The biggest changes are stiffer shock and fork
springs, all-new mapping, thinner head stays and
electric starting. Those aren’t just the biggest
changes, they are the only changes.
A: With an all-new 2018 Honda CRF250 getting all the
budget love for 2018, Honda couldn’t do everything that it
needed to do, but you can fix the things Honda didn’t have
the spare change for.
(1) Radiator louvers. The gaps between the radiator
louvers are so wide that more roost gets through than is
deflected. If you don’t want to be spending your kid’s college tuition on new CRF450 radiators, invest in the mesh-like Twin Air radiator sleeves.
( 2) Radiator cap. In MXA’s endurance testing, we had
issues with the 2018 CRF450 pumping out fluid. The stock
1.1 kg/cm2 radiator cap is not up to the task.
( 3) Clutch. Honda’s new seven-plate clutch works a lot
better if you remove the judder spring and judder plate
and replace them with one additional true-to-life fiber plate.
The judder plate isn’t a plus, and to make matters worse,
( 4) Exhaust pipe. Having two mufflers is Honda’s signature move on its motocross bikes; however, on a bike
that weighs 16 pounds more than a KTM 450SXF and 3
pounds more than a 2017 Honda CRF450, we don’t think
that the extra weight is something we’d be signing our
( 5) Titanium gas tank. This must have sounded like
a cool idea in the boardroom, but nobody told the pencil
pushers that when it was actually mounted on the bike
it would be virtually invisible. It isn’t significantly lighter
than a plastic tank. The gas cap sticks, and it raises the
price tag. Thus, we don’t think the idea was fully thought
out. However, we’d be on board if the titanium tank
weren’t covered by black plastic.
( 6) Airbox vents. Last year’s airbox wasn’t jum-bo-sized, but because of the new battery and battery
tray, the 2018 airbox has less air volume than the 2017
Q: IS THE 2018 CRF450 FASTER THAN THE
A: Yes. Thanks to the new black-box map, the 2018
engine has a better transition of power into the midrange.
Last year’s herky-jerky low-to-mid power hasn’t been eliminated, but the erratic burps have been lessened a little.
When the CRF450 comes on, it feels very abrupt off the
bottom; but, that is a little misleading, because if you
try to ride the CRF450 a gear high in slow turns, it will
bog—and require clutch work to get it back on the pipe.
Many test riders felt it was necessary to downshift into
turns to ensure that the engine pulled clean on the exit.
We had some gear gaps on the 2018 that we solved in
2017 by going from the stock 49-tooth rear sprocket to a
50. We don’t think this is a good solution with the 2018
Where the Honda engine works best is in the middle.
It pulls hard after its low-end confusion and, since peak
horsepower is very high in the rpm band, you can’t successfully short-shift it or it will go slower. Even though we
had some of the same issues in 2018 that we had in 2017,
the new engine configuration is more usable and faster
than that of the 2017.
Q: DOES THE 2018 CRF450 HANDLE BETTER
THAN THE 2017 MODEL?
A: Yes, but not because of any frame-geometry
changes, because there aren’t any. What helps the overall
chassis feel better are the effects of the stiffer suspension
and more flexible head stays. Last year’s chassis was very
good at turn-in, but that was the only place that it felt
good. After turn-in, it was very loose on exit, as though the
front tire had no weight on it. Worse yet, the rear of the