2017 Honda CRF450R - FIRST LOOK

All-new MXer gets more power, better handling, and some trick parts

Believe it or not, it has been 15 years since the introduction of the first-generation CRF450R motocross bike. Not only has this bike been a huge success on the showroom floor, and in competition around the world, but the CRF450R also took home eight-consecutive Cycle World Ten Best trophies between 2002 and 2009, and remains one of the winningest models in the 40 years those awards have been handed out.

Honda CRF450R studio rear 3/4 view
Rear three-quarter view.Courtesy of Honda

For 2017, Honda has completely revamped the big CRF from top to bottom. Among the changes are an all-new Unicam engine with improved power and torque across the rev range. Significant changes to the cylinder head include the use of a finger rocker arm for increased valve lift, and oval-coil cross-section valve springs, the combination of which allows a lower engine height, plus makes the mill more compact and gives it a lower center of gravity. Additionally, the head has a narrower included valve angle (reduced from 21.5 to 19.5 degrees) for a straighter shot into the combustion chamber and improved burn from the mixture. Intake valves are now 2mm larger at 38mm. A new piston combined with a revised combustion chamber raises compression from 12.5 to 13.5:1, new four-hole oil jets for piston lubrication, and a new dual-stage scavenge pump reduce friction enough that oil volume has been reduced from 1,490 to 1,250cc; the lubrication system no longer uses two different oils and reservoirs for engine and gearbox. A new clutch, airbox, and exhaust system round out engine changes, while transmission ratios and final-drive gearing have been altered for the new spread of power.

Honda CRF450R engine details
The Unicam engine has been reworked completely. Honda claims more power and torque across the rev range.Courtesy of Honda

Another piece of big news is that electric starting will be available as a $650 optional kit (sans battery). The owner can choose which battery they would like to use. With all the effort Honda has made to reduce weight on the bike, we assume that most consumers will go for an ultra-light lithium-ion unit.

While the engine received a lot of attention, the chassis wasn’t left alone either. Efforts were made to improve cornering balance, increase rear-wheel traction, lower the center of gravity, and improve mass centralization. The frame is now the sixth generation of Honda’s aluminum twin-spar frame and has been tweaked for improved cornering performance.

Honda CRF450R studio stripped view
The naked CRF450R shows the new shorter exhausts and revised chassis.Courtesy of Honda

Suspension has been totally rethought and has a new 49mm Showa fork up front with coil springs in place of the previous air fork. The shock is now mounted 39mm lower in the chassis making room for a more direct intake funnel from the airbox to throttle body. A new swingarm is lighter, stiffer, and slightly shorter. Fork angle has increased from 27.1 to 27.4 degrees, while trail has been increased by 1mm; the wheelbase has shrunk from 1,492 to 1,481.5mm.

Honda CRF450R front suspension fork details
A 49mm Showa coil-spring fork replaces the air fork that was on the last-generation bike.Courtesy of Honda

Another cool feature on the R is the use of an all-new titanium fuel tank. Not only is the tank slightly lighter while carrying the same 1.6 gallons of fuel, but it’s also now lower in the frame for an improved center of gravity. The bodywork is all-new and now has in-molded graphics, so you won’t be blowing off the decals with your zillion-psi pressure washer.

Honda CRF450R fuel tank details
The 2017 Honda CRF450R gets a super trick titanium fuel tank.Courtesy of Honda

The CRF450R comes standard with Dunlop’s Geomax MX-3S tires.

Look for an upcoming first ride in October, and then expect the motorcycle to arrive in dealerships later that month. The recent earthquake at Honda’s Kumamoto, Japan, factory greatly impacted the timing of the release of this motorcycle, but it looks like it will be well worth the wait. Pricing has not yet been set. Stay tuned.

ENGINE TYPE 449.7cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
BORE x STROKE 96.0 x 62.1mm
INDUCTION Programmed fuel-injection system (PGM-FI); 46mm throttle bore
IGNITION Full transistorized ignition
TRANSMISSION Constant-mesh 5-speed return
FINAL DRIVE 520 chain; 13T/49T
VALVE TRAIN Unicam® OHC, four-valve; 10.0mm intake, steel; 8.8mm exhaust, steel
FRONT SUSPENSION 49mm fully adjustable leading-axle inverted telescopic Showa coil-spring fork; 12.0 in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Pro-Link swingarm system; fully adjustable Showa single shock; 12.4 in. travel
FRONT BRAKES Single 260mm hydraulic disc
REAR BRAKES Single 240mm hydraulic disc
FRONT TIRES Dunlop Geomax MX3S 80/100-21 55M with tube
REAR TIRES Dunlop Geomax MX3S 120/80-19 55M with tube
TRAIL 116.0mm (4.6 in.)
SEAT HEIGHT 37.8 in.
WHEELBASE 58.3 in.
CURB WEIGHT 243 lbs.
Honda CRF450R in-molded graphics details
New bodywork includes in-molded graphics, so you won't blast off your decals with the pressure washer.Courtesy of Honda
Honda CRF450R cockpit view
A revised cockpit features mapping buttons on the left pod and the magic starter button on the right.Courtesy of Honda
Honda CRF450R studio front 3/4 view
Narrower bodywork makes the CRF look very compact and slim.Courtesy of Honda
Honda CRF450R catching air action
More power and lighter weight equals a much improved power-to-weight ratio.Courtesy of Honda