With the 2013 CRF450R, Honda’s engineers set out to create a new kind of 450-class racer, a machine designed to meet the needs of today’s “scrub generation” of riders and fulfill demand for a well-integrated package that’s eminently flickable, responsive and lightweight.
Members of the motorcycling press recently enjoyed a day’s ride aboard the 2013 CRF450R at the Zaca Station MX track in California, with samples of the 2012 version on hand for comparison. Their initial reactions confirm that the new technology in this year’s CRF450R does indeed generate mighty impressive results. The media came away with some very concrete first impressions—observations that confirm the effectiveness of this new design.
The 2013 CRF450R’s all-new chassis focuses on attaining class-leading mass centralization and unrivaled handling. Work towards that end began with the creation of an all-new aluminum frame designed to fully integrate and achieve maximum advantage from an innovative suspension package, plus a strategically engineered dual-muffler exhaust system that tucks in closely to the center of mass.
Swapping steel for air
This chassis design incorporates a new Kayaba fork that uses air pressure in place of steel springs: the 48mm KYB Pneumatic Spring Fork (PSF®). The elimination of steel springs not only makes the fork nearly two pounds lighter but it also leaves more room for a new and larger piston in the cartridge damper, one that is 32mm in diameter rather than 24mm in the previous fork.
As a result, this new fork delivers quick adjustability, more tuning potential, and much more sophisticated, and refined action all through its travel. Dramatically faster responses in directional stroke transitions allow the front tire to maintain contact with the ground for better tracking, greater feel, and better traction and steering accuracy.
The PSF action is so completely natural that if I hadn’t known better, I would have thought it was a traditional spring fork...
If the plushness and damping I felt at Zaca Station are any indication, it should work great. — Cycle World
With the proper fork air pressure (I preferred a pound or two more than stock, which was initially set at 33 psi), the front end stayed up entering corners and maintained a consistent line through the turns... I was very surprised by the Kayaba PSF fork performance... The fork action seemed more consistent over a broader range of track conditions... The front end also maintained better contact with the ground. — Motocross Action
The most notable change is how much better the suspension follows the contour of the terrain… This allows you to charge into bumps and chop harder than you might do otherwise.
— Motorcycle USA
It's very cool to be able to change stiffness in just a few seconds... we can safely say that we're impressed with the Honda's new air fork. — Cycle News
The recipe for unrivaled handling
Designed from clean-sheet concepts, the all-new aluminum frame clearly looks significantly different than the previous-generation frame. The junction of the steering head and main frame spars intersect far lower on the steering head pipe, much closer to the midway point in order to help lower the CG and instill more tuned flex into the chassis for better front-end traction and feel. Another chassis change includes a new aluminum swingarm that provides added rigidity thanks to taller beam height in the front and center sections for less deflection in ruts and improved corner-exit traction.
This chassis incorporates a new rear Pro-Link system with a shock that’s 14.5mm shorter than before, and it sits lower in the frame to help lower CG. New damping settings are matched to the new frame and innovative fork for a plush, yet controlled ride. In addition, from the very inception, the new frame was designed to incorporate a new two-muffler exhaust system that tucks in tightly toward the bike’s center. This provides greater centralize mass and lowers the moment of inertia. The dual-muffler design also allows the 2013 CRF450R to release more power while meeting a race legal 94db sound limit. All in all, these changes add up to what is virtually a revolution in handling.
The bike has a very balanced, predictable feel... In a nutshell, the new bike feels and handles nothing like its predecessors. — Transworld Motocross
The net effect of all these seemingly small changes is an entirely different motorcycle; there is no comparison to the 2012 model... What’s most astonishing is how light the 450 feels on the track; it’s more like a CRF250R, with the same kind of flickable, put-the-bike-anywhere-you-like character... The chassis has impressive balance and improved high-speed stability compared to last year’s bike... Certainly, the overall handling has been elevated to a new level. — Cycle World
The Honda actually feels a little lighter and a bit more agile, mainly when making directional changes midflight... The Honda felt very stable and maintained pinpoint accuracy all the way through the turns, ruts or no ruts. Plus, the Honda seemed to hook up out of the corners as good if not a little better than the previous CRF450R, which might have a lot to do with the beefed up swingarm. —Cycle News
Power, power, everywhere
In the engine department, the 2013 CRF450R follows previous Honda Unicam engine architecture, but a host of changes increase power, especially in the low-end and midrange, while also adding durability. A new camshaft with different valve timing and more valve overlap, larger exhaust valves (30mm diameter to 31mm), a new piston with a fuller dome to increase compression ratio from 12.0: to 12.5:1, new port shapes on the intake and exhaust sides for enhanced flow, and revised settings for the PGM-FI fuel injection system comprise the major performance upgrades.
Lots of improvement in engine performance, too… Improved fuel-injection mapping provides crisp, immediate throttle response everywhere. There are heaps more low-end and midrange power, yet the delivery is smooth and precise, making it easier to control the amount of traction on corner exits. — Cycle World
Power is also notably improved… the bike has a much beefier powerband with much improved low-end power. Carrying a tall gear and lugging the motor is much more effective on the ’13 bike. — Transworld Motocross
The '13 motor has more oomph down low and is slightly smoother throughout the first half of the powerband than before…Overall, the CR's new motor seems to have made many steps in the right direction. — Cycle News
Bottom line: It’s a winner
Innovative technology has launched the 2013 CRF450R ahead of the competition in more ways than one. But don’t take our word for it: Here’s how Cycle World summed it up:
The net effect of all these seemingly small changes is an entirely different motorcycle; there is no comparison to the 2012 model… It handles better, feels lighter and is significantly faster. With so many improvements on a bike that was already in the hunt, I have to believe that it will be tough to beat in 2013.