2020 Honda CRF250R Start Up/Baseline Settings/Tips

I have been testing the 2020 Honda CRF250R at more than a few different tracks trying to get this baseline setting article out to you all. I have finally found a few settings that I think most of you could appreciate as well as benefit from. With Honda being one of only two manufacturers to change their 250’s significantly for 2020, I wanted to make sure all you new 2020 CRF250R owners or future buyers had a great starting point. Here are some settings that will help you enjoy your ride more and tinker with less: 



In stock form the Showa suspension on the 2020 Honda CRF250R has decent comfort on de-cel bumps, but lacks a little hold up for riders ranging from 160-190 pounds. If you’re over 190 pounds going up a spring rate on each end is your ticket to a better handling CRF250R. After riding with this setting below at three different tracks, more than one time around, I figured out that this baseline suspension setting gave the 2020 Honda CRF250R the most “track toughness”. If you happen to feel like the fork is harsher (through the mid stroke) with this setting, simply open up the rebound (faster) back to stock setting. This will help free up the fork slightly under front end load (off-gas). The shock needs just a little more hold up under acceleration so simply going stiffer/slower on low speed compression/rebound gives the rider more comfort and added traction out of corners. I tried experimenting with high speed compression, but the Honda is finicky with high speed. Going stiffer on high speed compression (shock) put too much weight on the front end (fork) creating a harsher feeling front fork.


Height: 3mm (Stock is 5mm)

Compression: 7-8 clicks out (Stock is 9 clicks out)

Rebound: 10 clicks out (Stock is 11 clicks out) 


Sag: 100-101mm

High Speed Compression: 2-5/6

Low Speed Compression: 10 clicks out (11 clicks out is stock)

Rebound: 5 clicks out (6 clicks out is stock)



As of right now I prefer the stock engine mounts torqued to the OEM/manual settings. Some bikes react better to aftermarket engine mounts than others and as of right now I feel the best settings (for comfort) come from the stock engine mounts. You can however torque the swingarm pivot bolt to 52 ft.lbs. for increased flex under throttle, while leaning. If you feel like the rear end is planted and doesn't deflect under load on chop please leave it at the OEM/manual torque spec. If you feel like the Honda is standing up through mid corner simply go back up to 5mm on fork height with the above suspension specs to help mid corner lean.


I went back and forth between the stock 13/48 gearing and 13/49, but ultimately decided on sticking with stock. Why? I felt the 13/49 gearing made second gear less usable and didn't help me get into third gear any quicker. The 13/49 robs too much top end away from second and third gears on medium to faster flowy tracks. If you’re riding a tight track and suffer from bad corner technique going to a 13/49 could benefit you more. Decide which tracks you ride the most and what type of rider you are in order to decide which way to go with your gearing. 


Steering Head Nut:

Do yourself a favor and tighten up the steering head nut a little on the 2020 Honda CRF250R. The steering comes too loose from the factory and can cause some knifing in corners and can give you slight head shake on de-cel. Simply tightening the steering head nut a little makes the Honda’s front end feel more planted (less loose feeling) when performing corners/initial lean/turning the handlebars. This is a simple modification, but really helps the Honda’s ride attitude around the track. Sometimes it’s the simple/easy things in life that make a difference. Dirt bikes are no different.

ECU Map Switch:

I like map three the best for most tracks around these parts and for more torque out of corners. Even though Honda improved their torque for 2020, it still lacks some pulling power out of corners, compared to the Yamaha. Running the 2020 CRF250R in map three will benefit you the most in this situation. This is my preferred map, but map one is also very usable and can pull pull you farther in second/third gear. 



Going to a Rekluse Torque Drive Clutch Pack will give you better clutch lever feel as well as clutch life. The engagement of the lever ratio doesn't change, but it lets you put more of that horsepower to the rear wheel, without slipping, when hard on the throttle in soft dirt. This is simply a clutch pack and not the complete system. You use the stock OEM inner, outer, basket clutch pieces with this kit.


I am not going to sit here and say that Honda fixed ALL of their cooling issues with the radiator change they made for 2020. The Honda CRF250R still runs hot and will puke some radiator coolant out of the overflow when riding in the higher RPM’s during a long moto (20-30 minutes). Just keep an eye on your coolant level if you’re riding in hot an or deep sandy conditions. I had to add a little coolant to the radiator on longer, hotter days here in Southern California. Don’t be lazy and you’ll be fine. I am looking into trying a couple things to help this situation in the future so check back here for more updates on this.


Inexpensive Way To Get Less Rigidity:

Renthal Fatbars come stock on all CRF’s and while we like the strength/bend of the new bar, I still feel like they are stiff on slap down landings/square edge. Going to a Pro Taper EVO handlebar will take away some rigidity as well as give you less vibration to your hands. The 4mm wall thickness of the Pro Taper EVO bar is something I have tested back to back against the Renthal Fatbar. Even if you painted both bars black and sent me on a blind test, I would come back within a lap and tell you which bar was which. It’s that noticeable. If you like the stock bar bend try the Pro Taper EVO SX Race bend as that is the closest bend to the stock 839 Honda Fatbar. 

Renthal 839 Fatbar    (L) 802 (H) 91 (R) 51 (S) 51 (mm)

Pro Taper SX Race    (L) 800 (H) 87 (R) 54 (S) 54 (mm)

If you have any questions about your Honda or anything in this article please feel free to email me and hopefully I can help you out.

2020 Honda CRF250R First Impression

Honda won the 250 East Coast Supercross Championship with Chase Sexton aboard the CRF250, but to us normal everyday riders that really doesn't translate into a CRF250R that the average blue collar consumer can go purchase. The GEICO Honda is such a different machine than the one sitting on the showroom floor that it would be foolish to base your purchasing decision on that title alone. What we do know is that the 2019 Honda CR250R was a good bike that liked to be ridden at the upper ranges of higher rpms because it lacked torque down low. For 2020 Honda wanted to address those issues and went to work on refining not only the engine, but the chassis, and suspension as well. We spent a full day out at Fox Raceway in Pala, California with the Honda crew and came away with some first impressions that we feel you should take into consideration before purchasing a red machine. If you want to see exactly what Honda changed for 2020 please click this link : or simply go to


Engine Feel: The 2020 CRF250R’s engine delivery is a much healthier version of the 2019 engine character. You’re able to feel the increased low end power right away once stepping off of the 2019 version. The 2019 version takes a lot of clutch work and massaging to get it into the meat of the power. The 2020 has more torque feeling out of corners and can be shifted into third gear sooner than the 2019. Now I will not sit here and tell you that it’s now a torque monster and can smoke a YZ250F on bottom end, but Honda did a good job at getting some extra low end power delivery. At 0-15% throttle opening there is more RPM response over the 2019 and the 2020 Honda now feels less hollow at lower RPM. If you're wondering what the hell “hollow" means, it’s basically another way of saying it felt slow (AKA hollow, empty). Mid range on the 2020 also has more pulling power to it especially in third gear, but top end pulling power feels as good as the 2019 version, which we do not mind because it was good. There is more bottom-mid range recovery time with the 2020 and that just makes for an easier to ride CRF250R. Even Phoenix Honda’s Jace Owen commented on how much better the low end felt compared to his 2019 stock machine back home. And yes, we were away from the Honda tent so it wasn’t near the Honda execs. It was a legit comment! 


Suspension: Much like the 2020 CRF450R the CRF250R’s suspension holds up higher in the stroke for 2020 and gives the rider decent comfort on the small chop, but don't expect it to be better than the SSS KYB suspension that comes on the Yamaha YZ250F. All three riders that tested this bike (155, 165, 175 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. Our older vet racer that tested the CRF250R thought the fork had enough comfort and hold up, but when pushing the bike hard by faster riders the fork needed some added performance at the end of the stroke. Once going a little stiffer (compression) the front end felt calmer and allowed for a more aggressive riding style. The shock/rear of bike has a ton of comfort/traction 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 an eighth of a turn will help hold up and prevent you from bottoming too hard on sharp jump faces and landings. We ended up going with a 102mm of sag as that pleased all three riders and left them with the best balance, on and off throttle. Note: This sag reading is different than in years past so make sure you start at 102mm to help balance of bike. If you feel like the rear is too high, try dropping the fork down in the clamp 2mm (from 5mm to 3mm) as this will help the CRF250R from stink bugging on de-cel.   


Chassis: Now that the 2020 CRF250R shares the same frame as the CRF450R you think it would feel slightly rigid like the 450R does, but that is simply not the case. The 2020 CRF250R frame and chassis has good bump absorption on square edge and feels more compliant than the 450R. Straight line stability is improved from last year’s model and the CRF250R feels more connected to the ground while on throttle. The CRF250R’s cornering character remains as good as the 2019 on initial lean, but mid corner we noticed that the 2020 chassis was harder to keep leaned into the rut. It almost felt like it had a heavier feel in this area of the corner. The 2019 didn't want to stand up as much as the 2020, so cornering the 2020 takes a little more effort. I would gladly take a slower turning Honda for increased stability and that is exactly what we got for 2020 it seems. Don’t freak out and think the Honda can’t corner now, just know that it just takes a little more effort mid corner, but it’s still one of the better cornering machines. Yes, better than the YZ250F still. 


Engine Maps: Each engine map has a distinct feel on the track and can be very useful in different types or for different types riders. Here is what I felt from each map:

Map One: Pulling power is good out of corners and has a broad mid-top end feel. Good for most tracks unless you're riding deep sand.  

Map Two: Smoother roll on power with less bottom to mid rpm response. Good for younger riders or tracks that are hard pack and loose. 

Map Three: Hardest hitting bottom-mid range with less pulling power on top/over-rev. Good for aggressive riders who want more out of corners or who like to shift early. 

Transmission: The 2020 Honda CRF250R’s second gear spacing is improved and that lets the rider pull that gear longer in order to use third gear more efficiently. Last year I would sometimes bypass third gear and go straight to fourth as third didn't have enough spacing from second, so it felt super short. Fourth gear felt like third gear on last year’s bike, but Honda managed to get it much better for 2020. For 2020 third gear is much more usable and makes the Honda easier to ride.

Cooling: Even with the enlarged left side radiator for 2020 the Honda can still run hot at times. While moving and riding the CRF250R doesn't get as hot, but if you find yourself idling off the side of the track while waiting for a homie, do yourself a favor and turn off the engine. Check your coolant level after every day of riding to ensure you do not get it too far down past the coils. 

Footpegs: Honda has newly shaped footpegs that are 20% lighter, but to me that didn't shed mud more easily like they claimed they would. If you own a Honda then you know how big a pain in the butt mud can be with the footpegs. They DO NOT self clean well. This hasn't changed for 2020. Buy yourself a pair of Acerbis rubber footpeg covers. Thank me later. 

Clutch Springs: Stiffer clutch springs are used in the 2020 CRF250R’s clutch and this is a great thing. The 2019 clutch felt like it was slipping all the time under throttle, but the 2020 clutch has more grab and bite, especially when under the throttle hard out of corners. This doesn't mean that the clutch is more durable in the long run (we will have to test that theory in the coming weeks), but at least the new clutch springs help get the power to the rear wheel better in 2020. 


Is The 2020 Honda CRF250R Better Than The 2019 Version: A resounding YES! Unlike the 450R where I would tell you to save a couple grand and purchase a 2019, the 2020 CRF250R is much better than last year’s model. If you’re a Honda guy and are coming off of a 2019 CRF250R then you will be very please with what Honda did on the new bike. More power, better chassis feel, and suspension that has more hold up as well as comfort is reason enough for me to spend the extra cake on the new model. 

Brakes: The front brake is powerful! Honda seems to be back with great brakes along with a good feeling at the lever/pedal. The rear brake pedal is a little low stock so make sure to try and raise it up some when you pick yours up. If you feel like the front brake is too touchy, you can bring the lever closer into the grip which will help you modulate it better coming into corners. 

Steering Head: If you happen to feel a little twitchiness in the front end at times, I noticed that the front steering head feels loose. Simply tighten the steering up a little so that the handlebars DO NOT flop down to the stops. A good rule a thumb is that you should have to tap the bars twice for them to drop down to the stops.  

We will be riding the CRF250R more in the coming weeks so stay tuned for more information and a base suspension setting that will work for a wide range of riders. Any questions please email me at



2020 Honda CRF450R First Impression

Going with the theme of “refinements” like a lot of manufactures are doing for 2020, Honda introduced the new CR450R at Fox Raceway in Pala, California last week. Minimal changes were made to Honda’s flagship motorcycle, but we had a chance to put those refinements to the test over the course of a few days and here is what are initial impressions were of the latest CR450R. We will be getting you guys some recommended base settings along with more tips and tricks in a couple weeks as we put more time on the red machine. If you want to learn more about the 2020 Honda CRF450R, listen to the RMATVMC Keefer Tested Podcast and actually hear my thoughts, instead of just reading them. 


