MXA’S 2018 HONDA
CRF450 SETUP SPECS
This is how we set up our 2018 Honda CRF450 for
racing. We offer it as a guide to help you find your own
SHOWA COIL-SPRING FORK SETTINGS
We are thrilled that Honda put stiffer fork springs
in the Showa coil-spring forks, but whatever they did
to the compression damping was a step in the wrong
direction. They managed to build forks with new damping and stiffer fork springs that have the same flaws as
the forks they replaced.
Our Pro test riders ran the compression on 10 clicks
out and the rebound on 13 clicks out. Intermediate
test riders ran both the compression and rebound on
12 clicks out. Vet and Novice test riders went with 13
clicks out on both clickers.
For hardcore racing, these are MXA’s recommended
2018 CRF450 fork settings (stock settings are in parentheses):
Spring rate: 0.50 N/m
Compression: 12 clicks out
Rebound: 12 clicks out
Fork-leg height: Second line (first line)
Notes: Don’t be afraid to crank on the compression
clickers if you are looking for a suppler feel. We had
issues with a very harsh feel in small braking bumps
and overly soft feel in bigger bumps and jump landings.
We could not iron it out with the clicks available to us.
You have to experiment for your weight, speed and
SHOWA SHOCK SETTINGS
We put the race sag at 107mm to lower the overall
bike height while using fork-leg height to balance out
the frame geometry. Had we just lowered the rear, it
would have kicked the head angle out and slackened
the geometry. The 2018 CRF450 is very sensitive to
fore/aft balance changes. Any change to the shock
seriously affects the forks. When Honda’s engineers
stiffened the rear spring rate for 2018, they made the
rear end feel more stable in the rough. We start with
the low-speed compression at 10 clicks out and the
rebound at 7 clicks out. From there, we go out to make
the shock softer for Vet riders. High-speed compression
varied from 3. 50 turns out to 3. 75 turns out.
For hardcore racing, these are MXA’s recommended 2018 CRF450 shock settings (stock settings are in
Spring rate: 56 N/m
Race sag: 107mm
Hi-compression: 3-1/2 turns out
Lo-compression: 10 clicks out
Rebound: 7 clicks out
Notes: Most MXA test riders preferred to run longer
shock links to lower the rear end and stiffen the compression damping at the initial start-up point. If you are
light, switch back to last year’s 5. 4 N/m spring, but
try softening all the clickers on the 2018 shock by four
clicks. The clickers have a fairly significant impact on
suspension feel. ❏
The bad news? The 2018 CRF450 gained five pounds over the
2017 model. It now weighs 238 pounds. You can feel it.
( 4) Launch control. The Honda does not have a launch
Q: WHAT DID WE LIKE?
A: The like list:
(1) Midrange power. The CRF450 puts the power to
the ground in the midrange like no other bike. It gobbles
up ground. On the pipe, in the midrange, with the throttle
pegged, this is a great engine. Conversely, we’d like a tor-quier low-to-mid transition and smoother low-end throttle
response off the bottom.
( 2) Chassis. It feels sleek—for a 238-pound bike. Honda
traded electric starting for added weight.
( 3) Valve train. Love the finger-followers. The old
Unicam engine and small intake valves had reached their
( 4) Engine oil. Unlike the 2016 model, the 2017–2018
CRF450 doesn’t require separate oil chambers. It mixes
engine and transmission oil just like every other 450 four-stroke.
( 5) Updates. It would have been a shame if the Honda
engineers had not been given the budget, albeit small, to
make the necessary upgrades to the suspension, mapping
and frame-flex issues.
( 6) Mapping. Experiment with the three maps. Although
most test riders stuck with the stock map (one blue flash),
there are situations and riders that might benefit from the
mellow (two flashes) or aggressive (three flashes) maps.
Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?
A: This is a better Honda, which everyone who
bought a 2017 model must have suspected would happen;
however, it does not obsolete the 2017 CRF450, because
the 2018 head stays retrofit on the 2017. The map changes
are available from your local dealer, and better suspension
setups can be had from any suspension shop. As for the
electric starter, chalk this up to Honda engineers trying to
do something to look contemporary in the face of KTM’s
dominance. You can live without it, and, for sure, you can
live without the 5 extra pounds that come with it. All that
said, every MXA test rider felt that the 2018 Honda CRF450
was a better race bike than the 2017 model.