The 2023 CRF450R marks 50 years since the arrival of Honda’s first motocrosser intended for all riders, not only racing teams.
The five decades since have been marked by a number of technological leaps that have made the letters ‘CR’ and then ‘CRF’ synonymous with off-road performance. Here is a look back at just some of those major landmarks.
1973 Honda CR250M Elsinore
The CR250M Elsinore was a product of growing motocross competition (and sales demand) in the USA and Europe. It was Honda’s first built-from-scratch, two-stroke production MX machine and met with instant success, thanks to its user-friendliness, high build quality and reliability. Promotional activities for the new bike included a much-loved advertising film featuring Steve McQueen.
Named after the legendary Elsinore Grand Prix (held by Lake Elsinore, California), the air-cooled 247.8cc engine propelled 104kg while the chassis comprised a semi-double tubular steel frame, telescopic forks, steel swingarm, twin rear shocks and drum brakes front and rear. Honda’s MX journey had begun…
1981 Honda CR250R
A big year for development. The CR250M had an earned its racing ‘R’ in the late ‘70s, and in 1981 Honda unleashed their factory-bike technology to the buying public with the first production, liquid-cooled machine.
The engine was a long-stroke design cooled by two small radiators. Perhaps more telling is the chassis; the aluminium swingarm and single, remote-reservoir Pro-Link rear shock pointed to the future, complementing the known quantities of steel frame and double-leading shoe drum brake.
Only one year later in 1982, Honda’s Racing Service Centre was reborn as the Honda Racing Corporation. HRC soon became synonymous with motocross racing success.
1985 Honda CR500R
Originally launched in 1984 in an air-cooled form (with over 70 Nm of torque on tap) the CR500R swtiched to water-cooling in 1985.
Now very much a bike of myth and legend, it perhaps defined the motocross heydays of the 1980s with an aesthetic that has inspired the 2023 CRF450R 50th Anniversary model. It tested the limits of chassis technology – and most riders’ ability – to the very limit.
1997 Honda CR250R
To make use of the advancements in engine technology and consequent increases in power and torque, Honda took the bold step of producing the first aluminium frame for a production MX bike. Tubular steel’s rigidity was replaced by twin-spar flexibility and other parts combined for a more high tech feel, like fully adjustable Showa suspension and disc brakes front and rear.
Recognised as one of the most influential machines of the ‘90s, the CR250R started an off-road revolution that can still be seen in the MX bikes of today.
2002 Honda CRF450R
Honda kicked off a new MX mission with its first generation of 450, the first four-stroke and a direct replacement for the CR250R. And with its 250-based chassis, it was slim and lightweight.
The 449cc engine was powerful, smooth and with a wide powerband which made it no less potent, but much less intimidating, than a comparable 250cc two-stroke engine. The CRF450R made going faster, easier.
2009 Honda CRF450R
After steady evolution the CRF450R was reborn with a fuel-injected engine with a 50mm throttle body and 12-hole injector. Owners were also able to make adjustments to fuel delivery and ignition timing via an HRC PGM-FI setting tool.
The engine redesign and new chassis were built together with a focus on mass centralisation, making for a compact machine carrying its weight more forward and lower. Suspension was by Kayaba: 48mm Air-Oil-Separated (AOS) USD forks and compact rear shock.
2017 Honda CRF450R
Europe’s favourite open-class MX machine was given a ground-up redesign, with completely new chassis, full Showa suspension and a major top end power boost from a brand-new engine.
Standard-fit electric start was a convenient addition a year later and in 2019 an HRC-developed cylinder head upped power and torque considerably; HRC launch control was also added. In 2020 3-level Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) gave the rider options to manage rear wheel traction.
2023 Honda CRF450R 50th Anniversary
In 2021, aside from the wheels and fundamental engine architecture, the CRF450R was effectively a totally new bike, drawing heavily on developments from the 2019 MX GP championship-winning CRF450RW of Tim Gajser. He and HRC secured the title for a second year in 2020 and finished a close third in 2021.
As ever with motocross, and the CRF450R, the game moves on and the latest machine is armed with a host of factory rider led and HRC updates to engine and chassis aimed at making going fast – really fast – that much easier.
