With technology and innovation being the name of the game in our sport today, manufacturers are very busy trying to outdo each other with their new bikes. The modern rider (at all levels) wants a bike that is obviously powerful but also rider friendly with predictable handling characteristics. With a new 450 motocross bike capable of speeds over 60mph, if the bike isn’t stable and balanced, a rider will quickly find themselves in a heap of trouble. These days, the desired goal for every bike manufacturer is good and usable power, easily adjustable suspension, and a low center of gravity created by mass centralization. In layman’s terms, a new 450 needs the main mass of weight in the middle and as low as possible on the motorcycle.
For 2017, Honda has decided to go ‘all in’ with their next generation CRF450. With updated engine features like a new downdraft intake, new piston, new rocker arm and new valve springs, the 2017 CRF450 engine has increased power from the bottom end right through to the top. Also new on the 2017 is the next generation sub-frame, a new swingarm, a new and more durable clutch, a switch from air forks back to 49mm KYB spring forks, a lighter fuel tank and the option to buy an electric start. All of these changes add up to better handling and a much lighter overall weight compared to the 2016 model. As you can see, the 2017 CRF450 has been completely revamped to meet the needs of today’s talented riders. With Honda’s main goal being to win championships all over the globe in 2017, this new bike is exactly what the doctor ordered.
From the moment I kick started the 2017 CRF450 (the bikes we tested didn’t have the electric start option), this new bike came to life with a grunt. With a new intake, the sound is now unmistakable. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t ridden a Honda 450 for a number of years, so I was excited on many fronts to finally take to the track. For some reason, Hondas have always felt comfortable to me. Maybe it’s because I spent so much time on them back in the 1990s, I don’t know? So, as I made my way around the Monster Mountain MX track during my first few laps, the ’17 CRF450 felt like we were going to be instance friends. The throttle response was crisp and precise but not overwhelming. The power was smooth right through the complete RPM range, and quickly I discovered that I didn’t need to do a lot of shifting. Without too many tight corners on the Monster Mountain MX track, I could pretty much use third and fourth gear and just be smooth with the throttle. This really made riding this new Honda very easy and very confidence inspiring as I began to increase my speed and aggression.
As I started to become more aggressive, I really noticed how light and agile the new Honda felt. With the new chassis and the reduction in overall weight, this bike jumped and cornered like it was on rails. With a plethora of fun floater jumps littering the Monster Mountain track, there was a lot of opportunity to whip the new Honda sideways while trying to stay low in the air. Obviously I’m a little old to be a member of the new ‘scrub’ generation, however with this bike I felt like it was easy to pretend that I was riding like Colton Facciotti or Ken Roczen. This new Honda is very predictable, and with a few small changes to the suspension to allow the front end to ride higher, I felt right at home.
Please stay tuned for a complete rundown of this new 2017 CRF450 in the next issue of MXP Magazine. For now, though, my initial thoughts are that Honda has definitely hit the mark with this bike. The handling was great, and that combined with the increase in power made for a very rider friendly package. When asked how the 2017 compared to his last year’s race bike, Colton Facciotti responded with a grin, “I could go and race this bike right now, it’s that good. I can’t wait to get my own and start testing for 2017.” So obviously Colton likes the bike, and judging by Ken Roczen’s performance at the Monster Energy Cup a few weeks ago, he feels very comfortable on it. As for me, I had a great time riding the 2017 CRF450, and I feel like we’re soon going to see a lot more red on top of the podium. Thanks to Honda Canada and American Honda for making this incredible day possible.