The 2017 MFJ All Japan National Motocross Championship Series kicks off this weekend at Kyushu MX Park in Kumamoto, Japan, and you know what that means: time to take a peek at what could very well be the production machines of next year and beyond. This year’s 2018 Japan Spy Photos are brought to you by BTOSports.com
Eleven-time All Japan National Champion Akira Narita pilots a very special factory Honda CRF450R. Last year, he competed aboard a prototype CRF450R that was a very accurate preview of the current 2017 machine. This year, we expected his race bike to be based on a current production model with some special parts, as the traditional lifespan of a new generation machine is three years or so. The number-one machine, however, is a dyed-in-the-wool works bike that is custom-built for Narita and his preferences. Are some of the features of his machine precursors of what we will see on dealership floors in 2018? Maybe.
Early photos of the machine that we posted on Instagram got our followers fired up about the obvious lack of a kickstarter, as well as new cases that eliminate all of the associated internal gears, but no one spotted the completely different chassis. Look closely at the lower parts of the main frame where the swingarm pivot mounts, and you’ll notice that the cast pieces are shaped differently than those found on a production machine. Not as easily detectable by the eye is the different swingarm which is a bit longer than stock. According to Narita, the standard ’17 CRF450R chassis is a bit rigid for his tastes, so the works frame and swingarm are built for a softer ride with more flex. Rounding out the chassis is a carbon fiber airbox and subframe combo, as well as carbon fiber side panels. The piece is a work of art, and in addition to cutting weight, it provides a different feel than an aluminum part. When it comes to aluminum versus carbon frames on bicycles, the composite always yields a more forgiving ride, so we’d imagine the same goes for the works part on the number-one machine.
We were surprised to see factory KYB PSF air forks on the front of Narita’s race bike, as he has been a mechanical spring holdout since the invention of air-sprung suspension. We didn’t get any indication that the same change would be made to the production 2018 machine; so don’t panic all you air haters. We did get the impression, though, that Narita would have held on to his trusty mechanical spring if he had been given the choice.
The rest of Narita’s race bike is equally as exotic. From the works engine and transmission to the Yoshimura exhaust that’s built specifically to produce the hard-hitting power that the champion prefers, every bit of the Toshi Chiba-built machine is drool-worthy. Stay tuned to the July issue of TransWorld Motocross for complete details about what we learned in Japan about the 2018 machines!