2016 Honda CRF450R - FIRST RIDE REVIEW

Subtle suspension improvements make the 2016 CRF450R a much better motocrosser.

2016 Honda CRF450R off-road action

Honda has a long history of producing some of the most well built motorcycles money can buy. Quality, durability, and performance have always been good with the bikes from Big Red. And with the 2016 Honda CRF450R, that reputation looks like it will continue.

Last year, some may remember, the CRF450R received numerous changes to the engine and suspension, aimed at improving the handling and power of this big motocrosser. For the most part, these improvements were met with rave reviews, but, as always, there remained some room for improvement.

2016 Honda CRF450R static side view

With the Honda engine just about where the engineers want it, they focused for 2016 on changes to the suspension, along with the required “bold new graphics.” Presumably, these relatively simple changes will allow Honda to get an earlier start on the 2017 CRF450R, which is rumored to be completely new from the ground up.

Back to the 2016 CRF450R: With the goal of further enhancing the ride quality, Honda added 5mm of length to the fork, and upgraded the rear with a new link and spring, plus fine-tuned shock settings. Aside from these improvements, and a 4mm smaller chain roller, the 2016 CRF450R is basically the same bike as the 2015 model.

2016 Honda CRF450R off-road cornering action

ON THE TRACK

Which is to say it’s a fun bike on the motocross track. Although we had a pretty good idea of how the 2016 CRF450R would perform, we didn’t know how much the handling would change.

What we discovered was this: With the longer fork and revised rear, the bike has significantly improved straight-line stability and comfort. The attitude of the 2016 CRF450R is better; the bike no longer has the “stinkbug” feel that it has been plagued with for years. But while comfort had improved, cornering was slightly hindered. With sag set at the recommended 105mm, the bike didn’t settle into ruts or corners. To fix this, we went to 103mm of sag and stiffened up the steering damper three clicks to keep the front end stable. This fixed the problem, allowing the front end to bite into corners and maintain a line without taking away from the straight-line handling.

2016 Honda CRF450R front suspension adjusters

We also adjusted the compression clickers on the fork and shock. On hard hits, both bottomed out and felt too soft. By going in two clicks on the fork and shock, we drastically reduced the bottoming that we were experiencing. The 2016 Kayaba suspension allows for more adjustability, and in spite of what one might think, a few clicks make a big difference.

The power of the 2016 CRF450R is good, but it has an electric feel; it doesn’t hit as hard as some of the other 450s. What the motor does do well, though, is rev. On top, the CRF continues to produce usable power, revving out without signing off. The mapping selection switch—which has a slower/retarded map, aggressive map, and a standard map—works very well. Maps can be changed with the bike in gear and the clutch in, making it easy to experiment during practice. We suspect that faster riders will prefer the harder hitting aggressive map, as it helps the Honda produce more power quickly and efficiently. On slick tracks, however, or when fatigue starts to set in, the slower and standard maps might be a good choice.

2016 Honda CRF450R jump action

THE VERDICT

Although the 2016 Honda CRF450R has received only a few minor changes, we were very impressed with the improved performance. The suspension changes have elevated the comfort level, while the engine remains just as reliable and strong as last year. With a few tweaks and an aftermarket exhaust system to boost the power and low-end hit, this new Honda is a worthy weapon for just about any rider.

UPs:

—Balanced and predictable chassis

—New ignition maps are easy to use and effective

—Strong and progressive brakes

—Engine revs and pulls strong

—The bike has a light feel

—Comfortable ergonomics for the average rider

DOWNs:

—Power doesn’t hit as hard as other 450s

—Stock grips are too firm

—Suspension too soft for faster or heavier riders

—Clutch can fade during long, hot motos

SPECIFICATIONS
ENGINE|449cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
BORE x STROKE|96mm x 62.1mm
COMPRESSION RATIO|12.5:1
VALVE TRAIN|SOHC four-valve; 36mm intake, titanium; 31mm exhaust, steel
INDUCTION|Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI), 46mm throttle body
IGNITION|Full transistor with electronic advance
DRIVETRAIN
TRANSMISSION|Close-ratio five-speed
FINAL DRIVE|#520 Chain; 13T/48T
CHASSIS / SUSPENSION / BRAKES
FRONT SUSPENSION|48mm inverted KYB PSF (Pneumatic Spring Fork) with air-adjustable spring rate, and rebound and compression-damping adjustability: 12.2 in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION|KYB single shock with adjustable spring preload, rebound damping adjustability, and compression damping adjustment: 12.4 in. travel
FRONT BRAKE|Single 260mm disc with twin-piston caliper
REAR BRAKE|Single 240mm disc
FRONT TIRE|Dunlop MX52F 80/100-21
REAR TIRE|Dunlop MX52 120/80-19
DIMENSIONS
WHEELBASE|58.7 in.
RAKE|27°04'
TRAIL|4.57 in.
CLAIMED SEAT HEIGHT|37.5 in.
GROUND CLEARANCE|13.0 in.
FUEL CAPACITY|1.7 gal.
CLAIMED CURB WEIGHT/td> 243 lb.

Action #1

2016 Honda CRF450R action.Jeff Allen

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2016 Honda CRF450R action.Jeff Allen

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2016 Honda CRF450R action.Jeff Allen

Action #4

2016 Honda CRF450R action.Jeff Allen

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2016 Honda CRF450R action.Jeff Allen

Action #6

2016 Honda CRF450R action.Jeff Allen

Action #7

2016 Honda CRF450R action.Jeff Allen

Static side view.

2016 Honda CRF450R static.Jeff Allen

Details #1

2016 Honda CRF450R front wheel.Jeff Allen

Details #2

2016 Honda CRF450R.Jeff Allen

Details #3

2016 Honda CRF450R electronic start button.Jeff Allen

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2016 Honda CRF450R.Jeff Allen

Details #5

2016 Honda CRF450R engine (right-side view).Jeff Allen

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2016 Honda CRF450R engine (left-side view).Jeff Allen

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2016 Honda CRF450R rear wheel and left swingarm.Jeff Allen

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2016 Honda CRF450R rear wheel and right swingarm.Jeff Allen

Details #9

2016 Honda CRF450R swingarm close-up.Jeff Allen

Details #10

2016 Honda CRF450R exhaust.Jeff Allen