There are a lot of you 2019 Honda CRF450R owners out there and most of you food my email inbox with set up questions. If there is one machine that makes me want to ride on pure looks alone, it would be this 2019 Honda CR450R. But… Sometimes looks can be deceiving and although it’s beautiful to look at, the Honda is a handful to ride fast on a rough track. The set up window for this bike is very narrow and you must absolutely “nail it” to get that comfort most of you are looking for on this machine. Trust me, I get it and understand how finicky this CRF450R can be as I have had more time on this machine than any other in my testing fleet. The phrase “Track Toughness” is used a lot in the world of production testing. What is “Track Toughness”?Track Toughness is a phrase that means how well a machine can adapt to any type of track and or track condition. The Honda lacks some “Track Toughness”.
So in order to seek out that comfort we all want out of this sucker and widen that “Track Toughness” window, I have been working diligently on key modifications/settings to pass along to you all out there that will actually help this bike’s Track Toughness. This is not a fluff build, but more for serious die hard red riders/racers that want the most out of their bikes. I will be doing this build in phases, so look for added parts to this article coming soon. Don’t freak out if you don’t see your special mod in this article. Chances are we will get to it in part two… In the meantime here are a few things for you Honda owners out there can try in order to keep that big smile intact from the time you load up your truck, until the time you leave the track.
Swingarm Pivot Bolt Torque Spec: This costs zero dollars and should be done as soon as you get your 2019 Honda CRF450R. Stock swingarm pivot bolt torque spec is 65 ft.lbs., but try to re-torque to 60 ft.lbs. What does this simple adjustment do? It helps the stiff/bound up feel underneath your butt/rear of machine when accelerating and also gives the Honda more rear wheel traction. The Honda chassis has a stiff natured character to begin with so loosening up the swingarm pivot bolt a little helps free it up. Trust me, it helps!
Vortex ECU (Mapped By XPR Motorsports): I have done a few projects with Chad at XPR Motorsports and he continues to impress me with his meticulous ways. The Honda doesn't need more horsepower, in fact it wouldn't hurt if it had a slightly more mellower delivery. So why install a Vortex ECU? The XPR mapped Vortex ECU will give you more horsepower, but will spread out that newfound horsepower with a longer and smoother delivery than the stock ECU can. The stock ECU still has that herky/jerky roll on power through corners and that really upsets the chassis and my corner speed. That pisses me off! If your corner speed is off than you’re going to have a bad day at the track. Just ask my wife, Heather!
Chad has several maps that smooths out that low end feel just enough to where you can roll your corners easier and have a broader pulling power down the straight. The over-rev that this Honda gets with this XPR Vortex ECU/mapping alone is worth the price of admission because it allows me to use second gear longer than our 2019 KTM 450SX-F test bike (with a Vortex ECU). It also allows you third gear riders to use that gear more and be lazier, if that’s how you like to ride. Chad has the mapping down and can get you a cleaner, smoother, broader, more exciting power with this simple mod. Did I mention that it helps the stiff chassis feel? Well it does because you can now ride the CRF450R in the lower RPM range (thanks to more torque) and that frees up the frame on chop, square edge, and braking bumps. Yes, sometimes improvements to the engine can directly affect chassis feel.
Yoshimura RS-9 Full Muffler System: If there is one company that knows Honda’s, it’s Yoshimura! The Yosh muffler makes broader horsepower, keeps the strong bottom end pull intact, and gives the Honda a deeper more throaty sound. Just bolting on this Yoshimura system (without the ECU change) will help the Honda’s on/off feel from 0-15% throttle opening. This is where the Honda needs help and the Yoshimura muffler helps smooth the CRF450R in this area. You will also lose just over a pound with this system.
14/51 Gearing: This gearing will only work best if you have the above three modifications done. I stumbled across this gearing on a test day and found out that I really liked it. The 14/51 gearing allows you to run your axle farther back (which the Honda needs) and gives the engine a longer 2nd and 3rd gear pull. This gearing also helps the rear of the Honda relax under load and will give the rider extra rear wheel traction. Try this gearing if you have done the above three mods.
Rekluse Torque Drive Clutch Pack: How’s that lever pull doing for you on your CRF450R? Not that great right? I hated going from a light clutch lever pull (on other machines) to the hard feel of the Honda CRF450R. The CRF450R needs some longer clutch life (because I am a clutch dragger), so installing the Rekluse Torque Drive Clutch Pack has increased my life and gives me less fade in longer motos. This kit leaves your stock internals intact, but increases your clutch plate count buy using the “Torque Drive” technology. This mod also gives you a better clutch pull at the lever as it’s not as stiff because the Rekluse Torque Drive Pack allows more disks in your OEM’s footprint.
Custom Clutch Arm: The Honda’s clutch engagement point is very narrow and although the Rekluse Torque Drive Clutch Pack helps the life/pull, the engagement is still too on/off for me. Chad at XPR Motorsports makes a custom clutch arm that really helps get an increased linear feel out of your clutch engagement. Not only is my engagement point wider, but it also delivers the power to the ground smoother, which in turn gave me more throttle to rear wheel feel. What does that mean? More consistent starts and better mid-exit corner rear wheel connection. This is a modification that you would never know was on the factory bikes when walking the pits at a Supercross because it’s difficult to see from the naked eye. For the right price I am sure Chad at XPR Motorsports could make you one. Thank me later!
Race Tech Suspension: The most important piece to this puzzle would be the Honda’s Showa suspension. The stock Honda suspension is a little soft for my 170 pound frame and when Honda’s R&D team developed this stock suspension setting for the 2019 Honda CRF450R they needed to get comfort form the suspension to offset the stiffer nature of the Honda chassis. Race Tech took my stock Showa suspension and my A-Kit set and went to work. We ended up going to a .52 fork spring and a .58 rear shock spring to balance the bike out for me. The fork has better hold up and more control than the stock fork and gives me a more planted feeling on initial lean coming into corners. The overall firmer feel of the Race Tech fork doesn't have that harsh nature you would expect from heavier valving, but instead has a better damping feel that still has enough comfort to keep me happy. I tested several fork heights and for me flush-3mm was the best. On faster/rougher types of tracks I went flush on the fork, but on tighter tracks, I stuck with a 3mm height. Getting the correct fork height is still crucial for this chassis.
I decided to run the stock link and cut the shock 1mm to try and lower the rear enough to where I don’t get a stink bug feel on de-cel/braking bumps. I played with a ton of sag settings and came up with a 109mm of sag, which gave me the balance to where the CRF450R didn't move much when on/off throttle heavy. Running a little lower sag setting also helped when the dirt was deep or sandy, so that there wasn't too much weight pushed towards the front of the machine causing me to have over-steer. I like that I can hit stuff harder at speed with the Race Tech re-valved shock and also having increased traction on choppy corner exits. The Race Tech Gold Valves keep evolving so if you haven't gave them a try, this might be the perfect machine to give it a whirl. I didn't have the best of luck with Race Tech a few years ago, but Rob and the gang over there have really stepped it up and have their settings down for this model.