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2023 Honda CRF450R | Bike Reviews


The limited edition ‘50th Anniversary’ Elsinore model includes gold rims, gold handlebars, black triple clamps and a striking blue seat

Within minutes of riding getting underway we had a selection of typical Appin ruts designed to drag your handlebars through if your skill level allowed it

Honda haven’t completely tried to reinvent the wheel here, the four separate subtle changes to the motor when combined together add up to a very noticeable change

Some 50 years ago Honda unveiled their brand new 1973 model Honda Elsinore CR250M, a bike that revolutionized the sport of motocross during its golden era. Wind the clock forward 50 years from the birth of the ’73 model Elsinore and we find ourselves at the present day, celebrating 50 years of Honda in Motocross. The new 2023 model CRF450R is a bike that has been updated from the previous model in a few key areas including both the chassis and motor department.

The bike also comes in two colour options. The standard colour-way includes black rims, black handlebars and traditional red seat. The limited edition ‘50th Anniversary’ Elsinore model includes gold rims, gold handlebars, black triple clamps and a striking blue seat!


For 2023 the Honda CRF450R receives these updates in the chassis department:

  • An increase in frame rigidity, adding the thickness to the front joint from 4mm to 6mm
  • The material at the upper shock mount is increased from 4mm to 6mm
  • Honda’s intention is to allow both the front and rear suspension to work more independently from each other.
  • The engine hangers are now steel rather than aluminium adding even more rigidity to the chassis

The Showa suspension also received some important updates:

  • The shock received a stiffer spring rate from a previous 54Nm spring to a 56Nm for 2023. Honda’s aim here was to achieve better hold-up in the rear end exiting corners without introducing harshness
  • Up front Honda retains their tried and tested Showa 49mm Spring Cartridge fork but have implemented a new valving spec to complement the chassis changes and stiffer rear shock spring.

For 2023 the motor changes include:

  • A smaller 44mm Keihin throttle body aimed at increasing bottom through mid power delivery, down from the previous 46mm Keihin unit. The injector is changed to a 60 degree angle to allow the fuel spray to make it to the back of the butterfly.
  • A revised cylinder head with a slightly narrower intake port and a longer intake velocity stack.
  • The camshaft profile has been changed to complement the intake port, velocity stack and throttle body changes.

Ride review

Our testing site for the new CRF450R was Appin Raceway about an hour south of Sydney. The track itself has been a regular fixture on the national circuit since the 1980’s. Made up predominantly of hard pack clay, the track comes up a treat when ripped and watered, and we were presented with a fantastic circuit with sunny skies for our test day. Within minutes of riding getting underway we had a selection of typical Appin ruts designed to drag your handlebars through if your skill level allowed it.

The day began with a presentation and video that detailed all of the changes to the new model and what they were aiming to achieve. We then got to choose our bike for the day. A quick set up of levers, bars and a ride height measurement and we were set for initial laps.

How does it compare to the 2022 on the track?

Handling Characteristics

The bike I have at home is the 2022 model CRF450R. However, I’m fortunate enough to have Showa A-Kit suspension that has been finely tuned by Krooz Tune with a specific valving spec and spring rates that are based around my 82kg body weight and current riding speed. So for me to throw my leg over a production bike straight out of the crate we’re not comparing apples with apples. For this reason I struggled to feel much of a difference in the chassis department with the steel engine hangers and beefed up frame.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I really liked the chassis on the 2022 and its ability to feel agile yet stable in all areas of the track. Some people may feel a slight difference with these chassis changes, particularly if going back to back from a stock 2022 to the new 2023. Honda haven’t completely tried to reinvent the wheel here. We’re talking minor changes to rigidity that won’t have you scratching your head with the direction they have gone. The chassis for 2023 feels extremely stable on the high speed parts of the track with little to no deflection yet feels comfortable enough when things get a little chattery.

In the suspension department I feel the stiffer 56Nm spring rate is a step in the right direction, particularly for the slightly heavier riders. I know a lot of the media test riders on the day played around quite a bit with the ride height. From our starting point of 105mm we went out to 108mm during the testing process but everyone, including myself ended up at that sweet spot of 105mm.

The only thing I did find with the stiffer rear shock spring is that I needed to drop the forks through the triple clamps 3mm to raise the front ever so slightly. This seemed to help with balance entering corners. The new valving spec in the forks seemed nice and progressive in braking bumps while holding up nicely on some of the big booters that we had to deal with.

Motor Department

The engine and its power delivery was something that I was incredibly intrigued with and excited to try out. With my personal bike these days running a completely stock engine other than a Yoshimura exhaust and some good ETS race fuel I know the stock package very well. I was excited to see what changes the new 2023 mods would make to the power delivery.

