THE 2017 HONDA CRF450
KTM, Husqvarna or Yamaha at wide-open throttle. Even so,
the Honda powerplant does an outstanding job of putting
power to the ground. The engine isn’t overwhelming, but
unlike the 2009–2016 models, the bike is fast enough to get
out of its own way. Slower riders preferred to short-shift
the bike, while Intermediates and Pros kept the throttle
tapped into the top end. Overall, the Unicam engine was
easy to use and powerful when hanging in the midrange.
Mapping. Honda incorporated their map switch and
kill switch into one unit. Simply hold down the map switch
button for a few seconds to change maps. Pro test riders
favored Map 3—the aggressive setting—because it moved
the midrange hit lower in the powerband. However, that
came at the expense of over-rev, which was more evident
on the stock (Map 1) and smoother (Map 2) options. Slower
testers preferred the aggressive setting in deep loam and
stock map when the conditions deteriorated. The detuned
setting of Map 2 would only be useful on hardpack tracks
where wheelspin is a killer. Test riders liked how their specific map selection remained selected, even after turning
the CRF450 off.
HONDA IS THE FIRST
MANUFACTURER SINCE YAMAHA
IN 1976 TO ABANDON AIR FORKS
AND RETURN TO A COIL-SPRING
SYSTEM. MIRACLES DO HAPPEN.
WE CAN’T COMMEND HONDA
ENOUGH ON THEIR DECISION.
Forks. Honda is the first manufacturer since Yamaha
in 1976 to abandon air forks and return to a coil-spring
system. Miracles do happen. We can’t commend Honda
enough on their decision. Why? The complexity of Kayaba
and Showa air forks was hurting sales, not helping them.
The big plus of air forks is that they shave 3 pounds, but
Honda determined that the weight savings wasn’t worth
angry customers. The 2017 Showa 49mm forks are claimed
to have the same internal layout as their A-kit race forks
from a few years ago, only without the close tolerances,
fancy metallurgy and special coatings. You don’t need
Sherlock Holmes to tell you that the tolerances, metals
and coating were what made A-kit forks different from
production forks, but we’ll live in the dream world that the
2017 forks are A-kit clones. Why? Because the 2017 Honda
CRF450 coil-spring forks are night-and-day better without
an iteration of Kayaba’s or Showa’s air forks. Gone are the
handling inconsistencies, ramp-up effect and front-wheel
chatter. In stock trim the 2017 Showa spring forks were on
the soft side, but a few clicks of compression made a big
difference. Honda made the right decision by going back
to spring forks.
Shock. Honda said it lowered the top shock mount by
39mm for a lower center of gravity, but, in truth, it was
done to make room for the downdraft intake system. In
prior years the rear shock was set 5mm off-center, but
for 2017 the shock is located in the middle of the chassis.
Honda recommended that we run excess race sag. It didn’t