Honda’s 2009 CRF450R was a great machine-after all, it did win the Dirt Rider 450cc Shootout-but some riders couldn’t come to terms with the bike’s handling. Fortunately, Big Red’s development team applied several smart changes to the 2010 that all but eliminate the 2009 handling demons. On top of the revision list is new fork valving aimed at improving initial control of the bike by allowing it to ride higher in the stroke, as well as a redesigned piston and compression adjuster on the shock, plus new valving to keep the bike flatter and to reduce kicking. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but less is more when you’re fine-tuning, and the simple changes add up to big benefits. For one thing, the front wheel no longer feels as though it is directly underneath the exhaust header, and the higher-riding yet less rear-end-high attitude of the suspension makes the bike feel more stable all around. The kicking that could be found in the 2009′s rear end isn’t 100-percent gone, though the new shock is noticeably better at absorbing square edges if you take the time to play with the clickers. When it comes to overall handling, the entire Honda chassis feels extremely responsive, especially in turns. Whether you’re carving across loam into a tighter rut or switching lines before a jump face, this bike listens when you tell it where to go, and if you’re careful with the throttle you’ll be able to achieve maximum traction while you’re getting there.
The new CRF450R feels much more balanced: It’s incredibly progressive (not to be confused with “springy”), meaning that in any given lap the bike will actively be using every part of the stroke, rather than just settling into the mid. Having the motorcycle riding high initially is a saving grace over quick hits, but you’ll get well into the mid-stroke in most chop and if you slam a turn hard enough. Here the balance of the bike continues and stability is easily maintained, though some of our lighter riders softened up the compression and rebound on both ends. When you get into the bottom of the stroke, the Honda’s fork does nothing tricky, and the shock withstands hard hits much better than in ’09. While the suspension is always working well with the stiff racing chassis setup to absorb chop, the rider will feel some of the track through the bar and footpegs. All together, these characteristics make for an active suspension setup that will satisfy most 450 riders, particularly those in the bigger/ heavier/ faster categories.
Satisfied that the handling issues were settled, Honda threw new EFI settings at the bike to improve throttle response-particularly when entering and exiting corners-as well as to provide easier starting. The PGM-FI tuning connector was also relocated to just behind the radiator shroud for easier access. Additionally, a new engine decompression pin shape and optimal weight spring (all new parts that are not interchangeable with the 2009) enable easier kick starting for the button-less bike. It truly starts more easily than the ’09. While this is usually where we’d bemoan the lack of electric start, the CRF450R rarely took more than two kicks to start.
When you roll out onto the track, the first thing you notice is the power; it’s strong, but doesn’t come on immediately with the so-called “herc-and-jerk” that you might expect. That’s because the delivery is extremely smooth, and the power picks up exactly the way it was designed to-unlike a carbureted bike that loads up on fuel and then fires it off in one explosive punch (which the rider will feel as snap). Off the bottom, the revised CRF picks up with a strong low-end pocket of power and steadily accelerates as you leave it on. Then, when the revs are nearly wound out and you’re almost wide open, the Honda unleashes a second surge of power before finally flattening out. If you’re really wringing this 450 out, you’ll likely feel this high-rpm chunk of power only on occasion, and the odds are good that you’ll never feel any flat spot at the very top of the powerband. For most riders, the initial surge and steady mid-to-top-end acceleration are more than enough for 90-percent of all moto applications, and unless you weigh as much as a sumo wrestler or only ride in the sand dunes, it’s difficult to imagine wanting more power out of this machine. We were plenty happy with the stock EFI settings. On the downside, those who are used to hearing a CRF450R up close and personal may not have a problem with the throaty growl of this big bike, but for the rider the exhaust still sounds pretty loud.
For our test riders, the cockpit of the CRF450R felt comfortable and accommodating, and we doubt that riders on the short side will feel that the layout of the controls is too spread out. Interestingly enough, the clutch pull feels slightly heavy when you play with it in the pits, but out on the track this wasn’t as much of an issue (probably because you can get away with ignoring the clutch on this bike!) When you do use the clutch, the friction point has a good feel to it. The brakes are strong on both ends, and riders familiar with Hondas will enjoy the same standards of control that they’re used to. Another awesome feature is that following the release of the redesigned 2010 CRF250R, racers of both classes will now share much of the same spare parts package between the 450R and its smaller counterpart.As the CRF450R heads into our 2010 450cc MX shootout, the bike certainly has its work cut out for it. Against a lineup of strong machines from competing manufactures, this Honda faces the most stacked comparison in recent memory, and it will undoubtedly go knobby-to-knobby with one of the more revolutionary motocross machines of the last decade. Can the Red Rider hang? We’ll all find out next month!Specifications:
Claimed weight: 234.8 lb.
Actual weight (tank full): 235 lb.
Seat height: 36.9 in.
Seat-to-footpeg distance: 20.8 in.
Footpeg height: 16.1 in.
Fuel capacity: 1.5 gal.
Sound Test: 98.5 dbWhat’s Hot!
Bike starts waaaaaay easier than last year!
All the power you could ask for.
Share spares with the CRF250R!What’s Not!
Clutch pull feels hard.
Exhaust is on the noisy side, especially to the rider.
EFI is not completely stall-proof.Settings
No changes to EFI settings.
|-High-spd. Comp:||1 1/4||1 1/4-1 3/4|
Vet ProI’m one of those guys who would rather let you trendy guys debug my _________ (insert name of latest technology here) for me. And this goes for motorcycles, too. A perfect case in point is the 2010 CRF450R. As good of a bike as it was last year – it won our 450cc shootout and was MX Bike of the Year, mind you – it wasn’t perfect and we knew it. I spent most of the year on our CRF dialing out some of the traits we didn’t like and actually going in a totally different direction, suspension wise, than Honda did with their new bike. But for almost everyone that rode the new bike, Honda fixed all the areas that had anyone complaining. The starting is easier, suspension more balanced and it stalls way less. I was two out of three the same as Honda on fixes, we parted direction with suspension. Yet for most everyone, I think Honda did a better job. Now it is time for the rest of you guys sitting on the fence, like I would have been, to go and get your new CRF. It’s debugged and you deserve it.
6’1″/ 160 lb.
IntermediateHonda’s 450 for 2010 was a surprise for me. I rode the DR Long Haul ’09 and the new ’10 back to back with each other, and the ’10 felt way better. The whole bike felt really smooth. Hitting jumps and pounding through whoops felt very easy and the Honda is just plain comfortable. The motor is right in between the smoother KTM and aggressive Kawasaki, which I really liked. It has just enough power without ripping your arms out of their sockets. The bike’s steering and handling were good; I could turn well and go through bumps without getting squirrely or swapping from side to side. I don’t know what the actual weight is, but it feels pretty light lifting it on and off the stand and while in flight on the track. One thing I really liked about the bike was the ability to move around on it. I could really get up on the tank going into corners and it felt like I had more control over the bike since it was easy for me to position myself on it.