​Finally, the 2017 Honda CRF450R has been spotted in the wild, and in production trim! While running about today, we spotted a Honda test van and production crew at one of the tracks here in Southern California, which isn't usually open for practice. We awaited behind the fences to see three bikes pull onto the track and to our surprise, one of them was the long-awaited 2017 model 450! We had about three laps to snag a few shots before the bike was stashed away, so here's our best glimpse at Big Red's newest big-bore four-stroke motocross bike. For all you die-hard red riders, you can thank us after you've finished drooling...

While the bike was mostly kept out of sight, we were able to snag one view of it on the stand just as we pulled away, but from quite the distance. So no up close, walk-around shots today, but we definitely found just the right angles on the track to answer a few questions.

The crew on hand brought the bike out for just a few minutes at a time, for a few laps against an all-black and all-white 2016 CRF450Rs. They appeared to be shooting either a commercial or some sort of release media videos/photos. Because of this, we can confidently say this is the 2017 Honda CRF450R we've been waiting for, the one you can buy.

While we've seen Akira Narita's race bike for well over a year now, and the Photoshopped version that went viral a few weeks ago, but this is our first look at the finalized plastic and design that will make it to the showroom floor. It seems to carry the same basic design as Narita's bike, just cleaned up at all the plastic junctions, along with featuring graphics and colors that looks for-sale ready.

The biggest question on everyone's minds is ready to be answered, what forks does the '17 CRF450R feature? After months of rumors...

It does have a version of Showa's twin chamber spring forks. Our cropped in photo shows the fork caps that are found on the current Showa's SFF TAC valving-side fork from the CRF250R. By valving-side, we mean the fork that holds the valving stack and does the damping work in that fork, not the air side. This cap isn't designed to have an air fitting, meaning many rider's wishes will come true, as both forks have this cap... So to put it simply, these forks will feature springs and valving in both sides. (Shooting from a tree, through a fence, and across a track can make exact focus a bit difficult; so we apologize for the quality)

Towards the rear of the bike, the shock adjuster has been moved the left side of the bike and is mounted quite low. Why? Because, Honda has managed to run the air intake and throttle body ABOVE the shock mount. Giving them a downdraft style intake, without reversing the cylinder as found on the Yamaha YZ450F. This equals one thing, more power! As the air and fuel now have a straighter shot into the intake ports, then into the combustion chamber of the engine.

This tighter shot shows the shock adjuster, with the shock mount right above it. Then just a bit higher than the mount, you'll spy an electrical connector, which is tying into the air temperature sensor in the new, high-mounted airbox.

This view of the engine will show another look at the intake. See the yellow dial? That's the choke, showing how high the new throttle body is stashed on this CRF450R. Below the throttle body is the frame backbone, which supports the shock mount. Normally, this section is above the air intake, but has been moved to support this large change and mount the shock lower and at a different angle. Behind the cylinder head, you'll see a pipe leading out the back of the bike. This is the new exhaust mid-pipe, which now separates before the shock, instead of after like the previous dual-exhaust CRF models. This is only possible because the throttle body is mounted so high on the bike.

Speaking of the engine, early rumors about a dual-cam engine like the HRC rally bike are false, as the CRF450 will continue to feature a Unicam engine, albeit an all-new one. Although, the rumors suggest that this engine will see around a 10% jump in power. If true, this would equate to about five horsepower based on average dyno runs of a '16 model. We also noticed a cable-mounted clutch, which we admit wasn't too much of a surprise. As a hydraulic clutch was one of the least likely items we thought would make production.

We also noticed a lack of an electric starter motor or button from the angles we shot, but we're still holding out hope that the rumor of an optional electric starter kit come true. The Honda's new airbox design leaves extra space in the rear subframe of the bike, which would be a perfect place to stash a battery and necessary wiring.

Another tight crop revealed that the black area around the gas cap appears to be just a cover, as there's an opening that shows what looks to be an aluminum fuel tank. This opening could also be an air channel, which would help feed the new and unusually-mounted airbox in the center of the bike.

Our trigger finger has never itched so badly...

From the right side of the bike, we also noticed what appeared to be higher-mounted clutch inside the cases of this new engine. Presumably, this is to make room to move the transmission farther forward, and to shrink the overall size of the engine.

A little comparison of new vs old, as the 2017 Honda CRF450R chases down the 2016 model. From what we know, we should have the full run-down and official info on the bike within the next two weeks. But hopefully until then, this answer a few of your questions if you've been looking for info on this long-awaited 450 from Honda.

Photos and words by Michael Lindsay

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