The Honda CRF450R was all-new in 2017 and received a number of minor but effective updates last year that put it at or near the front of the class in most shootouts. For 2019, Honda has updated the bike again with a number of engine updates, suspension changes, and chassis revisions. We had the opportunity to ride the 2019 Honda CRF450R for the first time at Chaney Ranch MX in Warner Springs, California, to see how the updates stack up on the track.
The 2019 engine features a new cylinder head design, new clutch lifter and pressure plates, a new scavenge pump design, a new piston oil jet, a new shift sensor, HRC Launch Control, updated engine mode select options, and the kickstarter assembly has been removed from the side case of the engine as well. The bike also has a new exhaust with a larger pipe diameter and a different design at the branching location, and the total tube length (from exhaust port to muffler end) has been increased by 98mm (approximately 3.9 inches) on the right and 187mm (approximately 7.4 inches) on the left.
The CRF450R engine is powerful, and the 2017 and 2018 models were a little too abrupt and hard to control at times. However, the changes made to the 2019 powerplant result in improved rideability. Roll-on power is smoother from zero to a quarter-throttle in flat corners and less jerky, and overall peak power is still very strong with plenty of over-rev. Honda’s trademark shifting is smooth and requires little to no clutch input. The gear ratios are good and evenly spaced. Clutch feel remains the same as previous years; it has a good feel overall, but if you’re a clutch abuser, it will fade a little bit.
Suspension on the CRF450R also received changes for 2019 including revised internal settings, a new shock linkage, and the use of lower-friction oil in the Showa 49mm coil-spring fork. On our first day of testing, we didn’t feel the new suspension settings are a huge change. Rather, they’re more of a fine-tuning to match the updated frame and new swingarm. The Honda has somewhat of a stinkbug (high rear end) feel compared to some of the other 450 motocross bikes, so I prefer to run more sag than normal at around 110mm. With the increased amount of sag, the bike was fairly balanced and the suspension felt good enough to the point that I wasn’t looking to make any significant changes on our first day of testing.
The CRF450R chassis sees a number of changes for 2019 including an updated frame, new swingarm, revised top triple clamp with two clamp locations, new front brake setup, newly shaped footpegs, black Renthal Fatbar, redesigned front number plate, new fork guards, and black rims.
The chassis updates—namely the new frame, swingarm, linkage ratios, and suspension valving—mean there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. I’ve been somewhat critical about the current generation of CRF450R as it has been a bit of a love-hate relationship. The bike has a chassis that’s hypersensitive to any change whether it’s engine, suspension, gearing, or just about anything else. When everything is going well, this bike is very exciting and fun to ride. However, when you get into trouble or make a mistake, it can put you on the ground fast and hard. I’ve spent several hours on the CRF450R during the past two years. Over that time, I’ve tried a number of chassis parts and suspension settings. While some improved the bike’s handling, nothing really cured the bike’s unpredictability when you make a mistake.
From the first lap of riding the 2019 bike, it seemed to feel more comfortable. It has much less of a pitching feel when accelerating and braking, possibly due to the new frame, swingarm, and linkage combination. The rear of the bike absorbs square edges better and does not pitch the bike forward when the throttle is closed or when you are not accelerating. The front wheel can still be a little vague at times, but only if you let yourself get too far back on the chassis. All of these add up to this being an improvement to a bike that was already one of the best in the class.
This is the third year of the current-generation CRF450R, which has been well received by the media and the public. The changes enjoyed by the 2019 model do not stand out until you hit the track. The more controllable power delivery from off throttle to a quarter throttle is an improvement, as are the chassis updates that result in less pitching and better bump absorption. After only a limited amount of time on the 2019 Honda CRF450R for our first day of testing, I would say Honda made great updates to a bike that was already very good.
|ENGINE||449.7cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder four-stroke|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||Showa 49mm inverted coil-spring telescopic fork adjustable for compression and rebound damping; 12.0-in. travel|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Showa shock adjustable for spring preload, high/low-speed compression damping, and rebound damping; 12.3-in. travel|
|FRONT BRAKE||Nissin single 260mm disc w/ twin-piston caliper|
|REAR BRAKE||Nissin single 240mm disc w/ single piston caliper|
|SEAT HEIGHT||37.8 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||1.66 gal.|
|CLAIMED WEIGHT||247 lb. wet|