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Motorcycles 2021 Honda CRF450R Review First Ride

20:12  17 september  2020
20:12  17 september  2020 Source:   dirtrider.com

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The 2021 Honda CRF450R is undoubtedly one of the most highly anticipated bikes of the year, and for good reason. Big Red’s flagship motocrosser has been overhauled for 2021 with a new frame, narrower swingarm, simplified subframe design, 5mm longer fork stroke, redesigned shock, slimmer bodywork, different cylinder head, altered camshaft design, single muffler exhaust system, Nissin hydraulic clutch, and a 27 percent larger capacity clutch with an additional friction plate, an extra steel plate, and stiffer springs. Those are the main updates; we detailed them all in our model information article about the bike. Yesterday, about two months after the 2021 CRF450R was unveiled, we finally got to ride it at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California, where Honda rented the iconic National track to serve as the course to conduct our first ride impressions of the all-new motocrosser.

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a man flying through the air while riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: Riding the 2021 Honda CRF450R at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California. © Drew Ruiz Riding the 2021 Honda CRF450R at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California.

Related: 2020 Honda CRF450R First Ride Review

a man flying through the air while riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: Riding the 2021 Honda CRF450R at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California. © Provided by Dirt Rider Riding the 2021 Honda CRF450R at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California.

2021 Honda CRF450R Engine

a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: Without making any bold predictions, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Honda CRF450R retains its accolade of being the most powerful 450 motocross bike on the market. It still hauls the mail, but is more controllable and easier to ride. © Provided by Dirt Rider Without making any bold predictions, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Honda CRF450R retains its accolade of being the most powerful 450 motocross bike on the market. It still hauls the mail, but is more controllable and easier to ride.

The prior generation CRF450R engine was certainly the fastest in the class—both on the Dirt Rider dyno as well as our seat-of-the-pants dyno. The 2021 model’s new engine components (particularly the cylinder head) did not hurt the Honda’s power. In fact, Big Red’s flagship motocrosser is still possibly the most powerful 450 off the showroom floor. The good news is that the power is more controllable. The changes made to the head, exhaust system, and EFI mapping all improve the bike’s rideability. Roll-on control is better and it seems to continue to make power higher into the rpm range.

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a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: With a claimed wet weight of 244 pounds, the CRF450R is said to have shed three pounds over its predecessor. Most of that likely came from the new exhaust system because according to Honda, it weighs 2.7 pounds less than the previous generation’s. © Provided by Dirt Rider With a claimed wet weight of 244 pounds, the CRF450R is said to have shed three pounds over its predecessor. Most of that likely came from the new exhaust system because according to Honda, it weighs 2.7 pounds less than the previous generation’s.

There is a new three-way Engine Mode Select Button (EMSB), Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC), and engine shutoff switch that I found was okay to use, but would have preferred the engine shutoff was outboard of the other two switches as I found myself hitting the HSTC button when I was really looking for the engine shutoff.

a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) really works. It doesn’t reduce the bike’s overall power; it only intervenes when you begin to lose traction or it senses a spike in rpm. Regardless of what HSTC and Engine Mode Select Button (EMSB) we chose, the bike exhibited a slight hesitation at low rpm when riding at low speed. © Provided by Dirt Rider Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) really works. It doesn’t reduce the bike’s overall power; it only intervenes when you begin to lose traction or it senses a spike in rpm. Regardless of what HSTC and Engine Mode Select Button (EMSB) we chose, the bike exhibited a slight hesitation at low rpm when riding at low speed.

The differences between map 1 (standard), map 2 (smooth), and map 3 (aggressive) are noticeable and I worked mostly with maps 1 and 2. What I mostly noticed was that in some sections where I wanted to carry third gear through a corner, map 2 was not quite strong enough. However, map 1 increased the power to the point where I could use third gear in combination with a little clutch input. I felt the Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) with three levels of intervention was more noticeable in comparison to the prior year model, and liked using it in mode 3. I found there to be no reduction in overall power as the system only intervenes when you begin to lose traction or it senses a spike in rpm.

