Shane McElrath’s MotoConcepts Honda CRF450
Shane McElrath is one of a few that has graduated to the 450 class in 2021. It hasn’t been the easiest transition as injury has held back the 450 rookie from getting to the races at the season beginning. Shane returned to racing in Orlando and gave fans a glimpse at his potential in the class. In the heat race he was going toe to toe with defending Supercross Champion Eli Tomac for the win. That has got to be a good feeling after being sidelined and changing bikes. Tony Alessi sat down with Dirt Bike Magazine to go over the ins and outs on Shane’s Honda CRF450. Let’s dive in!
Yes you can see the 1.8 radiator cap that is used in replacement of the 1.1 that comes stock on the Honda but let’s first take a look at the graphics. These are made by MotoGraphics. You can order these replica graphics straight from the website for your bike!
Renthal 996 handlebars are added to Shane’s bike. A pretty common bend in the Supercross pits. Shane is sitting pretty parallel to the forks in position. Nothing too forward or too rolled back.
Renthal SOFT half waffe grips are the choice for Shane McElrath
A Works Connection throttle tube is added to Shane’s bike for durability purposes. These can take a beating over the stock version. Throttle cables themselves are standard OEM Honda parts.
ARC supplies the levers on Shane’s CRF450R. These are custom made for his motorcycle. Just a different set up for both the clutch and front brake.
Alright, here is where we get to a really unique part of the bike. This master cylinder is not off a current model or 2020 era Honda CRF450R. This is off an older generation 450 from Honda .The reason for this is that it holds more fluid than the current one. The riders really like the feel of this front brake and a thinner ARC lever is also used on this set up. The front brake line is oem from Honda.
A split triple clamp is used on Shane’s bike. You will find a similar design on the the Factory Edition and Rockstar edition KTM/Husqvarna models. This triple clamp has different contact points and allows the front forks to flex more. This can help with rider comfort in the front end and also give a more planted feel that a rider is requesting. We didn’t get any offset numbers from Tony but we can assume they have plenty of options to choose from. OEM bolts are used in the triple clamps. Tony told us that using titanium on the triple clamps makes the bike feel too rigid.
At the level Shane is at in racing he prefers to use the DID Dirt Star STX rim. This is a firmer and stronger rim over stock. Supercross race bikes take an absolute beating in the whoops and on other obstacles.
On the front wheel only the team is running a KITE hub. Look further down in the story to see what they are using in the rear. MCR is also using standard spokes and nipples. This is an area you would typically find a beefier spoke/nipple set up. You can see on the lower part of the fork guards there are some added straps. This is so the fork guards aren’t blown out when the holeshot device is engaged. Shane isn’t deep enough to really have this issue but other riders on the team definitely need this for insurance.
The front rotor guard is a carbon component that protects the entire front brake system including the caliper, hangar, and fork lugs. It can also act as a ski in the ruts because there aren’t any parts to hang up in deep ruts. Professional race car driver Danica Patrick comes into the story here. Her dad actually is the mastermind behind these carbon guards for Motoconcepts.
A Works Nissin Caliper is used on Shane’s MCR ride. When these were delivered to Tony the guy told him “here’s a Lamborghini, don’t lose it”. Because these brakes are so powerful the team sticks with the standard sized 260mm front rotor from Motostuff.
Works SHOWA front forks are the choice for Shane McElrath. This quality of suspension comes with a technician. Shane has a dedicate SHOWA technician to look after the forks so they are in top shape each race weekend.
Single button holeshot device is made by Works Connection. Shane isn’t as deep as some of his teammates. He is around the 185mm mark. Some of the other riders on MCR are in the plus 200mm range. Tony told us that he prefers the 185 setting better because going too deep on the front forks can cause wheel spin in the rear. You’ll find that the bike is littered with Works Connection pieces.
The radiators are a stock Honda part with extra bracing down by ICW. Riders squeeze extremely hard on the motorcycle and the side of the bike has a huge risk of being hit during racing. With those factors in mind, the team has the radiators braced to withstand a 20 min plus 2 lap race every weekend. Teams don’t wait until there is a problem, they prepare for a problem long before its ever an issue. Radiator hoses are stock Honda parts.
The team has an array of seat foam and dimensions to choose from. Shane is very standard in this department. He prefers to run the standard seat foam and not change the dimensions. Guts provides the seat show above featuring pleats to keep the rider in place. The typical swap out for seats is every 6 races. The subframe is also standard and no modifications have been done to it. He isn’t a small rider so cutting it or modifying it wasn’t necessary.
Custom Works Chassis Lab engine hangars are used on Shane’s bike. The engine hangars both front and rear can change the flex characteristics of the motorcycle. These hangars are available to the public, maybe just not these exact ones.
Akrapovic exhaust is used on the MCR 450. This is an off the shelf exhaust system the team uses. It is extremely high quality, passes sound, and has great durability. Tony told us that the mufflers will go an entire season which is very unusual at this level. “You get what you pay for”, Tony said.
The engines are done at XPR in Temecula, California by Chad Braun. Everything from the head porting, to crank modifications, and to the valves is done at XPR. Alessi told Dirt Bike Magazine that this engine is on par with any factory bike in the pits. He said that anyone that has ridden the bike would tell you that. You can see that both sides of the engine cases are coated. This is to help keep the engine cool and increase durability. This allows the engine to not get so hammered looking after multiple rounds of racing.
