BIKE TEST: 2018 Honda CRF450R | Bike Reviews | Features
ADB Motocross Editor Lee Hogan tests the new 2018 Honda CRF450R, published in ADB issue #461 - February 2018.
WORDS: Lee Hogan
PHOTOS: Max Peters
The Honda CRF450R was completely redesigned for 2017, receiving a more agile chassis and more potent engine. For 2018 the bike looks almost identical but the changes that have been made are significant, with the big one being the addition of electric start and removal of the kickstart mechanism.
For 2018, the CRF450R comes with different engine hangers. The brackets are noticeably slimmer, with a slightly different shape and are designed to give a little bit more flex in the chassis, providing a more comfortable ride. These engine mounts do make a difference on the track, particularly on hardpack, chattery circuits.
We also found that by taking out the mounting bolts in the mid section of the exhaust pipe you gain even more flex in the frame [you must obviously keep the rear and front bolts fastened nice and tight].
For 2018 Honda has increased the spring rates in the fork and shock and revised the valving. The difference is huge. I expected my initial laps to be fine while the suspension was bedding in but really wanted to see how it performed after a few solid rides.
At Park4MX, where I was testing the bike, there are two high-speed braking zones which really force the front to work hard and I have to say that even with my 85kg on board it still held up really well.
The rear was what I was most interested in, as this is where I struggled the most with my CRF450R setup in 2017, and this is where I was most impressed with the changes. We ended up with 42mm of static sag and a 108mm ride height. I wound the high-speed compression adjuster from three and a half turns out to two turns, which helped it hold up on those big hits. And I set both my low-speed compression and rebound damping at 10 clicks out as a starting point.
It felt terrific right from the get go. I ended up slowing the rebound another two clicks but, overall, if you’re a faster, heavier rider it will now hold up in the right part of the stroke with no wallowing anywhere.
When I tested the 2018 I brought along a stock 2017 CRF450R so I could do some back-to-back runs. For 2018 the biggest difference I felt immediately was that bottom-end. It seems to have recovered its 2016 torque but without sacrificing any mid-range or top-end. The gain in torque was really noticeable doing back-to-back rides during our test.
And it was mainly on the rock-hard corners over the back part of the Melbourne track where you rely on your roll-on power so the bike doesn’t just step out. On most corners you can pull a taller gear on the 2018.
FOUR THINGS I LIKE
The motor is super impressive and my favourite aspect of this bike. It has no weak links, with an abundance of peak horsepower, terrific bottom-end torque and one of the strongest mid-ranges in the class.
With the help of the new engine mounts, the frame provides a super aggressive and agile feel. The bike still holds a straight line very well under hard acceleration and when jumping on the brakes. The chassis also has a slim feel and is nicely balanced from front to rear. This chassis loves inside lines but also is very comfortable railing the outsides.
The 49mm Showa spring-cartridge fork is one of the best in the business and, paired with the Showa shock, provides a nice, plush ride. The soft feeling of the 2017 suspension on big hits have been fixed with stiffer springs and revised valving. We recommend a 108mm ride height.
4 ELECTRIC START
It may not change your lap times but it certainly will change your race time if you stall or crash. And hey, you can’t go past the cool-ness of that button. In years to come, owners will take it for granted but, for now, there will be some pretty pumped Honda fans in the garage just pushing that button because they can.
TWO THINGS I’D CHANGE
Just like with Yamahas, I can’t seem to ride with standard Honda grips. The Yamaha grips feel like they’re made of concrete and the Honda ones seem to have a larger circumference than just about every other grip on the market. So do yourself a favour and buy yourself some new ones before you have your first ride.
To truly unlock the potential of the CRF450R in the looks department you can’t go past a set of black rims. It just sets the red machine off!
Being an absentee at our 2018 450cc Shootout due to the bike being a late arrival, we were extremely keen to see how the Honda performed against its competitors, particularly because it won three of the five 450 shootouts in America. The CRF450R finished third in last year’s ADB shootout but has significantly improved in the two main areas that it needed to, which were bottom-end power and suspension balance.
Add the button and you can expect the Honda to be right in the mix come the new race season so we put the 2018 Honda up against our 450 shootout winner, the Husqvarna FC450. Check it out in issue #462 of ADB Magazine.
The full review of the 2018 Honda CRF450R can be found in ADB issue #461.