Q: FIRST AND FOREMOST, IS THE 2018
CRF450 BETTER THAN THE 2017 CRF450?
A: Yes. The 2018 Honda CRF450 reinforces the old
adage “never buy a first-year model.”
Q: WHAT DID HONDA CHANGE ON THE
CRF450 FOR 2018?
A: Obviously, it was hard for Honda to scrape up
R&D money 12 months after blowing a big wad on the
all-new 2017 model. But, Honda’s engineers knew what
was wrong with the 2017 CRF450 and they penny pinched
their way to a small list of mods that the 2018 CRF450
could not live without. Here is the list.
(1) Electric starting. Although the 2018 CRF450 could
live without an electric starter, every project manager
wanted one on their new bike because it is buzz-worthy.
In the case of Honda and Yamaha, they really couldn’t
afford the almost 5-pound weight penalty that comes with
electric starting, but they did it anyway. In the Honda’s
case, the 2018 CRF450 now weighs 238 pounds. Last year
it weighed 233 pounds.
( 2) Black box. Last year the MXA wrecking crew
struggled with the electronics of the CRF450. Eventually,
we teamed up with Honda’s R&D department to test 10
different maps. We selected the best of them for our test
bike, and, as it turns out, Honda selected the same maps
for the 2018 model.
If you are looking for clues for how to tell a 2018 CRF450
from the 2017, the first thing you’ll notice is the lack of a
kickstarter. Harder to spot is the electric start button on
( 3) Suspension. Last year’s Showa fork and shock
were too soft for fast riders and too harsh for slow riders.
The simplest and cheapest solution was to replace the
stock 0.48 N/m fork springs with the stiffer 0.50 N/m fork
springs and the stock 54 N/m shock spring with a firmer
56 N/m spring. Guess what? MXA’s 2017 spring rates are
Honda’s 2018 spring rates (with valving to go with them).
( 4) Head stays. For 2018, the CRF450 gets thinner
and flexier head stays. These are not the same as the
CRF450RX mounts that we suggested switching to last
year. They are purpose-built to make the chassis feel more
( 5) Mapping. The 2018 comes with three maps that
are accessed via a handlebar-mounted button. Map one
is the stock map, which is different from last year’s map.
It is broader and more alive through the midrange. Map
two is the mellow map. It makes fewer horsepower than
the stock map with a little less crispness. Map three is
the aggressive map. It hits harder and snaps to attention
quicker. Now, you wouldn’t be wrong if you said, “That
is exactly what last year’s maps did.” But, the difference
is that last year’s stock map was closer in performance to
the mellow map and distinctly different from the aggressive map. Now, for 2018, the stock map is slotted midway
between mellow and aggressive, which means it is a little
more like the aggressive map and a little less like the
( 6) Price. The 2018 Honda has an MSRP that is $300
more than last year. That may seem like a giant price leap,
but given that buying last year’s accessory electric starter
kit, wiring harness and battery, plus paying for labor to
install it, would cost three times more than $300, the 2018
price is a bargain of sorts.
Q: WHAT FIVE CHANGES DID HONDA NEED
TO MAKE BUT DIDN’T?