A Vortex ignition is used on the MCR Honda CRF450. The ignition is mapped by Chad Braun at XPR. Tony went on to say that if you are looking to map your Honda CRF450R there is only one person to go to. Alessi went on to say that Chad Braun and his team at XPR have spent countless hours on the Honda to dial it in. The team does not do any of their testing in the high desert where MotoConcepts is based. It doesn’t make any sense to test at the higher altitude when 99% of the rounds are raced at low elevation. A lot of the testing goes on at the Honda test track in Corona, California. The mapping is tailored to the engine package and exhaust system on Shane’s bike. Broc Tickle is running a softer engine package than Shane. He also is using a heavier fly wheel.
You can see the Ride Engineering clutch cable bracket. Machined from billet aluminum this bracket removes all flex providing a better feel at the clutch lever. They also have a custom lever there right past the Ride component. You can also see the oem shifter pedal. This is plugged up so it doesn’t pack in with mud while riding.
You can see the team uses safety wire to latch the spark plug cap into place and avoid it spinning off during racing. The team is running a custom piston that is only used by MotoConcepts. No one else can use it or buy it. This is a one off piston just for Tony’s guys.
A standard oem fuel tank is used on Shane’s 450. VP Pro6 fuel is used for races that are 80 degrees and less on race day. If race day is higher than 80 degrees the team will opt out to a VP Pro6 HT (high temp) fuel.
When dealing with a Rekluse clutch there is minimal to no slippage. The team can use the option of springs to tune that even more. A red spring is a firm grip, a gold spring is a little less grip but better than stock, and the silver spring is more in the neighborhood of a stock feel. Guys that are typically hard on clutches need to go to the RED spring to control that a bit. Shane is on the gold spring. He feels that this set up gives him enough grip when skimming whoops but not too much that on the starts the bike is uncontrollable.
Rear of the Motorcycle
The entire rear brake system is OEM Honda. You can see that nothing is added here in this area of the bike. Even the brake lines are stock Honda parts that you could buy.
A works SHOWA shock is on Shane’s Honda CRF450R. This again has to be tuned and maintained by a specific technician by SHOWA. You can see that the spring is a candy apple red with some coating on the shaft. We didn’t get into the material on the spring itself but a lot of the larger teams run titanium springs in this department.
Ride Engineering provides the clevace for the rear brake master cylinder. The rest of the brake system is completely stock on Shane’s bike. You can see that they aren’t doing a brake stop or factory master cylinder with the removed glass outlet on it.
Tony was hush hush about the linkage on Shane’s bike and we respect that. He did tell us that the linkage is a proprietary component for MotoConcepts and that he would rather leave the conversation with a “no comment”. Teams across the pits are changing material, lengths of the pull rod, and more to improve rider comfort as well as rear wheel traction in conjunction with the shock.
The rear hub is a works HRC part. Yes the front is a KITE hub and the rear is Works Honda. Tony explained that the front isn’t as fragile of an area as the rear is. The rear takes an enormous amount of abuse with casing jumps, the drive-train, and whoops. They want to insure that the rear wheels is in working order at all times during racing. The Works HRC hub helps with the durability that is needed.
DID STX rims are used on the rear with works spokes to go along with the HRC hub. The only difference between the standard spoke and a works version is that there are more threads and they are finer. Standard spoke version will have less threads.
Here is the choice of tires for the #12. A Dunlop “SPEC” 783 is on the rear. It is a 110 in size which is becoming more and more popular amongst the athletes. Yes it does have a little smaller contact patch but it helps get the bike through the rutted corners much easier. On the front is a Dunlop “Spec” 768F tire. SPEC is another word for factory part. Dunlop uses racing as a way to test new products for the consumer. These tires or a version of these tires are likely to hit the consumer level at some point.
Shane is running a tooth larger on the front sprocket. Tony told Dirt Bike Magazine that this was for two reasons. First is that is balances out the motorcycle better and second because it ensures that the chain is going to stay on during racing.
The gearing combination for Shane McElrath’s CRF450R is a 14/52. An ERV7 works chain which has a pressed on master link.
You can see the custom rear sprocket bolts used on the bike from this photo. This is a works part. Shane likes to run his rear wheel in the middle of the road.
Pro Filter is the supplier for MCR. The team has 3 different filters to choose from. A filter that is an every day filter which can be used then thrown away. They also have a heavier duty filter for motocross and a thinner version for Supercross.
THE BIG QUESTION!
“WHY ARE YOU RUNNING A 2020 HONDA INSTEAD OF A 2021?”
The 2020 model is in its 4th year of production. Honda went ahead and made the decision to sell it again in 2021 even though the all new version was released. There was a limited amount of 2021 models and parts available so they brought back the 2020 as well to offset this problem. The reason 3 out of 4 riders on MCR are using a 2020 model is simply a case of supply and demand. There isn’t a lot of material out there to use for the team.
Is the 2021 a better bike? The answer Tony gave us was YES! But, its not better if you can’t get a radiator or a seat for it. In that situation it isn’t better. “How do you tell a high level rider we can’t race this weekend because we don’t have replacement parts”, Tony said.
MotoConcepts has worked on this 2020 platform for 4 years and feels they have an extremely competitive machine to race. They have the parts they need and it is a proven bike. This same motorcycle won Daytona Supercross with Justin Brayton at the controls.
MotoConcepts has all the access they would ever want to Factory HRC parts. It comes down to how much do they want to spend? Tony tries to utilize the parts that make the biggest difference on the motorcycle. That includes parts that have higher durability and give the team added insurance on race day. Tony said just because something looks cool doesn’t mean he needs to buy it.