MXA RACE TEST: THE REAL TEST OF THE 2022 HONDA CRF450 WORKS EDITION

 

MXA RACE TEST: THE REAL TEST OF THE 2022 HONDA CRF450 WORKS EDITION


Q: FIRST AND FOREMOST, IS THE 2022 HONDA CRF450WE BETTER THAN THE 2021 CRF450WE?

A: Yes, by leaps and bounds. The 2021 Honda CRF450 was rushed into production and missed out on some important last-minute tuning that could have helped a ton. The 2022 CRF450 Works Edition isn’t perfect, but it’s much better than the 2021 CRF450, 2021 CRF450WE and 2022 CRF450, making it the best production Honda CRF450 that we’ve tested since 2008. Although the Works Edition came out about the same time as the 2022 CRF450 came out last year, Honda was able to spend a couple of extra days in the development phase to test suspension settings. Those days were well spent, as Honda’s engineers came up with settings specifically tailored for the WE.

Q: WHAT DIFFERENTIATES THE 2022 CRF450 WORKS EDITION FROM THE STOCK CRF450?

A: Honda first started producing CRF450 Works Edition models in 2019 as a response to KTM’s successful Factory Edition program. It should be noted that Honda has a different method to its madness from KTM. In model years when the 450SXF is on schedule to be changed significantly, the KTM Factory Edition will be a preview of what is to come. In years when KTM doesn’t have anything special up its sleeve for the next year, the Factory Edition is limited to aftermarket goodies. Additionally, if KTM is planning on a new engine or frame, you’ll see those on the Husqvarna Rockstar Editions also.

Over at Honda, motocross bikes don’t have the juice to get Honda’s executives to fire up next year’s production bikes six months early; instead, Honda’s Works Editions are just this year’s bike with different aftermarket parts bolted on. Here is a quick list:

(1) Cylinder head mods. The intake and exhaust ports on the cylinder head haven’t been ported or polished (we checked), but they have been slightly “touched up” to smooth out the transition at the valve seats. The engine also comes with a bright and stylish “redhead” cylinder head cover that looks pretty trick.

(2) Suspension. The lower legs on the Showa forks are titanium-nitride coated. The Showa shock shaft diameter went from a 16mm to 18mm and also gained a titanium-nitride coating. Plus‚ and this is a big plus‚ the CRF450WE gained its own suspension settings for 2022.

(3) ECU. The ratty, rich and bog-prone map settings from 2021 were fixed on the 2022 model. Plus, the Works Edition bike gained custom map settings tailored to the Works Edition aftermarket upgrades.

(4) Exhaust. This bike comes with a full Yoshimura RS-12 exhaust system. It’s not just an aftermarket muffler with a stock header (as is typically true on KTMs and Huskys).

(5) Clutch. The CRF450 engine comes with a Hinson clutch basket (with a stock inner hub, pressure plates, springs, and plates). It also has a cool Hinson clutch cover.

(6) Wheels. The DID DirtStar LT-X rims are stronger than stock, and they’re laced with Dunlop MX33 tires.

(7) Grips. The bars are outfitted with Renthal’s ultra-durable Kevlar grips.

(8) Drive. The CRF450WE comes with an RK gold chain and Renthal sprocket.

(9) Air filter. We trust Twin Air filters on all of our test bikes, and the Twin Air filter comes stock on the CRF450WE.

(10) Aesthetics. Throttle Jockey provides the HRC Honda factory team-inspired graphics.

(11) Seat. The CRF450 also comes with Throttle Jockey’s ribbed gripper seat cover. The serious racers on MXA’s team love the extra grip, but our Vet testers think the pleats with the rubber tubing in them are too abrasive.

(12) Triple clamps. The only difference is the color. The CRF450WE runs stock forged triple clamps that are anodized black.

(13) Price. The biggest difference between the CRF450 and CRF450WE is the $2800 bump in price. The 2022 CRF450 WorksEdition retails for $12,400.

The 2022 Honda CRF450WE is the best Honda 450 we’ve tested in a long time. Honda and MXA have both learned, mellow power equals better handling, especially with this bike.

Q: HOW DOES THE 2022 HONDA CRF450 WORKS EDITION RUN ON THE DYNO?