New For 2020: 

The battery position is lowered by 28mm to move the center of gravity downward in order to try and improve chassis balance/handing. 

All new Honda Selectable Torque Control with three levels of intervention; three mode HSTV monitors rpm spikes and responds by temporarily reducing torque to aid rear traction; a separate switch accesses revised mapping for riding modes for simple tuning depending on rider preference or course conditions. 

Revised internal fork and shock settings to help with chassis balance while trying to combat pitching (off-throttle). 

New rear brake pad material for improved performance, increased durability; elimination of lower rear brake rotor guard improves heat dissipation reducing unsprung weight. 


On Track Feeling:

The engine on the 2020 CRF450R rolls on slightly smoother than the 2019 in map one, but still has plenty of excitement coming out of corners. The 2020 still could use a more linear pull down low for novice type riders though. If you lack technique through corners, do yourself a favor and ride the Honda CRF450R in map 2. Trust me, you will be much happier. You will find a noticeable difference in the CRF450R’s mid to top end power pulling power (with the 2020 mapping). It is slightly longer than 2019 and can let you become a little lazier with your shifts. The 2020 CRF450R can be left in second and third gears longer than the 2019, but just know that second gear is strong and can tire you out quicker. The benefit of having all that bottom end power is you’ll be able to ride the CRF450R in third gear through corners, which can lighten up the workload a little in longer motos. If you’re a heavier or gnarly dude head on over to map 3 and enjoy the harder hit than you had in map 1. Last year’s engine character was snappy and fun, but lacked some control down low, but for 2020 the red bike has a little more control which helps the chassis balance. Don’t worry, on paper, it’s the fastest bike (peak horsepower) in class.  

The 2019 CRF450R chassis still needed some help because of its aggressive and stiff nature. The 2020 ECU mapping has calmed down the CRF450R’s chassis slightly, which is great thing for you future buyers! You can have the fastest engine in the world, but it isn’t going to mean anything if the bike or rider can’t handle it right? The rigidity balance on the track hasn't changed much for 2020, but the slightly smoother engine character doesn't bind up the chassis as much under heavy throttle. The 2019 felt harsh when the track got hard packed and choppy, but the 2020 frame feels like it flexes slightly better because the engine delivery is chilled down a bit. With these ECU changes Honda made in 2020 the chassis feels like it sticks to the ground a little better on throttle while accelerating down the straights. 28mm doesn't seem like a lot, but with the battery box lower this does translate on the track while entering corners. All three riders that we had testing the 2020 bike against the 2019 noticed the “tip in” was easier on the 2020. Your initial lean doesn't feel as heavy on the new Honda and the bike falls into corners even better than the 2019 did. The CRF450R is already one of the best cornering bikes and with this change for 2020, it helps this even more. 

The CRF450R’s suspension holds up higher in the stroke for 2020 and gives the rider decent comfort on the small chop, but don't expect it to be better than the KYB suspension that comes on the Yamaha. All three riders that tested this bike (165, 170, 175 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.  


Does The Honda Selectable Torque Control Work? Yes, that’s right you have another three modes to play with on the Renthal Fatbars now! These three modes actually can come in handy in slippery conditions and can even further customize the engine delivery for less experienced riders. Mode one is for track conditions that still have some moisture and traction, but can get slippery on exits of corners, mode two is for conditions that are slippery in most areas of the track, and mode three is for a track that is hard packed or very slippery in all areas. We messed around with all three modes and a couple of our riders came away pleasantly surprised. The track we were riding wasn't extremely slick at the end of the day, but having the ECU in map one along with the HSTC on in mode one; the CRF450R felt more stable and planted to the ground than it did at the beginning of the day, when the track was semi fresh. Two out of the three test riders thought it was an advantage and our fast pro moto guy (Colton Aeck) didn't think it did much for him. This is something that we will test more and will get back to you with in a future RMATVMC Keefer Tested Podcast. 

Something about hopping on a Honda and feeling comfortable right away is almost always unanimous with every rider that gets on one. I even overheard other media outlet testers saying that the Honda has the best cockpit (rider triangle) out of any other bike available today. Honda did a great job with the seat to peg to handlebar measurements. Other manufacturers take note please. 


As usual I will be completely honest… I didn't notice any performance enhancements in rear braking or the “unsprung weight” Honda tells us they saved weight with the removal of the rear plastic disc cover. Plastic cover be damned! We no longer need you! Boom! Marketing team unite! Unsprung weight!  

I get a lot of emails asking these two questions so I will save myself a few of them by answering them right here… -KK

Is it worth getting a 2020 Honda CRF450R (compared to a 2019)? If it is a matter of saving you a couple thousand dollars? No, get yourself a fresh 2019 and use that money you saved to get your ECU re-mapped or better yet get a Vortex ignition done up by Chad at XPR Motorsports and thank me later. If it’s a matter of a thousand dollars or less than get the 2020 because the mapping alone is worth that much.  

Keefer…Is the 2020 CRF450RWE worth the extra money compared to the 2020 CRF450R? I don’t know yet… Give me another month, so I can ride the “WE”. Chill down… 

Come on back to and in a few weeks for a full breakdown of settings, tips, and tricks to make this 2020 Honda CRF450R even better. 

The 2019 Honda CRF450R "Track Toughness" Project (Part One)

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. 


2019 Honda CRF Trail Line


Some of my fondest memories that I have as a child was riding with my parents in the desert on the weekends. I remember sitting in class daydreaming about heading to the desert to ride my motorcycle and wishing it was Friday evening so we could pack up and head out. Not only was it great to spend time with my family, it also programmed my young mind on what I wanted in life. Once the teenage years did hit me, I wasn't all about partying and getting into trouble. Instead, without me even knowing, riding with my parents at a young age gave me a passion that kept me out of trouble later in life. Living in the hight desert, trouble can find you without you even asking for it. Dirt bikes kept me on the straight and narrow and some of that directly has to do with Honda providing trail bikes that my family chose to purchase. Getting more families and kids off their phones and out to OHV areas to ride is important for the health of our sport. If the basic “learn to ride bikes” aren't here for these potential new consumers/families (and all we have is the advanced technology going into the bigger more advanced machines) than our sport is doomed. 


Fast forward to 2019 and Honda has put some of that modern technology into their CRF trail bike lineup. Gone are the days of kickstarting and jetting your Honda trail bike, not to mention they even look like the bigger more racier CRF motocross machines. What about the cost of the newer technology driving these trail bikes up? I understand that cost is an issue with every middle class family, but coming from that kind of family, I know that having these advancements can help roll these types of bikes over to newer/younger generations, without much needed maintenance. I learned how to ride on a second generation Honda trail bike and I could only wish I would of had fuel injection (among other modern upgrades) on mine. Chances would of been high that my son would have learned on the same bike that I did. I can see these types of newer Honda trail bikes getting passed down from even further generations because of the advancements that Honda has put into their trail line.


We recently had a chance to take delivery of the 2019 Honda CRF110F, CRF125F, and CRF250F and we gave those machines to a family (that is relatively new to the sport) so that they could enjoy a couple weekends out in the desert to ride these fun new “Ride Red” machines. Below is a breakdown of each machine, what changed for 2019, which family member “tested” which machine, weight/age/size of rider, and their ability. Also stay tuned for a special Keefer Tested Podcast that will be going over these Honda trail bikes and how a family like the Sirevaag’s used these models to enjoy some quality family time. 


CRF110F $2,399.00: Landon Sirevaag/8 years old/new rider/4’1/60 lbs.

Overview: For 2019, this model features a Keihin electronic fuel-injection system that’s tuned for linear power delivery and precise throttle response, and is 50-state off-road legal. The easier-to-use power is matched to an all-new steel twin-spar frame that’s engineered with CRF Performance Line DNA but extensively tested and developed for the right balance of precision and comfort for recreational riders. The smooth power delivery and nimble chassis function together to offer a secure ride. The new CRF110F carries over its four-speed, clutch-less transmission for takeoffs and shifting that quickly become comfortable for every rider. An additional 12mm of rear-suspension travel and a 5mm increase in seat-foam thickness (without increasing overall seat height) mean improved comfort whether sitting or standing. And of course the CRF110F delivers Honda’s legendary build quality and reliability, so the bike dependably fires up every time the starter button is pressed and doesn’t stop until the tank runs dry—and when that moment is looming, the FI system provides a low-fuel warning light. A big benefit for the young rider’s “factory mechanic” is that the fuel-injection system eliminates the possibility of carburetor jets clogging with fuel residue if the motorcycle sits for an extended period—and reduced maintenance means more family time on the trail or track. The CRF110F boasts top-level performance in a small package—just like its rider. 

2019 Updates

  • Follows technology developments of CRF Performance Line with Keihin electronically controlled fuel-injection system that delivers linear and hesitation-free power, minimizing intimidation for new riders and providing a friendly power delivery for all levels. Fuel-injection system delivers smooth power at all rpm and all throttle openings. 

  • Twin-spar steel frame, inspired by the CRF Performance Line frame architecture, provides the right balance of rigidity and comfort.

  • New frame and 12mm increase in rear-suspension travel let this small bike handle the bigger bumps with better control and reduced bottoming.

  • New seat foam is 5mm thicker, yet bike maintains same overall seat height of previous model due to seat placement in the new frame.

  • New 1 gallon steel fuel tank with integrated fuel pump incorporates built-in fuel filter and low-fuel indicator on handlebar (lights up at .2 gallons remaining). New frame design shields tank in the event of a fall. 

  • All-new bodywork with CRF Performance Line styling and graphics. 

  • New handlebar-mounted multiple-function handlebar switch incorporates starter button, ignition “key on” indicator, fuel-injection system status, and “low fuel” indicator light (replaces reserve setting on petcock).

  • New ratchet-style fuel-tank cap reduces possibility of loosening during ride. 

  • Half-waffle grips have a smaller circumference for an improved fit with smaller hands. 

Engine / Drivetrain

  • Air-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke 109cc engine tuned for new riders.

  • Four-speed gearbox with automatic clutch.

  • Adjustable throttle-limiter screw to match rider abilities.

  • Convenient electric starter with kick-start backup.

Chassis / Suspension

  • Low seat height of only 26.3 inches.

  • Handlebar pad.

  • Meets current EPA and CARB off-road emissions standards.

Rider Opinion: I just started riding and am learning how to ride on a KTM 50 SX. I still don’t know how to use a clutch, but I want to learn soon. I like that this bike is fun and not as loud as my KTM 50 because I feel like I can think more when I ride. I can start this bike on my own unlike my KTM 50 where I have to have my dad start it for me. Following my dad on trails or riding the kids track at local motocross tracks seems like more fun to me on the Honda. I can also ride the 110F around my backyard without making my neighbors too mad! The Honda is a little bigger than my KTM, but I can flat foot without a problem. -Landon Sirevaag  


CRF125F $3,099.00: Shannon Sirevaag/35 years old/Beginner/5’3/155 lbs.

Overview: CRF Performance Line technology such as fuel injection and twin-spar frame design is now bestowed on the CRF Trail Line, advancing the 2019 CRF125F and CRF125F Big Wheel into modern off-road motorcycles that maximize fun and ride enjoyment. The electronically controlled Keihin fuel-injection system delivers smooth, seamless, linear power at any rpm and throttle setting—ideal for new motorcyclists and equally advantageous for advanced riders on technical trails or when going through big elevation changes—and the model is 50-state off-road legal. The all-new twin-spar frame is made of steel and extensively tested and developed for a confidence-inspiring chassis wrapped in new body panels and graphics that match those of the model’s race-oriented CRF siblings. Both CRF125F models retain the proven 124.9cc SOHC engine and four-speed gearbox for strong power and intuitive shifting feel. In terms of hardware, the two versions differ only in wheel size, swingarm length and final-drive gearing, resulting in a difference in seat height of 1.8 inches. Instructors or parents will appreciate the peace of mind that comes with putting a rider on a secure and nimble machine, and maintenance is simplified with fuel injection—no jets to change or to clog with fuel residue if the bike sits for an extended period. Electric start, low-fuel indicator light, ignition “key on” indicator, and Honda’s earned reputation for making the best-built and most dependable motorcycles on the trail mean pride of ownership all week and fun and thrills every weekend. 

2019 Updates

  • All-new electronically controlled Keihin fuel-injection system replaces carburetor. FI delivers linear and hesitation-free power for easier-to-control delivery at all points in the powerband.

  • Twin-spar steel frame, with heavy-duty design inspired by the frame architecture of the CRF Performance Line, provides the right balance of rigidity and suppleness for trail-bike comfort.

  • Suspension travel increased (by 10mm increase in front, 12mm rear) for improved plushness and better bottoming resistance.

  • New 1 gallon steel fuel tank with integrated fuel pump and fuel filter. Low-fuel indicator on handlebar illuminates when .2 gallons remain. New frame design shields tank in the event of a fall. 

  • All-new bodywork and graphics match styling of CRF Performance Line. 

  • New handlebar-mounted, multiple-function switch incorporates starter button, ignition “key on” indicator, fuel-injection system status, and low-fuel indicator light. (Replaces reserve setting on petcock.)

  • New ratchet-style fuel tank cap reduces possibility of loosening during ride. 

  • Half-waffle grips have a smaller circumference for a better fit with smaller hands. 

  • New seat foam is 5mm taller, yet seat height on the standard version is only 2mm higher, due to seat placement in the new frame. (Seat height on Big Wheel version isn't increased from 2018.)


  • The 124.9cc SOHC engine returns with smoother, more linear power delivery.

  • Four-speed gearbox is well matched to the broad power spread.

  • Electric starter makes getting going a breeze, with kick-start backup included.


  • CRF125F and CRF125F Big Wheel have seat heights of 29.1 inches and 30.9 inches, respectively.

  • CRF125F has wheel sizes of 17 and 14 inches front and rear, respectively. CRF125F Big Wheel has 19- and 16-inch wheels. 

  • The 31mm fork provides plush front-suspension action.

  • Pro-Link® rear-suspension design with sophisticated single shock for consistent action.

  • Smooth stopping power provided by hydraulic front brake with 220mm rotor and 95mm rear drum brake.

  • Front brake lever is adjustable to work with varying hand sizes.

  • Styling follows that of the race-winning CRF Performance Line.

  • Meets CARB and EPA off-road emissions standards.


Rider opinion: I literally only ride a few times a year, when we go camping with the family out in the desert, but the reason why I don't ride more is because my TTR125 is a kickstart and hard to fire up. I like to be independent and take care of my own stuff when we are camping. My husband is usually tying to teach or help our son, so I want to make sure I am self sufficient. I was a little nervous riding the Honda CRF125F, but once I sat on it I felt like it fit my frame better than the blue bike. I was offered the 125F Big Wheel, but now I am glad I chose the standard wheel version as it fit me perfectly. I am not that great at using the clutch, but only a couple stalls later, I got the hang of it and could take off easily. I like the way I can go super slow and the Honda doesn’t want to stall out on me. It seems to chug along the trails nicely without the CRF125F being too jumpy with my throttle hand. If I stalled it going up a hill, I could flat foot on this bike better than the Yamaha, which gave me confidence to try new things that I normally wouldn’t. The less my husband has to help out on the trail, the happier we all are as a family. I am sure you other wives out there can relate to what I am talking about right? The best part about this Honda is that I DO NOT have to kick it and it’s as simple as pushing a button. I don’t know if this is a huge deal, but I like that the seat isn't too hard for my behind on long rides. -Shannon Sirevaag     


CRF250F $4,599.00: Matt Sirevaag/35 years old/Vet Novice/5’9/205 lbs.

Overview: Increased displacement, more power and better stability enhance the confidence-inspiring nature of the all-new flagship of the CRF Recreational Line and bring performance gains that also make this a great platform for advanced riders. The CRF250F brings an all-new 250cc four-valve engine with Keihin electronic fuel injection for increased power, and it is now 50-state off-road legal. Its tubular steel frame brings improved handling—a benefit that will be appreciated by all riders. More torque and a linear power delivery mean new riders can learn at lower, less intimidating rpm, and advanced off-roaders can utilize the strong torque in technical sections. The smooth low-end power blends seamlessly into a stronger midrange and top end, and the increase in torque at all rpm results in fewer shifts so that riders can focus more on trail challenges. The mass-centralization philosophy of the CRF Performance Line is carried over to this trail model, with the muffler positioned closer to the center of mass. The result is a lighter feel, intuitive responsiveness, and confidence-inspiring handling, especially on corner entrances. The Pro-Link® rear suspension system puts the smooth power to the ground, and the Showa 41mm fork works with the new frame’s steering geometry to provide maximum front-wheel traction. Braking is handled with new petal-style rotors for improved modulation, heat transfer and mud clearing, and the CRF Performance Line-inspired aggressive, compact bodywork allows improved rider/machine interface. Hot or cold, stored in the garage or stopped on the bad line up a challenging hill, the CRF250F’s EFI and electric starter fire up the engine with the touch of a button, and there are no carburetor circuits to clog with fuel residue if the bike sits for extended periods. The new, 1.6 gallon fuel tank enables good range and is protected between the frame spars in the event of a fall, and the integrated fuel pump includes a low-fuel sensor with a handlebar-mounted indicator. Add it all up, and the all-new CRF250F is more bike, for more riders.

2019 Updates

  • All-new 250cc overhead-cam engine.

  • All-new Keihin electronically controlled fuel injection systems delivers more linear power and easy start-up whether bike has been sitting or is hot on the trail.

  • All-new tubular steel frame for a stable, nimble chassis.

  • CRF Performance Line philosophy of mass centralization applied to vehicle packaging.

  • New 41mm fork, plus Pro-Link rear-suspension system with single shock.

  • Front and rear hydraulic brakes with petal-style rotors for improved heat dissipation.

  • Handlebar-mounted low-fuel and “key on” indicator lights.

  • CRF Performance Line-inspired muffler with compact positioning.

  • CRF Performance Line-inspired bodywork and graphics.


  • The 250cc SOHC engine returns with smoother, more linear power delivery.

  • Four-speed gearbox is well matched to the broad power spread.

  • Electric starter makes getting going a breeze.


  • 34.8 inch seat height.

  • Wheel sizes of 21 and 18 inches front and rear, respectively.

  • The 41mm fork provides plush front-suspension action.

  • Pro-Link® rear-suspension design with sophisticated single shock for consistent action.

  • Smooth stopping power provided by front and rear hydraulic brakes, with 240mm and 220mm rotors, respectively.

  • Front brake lever is adjustable to work with varying hand sizes.

  • Styling follows that of the race-winning CRF Performance Line.

  • Meets CARB and EPA off-road emissions standards.

Rider Opinion: Even though I ride and race on occasion I love spending time with my family out in the desert. However, riding my full size motocross bike isn't quite the right choice for going on mellow trail rides with my family out on the trails. What I like about the CRF250F is that it actually has a fun power character and is not so lethargic down low that I am bored out of my mind. The suspension is not so soft that my 210 pound body bottoms out the fork/shock on every little bump I hit. The ergonomics of the CRF250F is small so I could actually see my wife graduating to this model when she gets more comfortable with riding the CRF125F. The only real complaint I had is that it’s on the heavy side, so picking it up does take some muscle. -Matt Sirevaag 


What’s a Trail Bike?

When it comes to off-road motorcycles, there are many types and not much variance in appearance, a combination that can make things confusing for those new to the world of trail riding. Following are some principle characteristics possessed by most good trail bikes:

FIT: While it’s always important for a motorcycle to properly fit its rider, that’s especially true for those new to the pastime. In particular, the seat height should be low enough that the rider’s feet can comfortably touch the ground, thereby inspiring confidence and aiding control in tricky trail conditions. This is why trail bikes generally have lower seat heights than their more performance-oriented siblings. 

POWER: Whereas maximum performance is the focus for race bikes, trail machines usually prioritize a broad spread of power. This means that power will build gradually as the throttle is opened, so that the rider is less likely to be surprised by an abrupt acceleration “hit.” At the same time, the engine should offer plenty of torque, to ease crawling over rough obstacles at low speed, and to help avoid stalling.

WEIGHT: Once again, because rider friendliness is a priority with trail bikes, they should be relatively light. When maneuvering a motorcycle along a twisty singletrack (or—let’s be honest—picking it up after a tip-over), excess weight is about as welcome as a bull in a china shop.

STARTING: Back in the day, all motorcycles were brought to life via kick-start levers, which represented yet another challenging ritual for new riders to learn. Fortunately, good trail bikes now feature push-button electric starters, so the rider energy and bandwidth once expended on just getting the motorcycle running can be directed to mastering the actual process of riding. 

EMISSIONS: One of the most important lessons of trail riding is to Tread Lightly, which means participating in the riding experience in such a way that the natural environment is minimally affected. In addition to not tearing up the actual terrain, the concept extends to noise pollution, which means good trail bikes should have quiet mufflers and should be equipped with a spark arrestor in order to reduce the risk of starting a wildfire. In addition, it’s important that trail bikes run cleanly. In some riding areas and at certain times of the year, the California Air Resources Board requires off-road motorcycles be equipped with a “Green Sticker,” a DMV-issued registration that certifies the motorcycle meets certain air-emissions standards. In order to meet these standards, a trail bike typically must be fuel-injected.

RELIABILITY: Like many activities, learning to ride is a process that requires time and repetition. That being the case, every hour spent working in the garage (or—even worse—pushing a motorcycle back to the truck) is one less hour that could be spent practicing on the trails. Therefore, good trail bikes should require only basic routine maintenance in order to run reliably for years.


Green Sticker Facts:

California Air Resources Board (CARB) established regulations to limit the use of Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs) that do not meet emission standards applicable for California OHV riding areas. After the regulations were established, CARB and DMV worked together to develop criteria for identifying non-complying OHVs. OHVs are registered by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). A red or green sticker is issued depending upon certain criteria.

Green Stickers are issued for all California OHVs that are model year 2002 and older, including those that were previously issued a Red Sticker, and for compliant vehicles that are model year 2003 and newer. Green stickers are issued to OHVs for year-round use at all California OHV riding areas.

Red Stickers are issued to 2003 year-model-and-newer OHVs that are not certified to California OHV emission standards. If an OHV has a "3" or "C" in the eighth position of the vehicle identification number (VIN) then it will be issued a Red Sticker. Red Stickers are issued to OHVs that can only be used in California OHV riding areas during certain seasons.

Top Five Trail Bike Areas in Southern California:

Trail bikes are best enjoyed on trails, and although urban crawl and other factors have claimed some riding areas over the years, there are still many good trails for riding off-highway vehicles (OHVs) in the Southern California area. While some are privately owned, those that are most appropriate for new riders are generally publicly funded and managed. This list is aimed at new riders of two-wheel off-road motorcycles.  

Hungry Valley SVRA

WHERE: North of Los Angeles in the Tejon Pass, near the town of Gorman

WHAT: California’s third-largest SVRA (State Vehicular Recreation Area), Hungry Valley covers 19,000 acres and offers over 130 miles of trails.

WHY: The wide variety of well-designed trails makes Hungry Valley suitable for most ability levels.

WHEN: Best in spring and autumn, whereas summer can be somewhat dusty. With elevations between 3,000 and 6,000 feet, the area can get cold temperatures and even snowfall in winter.

HOW: Take Interstate 5 north, exit 202, Ralphs Ranch Rd. to Gold Hill Rd./Hungry Valley Rd. Day-use fee is $5.

ADMINISTRATOR: California State Parks


El Mirage Dry Lake OHV Area

WHERE: Mojave Desert, on the western edge of San Bernardino County, near the town of Adelanto

WHAT: Divided into four general sections, the El Mirage OHV Area comprises 24,400 acres with 40 miles of trail.

WHY: Relatively close to most of the Los Angeles area, El Mirage OHV Area features a dedicated training area for new riders, who can also use the friendly flat lakebed to get used to operating the motorcycle controls with relatively few obstacles as distraction. The area also offers a nice infrastructure and camping areas, made possible through strong investment and the well-organized non-profit Friends of El Mirage.

WHEN: Best in spring and autumn, though winter can also be good if cold nighttime temperatures aren't a problem. Summer temperatures often reach triple digits.

HOW: From most of the Los Angeles basin, take Interstate 15 north. Exit at Highway 395 and go north. Take Crippen Ave. west, and just before the town of El Mirage, take Mountain View Rd. north. Day-use fee is $15.

ADMINISTRATOR: Bureau of Land Management with cooperation from State of California


Ocotillo Wells SVRA

WHERE: Northeast of San Diego, between Anza Borrego State Park and the Salton Sea

WHAT: Over 85,000 acres

WHY: As long as you’re comfortable with relatively primitive conditions, you can’t beat Ocotillo for shear scale, as the actual SVRA is surrounded by many more hundreds of thousands of acres of land that is also legal for off-road riding.

WHEN: Autumn, winter and spring are all quite nice, whereas summer temperatures can soar to over 100º F.

HOW: From Los Angeles, take Interstate 10 east to Indio. Take Highway 86 south to Highway 78 west, then turn right on Holmes Camp Rd. There is no entrance fee.

ADMINISTRATOR: California State Parks


Rowher Flat OHV Area

WHERE: Near Santa Clarita

WHAT: At 10,240 acres, Rowher Flat isn’t among the larger off-road areas, but its 60 miles of trails are marked and groomed.

WHY: One of the most convenient OHV areas for residents of the Los Angeles area. 

WHEN: With elevations between 2,100 and 4,844 square feet, Rowher Flat can be ridden in all seasons, though it’s best avoided after storms.

HOW: From Los Angeles, take Interstate 5 north to Interstate 14 east. Exit at Sand Canyon and go north to Sierra Highway. Take a right on Sierra Highway, and after five miles, take Rush Canyon Rd.

Day-use fee is $5.

ADMINISTRATOR: Angeles National Forest, in cooperation with Los Angeles County and California State


Cactus Flat OHV Staging Area

WHERE: Northeast of Big Bear Lake

WHAT: Cactus Flat is just one of several starting points for accessing trails in the San Bernardino National Forest OHV system, which offers a huge variety of trails.

WHY: The Big Bear area offers not only wonderful trails, but—for when your riding appetite has been filled—also a number of great campgrounds and other mountain recreational activities.

WHEN: Great for escaping the low-elevation summer heat, the Big Bear area can also be ridden in spring and autumn, but trails can be snow-covered in winter.

HOW: From the town of Big Bear, take Highway 18 north to Cactus Rd. Turn right and follow it to the riding area. A day Adventure Pass is $5.

ADMINISTRATOR: San Bernardino National Forest


Honda Rider Education Centers:


Honda’s commitment to powersports and the environment extends beyond selling product, a point made evident as one navigates the grounds of any of the four Honda Rider Education Centers across North America. In some cases nestled in urban jungles, these facilities aren’t just a means for teaching riders (of all brands) the proper operation of off-highway motorcycles and ATVs; they’re also places where riders and non-riders alike can learn about the environment and responsible land use.


Honda Rider Education Center Locations

  1. Colton, California

  2. Irving, Texas

  3. Troy, Ohio

  4. Alpharetta, Georgia


A staple of the program, the Colton Rider Education Center was expanded in 2004, Honda trucking in 7,000 yards of dirt and some 2,541 plants to help distinguish five separate ecosystems. Here, riders can get a feel for grassland, chaparral, woodland, riparian and desert terrains—each of these areas inspired by trails native to the nearby San Bernardino National Forest and the Mojave Desert.


As part of the half-day DirtBike course offered at the Honda Rider Education Center, riders will learn the fundamental and technical skills needed to operate an off-road bike in a safe and smart manner; that includes, but isn’t limited to, starting, stopping, shifting, cornering, standing, proper body positions, and going over certain obstacles. The best part? It can be a family activity, with private classes (two students) and family classes (up to five family members) offered on request for weekdays or weekends. Students needn’t bring their own gear, either, as safety apparel is loaned through the program.


Open to anyone 6 and older, Honda’s Rider Education Courses are another example of Honda’s commitment to powersports, as well as a recognition of its social responsibility and support of its customers. Want to navigate the grounds yourself?


For more information:

 To register: 


Honda’s Trail Bike History: 


It all started in the most unassuming of ways. In 1961, at Tama Tech, a Honda-owned amusement park in Japan, Honda’s 49cc Z100 was featured as part of an attraction meant to help park goers experience the joys of riding. So popular was the attraction that Honda would go on to build the Z100-based CZ100, and later, the Z50 Mini-Trail that was brought to America. Complete with 8-inch wheels, knobby tires, an adjustable seat, and a folding handlebar, the Z50A was immediately popular, in part because it could be stowed in a car trunk for easy transport to local riding spots. A star was born, and the Z50 Mini-Trail went on to become American Honda’s best-selling motorcycle of all time. 


While it would spend the first years of its life adorned with a smattering of street-legal components, the Z50A never shied away from the trail, and by 1979, increased off-road use in North America meant it was time for something even more dirt-focused. The 1979 Z50R delivered on that promise and would continue to do so for the next two decades, this long-running model growing with generations of new riders until it was replaced by the XR50R in 2000. 


Honda’s trail bike lineup also grew to include slightly larger models, with the 1973 XR75 setting the bar for small-displacement, single-cylinder four-stroke motorcycles. Replaced by the XR80 in 1979, this model ruled the trails, and some even commandeered it for racing, with considerable success. 


Honda’s trail lineup expanded rapidly as early as 1981, with the introduction of the XR100, and would go on to include the XR70, XR80, XR100, each of which sat proudly alongside the Z50R on showroom floors and had new riders singing, “I wanna ride, I wanna ride.” 


In 2004, a transition to the CRF nomenclature helped create unity within Honda’s off-road family, which now included the CRF50F, CRF70F, CRF80F, and CRF100F. Guaranteeing that there was something for everyone in the family, the CRF150F and CRF230F were introduced at the same time, each of these models building on the strong base formed by larger trail bikes such as the XR200/XR200R and XR250/XR250R. 


Honda’s Trail lineup turned another important corner in 2013, when the CRF110F was introduced as a replacement for the CRF70F, and once again in 2014, when the CRF125F was brought in as the replacement for Honda’s long-successful CRF80F; its CRF125F Big Wheel sibling stepping in for the iconic CRF100F, and going on to form the platform that would be the starting point for a 2019 model-year update. 


 Honda Trail Bike Timeline: 


Following is a comprehensive chronological list of Honda trail bikes through the years. Please note that this list doesn’t include street-legal (dual-sport) models, two-stroke models or machines over 250cc displacement. 


  • Z50A / Z50R (’68-’99) 

  • XR75 (’73-’78) 

  • XR80 (’79-’03) 

  • XR185 (’79-’82) 

  • XR250 (’79-’04)* 

  • XR200 (’80-’02)* 

  • XR100 (’81-’03) 

  • TR200 Fat Cat (’89-’90) 

  • XR70 (’97-’03) 

  • XR50R (’00-’03) 

  • CRF50F (’04-’19) 

  • CRF70F (’04-’12) 

  • CRF80F (’04-’13) 

  • CRF100F (’04-’13) 

  • CRF150F (’04-’17) 

  • CRF230F (’04-’17) 

  • CRF110F (’13-’19) 

  • CRF125F / CRF125 Big Wheel (’14-’19) 

  • CRF250F (’19) 

2019 Honda CRF250RX First Impression 

What? Honda has another new model? Yes, that’s right, the 2019 CRF250RX is Honda’s latest off-road addition to their growing stable. We had a chance to let our “Electric Diesel” test rider Tod Sciacqua ride it at Cahuilla Creek in Anza, California for a full day of ripping. This is just a quick first impression, but we will be re-visiting this machine for a long term test soon so don’t fret your pretty little dirt bike faces. If you want to hear more about this red machine, click on the “Podcast” tab and listen to Tod and I talk about what this bike is like to ride. 


This all-new CRF250RX is specially designed for closed-course off-road competition only, so just know that this machine will not be OHV legal until you get a spark arrestor. Some of the CRF250RX key features that Honda would like you to know are:

  • Large-capacity, 2.2 gallon resin fuel tank 

  • 18-inch rear wheel

  • Forged aluminum sidestand

  • Sealed drive chain

  • Suspension with settings dedicated to closed-course off-road use 



  • High-performance, 249cc single-cylinder engine with dual-overhead-cam design and high rev limit.

  • Finger rocker arm with Diamond Like Coating (DLC) maximizes valve lift while retaining a low engine height

  • Downdraft intake layout improvies air-charging efficiency

  • Dual exhaust ports enable ideal air-charging efficiency

  • Cam profile, which is based on feedback on the CRF250R used by the Team HRC factory MX2 race team

  • Intake- and exhaust-port geometry provides strong low-rpm engine power while also maintaining stellar top-end performance

  • 44mm throttle body offers ideal low-rpm intake airflow for strong corner-exit performance

  • Honda’s piston oil jet with five nozzle holes provides superior piston-cooling efficiency and reduced knocking, enabling a precise ignition-timing setting for optimum power delivery

  • Lightweight AC generator keeps weight to a minimum and minimizes friction losses

  • Electric-start standard for easy, fast engine startup

  • Easily selectable Standard, Smooth, and Aggressive riding modes enable easy tuning depending on rider preference or course conditions

  • Selectable HRC launch control provides a steady stream of torque for excellent performance on race starts

  • Exclusive ECU settings for ideal engine performance and rideability in off-road situations



  • Lightweight aluminum frame with tapered main spars provides great rider feedback

  • Low center of gravity reduces front-end lift for strong acceleration

  • Renthal Fatbar® handlebar reduces steering-system weight, and flexes for comfort

  • Top triple clamp features two handlebar-holder locations for moving the handlebar rearward and forward by 26mm, ensuring rider comfort. When holder is turned 180 degrees, the handlebar can be moved an additional 10mm from the base position, resulting in four total unique handlebar positions

  • Newly shaped footpegs are 20% lighter and shed mud more easily, giving the rider great feel and confidence in all riding conditions

  • Engine guard allows excellent airflow, boosting engine-cooling performance

  • 49mm Showa SPG coil-spring fork with dedicated settings for ideal handling and comfort in technical conditions experienced in off-road racing

  • Fork protectors have outstanding coverage for protection in off-road conditions

  • Black rims offer strong presence parked in the pits or out on the trail

  • Lightweight front-brake caliper uses pistons of different diameters (30mm and 27mm) for strong braking performance

  • Front-brake hose resists expansion for precise braking

  • Smooth bodywork layout eases rider movement

  • In-mold graphics are durable and resistant to peeling caused by washing or abrasion

  • Dunlop Geomax AT81 tires provide optimum feel and traction in challenging riding conditions


So now that you have some idea about what Honda did to this sucker, what did Tod think about the 2019 CRF250RX: 

Going into the test day I was thinking this would be a corked up slow trail bike, not really expecting the awesomeness of the power potential this race bike truly really had. One of the first things I noticed was the oversized tank and the 18” rear wheel with the sweet looking racing black rims. Yes, I am sucker for black rims because it just makes the red plastic pop that much more. Throwing your leg over the Honda for the first time, you will notice the large fuel tank and by appearance you may think this tank will affect your riding while on the trail, but once you take off you forget all about it.


I want get this out of the way right now because I feel no one talks about this enough. There are three different power settings on the handlebar, which to me is always great for different riding conditions you may ride on any given day. I may be in the mood for different conditions, on any given ride I go on, so having the aggressive, smooth, or standard “mood” settings is perfect for the many different riding moods that I have. The engine delivery is snappy and responsive enough to pop me up over rocks, logs and the occasional rain ruts that we encounter here on the west coast from time to time. I only weigh in at 155 pounds so having too much power is a concern to me at times when looking to purchase a bike. With this CRF250RX I feel like I can manhandle this machine more because the power delivery is fun, yet never gets me in trouble when riding. The mid range to top end pulling power feels just like the 2019 CRF250R to me and that means it pulls far and likes to be revved. If there is anything I could complain about the engine, it would be lack of some torque down on very low RPM. The throttle response is crisp and instant, but the bottom end delivery can feel empty if I was on a tight trail that was somewhat sandy.  


The Showa suspension feels like it was tailor valved for my riding style and weight. Again I am not a heavy guy and this Showa CRF250RX suspension was plush for me out on the closed course trails of Cahuilla Creek. On the occasion I hit the moto track on the way into the pits, the suspension had enough hold up for the jumps that Cahuilla provided. Overall, I can’t sit here and type any real negative on the suspension side (as I love me some spring forks) and Showa knocked it out of the park with this fork setting. We set the sag at 106mm for my weight and I was happy right away with the balance that the HondaI had. I am sure Keefer will nitpick the crap out of this thing more at a later time, but for now lets just say the Showa suspension was great for my smaller stature. 

48mm Showa spring forks grace the new 2019 CRF250RX.

48mm Showa spring forks grace the new 2019 CRF250RX.

 While riding the diverse terrain I noticed how nimble and easy this CRF250RX is in the tight stuff (and through corners). Although the nature of the chassis is agile and quick handling, the straight line stability feels planted and not as twitchy as the 250R. On tighter switchbacks the CRF250RX feels light and very playful and that makes me want push harder through the tighter terrain. One thing is for certain about the evolution of dirt bikes these past few years; it’s that the brakes have improved dramatically. A lot of media testers don’t talk about how important good brakes are and the new Honda provides some great stopping ability. The front brake on past Honda’s felt somewhat spongey and soft to me, but this 2019 CRF250RX has a strong front brake that lets me charge into corners much harder than I can remember.   

The Honda loves to carve up some berms.

The Honda loves to carve up some berms.

Did I mention I love electric start? Well, I do! You might think you don’t need an electric start on a 250, but after a full day of riding, kickstarting your bike gets tiring. Us older guys love this feature as it just makes riding a dirt bike more enjoyable to me. The biggest bummer to me on the day was that they didn't let me take the bike home. I will have to say that I am also mystified that Honda doesn't put handguards on this machine. The seven mile loop that Honda laid out for us was filled with blood sucking demon branches that will attack you any chance they can. Just ask my right forearm! The Honda CRF250RX comes with a skid plate, which is mandatory for any off road bike, so why aren’t handguards mandatory on this sucker as well? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? 

Dear Honda, we need handguards please!

Dear Honda, we need handguards please!

Great job to Honda on making a hybrid machine that is easy to manage and fun to ride. Look for more 2019 Honda CRF250RX updates at soon or check out the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast on this site right now! -Big Air Tod  

2019 Honda CRF250R First Impression

It’s finally here to talk about! Hallelujah! The 2019 Honda CRF250R! So what did Honda change to the 2019 Honda CRF250R? New cam profile based on feedback from the Team HRC factory MX2 race team, new intake and exhaust-port geometry, new 44mm throttle body from last year’s 46mm version, all-new piston oil jet uses five nozzle holes instead of four, for improved piston-cooling efficiency and reduced knocking, right-side exhaust pipe shortened 50mm for excellent high-rpm power, all-new AC generator reduces weight and friction, Renthal Fatbar instead of 7/8 handlebar, new engine guard allows increased airflow that is said to improve engine-cooling performance, redesigned fork protectors offer improved coverage, black rims bro, new, lighter front-brake caliper now uses pistons of different diameters (30mm and 27mm) for strong braking performance, updated front brake hose has reduced expansion for more precise braking, and finally newly shaped footpegs are 20% lighter and flush mud more easily. 


The 2018 Honda CRF250R needed more torque to be able to hang with the Yamaha YZ250F. For 2019 Honda did improve on bottom end delivery, but it’s still not up to Yamaha YZ250F standards. The 2019 CRF250R can pull out of a soft corner slightly better than the 2018, but where you will really feel the difference between last year’s machine is through the mid-range. Mid range pulling power and RPM response is much improved as the Honda now feels more playful when accelerating over square edge and popping over braking bumps. Low end response doesn't have that exciting feel like the Yamaha, but to me the low end feeling (coming out of corners) feels on par with the KX250 now. The Honda CR250R needed more “meat” in second gear and it did get some, but the recovery time, from a mistake by the rider, is still not quite as good as the blue bike. If you're looking for a 250 four-stroke that likes to be revved and pulls far then the 2019 Honda CRF250R is your ticket. Top end pulls strong and over-rev is close to the KTM 250 SX-F, which means you will be rewarded by waiting just a second or two longer when making your shifts. The harder you ride this Honda the more it will reward you. This is not a lazy rider’s machine! If you were to ride both the 2018/2019 bikes back to back you will be able to feel the overall increased engine performance within the first couple laps. Trust me, I have done this several times. 


The updated valving that Honda came up with for 2019 really helps the chassis feel out tremendously. The fork has better hold up on de-cel and can be ridden harder with a heavier rider on board. The comfort that the CRF250R fork has is almost as good as the KYB SSS fork that is on the YZ250F. In fact, to me, the Honda fork has slightly more comfort initially when slapping the front end down off of a big single or flat landing. The shock is also a step in a better direction with increased rear wheel traction, as the shock squats just the right amount when the throttle is twisted open. The balance of the Honda should be praised as it always feels flat when coming in hot to a corner and the stink bug feel that Honda is sometimes known for is not apparent on this model. 


I have ridden almost all of the 2019 250’s and I must say that Honda has the best feeling chassis out of the bunch (I have yet to ride the 2019 Suzuki). The rigid feel that the CRF450R comes with is not apparent on the 250R. It feels planted at speed and can corner extremely well. The Honda is not the lightest on paper, but feels extremely light when riding. The beauty of this chassis is that you can rear end steer this 2019 Honda and also front steer without a problem. I complain about being trapped in a box with the 450R chassis as it’s super finicky to each change I make. The 250R has a wider window for the rider and doesn't seem to feel different when going from track to track. What you may be wondering is why the chassis feels better in 2019 when there wasn't anything changed to the frame. I am glad you asked! With the newfound bottom-mid range pulling power and the suspension changes that Showa made to the 2019 makes this a more fun/playful chassis to ride (compared to the 2018 version) on all different types of terrain.    


Thank you Honda for going with the 839 Renthal Fatbar! It is a lower bend than the old 971 7/8 Renthal bar, which makes it easier to get over the front end and corner. I am able to stand up through corners much easier with the layout of the handlebar, seat, footpeg. I am 6’0 tall and Honda is one of the more roomier cockpits. Dean Wilson even commented that the Honda (when he tested it) was spacious enough for him! *TIP*!! If you’re looking to get the 839 Fatbar bend on your older Honda you will have to go to your local Honda dealer and order it through them as a Honda part number. 


The three maps that you can choose from on the handlebar are actually different feeling on the track. Sometimes when you get a machine that has a handlebar mounted map switch it’s tough to decipher between the choices you have. For fun I had a buddy change the maps on the handlebar for each session I tested, without me knowing which map I was riding with. I wanted to really see if I could tell the difference between each map setting and to my surprise I could actually feel the difference between all three maps. I ended up making the correct choice each time I went out due to the fact that they are that noticeable. I preferred the aggressive map (map three/blinking three times) because it gave me more RPM response out of corners and bottom end torque. I was able to short shift a little more with map three, which helped recovery time when fanning the clutch out of corners. Try this with your buddy at the track and see if you can feel the difference without knowing which map he put you in. Oh and don’t cheat and look down at the map switch cluster!!!  


The Honda still needs some help with 2nd, 3rd, 4th gear spacing. If I am at a jumpy track it’s tough for me to decipher on which gear I want to be in to hit something. Sometimes I come out of a corner in second, start accelerating, shift to third, and it feels like third gear runs out too quickly (for third gear). I end up shifting to fourth a lot of times to hit stuff, but the weird thing is that fourth gear on this bike is surprisingly very useable! I hardly ever get to fourth gear on a KTM or Yamaha, but with the Honda I use fourth gear a lot. So when you ride the Honda CRF250R (2018 or 2019) try shifting to fourth gear and see for yourself. If you want to do “The Jody” I will not disagree or hate because I also like a 49 tooth on the rear. *If you are wondering what “The Jody” is, it’s a one tooth up on the rear sprocket mentality*. 

Here is a baseline set up from stock clickers. If you DO NOT know what your stock clicker number is please use your owners manual. That is what it’s there for. There is some great information in there and Honda has one of the best owners manuals out there. Yes, I could give you the stock clicker number, but that would defeat the purpose of my app that will be here soon!  

Fork: Height: 5mm

         Compression: Plus Two (two clicks stiffer than stock)

         Rebound: Stock or plus one (one click slower/stiffer than stock)

Shock: Sag: 107-108mm

            High Speed Compression: 1/8 turn in from stock (that is stiffer, folks) 

            Low Speed Compression: Plus one (one stiffer than stock)

            Rebound: Stock 


Is overheating still a problem Keefer? Yes, this is still a problem somewhat. If you ride deep sand tracks or ride when it’s over 100 degrees outside then make sure to check your coolant levels after every moto. I have tried a 1.6 radiator cap in the past and it helps a little just make sure you don’t sit there in the pits too long with your motor idling. You will not run out of coolant and blow up your bike unless you're at Glamis doing a three hour wide open moto. Just make sure to be conscious of the coolant level when riding.

In 2018 Honda had a recall on their clutch baskets as some of these were breaking and causing problems. For 2019 that is not a problem and has been resolved. The clutch on the 2019 still can fade during a long moto, if you over abuse it, so be forewarned. The clutch lifespan is around 10-12 hours for me as that is when I can feel it start to slip/drag. However, just know that I am a clutch slipper kind of guy as my finger is constantly on the clutch modulating the power to the rear wheel. 

I will be riding the 2019 Honda CRF250R a lot more so stay tuned for some added modifications that will get me some more torque. Always check back to and for the latest testing information. We got you! -Kris Keefe

2019 Honda CRF450X


Almost every motorcycle made has somewhat of a cult following, even some of those bad ones. However every so often there is a bike that becomes iconic and ever since 2006 the Honda CRF450X has been the Swiss army knife to so many riders throughout the riding and racing community. It’s no secret that the 450X has seen very little updates since its 2006 release and although it’s stayed the same, I think that’s a testament to how well Honda has designed the bike in the first place. The CRF450X has never been a real standout bike in any one category, I would even say that it’s been somewhat vanilla. Don’t take this the wrong way as vanilla ice cream can be eaten plain or can be made even better with just a few toppings right? That being said the 450X has been the platform for a huge amount of success especially on the west coast. This “vanilla” bike has had the ability to transform itself from the family trail bike to a bike, that is able to win multiple championships (in the high speed SCORE Baja series), while also being able to win multiple NHHA (National Hare and Hound) races and championships. 


 Improving the CRF450X (even if it was minimal) in every category (without hindering any one category) was the only way Johnny Campbell and Honda were willing to change the old tried and true red machine. One thing the 450X has always had and Honda wanted to keep was the ability to be a green sticker vehicle, which now makes the “X” one of only two 450cc bikes (the other being Yamaha’s WR 450) that is able to be ridden off-road year around. Being all new, the 2019 CRF450X’s fuel injected, Uni-cam engine is based off of the CRF450R, but with a slightly lower compression ratio (12:1). The lower compression ratio is achieved by having a different shaped, three ring piston. Also when compared to the “R”, the “X” has 12% more crank mass, which acts as a flywheel weight, helping give the engine more tractor like pulling power. New for 2019, the transmission is now a wide ratio six-speed mated to a rubber dampened front sprocket to keep chain noise to a minimum. The endless sealed o-ring chain is nice, but I personally like a master link for trailside issues.  The engine side cases have covers also to dampen engine vibration and keep overall engine noise down. The ECU settings on the 2019 are dedicated to the bike and since it is a green sticker bike they cannot be modified. Unlike the 450L (which this bike is closely related to), the “X” model does not come with a catalytic converter inside the muffler, although the muffler is still quite big and restrictive. Also differing from the “L” the head pipe diameter has been increased from 35mm to 38mm. 


The base chassis on the 450X is the same as the 450R with a few additional mounting holes, different engine hangers and slight changes to the sub-frame.  Some off-road specific goodies on the “X” include an 18” rear wheel, larger front brake master cylinder/hose (while still utilizing the “R” caliper and large rotor), a larger 2.01 gallon fuel tank, skid plate, dedicated suspension settings, larger offset fork lugs and a dedicated top triple clamp. Honda still uses a 7/8” Renthal handlebar which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it has more flex than an 1 1/8” bar. Finally Honda got rid of the old cable drive analog trip meter and joined this century with a nice digital readout that gives the rider different information.  The radiators on the “X” are larger than the “R” although unfortunately, unlike the “L” they don’t come with a radiator fan (although the plug is there and a fan from the “L” will bolt directly on). The headlight is literally the same halogen unit that come on the older “X” model (I assume for budget reasons) and the tail light is LED. The 2019 is E-start only and comes with a high capacity lithium ion battery. Oh and the 2019 CRF450X weighs 275 pounds when full of fluids. 


Our test day took place in the dry California desert and was set to a camping theme, which is where this bike is most likely going to be used in the real world. We split up into three groups, I headed out with Johnny Campbell as our guide and followed his dust down a seemingly endless sand whoop trail. Although not the most gradual way to warm up, it was immediately clear that just because this bike has the appearance and initial feel of a trail bike, that doesn’t meant deep down there still isn’t the heart of a Baja racer. Most trail bikes are sprung/valved extremely soft for the majority of the public, which gives a wallowy feeling especially in sand whoops. This isn’t the case with the 2019 CRF 450X; Honda was able to make the “X” comfortable at a trail pace while still making the suspension handle being ridden at a semi aggressive pace. On bigger g-outs the rear of the bike tended to go deep into the stroke and spring back, giving a slight kicking sensation. The forks only bottomed on hard, slap down landings and had an audible metal to metal clank sound. In rock gardens the front end stayed very planted and is stable, but when there is sand involved the bikes negative traits start to show. In sand washes the front end has a slight wander and gives the rider a lack of confidence. This may be partially due to the tire (Dunlop MX52), but in my opinion it was more of a suspension issue. The pushing feeling was greatly exaggerated when braking, and was hard to predict what the front wheel was going to do in almost any type of slower speed sandy section (even more so if there were rocks littered in). I noticed this in some washes we were in and thought it may have been just those washes, so when I got back to the camp I spun a few laps on a sandy turn track. It was quickly confirmed that the “X” in stock form isn’t a fan of turning in the sand, it isn’t planted and has a pushing sensation. After talking with Kris about this he explained it’s because the fork’s slightly soft settings hamper its turning ability when transferring your weight to the front on de-cel. When entering a corner sitting, the fork dives too far into the stroke and gives a knifing sensation. If I leaned back too far the fork wasn’t far enough in the stroke and it would have a pushing sensation.


What this Honda CRF450X does have that some other CRF’s don’t is straight line chassis comfort. The frame on this Honda is forgiving and doesn't put you in a small box like the CRF450R can do. It never deflects or feels harsh when riding over square edge or nasty terrain. We love the feel of this “X” chassis when going fast! Chasing Johnny Campbell down fast twisty roads with rollers is by far one of the more fun things to do on this Honda CRF450X. What I found is that on faster terrain, the “X” steers much better when standing and giving turning input through the pegs. Just a slight push on the pegs will get the bike to change direction while still feeling stable and confident. When I tried to point and shoot faster corners sitting down I had very little confidence in how the bike was going to react. If you like to stand or if you’re a rear end steering rider the CRF450X will fir you perfectly. The reason we think it corners better when standing is because when your weight is on the pegs, the load is centralized and not biased more to the front or rear so the balance front to rear doesn't get upset as much. 


To be 100% honest (which we always are over here at Keefer Inc) I was a little disappointed in the engine on the 2019 CRF450X. After riding the “L” last month we were told the “X” would be significantly opened up so the true potential of the engine could be enjoyed. Unfortunately the “X” has only a slightly free-er feeling engine. That being said I understand that with the restrictions of green sticker vehicles that Honda could only do so much. The bottom end power of the “X” is very linear and tame making the bike very easy to ride at lower speeds. When giving more throttle input the power of the “X” is deceiving as it builds power very calculated. Into the mid-range the bike starts to pull hard and almost feels like a diesel (similar to when the turbo was spools up). When that mid-range power comes on, the Honda gets the power to the ground and gets more exciting to ride. The reason I think the power may be “deceiving” is because the exhaust is so damn quiet and tame sounding that it never crosses my mind that it’s pulling so hard (with such a tame exhaust note). Past the mid, the top end is somewhat short, but that isn't a bad thing because the CRF450X likes to be short shifted and can do that with ease. In almost every situation the 450X like to be ridden a gear high and can be lugged fairly well. The gearing on the “X” is spaced out well and is one of the better gear boxes in the CRF range. I do feel like first gear could be a little lower because when at low speeds the engine was lugging a little more than I would like as I needed to cover the clutch. If the clutch wasn’t covered (in first gear) the Honda did flame out a coupe times on me in super tight/technical sections. Going up a couple teeth on the rear would most likely help remedy this issue, but wold also take away some top end pulling power (which I wouldn't mid so much). The CRF450X’s top speed was 96 MPH as I rung it out next to Johnny Campbell in a full tuck. Two times throughout the ride I found a false neutral between 2nd and 3rd gear and four to five times a found a false neutral between 4th and 5th gear. This could of happened because I was being lazy when shifting and not fully clicking my toe up. 


The ergonomics on the 2019 CRF450X are like any Honda as they always feel like home. The half waffle grips are good quality and the levers have a classic Honda comfortable feel. Something I always have and always will complain about on Honda’s is the damn clutch switch. When the bike stalls the clutch needs to be pulled in to be re-started, which is ok, but for the switch to be engaged the lever needs to be pulled in all the way to the handlebar. This means you can’t just two finger the clutch and fire the bike (because the other two fingers are blocking the lever from being fully engaged. I also feel like a radiator fan should have come stock on the “X”. I bring this up because as I was messing around at slow speeds (for 10-15 minutes) I was able to overheat the bike and it slightly spit coolant out.  The front brake has been greatly improved over the previous generation “X’s” and stopping power much better than I remember. The master cylinder is larger, holding more fluid, and the feel, power, and progressiveness at the lever is something I fell in love with. The digital readout gives MPH, trip, total mileage, check engine, low fuel light, and one other cool function. The “X”’s computer measures how much fuel has been used, which doesn’t seem too exciting, but it’s how it’s measured that’s smart. Instead of measuring how much fuel is in the titanium tank, the Honda measures how much fuel has flowed through the fuel injection system. This lets the rider know the MPG while also telling the rider how much fuel has flowed through the system. On our ride, the fuel light turned on at the 50 mile mark, but this mileage can obviously change with the terrain as well as the amount you twist your wrist. Unlike the older model, the new bike doesn’t have a quick access air filter door with quick release. Instead the air filter is accessed like a motocross bike removing the two seat bolts and seat. The stock plastic skid plate is nice and I applaud Honda for having the skid plate, as well as front and rear rotor guards since this is after all an off-road bike. Although the “X” has bike protection, once again Honda doesn’t equip their off-road bike with handguards. I didn’t understand why they don’t have handguards so I asked, and was told the engineers in Japan say “XR’s have handguards, CRF’s do not” this didn’t really answer my question, but it seems like it’s something that isn’t likely to change any time soon. 


Honda set out to improve the 2019 CRF450X in every department and I think the project was a success. Unlike the older model, this bike doesn’t need to have the carburetor messed with and all the smog stuff removed to make it run. Out of the box, the 2019 CRF450X runs well and is a very capable, fun machine to ride. Once the aftermarket offers some goodies (making the bike a “closed course” machine) it has the ability to be morphed into whatever the consumer wants it to be (just like vanilla ice cream). Just like adding your favorite toppings to ice cream, the 2019 Honda CRF450X is a great base, and with some aftermarket parts of your choice the “X” is still a Swiss Army knife that can be transformed into whatever type of bike you desire; from trail boss to Baja racer. If you have any more questions about the 2019 Honda CRF450X feel free to reach out to me at -Michael Allen

2019 Honda CRF450L First Impression


Story Written By Michael Allen

For years now most people in the motorcycling world, including myself have been asking the same question; why have no Japanese manufacturers fed the starving masses what they’re hungry for, a real dual sport machine? Well comes to find out at the end of this long wait these reasons ended being the reason the 2019 CRF450L is so damn good. It all starts with culture… European and Japanese manufacturers have very different philosophies on business and how motorcycles are to be made. When the market took a downturn in 2008, KTM saw a chance to jump on a dual sport market that was lacking and they did a great job providing the public with great dirt bikes with license plates. The Japanese are much more conservative in business and in turn somewhat let the dual sport market be ruled by the Euros for the next 10 years. Fast forward to late 2018 and we have come to find out that for the last few years Honda has been developing an entirely new model (along with 6 others). You see, Honda didn’t want to just take an old carbureted 450X and add a license plate because that would just be a dirt bike instead of a true dual sport. That being said Honda did use the all new 450X as a platform for the 450L, but also added a lot of things that make the new model work well on AND off road.


Honda released  seven new models this June and the two that are closely related are the 450X and the 450L. While they are both roughly based off the CRF450R and CRF450RX there are many differences. The basic engine configuration is the same, but the internals are very different. In the 450L engine, the compression ratio has been decreased to 12:1, valve timing is specific to the L, the crank inertia is 12% greater than the 450R, which acts like a flywheel weight and helps with tractability on the trail. There is a new piston with three rings, a new six speed transmission, lighter clutch pull, larger radiators, an electric fan, dedicated ECU settings and a DOT specific exhaust system. With these different internals the engine gained 5.1 pounds over the CRF450R. On the chassis and suspension side, the “L” also shares a lot of slightly modified “R” parts. The frame although based off of the “R” is slightly wider between the foot pegs, the head tube has slightly more rake and the sub frame on the L extends almost all the way to the end of the rear fender to help support the weight of the tail light and license plate. The shock and 49mm forks are the same ones that come on the 450R, but have internal changes in valving, spring rate, and have fork lugs with slightly more off-set. The front brake on the L has a larger reservoir and a thicker disk to meet DOT requirements. In the drivetrain Honda did some cool things to help keep road noise down. The chain is fully sealed, on the rear sprocket there is a rubber ring around the outer edge that the chain rides on and slightly compresses. What this does is eliminate lashing noise on the rear sprocket. In addition to the rear sprocket is a chain guard that fully covers the front sprocket and keeps the noise isolated.


Also to keep things isolated, the swing arm is filled with polyurethane to keep vibration to a minimum (this also gives the rear suspension a bit more of a dead feeling when on the trails). The engine side cases on both sides have plastic covers that are isolated by foam and help greatly reduce engine noise and vibration as well as having a substantial factory plastic skid plate. The titanium fuel tank holds two gallons and the digital readout will give the rider live MPG as well as tell you how much fuel has been used (the bike averaged about 47 MPG). The L comes with very street-ish IRC dual sport tires (although for this event the bikes had Dunlop 606’s) wrapped on black DID rims. One area where I think Honda really took the dual sport game to the next level is the license plate, turn signals, and lights. The License plate bracket is mounted directly to the sub frame and is spaced far enough back that even after 102 miles of hard riding (including jumps with hard landings) the tire never touched it and it never bent. Everyone knows that dual sport turn signals are always a weak point, so Honda went back to the drawing board and created all new LED signals that can be bent in any direction without breaking, getting permanently damaged and just flex back to their original position. All the lights on the new 450L are LED and plenty bright with switches on the bars that are somewhat compact and simple to use. Finishing off the dual sport amenities are the mirrors, which in my opinion are just typical motorcycle mirrors that are fixed in their position. When leaning forward while riding I noticed the mirrors tended to hit me in the chest, breaking the jam nut loose and swiveled around on their own. Something I think this bike (as well as all off road bikes) could benefit from are factory handguards. This is a big pet peeve of mine because no one likes having their hands slapped by branches or being frozen by the cold weather.  


Now that all the technical info and new features are out of the way here’s how it does on and off-road: Before I fully get into it, I want to squash one thing right off the bat. I’ve seen a lot of comments on social media during the launch and it drives me nuts. People commenting everything from “man that’s just a 250L with a bigger engine,” to “looks like a piece of shit street bike,” and my favorite “all the reviews say it’s terrible” even though all reviews are embargoed until 9/17. So the first thing I want to say is that everyone needs to chill down, give this bike a chance and don’t hate on it before the reviews are even out, or better yet try and get a chance to ride one for yourself if you don’t take our word for it. Our ride started early in the morning in the Pacific Northwest with some wet asphalt roads that led onto some dirt. The first thing I noticed about the 450L was how quiet the exhaust was. Yes it sounds very muffled  because there is a catalytic converter in the muffler. One thing we were told about the 450L is that Honda met every law and then some when it came to DOT regulations. The ECU cannot be modified and if the muffler is changed the bike will run too lean (it’s already pretty lean in stock form to meet regulations). With all that being said I’m sure someone in the aftermarket game will figure out a way to open this bike up to its true potential (albeit illegal). Another downside to the stock muffler is that since it has a cat (not meow) inside it, it has a tendency to get VERY hot. When I say very hot I mean glove and gear melting hot (don’t ask me how I know this). All the actions that Honda took to make the bike a pleasure to ride on the street really paid off. I’ve ridden other dual sports that vibrate your brains out while riding down the highway, but the 450L feels much more street like.


Once we got onto the first dirt/gravel road it was clear that the ergonomics were purely derived from the L’s dirt heritage. The Dunlop 606’s are about as good as you’re going to get when it comes to a good dirt/street mix tire, but it was still clear that there weren’t true knobby tires mounted up. The tires seem to grip for a good bit of the initial lean, but once they broke loose then started to slide it seemed like traction was nowhere to be found and the bike just kept drifting. Exiting corners the roll on power was very strong and seemed to build somewhat like a diesel. Off the bottom the power is very smooth and linear and I feel like once the extra mass of the crank and clutch get moving the power gets exciting but not in a violent way. When the mass gets spinning the engine really starts to pull with an amazing connection to the ground. There is little to no wheel spin, the power just gets put to the ground and accelerates instead of breaking loose and spinning the rear tire. However, there isn’t much point in revving the L out because all you’ll be doing is making noise (this bike likes to be short shifted). 


The dirt roads we were on had a lot of stutter bumps (washboards) and the L seemed to give minimal feedback in the seat and was very comfortable. One area of the suspension that gave me a little grief was on small square edged bumps, the forks had a slightly sharp feeling transferred to the bars. This was remedied by opening up the fork rebound two clicks. Riding the first bit of single track trail is when I realized that Honda had created a real competitive dual sport machine; one that the Europeans should take note of. Although the 450L weighs in at 289 pounds full of fuel (22 pounds heavier than its competition), on the trail you can hardly tell that it’s a bit on the heavy side. Moving down the trail, the L changes direction easily with minimal input and I found that it steers better standing up and weighting the pegs to change direction. The only time I really felt the extra weight was on tight switchbacks where the whole bike had to change direction from left to right (or vice versa) near 180 degrees. In that type of situation the slightly top heavy feeling started to show itself. 


