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Is there anything sexier than a Honda CRF? I’ll wait… No, there isn’t! I walk out into my shop and I see that all red machine over there just looking at me and it makes my dirt bike heart melt. Even though I am critical of the CRF450R, there is not another bike made that I want to work more than the CRF450R. Chassis rigidity has been an issue for me over the years and I have been vocal about it, but now with the changes that Honda made in 2023, could we see a more compliant Honda? A more forgiving west coast dirt chassis? If you live on the east coast or ride tracks that have soft dirt, this CRF450R chassis is one of better chassis’ available, but us west coast riders are looking for a little more comfort. I may or may not have had some time on the 23 chassis in pre-production form so I do have some things to say about it for all you Honda lovers out there. If you’re looking to get a 2023 Honda CRF450R reading this may help your decision. Below are the changes that Honda made to the 23 CRF450R and with each of those changes I give you a rider’s perspective what that means on the track. Look for a complete breakdown of this machine as soon as Honda releases it to us media folks.
CRF450R: UPDATES FOR 2023
Honda: To celebrate the milestone of Honda producing motocross models, an available 50th Anniversary Edition features graphics and colors that are a nod to the CR models that dominated 1980s AMA Supercross and Motocross. This version features a blue seat cover, white number plates, gold rims, gold handlebar, gray-metallic triple clamps and special graphics.
Keefer: I am usually not a gold type of guy, but this homage to the old school of HRC is pretty bad ass! As I get older, the more I appreciate the history and what it means behind it, so seeing this 50 year Anniversary machine takes me back to when my dad used to take me to Honda Valley (a riding spot in the high desert) to watch Johnny O’Mara, David Bailey and Rick Johnson pound out motos on a whoop filled desert course. Those memories came flooding back to me once I saw this machine!
Honda: Narrower intake-port shape and longer intake funnel, for improved engine response and torque, resulting in improved acceleration on corner exits.
Keefer: This change made the bike’s engine character feel longer. The current Honda CRF450R engine is a powerhouse and although has got smoother since 2020, it still could afford to be even more linear when rolling the throttle on in area 2 and 3 of corners. The herky/jerky feel of the CRF450R has lessened over the years, but Honda was looking to make more connectivity to the rear wheel while making the CRF450R pull harder out of corners. This intake port/longer intake funnel helps this! I am still a map one kind of rider and when in map 1 on this engine, this sucker gets the power to the ground!
Honda: Cam profile is changed, further increasing torque.
Keefer: I don’t know/remember too much about this cam profile change, but I am sure Honda engineers saw that the profile could change once the intake shape was changed.
Honda: Throttle body diameter is reduced from 46 mm to 44 mm, for smoother power deliver at low speeds.
Keefer: Again, we don’t need more power from a 450cc motocrosss bike, but it would be nice if we can get the power we have and stretch it out in order to make that power more rideable. The smaller throttle body gave my throttle hand a better feel at low rpm situations which in turn actually helped the chassis.
Honda: Frame rigidity optimized by increasing material thickness at front joint and at upper shock mount, enabling freer functioning of front and rear suspension.
Keefer: Now we are getting to the good stuff! If you asked me what one thing I would want to change about the Honda CRF450R, it would be the chassis rigidity! This change has been the most significant (in comfort) that I have felt from Honda since they went to an updated frame in 2017. In 2021 this current generation frame came out, but the comfort (to me) was only minimal. In 2023, the CRF450R has found another gear in bump compliance and this makes me excited to ride one! When Honda talks about “increasing material thickness” you may think, “don’t we want less rigidity Keefer”? Well, we want “more comfort” and in this case increasing rigidity in certain areas of the frame gave me more comfort on the track. I am no engineer and am basically a one trick pony and that trick is to feel what the bike is doing on the track. The 23 Honda is more compliant on initial bump touch, slap down landings and to me has more rear end feel. I had a problem with the rear of the 2022 bike beating me up on acceleration and de-cel bumps, but with the updates Honda made in 23, it made the CRF450R feel softer in the rear, which in turn gave me more rear end traction and feel.
Honda: Engine hangers changed from aluminum to steel, to match frame changes and improve front end traction.
Keefer: Going to steel mounts gives the Honda more compliance through the fork. This especially came into play when hitting braking bumps.
Honda: Because changes to frame rigidity allow freer suspension movement, shock’s spring rate is increased without introducing harshness.
Keefer: This was key as the rear of the 2023 chassis felt softer, going to a heavier spring was important to keep the shock from blowing through the stroke on high speed damping.
Honda: Fork setting changed to match rear suspension and ensure front/rear balance.
Muffler is quieter thanks to change of inner-pipe design. Switch to heat-treated aluminum for the muffler body increases strength without increasing overall weight.
Keefer: Increasing spring rate in the rear means new valving up front. Showa worked hard on getting a CRF450R that didn’t pitch on de-cel yet had some hold up/comfort when hitting square edge. Some of you dented your 2022 stock mufflers within a couple hours by simply squeezing the bike or pinching the muffler with your right leg. This new heat treatment with the muffler will help this.
Honda: Radiator shroud graphics feature new HRC logo.
Keefer: I mean who doesn’t like the clean look of the Hondas! It’s simple, clean and is not busy looking. A little added blue in the graphic didn’t hurt anyone!
Overall, on paper this might not seem like A LOT of changes, but to me this is the friendliest Honda CRF450R I have ridden in quite sometime. There has been small improvements over the years, but with the 2023, there is actually noticeable change in calmness that I couldn’t quite claim that the other bikes had. I am looking forward to riding the production version sometime soon, so stay tuned to see if the production version is as good as I remember!