Our CRF450 engine had a mechanical issue that hurt its performance initially. After it was rebuilt it performed much better.
CRF450 SETUP SPECS
This is how we set up our 2017 Honda CRF450 for
racing. We offer it as a guide to help you find your
own sweet spot.
SHOWA COIL SPRING FORK SETTINGS
Honda is the first manufacturer—since Yamaha in
1977—to abandon air forks and return to a coil-spring
system. Why? The complexity of Kayaba and Showa
air forks was hurting sales, not helping them. The 2017
Showa’s 49mm forks add 3 pounds to the CRF450’s
overall weight, which is offset by losing 3 pounds on
the chassis and engine. In stock trim, the Showa forks
are too soft for fast riders and too harsh for slow riders. The hardest suspension glitch to fix is a fork that
feels too soft initially and too rigid later, because the
obvious fix for one issue is calamity for the other. For
hard-core racing, these are MXA’s recommended 2017
CRF450 fork settings (stock settings are in parentheses):
Spring rate: 0.48 N/m
10 clicks out ( 11 clicks)
13 clicks out
Fork-leg height: Second line (first line)
Notes: The best fix for the forks is to have them
re-valved to stop them from bottoming over big hits
and to make them more fluid as they transition from
the soft low-speed damping to the harsh wall of damping in the mid-stroke.
KAYABA SHOCK SETTINGS
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 take long to understand why. The 2017
CRF450 has a stinkbug stance, which has been a common trait since 2009. We put the race sag at 108mm
and raised the fork legs in the clamps by 2.5mm to
balance out the chassis. Without some adjustments,
the rear end transferred too much weight to the forks,
causing twitchiness in corners and head-shake at high
speeds. For 2017 Honda dropped the HPSD steering
damper that the old geometry demanded. The mounts
are still on the frame and bottom triple clamp, so
we put the damper back on. The CRF450 has the
most sensitive fore-and-aft balance that we have ever
encountered. Any change to the shock would seriously
affect the forks. Additionally, the shock’s high-speed
damping was already so far out that it only offered
the ability to slow it down. We felt that the rear end
moved up and down too much and switched to a stiffer shock spring. This was a big plus, as it made the
CRF450 feel more stable in the rough. The stiffer shock
spring fixed most of the rear-end woes. For hard-core
racing, these are MXA’s recommended 2017 CRF450
shock settings (stock settings are in parentheses):
56 N/m ( 54 N/m)
Race sag: 108mm
Hi-compression: 3-1/2 turns out
12 clicks out
7 clicks out ( 10 clicks out)
Notes: MXA’s biggest change was to swap out the
stock 54 N/m shock spring for a stiffer 56 N/m spring.
This was a great mod for riders over 175 pounds or
fast riders. With the stiff spring we turned the high-speed compression all the way out and increased the
rebound to slow everything down. ;
off the bottom.
( 2) Chassis. It feels sleek (it is 30mm narrower at the
( 3) Valve train. Although Honda stuck with its signature
Unicam design, it added finger-followers to the 2mm-larger
intake valves, which means that the cam lobes don’t ride
directly on the intake valve’s stems but instead lever against
tiny rocker arms.
4) Engine oil. Although 2016’s separate engine and
transmission oil compartments were technically superior,
they were hampered by the small quantities contained in
each compartment. For 2017, Honda mixes engine and transmission oil just like on every other 450 four-stroke.
( 5) Airbox. Honda mounted the throttle body at a
45-degree angle to improve air velocity, but at this angle
the intake boot would have hit the shock body. To eliminate
this obstruction, Honda lowered the shock by 39mm and
took the airboot up and over the centrally mounted shock.
The result is a larger, easier-to-access, oval air filter that is
mounted under the seat. As a bonus, Honda has the trickest
seat bolts in the biz.
Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?
A: The 2017 Honda CRF450 is as radically different
from the 2016 model as the 2009 CRF450 was from the 2008.
Suffice it to say that Honda’s engineering department turned
back the clock. Embarrassed by the last eight years in the
doldrums, they decided to get in Mr. Peabody’s Wayback
Machine and set the dial for 2008. The goal? Take everything
good about the 2008 CRF450 and build a 2017 version of it.
Did they succeed? Yes, in terms of handling, power and
feel. No, in terms of the suspension. That said, the 2017
Honda makes the 2016 Honda and its seven brothers feel like
donkey carts. If you are a loyal Honda owner with a good
suspension guy on speed dial, this is the bike for you.