2020 Honda CRF450R Review: First Ride at Riverside
After a major makeover three years ago, the Honda CRF450R got regular incremental upgrades, making the motocross motorcycle better and better. It’s good to remember that some of the best models come in the last years of a production run.
We spent a day on the 2020 Honda CRF450R at Milestone MX in Riverside, Calif. This is a first ride impression with limited time on the bike, with testing at just a single track on a single day. Milestone is a pretty smooth track with minimal elevation changes, and this is what we found out.
1. The 2020 Honda CRF450R gets traction control. The biggest news is the addition of traction control, which Honda refers to as Honda Selectable Torque Control. It isn’t the sophisticated traction control you find on the Honda CBR1000RR, or even an NC750X. Instead, the system monitors rpm spikes relative to throttle input, and responds by temporarily reducing torque to aid rear wheel traction. A handlebar-mounted switch allows selection between three modes.
2. With the ideal track conditions at Milestone, the traction modes couldn’t be fully experienced. On the single day of testing with prime track conditions, we had a hard time feeling the differences between the modes. We need to test the CRF450R at more tracks with a wider variety of terrain to fully evaluate the traction control system. Of course, one possibility is that its behavior is so transparent that it is difficult to assess. Again, the full answer comes with further testing.
3. Revised engine mapping is the other electronic enhancement. While it might seem like a simple update, mapping can have a considerable influence on the power characteristics and, in turn, impact the handling. There are three different maps to choose from—Standard, Smooth, and Aggressive. Out of the three maps on offer, the Standard map is what we preferred. On a soft or deeply tilled track, we could see where the Aggressive map would be the top choice. Conversely, if we were out at Milestone late in the day when the track is really hard and blue-grooved, the Smooth map might come in handy. Mapping is changed via a handlebar-mounted button.
4. The CRF450R motor is still powerful. Traction control and mapping changes didn’t hurt the strong, fast nature of the SOHC four-valve powerplant. What it did do was make it easier to ride. With the new mapping, the 2020 Honda CRF450R is smoother right off idle. There is no jerking feeling when you first twist the throttle out of corners. This keeps the chassis settled at the center of the turn when you begin to apply the throttle at turn exit.
5. The rest of the updates are chassis-related. First, the fork and shock have revised settings. Next, the battery box has been dropped just over an inch to lower the center of gravity. Brake pad material is new for improved performance and durability. Also, Honda eliminated the rear brake rotor guard to improve heat distribution and eliminate unsprung weight.
6. The new suspension settings on the high-end Showa units are well-balanced. With the sag set at 105mm with Editor At Large Ty Cullins aboard, we had zero complaints with the suspension action. The small braking bumps that form at Milestone MX were nicely absorbed, as were the big hits from the large jumps.
7. Handling remains excellent on the 2020 Honda CRF450R. The CRF450R is one of our favorite handling motorcycles in its class, and nothing about the 2020 version changes that. Even if it is not the lightest bike in the motocross class at 247 pounds with the 1.66-gallon titanium fuel tank filled, it has an extremely light feel. Dropping the CRF450R into a corner and changing direction is very easy. We can’t say definitively how much the lower battery helped with the already-great handling, but we feel the new smoother mapping does play a key role.
8. As usual for Honda, the 2020 CRF450R has excellent fit and finish. Included in that are top quality components like Renthal Fatbars that has a nice medium bend, Dunlop Geomax MX3S tires, a titanium gas tank, Black D.I.D. rims and in-mold graphics that resist peeling.
9. First impressions are always important, and the 2020 Honda CRF450R is a satisfying motorcycle. Coming into the test already happy with last year’s version, it was almost inevitable that we would like the light massaging the 2020 model has enjoyed. With that out of the way, we look forward to testing the 2020 Honda CRF450R in conditions that will better exploit the new traction control feature, as well as the updated engine maps.
Photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: Bell Moto-9 Flex
- Goggles: Scott Prospect
- Pants, jersey + gloves: Fly Racing DST Racewear
- Boots: Alpinestars Tech 10
2020 Honda CRF450R Specs
- Motor: 4-stroke single
- Displacement: 450cc
- Bore x stroke: 96.0 x 62.1mm
- Compression ratio: 13.5:1
- Valvetrain: SOHC; 4 valves
- Fueling: EFI w/ 46mm throttle body
- Starting: Electric
- Transmission: 5-speed
- Final drive: 520 chain
- Frame: Twin-spar aluminum
- Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable Showa inverted 49mm fork; 12.0 inches
- Rear suspension: Linkage-assisted fully adjustable Showa shock; 12.4 inches
- Tires: Dunlop Geomax MX3S
- Front tire: 80/100 x 2
- Rear tire: 120/80 x 19
- Front brake: 260mm disc w/ 2-piston caliper
- Rear brake: 240mm disc w/ single-piston caliper
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 58.4 inches
- Rake: 27.2 degrees
- Trail: 4.6 inches
- Seat height: 37.8 inches
- Ground clearance: 12.9 inches
- Fuel capacity: 1.7 gallons
- Curb weight: 247 pounds
2020 Honda CRF450R Color:
2020 Honda CRF450R Price:
- $9399 MSRP