Long Haul: 2021 Honda CRF450R
By Dustin Hoffman and Scott Hoffman
Photos: Scott Hoffman
Of the 450cc motocrossers for 2021, we have spun the most laps and logged the most hours on the 2021 Honda CRF450R. Why? Mostly because it’s one of the “All New” rides for this year and a bike that also received a little critiquing along the way. Is it one of the most rider-friendly 450s right from the dealer floor, maybe not? But is it a good bike, YES.
The DBT crew and test riders have logged 50-plus hours on the CRF and have had really no issues except for standard maintenance and replacement of wear parts such as chain and sprockets, oil/filter changes, tires, grips and a broken levers. We also performed minor upgrades to improve a few issues such as having Twisted Development program the first generation ECU to help the low-end hesitation. But once Honda issued their dealer flash of the base map #1, it pretty much eliminated the issue and from there it was more for performance tuning.
From there Factory Connection worked with us to help balance out the chassis and improve some small bump compliance. This was early on and we made some nice progress and figured out what did not work and what direction helped improve the CRF. We found a comfortable and balanced setting for the lions-share of the hours we have put on the bike. We know FC is further working on developing components to take it to the next step.
Other minor stuff we swapped was strictly for rider-preference. The first, going to a Pro Taper handlebar over the stock Rental. Some of our test riders felt they prefer the flex character of the Pro Taper to the slightly stiffer stock bar. Some also noted the stock Honda grips felt a little fat, others like the feel. Regardless, when we swapped to ODI Emig Lock-On grips. The final step was to spruce up the look of the bike since it was getting a little long in the tooth after all of the hours. Test rider Dustin Hoffman did some of the design and had a sick set of retro Motocutz graphics printed up. After we burned through our second chain and sprocket pretty fast, we went with a more-durable SuperSprox X-ring-style chain the third time around. I think we will stick with X or O-ring chains, even on our moto machines for now on.
Working on the new 21. It took a few tries to figure out how CRF went together. Pulling the shock took a little figuring out and we even read one rider was trying to seek out where the ECU was located, which is actually under the airbox behind a cover. Once you solved the puzzle, it was no big deal but took a few tries. Since we had to pull the fuel tank to remove the air boot to remove the shock, this was a little bit of a pain because Honda does no longer has a cable tether to let the tank flop to one side while you are working on the bike. It takes an extra hand or we had to rig a tie-down to hold the tank out of the way. Another funky setup is the air filter cage. It works but there is a floating cage around the filter and foam holes that have to be pulled around and over the cage tabs. Just seems like a simpler design could have been used. It also takes a second to figure out simple stuff like how the seat attaches and how the side panels attach. All stuff figured out after the first or second attempt.
The only other issue we encountered is something that is not just a Honda thing; spoke nipples. Often after a little time and washing, a few of the spoke nipples bind up in the threads and when you adjust your spokes, it can bend our round the area where your spoke wrench affixes to the spoke nipple. We have a few rounded nipples on the front wheel of our test mule. Now we try to spray the spoke nipple thread area with a water disbursement spray such as WD40 to avoid corrosion, it helps a little if you start the process when the bike is new.
First off, the Honda CRF450R is a beast and is really fast, especially if you ride with the aggressive map #3. For the most part, we opted for the map 1, especially after the Factory Honda dealer ECU flash and Twisted Development tuning. A few riders liked the mellow map on flowing tracks but some riders said it slowed the bottom-end build up too much. The aggressive map is a blast and fun to ride but for amateur riders, yet it just sucks more energy out of the riders unless you are really smooth on with throttle input.
The CRF450R turns amazing, feels light and very reactive to rider input. The harder you ride and push the bike the better it work. But we still feel its aggressive and not a chassis you can relax and just chill now and gain, it likes to be ridden hard and pushed to work best. The chassis razor sharp but can also be a little harsh at times and once in a blue moon twitchy when tracks get really beat up. Getting the chassis balanced front to back is the key to appreciating what the 21 CRF450R can do. And that balance is a fine line but can be found. That line is not always in the same place depending on the rider’s speed and or weight. Working with rear sag, fork height and really fine-tuning the clickers can make a big difference on the 21. Once we found that sweet spot with the FC mods, we have done very minor additional setup other than a few clicks here and there depending on the track. Most of the time we were running the rear sag at 105-108mm and the fork at 2-3mm exposed at the top triple clamp.
Honda has already announced their 2022 lineup and the CRF450R returns with minor changes, very similar to what we had done while we had the 2021. For 2022 Honda has updated ECU settings as well as new suspension settings. So in a sense we kind of built a 2022 out of the 2021, well kind of.
The more time we spent on the 21 CRF, the better we liked it and felt really comfortable overall. The chassis can still be a little stiff when tracks get really rough or when a test rider started to get tired but overall the 2021 CRF450R runs strong, turns really well and the harder you ride it the better it work. Durability is what you would expect from a Honda and we had no issues other than normal maintenance and the items we mentioned above. The hydraulic clutch performed awesome, stayed consistent and we never had to replace any plates. The brakes are spot on and powerful, (we did go through a set of rear pads). This is a great bike for a seasoned 450 rider that is looking for robust engine and a chassis that likes to carve turns with sharp handling.
2021 CRF450R wear parts and mods
-Sets of tires: lost count
Dunlop MX33 and MX53
-Chains/Sprocket: Two sets after stock
SuperSprox X-Ring chain
-Air Filter: Honda OEM
-Oil: Honda HP4
-Oil Filter: Honda OEM
-Rear brake Pads: Honda OEM
-Pro Taper EVO Henry/Reed bend
-Grips: ODI Emig lock-on grips
-ECU Mapping: Twisted Development ECU Mapping
-Suspension: Factory Connection Suspension Tuning
-Graphics: Motocutz Graphics
Pro Honda Oils: https://prohondaoils.com
Pro Taper: https://www.protaper.com
Twisted Development: http://www.td-racing.com
Factory Connection: https://www.factoryconnection.com
Motocutz Graphics: http://www.motocutzmx.com/wp/
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