When the light turns purple you can select from the launch control menu.


Dear MXA,

My friend is letting me use his 2019 Honda CRF450 for a month while he’s on vacation. He’s not that nice; he lent me his CRF because I lent him my travel trailer. How do I set launch control on the CRF450?

We have to admit that setting launch control on a 2019 CRF450 is overly complicated. It requires pressing two different buttons while holding the clutch lever in and remembering how to decipher the flashing lights. As with lots of electronics, Honda’s engineers over-thought the concept of launch control. Instead of having a simple launch control button that knocks off 4 horsepower above 7000 rpm to lessen wheelspin off the line by changing ignition timing, Honda (along with Suzuki) has multiple launch control settings. With the 2019 CRF450’s launch control system, you can choose “mellow,” “aggressive,” or “stock” power, but instead of retarding the ignition to reduce the horsepower above a certain rpm level, the Honda launch control system moves the rev limiter to different rpm settings. In the mellow mode, which would be used on concrete or hard pack starts, the rev limiter is moved down the rpm scale, reducing max power. In the aggressive mode, the rev limiter is actually allowed to rev higher than the stock rev limit. In this setting, the launch control would work best in deep, heavy dirt. The stock mode is exactly where the rev limiter is set for normal riding. Why Honda has a launch control setting for the stock mapping is a mystery, because you can access this mode just by not activating launch control in the first place.

Here is a step-by-step guide to setting launch control on the 2019 Honda CRF450.

(1) Arm the system. With the engine running and idling above 2000 rpm with the throttle closed, push the start button (with the clutch lever pulled in) until the mode indicator light (on the left side of the handlebar) blinks with a purple instead of a blue light.

(2) Select a rev limiter. With the throttle closed and the clutch lever still pulled in, press and hold the starter button. The mode indicator light will flash one time (in sequence) for the “aggressive” (high rev limiter) setting. Press and hold the starter button a second time and the mode indicator light will blink twice for the “stock” rpm limiter setting. Press and hold the starter button a third time and the “mellow” launch control map will be initiated (lowest rpm limiter). You can cycle through the three launch control settings as often as you like, but once you stop on one, that is the setting that will be used on the start.

(3) Caveats. The Honda launch control system only works in first or second gear. If you blip the throttle more than halfway open and then close it, the launch control system will turn off. When you shift to third gear on the track, the launch control system will turn off. It also turns itself off when you shut the throttle off (as when you are braking for the first turn). If the purple light stays lit, then your bike is still in the launch control system. To get out of launch control in these circumstance, press the start button once. You must wait until you are behind the starting line to engage launch control. You can’t engage it and ride through the pits without it turning off accidentally. Once you activate launch control, be careful not to blip the throttle, but if you do turn the throttle above halfway, launch control will not disable as long as you keep it above half throttle.

(4) Fail-safe. It is best to practice as many starts (in all three blinking light configurations) as possible to find the one you like best. Most MXA test riders never used launch control on the 2019 CRF450. If you get confused while setting launch control, you don’t have to worry about the CRF450 not working when the gate falls. It will automatically return to the normal map—so your start won’t be ruined.

On the 2020 Honda CRF450 the map button is on the far left, the HSTC button is inboard of the clutch lever, while the electric start button is on the far right. The starter button doubles as the launch control button, but is set by pressing the map button three times.

If those aren’ t enough buttons to push, the 2020 Honda CRF450 comes with Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC). That is Honda’s fancy and convoluted name for what we all know as “traction control.” In the new Honda system you can choose from three levels of traction control to go along with three levels of launch control and three level of engine mapping.  The HSTC system reads “runaway revs,” as do most traction control systems, and when the computer senses them, it retards the ignition. Room on the CRF450 handlebars is becoming scarce as the 2020 CRF450 needed a second control unit on the bars to work the HSTC.


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