbase: 58.3 inches
Rake: 27° 22’ (Caster Angle)
Trail: 116mm (4.6 inches)
Seat Height: 37.8 inches
Ground Clearance: 12.9 inches
Fuel Capacity: 1.7 gallons
Curb Weight: 248 lbs
Details:
Model ID: CRF450R
Colors: Red
Price: $9149

References

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See our look at the Kawasaki KX450F.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: powersports.honda.com, kawasaki.com

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