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2009 Honda CRF450R Comparison

Monday, November 24, 2008

Coming into this comparison, Honda’s all-new 450 was perhaps the most hyped MX motorcycle of the model year. And ever since we first laid eyes on it during our First Look report we couldn’t wait to turn a wheel on the new machine. That being said, when the Honda box van pulled up, it was an all out race to be the first one on the bike.

With a variety of different sized table-tops and step-up jumps, a good portion of your time at Racetown is spent in the air. And this is where you’ll appreciate how light and compact feeling the new CRF450R is.

2009 Honda CRF450R
Airtime is when the Honda really shows off its new slender waistline. The CRF450R is easily the most compact and lightest of the group.
Although it isn’t as petite as its 250F sibling, it is in fact getting close and this year’s CRF is undoubtedly the smallest feeling MX’er in this comparison. From the time you hop aboard you’ll be startled by how narrow the bike is. Similar to the RM-Z, the rider triangle feels very natural and all of the controls are intuitively placed. Even though virtually every part on the new CRF has changed, Big Red decided to stick with the same small-sized footpegs as last year, which apparently is fine, because our testers never complained about them. Regardless though, the consensus amongst our wrecking crew was that the CRF is definitely small-person oriented.

“My favorite thing about this bike was its size,” Armstrong noted. “I'm a smaller guy (5-foot, 7-inches, 155 pounds) and the rider compartment is compact, which I prefer.”

“The thing that I’ve always hated about 450s is how big they feel,” remarked Toye. “It’s about time that someone has come out with a bike that doesn’t feel like an oversized cruiser. This is the kind of 450 I can get used to.”

While each of our vertically challenged riders loved both the size and ergos of the CRF450R, Simon, our tallest test rider wasn’t sold: “The Honda just did not fit me right. Being tall (6-foot, 3-inches), really makes it not the best choice for me. I felt really cramped on it.”

On the ground it seemed that the Honda is definitely designed for smaller riders, but in the sky, its petite size and flickability received unanimous praise.

2009 Honda CRF450R
Suspension setup is critical on the new CRF. Finding the proper balance on the new Kayabas can be difficult.
“This thing is the easiest bike to whip,” said Armstrong. “I love how light and agile it feels. I guess the best way to describe it is that it's like a 250F on ‘roids.”

Simon agreed: “One thing that I did love about this bike is how light it felt in the air. I could just throw it around kind of like a 125.”

Okay, we all agreed. The Honda feels the best in the air, but what’s it like when it’s cranked over on its side on terra firma? Although our results were mixed, everyone agreed that the Honda is the most finicky when it comes to setup. The single most critical aspect of suspension setup on this year’s CRF is sag. Our motley crew preferred settings between 108 and 112mm. But even a slight variation really had a big effect on the Honda’s handling.

“Balance front-to-back is kind of off on the Honda,” said Simon. “The front end sits really low and the back is kind of high. I’ve heard about a lot of people complaining about the Honda’s front end feeling loose but to me the front end seemed to stick. When I’d get into the corner the bike actually worked. However, the back end did not seem to track as good as the front. Entering corners going through the braking bumps I just felt like it wanted to dance around and come around a bit.”

2009 Honda CRF450R
The Honda seems a little soft on power down low, but in reality it is still every bit as much a 450 as it used to be. Now the power is super progressive and immediate thanks to the EFI.
Similarly to Simon, Armstrong had mixed results on the Honda: “The suspension was a little on the stiff for me, especially for how fast and rough Racetown is. I went out a few clicks on the compression, reset the sag, but ran out of adjustment on the shock so the rear hung a little high. This made the bike turn sharper but also made it twitchy on the high speed stuff. I definitely need a softer spring for my weight.”

“Steering is really neutral,” mentions Toye. “And the front end is really accurate. You can select your lines really easy on this bike. It gives you really good feedback and you always know where you’re at on it.”

Last year’s carbureted CRF was no slouch in the power department and neither is this year’s fuel-injected model. Though peak power is virtually the same as last year, the '09 EFI-equipped 449cc Unicam engine feels much more robust especially in terms of mid-range performance.

But before one can experience it, you’re going to need to start it, and like the Suzuki, the Honda requires finesse to fire. Like the Kawasaki, the starting procedure is as simple as putting the gearbox in neutral, slide out the kick lever, and commence kicking. Unfortunately, one kick starts are few and far between, but if you kick it from the very top of the stroke it can be done.

Once up and running, the CRF’s powerband feels akin to the RM-Z. Looking at the dyno chart confirms this as the two bikes are almost identical until you’re around 7500 revs, or the upper edge of the engine's mid-range. That’s when the RM-Z begins to sign off as the CRF continues pump out power.

2009 Honda CRF450R
Almost everyone's immediate reaction to the Honda is one of excitement, and once we spent time on the track it remained posititve. Proper setup is more important than on other machines, but spend the time and it will reward you.
“You definitely know that a bike is fuel-injected. It is now, now, now,” Toye explained. “Bottom is end is a bit soft, but once you get into its midrange it pulls really hard. This thing definitely has plenty of power.”

We’ve never had many drivetrain issues on Honda CRF’s and the new bike continues the trend. Not a peep could be heard out of testers' mouths in regards to shifting problems, clutch issues, etc. The same can be said for the CRF’s brakes. Everyone loved them, no complaints.

