Taking a closer look at the latest models announced for the new year.
Words: Simon Makker
This time of year is always exciting at MotoOnline, as new bikes break loose from the covers on a regular basis. 2021 sees a number of key models receive some major overhauls, while others will receive little more than ‘bold new graphics’. To help make sense of all the information that’s out there, we answer some of the main questions about what to expect from next year’s models.
Q: Why is there so much excitement around the 2021 Honda CRF450R?
A: There’s no doubt that one of the most anticipated 2021 offerings is Honda’s CRF450R, which has been rebuilt from the ground up, including an all-red colour scheme that hasn’t been seen in decades. So what’s new? Well, practically everything. The 2021 is 1.36kg lighter and its completely reworked engine places more emphasis on bottom-to-mid-range power than its predecessor and offers improved torque. You’ll also notice Honda’s moved away from the dual muffler system in a weight-saving pursuit. Sweeping changes have been made to the CRF450R’s clutch – including the addition of a hydraulic lever – and to the frame to increase its handling and rigidity. On top of that, Honda’s also planning to release – at least overseas – a Works Edition that’ll feature a Twin Air air filter, Hinson clutch basket, Yoshimura titanium exhaust, coated fork legs, upgraded D.I.D. rims and a gold RK chain. The standard 450 is due to arrive on Australian shores this month.
Q: Which 250 has received the most attention?
A: Both the 2021 Yamaha YZ250F and 2021 Kawasaki KX250 have been given updates for the new season. The green machine, particularly, has received some serious treatment. For the first time, the KX250 comes with the electric start, a hydraulic clutch and a slimmer, more ergonomically-friendly frame design. Inside the newly designed combustion chamber you’ll find some new porting work, exhaust cam timing, stiffer valve springs, flatter piston crown, longer connecting rod, a lighter crankshaft and a revised pressure balance within the crankcase. The end result is claimed horsepower improvement at both the bottom- and top-end. The 250 now sports the same swingarm and linkage ratios as its big brother and both ends have benefitted from some suspension fine-tuning. As for the YZ250F, Yamaha’s putting the competition on notice by giving their model’s already powerful engine even more power, tweaked the frame, suspension settings and brakes (more below!).
Q: What’s special about the Monster Edition YZs?
A: Truth be told, the only thing that separates your standard YZ250F and YZ250F from the Monster Edition is the eye-catching graphics. However, as we aluded to above, Yamaha’s sunk some serious hours into upgrading the 250F for 2021 (the 450F has only received a few tweaks and minor upgrades). In the pursuit of stronger mid-to-top-end power, the development team has improved the intake port shape and camshaft profiles and installed a new air-box, intake track, silencer and updated the transmission, clutch design and ECU. The frame has also been improved, with the engine mounts redesigned to flex and improve bump absorption, traction and cornering. So basically, if you want to look like you’ve pinched Dylan Ferrandis’ bike from the back of the semi, then this edition is for you. If you’re not a fan of the factory graphics, the standard bikes will give you exactly the same performance on the track.
Q: Do all the motocross bikes come with an electric start now?
A: Almost! Suzuki is still sticking with the traditional kick-starter for now, but with Kawasaki now joining KTM, Honda, Husqvarna and Yamaha (plus GasGas) in the electric start camp, you’d have to think it’s just a matter of time before the RM-Z450 and RM-Z250 are given the magical button.
Q: Which enduro models have received the most upgrades?
A: Until now we’ve only really seen general refinements announced in the off-road models released so far, although Yamaha’s WR450F has been given a large upgrade. It boasts a new cylinder-head with redesigned combustion chamber shape, steeper valve angles, a refined transition and a more efficient crankcase breather system. A revamped frame is designed to improve cornering, traction and bump reaction, while the KYB fork and shock performance has been revised with new compression and rebound settings. Another significant change from last year is seeing GasGas now officially being owned by the KTM Group. The Spanish-born brand has announced a huge line-up of enduro, motocross, cross-country (effectively MX/enduro hybrids) and junior bikes with a total of 15 models. For KTM, the most notable upgrades to the fleet come in the form of changes to suspension components and engine reinforcements.
Q: What about the KTM and Husqvarna ranges?
A: Broadly speaking, 2021 is looking like a consolidation year for the KTM Group. All of the KTM and Husqvarna ranges will sport overhauled WP XACT forks and shocks, but only the KTM 450SX-F has received any significant upgrades aside from that. For 2021 you’ll find a modified piston, crankshaft, engine casing, rocker arms and shift locker, which have all been changed to improve reliability and save some grams.