Quick question. I’m looking at picking up a used CRF450. Besides the 2008, what were the best years?
You don’t have a lot of choices when looking for used Honda CRF450s that would be considered the best. Without a doubt, the best Honda CRF450s were the 2007 and 2008 models; however, you said that you already knew about that model. After 2008, Honda went through a fallow period of time that lasted eight years (2009–2016) with forgettable and flawed machines that we wouldn’t recommend. That only leaves the late-model CRFs of 2017–2018 or the early-model CRFs of 2004–2005. Since you didn’t tell us how far back you are willing to go or how new a used CRF450 you can afford, here are a few facts about the two Honda CRF450s we think you should consider.
2005 Honda CRF450. The 2005 Honda was the most improved CRF450 up to that time period. Here is a list of the improvements: (1) All-new, fourth-generation, aluminum, twin-spar frame. (2) Dual-axis, double-taper swingarm. (3) Improved shift drum, shift forks and shift fork shafts. (4) New shock linkage, shock clevis and frame bracket. (5) Titanium exhaust pipe heat shield. (6) CRF250-style plastic. (7) Redesigned rear hub, clutch cable bracket, brake pedal and seat bolts. (8) Narrower radiators. (9) Better rear brake pad insulators. (10) Honda was unwilling to change the offset at the triple clamps for business reasons but had Showa pull the front axle back 2mm, which achieved the same effect. (11) The head angle was steepened to 26.79 degrees from the slacker 27.50 degrees. (12) The 2005 CRF450 was 3-1/2 pounds lighter than the 2004 model. (13) The stock 0.46 kg/mm fork springs were too soft. Way too soft. We installed stiffer 0.49 kg/mm fork springs and lowered the oil height from 385cc to 375cc. (14) In our opinion, Honda took a quantum leap forward with the CRF450 in 2005. (15) If it was us, we’d be on the lookout for a 2007 or 2008 CRF450. These two years were the best CRF450’s and way better than anything from 2009 to 2016.
2017 Honda CRF450. As a used bike, the 2017 Honda is a better buy than the 2018 version. The differences are minor; limited to the electric start, stiffer fork and shock springs, and a revised map. In return, the 2018 CRF450 gained 7 pounds over the 2017 model. The 2017 weighed 233 pounds, which would tie it with the 2019 KX450 as the lightest Japanesebuilt 450 on the track today. On the plus side, the 2017 CRF450 made 57.49 horsepower, which is still a competitive number against the latest offerings (although the 2019 Honda CRF450 took a quantum leap upwards to a class-leading 60.20 horsepower). The 2018 Honda CRF450 did not obsolete the 2017 CRF450 because the 2018 head stays retrofit on the 2017. The map changes are available from your local dealer, and better suspension setups can be had from any suspension shop. As for the 2018’s electric starter, Honda’s engineers added this to appear contemporary in the face of KTM’s dominance. You can live without it and, for sure, you can live without the extra pounds that came with it. All that said, the 2017 Honda CRF450 would be a good used bike choice, largely because it erased our memories of the uninspiring CRFs that we lived with for eight long years.
If it were us, we’d search for a well-maintained, used 2017 Honda CRF450. It is a modern bike, unlike the 2005 CRF450, and has a wealth of parts, know-how and life left in it.