WHY SHOULD THE CRF450 WIN THE
The CRF450 should win “MXA’s 2016 Novice
Class Shootout” because it’s slow, and so are most
Novices. But in the real world, the 2016 Honda
CRF450 didn’t stand a chance of winning the 2016
MXA 450 Shootout. Why not? It didn’t win last
year’s shootout, and it is unchanged for 2016.
WHY SHOULD THE CRF450 LOSE THE
A bike doesn’t have to make the most horse-
power to win a shootout—if it has other virtues.
Unfortunately, the 2016 Honda CRF is short on
virtues. It makes almost 5 horsepower less than
the class leader, is no longer the lightest bike
(by 6 pounds) and has a spongy clutch, horsepower
that peaks at a lowly 8600 rpm and questionable
PSF- 2 forks.
HOW MUCH HORSEPOWER DOES THE
53.03 horsepower at 8600 rpm—the least of any
450cc production bike. It makes 33. 63 foot-pounds
of torque—the least of any 450cc production bike.
WHAT IS THE POWER LIKE?
The 2016 CRF450 has a unique powerband. It
is lively off the bottom, progressive in the midrange
and flat as a pancake on top. Remember where
we said that the CRF450 made almost 5 horsepower less at peak than the KTM 450SXF? Well,
after its 8600 rpm peak, the CRF450 makes 6
horsepower less than the KTM at 9000 rpm, 7. 25
horsepower less at 10,000 rpm and 7 horsepower
less at 11,000 rpm.
WHAT DOES THE CRF450 WEIGH?
233 pounds. There was a time when the CRF450
weighed 231 pounds, but even with 2-pound lighter
Kayaba PSF- 2 air forks it has gained weight. The
culprit? The useless twin pipes.
WHERE DID IT PLACE IN LAST YEAR’S MXA
Sixth place. So how did the CRF450 leapfrog from
last place a year ago to second-to-last this year?
Given the almost identical poor performance of
the CRF450 and RM-Z450, we gave the nod to the
Honda because it is a modern design, while the
Suzuki is an old-school, 240-pound machine from
the last decade.
HOW DOES THE CRF450 RATE IN THE
Power output: Pleasant. The CRF450 engine is
very tractable, well modulated and pleasant to ride.
It produces what MXA test riders referred to as a
no-hurry style of power. Because it revs predictably,
the powerband is quite usable and is well suited
to the typical local motocross racer. However, it is
strictly a low-to-mid powerplant.
Forks: Honda’s Kayaba PSF- 2 forks are a blend
of WP 4CS forks (with the rebound damping in
one fork leg and compression in the other) and the
previous low-pressure PSF air fork. These forks are
not very good.
Shock: We think the shock spring is too soft for
anyone over 190 pounds, but, if that isn’t you, don’t
Overall handling: This is a bike that wants to
do things right but seems unsettled most of the
time. When traction is good, it can carve.
Cornering: Honda didn’t have the budget for
a new frame for 2016 (Honda is saving the money
for 2017), so the engineers lengthened the forks
to slacken the head angle. While this should have
hurt the cornering ability of the CRF450, it actually
helped by calming down the twitch at speed.
Shifting: A decade ago this was a great
gearbox; now it’s just average.
Brakes: The big rotor helped the CRF450 in
the pucker power department, but the brakes still
aren’t as good as KTM, Husky or Yamaha brakes.
At least Honda did something—unlike Suzuki.
Clutch: As much as we don’t like the
sponginess, we hate the hair-trigger actuation
point that offers no feel.
WHAT WOULD WE CHANGE ON THE
That’s easy. We’d lose the dual pipes (and save
3 pounds). We’d update the clutch from its 2008
roots, find the long-gone horsepower and spec
coil-spring forks (or a version of the KX450F’s
Showa TAC forks).
WHAT’S NEWSWORTHY ON THE CRF450?
There is nothing newsworthy on the 2016
CRF450. It is basically the 2015 CRF450 with
5mm-longer forks. Why does it have longer forks?
Because Honda didn’t have the budget to build a
new frame to cure the twitchy front end, so they
spec’ed longer forks to raise the front end and
slacken the head angle. What is semi-newsworthy
is that the CRF450 is in the fourth year of its
four-year production cycle and there will be a
new model in 2017.
THE FINAL WORD?
There’s always next year.