2020 Honda CRF450R Start Up/Baseline Settings/Tips/Tricks

The Honda CRF450R has only minimal changes for 2020, but that doesn't mean all the settings roll over from the 2019 version. Yes, some of the tips/tricks will remain the same from your 2019 Honda CRF450R, but we have come up with a couple new tricks since the 2019 model was released. With the new Internal valving suspension changes, the Honda has more hold up in the front on de-cel, but we went to work and came up with some baseline settings that we feel would benefit most Honda riders. I have done all of these modifications to my Honda CRF450R test steed and it quickly became one of the most fun bikes to ride at a wide variety of tracks. The Honda requires more attention than other machines in its class, but once you pay attention to her and purchase her a few gifts, she will reward you with lower lap times, increased smiles, and a bike that will make you more comfortable out on the track. Hey married dudes, sound familiar?  


Suspension: The Honda CRF450R is the toughest bike to find that “track toughness” we all want out of our motocross machines, but once you do find that magic setting, this bike is insanely fun to ride.The CRF450R’s suspension holds up higher in the stroke for 2020 and gives the rider a decent amount of comfort on the small chop, but don't expect it to be better than the KYB suspension that comes on the Yamaha. All riders that helped me test this bike (165, 170, 190 pounds) went stiffer on the fork to help the Honda from diving under heavy braking. Even with the fork changes Showa made for 2020 we still wanted some more hold up. If we rode the CRF450R around at 80%, the fork had enough comfort and hold up, but when pushing the bike hard the fork needed some added performance. Once going a little stiffer (compression) and slower (rebound) the front end felt calmer and allowed for a more aggressive riding style. The shock has a ton of comfort initially, especially coming out of rough/choppy corners, but on heavy g-outs or steep jump faces the end of the stroke is empty (soft) feeling. Going stiffer on high speed compression a quarter turn will help hold up and prevent you from going to the chiropractor later that afternoon. We ended up going with a 105mm of sag as that pleased all three riders and left them with the best balance on and off throttle. Try this setting at your local track to get the most comfort out of your Showa suspension.  

Fork: (Rider weight 165-190 pounds)

Height: 3mm

Compression: 6 clicks out

Rebound: 8 clicks out


Sag: 105mm

Low Speed Compression: 8 clicks out

High Speed Compression: 2-3/4 turns out

Rebound: 7 clicks out

Swingarm Pivot Bolt Torque Spec: This costs zero dollars and should be done as soon as you get your 2020 Honda CRF450R. The stock swingarm pivot bolt torque spec is 65 ft.lbs., but re-torque it to 60 ft.lbs. What does this simple adjustment do? It can help the stiffer feel underneath your butt/rear of machine when accelerating out of corners (because your shock’s high speed compression is stiffer) 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 impressive ECU settings. The Honda doesn't need more horsepower, in fact it wouldn't hurt if it had a slightly 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 2020 ECU can. The stock ECU still has that herky/jerky roll on power in map one/three through corners and that really upsets the chassis and my corner speed at times. That pisses me off! If your corner speed is off then you’re going to have a bad day at the track.

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. 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. 


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 14/52 gearing allows you to run your axle farther back (which the Honda needs) and gives the engine a more connected feel to the rear wheel. Try this gearing if you have done the above three mods. If you’re running the stock ECU/engine configuration you can try going with a 13/48 gearing. Going down a tooth will help with roll on power delivery and give the Honda a smoother more manageable low end power. 


Full Muffler System: If there is a couple companies that knows how to make a better Honda power delivery it’s Yoshimura and Akrapovic! Both mufflers makes broader horsepower, keeps the strong bottom end pull intact, and gives the Honda a deeper more throaty sound. Just bolting on either one of these systems (without the ECU change) will help the Honda’s map one/three on/off feel from 0-15% throttle opening. This is where the Honda needs help and both mufflers help smooth the CRF450R in this area. You will also lose just over 1.5 pounds with these systems. However, good luck trying to get an Akrapovic muffler system as they are not easily accessible to the consumer. 

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 2020 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 by 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! 

Handlebar Map Switch Care Instructions: If you have a Honda CRF450R you will need to pay close attention to your map switch on your handlebars when washing. If you haven't had condensation/water get into your map switch yet, consider yourself lucky. I get a ton of emails that are titled “Honda Will Not Start”. I come to find out that most of these CRF450R’s are getting water inside the map switch cluster while the consumer is washing the unit. This shorts out the connection and prevents the red machine from starting. Best thing you can do before you wash your Honda is wrap the map switch cluster with some type of plastic (I use a ziplock bag) and then duct tape the plastic around the handlebar/map switch. This will prevent water from getting into the cluster while you’re washing. You can also take apart the cluster and squirt more dielectric grease near/around the connections, but doing this will not complete prevent this mishap from happening. 

Air Filter/Cage: You can bend out the little metal tabs on your air filter screen and throw it in the trash. By using just the plastic air filter cage without the screen can give the Honda more airflow  and can give you more mid range pulling power as well as RPM response. 

Maintenance: I am very meticulous when it comes to oil changes with the Honda CRF450R. I change my engine oil every 2-3 engine hours on this model because I noticed that no matter oil I run or try in this machine that it is fairly burnt after three hours. In other machines I do not notice the oil being as dark in color after three hours as the Honda so I change oil religiously. Doing this has given me increased clutch life as well as ensures that I have no oil related engine issues.  

If you have any questions about your 2020 Honda CRF450R please feel free to email me your questions and I will ry to help as much as I can. kris@keeferinctesting.com