The “First Ride” Report That You Have Been Waiting For: The 2009 Honda CRF450


By John Basher

MXA test rider Dennis Stapleton and I winged into Texas on Monday to get a chance to ride the 2009 CRF450. This isn’t a formal test, just a starter course. The bike will be back in SoCal next week for the formal ridin’, racin’ and writin’. However, Dennis and I knew we were onto to something important. How can you tell when everyone is anticipating the arrival of a radically new bike, like the 2009 Honda CRF450? It is blatantly obvious when we set our cell phones down and spin a few laps around the picturesque Lake Whitney motocross facility in Texas, only to come back and find that we?.?ª?ve missed nearly a dozen calls from various friends yearning to find out information regarding the Honda.

The motocross industry is dying to hear about a first impression of the CRF450 from Lake Whitney. Here is a quick synopsis of how our time in Texas went. At the very least you can enjoy the photos!
The most noticeable attribute of the 2009 CRF450 once a leg is thrown over it is how narrow the bike feels and how easy it is to move forward on the seat. This translates well to the track, where we were able to get over the front end with little thought. In the air the CRF450 was very light and nimble feeling. Simply put, it inspires confidence.

What about the electronic fuel injection? It worked quite well,. We had some flame out issues at first, but used the only adjustment knob available on the fuel injector to stop the bike from dying when diving into a corner with hard braking. 

The CRF450 can pretty much only be started from top dead center. Once we realized this, starting became very routine and simple. We should also note that bringing the bike to life once it stalled was not an issue.??

The power delivery was much smoother than the 2008 CRF450, with the powerband shining from above idle to just into the top-end. The engine did a very good job of tackling the same corner in both second and third gear.

We were thrilled to hear that Honda’s engineers decided to switch from the harsh Showa forks that came on the 2008 model to Kayaba suspension for 2009. We hated last year’s forks. The swap to Kayaba (not the first time Honda has made this move) was a wise choice, because we did not suffer from any of the harsh mid-stroke woes that we encountered on the last year’s Showa forks. It should also be worth mentioning that Honda?.?ª?s baseline suspension settings were reasonably close to what we preferred at Lake Whitney. However, more testing will need to be done at an assortment of tracks to truly nail down our recommended settings.

You can of course expect a full test in a future issue of Motocross Action, but for now here are the quotables that Dennis Stapleton and I had about the all-new 2009 Honda CRF450.
* The biggest thing that I noticed was how light the bike felt in the air and also in braking bumps. I could throw the bike around with ease.VbCrLf – Dennis Stapleton

* I was extremely anxious to ride the 2009 bike, and for obvious reasons. This is the third generation CRF450, and in my personal opinion the feel of the bike is the best CRF450 that I?.?ª?ve ever ridden. Honda stepped up to the plate and delivered an EFI bike with a new frame geometry and Kayaba suspension. Of all the changes I?.?ª?m most pleased with the Kayaba suspension. Last year’s forks were so harsh that they rattled my skull.– John Basher

* The engine is all-around friendly for both vet and pro riders. In stock form you can ride any section of the track slow or fast and still have fun, which is a huge benefit.VbCrLf – Dennis Stapleton

* The Honda R&D department recommended that we run between 106 to 108mm of sag in order to move some of the load to the back of the bike. Stapleton and I experimented with various sag settings and found 105mm to work the best for the loose Lake Whitney dirt. – John Basher

* The Kayaba forks are super plush with good bottoming resistance. There is not a harsh spot in the forks. The shock also works very well, and it  is sensitive to clicker adjustments. This is a definite plus, since the shock can accommodate an assortment of different riders. – Dennis Stapleton