Big news in the 450cc class, Honda pulled the trigger and shot-out three all-new 450s, one for moto, one for the wealthy and one for off-road racers. The standout design goal was rider and bike consistency and we had to ask what that really means. Explained through a good PR man’s take we received this: “The rider consistency concept came via takeaways from Honda race teams. The concept was to develop a bike(s) so that rider fatigue is reduced over the course of a moto/race. This was a big consideration when looking at engine updates and power delivery. Improving the drivability and expanding the powerband–means fewer shifts during a moto and reduces load on the rider.” Surely the hydraulic clutch, the weight savings and narrower design all help. The idea is more consistency throughout a race.
The easy way to drop weight is to lose a muffler, luckily the CRF has had two for a while, now only one. Losing that muffler to some at Honda might be like changing religion or at least quitting on your second favorite one, the debate or proselytizing over better handling balance will have to go away for a while, weight loss has won over, so it seems. Don’t rule out cost as an outright factor either. A smaller fuel pump, simplified plastics, less laterally rigid frame, lighter shock spring, and more narrow swingarm all factor into the roughly 5-pound claimed weight reduction.
The big improvements to the frame and engine center around (yes, center) the center-exit oval shaped exhaust port and higher frame cradle split to accommodate this. Is it for more power? Could be, but our experience tells us it is easier to get both more power along with better drivability and easier tuning with the straighter head port routing. So now the front of the motor is more balanced too. (See how we played that?) The frame keeps its torsional stability but sees a decrease in lateral stiffness through new extrusions that are shaped differently and are narrower in areas. The new swingarm contributes to this claimed sensation as well. We bet the two-stroke conversion gang are also doing backflips with the center port split cradle frame-LOL.
Inside the engine the cam decompression device was moved to the cam sprocket side which gives it more space to live, in turn can be larger and more effective or precise. On the intake side the injector angle was increased from 30-degrees to 60-degrees squirting supposedly cool fuel at the hot air at a more aggressive angle (more downward) to further cool the air. We’ll see how that goes but we’d bet somehow this change provides better atomization of the fuel no matter what, especially at smaller throttle openings. Not sure how the fuel in the tank stays that much cooler than the air floating around everywhere, but it sounds neat. Like to see the intake temperature chart to verify the claims but if we ride the new CRF and it works, cancel that request. (Remember the white-colored air-box on the Yamahas? Same theory.) The radiator fins (guards in front of the radiators) are optimized and claimed to cool the bike an additional 5%. That is an easy fact to chill out on.
It’s been talked about for years but it’s finally here, 2021s come with a hydraulic clutch. Continuing with a six-spring design, the basket now holds an additional friction and drive plate as well. There is now an oil view window for easy oil height inspection.
In the suspension department, Showa 49mm fork gets a little bit longer (5mm) with a more rigid lower clamp and the new swingarm has the shock being set up a differently for a claimed improvement in corner exit feel. The triple-clamp is also altered in shape and design for less rigidity. There is a simplified rear sub-frame and a new airbox design that has the filter hanging upside-down and clipping into the airbox with side access. Only one bolt removal for the side panel we’re told. This will be welcomed if it is any easier to change the filter and not drop dirt into the intake tract, which seems the point.
Some new buttons on the handlebar have been simplified for easier negotiation and signaled with an LED light illumination. One for HRC launch control (3 modes), one of the best launch control systems out there from our testing. Another is to select one of three ride modes– but unfortunately it is not on-the-fly yet. You still must be at idle and zero throttle with a roughly 3-second button push/hold for activation. So much for flipping to the mellow mode mid-moto unless you’ve built up a 10-second lead or have a sweet 100-ft jump to change modes while in flight (not recommended.) You basically have to come to a stop to switch modes as Honda’s legal department feels this is mandatory.
The CRF450RWE (Works Edition) is a $12,380 premium platform based on the standard bike. It will have all of the same upgrades as the 2020 WE and additionally a Hinson clutch basket and clutch cover. That should include upgraded suspension parts with better coatings, different ECU settings to go with the Yoshimura exhaust.
Off-Road racers do not get left out as the 2021 CRF450RX sees all of the same 2021 changes and even gets a slightly narrower 2.1-gallon fuel tank to boot. Flag-style handgaurds are standard as well. The retail is $9899.00
In another interesting move Honda decided to essentially re-release the 2020 CRF450R–unchanged. There will be another production run of the bike at a new reduced price point. Coming in at $1000.00 less than the 2021, the $8599.00 bike is unchanged. Honda feels it will be a little more affordable for riders not needing the latest updates to have a good time on a motocross bike.
Though the CRF450X and CRF450RL get only a graphics change and handguards for 2021, notice the new “R” in the formerly CRF450L’s name. This is Honda saying that this bike is designed in the dirt in the name of the R, not a street bike with some motocross clothing on. And these bikes have had a single muffler the whole time! And no, they couldn’t do the name change with the CRF450X, the “RX” name was already taken.
Bikes will be arriving September for the CRF450R, October for the CRF450RX and November for the CRF450RWE. We will be testing these bikes and letting you know how the improvements work on the track as opposed to reading it on paper. (Or a screen.)
For all the specs see: powersports.honda.com.
Honda has a video presentation on the bike on their YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/HondaPowersportsUS
Support DBT by shopping through the links below: