I was fortunate enough to ride one of these a few years ago, and although the first two laps were frightening, as I got used to it I understood why its owner called it the best dirt bike he ever rode.
It is extremely sturdy, surprisingly easy to maneuver through corners, and even more so mid-air, allowing a beginner like myself to precisely nail every landing without losing any speed.
The newest model comes with a redesigned frame that is over a pound and a half lighter (0.68 kg). This was made possible by narrowing the frame's main spars, a modification that not only saves weight but also reduces lateral rigidity by 20%.
In conjunction with the new frame, the swingarm has also been redesigned and fitted with narrower main members to match its lateral rigidity to the rest of the chassis. The result is a bike that should handle far better than its predecessors, allowing riders to get in, around, and out of corners much faster.
Dirt bikes like the CRF450R spend almost as much time in the air as they do in the ground, so the suspension system must be up to the task.
For 2021, Honda increased the stroke of the Showa inverted fork by 5 mm (0.19 inches). The axle holding fixtures at the bottom of each fork leg was also enhanced to increase rigidity and steering precision.
On the rear, the new frame design allowed engineers to fit a completely new Pro-Link Showa shock with adjustable spring preload, rebound, and compression damping. It uses a steel spring specifically designed to work with the new frame, which is lighter and stronger than previous versions.
The bike uses Honda’s proven 449-cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke engine. It comes with a new Unicam cylinder head that is lighter and reduces the overall size of the unit. It also gets new lightweight titanium intake valves and revised decompression and fuel injection systems.
As for the exhaust, it now features a single muffler and a shorter single-pipe header that reduce the bike’s weight even further and helps improve weight distribution.
Another key upgrade is the new battery box, which sits lower for an improved center of gravity and is now water-sealed for increased durability in wet conditions.
However, the biggest change from past models is the hydraulically actuated clutch supplied by Nissin that replaces the old cable-triggered version.
It offers improved torque transmission and limits the slip at peak horsepower by a whopping 85%. Also thanks to the hydraulics, the clutch-lever pull is lighter than ever, even though it’s paired with a new, stronger 8-plate clutch.
The improved CRF450R maintains the launch control function introduced for the 2019 model year, and it also brings back the Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) function along with the engine mode selection button.
The dirt bike is available in Honda dealerships across the world, with base prices starting around $10,000, depending on the market. It is also available as a racing-homologated Works version that features many competition-oriented upgrades. Those include an exclusive Yoshimura exhaust, a Twin Air race filter, Throttle Jockey seat cover, Hinson clutch basket, and cover, premium DID DirtStar LT-X rims, and a Kashima-coated fork.