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With an increased number of plates and stiffer springs, the CRF450R’s new clutch is larger and stronger. These aspects make for a notable improvement. Gone is the hard pull and clutch fade of the 2020 machine. In fact, I completely forgot the new clutch is hydraulic because it worked so well. One aspect the CRF450R shares with its predecessor is the way it shifts. It does so in a very smooth manner—possibly even more so because of the new hydraulic clutch.

2021 Honda CRF450R Suspension & Chassis/Handling

a man flying through the air while riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: We initially thought the suspension was way softer than the prior generation CRF450R. Although the shock spring is indeed one rate softer, the Showa technicians informed us the internal suspension settings are very close to the 2020 model. We would attribute most of the softer feel to the new chassis—namely the frame and swingarm. © Provided by Dirt Rider We initially thought the suspension was way softer than the prior generation CRF450R. Although the shock spring is indeed one rate softer, the Showa technicians informed us the internal suspension settings are very close to the 2020 model. We would attribute most of the softer feel to the new chassis—namely the frame and swingarm.

The transformation from the 2020 to 2021 CRF450R is huge as it is a whole new bike. The way the chassis and suspension work together is very well designed. My first impression was, “Wow! This suspension is significantly softer than the 2020.” However, when questioning the Showa technicians, they indicated the internal suspension settings are very close to and maybe even stiffer than the 2020 model. They added that the shock spring is one rate softer and the fork axle lugs are new and beefier.

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a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: Without making any bold predictions, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Honda CRF450R retains its accolade of being the most powerful 450 motocross bike on the market. It still hauls the mail, but is more controllable and easier to ride. © Drew Ruiz Without making any bold predictions, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Honda CRF450R retains its accolade of being the most powerful 450 motocross bike on the market. It still hauls the mail, but is more controllable and easier to ride.

The rider triangle feels the same and is comfortable. However, the 2021 went down a few dress sizes. What I mean is the bike is noticeably narrower, which I am very happy about because the width of the 2017-2020 CRF450R was something that bothered me. While standing, the bike feels more like a KTM or Husqvarna between your knees. Even more surprising is that it does not bow out very much at the end of the radiator shrouds or at the rear by the muffler. The seat is narrow, thin, and just firm enough that you don’t feel the seat base, but not too firm as a result of its thinness. The handlebar, grips, and front brake lever are all the same and feel comfortable.

A completely new chassis that offers significantly more comfort replaces the rigid, slightly unpredictable chassis of the prior generation model. I had a hard time believing that the suspension was not way softer. I could feel the bike and the suspension working under me and following the ground. At times, it rode a little deeper in the stroke, but was not bottoming. There is still a little bit of a pitching sensation when you are on the throttle or braking, but it is noticeably reduced. This is another area the engine settings have helped as the engine braking, or off-throttle pitching, is significantly reduced. I experienced a noticeable amount of fork dive when braking, which was amplified if I was not smooth with the front brake.

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a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: The Honda CRF450R enjoys a major overhaul for 2021 with a new frame, narrower swingarm, slimmer bodywork, altered Showa suspension components, different cylinder head, single muffler exhaust system, Nissin hydraulic clutch, and more. © Provided by Dirt Rider The Honda CRF450R enjoys a major overhaul for 2021 with a new frame, narrower swingarm, slimmer bodywork, altered Showa suspension components, different cylinder head, single muffler exhaust system, Nissin hydraulic clutch, and more.