On faster flowing trails the suspension is clearly much more performance based than the European bikes, which feel very spongy and springy. The 450L has a much more performance based feeling and is able to be pushed at an aggressive pace. I only bottomed the bike once throughout the whole test day, and that was when a few other testers pointed out a road gap that they assured me I could jump (they were right, I could jump it, but the landing was less than ideal). I think Honda did a great job blending comfort with performance with this bike and I’m sure most of the consumers will agree. 


Having a six speed transmission is a great addition to the new L for a couple reasons. Having a low first gear gives you the ability to tackle slower more technical terrain, and having a tall sixth gear gives you the ability to cruise down the highway at 65mph without feeling like you’re wringing the bikes neck. Speaking of sixth gear, the L has a governor set at 91mph (I know because I found it). When you hit 91mph the Honda feels like it’s still pulling, but then feels like someone hit the kill switch and it drops about 5mph before it starts to pull again. On multiple occasions I found a false neutral between fourth and fifth gear when I was being lazy and not fully moving my toe all the way up when shifting. Another slightly annoying trait was that the bike had a tendency to flame out if I wasn’t covering the clutch in technical terrain. This was slightly remedied by turning up the idle, but still happened from time to time. When this would happen, having electric start was nice, but having a clutch cancel switch wasn’t. When the bike stalls the clutch needs to be pulled in to be re-started, which is ok, but for the switch to be engaged the lever needs to be pulled in all the way to the bars. This means you can’t just two finger the clutch and fire the bike (because the other two fingers block the lever, this just takes an extra second and is a nuisance). 


The CRF 450L comes with a factory one year warranty and Honda also offers up to an additional five years (which seems crazy that Honda will cover any issues you have with your basically off road bike for up to 6 years). And to top it all off it has an MSRP of $10,300 which is $900 less than the KTM and Husqvarna. Another thing that some keyboard warriors have been hounding on is the maintenance schedule of oil changes, which is every 600 miles and valve checks every 1,600 miles. Some people are saying that’s too frequent, but in my opinion that’s a lot of riding without having to worry about anything (this is also much less frequent than the competition). Honda put on a hell of an event at a great location with great people, everyone at the event worked their butts off and I feel super lucky to be one of the first people to ride the next level in the dual sport world. To sum it all up I think that Honda did all they could do, “legally” to make the best street legal dirt bike that is still a pleasure to ride on the street. Is it still corked up? Yes. Does it have more potential? Yes. But it’s going to be up to the aftermarket to take this bike from being a home run to a grand slam.  If it were me personally I think there are only two things I’d do to personalize this bike for myself. I’d get an exhaust (a quiet one) to open up the engine to its full potential as well as get the mapping richened up (when this service is available). This bike falls under the category of (for the most part) don’t mess with a good thing. Honda engineers, as well as riders like Johnny Campbell have put a lot of time into making the CRF450L this good. Honda may be a little late to the dual sport party, but after seeing all the effort put into this project they clearly mean business and are here to stay. If you have any more questions about the 2019 CRF450L feel free to reach out to me at


2019 Honda CRF450R Optional Suspension/Chassis Settings


If there is one bike that is sensitive to setting changes it is the Honda CRF450R. The 2019 version does have slightly more comfort in the chassis and have a little wider window (for setting changes) to work with than the 2017-2018 CRF450R. However, there is a couple very small things that can drastically improve the handling of your 2019 CRF450R (that will not cost you an arm and a leg). Try some of the following settings if you need a good baseline to start from on your 2019 CRF450R and CRF450RRWE. 






*Rear Wheel Placement (Chain Adjustment)*:

Before we get into optional suspension settings I wanted to talk about rear wheel placement/adjustment. In stock form the rear wheel adjustment comes pushed in too far forward on the CRF450R. It may not look/sound like much, but I quickly found out that a few millimeters drastically improved the Honda’s chassis character. The Honda is already a quick turning machine, so if you're experiencing some stability or deflection problems in your front end try running your wheel farther back. You will have to get a new chain and cut it to the desired length, but try placing your wheel towards the last two-three markings on your chain adjuster blocks. By doing this, it allows you to keep your fork height at 5mm and prevents some harsh/deflection feeling in your fork. Most riders will drop their fork height flush or to 2.5mm when experiencing oversteer or stability problems, but that just hurts the Honda’s “turn in” ability and doesn't get you that much added straight line stability. Dropping the fork can make the Honda cornering seem somewhat heavy. Running your rear wheel farther back helps traction, increases stability and actually helps fork comfort on de-cel. When I come off of other bikes and get back on the Honda CRF450R it almost feels like the front wheel is tucked too far underneath me. I get some oversteer through corners and front wheel traction is inconsistent at times. Running the rear wheel back gives the Honda CRF450R increased cornering stability and helps some harsh feel I get from the forks on de-cel (braking bumps). Something as small as moving your rear wheel back on the red machine helps “planted feel” tremendously. The suspension settings below are settings that were made with the rear wheel placed farther back (than stock). 


Food for thought….There is a reason why KTM gave the customer more room to run the rear wheel back on their SX-F’s in 2019.    





Suspension Settings (170-195 pounds): 



Spring Rate: 0.50 

Compression: 9-10 clicks out

Rebound: 11 clicks out

Fork Height: 4-5mm (With rear wheel placement modification)



Spring Rate: 5.6 

Race Sag: 107mm

Hi Speed Compression: 3-3 1/4 turns out 

Low-Speed Compression: 9 clicks out

Rebound: 6 clicks out



Suspension Settings (195 Pounds And Up): 


Spring Rate: 0.51 

Compression: 12 clicks out

Rebound: 10 clicks out

Fork Height: 4-5mm (with rear wheel placement modification)



Spring Rate: 5.8 

Race Sag: 108mm

Hi Speed Compression: 3-3 1/2 turns out

Low Speed Compression: 12-13 clicks out

Rebound: 10-11 clicks out



Chassis Notes: With the frame, swingarm, and linkage changes Honda made to the CRF450R in 2019 you don’t have to rip bolts out or loosen torque specs. I am currently testing engine hangers to see if it hurts or helps this new generation chassis, so stay tuned for that update in a future Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast.


Clutch: The clutch is still weak in the Honda so removing the judder spring and adding a clutch fiber can help the life of your plates by 6-8 engine hours. Just know that adding a clutch fiber will make the clutch pull slightly harder to pull in! 



2019 Honda CRF450RWE First Impression


Editors Note: I wanted a test rider that rides/races Hondas a lot, but not a Honda rider who gets help or paid from Honda, but a real world, blue collar, racer type of guy to see if the Works Edition is really that much of a benefit for the money. I have known Colton Aeck for a while and he has always come across to me as a young kid with his “shit together” so to speak. As someone who looks for test riders, this is a rare thing. Almost Unicorn like! He’s articulate, he's polite, he calls it how he sees it and can translate that into actual words on a computer screen. While I was in Colorado on a family vacation, I tasked Colton with the job of comparing the “WE” to the standard edition a little, so you consumers can read if the juice is worth the squeeze.  


The 2019 Honda CRF450RWE… What is it and is it worth the extra $2,200 on the price tag?


2019 Honda CRF450RWE

2019 Honda CRF450RWE


For 2019 Honda released their first ever WE or “Works Edition” motorcycle. At first glance the 2019 CRF450RWE looks a lot like Ken Roczen’s factory race bike. The “WE” utilizes the 2019 CRF450R as a base, but features a handful of upgrades like the Ken Roczen replica graphic kit, a hand ported cylinder head with an engraved “CRF450R Works Edition” stamp, Yoshimura slip on exhaust and more aggressive ECU settings. Other upgrades include: Kashima and titanium nitride coated forks, “super finished” and titanium nitrate coated shock shaft, valving settings, DID LT-X rims, RK gold chain, black triple clamps and a Throttle Jockey gripper seat cover. 




So does all the extra bling and goodies translate into improved performance on the track? In short, Yes it does for me, but let me dive a little deeper, starting with the engine.




The combination of the head porting, Yoshimura slip on mufflers and the new ECU settings really liven up the engine on the CRF450RWE. RPM response is improved through the mid/top end and the engine has an overall “free” or quick revving feeling throughout the rpm range. It really does feel like a race engine and I would know because I have a race engine in my own personal 2018 Honda CRF450R. The biggest power increase is through the mid to top end and the rev cut off limit (over-rev) feels like it’s a couple hundred RPM’s higher than the standard “R”. I didn’t have to shift the “WE” quite as early as the the standard model coming out of corners. Although I will say the "R" has much better pulling power than the 2018 model. 




The chassis is virtually the same between the WE and the standard model, except for the DID LT-X rims. But don’t discount that small change, because I think it has a noticeable effect on the handling of the WE. There is more of a solid feel when landing hard off of jumps compared to the standard “R” rims and for my aggressive riding style, that suits me better, so I can really appreciate that small of a change. Some of you may not even notice this on the track. but I am picky when it comes to rims and their strength. 

To be completely honest, I didn’t expect to feel the difference in the suspension coatings and valving on the “WE”. Once you’re on the track the difference is clear, the initial part of the fork’s stroke has a plush yet firmer feel and the bike as a whole seems to settle better into corners. I feel like there is some added hold up (fork) on de-cel and the balance of the bike is better to me once off the throttle. I get slightly less pitching (or diving sensation) when chopping the throttle hard into some braking bumps. Again, the “R” is a little soft for my aggressive riding style, but still has a lot of comfort. The “WE” may have slightly less comfort in the mid-stroke, but it what it lacks in comfort it makes up for in performance when I decide to lay some hot laps down. Between the more powerful and responsive mid to top end, the suspension coatings and the stronger DID rims, the “WE” feels a little more flickable feeling on the track. I notice this mostly in the air and leaning into corners.




So the big question..Is the 2019 Honda CRF450RWE worth the extra $2,200?

Well, If you have a few extra bucks to spend and you want to have a more unique bike, that is also really cool then YES! If you plan on doing some modifications to your existing “R” you would easily spend more than $2,200 to do all these upgrades yourself right? If you have the extra money, want something unique and actually get some real world on track benefits then having a “Works Edition” is pretty damn cool. -Colton Aeck 

If you want more information and want to hear what the boss man has to say about both Honda machines you can click on the "Podcast" tab right here on and listen to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast. 

2019 Honda CRF450R First Impression


As the 2019 bike roll-outs continue, we ventured back to Chaney Ranch to swing our leg over the 2019 Honda CRF450R and all new CRF450RWE (Works Edition).  From prior experience, the Chaney Ranch facility proved to not be the best testing grounds to form great opinions/settings on new bikes, but rather a place that would allow us to get comfortable on a bike and become more excited to take it elsewhere.  So my first impression of the 450R is just that - a way for me to communicate my initial thoughts based on one day of riding (and trust me when I say I can’t wait to ride this bike again).  


2019 Honda CRF450R 

2019 Honda CRF450R 


First and foremost, let me start by stating that I was not a fan of either the 2017 or 2018 Honda 450R.  I’m a relatively small dude - 5’7”, 145lbs, so harnessing the prowess of a big bore can be daunting at times.  I personally felt that the 17’ & 18’ 450’s where very rigid, and I struggled to find settings that would make me comfortable in stock trim on rougher tracks.  Mostly, I felt these bikes were quick to react and deflect off of any small bumps/chop on track, making it hard for me to hold onto (skinny guy problems). Honda brought out an 18’ for us to ride and I was able to confirm these opinions before riding the new bikes. Without a doubt, within minutes I could feel the difference of the updates that Honda made for 2019. The CRF450R’s Next-Gen twin spar aluminum frame positions the rear shock’s mounting point lower, opening up the airbox area and contributing to a lower center of gravity. Honda also took some rigidity out of the sub-frame to help with rear wheel traction and comfort. The new swingarm design is lighter and provides appropriate rigidity communication to the rest of the bike, resulting in a much more compliant feel. The bike feels more stable, more predictable, and way more confident when riding at speed. It allows you to ride the bike more aggressively and with more confidence in rough conditions.  Keep in mind, the overall frame geometry is exactly the same as the prior years, so the 19’ definitely will not feel foreign to someone who has become familiar with the last few generations.  Further enhancements to the chassis for the new model year include revised suspension settings, which further improve the overall feel and performance of the 450R.  They are somewhere in the mix between the 17’ (which was soft) and the 18’ (which was stiffer). I made very minute adjustments to improve comfort, which included a sag setting around the 109-110mm mark, and softening the forks and low speed compression on the shock. These small adjustments transmitted into noticeable differences and I started liking the bike even more as the day progressed.  Finally, I was smiling while riding red again!




