The 2021 Honda CRF450R represents the next generation of Honda’s flagship motocross and supercross motorcycle. After previously working on acceleration with its Absolute Holeshot initiative, Honda is now focusing on Razor Sharp Cornering as a stated goal. Time to dig into the 2021 Honda CRF450R.1. The improvements we will be numerating are not only for the CRF450R; they also apply to the 2021 CRF450RWE premium motocrosser and CRF450RX cross-country racebike. However, they do not apply to the CRF450X EPA-legal off-roader and the renamed-for-2021 CRF450RL dual-sport model.2. The new twin-spar aluminum frame is 1.54 pounds lighter, with several structural changes. The spars are narrower, and the downtube and engine cradles are redesigned. Also, the ribbing that reinforces the swingarm pivot plates is sparer. The swingarm is also narrower. Plus, the triple clamps have more flex than last year, though the axle holders are stiffer. A new shock-linkage ratio has been instituted to reduce rear-end squat when accelerating out of corners. In total, Honda engineers have reduced lateral rigidity by 20 percent of the chassis, with the goal of a “supple feel that improves cornering, while vertical rigidity is maintained.”
3. The new twin-spar aluminum frame has dimensions gently massaged from the previous generation. The wheelbase is a scant one millimeter shorter, while the rake is extended a half-degree. Non-intuitively, trail is 2mm shorter, and that’s due to the 0.9-degree steeper swingarm angle. Additionally, the distance from the front axle to the swingarm pivot has been extended 1.8mm.4. The 2021 Honda CRF450R sits higher than its predecessor. The seat height is up by 0.2 inches, and there is 0.3 inches more ground clearance. The seat is also shorter and 0.4 pounds lighter, in addition to being easier to remove.5. The subframe is simpler, with the weight down 0.7 pounds. The seat mounting setup is also less complicated.6. Although the same Showa suspension units are used, they also have upgrades. The 49mm fork now has an additional 0.2 inches of travel. The shock’s shape is changed to accommodate the new frame, with the adjusters now on the right side of the motorcycle and moved onto the piggyback reservoir. A new steel spring on the shock has cut weight incrementally.7. Last year’s Dunlop MX3S tires have been replaced with the newer and more versatile MX33 rubber. The D.I.D DirtStar rims are unchanged.8. Although the 2021 Honda CRF450R does not get a new engine, the motor has many updates, from intake to exhaust.9. The most obvious change is the move back to a single muffler. The new system is tucked in tighter and saves 2.7 pounds. The exhaust gases have a smoother run to the exit, increasing efficiency. Honda claims “improved reliability in low rpm.”10. At the beginning of the airflow system are a new airbox and air filter. The volume on the clean side of the air filter before it gets to the injector Is more than doubled. Again, Honda says this increases low-rpm power. Air filter access is now on the left side, and only one bolt is required to remove the filter.11. Just downstream from there is a change in the fuel injector angle. Rather than being angled at 60 degrees, the injector is now more perpendicular to the airflow at 30 degrees. Honda claims this keeps the air cooler in the intake path, as well as improves the efficiency of the intake charge.12. Honda has redesigned the decompression system counterweight on the 2021 CRF450R. Instead of being opposite the cam chain sprocket, it is now integrated into the sprocket assembly. This is another design intended to increase power at low rpm and reduce stalling, by adjusting the timing of the decompression valve, and its lift.13. Finally, the exhaust port has been moved to a central location. This is why the frame was modified, and is part of the move to the single muffler design. Additionally, the exhaust port is now oval, rather than round. Unlike the other changes, this one is intended to boot mid-to-high rpm power, starting at 5000 rpm.14. The 2021 Honda CRF450R’s clutch gets a workover, with hydraulic accusation and internal beefing up. The new clutch has a 27 percent increase in capacity, which is most felt at high rpm. It got there by adding a clutch plate and friction spring. In addition to being more robust, the lever pull is lighter.15. The fuel pump is smaller and lighter. Honda shaved off over four ounces, and the pump now only takes four bolts for removal, rather than six. Honda has also reshaped the titanium tank.16. Thanks to more radiator louvers and a new angle, the radiator is five percent more efficient.17. With a new frame comes new bodywork for the 2021 Honda CRF450R. The plastic has been simplified and tucked in. Honda standardized the bolts—they are all 8mm heads—and there are now just eight bolts holding on the bodywork, rather than a dozen. A benefit of the shroud redesign is better airflow to the radiator.18. Access to the adjustable electronics is easier on the 2021 CRF450R. Honda’s traction control, power modes, and kill button are all combined into a three-button array on the left handlebar.19. The 2021 Honda CRF450RWE gets more upgrades this year. In addition to the suspension package, engine work, D.I.D DirtStar LT-X rims, the RWE has a Hinson clutch basket and cover, plus a Twin Air air filter.20. Off-road racers will like the additional upgrades for the 2021 Honda CRF450RX. There is a new 2.1-gallon fuel tank, the radiator shrouds are tucked in 0.7 inches compared to last year, and handguards are standard.21. The 2021 Honda CRF450R hits showroom floors in September. You will have to wait until October for the CRF450RX and November for the CRF450RWE (just in time for supercross).22. In an odd development, Honda made a bonus run of the 2020 CRF450R. If you’re happy with the 2020, you can get it for $1800 less than the ’21 edition. The 2021 CRF450R’s MSRP is $9599, with the 2021 CRF450RWE displaying a $12,380 price tag, and the new CRF450RX running $9899.
2021 Honda CRF450R Specs
Motor: 4-stroke single
Bore x stroke: 96.0 x 62.1mm
Compression ratio: 13.5:1
Valvetrain: SOHC; 4 valves
Fueling: EFI w/ 46mm throttle body
Clutch: Hydraulically actuated wet-multiplate
Final drive: 520 chain
Frame: Twin-spar aluminum
Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable Showa inverted 49mm fork; 12.2 inches (CRF450RWE: Titanium nitride coating on the sliders)
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.