A: The Works Edition upgrades are limited to the Yoshimura exhaust system, touched-up intake and exhaust ports and custom ECU mapping. The mods help increase horsepower, but thankfully didn’t make the CRF450 unrideable like the last 60-horsepower CRF450 from back in 2019.

The CRF450 Works Edition fills in some of the gaps that the stock engine has low in the rpm range, and it revs considerably farther and longer, ultimately creating an extra 3.2 horsepower. The Works Edition engine is slightly stronger off the crack of the throttle (from 5500 to 6500 rpm) and considerably stronger from 7000 to 7500 rpm (where the stock engine hiccups). The stock CRF450 pumps out 56.83 horsepower at 9100 rpm, while the stronger CRF450 Works Edition peaks at 60.0 horsepower at 9600 rpm. The Works Edition produces 37.0 pound-feet of torque to the stock CRF450’s 36.1.

Q: HOW DOES THE 2022 HONDA CRF450 WORKS EDITION RUN ON THE TRACK?

A: On the track, the CRF450 Works Edition is ultra-smooth. The stock 2021 and 2022 CRF450 already have smoother engine characteristics than the previous generations of CRF450s, and the Works Edition engine continues to build on that theme. We already knew that the Yoshimura RS-12 exhaust system smooths out the bottom end and increases power high in the rpm range, because we’ve tried it on our stock CRF450. Now, with the new Works Edition’s tailored ECU settings, the power is even smoother on the track. Any time you look at an exhaust system and notice that the head pipe is longer, you can assume that the designers were looking for smoother low-end power. 

If you’re looking for a CRF450 with a big “hit” off the bottom, you might be disappointed in the Works Edition. Even though it peaks at 60 horsepower, this bike won’t blow your socks off. It’s so smooth and linear that our testers didn’t believe it pulled 60 horses until we showed them the dyno charts; however, serious test riders, those who race at a high level, know that smooth is fast. Although it’s not loud and it’s not ripping shoulders out of sockets, the connection between the throttle, engine, rear wheel and terrafirma is extremely manageable, which helps decrease lap times and increase consistency.

Q: HOW IS THE 2022 HONDA CRF450 WORKS EDITION GEAR RATIO?

A: Both the stock 2022 CRF450 and Works Edition models come with 13/49 sprockets. Our lightweight testers prefer 13/48 on the stock CRF450 to lessen the hit of the Honda’s 450 power, but with the Yoshimura muffler, touched-up ports and new ECU on the Works Edition, those same featherweight testers were happy with the stock gearing; however, test riders over 175 pounds needed an extra tooth on the rear to help them carry third gear through the corners—on the track, the Works Edition mods don’t give the Honda enough noticeable grunt off the bottom to be able to depend on third in the corners. Our Pro test riders often varied between 48-teeth and 50-teeth depending on the track layout.

The CRF450WE engine has some minor mods to the head and ECU. It creates a smooth and rideable power.

Q: DOES THE AFTERMARKET HINSON CLUTCH BASKET MAKE THE CRF450 ANY SMOOTHER?

A: The Hinson clutch basket that comes stock in the 2022 Honda CRF450 Works Edition is the same off-the-shelf basket sold in the aftermarket by Hinson‚ minus the fact that the Works Edition basket has the primary gear riveted on, while the standard Hinson basket comes with screws for the customer to install himself. As for the weight and the power characteristics, this basket is close to the same weight as the OEM basket, which means that it won’t affect the horsepower or torque of the engine.

Although the benefits of an aftermarket clutch basket aren’t as significant as they would be if used with Hinson’s inner hub and pressure plate, the basket is still an improvement. It increases durability, provides a smoother feel, has more positive clutch feel, is better lubricated, and the basket is less likely to notch. 

Q: IS “COOL FACTOR” A REAL THING?

A: It is. Although you can buy all of the Works Edition upgrades separately, there’s something attractive about buying a bike that is already “blinged out.” When you look at the CRF450 Works Edition, it looks factory, and when you ride it, you feel factory, too. We felt like Chase Sexton on the track multiple times. Sometimes that’s a good thing, because Chase is known for his impeccable technique and speed; but, sometimes it’s a bad thing, because Chase is also known for looking extremely good—right up until he crashes. The Honda CRF450’s handling is “twitchy.” It is very sensitive to chassis and suspension setup, more so than most of its competition.

