MXA TECH SPEC: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE 2021 HONDA CRF450 MAPPING GLITCH

The 2021 CRF450. MXA has been vocal about the substandard EFI mapping that came on the 2021 Honda CRF450. Everyone thought that the 2021 Honda was going to bring Honda back to its glory days of the 2005 to 2008 CRF450s. The 2021 Honda had sex appeal. It was hard not to just sit and stare at it without drooling. Riders were dropping their hard-earned cash for pre-orders based solely on looks. It is no secret that first-year models are prone to have some bugs that need to be worked out, but buyers seemed to be mesmerized by Honda’s promise. 

What happened? When we first rode the 2021 CRF450 and CRF450WE, the engines didn’t run clean due to erratic mapping. The standard Map 1 in both bikes was the best option but still had issues. Maps 2 and 3 popped, spit, flamed out and sputtered. It was a minor error on Honda’s part, but it cost them big time. We say minor, because not every rider suffered the mapping issues, and, if you look past the mapping issue, this is a great engine. Mapping can be tricky. For example, if Honda Japan used different fuel, altitude, air temperature and tracks than the USA, that could produce different test results on American terra firma. We have a feeling Honda knew about the issue, but didn’t listen to its test riders and pushed it through.

We expected Honda to fix the mapping glitch with a dealer bulletin right after the 2021 bikes were released, but Honda didn’t react right away. MXA needed better maps on our CRF450, so we dialed up Jamie Ellis at Twisted Development to fix the problem. The next day he had maps for us to try, and they produced a broader powerband. We still hoped that Honda would help fix its loyal customers’ bikes, but as the months passed, we lost hope. Way back in our January 2021 issue, we said this: “Unless Honda steps up to the plate to help 2021 Honda CRF450 buyers, buyers will be on their own to find solutions to the most obvious problems.” 

The 2022 Honda CRF450 will come with the correct maps installed and get forks and shocks with firmer damping rates.

Honda’s answer. Honda did eventually send out a dealer bulletin, but did it in such a way that few 2021 Honda owners knew about it. Honda and your dealer failed you. Honda had updated maps and the willingness to reflash your bike’s stock ECU at no charge at the dealer level, but we have to wonder why Honda delayed so long in telling the media or sending out a press  release about the availability of updated ECM software for the ECU rewrite procedure. It is no cost for a CRF450 owner to have his dealer reflash his ECU, because Honda will reimburse the dealer for 0.2 hours of time. 

Can you do it yourself? Even if you have a Honda tuning tool, you won’t be able to do the update yourself. For one, Honda hasn’t provided an update to the Honda Tuning tool since 2017. And two, Honda makes its dealers use Honda’s proprietary MCS (Motorcycle Communication System) diagnostic tool to flash the ECU, which takes less than 5 minutes of time, as the dealer just hooks up the MCS tool and connects it to the CRF450 data port to download. 

What to do. If you have  a 2021 CRF450R, RX or WE and after had your dealer update your maps, contact your local dealer and ask if they can update your ECU. If they are unsure what you are talking about, tell them to check the Honda Techline bulletins for the information you are requesting. If they give you a hard time, call the Honda Powersports customer service line toll-free at (866) 784-1870. Take our word for it, it isn’t worth riding the stock mapping first; the update is lightyears better (especially on the CRF450 Works Edition). 

Outcome. What Honda did is to change the base map (Map 1), which in turn changes the other two maps automatically; however, there were some parameters that were accessed to fine-tune Maps 2 and 3. The bottom line is that if the base map changes, all the maps are changed along with it. We were able to test the CRF450 and CRF450 Works Edition ECUs back to back with both the old and updated flashed maps. Once they were flashed with the Honda update, the bikes ran as they should but had a different character than before the reflash.

The CRF450’s Map 1 (standard map) had massive power off the crack of the throttle. It was a lot to deal with at first, but test riders realized they could ride a gear higher, which made the map our favorite on both bikes. As for the “Works Edition,” Map 1 wasn’t as powerful. It was smooth and easy to manage. The majority of test riders preferred Map 2, which is supposed to be the smooth map, although it offered an increase of power off the crack of the throttle and was more playful. The power was there if you needed it, but it wasn’t as strong as Map 1 on the standard model. Map 3, the aggressive map, was more powerful on top but was much like Map 1 off the bottom—very trackable and easy to ride but with no excitement.The 2022 Honda CRF450 will also benefit from mapping and suspension updates.

The 2022 CRF450. The 2022 Honda CRF450 release is just around the corner, but it should be noted that the 2022 Honda CRF450 is the 2021 Honda CRF450, right down to the graphics. However, the 2022 CRF450 will come with the updated mapping. Additionally, the 2022 forks will get a revalve to the low-speed shim stack and firmer settings on both compression and rebound. The rear shock will get a total revalve for firmer settings on the rear.

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