If you’re like us, you were excited when the 2021 CRF450R came out. We were eager to swing a leg over the new bike, so much so that we filmed a first impressions video while it was still bone stock. What we learned in that video was that this bike was an improvement on its predecessors in almost every way. From incredible cornering to unmatched ergonomics, the bike exceeded all of our expectations. Of course, there is always room for personalization, and personalize we did, from tires to controls. In this build, we’ll show you the changes we think you need to make, along with a few extra that are well worth it if you have the budget.

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Suspension

The first thing we tackled in this build was suspension – it was one of the biggest things we noticed during our first ride. The stock settings weren’t by any means terrible, but they certainly felt soft for our level of riding and harsh when we got too far into the stroke. The light spring rate made for some unreliability, something you don’t want during a race or ride. So, we decided to invest in the Race Tech Suspension. Race Tech boasts increased oil flow, relying more on the valving stack to control the dampening versus the actual piston. We’ve noticed some great benefits from using the Race Tech suspension, comparatively a night-and-day difference. It feels plush on top and absorbs the rough stuff well. The 2021 450R was already good in the corners, but the new suspension helps eliminate any harshness in the shocks and feelings of bottoming out. Plus, it’s actually something that you can install at home with one of our how-to videos.

Mapping

Of equal importance to the suspension changes is updating the mapping. To make a long story short, we were not impressed with the stock mapping. We’ve heard that Honda ran out of time in terms of development and, whether that’s true or not, it’s clear that the maps need some serious work. The bike is mapped rich stock – dirty down low with a body feel to it when you crack the throttle. There’s something to be said about a $10,000 dirt bike that you have to re-map right away, but new mapping really does set this bike apart from its competitors. To fix the mapping, we took the bike to Proven Moto where Matt Jory dyno tuned the engine and cleaned up the mapping using the Honda PGM-FI tuner. Map 1 is locked and can’t be changed, but we were able to update maps 2 and 3. Map 3 is the most aggressive map and hits hard down low but has a smooth power curve. Map 2 is a bit more mellow and builds power a little slower than map 3, making it awesome for riders who may think map 3 is too aggressive depending on the conditions. Not only is the bog completely gone in both maps, but the mapping also made it possible to pull third gear out of tight corners, something the bike struggled with stock. In our opinion, investing in something like this is more important than purchasing a new exhaust or other extra parts. To see the maps that we used, check out this article for the how-to video and mapping specifications.

Clutch

Next up for the bike build was a new clutch. We installed the Hinson Billetproof full clutch system that comes with the basket, hub pressure plate, cover, and clutch pack. We ride our bikes a lot, so this full system made sense for use, However, not all riders need to make this upgrade. The Nissan Hydraulic Clutch that comes stock on the CRF450R boasts a nice, easy clutch pull and offers consistency. But, if you ride hard or just want to add some durability and longevity to your clutch, we’d recommend the full Hinson setup or even just a clutch basket and outer clutch cover. We’ve done it both ways and, whichever better suits your budget, you’re going to see those gains in durability and longevity.

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Controls

When it comes to controls, it’s worth mentioning that none of these changes are as essential as the suspension or mapping ones; we’re just showing you what options are out there and which, in some cases, we prefer. First in line are the bars and grips. We replaced the stock bars with the ODI Podium Flight Handlebars, topped with the ODI V2 No Waffle Lock-On Grips. The stock bend, however, was pretty good, so we carried that over in the new ODI bars. As for the grips, thinness is a big factor for us. We don’t want to compromise feel for good grip, and the ODI offerings are some of the best out there. They’re easy to install, too – just another plus to these already amazing grips.

The brake lever was next on the list to be replaced. We opted for the ARC Brake Lever, a personal favorite that we’ve had lots of experience with. Breakaway levers are pretty much always preferable due to the lever folding out of the way and being less likely to break off. Plus, we love the texture and bend of the ARC levers. The brand currently only makes a brake lever, but the clutch lever will be a must-have for us once it comes out.

CRF Picture 1

Along with the new bars, grips, and lever, we also installed the Ride Engineering One-Piece Handlebar Mount. Some bikes come stock with this piece, but we’ve added it to all of our bikes for several years now. It’s a small investment that can pay dividends – if you crash, this clamp has a lot more torsion rigidity, and that can keep your bars straighter than they would be without the clamp.

