2015 Honda CRF450R - Long Haul Update

Primary Use: Weekday moto practice and local GP/MX racer

Main Mods: Dunlop MX32 tires (one MX11 for sand applications), Precision Concepts suspension refresh, larger rear sprocket

Moment of Glory: Watching Trey Canard crank this bike upside down at the press intro! Forgettable Experience: Smashing a radiator in a small tip-over crash at a Loretta Lynn's area qualifier

Hours: 45

Aftermath: Six oil changes, three air filters, five sets of tires, new chain and sprockets, new brake pads, one smashed radiator, some roughed-up plastic, and a handful of great memories

When the curtain closed on Dirt Rider's 2015 450cc Motocross Shootout (March issue), we put the Honda on an immediate diet of regular rides to help decode the long-term strengths and weaknesses of this popular 450. To start things off, a successful weekend of racing at the 2014 Red Bull Day In The Dirt event—where the bike notched a second place in the stunt team GP and a third overall in the 45 Expert class—proved that the air fork can be made to work great in the rough stuff with the right settings. We ran the high- and low-speed compression one to two clicks stiffer in the front, opting to stick with the recommended 35-psi main chamber air setting. On the shock, two clicks in on every adjuster helped us achieve increased comfort on the overly beat Glen Helen GP course. One thing that racing the CRF450R revealed was that the smooth power is conducive to saving energy over the long run; a more explosive machine would have probably been too taxing in spots, whereas the usability of the Honda's motor allowed the bike to be ridden harder and longer. The biggest thing we were wishing for during the 45-minute motos was a softer clutch pull!

Following DITD, the CRF450R began a regular routine of practice motos at the hands of expert test rider Jimmy Roberts, who played with the suspension settings in an attempt to find the perfect combination of high-speed performance and low-speed comfort. Roberts’ two home tracks—Antelope Valley MotoPlex and Los Angeles County Raceway—offered two distinctly different experiences. The Honda loved the big jumps and smooth, hard-packed dirt at AV, allowing Jimmy to run 37 psi in the fork for better bump absorption and bottoming resistance. The straight-line stability issues we experienced during the shootout were not as much of an issue here, mainly due to the lack of chop on the track. However, down the road at LACR, the CRF450R was put to the test in some of the biggest sand whoops in Southern California. On high-speed sections of the track, the bike suffered slightly from headshake when pushed hard into turns and down the track’s big center hill. But in the tight, twisty flat sections, the Honda stayed connected, settled, and extremely responsive to direction changes, impressing us with its performance over deep, slow, cupped-out bumps.

Around hour 38, the Honda suddenly began exhibiting some harsh feedback out of the rear end. A trip to Precision Concepts confirmed that the shock was due for fresh oil, but Bob Bell offered to take the bike one step further by refreshing both ends of the machine, cleaning up some of the suspension internals, and changing the valving ever-so slightly. These minimal alterations made for huge changes on the track, amplifying the good traits of the Honda (comfort and traction) and improving some of the weaknesses, the biggest of which is the CRF’s ability to stay up in the stroke at higher speeds. We’d go so far as to say that the suspension feels 30 percent better in terms of performance after getting a little love from the Precision Concepts crew—it really made a big difference at race pace!

Other than a chain guide that’s on its last leg and a small, silly crash that rendered the left-side radiator bent beyond repair, the Honda is holding up incredibly well. After every ride, this bike still cleans up to the point where we feel proud to show it off, and numerous preps of this 450R continue to prove that Honda durability is no joke. The fit, finish, and quality of components is superb, and we expect that this Honda CRF450R still has hundreds of hours of great use left in it. Stay tuned to dirtrider.com for further updates!