The coated Showa forks are a big improvement over the stock 2022 CRF450 forks.

Q: IS THE COATED SHOWA SUSPENSION REALLY ANY DIFFERENT FOR 2022?

A: The two main complaints MXA had on the 2021 CRF450 were suspension and mapping. For 2022, the stock bike was better. The mapping glitches were fixed, and the suspension was made stiffer, but it still wasn’t great. Between 2021 and 2022, the Showa forks went from too soft to too stiff, with a harsh spot in the middle of the fork’s stroke.

Last year the CRF450 Works Edition came with the same internal suspension valving as the stock bike, only with titanium-nitride-coated fork legs and a larger 18mm shock shaft with the same coating. The increase in shaft diameter from 16mm to 18mm held the rear up higher, while the coating on the forks and shock reduced friction, causing the suspension to move more freely, giving off a slightly softer damping effect on the track.

As for the 2022 CRF450WE, the Works Edition has received its own customized suspension settings that are more balanced with great hold up.

Q: HOW DOES THE CRF450WE HANDLE ON THE TRACK?

A: The Works Edition is the best-handling production Honda CRF450 we’ve ridden in years. Technically, since it’s a “Works Edition,” it’s not totally stock, but it does come down the Honda production line. We attribute some of the positive handling traits to the engine being more linear, but most of our praise goes to the updated Showa suspension. Across the board, our testers felt that the CRF450WE was more balanced, the suspension held up better and our mistakes didn’t always end in a crash.

Still, the handling isn’t perfect. As we’ve learned from spending the last two years on the latest generation CRF450 chassis, the suspension settings, fork height and rear sag are sensitive to every small change. The “fast-twitch” character of the Honda CRF450 was improved when Honda switched to the new 2021 frame, but it’s still a Honda. No matter what we did to the fork height, race sag and clicker settings, the front end stayed super responsive. This was nice 90 percent of the time, but for the other 10 percent of the time, it was a handful to hold onto, causing us to make two turns out of one corner.

We dropped the forks in the triple clamps so that the caps were flush with the top of the clamps and set the sag between 107mm and 108mm. This put less weight on the front and helped further smooth out our corners.

If there is one takeaway from the CRF450 Works Edition that we would apply to the stock 2022 Honda CRF450, it is to spend less time hopping up the stock CRF450 powerband and more time mellowing it out. The mellower engine allows the rigid CRF450 chassis to handle better.

All of the 450cc Works, Factory, Rockstar or Special Editions are 60 horsepower bikes.

Q: WHAT DID WE HATE?

A: The hate list.

(1) Maps. There are three different maps and three different traction control settings, and the difference between each one is fairly minor. It’s hard to tell which setting is good, and it’s easy to get lost.

(2) Fork guards. The fork guard’s Allen head bolts fill up with dirt. One of the bolts is located on the inner side of the fork leg, making it difficult to remove the plastics when the front wheel is on. Plus, the fork guards are not strong enough to support a holeshot device. Luckily, the Works Connection Pro Launch device that we prefer comes with extra brackets.


(3) Radiator cap.
It comes with a 1.1 kg/mm2, while KTM, Husky and GasGas come stock with 1.8 radiator caps. Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki need to make the switch.

(4) Handling. Hondas have always been front-end sensitive. If you miss the mark on your suspension/chassis, it can be hard to tame the CRF450’s front end.

(5) Grips. The Renthal Kevlar grips are great for durability and 100 times more comfortable than the OEM Honda grips, but they’re too fat for a “race spec” motocross bike. Thicker grips often contribute to arm pump.

(6) Shifter. The shift lever is 17mm shorter than the KTM lever, and we never complained about the KTM lever being too long.

(7) Levers. Honda’s clutch and front brake levers are awkwardly shaped. The only stock levers that are worse are the skinny, mismatched levers on the Kawasaki KX450.

