2017 Honda CRF450RX First Ride Test | Just What The Doctor Ordered
Honda has a long history of raceable off-road motorcycles, and the 2017 Honda CRF450RX may be the most competitive of all. Based very closely on the new CRF450R motocrosser, the CRF450RX is a ferocious performer aimed at riders willing to put a full effort into winning—it’s not for casual trail riding.
The 2017 Honda CRF450RX is a beast. When Honda describes this bike as #AbsoluteHoleshot, they are not kidding. The motor, based on the CRF450R motocrosser, is extraordinarily potent and aimed at the serious off-road racer. Honda says that the motor is “tuned for tractable, smooth power delivery for technical off-road conditions,” but it’s a handful on single-track.
Even in the smoothest of three power modes, the CRF450RX still barks. The CRF450RX comes with a choice of three power maps; it’s a monster in the Aggressive mode, and still highly assertive with the throttle response tamped down in the Smooth mode. Keep in mind, that means over 50 horsepower on tap from the Unicam motor no matter which riding mode you choose.[Visit the 2017 Motorcycle Previews page]
The Showa suspension is excellent, right off the showroom floor. For our first ride, we didn’t have time to delve into the subtleties of the Showa suspension, but it is a huge confidence builder. Both ends do an outstanding job of sucking up everything from choppy single-track to moderate jumps on a motocross track. Also, the rear wheel seems glued to the ground and traction is stunning.
Dunlop Geomax AT81 tires are a great choice. We rode in everything from sand to rocks to hardpack to dirt roads, and the AT81s were fully predictable. With as much power as the CRF450RX is pumping out, the 120mm AT81 in the rear kept wheelspin fully controllable.
Handling is superb, but you have to do your part. On the first significant corner of my first ride on the 2017 Honda CRF450RX, the front end washed out and I was unceremoniously tossed into the dirt. Okay, I got the message! The CRF450RX demands that you seriously weight the front wheel in corners—no problem as the seat is flat and the bike narrow—or it will push. However, when you do get upon the front end, it turns great, and there’s still enough traction in the back to rocket out of corners.
With as much motor as the CRF450RX has, it needs that handling. Unless you are a pro rider, you’re going to have your hands full with the CRF450RX, especially if you insist on running it in the most responsive mapping—unless you are out in the wide open desert. With that power at the ready—from idle right on up—the CRF450RX could be a nightmare. Instead, it’s just blindingly fast, and the chassis allows you to use as much of that power as you dare.
The CRF450RX’s power can be fatiguing. If you’re used to a 250 or a moderately tuned 450, the CRF450RX is going to challenge you. While the suspension and handling are the stuff pleasant dreams are made of, you will work hard in technical terrain, as there is so much power throughout the rev range. The midrange is what you would expect from a supercross-based motor, and as much fun as it is to attack the course, you will find yourself getting a real workout as you try to hold on.
Electric starting makes life easier. The 2017 Honda CRF450RX has a fairly high first gear (of five). That means that stalling is more of a possibility in technical terrain, and nothing beats e-start and EFI to get the engine spinning again. If you’re coming off a CRF450X, the higher first gear is something you will notice right away. From there, the cogs are nicely spaced and shifting is easy, though the clutch requires a stern grip.
The Honda CRF450RX has superb ergonomics. Seemingly designed for my 5’ 10” frame, the bar/seat/peg triangle suited me perfectly. The narrow layout—even with the 2.2-gallon tank—allowed me to effortlessly put my body wherever it needed to be.
Honda might sell boatloads of CRF450RXs to vet motocrossers. Even with softer suspension and milder power than the CRF450R motocrosser—they’re closer than you might expect—the CRF450RX is still ready for any vet track and most natural terrain MX tracks. Throw in the electric starter and the CRF450RX is a vet MX racer’s dream bike.
Honda has set the price, and the CRF450RX will be in the shops this month. The 2017 Honda CRF450RX runs $9249, which is competitive for a 450 ready to enter any sort of off-road race.
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!