The 2013 Honda CRF450R was hot. Its all-new, fourth-generation design had a fresh new look that was a radical departure from Honda’s norm. New frame geometry, twin mufflers and an air fork were a big step forward. The sleeper motor, though, was a bit of a shortcoming. Although it was fast, it didn’t excite us as much as some of the others in the 450cc class. And, well, the fork action wasn’t the best, either.
Changes for 2014 are minimal but effective. Typically, the tweaks to a model in its second year aren’t super exciting, usually along the lines of improvements a rider might make on his own. In any case, Honda’s latest improvements have made for a better CRF450R.
Honda addressed the fork by increasing stock air pressure from 33 psi to 35 (which is like going up a spring rate, something we did on last years bike). To complement the air-spring adjustment, the valving was changed and the rebound damping components were replaced by a one-piece piston. Fork action is definitely better.
Rather than diving down on corner entry and over smaller bumps, the fork stays high in its stroke. While this sometimes cause harshness over smaller chop, the 2014 CRF450R feels good, and there’s less movement on the front-end mid corner as well. The rider now has better control of the steering and direction of the bike.
We found a rear sag setting of 105mm to be most effective. There, the CRF450R exhibits a very balanced character. The bike is neutral, and you can turn it on the front or slide the rear. And when it does slide, it’s predictable and easy to control, aided by a light overall feel that’s sensed through the bars and footpegs.
The engine has had minimal changes; basically, it received a new cylinder head with reshaped intake and exhaust ports. Dual mufflers feature a new Y splitter for better flow, and Honda has also switched to “dual-timing” fuel injection. Not to be confused with dual injectors, the new system employs a single injector that pulses twice for better fuel atomization, which results in crisper throttle response. The power delivery feels more aggressive than last year, but the overall level feels about the same. Frankly, it feels like an adjustment that you could have made with the Honda power tuner.
We’d like more time with the new 2014 CRF450R because we had only a half-day to test it. Nevertheless, we suspect that by playing with the power tuner a bit, tweaking the suspension and dialing in the steering damper, this new Honda can become a real winner.
Even though there aren’t numerous substantive changes for the 2014 Honda CRF450R, the bike is a better overall package. Its light feel and nimble handling allows for maximum rider control, while the updated suspension improves rider confidence. And even though it feels like it has about the same amount of power as last year’s bike, the 2014 CRF450R is a reasonable choice if you’re in the market for a 450cc motocross bike. But if you’re stepping up from a 2013 CRF450R, you might think twice about making the jump.
|ENGINE TYPE||449cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke|
|BORE x STROKE||96.0mm x 62.1mm|
|VALVE TRAIN||Unicam, four-valve; 36mm intake, titanium; 31mm exhaust, steel|
|INDUCTION||Dual-Timing PGM-FI, 46mm throttle body|
|IGNITION||Full transistor with electronic advance|
|FINAL DRIVE||#520 chain; 13T/48T|
|FRONT||48mm inverted KYB PSF (Pneumatic Spring Fork) with air-adjustable spring rate, and rebound and compression-damping adjustability; 12.2 inches travel|
|REAR||Pro-Link KYB single shock with adjustable spring preload, rebound damping adjustability, and compression damping adjustment separated into low-speed and high-speed; 12.4 inches travel|
|FRONT||Single 240mm disc with twin-piston caliper|
|REAR||Single 240mm disc|
|FRONT||Dunlop MX51FA 80/100-21|
|REAR||Dunlop MX51 120/80-19|
|SEAT HEIGHT||37.5 in.|
|GROUND CLEARANCE||13.0 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||1.7 gal.|
|CLAIMED WET WEIGHT||244 lbs.|
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