Down to the foot pegs, we installed the Tusk Billet Aluminum Foot Pegs. They’re oversized which means they have a bigger platform than the stock foot pegs, and that’s something that we’ve come to love on all of our bikes. Their grip is unmatched, the cleats are replaceable, and the pegs in their entirety are extremely lightweight. We paired these foot pegs with the Acerbis Foot Peg Covers. Inexpensive, effective, and easy to install, the Acerbis covers prevent that inconvenient and annoying mud buildup on your pegs.

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Tires and Wheels

Wheels are another great addition to make to your bike, though it’s not exactly required right away. That said, we’d recommend getting at least a rear wheel – the Tusk Impact Wheels to be specific. Having an extra wheel makes it so much easier to change out a flat tire, and the Tusk wheels are durable, affordable, and really good looking. New wheels elevate the look of your bike, and the different colorways that Tusk offers let you customize that look just a little bit.

On our new wheels, we installed the brand-new Tusk EMEX T-35 tires. These soft-intermediate tires have been through the wringer with our product testing team, and they’ve held up to the challenge. They’re predictable with lots of grip, and they give us the confidence we need on our rides.

As far as drive components go, we are almost always running the Primary Drive Gold MX Race Chain and Sprocket Kit. This bike is no exception. We kept the original gearing and have the 49-tooth rear sprocket, although you can go to the 50-tooth option if you don’t want to mess with the mapping.

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Extras

Of course, no bike build is complete without a few extra goodies up front. The number one extra here was the ProTaper Self-Engaged Launch Assist, or SELA device. The SELA holeshot device can be set individually, making it that much easier for riders to line up at the gate or practice their starts. What’s more, it adds a really cool factory look to the bike.

Going along with that factory look, we also decked the bike out with a customized set of Attack Graphics. The graphics are a close lookalike to the team graphics on the RMATVMC-KTM-WPS supercross team, and we think it rounded out the look of the bike, along with some extra anodized bling parts. In the future, we’re probably going to install a new seat cover, too.

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The Wrap-Up

The 2021 CRF450R may be brand new, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for refinement and customization. We had a blast adding these parts to the new bike and are especially excited about the new mapping options. Honda’s newest bike is certainly worth it, but our upgrades bring it to the front of the field and make it a bike we’ll be riding and racing all season long.

Parts Available at Rocky Mountain ATV/MC
Race Tech Type 3 Gold Valve Combo Kit Race Tech Fork Springs Tusk Fork and Dust Seal Kit
Race Tech Type 3 Gold Valve Combo Kit Race Tech Fork Springs Tusk Fork and Dust Seal Kit
Honda PGM-FI Setting Tool Hinson Complete Billetproof Conventional Clutch Kit Ride Engineering One-Piece Oversized Handlebar Mount
Honda PGM-FI Setting Tool Hinson Complete Billetproof Conventional Clutch Kit Ride Engineering One-Piece Oversized Handlebar Mount
Odi Podium Flight Handlebars Odi V2 No-Waffle MX Lock-On Grips ARC Flex Brake Lever Black
Odi Podium Flight Handlebars Odi V2 No-Waffle MX Lock-On Grips ARC Flex Brake Lever
Tusk Billet Race Foot Pegs Acerbis Foot Peg Covers Black Tusk Aluminum Brake Pedal Red Tip
Tusk Billet Race Foot Pegs Acerbis Foot Peg Covers Tusk Aluminum Brake Pedal
Tusk Folding Shift Lever ProTaper SELA Device Tusk Impact Complete Front and Rear Wheel
Tusk Folding Shift Lever ProTaper SELA Device Tusk Impact Complete Front and Rear Wheel
Primary Drive Chain and Sprocket Kit Tusk EMEX T-35 Soft-Intermediate Terrain Tire Attack Graphics Custom Race Team Complete Bike Graphics Kit
Primary Drive Chain and Sprocket Kit Tusk EMEX T-35 Soft/Intermediate Terrain Tire Attack Graphics Custom Race Team Complete Bike Graphics Kit
Tusk Anodized Front Brake Reservoir Cap Tusk Anodized Rear Brake Reservoir Cap Works Connection Fork Guard Titanium Bolt Kit
Tusk Anodized Front Brake Reservoir Cap Tusk Anodized Rear Brake Reservoir Cap Works Connection Fork Guard Titanium Bolt Kit
Works Connection Titanium Axle Adjuster Bolts Works Connection Rear Master Cylinder Guard Tusk Multi-Function Tach-Hour Meter
Works Connection Titanium Axle Adjuster Bolts Works Connection Rear Master Cylinder Guard Tusk Multi-Function Tach/Hour Meter