Right from the get-go I could feel an increase right off the bottom with roll-on torque exiting corners. This is such an important (if not the most important) part of a 450 motor as most big bore riders will tell you. The increase in bottom end torque flows nicely into a strong and meaty mid range where the MX1 machine will spend most of its time. There were no noticeable drops in power through any part of the power curve and this surprised me quite a bit.

My brain was telling me prior to the ride that the smaller throttle body combined with the porting and velocity stack changes would result in more bottom end, with less top end power. This didn’t seem to be the case with an upper part of the power curve that seems to mirror the 2022. The ‘on track’ feel of the motor is of strong, predictable power that starts right from the first millimeter of twisting that throttle.


I’m a HUGE fan of the standard map which is Map 1. It gives the bike an extremely strong, smooth roll-on of power that allows you to ride however you want. Whether you’re a smooth technical rider who likes to roll the power on while lugging a taller gear, or an aggressive type of rider who likes to punch it with a bit of help from the clutch. Map 1 will almost fix some of your mistakes for you and give you choices out there on the track!

Map 2 is a smooth map designed mainly for two scenarios. Either beginner to intermediate level riders, or situations where you have little to no traction. To me this map really restricts the motor to the point of feeling like you are wanting to take the bike on an enduro loop.

The only scenario I can picture someone liking Map 2 is if you’re racing a mud event on a very slippery clay track, or if you’re a rider that perhaps shouldn’t be on a 450. This particular map in my opinion seems to take away the very key aspects that make the Honda motor so impressive in stock trim.

Map 3 is the aggressive map, and while I generally love an aggressive 450 motor I find that it seems to light up the rear end and shorten the power curve for me. It definitely keeps the brute power that we see in Map 2 however it doesn’t transfer to the back wheel in quite the same way. 99% of people that have ridden the Honda 450 fall in love with Map 1 right from the start.

There are certainly different horses for courses so take the time to test each of the three maps and come up with your own conclusion if the opportunity presents itself. I’ve tried the aggressive Map 3 on a super sandy track, a beautiful loamy ride park, and a beat down hard pack track with choppy bumps and no moisture. In all circumstances I’ve gone back to Map 1 and put that smile back on my face again.

The three separate maps are selected via a handlebar mounted switch on the left hand side of the bars which also incorporates the engine stop button. By pushing and holding down the map button a blue light will flash on the display, showing either one, two or three flashes of the blue light. Maps can be changed on the fly!

Bits and pieces

The seated position on the 2023 Honda CRF450R can only be described as comfortable! With the seat, tank, bars and footpeg junction feeling like the ratios are correct while suiting both big and small riders. The seat has a comfortable profile that is neither too flat and wide, nor too skinny and rounded. It just feels right and you won’t find too many people that don’t feel at home straight away on the red machine.

So how does it stack up?

Honda find themselves three years in on their latest 450 shape and design. Let’s face it, over the last 14 years since Honda stepped into the 450 class with the 2008 model (one of the best 450’s ever made) there have been periods in time where they’ve hit the nail on the head, and times where they’ve missed the mark. The last three years for the Honda 450 have been a period in time where their motor is one of the strongest in the paddock, their chassis works extremely well and their suspension is balanced and predictable.

The changes to their chassis this year won’t completely transform the bike, but it doesn’t need to, it already worked a treat! The four separate subtle changes to the motor combined together add up to a very noticeable change that makes the bike easier to ride at speed and will put a huge smile on the faces of Honda fans worldwide. No matter a beginner or a pro level rider!

For those of you that want to line up next to your mate and drag race to the first turn you’ll be hard pressed to lose in that scenario. It’s not all about truckloads of horsepower though in the 450cc class. The juggling act continues with all the manufacturers to produce the ultimate big bore machine that combines enough power, with razor sharp handling and suspension like butter. Honda have ticked all the boxes here and will once again feature at the pointy end of championships throughout 2023.


2023 Honda CRF450R


Type                           4 valve, 4 stroke
Displacement            450cc
Bore & Stroke           96mm x 62.1mm
Cooling                      Liquid-cooled
Compression ratio   13:5:1
Fuel metering           Fuel Injection
Tank capacity           6.3L
Transmission            5 Speed


Wheelbase                1,481mm
Seat height                965mm
Ground clearance    336mm
Claimed Weight        110.6kg


FRONT                      Showa 49mm USD fork, 273mm travel, compression and rebound adjustable
REAR                         single shock, 315mm travel, preload, compression and rebound adjustable


Front                           260mm disc
Rear                           240mm disc


Front tyre                   80/100-21
Rear tyre                    120/80-19


BLOWER                   1300 559 846

This article appeared in ADB magazine #517