2018 Honda CRF450R First Ride Review | Motocross Track Tested
We rode the 2018 Honda CRF450R on the main motocross track at Sunrise MX Park in Adelanto, Calif. today. Here are the essential facts we learned after a day on the track.
The 2018 Honda CRF450R is refined this year. After doing a ground-up revision last year, we didn’t expect any big changes—even bold new graphics would have been acceptable after the ’17 redesign. However, Honda made some key updates to improve their top MX bike.
The biggest news is that electric start is now stock on the CRF450R, rather than a pricey add-on. While some of the European MX bikes have had electric start for years, this year is the first for stock electric start on Japanese motocrossers (the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F is also e-start). It’s not added for convince or ease of use and in a perfect world you wouldn’t want one on your MX bike. When an electric start is truly needed is when things don’t go perfect and you stall or crash in a moto. In those cases being able to press the button and get the bike fired right off saves you valuable positions on the track.
The price for an e-start CRF450R dropped about $400 this year. The e-start option last year was around $700, so the 2018 Honda CRF450R is a bargain compared to the 2017 with the magic button.
E-start adds five pounds to the 2018 Honda CRF450R, but the bulk of the weight is near the center of gravity. It’s a penalty we’re happy to pay. Honda went with a lightweight lithium-ion battery, and removed the kickstarter and internal gears. This makes the extra weight all but invisible when riding.
Honda re-mapped the ECU to give the bike smoother pull off the bottom end. The 450R comes with three different maps—Map 1 is standard, Map 2 soft, and Map 3 aggressive. After turning laps around Sunrise MX and trying all three maps, we found Map 1 (standard) to be our favorite. Compared to the 2017 model, the smoothness off-idle power delivery of the 2018’s Map 1 gave us the confidence to ride aggressively. The aggressive Map 3 isn’t smooth enough to let us ride a hard as we would like, and the mellow Map 2 just revved a little too slowly for our tastes. Pro motocrossers will surely appreciate Map 3, though.
Honda felt the 2017 chassis was too rigid, so they made it more forgiving. To do this, Honda added a little more flex to the engine hangers (aka head stays). The 2018 Honda CRF450R is definitely less rigid over bumps and settles into corners better.
The Showa suspension is recalibrated and is nicely balanced. Last year, Honda dumped the air fork in favor of the conventional Showa spring fork. However, the 2017’s overall suspension package was on the soft side. This year, Honda stiffened up the springs on both ends and updated the valving to match. Our initial feeling is that the new set-up is balanced and we had no complaints, even when flat landing from a big jump. We’ll get more of a sense of it when we get the bike on more of a rough hacked-out track, like Glen Helen on a weekday.
The clutch pull on the 2018 Honda CRF450R is stiff and the engagement abrupt. While the CRF450R does put out a lot of power and needs a strong clutch, we know they can get a better feel out of it—a hydraulic clutch would be nice. It’s a bit moot, as not a lot of clutch work is needed on a 450cc four-stroke.
Honda has built a great handling bike that feels nimble by 450 standards. It turns great with very little effort, yet feels stable at speed. Certainly, the improved suspension and power delivery helps the chassis perform better.
After a day on the 2018 Honda CRF450R we’re pleased. The addition of electric start is a major upgrade to an already solid package, while the seemingly small changes to the handling and power departments reap large dividends. We can’t wait to bang bars with it.Photography by Don WilliamsRIDING STYLE Helmet: Bell Moto-9 Carbon Flex Goggles: Fly Racing Zone Pants + Jersey: Fly Racing 2017.5 Kinetic Mesh Gloves: Fly Racing Media Boots: Fly Racing Sector2018 Honda CRF450R Specs ENGINE Type: Single cylinder Displacement: 450cc Bore x stroke: 96.0 x 62.1mm Compression ratio: 13.5:1 Valve train: Unicam SOHC, 4 valves Fueling: EFI w/ 45mm throttle body Cooling: Liquid Starting: Electric (kick optional) Transmission: Constant-mesh 5-speed Final drive: 520 chain CHASSIS Frame: Aluminum twin-spar Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable 49mm Showa fork; 12.0 inches Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-assisted fully adjustable Showa shock: 12.4 inches Front tire: 80/100-21; Dunlop MX3S Rear tire: 120/80-19; Dunlop MX3S Front brake: 260mm disc Rear brake: 240mm disc DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES Wheelbase: 58.3 inches Rake: 27.2 degrees Trail: 4.6 inches Seat height: 37.8 inches Ground clearance: 12.9 inches Fuel capacity: 1.6 gallons Curb weight: 248 pounds Color: Red 2018 Honda CRF450R Price: $9149 MSRP