The Honda CRF450R is a significant motorcycle. We know Yamaha created the modern mainstream motocross four-stroke with the 1998 YZ400F, but Honda upped the ante with the 2002 debut of its own big-bore thumper. AMERiders gives you look, into what is coming.
Honda had gone through the wringer refining the twin-spar aluminum frame in its two strokes starting in 1997, and by ’02 it had the process down and a beautiful new 450cc four-stroke engine for it, with that slender Uni-Cam head. The bike was well-received, and for while it left the rest of the brands playing catch up. These days, everyone has refined their four-stroke game, but a new Honda CRF450R is still big news, and Honda points out that the CRF450R is the industry’s best-selling full-size motocrosser (and the overall market share for this bike is pretty startling in a segment featuring six different manufacturers).
Remember all the hype for the 2017 version, which coincided with signing Ken Roczen > Yeah, big news. Well, you can set your watch to the timing. Three years, and then a new Honda. Today, it’s time for the next-generation CRF450R, the 2021 bike. We should have gotten a good preview of this bike via Tim Gajser and the Honda MXGP team because Europe’s factory squad was racing on a prototype “works” version of the new machine this year. Well, you might have noticed that racing kind of stopped for a while?
Well, now we see the bike in production form via Honda’s release of info today. The tagline for the last-generation bike was “Absolute Holeshot” and now the 2021 bike carries the goal of “razor sharp cornering.”
To that end, the bike is slimmer and lighter (Honda says three pounds less than the 2020 model, the frame alone is 1.5 pounds lighter) and we noted the five-degree steeper head angle as another possible boost in cornering. The frame has reduced lateral rigidity while keeping the same torsional stiffness (for the most part manufacturers have been reducing the stiffness of frames lately to improve the comfort feel of bikes. That first aluminum Honda in ’97 was hella stiff. Ever since then it’s been baby steps toward more flex).
Cornering isn’t just about agility. The dual-muffler exhaust system is swapped out to a single-exhaust design that saves 2.7 pounds, and the engine sports significant changes with the goal of improving power specifically on corner exit. The old round exhaust port is now oval, and the intake side is designed to keep incoming air cooler, and the head, fuel pump and hydraulic clutch sport changes. The goal is to both improve low-end power and increase high RPM run out, as well as boost reliability and durability.
That’s all wrapped in a brand-new look, which makes the bike slightly slimmer, and includes numerous changes that make working on the bike easier, including a revamped airbox and filter. Honda says this bike is three pounds lighter than the 2020 model, but the press info includes weight saving changes that add up too much more than three pounds, so that must mean weight was reduced in some areas but added back in others to result in the three-pound net loss.
An all-new Honda 450 motocrosser is already big news, but this year’s announcement is different because the lineup expands. The “WE” (Works Edition) version that debuted last year returns for the new bike, boasting premium upgrades again, like a Yoshimura exhaust. The new Works Edition bike adds a Hinson clutch basket and cover, and a Twin-Air filter. Also, the RX off-road racing version of the 450 gains the same changes as the new MX bike, and it’s cool to see the off-road side getting such up-to-date technology. The CRF450RX will be similar to the motocross bike but equipped with the usual off-road massage, including an 18-inch rear wheel, handguards, a skid plate, side stand, and different tuning.
Now, here’s something we rarely see: Honda has also bumped up the production run of the existing 2020 CRF450R, and will continue to sell that bike, too, at a $1,000 price reduction compared to the 2021 model.
The rest of Honda’s CRF lineup doesn’t change. The 2021 250s were already announced, no big changes there. The dual-sport 450 changes only in name, what was the CRF450L is now the CRF450RL, with the “R” designation used to further highlight the performance of the machine.
If you want the full info dump on the new 2021 Honda 450s, the full press release is below:
TORRANCE, Calif.—Nearly two decades after its introduction to the motocross world, Honda’s CRF450R begins a new chapter for 2021, this latest version inspired by a “Razor Sharp Cornering” design philosophy. Already the industry’s top-selling motocross model along with its exclusive CRF450RWE sibling, the CRF450R is guided by three main goals for 2021: improved power (particularly on corner exits), improved handling and more consistent lap times over the course of a tough moto.
Honda’s lightened, latest-generation twin-spar aluminum frame headlines the update list, with changes that reduce lateral rigidity for improved cornering performance and stability. Out back, a new swingarm improves rear traction. The Unicam® engine features updates to the decompression system, intake and exhaust (including a switch from two mufflers to one), resulting in improved low- and midrange performance and a narrower layout. A stouter clutch with hydraulic activation is new, delivering reduced slip and a lighter lever pull for more consistent performance. The new bodywork and seat offer a slimmer, smoother rider interface, as well as simplified maintenance.
“Having already earned a place on the list of all-time successful Honda models, the CRF450R continues to demonstrate Honda’s commitment to winning,” said Lee Edmunds, Senior Manager of Powersports Marketing at American Honda. “With its emphasis on cornering performance, we’re confident that the all-new 2021 model will help Red Riders write their own names in the record books with dominant performances from gate drop to checkered flag.”
