The new CRF450R is here and, just like everyone else, we were eager to get out hands on one and put it to the test. For us, that meant a trip to California to meet with Honda and get some seat time on the new bike. Check out the video below and keep reading for our first impressions of the 2020 CRF450R!

Although the 2020 CRF450R looks the exact same, there are definitely some changes from the 2019 that make the 2020 bike better.

The 450R’s power is some of the best in its class, and will leave no rider wishing they had more. One of the big changes this year is the lower battery placement. Honda moved the battery down 28mm to lower the center of gravity and help with cornering. Another result of that is more direct airflow in the air box, which allowed Honda to update the 3 optional maps (which can be changed using the switch on the left side of the handlebar). Map 1 is standard, while 2 is smoother at the bottom and 3 is the hard hitting, aggressive map. I found myself most comfortable with Map 2 and the smoother response down low. As an intermediate rider, Map 2 made it easier for me to roll through corners and punished me less if I had to give a little blip of the throttle while in a corner.

Riding the 2020 CRF450R

Also new this year are three optional traction control maps. I honestly didn’t think I would care for this feature, but my view on that completely changed later in the day! I learned that Map 1 is good for when you still have decent traction and don’t need as much assistance with rear wheel spin. Map 2 is best for either when noon hits and the track is starting to dry out and go away a little bit, or when the track is just watered and a little slick. Map 3 works well when the track has gone away – when what was once a beautiful, soft, and loamy track has turned into a dirt highway with bumps that are about as soft as cinder blocks, and plenty of wheel spin is going to happen.

I experimented with all three traction control maps and, towards the end of the day, I really liked Map 2 combined with traction control Map 2. That combination allowed me to be aggressive, but still let the bike do some of the throttle control for me.

Jumping the 2020 CRF450R

The suspension got a few upgrades as well with updated valving to give the new 450R a little more hold up (less of a pitchy feeling) and a better overall balance. For me, I went in 2 clicks (clockwise) on compression on the fork to stiffen it up a little and slowed down the rebound 1 click (clockwise). This helped settle down the front end and keep it planted to the ground more. For the shock, I went in ½ turn on the high speed to put a little more weight on the forks, which helped with front end feel. Next was 1 click out (counterclockwise) on low speed compression to give a little more comfort on the shock. These changes might seem small, but they were noticeable.

Overall, I think the new 450R is one of the best cornering bikes in the class. It lays into turns extremely well, and it’s easy to put it exactly where you want it to go. If you’re coming into a turn and want to change lines last second, or are in a bowl turn you want to cut down early, this bike will let you do that. The Honda has a light, playful feeling that makes it fun to ride.

Going Through the Ruts on the 2020 CRF450R

Where the bike falls a little short for me is in the chassis. For the last few years, the CRF450R has had a reputation for having a stiff chassis feel. Rather than the chassis absorbing the chatter and bumps when the track gets rough, a lot of it gets transferred to the rider, which caused me to tire faster and make more mistakes.

Overall, though, I think the new CRF has an exceptional power plant, corners like a dream, and the new map settings and traction control make it a very fun bike to ride.

Written by Chase Cook.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you getting a new CRF450R? Is the 2020 model living up to the hype? Let us know in the comments below!