Since Honda announced its off-road lineup back in early August we have been anxiously awaiting to get our hands on the all-new 2017 CRF450RX, which is based off of the CRF450R model. For 2017 Honda decided to enter the “in between” market, which is basically a motocross based model that has specific “off-road” parts designed to make it more capable out in the wild. We met Honda and the all of their technicians out at Cahuilla Creek in Anza, California where they set up a hybrid four-mile off-road/ motocross loop for us to give it a test.

2017 Honda CRF450RX
The 2017 Honda CRF450RX is a brand new model to Honda’s already proven off-road line up.Photo by Sean Klinger

The 2017 Honda CRF450RX has all the same brand new engine parts the “R” has like a new downdraft intake layout to improve air charging efficiency, a new combustion chamber with a higher compression piston, decreased valve angle, use of a finger rocker arm to get increased valve lift, updated coils on valve springs have oval cross-sections to try and achieve a lower engine temperature, a new port layout with straighter airflow for increased efficiency, DLC on piston pin and rocker arm to combat friction, a more compact dual muffler design with more gradual pipe bends for a smoother exhaust flow, a shallower clutch assembly with fewer and thicker plates for narrower engine width. But the what makes the CRF450RX standout as a more hybrid off-road model is the electric start, revised ignition mapping (for a smoother power delivery than the “R” model) an 18 inch rear wheel, revised fork and shock settings (increased preload, lower oil level, decreased rebound damping, lighter rear spring) a 2.25 gallon fuel capacity, plastic skid plate, revised upper engine mounts (for rigidity balance) and Dunlop Geomax AT 81 tires.

2017 Honda CRF450RX
An 18 inch rear wheel comes standard on the hybrid machine of the CRF450RX.Photo by Sean Klinger


After spending a lot of time on the 2017 Honda CRF450R recently we didn’t notice a huge change in engine performance. The 2017 Honda CRF450RX has incredible throttle response that had couple testers feeling like it was almost better than the “R” model (on the CRF450RX’s standard map). An aggressive torquey low end kept the rear wheel from spinning too much in the drier sections of the trails, but gave you that exciting feeling all way around the tight and flowy course. The mid range pull is great in second and third gear switchbacked trails. Transitioning into the top end the CRF450RX pulls incredibly far considering it incorporates a 13/50 gearing ratio unlike the 13/49 gearing ratio the “R” comes with. We would love to see this gearing set up come stock on the “R” model as well, as having that extra tooth on the CRF450RX let us use third gear more in tighter sections of the trail. The engine would stay in the meat of the power (without much fanning of the clutch) adequately in third gear and does not force the rider to downshift to second (like the “R” can). Over-rev is not quite as good as the “R” but we never needed it to on this day either. The beauty of the CRF450RX’s engine character is its ease of riding ability. It pleased our Novice tester as well as my faster more aggressive riding style.

2017 Honda CRF450RX
The 2.25-gallon fuel tank looks bulky compared to the CRF450R’s tank, but most testers didn’t feel the difference while riding.Photo by Sean Klinger


We were worried that the Showa 49mm front fork would feel too mushy as Honda told us in a our morning meeting, “that the suspension settings were softer than the “R” model”. The front fork moves in the stroke freely and still has great damping feeling through the mid stroke. The end stroke is soft, but doesn’t ever bottom violently. The intial part of the stroke is somewhat stiff feeling as it can make for some deflection on faster choppy roads. We softened the compression up only two clicks and this helped tremendously. Doing this didn’t affect much of any of the bottoming resistance the fork had. Each fork click on this fork makes a difference, so when you make changes you will want to make a change one click at a time. We also slowed the rebound damping one click to help the front end hold up a little more when coming hard into corners on the moto portion of the track. The Honda CRF450RX keeps great front wheel traction and comfort as the course turned a little ugly in slower sections. The rear of the bike feels similar to the front as it has somewhat soft initially but squatting out of choppy, slower section of the trail the rear wheel stayed in contact with the ground and gave forward bit/rear wheel traction. The shock is a little soft on the end stroke on harder hits so we stiffened the low speed compression two clicks and this helped from bottoming on g-outs. Both ends of the machine interact well and feel balanced when out on the trail. Some portion of the trails we rode were very choppy and slow speed and you could really feel the comfort of both ends of the suspension. We are happy with Honda’s choice in going with a spring fork and glad they continue to listen to the consumer on what the demand is.

2017 Honda CRF450RX
A large wrap around style skid plate protects the water pump and ignition cover from rocks and debris.Photo by Sean Klinger


The straight-line stability of the CRF450RX is predictable and will not do anything that is out of the ordinary. As speeds crept up on faster portions of the course the Honda reacted well and gave each tester confidence and comfort. We found out we liked our sag settings a little lower than the “R” model at around 106-108 however, as this made de-cel pitching less noticeable when transitioning from a fast section to a tight corner. Less pitch was felt (front to back) and this didn’t affect the Honda’s excellent cornering ability. Yes, that is right the CRF450RX corners almost as good as the “R” and feels super light in tight sections of the trail. At a curb weight of 261 pounds you can still flick it around in corners similar to its moto brother. Where you feel the weight mostly is through mid-corner, where you are trying to keep it leaning into a rut. In sand where berms are more predominant, the Honda gives you a superb leaning feeling and can float all the way around without much fuss (or heavy oversteer). Yes, the CRF450RX feels bulkier (than the “R”) in the shroud/tank area near the rider’s knees when sitting, but is not noticeable when cornering the machine.

2017 Honda CRF450RX
The upper engine hangers are slightly different on the CRF450RX for a softer, less rigid feel than the CRF450R.Photo by Sean Klinger

We came awasy with the feeling that the 2017 Honda CRF450RX is a very fun, fast, well-mannered hybrid machine that is capable of taking you to the moto track and the trails all in one day. How will it stack up against other bikes in its genre is what everyone will be asking next right? Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks as the Dirt Rider Off-Road Shootout will be taking place very shortly and you will be able to see how the CRF450RX stacks up against the other colored hybrids soon.

2017 Honda CRF450RX
The engine response and bottom end that the CRF450RX produces makes getting in and out of tight sections very fun.Photo by Sean Klinger
2017 Honda CRF450RX
Weighing in at 261 pounds the CRF450RX still can carve a tight line and lay over in a rut with ease.Photo by Sean Klinger

Second Opinion

Honda claims that the RX bridges the gap between the R and the X models in their lineup. While I think it does that, it is much closer to the R than the X. It really feels like you don’t lose any performance or any positive aspects of the new CRF450R, but you do gain off-road conveniences with the kickstand, electric start, protection, etc. I did notice the bigger tank making the front of the cockpit a little wider, but it wasn’t immediately noticeable or distracting. The new R-based motor is a beast and I’m glad that it has a mellow mode. It dialed down the snap and aggression to match my mellower pace. With the same transmission as the moto bike, first gear might be a little tall for seriously-slow crawling pace but we’ll test that more when we take the bike to some other off-road testing grounds.

- —Sean Klinger Novice/ 5’8” / 215 lbs.

2017 Honda CRF450RX
We couldn’t resist taking it on the moto track to see how the hybrid machine handled jumps. While it has a softer feel on landings it is more than capable to clear any obstacle as Kris Keefer demonstrates.Photo by Sean Klinger