The cornering of the CRF450R is somehow improved thanks to the bike’s new frame geometry, yet the stability is also better. I had a slight hesitation in my riding when entering a corner, but once I was in the corner leaned over with the throttle on, it was time to hang on. My hesitation could be from how fast the Honda accelerates in a straight line and I was getting to the corner faster than I expected. I liked how I could sit forward in corners and cut to the inside of ruts fairly easily. In flatter corners with no rut, I felt the rear begin to break loose several times and the bike started to oversteer, but the HSTC reacted to the point where the rear slowed down enough for me to recover. The sensation was not like that of traction control as I did not feel any decrease in power or forward acceleration. It just somehow allowed me to get the rear of the bike back in line at corner exit and more in line down the next straightaway.

a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: With a claimed wet weight of 244 pounds, the CRF450R is said to have shed three pounds over its predecessor. Most of that likely came from the new exhaust system because according to Honda, it weighs 2.7 pounds less than the previous generation’s. © Drew Ruiz With a claimed wet weight of 244 pounds, the CRF450R is said to have shed three pounds over its predecessor. Most of that likely came from the new exhaust system because according to Honda, it weighs 2.7 pounds less than the previous generation’s.

Body position is still crucial on the new generation CRF450R. It has a chassis that feels tall and short, which is the complete opposite of a 2021 Husqvarna FC 450. You can stretch the bike out with your body position to gain stability. The balance of the chassis feels improved and I have much more confidence with the front wheel.

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I made some changes to the suspension settings that helped reduce the pitching even more without losing comfort. I went several clicks stiffer on the fork, settling at four in on compression and one in on the rebound from stock. I set the fork height at 2.5mm (5mm stock). On the shock, I went three in on the low-speed compression and one in on the rebound. I started with the sag at 108mm, but went up to 105mm. The shock adjustments helped with cornering and acceleration. At first, it felt low on acceleration. Raising the rear helped noticeably with more of a forward acceleration sensation and it also provided more comfort over bumps.

2021 Honda CRF450R Overall Impression

a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: Even though the CRF450R still exhibits some pitching under braking, the overall handling of the bike is much improved. It corners even better, yet is more stable. We also like how narrow the new chassis and bodywork are. © Provided by Dirt Rider Even though the CRF450R still exhibits some pitching under braking, the overall handling of the bike is much improved. It corners even better, yet is more stable. We also like how narrow the new chassis and bodywork are.

The 2021 Honda CRF450R is a whole new bike that retains many of its best characteristics from the prior generation model while shedding several of its worst. The engine power, engine management system, and overall rideability are noticeably better. Being that a 450′s engine power delivery greatly affects the bike’s overall handling, improved engine control and management make for a better handling bike without touching any other adjustments. The all-new CRF450R has an incredible amount of similar characteristics to a KTM without losing the feeling of riding a Honda. Improved power, comfort, cornering, and even stability make for a more enjoyable riding experience. This translates to longer motos, less fatigue, and hopefully even faster lap times. The stock suspension settings are close enough that finding something that makes the bike even better is easy. We can’t wait to swing our leg over the latest generation CRF450R again to have some more fun on it and learn more about this awesome new motorcycle.

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Gearbox

a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: In retaining many of its best characteristics while shedding several of its worst, the 2021 Honda CRF450R is a remarkable improvement over its predecessor. © Provided by Dirt Rider In retaining many of its best characteristics while shedding several of its worst, the 2021 Honda CRF450R is a remarkable improvement over its predecessor.

Helmet: Shoei VFX-EVO

Goggle: EKS Brand EKS-S

Jersey: Thor MX Prime Pro

Gloves: Thor MX Agile Plus

Pants: Thor MX Prime Pro

Boots: Sidi Crossfire 3 SRS

2021 Honda CRF450R Tech Spec

PRICE $9,599
ENGINE 450cc, SOHC, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder four-stroke
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 5-speed/chain
FRAME Aluminum twin-spar
FRONT SUSPENSION Showa 49mm coil-spring fork adjustable for compression damping and rebound damping; 12.2-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Showa shock adjustable for spring preload, high-/low-speed compression damping, and rebound damping; 12.4-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Nissin 2-piston caliper, 260mm disc
REAR BRAKE Nissin 1-piston caliper, 240mm disc
WHEELBASE 58.3 in.
CLAIMED SEAT HEIGHT 38.0 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 1.7 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 244 lb. wet
AVAILABLE Now
CONTACT powersports.honda.com

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