There was a ton of buzz about the totally redesigned 2009 Honda CRF450. Some of it was good, and some of it was bad. As a magazine test rider, I have the privilege of being among the first to ride new bikes, and I had quickly established myself on the negative side. You may have been shocked by MXA’s criticism of the 2009 Honda CRF450, but it didn’t come as a total surprise to me. The CRF450 was really great in 2007 and 2008, but I thought Honda was beginning to make some mistakes. In 2008, Honda mounted the HPSD steering damper and reduced the offset to 22mm for sharper turning. To me, this was a step in the wrong direction, and I compensated by returning to the 24mm offset triple clamps from the 2007 CRF450 and drop-kicking the steering damper. So when I went to the technical session on the 2009 CRF450 and heard that they were steepening the head angle, moving the front wheel back, changing the offset to 20mm and depending more on the HPSD damper, I left the meeting with a sense of dread. MY FELLOW PUMPKIN-HEADS AND I SPENT TONS OF TIME TESTING EVERY CRF450 CHASSIS MOD IMAGINABLE. SOME THINGS HELPED, OTHERS WERE TERRIBLE, BUT THROUGH TRIAL AND ERROR WE FIGURED OUT WHAT WORKED.
Oh, don’t get me all wrong, the lightweight, fuel-injected CRF450 wasn’t all bad, but it did have a lot of issues that MXA has chronicled very thoroughly. My fellow pumpkin- heads and I spent tons of time testing every CRF450 chassis mod imaginable in the last year and a half. Some things helped, others were terrible, but through trial and error we figured out what worked. So when we started testing the 2010 Honda CRF450, we had a much better understanding of its shortcomings, because it was largely identical to the 2009 CRF450. Add to that the fact that I was one of the few MXA test riders who felt that there was still room for improvements with the CRF450, and you can understand why I signed up to run the 2010 CRF450 post-test project. I decided to pretend that I owned the bike, set it up just for me, and employ the most cost-effective mods to make living with the CRF450 as successful as possible. Here are my tips for living with and loving the 2010 version of the CRF450. (1) Chassis: The CRF450 geometry is aggressive. It’s eager to turn, and since the bike is lightweight, it’s really fun to throw around. Conversely, it oversteers, knifes and suffers from headshake. Handling is my biggest complaint about the bike, partially because it’s the most difficult aspect of a bike to fix (compared to the engine or suspension), and partially because it feels wrong at the wrong times—and that’s a volatile combination.