2013 Honda CRF450R | First Ride

What Comes Around

By Brian Catterson, Photography by Simon Cudby

They say: “Designed for the ‘Scrub’ Generation."
We say:
“Works for the previous generation, too!”

A cynic once said, “There’s no such thing as an original idea.” That quote came to mind while looking at the 2013 Honda CRF450R for the first time. Air forks? Dual mufflers? Haven’t we seen these before?

Yes, we have. Way back in the 1970s, motocrossers experimented with air-fork caps to fine-tune spring rate. The result was excessive “stiction,” which made for poor suspension action over stutter-bumps.

Dual mufflers have been around just as long. Remember twin-port CZs in the ’60s? Husqvarna 610s in the ’90s? Honda even put them on its 2006-’09 CRF250R, before returning to a single can.

Why bring back these technologies now? Why not?! KYB has developed a new Pneumatic Spring Fork that works so well, Honda and Kawasaki have both spec’ed it for their 2013 450s. As for the twice-pipes, Honda says their use on the 250 predated current technology, and the new, patented dual-diamond shape lets them sit lower and farther forward, improving mass centralization and thus handling.

Perfect for today’s “Scub” Generation, and let me tell you, motocrossers aren’t the only ones “flying low” nowadays! We were “riding on air” even before we sampled the CRF’s new PSF fork, as American Honda flew us in a helicopter to picturesque Zaca Station MX Park north of Santa Barbara.

They couldn’t have picked a better venue, as the deeply rutted surface put a premium on precision and stability. Riding the 2012 and 2013 models back-to-back, one could easily feel the difference as the newer bike didn’t try to “pass itself” or climb out of ruts entering turns. The PSF fork was noticeably more compliant over braking bumps, its 2-lb. reduction in unsprung weight letting the front wheel stay in closer contact with the surface. Recommended air pressure is 33 psi, and each 2-psi increase is said to be equivalent to the next-stiffer spring rate. Sure enough, going up to 35 psi made the fork feel much stiffer.

Why no air shock? Not enough volume, explained the KYB engineers. Maybe Fox had it right with its twin AirShox in the ’70s?

Other changes include a new aluminum chassis with optimized rigidity, a revised Unicam engine that makes more low to midrange power, a redesigned transmission, plus a return to a six-spring clutch (from four) that is more durable and offers better feel.

There may be no such thing as an original idea, but there’s nothing wrong with revisiting old ones if they can be made to work better. And that’s exactly what Honda did with the 2013 CRF450R.

Tech Spec

Price na
Engine type l-c single
Valve train SOHC, 4v
Displacement 449cc
Transmission 5-speed
Claimed horsepower na
Claimed torque na
Frame Aluminum perimeter
Front suspension KYB 48mm air-fork with adjustable compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension KYB shock with adjustable spring preload, high/low-speed compression and rebound damping
Front brake Nissin two-piston caliper, 240mm disc
Rear brake Nissin single-piston caliper, 240mm disc
Front tire 80/100-21 Dunlop MX51FA
Rear tire 120/80-19 Dunlop MX51
Seat height 37.5 in.
Wheelbase 58.7 in.
Fuel capacity 1.7 gal.
Claimed curb weight 243 lbs.
Contact www.powersports.honda.com
Verdict 4.5 out of 5
What comes around, goes around.

By Brian Catterson
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