2019 Honda CRF450R Detailed Riding Impression

First Riding Impression

2019 Honda CRF450R

By Chris Barrett with Jimmy Lewis Photos by Scott Hoffman and Drew Ruiz

Just The Facts.

If you want to get into the nitty gritty about the 2019 Honda CRF450R you’ve come to the right place. Here is Dirt Bike Test’s impression following a full day of testing with four different riders of varying skills and sizes, giving input to help you better understand the Red Rider’s open class motocrosser.

-Strong, smooth power with three maps to choose from that are not radically different but still very effective. But more so than before.
– Stock map and aggressive map were our favorites at Chaney Ranch which has pretty good traction with pockets of deep sand here and there.

– Stock map has a nice all around pull from bottom to top which was easy to ride and always seemed to have the power when and where you needed it.
– The mellow map was really smooth down low and then eased into a good mid that pulled very long and hard up top. This would work nice on really dry hard pack but lacked grunt if you wanted to ride a gear high or were in the deep dirt in the turns. Yet some of our riders really liked the way the mellow map slowed the build of RPM from mid to top.

– The aggressive map has an added hit down low that pulls hard through mid and revves out quicker than the other two maps. It was a hit for riders carrying a little extra weight or trying to make up for lost corner speed.
– Launch control was impressive and easy to use with three different options. Expert, mid and beginner modes are easy to understand and do exactly what you would expect. Expert gives you the least amount of aid with the hardest hit and pull which is great if you know how to start. Mid gives a little more aid with a little smoother hit and delivery. Beginner gives the most aid with the smoothest hit and pull which will work well if you don’t know how to start or if you’re starting on a very slick surface. They each have a rev cut ceiling and limit the amount of spinning the rear wheel will do. It is one of the easiest to use (due to multiple maps for different conditions or skills) and understand of the launch control systems.

-The clutch has a good feel and we did not have any issues with it fading or getting hot. Our riders and typically not abusive on the clutch and it easily took the slipping that comes with gear-high turns and sometimes controlling the power on jump faces and bumps.

-The CRF now has a sensor that tells the ECU which gear the bike is in. So the mapping in the ECU can change based on that gear. We are told that each gear has a unique map but this was hard to feel in use. In other words, it does not feel like the mapping changes shift to shift but the character remains constant within each map.

– Suspension worked well all around. It soaked up hard hits and was not bad in the chop. With a little more time we could have dialed it in for each rider but we were limited in a single day test.
-Honda recommends the sag to be closer to 105mm so we started there and only after getting picky did we feel a need to change things. Each rider did something a little different for individual preferences and the bike responded well no matter the direction each rider settled with. The track was not super rough and lacked chop in ruts but otherwise gave us a good feel for the suspension.

– The first thing I did was drop the sag to 110mm, this helped level the chassis out for my style of riding. At 106mm, the rear felt a little high and put too much weight on the front end. I could feel more impact to the bars when hitting chop with the sag at 106mm and the front end was more prone to tucking. Once leveled out, the fork had better bump compliance and I didn’t feel as much impact in the handlebar. With less weight on the front, it started popping up in the chop, so we went two softer on compression to use more stroke, then went one click quicker on fork rebound on the rear to even everything out. This had the bike riding level for me and very compliant in the chop.
-Everyone commented the fork has good hold up on big hits and under braking. We got the fork and shock to bottom but it was controlled and expected for the big hits. One of our riders thought the shock was using a little too much stroke and it was easily cured with some additional high-speed compression without sacrificing bump compliance. Even for our heaviest rider–but we will be taking the bike out to some other tracks and trying heavier springs too.

– The ‘19 CRF450R felt comfortable to all of our riders. The ergos and feel suit a wide range of riders. For me after not riding a lot of new bikes for a few years, it was nice to get on the CRF and feel at home.
– The CRF feels light and is about as effortless as a open-class motocrosser can be to make quick line changes on the track, but is still planted and stable. Being easy to move around on only helps the handling. We tried the bar in a forward position (#2 is stock, we tried #3) and it was well received by our largest rider and the one who need encouragement to sit further forward on the seat in turns. It puts the bars pretty far in front of the center of the steering stem but we did not feel any resulting instability from the move.
– The brakes are strong and have excellent feel. For sure the front is improved and as much as the caliper is changed we think the brake line is also part of that improvement. You have plenty of stopping power and it does not take too much lever pressure to get there.

-Our rider who owns a 2018 CRF450R said he really noticed the bike’s flat turn performance and improved size of the footpeg. Correlation? Maybe, but the swingarm and chassis changes are likely working here too.

-Black rims seemed to be a hit–for now. Ask owners after 10 tire changes. But the sublimated graphics make up for it as they stay looking new for a lot longer than stickers.

-We don’t miss the kick-starter and the bike fired right up every time.

-The standard skid plate is a nice touch and should be good enough for most motocross needs.

-We are liking the tires for the most part but one of our riders would like to try something different sooner rather than later. The Dunlop MX3S are well rounded but are sensitive to tire pressure and changing conditions, especially the front.


Honda has done a good job and more than we expected on this model which is usually cursed with a longer ride between updates. But in this competitive motocross market and the need to have a production bike as the base for your whole factory racing effort, the standard machine needs to be potent. This CRF is.

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