Each of the CRF450R’s updates is transferred to the closed-course off-road-focused CRF450RX and the high-spec CRF450RWE motocross machine, which in addition to its already illustrious list of trick parts, features a Twin Air air filter plus Hinson clutch basket and cover for 2021. Benefiting dramatically from the reduced weight and increased attention to low-end power delivery, the CRF450RX adds off-road-focused features and, new for 2021, handguards. The CRF450X, which has amassed an incredible 13 Baja 1000 wins, returns alongside the renamed CRF450RL dual-sport bike, both models adding handguards and updated graphics to an already proven formula. Honda’s mid-displacement ADV, the CB500X, returns in a new Matte Black Metallic color while the TRX®90X sport ATV returns with updated graphics and color-matched front shock springs.
While the focus is on the all-new 2021 CRF450R, Honda is happy to announce that it will continue to offer the 2020 CRF450R—the production version of the factory machine raced by Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen and Justin Brayton this season. Available at a permanent price reduction and made possible through an additional production run, the model is a standout option for customers seeking high performance and a good value.
The industry’s benchmark motocross machine, Honda’s CRF450R has amassed an impressive collection of awards and titles over the years. Rather than rest on its laurels, Honda has gone back to the drawing board for the 2021 model year, endowing the legendary machine with updates aimed at improved power, handling and consistency, with a focus on “Razor Sharp Cornering.” Drawing on lessons learned from Honda Racing Corporation’s global race program, including Team Honda HRC’s AMA Supercross and Motocross efforts, the 2021 CRF450R features engine updates focused on low- to midrange performance, a newly designed chassis with revised rigidity and a slimmer overall package. The combination yields a machine that performs at a high level for the duration of a tough moto.
- Pricing: $9,599
- Color: Red
For motocross enthusiasts who demand the absolute best when it comes to performance, the premium CRF450RWE (“Works Edition”) benefits from the same improvements as the 2021 CRF450R, plus a long list of elite-level updates based on the machines in the Team Honda HRC factory race shop. As with the CRF450R, this model is endowed with important updates aimed at improving power, handling and consistency and—befitting its status as the clear benchmark when it comes to lap times—it boasts additional features aimed at refining power, suspension performance and aesthetics. New for 2021, the CRF450RWE now comes standard with a Hinson clutch basket and cover, as well as a Twin Air air filter.
- Pricing: $12,380
- Color: Red
Ridden by Phoenix Racing Honda, SLR Honda and JCR Honda at the national-championship level, the CRF450RX is well-suited for closed-course off-road competition such as GNCC, WORCS and NGPC. For the 2021 model year, it’s better than ever, getting the same important performance upgrades as the motocross-focused CRF450R and retaining off-road-specific features like dedicated ECU and suspension settings, an 18-inch rear wheel and an aluminum side stand. New for 2021, the CRF450RX comes standard with handguards and a revised 2.1 gallon fuel tank that narrows the bike width at the radiator shrouds. The combination yields a race machine that’s ready to chase arrows and ribbon along trails from coast to coast.
- Pricing: $9,899
- Color: Red
Through a winning combination of performance, durability and comfort, Honda’s road-legal dirt bike has made a name for itself in the dual-sport world. And for 2021, it has a title befitting its level of performance. Now called the CRF450RL, this capable dual-sport machine remains based on the trail-connecting approach that broadens customers’ ride-planning possibilities. Powered by Honda’s proven 449cc Unicam® engine and wide-ratio six-speed transmission, plus premium long-travel suspension and twin-spar aluminum frame, the CRF450RL now comes standard with lightweight handguards for increased comfort and protection no matter where the ride leads.
- Pricing: $10,399
- Color: Red
When it comes to motorcycle racing in Baja, “dominant” doesn’t quite do justice to Honda’s record. Twenty-two of the last 23 victories in the legendary Baja 1000 have gone to Honda, including SLR Honda’s convincing 2019 win, and 13 of those belong to the CRF450X. Not only does it rule desert racing, but the CRF450X is a great trail bike thanks in part to its 50-state year-round off-road-legal status. With off-road appropriate features like a side stand, 18-inch rear wheel, headlight, sealed chain and six-speed transmission, the bike is ready for desert expanses or tight woods. Sharing similar styling updates as its CRF Performance Line counterparts, the 2021 CRF450X features all-new graphics and handguards.
- Pricing: $9,799
- Color: Red
While many off-road riders demand the latest technology, a number of customers see value as a top priority, though still not willing to make a big sacrifice in terms of performance. By creating the all-new 2021 CRF450R and making an additional production run of 2020 units that will be available at a permanent price reduction, Honda is able to address the needs of both groups. The same platform raced by Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen and Justin Brayton in the 2020 AMA Supercross series, the 2020 CRF450R features proven performance alongside electronic rider aids like Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC), which maximizes rear-tire hookup to keep all of the Unicam® engine’s horsepower driving the bike and rider forward.
- Pricing: $8,599
- Color: Red