It’s more than just an update here and and update there. It’s an entirely new motorcycle. Meet the 2009 Honda CRF450R.
Honda rocked the motocross world when they released the original CRF450R in the spring of 2002. Honda’s original 4-stroke moto machine blended a rigid yet lightweight twin-spar aluminum frame, ultra high-quality Showa suspension, and a high-tech, earth-flinging 449cc liquid-cooled Single. Not only was it the bike to be riding on the track, it proved to be versatile enough for the rigors of the desert, forests and trails. It could be found on the pavement or even frozen lakes as CRF450R riders pounded all surfaces they could spin their wheels on.
Over the years engineers refined the flagship CRF model, making it lighter, faster and most importantly, easier to ride. Its success was apparent as it ritually took top-honors in various 450cc shootouts including MotoUSA’s own 2005 and 2008 450 Motocross Shootout.
But being Number 1 apparently isn’t good enough for Honda. So for this coming year, they’ve replaced the ’08 machine with a clean sheet design. That’s right, the next generation CRF is an all-new motorcycle. In fact, with so many changes it’s easier to mention the components that weren’t changed – like the front tire, brake calipers and the footpegs!
No strangers to innovation, Big Red wanted to build a bike that would continue to deliver class-leading power, yet would harness it within an even lighter chassis that handles akin to that of a 250cc Lites class MX’er.
To do this, engineers focused on reducing the overall size of both frame and engine as well as relocating the engine forward towards the front wheel. Even though internal engine bore/stroke measurements and capacity remain the same, the engine is an entirely new design.
A myriad of internal changes have produced a more compact engine. Specifically a new shorter connecting rod (reduced by 3.5mm from 105.6mm), facilitates the use of a shorter yet larger volume cylinder head that allows for higher combustion efficiency. Above intake valve stem diameter has been trimmed down slightly by 0.5mm (from 5.5mm). Camshaft mounting surfaces have also been lowered and the cam sprocket is now pressed into the camshaft reducing weight by a claimed 20 grams.
The aluminum cylinder head mates to the engine case with through-bolts as opposed to studs which allow the cylinder to be removed with the engine installed in the chassis. A new forged slipper-piston has a thinner crown and has a low-friction treatment allowing the Single to rev out to 11,450 rpm (up 180 rpm) with a claimed power output of 56.3 horsepower at 8500 revs and 37.5 lb-ft of torque at 7000 rpm.
The all-new Unicam-equipped 449cc Single spins to 11,450 rpm and pumps out a claimed 56.3 horsepower at 8500 rpm and 37.5 lb-ft of torque at 7000 rpm.
Power is transmitted to the fatter 120/80-19 Dunlop D756 rear tire through an updated eight-plate clutch that uses four clutch springs, two fewer than previous. However, clutch pull didn’t feel that much lighter than this years’ bike. Clutch internals also have a special coating which is said to improve both feel and durability. Final drive gearing remains unchanged (13/48).
Honda has a long history of using sophisticated fuel injection on their cars and streetbikes so it’s logical that the new CRF is now FI. Honda’s Programmed Fuel Injection System (PGM-FI) uses a single 12-hole fuel injector to shoot fuel from the smaller 1.5-gallon tank (down from 1.9 gal) into a large 50mm throttle body. To ensure optimum running conditions the PGM-FI system utilizes throttle position, intake air temperature/pressure, coolant temperature and gear position sensors.
A larger AC generator powers the high-tech setup and is ready to go the instant the rider kicks the reshaped kickstart lever. A redesigned auto decompression system ensures that the engine will be easy to fire in any condition. A new exhaust system purges spent fuel from the left-hand side exhaust port through a long stainless-steel header across the front and out through the right-side shorty muffler.
In the chassis department, a fifth-generation aluminum frame incorporates a forged steering head and is claimed to be almost a full pound lighter than this year’s. The steering head has been moved 10mm closer to the rider which in turn moves the front wheel 15mm towards the center of the bike. Triple clamp offset has also been altered from 22mm down to 20. Frame spar height was reduced by 4mm and width was slimmed down by 1mm. The bottom frame rails have been widened and beveled to accommodate the shorter frame, but ground clearance is still reduced by 0.3 inches.
The swingarm is 18mm longer for improved traction and its construction is slightly slimmer (down 0.75mm from 3.75). A smaller removable subframe uses fewer cross-members and has been reshaped to allow for easier air filter maintenance.
Showa suspension and Honda motorcycles go together like Oreos and milk. However, the new generation 450 makes use of Kayaba suspenders. Up front a 48mm KYB Air-Oil-Separate (AOS) fork replaces this year’s 47mm Showa Twin-Chamber piece. The fork is two-way adjustable for both compression and rebound and makes use of 12.2-inches of travel (down from 12.4 inches).
In the chassis department, a Generation 5 aluminum frame incorporates a forged steering head and is almost a full pound lighter than the 2008 model. The steering head has been moved 10mm closer to the rider which in turn moves the front wheel 15mm towards the center of the bike.
Out back a four-way adjustable 50mm Kayaba rear shock (preload, high/low-speed compression, rebound) with a unique-looking pancake-shaped reservoir offers 12.6 inches of travel (up 0.1 inches).
Honda‘s Progressive Steering Damper (HPSD) returns for ’09 and helps keep the rider in control by mitigating handlebar deflection while riding through rough terrain. Internally, valving has been updated for more controlled damping while maintaining a light, natural feel.
Although brake disc size remains the same (240mm front and rear) both have been lightened. Additionally, the rear brake master cylinder integrates the fluid reservoir internally, which gets rid of the separate hose and reservoir.
Although we haven’t had a chance to ride the new machine, we did get a chance to see it in person. Climbing aboard the bike reveals similar riding ergonomics as the 2008 machine, although the new bike feels substantially slimmer between your legs. Renthal aluminum 971-bend handlebars feel familiar as do the brake and clutch levers. Moving the bike from side-to-side reveals a much more compact, weight-centered machine. Build quality of the machine is quite amazing. Frame welds for example look cleaner and generally appear to be much higher quality than in years past. And then there’s the exhaust which looks so good that you’re probably not going to want to replace it.
Perhaps the best part about the ’09 CRF450R is that you get an entirely new state-of-the-art motocross machine for just $400 more than this year’s model. That’s right, the new 450 rings in at just $7599. Stay tuned for a full ride report.
2009 CRF450R Specifications:
Engine Type: 449cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke Single
Bore and Stroke: 96 x 62.1mm
Compression Ratio: 12.0:1
Valve Train: Unicam, four-valve; 36mm intake, titanium; 30mm exhaust, steel
Induction: Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI), 50mm throttle body
Ignition: Full Transistor with three-gear-position electronic advance
Transmission: Close-ratio five-speed
Final Drive: #520 chain; 13T/48T
Front Suspension: 48mm inverted Kayaba Air-Oil-Separate (AOS) with 16-position rebound and 18-position compression damping adjustability; 12.2 inches travel
Rear Suspension: Pro-Link Kayaba single shock with spring preload, 20-position rebound damping adjustability, and compression damping adjustment separated into low-speed (18 positions) and high-speed (1-1/2 turns); 12.6 inches travel
Front Brake: Single 240mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Rear Brake: Single 240mm disc
Front Tire: 80/100-21
Rear Tire: 120/80-19
Wheelbase: 58.7 inches
Rake (Caster Angle): 26-deg. 52 in.
Trail: 114.2mm (4.5 inches)
Seat Height: 37.6 inches
Ground Clearance: 13.1 inches
Fuel Capacity: 1.5 gallons
Curb Weight: 234.8 pounds