UPDATE: Another design filing for the new CRF450R has been published, this time by New Zealand’s IP office, offering higher-resolution images.

Last week, Honda announced its returning 2021 off-road lineup, but it was missing one significant model: the CRF450R motocrosser. There’s a logical reason for that, of course: it’s getting a big update. And that’s not conjecture; we know a new CRF450R is coming because Honda is already racing it in the MXGP championship. Or least, it was, before the series shut down due to the novel coronavirus.

But for the two rounds before pretty much everything in the world shut down, reigning MXGP champ Tim Gasjer and teammate Mitch Evans raced a new CRF450RW that Honda said was “created from the ground up to cope with the multitude of conditions that an MXGP rider has to negotiate.” Honda released images of the bike confirming a new design. Here’s the new CRF450RW:

Tim Gasjer's Honda CRF450RW

And here’s the 2020 CRF450R for comparison:

Of course, while the CRF450RW is usually based on the production model, the factory team will make some modifications to squeeze out every bit of performance possible within the regulations. That means that some of the changes on the factory machine won’t be available on the commercial model.

Thanks to design filings published by Laos’ intellectual property office, we get a look at the new 2021 Honda CRF450R. The design was filed in Laos on April 22, but it cites an earlier priority filing in Japan dated Oct. 24, 2019. The Japanese IP office hasn’t made that filing pubic yet, so we’re stuck with the Laos office’s grainy and low resolution images. Squint if you must, but the images are enough to confirm some of the changes for Honda’s new 450-class motocross racer. (Update: The New Zealand Intellectual Property Office has now published the design as well, with higher resolution images.)

Here’s a view of the design’s right side juxtaposed with the 2020 CRF450R, using the engine as the common focal point:

And here’s a similar comparison of the left side:

We believe the designs are for the production model and not the factory racer because of some notably stock components. The exhaust has the appearance of a stock muffler instead of the rounder carbon-tipped Yoshimura can on the CRF450RW. The crankshaft hole cap is clearly visible on the clutch cover, as it is on the 2020 model, whereas the hole is covered by the Hinson-branded cover on the factory racer. Other giveaways include simpler controls on the handlebars, the front brake rotor guard (identical to the 2020 model) and the breather hose going into the fuel cap instead of slightly in front of the cap as on the factory bike.

2021 Honda CRF450R design

Along with the new bodywork, the design filing confirms the 2021 model will use a single exhaust instead of the dual exhaust system Honda currently uses. As we can see above, the single canister is much larger than the previous silencers, but because there’s only one of them, we can expect a net loss in weight.

The engine looks fairly similar to the 2020 model, but head pipe exits directly from the front instead of off at an angle like on the current CRF450R. The new header pipe routing required a shorter downtube on the frame, and a higher split into the lower cradle. The radiators are likewise updated to accommodate the new packaging.

2021 Honda CRF450R designs

The factory racer has used a hydraulic clutch for a while now, while the production model has had to made do with a cable-operated clutch. The design filings shows a hydraulic clutch, suggesting the production model will lose the cable. The cylinder head has a similar shape but looks smaller than on the 2020 model’s engine, with the spark plug entering at a different angle. Honda confirms the CRF450RW will still be a four-valve Unicam design displacing 449cc with a 96.0 mm bore and 62.1 mm stroke, but we expect some internal engine changes. The new CRF450R has a small black box on the left side, right behind the cylinder, but it’s unclear what is contained inside. On the factory race bike, it’s branded with the CRF logo.

From the juxtaposed images above, the 2021 model has a new frame that appears thinner and straighter than the 2020 frame. The subframe looks to be new as well, as mounting points on the left and right sides are asymmetric, attaching to the frame at different locations. The right side attaches farther up the frame, likely to make room for the single exhaust, while on the left it mounts right where the frame curves. The seat is thinner, leading to a much sharper looking tail.

Now that the returning off-road models have been announced, it’s just a matter of time before Honda formally reveals the 2021 CRF450R.

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