And 2023 marks 50 years since the bike that started it all, the CR250M Elsinore.
The CRF450R 50th Anniversary limited edition pays stunning homage to the mighty CRs of the 1980s and, true to Honda’s roots in the sport – and to the blueprint laid down all those years ago – remains an HRC-bred racer that it is possible to buy. They are expected to land in Australia in the final quarter of 2022.
The 2023 Honda motocross range includes the CRF150R, CRF250R, CRF250RX, CRF450R, CRF450RX, and for the first time in Australia, the CRF450RWE “Works Edition”.
2023 Honda CRF450R
The CRF450R’s technical updates include a narrower intake-port shape and longer intake funnel, revised cam profile and smaller HRC developed 44mm throttle body diameter, resulting in smooth power delivery and increased torque at low rpm, reducing fatigue and improving acceleration out of corners.
The frame’s rigidity has been optimised by increasing material thickness in strategic locations and the use of steel engine mounts (replacing aluminum) helps improve front-end traction. Engine hangers changed from aluminum to steel. A higher-rate shock spring and revised fork settings complement the rigidity-optimised frame and updated shock mounts, allowing the suspensioncomponents to move more freely and avoid binding. The result is increased tyre grip and improved stability and bump absorption, making the bike more stable and delivering faster turns.
Front and rear suspensions are fully adjustable. The rear shock has 11 positions for rebound and 6 for compression, while the 49mm USD coil spring fork has 13 positions for rebound and 15 forcompression.
To enhance strength and reduce noise, the muffler body is now constructed from heat treated aluminum, and much more resistant to impact.
The standard electronics package include 3-mode Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC), 3-mode HRC Launch Control and 3-mode Engine Mode Select Button (EMSB) mounted on the handlebar.
The CRF450R is available in traditional Extreme Red with updated graphics for 2023 and also a 50th Anniversary Special Edition.
Ready-to-ride price: $14,098 (Extreme Red), $14,498 (50th Anniversary Special Edition).
2023 Honda CRF450RWE
Available for the first time in Australia, and building upon the legendary CRF450R platform, the CRF450RWE (“Works Edition”) is the ultimate MX machine for the rider searching for the ultimate advantage.
Purpose-built for lowering lap times and providing an unparalleled riding experience, it features anextensive list of premium upgrades inspired by factory Team Honda HRC machines, including:
▪ Hinson clutch basket and cover
▪ Yoshimura exhaust with stainless-steel header pipe and titanium muffler
▪ Twin Air air filter
▪ Throttle Jockey Team Honda HRC graphics
▪ Throttle Jockey seat cover
▪ Red cylinder-head cover
▪ Hand-polished cylinder ports
▪ D.I.D DirtStar LT-X wheels
▪ Kashima-coated outer fork tubes
▪ Titanium oxide-coated fork legs
▪ Titanium oxide-coated 18 mm shock shaft
▪ D.I.D-DM2 Gold chain
▪ Gray metallic coated triple clamps
▪ Renthal Kevlar grips
▪ Dedicated ignition and injection mapping
The CRF450RWE is outfitted with the same stainless-steel Yoshimura exhaust system (header and muffler) that is used on the Honda HRC factory machines, that utilizes a resonator to increase power and torque. The engine’s exhaust port is centrally located, has an oval shape and is very straight, optimising exhaust efficiency and torque characteristics. The exhaust header and muffler arepositioned close to the vehicle’s centerline for a slim profile, contributing to freedom of movement for the rider.
The clutch is hydraulically actuated and has eight plates and a large volume for good durability with minimal slippage and light lever pull. A Hinson clutch basket and cover are standard, further enhancing clutch performance.
The CRF450RWE’s lower fork legs and shock shaft are coated with titanium nitride to minimize stiction and improve ride quality, while the outer fork tubes are Kashima coated to enhance the bike’s aesthetic. The upper and lower triple clamps are anodized gray and are designed to offer a good rigidity balance for optimum handling and feel through corners.
A special edition Throttle Jockey gripper seat cover comes standard, while the seat base has rearward-facing tongues and front-located mounting tabs, easing installation, and using acceleration forces to keep the seat securely in place.
The CRF450RWE will be available in limited numbers, in Extreme Red. Ready-to-ride price: $17,198
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.