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2023 Honda CRF450R review [Glen Helen Raceway Track Test]

Fifty years of history flash before your eyes as you throw a leg over this 2023 Honda CRF450R 50th Anniversary Edition motocross machine. The pioneers of our sport persevered through air-cooled, carbureted, piston-ported, two-stroke engines in a chassis with four inches of suspension travel. Modern dirt bike riders are spoiled with luxuries like electric start, hydraulic clutches, engine map selections, over 12 inches of suspension travel, and smooth-running four-stroke engines. Yes, we have come a long way since the 1973 Honda CR250M Elsinore rolled off the assembly line. Fifty years later, we put the 2023 Honda CRF450R 50th Anniversary Edition through its paces.Between the Standard Edition and the 50th Anniversary Edition, there are no mechanical or performance differences – it’s all about looks. The 50e is equipped with gold DID Dirt Star rims, gold Renthal Fat Bar handlebars, blue seat cover, metallic gray triple clamps and special edition graphics reminiscent of the mighty CR250Rs of the 1980s. Grab a moment and let the beauty soak in. We took this beautiful bike to the toughest and toughest tracks in the world – the world famous Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California. It was 100 degrees in the shade, even though we were riding in the relentless summer sun. The trail was rough, dry and sandy. After a full day of riding the 2023 Honda CRF450R, I returned home with a satisfied grin from ear to ear, enjoying the glory of luxury and comfort. This bike is a beast, but a tamed beast. The roar is there when you need it, but the power delivery is smooth and manageable.There aren’t many changes from the 2022 model, although the 2023 CRF450R does introduce a few updates that address overall power delivery and handling. Let’s move on to the technical aspects that have been updated this year. Chassis stiffness has been optimized by increasing the thickness of the aluminum material from 4mm to 6mm at the front joint and upper shock mount. This is supposed to improve stability and allow the front and rear suspension to move more freely over rough or technical terrain. Engine mounts are now steel, replacing aluminum to add rigidity. To complement the less flexible chassis, the Showa suspension is updated. The fork settings are stiffer and the shock has a slightly stiffer spring rate. Luckily, the ride doesn’t feel steep at all. I actually went a few clicks stiffer on the fork and left the shock settings at factory spec.Ergonomically, you feel like Team Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton when riding in the pits because the bike is so comfortable. The saddle height is perfect for average or even smaller riders. You don’t have to be six feet to throw a leg on this bike. If you’re over 6 feet tall, the CRF450R will still fit you perfectly. The footrests and handles are perfectly positioned. The seatstays and bodywork are slim, providing a unique feel with the bike when maneuvering. Overall, the rider cockpit is balanced and the CRF450R feels light on the trail. Moving on to the power unit, Honda engineers worked closely with the Honda HRC team to develop an updated cam profile for better low-end torque and improved corner exits. Additionally, Honda engineers followed HRC feedback to reduce the throttle body diameter from 46mm to 44mm for smoother low-speed delivery. Combined with a slightly narrower intake port and longer air funnel design, these updates aim to create a smooth and manageable power package.The changes work, because the 2023 Honda CRF450R’s engine has a smooth, manageable feel. Throughout the day, even toward the end when my energy levels dipped into the triple-digit temps, the CRF450R provided a stable, rider-friendly feel. Throttle response is precise and controllable throughout the rev range. Even in corner exits, the power doesn’t want to knock the bars off your hands. The engine is like a tractor; you can cruise around the trail at low revs without worrying about stalling the bike. There’s plenty of low-end power—just watch Sexton or Ken Roczen ride the factory CRF450R. The duo doesn’t hit the rev limiter every time; they roll smoothly through the low-to-mid rpm range, as the engine is designed to do.There are three preset motor map settings, easily switchable via a button on the left handlebar. The power delivery is remarkably friendly for the skill level of any 450 rider, even in the most aggressive 3 map. I started the day on Map 1—the standard setting—to get a feel for the bike in its natural form. Map 1 is an ideal setting for me – it’s smooth but still packs the punch needed to scale the peaks of Glen Helen. Map 2 is smoother, with a significant difference in power delivery. It’s less punchy on power delivery while still maintaining 450 horsepower when needed. You can definitely feel the difference on the straights and out of corners. Nevertheless, Map 2 is nice and calms the nerves – with pleasantly smooth throttle response and power, you can focus on having fun.If you are new to a 450 and find yourself riding a 2023 CRF450R, Map 2 is a great place to start. Map 2 is a great choice for off-roading with your friends on the weekend. If you race your local motocross series, the Standard Map 1 or the Aggressive Map 3 will be your preference. Map 3 provides aggressive yet manageable throttle response, with a punch through the low and midrange. Map 3 spins faster on the straights, and when you hit the throttle hard, you’ll have to hang in there! Another feature conveniently located on the map switch is three-level selectable traction control. Glen Helen offers plenty of opportunities to test features like traction control as the track gets dry, choppy and sandy in the late afternoon.On long uphill straights you can really feel it working. We rode the hill back-to-back with the traction control on and then off. The most noticeable difference is that the motor spins noticeably more freely with TC off. I aimed for the softer sand section of the climb to put it to the test and, yes, it works. Climbing the hill stuck in 2nd gear out of the left corner, the rear wheel dug deep into that soft sand while lifting the front end off the ground for a scenic wheelie kick. Then I rode the same line with TC on, and what a difference – the traction maintained by the rear wheel through the sand. Although pinned in 2nd gear, the front never left the ground.When traction control is on, you can hear the engine working for you. It’s smoother, but it doesn’t compromise speed. Some riders like traction control, some don’t. This is rider preference, as you can disable the TC if that’s what suits you. That’s the beauty of modern four-stroke machines—the ability to customize the riding experience. In factory form, the 2023 Honda CRF450R can win national championships, as Team Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton finished just a few points behind Eli Tomac this year in the title hunt. The consumer version is eminently drivable, suitable for 450+ novices, and the 50th Anniversary Edition looks great no matter how fast you can drive it.Photograph by Don WilliamsDRIVING STYLE2023 Honda CRF450R 50th Anniversary Edition SpecsENGINE

  • Type: 4-stroke single cylinder
  • Displacement: 450cc
  • Bore x stroke: 96.0 x 62.1 mm
  • Compression ratio: 13.5:1
  • Valvetrain: SOHC; 4 valves
  • Fueling: EFI with 44mm throttle body
  • Starting: Electric
  • Transmission: 5 speed
  • Clutch: Hydraulically actuated wet multiplate
  • Final drive: 520 chain


  • Frame: twin-spar aluminum
  • Handlebar: Renthal tapered aluminum
  • Front suspension; Travel: Fully adjustable 49mm Showa inverted fork; 12.2 inches
  • Rear suspension: Showa fully adjustable linkage-assisted stacked shock absorber; 12.4 inches
  • Rims: D.I.D. DirtStar
  • Tyres: Dunlop Geomax MX33
  • Front tire: 80/100 x 21
  • Rear tire: 120/80 x 19
  • Front brake: 260mm disc with 2-piston caliper
  • Rear brake: 240mm disc with single piston caliper


  • Wheelbase: 58.3 inches
  • Rake: 27.1 degrees
  • Trail: 4.5 inches
  • Seat height: 38.0 inches
  • Ground clearance: 13.2 inches
  • Fuel capacity: 1.7 gallons
  • Wet Weight: 245 lbs.
  • The Red color

2023 Honda CRF450R 50th Anniversary Edition Price: $9899 MSRP

2023 Honda CRF450R Review: 50th Anniversary Edition Photo Gallery