Since we received the 2017 Honda CRF450RX we’ve been riding it quite a bit. We wish we were racing it really. The one thing we have learned is that the RX is a race bike from the get-go with an aggressive nature that is not far off from its MX heritage. It is fun for spirited play riding, riding tracks in the hills jumping whatever sends you skyward–but it is not a trail riding bike. We do not intend to try and break this race horse into a trail riding bike either. There are much better platforms (even the tried and trusted CRF450X) to start from if trail riding is your thing.
Our first task was getting a spark arrestor setup to make the bike off-road legal where we were using it. Pro Circuit got us one of the first Stainless Steel T-6 full systems with spark arrestors. It bolted right on, toned down the bark of the CRF just a bit and even helped out the power in the best ways. Where we never used the aggressive (#3) map ever, this exhaust toned down the hit and let the bike pull better on top to smooth the entire spread in the aggressive map making it way more useable and rideable. For the stock map the exhaust gave the bike more pull and overrev making shifting less important. We rarely use the soft (#2) as it has a flat spot in the low-to-mid transition that most of our riders do not like.
Our second issue with the RX was to do something about the stalling. It isn’t bad, but it does happen. The bike has a light flywheel feeling and not a lot of mass to keep the engine spinning at zero throttle. Rekluse has a new Radius X clutch ($599) that drops right into the stock Honda basket in just minutes. It is a clutch pack that uses the EXP anti-stalling disk with the TorqDrive friction plates to keep the proper number of plates in the clutch pack. The anti-stalling is no joke and the bike is now almost impossible to stall. It works just like any other Rekluse we have used, you can just forget about using the clutch lever if you want. There has been no clutch fade and the Rekluse basically will not allow a rider to abuse the clutch as long as they are in the right gear. We are playing with the adjustment to get a better clutch power amplifying pull feel. Rekluse even has an adjustable clutch lever with position adjustment that we will try shortly (for those of us with smaller hands!)
The beauty of our engine setup now is that for less traction times using the stock (#1) map and the worry-free no stalling features of the clutch, the CRF is very rideable. It has plenty of power to get the bike going with just throttle roll-on, minimal spinning. But when the traction is good or the rider wants to have the back end loose, a quick switch to map #3 really gets the bike going. Now you don’t need to even think about touching the clutch lever to spin the bike up.
Onto the chassis and here is where we will be concentrating our efforts going forward. It is stiff. Even with some of the engine bracket changes that Honda did, the bike still sends a good shock through the chassis on sharp bumps and we feel that with some tuning we can get it to behave better in the ruts especially. We feel the suspension is actually pretty good for race speeds–yet testing some stuff on the chassis will allow better suspension tuning in the future. Our experience tells us that there are some big gains to be easily had here. We are testing different torque settings on the swingarm pivot and engine hanger bolts as well as leaving out a couple of the bolts on the exhaust system’s lower, rearward mounts. And yes it has been making a definite change in the character of the bike. Drilling or modifying the engine mounts are in the near future as we learn more about this chassis.
As soon as we get a good baseline on the chassis a couple of easy cures will be to add Flexx Handlebars and possibly some dampened footpegs. A Scotts steering damper is in the very near future as soon as the bracket kit is available.
So far our bike has been as durable as we have come to expect from a Honda. Nothing has fallen off or broke. Regular oil changes with Maxima 530MX have the bike in perfect running order. Of note is the giant (and heavy) oil drain plug. The air filter is easy access but care must be taken to keep dirt from palling into the upward facing open mouth of the air boot. It is the price you pay for a very direct intake tract. And our biggest gripe, the chain and sprocket are all but shot at just over 20-hours on the bike. They’ll be replaced with much higher quality stuff very soon.
Overall the 2017 Honda CRF450RX is exactly what we expected when we first saw it and it is performing just as we felt it would. Time on the bike has us getting picky and looking for those small improvements that turn a stock bike into a works bike for us. Keep checking back and feel free to ask questions in the comments below.