If anything, 2021 is looking to be the year of the motocross and cross country motorcycle with Honda’s announcement of the all-new CRF450R and RX.
While the engine and wheels remain from the 2020 models, Honda has replaced and upgraded everything else on the CRF450 models for the new year.
The new frame and swingarm, plus changes to geometry and suspension, save weight and greatly improve cornering performance. Overall the new CRF450R is 2kg lighter than the outgoing model while the new frame and swingarm’s rigidity balance, combined with tighter chassis geometry, heightened ground clearance and suspension changes, are all targeted at creating optimal cornering performance.
While the engine itself is still Honda’s tried and true Unicam 449cc unit, it receives intake/exhaust upgrades, new decompression system plus single exhaust muffler to boost and smoothen low-mid-range driveability.
In fact, the decompressor has been completely relocated, airbox volume is up,with the throttle body redesigned and exhaust ports re-shaped. The exhaust downpipe is also new and a single muffler replaces the heavy dual mufflers of the old bike.
Power also sees a slight increase (up to 0.8hp) in peak power above 5,000rpm is accompanied by a stronger low-rpm torque feel, the result of an airbox increased in size by 1.8L to 4.1L on the ‘clean’ side. The new airbox - which can now be accessed simply with the removal of one side shroud bolt - feeds a redesigned, lighter 46mm throttle body, which optimises intake efficiency and makes active use of latent heat vaporisation in the inlet ports.
The biggest change is to the twin exhaust ports: like the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade their exit is oval rather than round in shape for improved efficiency, and the 5.08 kg 2-1-2 exhaust design of the previous model has been replaced by a single 3.84kg downpipe and muffler (which also does away with a heat shield) saving a full 1.24kg. The downpipe also tucks in 74mm closer to the centre line (improving rider ergonomics) while the pressed muffler features twin resonators that reduce noise while boosting power.
One update drawn directly from Tim Gajser’s bike is the addition of a hydraulic clutch. This improves both control and feel at the lever (it’s 10% lighter) as well as delivering consistent lever clearance under arduous riding conditions. The clutch capacity has been increased by 27% with an extra plate - from 7 to 8 - and works with an extra friction spring to maximise power transmission and durability. Slippage has been reduced by 85% at peak power.
A larger hydraulic clutch has also been added into the mix which offers greater control with lighter lever pressure.
New plastics, too, are lighter and slimmer to aid rider freedom and the seat is a smaller unit, lower at the back.
The CRF450RX benefits from the same updates as the motocrosser, with the new bike a whole 2.3kg lighter thanks to the updates to the frame and swingarm.
Importantly for cross country riders, brush guards are now standard-fit and the sidestand tucks in more neatly for improved rider ergonomics out on the trail.
Currently we have no word from local Honda distributor Blue Wing Honda on when we are likely to see the new CRF450s land on our shores and whether the upgrades for 2021 also mean an upgrade in the price department.