– Detailed 2021 CRF450RL Review of Specs + New Changes Explained, R&D Info, Videos and more on Honda’s new 450cc Dual Sport Motorcycle! –
Say hello to the new 2021 Honda CRF450L! Wait, I meant to say the new 2021 Honda CRF450RL… One of the few changes that Honda decided to throw at the CRF450L for 2021 was changing the name, to remind you that this bike is built off of the CRF450R platform and that’s what they used to create this 2021 dual-sport motorcycle so it has now been dubbed the CRF450RL.
CRF450L VS CRF450RL? Which one is better? They are both the same bike except for the changes highlighted below. So in all technicality, the CRF450RL is the “better” bike because it has the new ECU and updated tuning on the fuel-injection side of things and the hand guards but the difference is marginal. If you can get a smoking deal on a CRF450L at a discounted price, one to make it worth your wild then I would opt for that over the CRF450RL but if we’re only talking about a few hundred dollar difference… Go with the CRF450RL.
Quick CRF450RL Info (for those in a hurry):
- 2021 CRF450RL Price / MSRP: $9,999 (originally announced at $10,399)
- 2021 CRF450RL Release Date: September 2020
- 2021 CRF450RL Colors: Red
- 2021 CRF450RL Horsepower: 41.7 HP
- 2021 CRF450RL Torque: 23.6 ft/lb TQ
- 2021 CRF450RL MPG: TBA
- 2021 CRF450RL Seat Height: 37.2 inches
- 2021 CRF450RL Weight: 291 lbs (curb)
- 2021 CRF450RL Fuel Tank Capacity / Size: 2.0 gallons
- 2021 CRF450RL Suspension Travel: 12.0 inches (front) / 11.8 inches (rear)
- 2021 CRF450RL Ground Clearance: 12.6 inches
- 2021 CRF450RL VS 2020 CRF450L Changes: Yes, explained above and below.
- 2021 CRF450RL VS 2020 CRF450L Price Change: The CRF450RL was released at $10,399 matching the the 2019-2020 CRF450L that had an original MSRP of $10,399 and then they did a permanent price reduction dropping the MSRP to $9,999.
2021 CRF450RL Review Contents:
- 1. | Introduction
- 2. | Model Overview
- 3. | Key Features / Development
- 3.1 | Engine
- 3.2 | Chassis / Suspension
- 4. | Photo Gallery / Pictures (100+ pictures so be patient on load times…)
- 5. | Technical Specifications
1. | Introduction
A true dual-purpose motorcycle should be many things; off-road it needs to be light weight, with quality suspension and handling ability that keeps life easy as the going gets harder. Its engine has to make good power and torque from the bottom up – the sort that is supremely usable, allowing the rider to find all the rear wheel grip possible, whatever the terrain.
All the attributes that make it great fun off-road also enable it to be really useful around town; narrow and nimble, a dual-purpose machine slips through gaps, soaks up the hits from rough roads and stays well ahead of traffic thanks to smart, low-gear acceleration. It also needs to be turn-key reliable, with sensible intervals between major service work.
Competition machines can make a solid base for dual-purpose adaptation. But there is much to consider. Race-level performance brings with it an intensive maintenance schedule, which is simply too much for many ‘hobby’ trail riders, who just want to push a button and go – and keep on going, Furthermore, a barely-disguised race bike can mean crucial road-going elements – lights, indicators, ignition switch – are not as user-friendly and durable as they should be.
Honda understands this, and with a desire to produce a dual-purpose bike that draws strongly on the fundamental performance of a race machine, yet with much more ‘normal’ service intervals and high-quality road ancillaries, has taken its CRF450R moto-crosser as the base to start from, and created the new CRF450L back in 2019. For 2021, the CRF450L is now known as the CRF450RL and with that name change comes some new changes to help take it to the next level.
It is unmistakably a race-bred CRF – and looks it – but with the additions and modifications needed to make it both road legal and supremely useable in a trail environment. As such, the CRF450L is a complete package, as happy roosting trails as it is linking them up on-road. And with Honda engineering and build quality at its core, is sure to do so for years to come.
Mr M. Uchiyama, Large Project Leader (LPL) 2019 CRF450L:
“The CRF450L is about having maximum fun out on the dirt. It looks like a CRF450R because, really, it is – just a trail-friendly, road-legal version. That’s what the ‘L’ stands for – ‘legal’. It’s been engineered to deliver excellent handling feel, with linear engine torque that helps the rider make the most of the available grip in all conditions. AND, it contains its HRC-derived CRF technology within a real-world service schedule.”
