Riding Impression: 2013 Honda CRF450R
We ride the bike you have all been waiting for!
Riding Impression:2013 Honda CRF450R
Previewing the Preproduction Machine
By: Jimmy Lewis, Photos by: Scott Hoffman
(The full production units will be in showrooms shortly but we could not wait and asked Honda to jump on one of the first machines off the production line. These bikes are called pre-production because they are used for final testing and will never be made available to the public, these are the bikes that are sadly crushed at the end of the year after being used and abused. -Scott Hoffman)
Motocross.com got the opportunity to get a day’s ride on the 2013 Honda CRF450R as Honda is definitely trying to let riders know this bike is coming. It is scheduled to hit the showrooms in September while other makes are already available or will be quite shortly, knowing what is coming might help riders hold off on that new bike purchase just a little bit longer. And for good reason. This CRF has something to prove.The bike is basically 100% new despite some familiar-looking shapes. Keeping the Unicam design and a similar look externally, the engine is heavily revised for durability and performance. The transmission is beefed up and the power output livened through higher compression. The chassis is 100% new for a refined flex character through a heavily altered headset and a major change to the swingarm even though the rake and trail stay very similar to the previous CRFs. On the never-seen-before list is the air fork and the dual muffler on the 450. Wrap the whole bike in a new, more ergonomically friendly plastic set and there isn’t much leftover but a few bits and pieces here and there. The weight is said to have risen slightly, mostly from inside the engine and from the additional muffler, but that should not affect the Honda being the lightest bike in the class by almost a handful of pounds.
From the first whack of the throttle you notice the bike is quiet. There is no rasp and at idle the tone is pleasant. With tightening regulations on sound, the dual muffler will become more valuable aside from the handling benefits that are noticeable. But do not let your ears confuse you about the power. It has plenty and then more than enough in a delivery that has been spiced up compared to past CRFs. Somehow they didn’t make the snap in any way uncontrollable, yet boosted the pickup so that the clutch rarely has to be used. It can take turns a gear high, pulls from a lower RPM without hesitation, and definitely isn’t spinning up uncontrollably. And if you choose to rev it, the bike is just as happy but way more powerful in the mid-range than before. In fact the upper middle of the power spread is impressively healthy and pulls with as much steam as any 450 I have thrown a leg over. As it winds its way to the top, the motor makes the best use of the RPM and acts like it takes its time to make the power spread one of the longest I have ridden. There is little to complain about and it will take a very heavy rider or a fast pro to want more out of this CRF. Tweaking performance should be an easy adjustment using the EFI tuner or adding a tooth to the rear sprocket or possibly an aftermarket exhaust. The compression braking is minimal and the shifting is magical. This bike also had a pretty fair amount of time on it as well and was still feeling as fresh as a new bike. If there were any complaints on the engine it was the bike was easier than average to stall and was a bit tougher than most to start, something that is likely being tweaked on for final production as those fixes are usually minor adjustments to the FI system. And the one standout issue I had was that the clutch pull on the new six-spring clutch was definably on the stiff side, although the feel and engagement were excellent.Onto the chassis and the bike is one of the lightest feeling 450s I have ridden. Add to that the excellent balance the bike has and any of the issues I or most riders have had with the last three years of CRFs seem to be a thing of the past. The bike is still a front wheel turning and following bike but the front end feels lighter and not as loaded up as it has been in years previous. The lighter air fork helps this feel as well as the softer feeling initial part of the fork’s stroke. Then the most amazing thing is the way the bike’s stability is better than ever and the rear feels much more planted. The harder you get on the gas the better it tracks and really wants to stay in line—a sensation that the dual-muffler CRF250R had to a much lesser degree. The steering is precise and the new Dunlop MX51FA is definitely a contributing factor. A few riders even commented that the bike felt like it wanted to stay down and laid over in the turns where previous CRFs wanted to stand up. Helping this feel is the fact that the bike is very natural feeling in the ergonomics and takes no time at all to get used to.
The air fork is very progressive and takes away one of the hindering characteristics of the older CRFs which was a stiff and harsh feeling in the initial part of the fork’s stroke. This one is butter. And the bottoming resistance is even better than before because even when taxed it doesn’t feel like the fork ever hits metal-to-metal. The alteration of pressure in the front by just a half-PSI makes a notable difference and changes the feel of the tire on the ground as well as the ride height of the front of the bike. I ended up a half-PSI higher than the suggested pressure after trying a full pound increase initially. Through the steering the bar feels lighter and takes less effort to move around and in flight manners have never been better or more feathery feeling. The bike feels five pounds lighter than last year’s bike, easy!Out back the shock does a perfect job of matching the improved front-end performance and I never felt the need to adjust any of the clickers, and I usually tune the back of the bike for almost any track to my liking. There was never a reason to want to and the Milestone track we were on was heavily rutted and choppy from all the pros out practicing, making it an excellent test session.
To say we were impressed would be almost an understatement. This bike worked well in every little area and even better, so dialed as a package. For sure this bike was a pre-production bike and we did not get to take it away from the test, but it has been my experience that the production bikes are even more finely tuned and some of the little things that the Red Riders have been learning will help with those last-minute final settings to the suspension and engine management systems. Aside from a stiff clutch pull there was little, if anything, to complain about and the overall performance has me thinking there is no reason this bike won’t be right there when it comes shootout time.
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