Highlighted by Honda’s all new Unicam engine and an aluminium twin spar frame, the 2002 model’s success was due not only to its outright performance, but also characteristics that aided riders’ transition from two strokes. The model made headlines for its plush, Showa suspension, establishing from the very beginning a reputation for controllable, agile handling. There were minor changes in both of the following two years, the most noteworthy being the move to a longer shock that sharpened the handling even further in 2003.
The second generation CRF450R had big shoes to fill, and it managed this challenge. Centred on a heavily updated engine, the 2005 model impressed with improved top end power and wider power band. An updated design enhanced the overall look, while subtle revisions to the frame altered the bike’s flex characteristics.
Maintenance intervals for valve adjustments were widened in 2005 thanks to new valve seat material, while 2008 saw the introduction of the HPSD steering damper. Additional changes for 2008 included geometry revisions, clutch updates, and a rev-limit increase
For 2009, Honda engineers challenged themselves to create a CRF450R that was lighter than its predecessor despite adding electronic fuel injection. The result of their efforts was the third generation CRF450R.
Benefitting from an extreme weight reduction and mass centralisation, this all new model was highlighted by a new twin spar aluminium frame with multiple design changes, including a repositioned steering head, lower overall height, and reworked geometry.
With an all new frame and updated engine, the 2013 CRF450R had a design brief that was focused on improved cornering performance. The result of the redesign was improved turn-in performance and more consistent steering through corners. The 2013 was recognised for its dual muffler exhaust, new styling and KYB Pneumatic Spring Fork (PSF), which used air pressure to provide spring resistance in place of coil springs.
The design brief of the 2017 CRF450R followed Honda’s new ‘Absolute Holeshot’ ethos. An all new engine featured a downdraft intake, new compression chamber and finger rocker arm, among other changes.
A lighter, sixth generation twin spar aluminium frame was designed with improved traction in mind, featuring a reduction in torsional rigidity. The 2019 model marked a return to coil spring front suspension. Other key changes included a new lighter titanium fuel tank and updated plastics with in mould graphics.
The overhaul was followed up by minor changes in 2018, including updates to the suspension and mapping. In 2019, Honda once again revised the frame, swingarm and shock linkage. Launch control and black D.I.D wheels were added. For 2020, Honda added Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) to the package.