After receiving a complete redesign for 2017, Honda’s range-topping CRF450R motocrosser surprises with a few further upgrades for 2018. These include (yes, finally!) an electric starter in place of the historically conflicted kickstarter, perceptibly firmer springing and damping rates for its 49mm Showa coil-spring fork and shock, and revised engine mapping. As Mr. T would say, “I pity the fool!” who bought a 2017.
The hallmark of an open-class MXer has always been huge grunt, and the CRF450R delivers with an impressively linear powerband. Practically speaking, this means you can use a higher gear through the turns, with the 449cc Unicam engine’s bottom-end and midrange digging in to pull you around, out, and down the next straightaway pronto. And speaking of which, the twin-spar aluminum frame’s geometry and the attention paid to mass centralization and suspension design all combine to give the CRF450R a satisfying blend of turning agility and straight-line stability. Despite packing on a few pounds (the 2018 CRF450R weighs a claimed 248 pounds wet versus 243 wet for the ’17 model), it is a 450cc MXer for all riders.
Likes: Terrific low-end and midrange power, balanced handling
Dislikes: With its new electric starter and battery, the CRF450R is no featherweight
Verdict: A rare 450cc MX bike that suits novices to pros equally well