2. | Model Overview
Through a winning combination of performance, durability and comfort, Honda’s road-legal dirt bike has made a name for itself in the dual-sport world. And for 2021, it has a title befitting its level of performance. Now called the CRF450RL, this capable dual-sport machine remains based on the trail-connecting approach that broadens customers’ ride-planning possibilities. Powered by Honda’s proven 449cc Unicam engine and wide-ratio six-speed transmission, plus premium long-travel suspension and twin-spar aluminum frame, the CRF450RL now comes standard with lightweight handguards for increased comfort and protection no matter where the ride leads.
The journey from full race to road legal trail was a detailed one for the CRF450RL. Road legality required the engine to gain EURO4 compliance, while from a longevity and usability viewpoint, the power output and character, needed careful attention.
2021 Honda CRF450RL Walk-Around Video | YouTube
It’s still a CRF450R; just one that’s quieter, both mechanically from the chassis and engine, as well as its new exhaust. Both fuelling and ignition maps are now managed by 02 lambda sensor; compression ratio has been lowered and crank mass increased for improved drivability. The gearbox is a 6-speed – for longer legs on the road – and a cush drive has been added to the 18-inch rear wheel.
The plastics are lifted directly from the CRF450R and all lighting is LED, with the front headlight in particular throwing out a penetrating beam. Increased volume for the titanium fuel tank adds range and all the items that make the CRF450RL ready to purchase as a licensed, road going machine – such as speedometer and horn – are present as standard.
3. | Key Features / Development
3.1 | CRF450RL Engine
- New, Updated ECU with new fuel-injection settings
- 449.7cc Unicam engine specially tailored for trail-to-trail riding
- Finger rocker arm contributes to compact layout while using dedicated design to attain on- and off-road-specific power characteristics. DLC surface treatment reduces friction
- Dedicated valve timing for smooth power delivery in technical riding
- High crank inertia (up 12% over CRF450R) for tractable power delivery in technical terrain
- 12.0:1 compression ratio
- Different piston with three-ring design compared to the CRF450R’s one-ring design
- Wide-ratio six-speed transmission is ready for a wide variety of off-road terrain and on-road riding
- Special clutch design enables light lever pull. Primary damper mechanism with friction springs suppresses engine torque fluctuations, ensuring smooth running
- Large-capacity radiators with high heat-exchange efficiency for strong performance in demanding off-road conditions
- Electric fan and thermostat control engine temperature in harsh conditions
- Noise emissions minimized via covers on the left and right crank cases
- Powerful AC generator for street-legal lighting
- Dedicated single-muffler exhaust system provides great sound while meeting emissions requirements
While the chassis was more straightforward to convert from its CRF450R moto-crosser specification to a dual-purpose performance level, the 449cc engine needed more consideration from Honda’s engineers. Requirements were several: the need for it to pass EURO4 emissions and noise regulations, and to be usable for a wide variety of riders in many differing situations both on and off-road.
While the fundamental architecture of the four-valve Unicam powerplant remains the same, many details have been changed to support the broader role: the crank’s mass has been increased, resulting in 13% more inertia which, for a trail rider, equals improved torque feel and response; valve timing has been revised to give the broader, smoother spread of power and torque; the gearbox is now 6-speed, rather than 5 for longer range use on tarmac; left and right engine covers wear outer covers to reduce noise;
Elsewhere, the ACG has been uprated, to provide the required electrical power for the LED lights and to maintain battery charge during lower-speed running. The battery itself is a high-volume unit.
Bore and stroke are unchanged from the CRF450R, at 96mm x 62.1mm, but the piston uses 3 rings instead of 2 for greater durability. Compression ratio is 12.0:1 (compared 13.5:1). The redesigned airbox feeds the PGM-FI, managed by a lambda sensor in the large-volume single exhaust (which replaces the ‘stubby’ dual-pipe design of the CRF450R). An Air Injection (AI) system and catalyser clean up the spent gases.
The four-valve Unicam cylinder head features a finger rocker arm on the inlet valves; valve lift is 7.7mm with 6.7mm exhaust valve lift. Inlet valve diameter is 38mm. The valve springs are oval in cross section and valve angle is 9° intake/10.5° exhaust.
The clutch spins 7 friction discs with a 2mm clutch plate efficiently dissipating heat; the springs generate a good, consistent connection. The front sprocket is a 13T, the rear 51T.
