If there is one manufacturer that has the most hype behind it when they redesign their machine, it’s got to be Honda. Who could forget the 2009 CRF450R? Not me, because that bike gave me a ton of headaches when trying to set it up for what I needed. What about the 2017 CRF450R? That model release went better, but still had some of that Honda rigidity that was tough to dial in when hitting rough, choppy tracks. Fast forward to the present and the CRF450R has been completely redesigned again for 2021. If you own a 2020 model, I can sit here and tell you most of your 2020 parts will not roll over to the 2021 version as it’s all-new from the ground up. After a full day of testing at Glen Helen yesterday, here are some key points to the 2021 Honda CRF450R you may find interesting.
The 2021 Honda CRF450R’s engine character is smoother and broader than the 2020. An easier to ride engine character provides a more friendly ride for vet type riders.
Pulling power is increased through mid-top end.
Over-rev output is higher, which allows riders to be lazier with each gear shift.
ECU setting in Map 1 is rich/dirty feeling at low RPM (5000-6000).
The good news is although the 2021 CRF450R does corner better, it actually goes in a straight line better as well! No, the chassis isn’t as compliant as a Kawasaki, but it has a much better/softer feel around the track than in previous years I can remember.
Rider is able to hit bumps harder without harsh feeling through hands.
Lightweight feeling is felt on initial lean through corners. Side to side or sudden line direction change is easier with the weight loss program (almost five pounds) the Honda went on.
The Honda still needs some setup after purchase in order to create increased track toughness.
More on the 2021 Honda CRF450R
The new Showa suspension has better comfort on square edge and braking bumps.
Suspension comfort is increased which allows for the tires to follow the ground better.
Soft stock suspension setting takes some setup by the rider.
The 2021 CRF450R’s ergonomics feel as good if not better than last year as the flatter seat profile puts you on top of the bike more, rather than in it, like the 2020. The Honda’s one exhaust note is now much quieter and pleasant to the ears when Barcia’ing your way around the track. The brakes on the Honda are the best in the Japanese category as well as the new hydraulic clutch. The new Honda Nissin hydraulic system has a longer/more linear engagement than the Kawasaki and will not fade under heavy abuse. The new clutch feel, as well as durability alone, is worth a lot to me. I couldn’t stand the slipping that I would get with the 2020, but the 2021 has more positivity to the rear wheel with no dragging.
So, what do I really think?
With the Honda weighing in at 244 pounds full of fuel, it feels like it’s almost as light as a KTM 450 SX-F in areas of the track. The connective feel I get from the rear wheel (once past that dirty feeling down low) allows me to roll the throttle on harder and be more aggressive, which I couldn’t do last year. The 2020 CRF450R gave me glimpses of hope and fun around the track, with disappointment mixed in. The 2021 Honda CRF450R gives me more fun around the track without as much disappointment. Yes, in my opinion it’s a better Honda CRF450R in almost every way! If you’re a current Honda owner and are looking for an easier CRF450R to ride, this could be your year! If you’re not a Honda owner, but might be looking for a 450 that corners great, feels lightweight, and has an engine that pulls each gear extremely far this red bike could be your new favorite color. If you want to see more of the 2021 Honda CRF450R in action you can check out the first impression video Simon Cudby shot at the event introduction right here on racerxonline.com.