The 2018 electric starter is why the 2018 Honda’s MSRP is
$300 more than last year.
It’s tight under the seat as the airbox shares space with the
battery and the electronics and Ti tank are squeezed in.
Q: WHAT WOULD THE MXA WRECKING CREW
CHANGE ON OUR TEST BIKE?
A: You may not like this list, but this is how to get
the most from your 2018 CRF450.
(1) Radiator cap. In hot conditions, we pumped water
on several occasions. How did we fix it? We drop-kicked
the stock 1.1 kg/cm2 radiator cap for a 1.6 kg/cm2 or higher cap. Raising your cooling system’s maximum operating
pressure raises your cooling system’s boiling point.
( 2) Brakes. We are a long way from the glory days of
Honda brakes. The 2018 brakes are pitiful. They don’t want
to stop the bike, and then they grind to a halt with a jerk.
We drain the stock brake fluid and replace it with Maxima
600 Series brake fluid. This ensures fade-free operation.
Next, we remove the front and rear disc guards. In our
opinion, Honda’s disc guards hinder airflow to the rotor,
calipers and pads, which makes the battle against brake
fade more difficult.
( 3) Raise the seat. The electric starter’s battery and
battery tray eat up valuable air space in the airbox. We
compensate for this by super-gluing a 3/8-inch rubber
bumper to the bottom of the seat base (back at the rear
of the bike). The bumper raises the rear of the seat up off
the rear fender, even when you are sitting on it, to allow
extra air to flow into the airbox between the seat and rear
( 4) Chain guide. The stock rear chain guide has a
two-piece rubber glide block inside the aluminum carrier.
Mechanically, it makes noises and scratches the sides of
the sprocket as it flaps around. You can run the one-piece
2016 chain guide or switch to a TM Designworks Factory
Edition SX chain guide.
( 5) Frame flex. To make the aluminum chassis more
resilient longitudinally, we remove the two rear fuel-tank
bolts and the two exhaust-pipe bolts where the pipe
mounts to the subframe. This softens up the chassis and
makes it feel more organic and forgiving. You can try it on
a track in a few minutes. If you can’t feel any difference,
put the bolts back in. No harm, no foul.
( 6) Shock link. Every test rider preferred to run a
1.5mm-longer shock linkage. It paid big dividends in ergos,
balance and chassis setup. It lowered the seat height,
which allowed us to slide the forks up in the clamps to
fine-tune the handling.
Q: WHAT DID WE HATE?
A: The hate list:
(1) Radiator louvers. The gaps between the louvers
that protect the radiator fins are so widely spaced that
within 20 hours of run-time our radiators looked like someone had been hitting them with a tap hammer. Most of
the fins were dented. Our quick fix was to mount Twin Air
radiator sleeves (after we replaced the destroyed original
radiators). Twin Air’s mesh-like screens knock down the
hard stuff without hindering airflow. Racing takes a bigger
toll on the radiator vanes than play riding, because racers
follow in the roost of other riders.
( 2) Clutch. We aren’t sure why Honda keeps experimenting with different numbers of clutch plates. The new
seven-plate clutch uses 2mm-thick drive plates and very
stiff clutch springs (using fewer plates requires using stiffer
springs). This clutch is much better than the previous CRF
units but not at the top of the class. MXA test riders don’t
like clutches with judder springs. Not only do they cut
down on clutch grip, but the judder plates break.
( 3) Brakes. The rotor may be big, but the front isn’t
very well modulated. It feels weak when you pull it gently
and grabby when you tug on it.
One muffler has a larger opening than the other. Why? To
force the exhaust flow to go the long way around.