2016 Honda CRF450R First Ride 

MotorcycleUSA Staff | July 23, 2015

The 2016 CRF450R didn’t receive nearly as many changes as last year’s 2015 model, which got a significant overhaul. Here’s a brief recap of the previous upgrades that carry over on the 2016 machine. In 2015 Honda eliminated the exhaust exiting the left side of the head and went with the more traditional exhaust out of the right hand side. Engine refinements, along with exhaust and mapping changes boosted the 2015’s power over the 2014 version. Another big update last year was the addition of a second generation KYB PSF2 air fork, which featured high- and low-speed compression adjustment and new internals. The 2016 CRF450R’s upgrades are more subtle and this is MotoUSA’s first impression.

2016 Honda CRF450R

2016 Honda CRF450R Updates

The list of changes for 2016 might not be long, but they are focused on improving stability and bettering balance overall. The fork lower legs are 5mm longer but retain the same amount of travel. This change is to add overall stability and take a little weight off the front of the bike. The shock linkage has also been changed to work better with the longer front fork and improve rear wheel traction. Both the fork and shock have revised internal settings to go along with the outer changes. The damping adjusters on the shock and fork now use eight clicks per rotation instead of four, giving the rider more ability to fine-tune suspension settings. The chain roller decreased from 38mm to 34mm and Honda says this allows the swingarm to travel farther before the chain contact with the roller restricts movement, thus improving overall traction.

2016 Honda CRF450R

Out In The Dirt

Without any changes to the engine, the 2016 Honda CRF450R power feels just like the 2015. As we ride the 2016 CRF450R at different tracks and in different conditions we will be able to determine if the suspension changes improve the already good rear wheel traction. At Pala Raceway the 2016 Honda CRF450R hooked up very well, providing great forward bite and consistent rear wheel feel to the ground.

Part of the Honda’s ability to drive forward is the smooth power, which some perceive as a lack of power. Honda makes it very easy to change the power characteristic via the map switch button on the right-hand side of the Renthal handlebars (the only 450 with 7/8-inch handlebars). It allows the rider to switch between three engine power maps, on the fly, while riding. One flash is standard, two flashes indicate the smooth setting (for use on slick surfaces or for riders that want more mellow power delivery) and three flashes indicates the aggressive setting.

The 2015 CRF450R had a tendency to feel a bit nervous at high-speed, a trait that could be improved by dialing in the Honda Progressive Steering Damper (HPSD). The HPSD works in conjunction with the suspension to increase steering precision under braking, accelerating, or cornering. We found on the fast sections at Pala that a few clicks in on the HPSD helped the 2016 stay in a straight line without affecting cornering. So far we feel like the changes to the 2016 CRF450R improve stability, but again we will learn more as we spend time riding and testing.

Cornering is still a strong point for the 2016 CRF450R thanks in part to the light overall weight of the bike and the smooth power that keeps consistent traction throughout the corner. Overall the suspension is what a lot of riders would call plush, which again helps cornering and allows the bike to settle into the corners. Heavier riders, over 190 pounds, will probably find the shock to be soft. Previously, remedying this is was as easy a spring change, but with the air forks, adjusting for larger or lighter riders is as easy as adjusting air pressure.

2016 Honda CRF450R

The Bottom Line

With only one day so far on the 2016 Honda CRF450R at Pala Raceway we feel the subtle suspension changes Honda made improve the overall balance and feel of the CRF450R. Straight line stability is good and the great cornering ability Honda is known for is still there. We will learn a lot more about the 2016 changes as we move towards a shootout and log many more hours the 2016 Honda CRF450R, taking it to a variety of tracks. One day at one track is good for an initial impression, but we have many more hours of testing to come.

Second Opinion   Kai Mukai 5’5”/140 lbs/ Intermediate

I really like the overall handling of the 2016 Honda CRF450R and the way it corners. The suspension is pretty plush, even for me at 140 pounds. Stability is also improved with the 2016 changes to the fork and shock linkage. I rode it at Pala Raceway, which has some pretty big jumps and areas where you can really let the power work. The power is smooth but I’d like to have a little more, especially right off the bottom to help pull me out of the corners better.

CRF450R Suspension Settings
Air Pressure: 35 psi
L/S Compression: 20 (Turns out)
H/S Compression: 22
L/S Rebound: 25
H/S Rebound: 27
Sag: 105mm
L/S Compression: 20
H/S Compression: 19
Rebound: 22










  • One of the lightest 450s
  • Very smooth usable power
  • Improved stability and balance


  • Engine not as exciting as other 450s
  • Small feel for tall riders


2016 Honda CRF450R

Engine: Single-cylinder four-stroke

Displacement: 449cc

Bore x Stroke: 96.0mm x 62.1mm

Compression Ratio: 12.5:1

Transmission: 5 speed

Fuel System: Keihin 46mm throttle body

Final Drive: 13/48

Cooling: Liquid-cooling

Clutch: Wet Multi-Disc

Front Suspension: 48mm KYB PSF fully adjustable, 12.2 inch travel

Rear Suspension: KYB fully adjustable, 12.4 inch travel

Front/Rear Brakes: Disc Brake 260mm/240mm

Front/Rear Rims: 1.60 x 21”, 2.15 x 19”

Front/Rear Tires: 80/100-21; 120/90-19 Dunlop MX52

Silencers: Aluminum

Wheelbase: 58.8 inch

Ground Clearance: 13.1 inch

Seat Height: 37.6 inch

Tank Capacity: 1.7 gallon

Weight (with fuel), Approx: 243 pounds


4 Photos


MotorcycleUSA Staff