Since its radical redesign in two years ago, the Honda CRF450R has received incremental changes drawing from feedback from their factory race teams as well as the consumer. Trey Canard, Cole Seely, and Eli Tomac piloted the newest generation CRF450R to several 450SX Supercross main event victories in the 2015 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season.The 2015 CRF450R receives a revised cylinder head, three different ignition modes, Kayaba PSF-2 air forks, a 260mm front brake rotor, and Dunlop Geomax MX52 tires.
Honda’s single cam (Unicam), four-valve powerplant makes some of the most linear, usable power in the 450 class, and 2015 proved to be no different. The revised cylinder head now has the exhaust port coming out of the right side of the bike, alleviating the need for the wraparound-style header pipe that was found since 2009.Starting the 449cc mill with a 12.5:1 compression ratio requires a consistent kick, but thanks to fuel-injection, fires to life on the first try nearly every time. The meat of the powerband on the Honda is found in the bottom end to mid-range.When exiting corners, the 2015 Honda CRF450R makes tractable power off the bottom and easily pulls into the mid-range. The 450 makes such good mid-range power that I found it was best to shift before reaching the higher rpm. The power is extremely user-friendly, and is easy to race for anyone of any skill level.Three ignition modes come stock on the 2015 Honda CRF450R. In order to switch the ignition map, the bike must be running and the maps are toggled via a button on the right side of the handlebar next to the throttle. After pressing and holding the button, it blinks a code signifying which map has been selected–one flash for the stock map, two for the mellow map, and three times for the aggressive map.The mellow map is best utilized on a dry, dusty, slick track. The aggressive map allows the engine to rev a bit higher and seemed to rev up a bit quicker.However, I did not find either of those characteristics to be useful as I mainly ride the bike in the bottom to mid-range. The stock map is best for me, as it provides a smooth, linear powerband with no surprises from bottom to top.The five-speed transmission on the CRF is flawless. The gears are spaced perfectly for any type of track, as the 450 can be mainly ridden in second and third gear on most courses. While first-gear works wonders in a tight, inside line of a corner, second- and third-gear is perfect for just about any part of the track including the outside line in corners, straightaways, and jumps of any size.I found myself utilizing fourth gear on some of the high-speed straightaways of Pala Raceway (a former national track located in Pala, Calif.), but am reluctant to use fifth gear, as it seems to be a bit too tall for a standard motocross track. Shifting through the gearbox is smooth and effortless.The Kayaba PSF-2 forks offer high- and low-speed compression adjustments as well as an adjustment for the air pressure. The forks felt a little soft upon my first moto, as I found myself bottoming out on some of the bigger jump landings.In order to stiffen the forks, we increased the air pressure one pound from 35 psi to 36 psi, and ended up going three clicks stiffer on the high speed compression and two clicks stiffer on the low speed compression; this proved to be a great set up for me. The forks are much more resistant to bottoming and still track well while cornering after the adjustments.The Kayaba rear shock worked great from the beginning. It tracks in corners extremely well and settles into ruts very nicely. It also does not bottom out upon harsh or flat landings. I never had the CRF450R kick out on me, or do anything unusual when faced with braking bumps in corners or on big downhills.Acceleration bumps proved to be the same story. The CRF450R’s rear end refuses to kick or swap out, and I am able to get a great drive when exiting a corner. This is especially helpful towards the end of the day when the track becomes rough and rutted. I never felt the shock bottom out or cause any jolt through my legs on a hard landing either.Overall, I was impressed with how well the rear shock felt from the get-go, and pleased with how it worked in a variety of different tracks and conditions.The plush suspension offers a smooth ride when dealing with the rough, squared-edged chop and is forgiving when overjumping or coming up short on a landing. The lightweight, nimble chassis makes cornering, scrubbing, and whipping effortless.The 2015 Honda CRF450R’s handling is its most notable and praiseworthy characteristic. In a nutshell, the bike feels and reacts like a 250 four-stroke. The bike’s cornering ability is fantastic because of how nimble the bike is and the same can be said when whipping and scrubbing off the faces of jumps.Thanks to how nimble and light the CRF450R is, I found myself pushing harder and longer throughout the course of a moto. Most 450 motocross machines can be a handful for most average riders, but such is not the case with the 2015 Honda CRF450R. All levels of riders will love the lightweight, flickable characteristics of the bike and find themselves shaving seconds off their lap times because of it.In the braking department, the new 260mm front rotor is a welcomed change, as the front brake is much more powerful than the one found on the previous model. While the brake is stronger, it still maintains a progressive feel. Both the front brake and clutch lever have an agreeable bend that most riders will enjoy.The CRF450R comes standard with the Renthal 971 handlebar, which offers a comfortable feel for the average sized rider. The Dunlop Geomax MX52 front and MX52 rear tires hooked up well at all of the tracks we tested at, and that included multiple types of terrain ranging from soft and loamy to a more intermediate, harder packed track. Both the front and rear rubber held up well and maintained a sharp edge after many rides.The dual muffler exhaust system is quiet, as each muffler features a quarter-size hole for the exhaust to escape. While easy on the ears, I am lead to believe the Honda would see a noticeable power gain with an aftermarket exhaust system. A pro level rider will love the handling and lightweight qualities of the bike, but will certainly want to throw a full exhaust system on to coax a little more power out of the red machine.Keep in mind that due to the dual exhaust, aftermarket systems are expensive. For instance, Pro Circuit’s Ti-6 Pro Titanium Dual System runs $1395 ($330 more than the equivalent system for the Yamaha YZ450F). Riders who will enjoy this bike most in the stock configuration include beginners, novices, intermediates, and especially riders who are moving up to a 450 machine from a 250 four-stroke.The 2015 Honda CRF450R’s small, but fine, refinements from last year’s model have proven to be a continuing step in the right direction. The CRF450R’s handling and engine make it the easiest bike in its class to ride.While the handling is the CRF450R’s strongest point, the engine offers a linear powerband with no surprises from bottom to top. Honda has certainly found their niche in the premiere 450 class by developing the most nimble, lightweight 450cc machine on the market.Photography by Don Williams at Pala RacewayRiding Style:
This week Teejay chats to Tyler Poppe. Tyler works on the TV show Mayans MC–and yet he doesn’t ride an American V-Twin. Wassup with that?? Also, Arthur finds out from friend Mike Cardillo about his thoughts on the full-size version of the Kawasaki KLX 140R F trail bike.