Overall Honda’s reworked CRF is a fantastic machine. Although its chassis is a bit finicky to set-up, when you get it right, it’s a potent weapon on track. Its engine has friendly manners and without question it’s the lightest and most compact feeling 450 MX’er.

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Honda CRF450 Technical Specifications
2009 Honda CRF450R
2009 Honda CRF450R
Engine: 449cc liquid-cooled Single, SOHC, 4-valves
Bore x Stroke: 96 x 62.1mm
Compression Ratio: 12.0:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel-Injection
Horsepower: 48.1 hp @ 8100 rpm
Torque: 31.8 lb-ft @ 7900 rpm
Transmission: 5-Speed
Front Suspension: Kayaba AOS 48mm fork, 16-position compression and 18-position rebound damping adjustment; 12.2 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Pro-Link equipped Kayaba, 20-position low-speed and step-less high-speed compression damping, 18-position rebound damping and adjustable spring preload; 12.6 in. travel
Front Brake: 240mm disc, double-piston caliper
Rear Brake: 240mm disc, single-piston caliper
Handlebars: Renthal
Tires: Dunlop D742FA 80/100-21, D756 120/90-19
Curb Weight: 237 lbs. (ready to ride)
Wheelbase: 58.7 in.
Length: 86.0 in.
Width: 32.7 in.
Ground Clearance: 13.1 in.
Seat Height: 37.6 in.
Fuel Capacity: 1.5 gal.
MSRP: $7599 Red

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Matt -Nice Bike  October 4, 2010 03:32 PM
I need to get me one of these!!!
george alexander -xanda349@yahoo.com.  April 25, 2010 02:19 PM
hey i am george,lives in brooklyn,i am interested in the 08/09 crf.can anyone tell me where or leave a number where i can find these bikes.
Needs it for the caribbean.
jayrald -crf250  January 7, 2010 04:19 AM
i want a crf250 because i love to ride bike
and i wnat race motorcross

adam-motousa -$5000  November 6, 2009 10:13 PM
for an '08 bike is a good deal i would buy that for sure.
Brian -NEW 08 CRF450 $4800 right now Aug09  August 6, 2009 10:00 PM
I was just at my local Honda dealer considering picking up an 09 CRF450 as I heard they're going for $6200 right now which is pretty good for a new 450. But, to my amazement there was a new 08 CRF450 sitting right beside it with a sticker of $4880...talk about sticker SHOCK, but in a good way. I was blown away by that price. The last time I payed that much for a new MX bike was a 1994 CR125!! I really want an 09 with the FI and my friends swear by them, some claiming its worth $2000 more than an 08 model. But, I can't justify another $2000 for the 09, so tomorrow I'm going back down and buying the 08 for $4800. The dealer said they have 4 of the 08's and are trying to get more...apparently Honda has quite the surplus of inventory.
joe -crf450 09  June 30, 2009 05:35 PM
grate bike power of dreams
fred -great jump  May 28, 2009 08:49 PM
U want too kxf250 vs kmx125!watch in youtube...motocross surigao riders.tnx for watching.
Paul -My 08 crf250r problems, and deciding to step up to an 09 450r  April 15, 2009 06:49 PM
ever since i got my brand new 08 250r its been having valve problems, ive been taking care of it and such, and now its in the shop because my barrings in the crank went, so theirs shavings all up in the engine. my friends have told me they have had no problems with their 08 450's. im 5'10" and about 155 pounds, do you think i should step up to the 09 450's?
brian -09 crf 450r  April 6, 2009 08:24 AM
i have just purchased a 2009 crf450r and i love it had the suspension re-valved and have about 20 hrs on the bike. they recalled the decompression release they where having problems with it breaking off and falling into the motor.
Markow -CRF450r8  April 2, 2009 08:25 AM
Ended up lifting the '08. Hope im not disappointed
cam L -CRF V WR  March 25, 2009 02:52 AM
im considering the two, its hard to pick the difference between the two
cam L -CRIKEY  March 25, 2009 02:50 AM
As a smaller rider this bike was really good, until just then. Whats going on?
Andreas -crf 450 blowing up 2  January 20, 2009 03:31 AM
Hello, I have a friend f mine which first he faced problem with decompression... and now he is opening the motors... as it has problem with crank... He has only 7 hours on his bike....
Marko -CRF450R 2009 vs 2008  January 6, 2009 02:37 AM
Im trying to decide which red to go for, the '09 or the '08. Any feed back would be appreciated from someone whos riden both.
Ian -09 CRF450  December 31, 2008 06:49 PM
This is a great bike, I have had it now since October with over 10 track rides on the bike...flawless. Also kicks over alot easier than my 05 450 did. Im am 5'7" 170lbs and an intermediate rider, the suspension is alittle stiff to me, but like every other bike i have owned it will just end up at the suspension shop anyways. This is definatly a small riders 450, it feels just as skinny as my 250f did and feels way lighter than my 05 450 did. Don't hesitate to grab this bike...It won't disapoint you!
danny -crf 450 blowing up  December 11, 2008 06:48 PM
hey i been having lots of pepole blowing they engine at this 09 crf 450 at my track whats going on with honda are they gonna recall them?