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2017 Honda CRF450R Ride Review

By: Aaryn Minerds

Posted: Tuesday, 31st January, 2017 - -


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Every now and then a bike comes along that you can't wait to get your hands on, a bike that grabs your attention from the very first moment you lay eyes on it and has you counting down the days until you can see one in the flesh or better yet, have the chance to throw a leg over one.

The 2017 Honda CRF450R certainly fell into that category for myself.

It is not the first time that an all-new CRF450R had me waiting with baited breath for it to arrive on Australian soil.

The anticipation of this bike was not unlike the wait for the 2009 model to arrive back in late 2008. Back then I was actually working at a Honda dealership in Adelaide and wasted no time purchasing one of the first 09 CRF450R’s to arrive in store

We had all heard the rumours of a all new, from the ground up Honda 450F Motocrosser for 2017 for some time, with images of a CRF450RW model hitting the pages of the world wide web, as the bike that would become the latest edition of Honda's CRF450R was tried and tested and continually refined during the 2016 All Japan Motocross Championship.

As we know now, the bike that was on track in Japan had a bit of a different look externally, but for all intense and purposes would be the bike that we seen launched in the final few months of 2016 across the globe, with the first of the all new Honda's landing down under in December.

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Top to Bottom, Front to Back, Side to Side, the 2017 Honda CRF450R is one wonderful looking machine.
 
Luckily for myself this provided an opportunity to head over to New South Wales for the official Australian media launch, with Honda Australia hiring out the Ranch MX complex just outside of Newcastle and allowing us to spend a full day carving out as many laps as we could on their new pride and joy.

Checking the latest edition of the CRF450R out for the first time it was easy to see the attention to detail Honda had put into this new bike, straight out of the box it is one great looking machine with clean sharp lines and a small compact look along with some nice little touches like the HRC logo set into the top of the triple clamps and the new Plastic / Graphic combination that now sees Honda running film insert mouldings that are integrated into the plastic shroud, replacing the old style stick on graphics, with the aim of keeping the graphics looking fresh and taking away the chance of the graphics peeling off due to rubbing or while being washed.

Normally before giving our thoughts on a new bike we would run through the changes from the previous model to the new model, but with this bike being completely new, that is a bit of a waste of time.

Instead we will look at what Honda was aiming to achieve with the new bike, from the motor, the ergonomics, suspension and an overall package and ill give my thoughts on how I thought it related back for the type of rider I represent, which really is the clubman / Vet rider, pretty much your average weekend warrior who enjoys getting out on the weekend for a ride or lining up to race for a bit of fun, knowing that the day’s trophies are probably heading home with someone else.

So where do we start?

Sitting on the bike for the first time, it is clear to see Honda have taken as much time ensuring the look from behind the bars is just as impressive as looking at the bike from the side lines.

Renthal bars come standard with pretty much no clutter on the control centre of the CRF450R, with just a single switch block housing sitting on the left hand side of the bars, housing both the kill switch along with engine mode selection button and FI Mode Indicator.

With the bars and levers set, the only other change we made to the bike was to adjust the rear shock to best suit my weight of 102kg with the stock spring.

Rolling out on track for the first time, it did not take long to feel pretty comfortable on the Honda, like most of the new bikes these days, everything is pretty well spot on from scratch, everything comes to hand and foot comfortably.

Honda has put a lot of time and effort into making a smaller, lighter and more compact frame for 2017 with a lower centre of gravity.

Weight savings have been found by reducing the overall weight of the main frame by 280 grams, while a all new extrusion moulded rear end to the subrame replaced the old forged plastic end, reducing weight over the very back of the bike, helping to improve the bikes overall centre of gravity.

Honda have given the bike an overall shorter wheel base again with the intention to lowering the bikes centre of gravity in order to give it a more overall balanced feel that helps to keep both the front end down and the rear wheel planted for maximum rear wheel traction and front end control.


It looks great, corners extremley well, a super impressive and confidence inspiring motor that puts the power to the ground, there is a lot to like about Honda's all new CRF450R.
 
So how does that feel on track?

The bike is very well balanced, and if Honda were looking for a bike that has both front-end feel and some fantastic rear wheel traction, they have built a chassis that provides both.

Overall the bike does have a slim feel to it, especially for a 450 and gave plenty of front-end feel when heading into any turn. From tight inside ruts, to off cambered flat turns, or standing on the pegs through a long sweeping deep rut, the new Honda CRF450 gave myself plenty of confidence to tackle any turn with ease.

What was more impressive was exiting a turn on the gas, the rear of this bike has plenty of grip and almost feels as though it gets sucked into the ground the more you twist the throttle.