Moving into the power plant, 2019 sees a revised cylinder head with a focus on the exhaust port and a new header pipe.  The header pipe diameter has been increased as well as overall length to the muffler, all resulting in more power across the rpm range.  Honda also updated the selectable EFI map selections (standard-1/smooth-2/aggressive-3) for better use of power delivery in specific conditions, as well as selectable HRC launch control modes.  I did not really dive into the launch control modes on the 450R, but have been told that they help offer a great advantage for riders looking to rip that #absoluteholeshot. My impressions of this 2019 motor were great, as I felt the power delivery was very linear (something that I like). It was not as barky/aggressive on the low-end as previous generations have been, so I did enjoy “Map 3” the most, which woke the bike up a bit, allowing it to regain some snap and playfulness without losing the linear power curve. Over-rev seemed plenty sufficient as well, as the bike did pull well in high rpms, but the only thing that really didn’t stand out was the mid-range. I felt the “meat in the middle” was a little lack-luster, making me want to twist the throttle more to keep the bike alive. All in all, the motor and chassis combination seemed to work well with one another.




To round out some other important improvements to this year’s 450R, the bike now sees a Renthal Fatbar attached to a new top triple clamp (offers 4 different handlebar mount positions), updated front brake caliper, and last but not least… BLACK WHEELS!  Yes… this is very important, because holy hell the bike looks so damn sexy with them! And speaking of holy hell and sexy, how about the all new 450R Works Edition?! The bike is drool worthy and I swear to you, it will cause a double-take to anyone at first glance who might confuse it with a factory race bike. I spent some time on this bike as well during the intro, but it was not my focus - my partner, Colton Aeck, will provide you with the details in his own impressions right here on I will say this - the Works Edition is one bad machine, and I applaud Honda for actually making it a better package for the money when comparing it to the orange/white competition. It is not just about aesthetics with the 450RWE, its about performance as well, and I’m hoping to ride it again in the near future to form better opinions on how much better it can be or should be, versus the standard “R” model. 




I personally feel that the 2019 new bike season is shaping up to be great. Japanese manufacturers have stepped up across the board, providing machines that look, feel and perform better than they have in the last few years. Honda has proven this so far with their 450R, which is noticeably improved form the 2018. The updated chassis is the obvious stand-out here, providing a more compliant and predictable ride than the previous generations. What was also cool to experience first hand was being surrounded with professional privateers during this intro (albeit current red riders) that could attest to the changes that the new bike experienced. Everyone seemed to agree on specific traits, and what stood out when they had their turn to spin laps (and let me explain that they all agreed that they want the 2019 bikes to race on next season). As mentioned earlier, riding in the location we did for this intro was just the beginning… I am now more eager than ever to ride in different conditions to really get a true depiction of the 19’ model.  As always, please stay tuned to to read/listen/learn as we continue to have some fun testing the 2019 offerings across the board. Thank you for reading! -Dominic Cimino


Dominic Cimino ripping the CRF450RWE. 

Dominic Cimino ripping the CRF450RWE. 

Justin Brayton's Smartop/MCR/Bullfrog Spas Honda CRF450R Photo Gallery

She's A Beaut Clark! 

She's A Beaut Clark! 

A D.I.D. DirtStar ST-X rim is laced up to a Dubya Talon Ultralight rear hub. 

A D.I.D. DirtStar ST-X rim is laced up to a Dubya Talon Ultralight rear hub. 

The front hub is a stock unit that is polished. Brayton likes the way the stock hub feels for cornering. 

The front hub is a stock unit that is polished. Brayton likes the way the stock hub feels for cornering. 

Stock foot peg placement, a set of titanium Pro Pegs and a Ride Engineering brake clevis.

Stock foot peg placement, a set of titanium Pro Pegs and a Ride Engineering brake clevis.

This is the same Yoshimura RS-9 system that anyone can purchase. No special spec here. 

This is the same Yoshimura RS-9 system that anyone can purchase. No special spec here. 

Factory Showa shock with an 18mm shock shaft. 

Factory Showa shock with an 18mm shock shaft. 

X-Trig 22mm offset clamps, PDHS bar mounts with a 5mm spacer, and 996 Twinwalls. The Showa factory forks are spring forks with caps that may look like they're air assist, but don't let that fool you. 

X-Trig 22mm offset clamps, PDHS bar mounts with a 5mm spacer, and 996 Twinwalls. The Showa factory forks are spring forks with caps that may look like they're air assist, but don't let that fool you. 

A factory front Nissin brake caliper stops the Honda on a dime. However, it isn't a grabby front brake, but has more of a progressive feel to it and that invites you to go in deeper into bowl corners. 

A factory front Nissin brake caliper stops the Honda on a dime. However, it isn't a grabby front brake, but has more of a progressive feel to it and that invites you to go in deeper into bowl corners. 

JB10 opts for the feel of the titanium front engine hanger. Although the shape is the same as the stock piece, the stiffer feel of the titanium up front helps the side to side movement of the CRF450R feel quicker/lighter. 

JB10 opts for the feel of the titanium front engine hanger. Although the shape is the same as the stock piece, the stiffer feel of the titanium up front helps the side to side movement of the CRF450R feel quicker/lighter. 

A GUTS ribbed seat cover keeps Justin from coming of the back while eating corners. Underneath the seat you will be able to find a Vortex ignition that is mapped to the XPR tuned engine. Yes, it's fast!  

A GUTS ribbed seat cover keeps Justin from coming of the back while eating corners. Underneath the seat you will be able to find a Vortex ignition that is mapped to the XPR tuned engine. Yes, it's fast!  

You would think the whole package would make Brayton's bike feel rigid, but it actually has a ton of comfort for how stiff his suspension set up is. The team incorporates all stock hardware (no titanium) to help flex character.  

You would think the whole package would make Brayton's bike feel rigid, but it actually has a ton of comfort for how stiff his suspension set up is. The team incorporates all stock hardware (no titanium) to help flex character.  

Chad Braun at XPR has this engine tuned beautifully. It has a free-revving feel with hardly no engine braking and is not only very fast, but very controlled as well. The traction to the rear wheel is amazing for how fast this machine is. Brayton's first and second gears pull so long, it feels like third gear in normal production standards. Now I know how Brayton gets such great starts! WOW! 

Chad Braun at XPR has this engine tuned beautifully. It has a free-revving feel with hardly no engine braking and is not only very fast, but very controlled as well. The traction to the rear wheel is amazing for how fast this machine is. Brayton's first and second gears pull so long, it feels like third gear in normal production standards. Now I know how Brayton gets such great starts! WOW! 

The confidence you get coming into whoops with factory suspension underneath you is nothing like you ever felt. 

The confidence you get coming into whoops with factory suspension underneath you is nothing like you ever felt. 

2018 Honda CRF450R First Ride

Keefer Inc. Testing First Ride Impression

2018 Honda CRF450R 


The 2018 Honda CRF450R may look like a 2017, but it sure doesn't act like one. 

The 2018 Honda CRF450R may look like a 2017, but it sure doesn't act like one. 


For those of you that didn't listen to the 2018 Honda CRF450R podcast I did, here is a written First Ride Impression version. Remember if you prefer to listen to your tests instead of read them, we are here for you! You can subscribe to “Keefer Tested“ on iTunes, go to or get it on the Stitcher app…. Choose wisely…. 



Honda came out with a brand spankin new CRF450R in 2017, so the updates the 2018 have are minimal, but that doesn't mean they cant be felt on the track. Honda went ahead and stiffened up the suspension by increasing the spring rates on both ends of the bike, the engine hangers have been swapped out for a softer CRF450RX style hanger, a mapping change was made to the standard map that was developed to smooth out roll on power down low and increase mid to top end pull and last but not least an electric start with a lightweight lithium ion battery (straight from the HRC race department). On paper it doesn't sound like much, so I took the 2017 and 2018 bikes out to dissect them both (for a little comparison) and this is what I came away with. 


A Mapping change to the number 1 map (on the mapswitch) make the 2018 CR450R easier to ride.

A Mapping change to the number 1 map (on the mapswitch) make the 2018 CR450R easier to ride.




The 2017 engine character is super exciting and fun to ride, but can be a handful when trying to roll through ruts and corners. The 2018 (in map 1) comes on smoother and is much more friendly to ride than the 2017. This doesn't mean it lost its luster down on low RPM, it just means that it is more controllable than ever before. The rear wheel is more connected on the 2018 than last year and I can really feel the Honda getting more traction when the dirt gets harder. Mid to top end pull feels like it has also slightly increased over last year with the new mapping. The new bike can pull second and third gear slightly longer. You will however still need to downshift to second in corners, but will be able to shift a little earlier on the 2018. Over-rev is as good on the 2018 as last year’s model, but still not quite as good as a KTM 450SX-F. With the 2017 I felt like it was easy to stall on tighter corners and didn't have that chugability (yes, that’s right chugability) that I like so much from a bike like the Yamaha YZ450F. With the 2018 CR450R mapping change I felt like the Honda is a little more “chuggy” feeling down on low RPM and doesn't have the tendency to stall as easy. Map two and three are unchanged and to me I preferred map 1 on every track I rode besides very deep sand tracks. Map two is too mellow for my throttle hand and map 3 is very fun feeling, but when I get tired I prefer calming down a little bit! Don’t be threatened by a smoother power feeling on a 450 because chances are you will be faster with that type of engine character. Honda has picked up on this and gives the rider a smoother yet broader engine character in 2018.  


The new Honda still has a fun power character and is flickable around the track. 

The new Honda still has a fun power character and is flickable around the track. 



2018. Firmer? Yes. Harsher? No. The 2018 Honda has a firmer feel to it and holds up in the stroke better than the 2017. At 170 pounds this is a better feeling for me on every track I rode at. Last year’s bike was a little “pitchy” feeling and gave me some oversteer (knifing) in corners. This year I was able to keep the fork height at 5mm up in the clamp and not get that oversteer I dreaded from last year’s machine. Going from on gas to off gas on the 2018 CRF450R gives the rider less movement and keeps front end traction high through corners. The fork has a firmer feel, but doesn't get harsh through the mid stroke and keeps a good damping feel all the way to the end of its stroke. Last year’s fork setting was a little empty feeling at the end part of the stroke and I bottomed the 49mm Showa spring fork going up faces of jumps. I experimented with shock sag and always came back to a 105-106mm setting. This was a happy place to keep the 2018 CRF450R balanced on braking bumps and acceleration chop. The shock soaks up square edge well and doesn't have that wallow feel on rollers like last year’s steed. I did get some bottoming on steep jump transitions so an 1/8-1/4 turn stiffer on high speed really helps this get better. If you feel like that both ends are harsh (on braking bumps and acceleration chop) try softening the fork two clicks, slowing the rebound down one click. On the shock go softer two clicks on low speed compression and stiffen rebound down one click. 

The 49mm Showa spring fork holds up more on de-cel and the bike doesn't have that "pitchy" feel to it.

The 49mm Showa spring fork holds up more on de-cel and the bike doesn't have that "pitchy" feel to it.


Chassis:  The softer engine hangers really help the 2018 Honda CRF450R settle into the corners better than the 2017. I originally did this mod to my 2017 and noticed a big difference in the bike’s attitude when the track was hard and choppy. The 2018 doesn't deflect as much off of bumps and is slightly more planted around the track.The softer hangers help the flex of the chassis and give the rider more of a contact patch feel from both tires. The added weight (five extra pounds in 2018) of the electric start doesn't correlate on the track and it was tough for me to feel any real weight disadvantage while pushing it on the track. If anything I can feel a slightly heavier feel on tip in, coming into corners, but it is barely noticeable (I am picky so I can feel that stuff). The CG feeling of the Honda is still superb and feels flickable around jumpier style tracks. The 2018 CRF450R corners better than the 2017 due to the chassis and suspension changes Honda made.  

The updated hangers are a welcome change to the 2018 CRF450R, even though most of you 2017 Honda riders most likely already did this to your machine.

The updated hangers are a welcome change to the 2018 CRF450R, even though most of you 2017 Honda riders most likely already did this to your machine.




It was tough for me to ride the 2017 Honda CR450R at rough tracks, but the same tracks I hit with the 2017 didn't feel as gnarly to me when I rode the 2018 model. The more forgiving chassis, stiffer suspension, and an engine character that is easier to ride makes it less of a handful to push your limits. I like that I can be smoother on this bike and it will reward me. Did I mention the electric start kicks ass?! It starts easy and makes life a lot easier for me when I have a spill or need to stop to yell at my son for doing something sketchy out on the track. I am looking forward to riding the 2018 Honda CR450R against all of the other 450’s soon in the upcoming first annual Keefer Inc. Testing 450 MX Shootout. Stay tuned! 




If you have any questions about this test please feel free to email me at  


For spec info you all can go click over to