Honda’s latest 2013 CRF450R proves to be a versatile dirt bike that works well on tracks, trails and even the desert.
After struggling for a few years with its 2009-2012 generation CRF450R, Honda made great strides with its latest ‘13 version. The CRF went from a bike that few wanted to moto to one that saw the most number of hours on its clock. More than ever this CRF450 proves to be one of the most versatile dirt bikes we’ve ridden, as adept at pounding out laps at the track as it is at tackling skinny off-road trails or throwing sand roost out at the desert.
Aside from fitting a different handlebar bend based on preference, the next order of business with any dirt bike is a fresh set of tires. And while we thought Honda did well with its OE-fitted Geomax hoops, when it comes to knobs you simply can’t ride on a better brand than what Bridgestone offers with its M-series tires.
Available in three different compounds, we selected the intermediate-terrain specific M403/M404 combo in stock sizing (80/100-21 front, 120/80-19 rear). These tires have the highest amount of versatility in terms of terrain, offering excellent grip on dusty and dry hard-pack or deep, freshly watered loam. Visually the Bridgestone M403 Intermediate Front Tire has a deep and dense array of knobs giving it added bite during braking and through turns. The profile is also a little
(Top) We ditched the CRF450R’s stock plastic brake disc guard in order to let more air flow to dissipate heat during braking. We also slung on a intermediate terrain M403 tire from Bridgestone (80/100-21). The tire offers superior traction than the stock Geomax over a wide variety of SoCal dirt.
(Center 1) Fox Shox digital pump is more accurate than the OE-supplied dial gauge-style pump displaying air pressure in increments of 0.5 psi. (Bottom) We fitted a Kevin Windham racing replica graphics kit in honor of the legendary Supercross and motocross rider. The decals are thicker than stock and better resist pitting and sand blast from normal riding.
sharper than the stock rubber, netting quick turn-in without that flighty, overly anxious steering feel. Although Bridgestone recommends the tires be run anywhere from 10 to 15 psi, we ran the tires between 12.5-13 psi virtually everywhere except when riding in really rocky areas. In those circumstances we aired the tires to 14-15 psi to help avoid tube flats and/or a bent rim.
For 2013 Honda raised eyebrows by ditching its tried-and-true fork for one that uses air bladders in lieu of metal coil springs. While we appreciate the added tune-ability offered by being able to effectively “change the spring rate” by adding more or less air, the pneumatic fork is sensitive to pressure and requires constant attention, especially when riding for longer periods of time on rough tracks. Since we wanted more precise adjustment than we could get from the Honda-supplied pump, we sourced a Fox Shox Digital Shock Pump ($69.99). The device features a digital readout and measures air pressure in bar, kPa, and psi and can display it digitally in half psi increments. Depending on where we’re riding and the roughness of the terrain, we vary air pressure anywhere from 31-36 psi with the lower settings ideal for smoother and/or slower riding conditions.
Kevin Windham is one of the all-time greats of our sport. And in tribute of his lifelong racing career we adorned our CRF with a One Industries Team Geico Powersports Honda Replica Graphic. The kit comes with everything needed to convert a CRF450R into a racing replica. The graphics are pretty easy to apply but require patience. It also helps to have a heat gun or blow dryer in order to mitigate air bubbles between the plastic and the decals. The set-up also came with a new seat cover with special grip material which we installed with a staple gun after peeling the original off. The graphics have a much thicker finish than the stock ones and held up well to the constant bombardment of rocks, sand and dirt.
After racking up 42 hours on the hour meter the CRF is still running tip-top. So far, wear and tear consumables have included front and rear brake pads, fiber clutch plates, and two sets of chain/ sprockets. Aside from those parts and engine oil and filters, the Honda has proven to be a durable machine with no other components failing despite our best attempts.
For the next phase of our CRF450R project bike our good riding friend and nine-time AMA Loretta Lynn Amateur National Motocross Champ Kevin Foley is heading east to Tennessee in hopes of notching another win in the plus-50 vet class. Stay tuned for his report and good luck Kevin!
Months in Service: 10
Accumulated Engine Hours: 42
Aftermarket Accessories Cost: $457.97
Maintenance Costs: $362