It was a bit of a unique feeling and was most noticeable on a couple of corners where I was running an inside line. Getting on the gas as hard as I could on exit, the bike would pull hard with the rear ending feeling as though it would squat down and propel the bike like a rocket out of the turn.

In fact even when trying to get the rear end of the bike to slide for a photo in some very soft loose, powdery dirt, it took more than a little effort for myself to get the rear end to break free!

What is more impressive about the rear end traction on the new Honda is the fact that bike has a new generation Unicam engine that produces quite a bit more power and torque than the previous engine. So more power with a very predictable and confident inspiring power delivery, it’s a good thing for sure.

Again, I could run through all the changes Honda have made to the entire engine package, which is quite large and pretty technical and certainly a very impressive motor in my eyes. For those looking for all the technical detail http://hondacrf.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/CRF450R_Tech_Info_Final_EN160810_AUS.pdf


Honda's CRF450R in the nude.
 
The engine on the new CRF450R is deceptively fast, very deceptive! Running the standard map for the majority of the morning session, I often found myself heading into turns carrying more speed than I realised.

As I said above, the bike really tracts well out of turns and picks up speed quietly and quickly and before you realise you are flying down a long sweeping straight at high speed. The back couple of straights at the Ranch MX complex provided the ideal place to see how well this bike accelerated and on more than a couple of occasions I found myself heading into the final turn at the end of the back straight carrying more speed than I thought I was.

The updated twin muffler exhaust system which like most parts on the new Honda has been made shorter and lighter to help reduce the bikes overall centre of gravity, along with the motor itself are on the quiet side, maybe more so for a rider like myself who likes to ride the bike in the lower side of the rev range.

The bike also comes standard with three engine modes that can easily be changed via the engine mode select button on the handlebars. The selection button is easy to use and modes can be swapped between at any time as long as the throttle is not being turned.

One thing I did not realise until speaking to Honda Racing’s Team Manager Jay Foreman was the bike automatically defaults to the standard mode when the bike is first started. Which is not a bad thing, though if you were to stall mid way through a race, you would have to take the time to reselect one of the alternate modes if preferred.

Overall the motor on the new CRF450R is very impressive, super responsive and though it gives off a bit of a mild mannered feeling, it certainly has you pulling out of corners a lot faster than it feels with a predictable yet powerful burst of acceleration.

The clutch on the new bike has also been revised with Honda opting to reduce both the number of clutch discs and clutch plates by one, with 7 discs and 6 plates now in play, but have increased the plate thickness from 1.6mm to 2mm.

The clutch was one of the things, along with the brakes that I did not really take to much notice of during the day as both done what was expected of them. The clutch had a nice feel to it and was consistent all day long for someone of my pace, while the both the front and rear brakes both giving plenty of stopping power.

There are plenty of talking points on the new Honda, with a all new chassis, heavily revised power plant, new swing arm, sub frame, well pretty much everything, including the move back to a spring fork up front with a completely redesigned shock position.


Even going off track looking for some loose dirt to throw some dirt around, I stuggled to get the rear wheel to break loose, something I don't usually have any trouble with on a 450!
 
As with most media launches the track (Which was prepared perfectly for us, especially considering the high temperature, sunshine and wind on the day) did not really get beaten up like you would see on either a race day, or a busy practice day.

While some nice deep loamy ruts formed up in corners, there were no real braking bumps, to speak off, which a just a small section of hard square edge hard pack left on one of the fastest sections of the track.

In terms of cornering, there was no doubt both the front end and rear end settled in nicely heading into any corner and the shock certainly played its part in the impressive way the bike put the power to the ground out of turns.

The front fork, which is a 49mm Showa spring fork, is something I would love to spend a lot more time getting to know. Running with pretty much no adjustments from stock for the entire day, it felt very good and very predictable, but again that was on a relatively smooth track.

Overall I personally think Honda are on to a real winner with their latest offering with the CRF450R being a bike the will suit a large percentage of riders out there, especially people like myself who are looking for a straight up easy to ride 450.

The overall package gives you a lot of confidence straight out of the crate, and a no fuss spring fork that offers enough adjustment without getting yourself lost or the need to check it every time you ride is something that the average weekend warrior will appreciate.

The motor is powerful, yet super smooth and predictable with a suspension and chassis package combining to keep the rear will planted firmly on the ground while also providing great front-end feel.

While the electric start is optional (Something else I would really like to test on this bike) the bike did start first kick for myself on each ride, though it did take a few kicks to re-start after one stall during the day.

As I said above, it is a bike that I would be more than happy to spend a lot more time getting to know, the first impression from a single day of riding was a great one, I can only image how good this bike could be after spending a couple of weeks dialling it in to suit some personal preferences.


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