3.2 | CRF450RL Chassis / Suspension
- New hand guards and graphics
- Full LED lighting, increased fuel tank volume compared to the CRF450R
- Styling closely mirrors that of the current gen CRF450R
- Aluminum twin-spar frame designed for nimble-yet-stable handling on trails
- Subframe designed to ensure optimum rigidity balance appropriate for carrying tools
- 49 mm Showa fork with dedicated settings for trail-to-trail riding
- Shock based on that of the CRF450R but with dedicated settings and link ratio for off-road riding
- Front brake uses design from CRF450R, but with additional fade resistance thanks to thicker discs and large-capacity reservoir
- Endless sealed chain withstands the elements
- Front and rear sprockets, produced in durable steel material, feature damper system for smooth, quiet running
- Urethane injection in swingarm to reduce road noise
- Fuel tank cap with a cut-off valve prevents fuel from flowing out of tank if the bike is on its side
- LED turn signals with flexible mounts for durability
- Easily accessible electronic component box on left side of the frame
- Black 7/8″ Renthal handlebar with red pad
- Compact, lightweight handlebar switches
- In-mold graphics are resistant to peeling caused by washing or abrasion
- IRC GP-21F/GP-22R tires provide great balance of on- and off-road performance
Having received a ground-up redesign in 2016, the CRF450R’s chassis was a perfect place for the CRF450L and now CRF450RL to start out from, with changes to match the machine’s vastly broader usage range, and road legal mission.
Firstly, the tapered dual-spar aluminum beam frame was made slightly wider at the swingarm pivot points, to allow for the greater engine width resulting from the 6-speed gearbox. The headstock was modified to mount a steering lock and the aluminum swingarm injected with urethane to reduce noise. The rear subframe is the same, with mounting point adjusted to take the taillight and the right-exit single exhaust muffler.
Rake and trail are set at 28.5°/122mm with wheelbase increased 18mm from the CRF450R to 58.9 inches (1500mm), for greater stability. Both the R and the RL feature 22mm fork offset. The CRF450RL curb weight comes in at 291 lbs; seat height is 37.2 inches.
A 49mm Showa steel-sprung USD fork – adjustable for preload plus compression damping – is matched by a fully adjustable Showa rear shock, operated through Pro-Link. A 260mm wave-pattern disc delivers effective heat dissipation, power and feel from the two-piston brake caliper working it; a matching 240mm wave-pattern disc and single-piston caliper is at the rear.
The CRF450L’s style draws fully on that of the CRF450R. Carried over are the rear mudguard, side panels and bash plate. Svelte side shrouds hide a larger radiator volume plus electric fan. All lighting (including the indicators and license-plate light) is LED; a speedometer, horn, brake-light switch and mirrors satisfy legal requirements while a sidestand adds convenience. The CRF450R employs a 1.66 gal (6.3L) titanium fuel tank; the CRF450RL ups the volume .34 gal (1.3L) to 2.0 gallons (7.6L). The fuel cap also locks in place.
4. | CRF450RL Photo Gallery / Pictures
5. | Technical Specifications
|Type||449.7cc liquid-cooled 10º single-cylinder four-stroke|
|Valve Train||Unicam® OHC, four-valve|
|Bore x Stroke||96.0mm x 62.1mm|
|Induction||Programmed fuel-injection system (PGM-FI); 46mm throttle bore|
|Starter||Push-button electric starter|
|Transmission||6-speed wide ratio; manual|
|Clutch||Multiplate wet (6 springs)|
|Final Drive||#520 sealed chain; 13T/51T|
|Front||49mm fully adjustable leading-axle inverted telescopic Showa coil-spring fork w/ 12.0 in. travel|
|Rear||Pro-Link system; fully adjustable Showa single shock w/ 11.8 in. wheel travel|
|Front||2-piston caliper hydraulic; single 260mm disc|
|Rear||1-piston caliper hydraulic; single 240mm disc|
|Front||IRC GP21 80/100-21 w/ tube|
|Rear||IRC GP22 120/80-18 w/ tube|
|Rake (Caster Angle)||28°30’|
|Trail||122mm (4.8 in.)|
|Ground Clearance||12.6 in.|
|Seat Height||37.2 in.|
|Fuel Capacity||2.0 gal.|
|Curb Weight*||291 lbs.|
* Includes all standard equipment, required fluids and full tank of fuel—ready to ride Specifications subject to change.