years. Turn initiation was the 2015 CRF450’s best trait.
However, the 2015 was twitchy at speed and loose in the
rough. Given the limited R&D budget for 2016, the Honda
engineers had to come up with some low-cost but effective changes to find more stability. How did they do it?
(1) Longer forks. Lengthening the forks had nothing
to do with the suspension. Instead, the longer fork legs
raised the front of the frame, which made the head angle
slacker. Slack head angles are more stable at speed. This
5mm mod was an inexpensive way to get new frame
geometry without investing in a new frame.
( 2) Shock linkage. By switching to last year’s CRF250
shock linkage, Honda changed the ride height, held the
rear higher (to complement the higher front end), and
lessened the rising rate’s tendency to ramp up so quickly
at the end of the stroke.
What was the result? It does handle better than in
2015, but only if you can find the perfect fore/aft balance.
With the help of Kayaba technicians we were able to
fiddle with the front and rear enough to get exactly what
we wanted. But be forewarned that a change to one end
will affect the other end.
Q: WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
PSF- 2 FORKS?
A: You’ll have to stick with us on this because it
gets a little complicated. The Kayaba PSF- 2 forks are
low-pressure air forks with rebound damping in the right
leg and compression damping in the left. Here are the
steps we took to get the suspension to our liking.
(1) Lifestyle. We like low-pressure air forks—although
because it rewards aggressiveness with a hooked-up feel
instead of a wheelie and a swap. The 2016
Honda CRF450 was so controllable in the turns that it
generated greater exit speed. And that exit speed was
as good as horsepower down the next straight. CRF450
racers have to fight the war on their own ground—diving
to the inside, keeping it hooked up in successive
transitional corners, and by wearing the competition
out late in the moto.
Q: HOW DOES THE 2016 CRF450 RUN ON THE
A: Peak horsepower on the 2016 Honda CRF450
is 53.03, while the KTM 450SXF makes almost five
Q: WHAT IS THE BEST EFI MAP?
A: The 2015 and 2016 Honda CRF450 have three
maps—mellow, stock and aggressive. Every MXA test
rider chose the stock map.
Q: DOES THE 2016 CRF450 HANDLE BETTER
THAN THE 2015 MODEL?
A: Even though the Honda sales department may
not like the things that the MXA wrecking crew says
about their bikes, the Honda R&D department knows the
flaws. In the case of Honda’s engineers, they realized that
they had pushed the handling envelope too far to the
cornering side of the equation over the last three
2016 Honda CRF450:
Although it looks identical
to last year (the opposite of
BNG), the 2016 CRF450 has
six changes—most of which
were designed to calm the
chassis at speed.