MXA’S FIRST RIDE ON THE PRODUCTION 2013 HONDA CRF450: WHAT WE KNOW & WHAT WE ARE WILLING TO TELL

September 15, 2012
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2013 Honda CRF450.

We know that everyone wants to know everything there is no know about the 2013 Honda CRF450…and they want to know it now, but MXA is ready to pontificate this early in the process. At the moment we are testing different combinations of springs, gearing, air pressure, setup and details. We have yet to dyno it, weigh it or sound test it…although we have raced it. So, sadly, we aren’t ready to reveal any details. We will leave that to others.

Our primary interests in the 2013 Honda CRF450 revolve mainly around our complaints about the 2009-2012 Honda CRF450. In this order:


Note the location of the twin spars on the CRF450’s head tube.

(1) Handling. We hated the handling of the four years of the new generation Honda (starting from 2009 and lasting through 2012). Coming off of the awesome 2008 CRF450, we complained about vague steering, highlighted by oversteer on entrance, understeer in the center and oversteer again on exit. Add in a dose of head shake and a lot of bar wagging and you have a bike that was a lot of work to get around a corner. The MXA gang spent lots of time ironing out issues to get the 2009-2012 Hondas to clam down. Thus, with the 2012 CRF we are interested in whether it has been improved or not. The biggest change, which is evident by looking at the head tube, is that the twin spars are mounted about two inches lower. This is part of the centralization of mass plan to mellow out the CRF chassis. One side note?if you have a spare rear wheel from you old Honda it will not fit on the 2013 model. Oh, the wheel will fit, but the rear sprocket (and the countershaft sprocket) have been moved outboard 3mm. If you run your old wheel the chain will begin to eat the sprocket in short order.

(2) Clutch. The previous four-spring clutch was a joke. The fact that we had to suffer through four years of a bad idea is now a distant memory as Honda has equipped the 2013 model with the old-school clutch from the 2008 model. The question is whether a five-year-old clutch design is capable of matching up to KTM’s incredible hydraulic diaphragm units.


The game isn’t won by horsepower alone, but it can be lost. Honda has to face up to two high-powered competitor’s engines in 2013.

(3) Power. You can sugar coat it all you want, but without a serious investment in power parts the 2009 to 2012 CRF450 was considerably down on power to its counterparts  (making two to three horses less than some brands). Yes, it was pleasant to ride. Yes, it was easy to control. Yes, it was manageable. But, the biggest yes, is that ? Yes, it was slow by comparison. It is easy to think of the 2013 engine as a “new” engine, but it isn’t really very new. It has new cam timing, not new cam profiles, higher compression and the mapping has been changed, but unless those twice pipes add a significant amount of power to the package?the 2013 isn’t going to touch the 55 to 56 horsepower of the 2013 KTM or Kawasaki. But, we’ll wait for all the data, races and test sessions before deciding.


The 2013 Honda CRF450 uses the same basic fork as the Kawasaki KX450F?the Kayaba air fork.

(4) Brakes. KTM has embarassed all of the Japanese-built bikes with its 260cc Brembo-powered front brake. Honda, once the leader in braking prowess, is still using the same brakes that it used back in the day.

(5) Reliability. We had issues with our trannies over the past four-year period. Honda has beefed up the gears in the 2013 transmission, so we have lots of hope?but it takes time to break or not break something.

(6) Weight. The CRF450 has been the lightest 450cc motocross bike made. And no matter what random riders say about how it feels, it is considerably heavier in 2013 than it was in 2012. How much heavier? Honda says 2-1/2 pounds. We will wait for it to hit the official MXA scale.


Twice pipes.

(7) Sound. We know it is quiet (under the old 94 dB scale and the new two-meter-max tests), but we can’t say we are thrilled about the twin exhausts. Honda foisted this on us once before back in 2006 on the CRF250. Back then they talked a bunch of hokum about equalizing the weight in roll?at least this time they have centered their argument on centralization of mass (and the 7-inch shorter mufflers are, in fact, moved closer to the center of gravity). Just so you know, most exhaust companies will make lighter single-sided exhaust system, but the factory riders will be required to run twins.

IN A NUTSHELL

All in good time.

    MXA’s plan is to work our way through the normal testing process. That means trying every possible trick, multiple dyno runs, seven different test riders, lots of races (with multiple classes on the same day) and as much input into the process as Honda can provide from their staff. Until then, read all of the impressions and opinions you want from other sources. Believe them if you want. As for MXA, we don’t want you to spend $8440 until we can give you all the facts. For that you will have to wait for it to appear in the magazine.

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