(8) Catastrophy. Our Honda CRF450 Works Edition engine suffered a severe loss of power in the first timed qualifying session at the 2022 Pala National and limped back to the pits. It’s day was done! Luckily, MXA’s Josh Mosiman had set a fast enough lap time to make the main without having to worry about the second timed session. However, we did have to swap engines in the pits.

THE GEAR: Jersey: Hallman Differ Cheq, Pants: Hallman Differ Cheq, Helmet: Thor MX Reflex, Goggles: FMF Vision Powerbomb, Boots: Alpinestars Tech 7.

Q: WHAT DID WE LIKE?

A: The like list.

(1) E-start. In recent years, Honda updated its electronics so that riders wouldn’t have to pull in the clutch to start the bike. It was originally used as a safety feature, but we’re happy it’s gone.

(2) Brake spring. The rear brake spring on the Honda is durable. We use Honda springs to replace our KTM springs after they break.

(3) Air filter. We love Twin Air filters and like that the upside-down Honda air filter is easy to install and remove. It’s not as easy to install as the KTM or Yamaha filters, but it is easier to install than Kawasaki’s and Suzuki’s filters. It in twist, when we first saw the CRF450’s upside-down air filter arrangement, we thought the filter would stay cleaner—boy, were we wrong.

(4) Power. The softer power character of the Works Edition tames the often-skittish nature of Honda’s aluminum, twin-spar chassis.

(5) Sound. The RS-12 muffler from Yoshimura makes the CRF450 quieter, and we like it

(6) Clutch basket. We like the fact that the CRF450WE comes with a Hinson clutch basket that already has the primary gear riveted on. One of the worst things for an amateur mechanic to attempt is installing an aftermarket clutch basket. The Works Edition solves that problem for you.

(7) Style. Hondas always look good, especially the Works Editions

Q: WHAT DID WE REALLY THINK?

A: Many of our test riders cheerfully explained how the 2022 CRF450 Works Edition was the best stock Honda they’ve ridden in recent memory. When Honda introduced its all-new frame and engine for 2021, it was better than the 2009 through 2020 frames, but it still had some first-model-year flaws. The 2022 CRF450 Works Edition is certainly a step in the right direction. And what Honda learned in 2022 is being applied to the 2023 CRF450.

If you want a smoother CRF450 that is ready to go in stock form, you’ll be happy with the Works Edition. If you like a hard-hitting engine, or get a sizable discount from your local suspension tuner, the Works Edition isn’t the cost-effective choice for you.

MXA’S 2022 HONDA CRF450WE WORKS EDITION SETUP SPECS

This is how we set up our 2022 Honda CRF450 Works Edition for racing. We offer it as a guide to help you find your own sweet spot.

SHOWA COIL-SPRING FORK SETTINGS
The titanium nitride-coated CRF450 Works Edition forks are smoother and more predictable than the stock 2022 CRF450 Showa coil-spring forks that came with a harsh spot in the midstroke. For hardcore racing, these are MXA’s recommended 2022 CRF450 Works Edition fork settings (stock settings are in parentheses):
Spring rate: 5.0 N/mm
Compression: 11 clicks (13 clicks out)
Rebound: 12 clicks out (14 clicks out)
Fork-leg height: Flush with the fork caps.
Notes: We dropped the forks in the clamps to gain more hold-up and relax the chassis in turns, but some test riders still ran them with 3mm or 5mm showing. The Honda is sensitive to clicker adjustments, meaning that you can’t be scared to play with them. They hold the key to keeping the CRF450 in line.

SHOWA SHOCK SETTINGS
The 54 N/mm shock spring is too soft for the typical 450 rider, especially on the stock CRF450. With stiffer valving, the stock spring worked better on the Works Edition, but it’s still too soft for our heavier testers. For hardcore racing, these are MXA’s recommended 2022 Honda CRF450 Works Edition shock settings:
Spring rate: 54 N/mm
Race sag: 107mm (105mm)
Lo-compression: 8 clicks out (10 clicks turns out)
Hi-compression: 2 turns out (2-1/2 turns out)
Rebound: 13 clicks out
Notes: Our testers liked the rear end lower for more stability in corners and straightaways. Adjusting the fork height will affect the sag. Be sure to check the sag after moving the forks around, and don’t be scared to raise the rear end.

 

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