FLASHBACK: DIRT TESTED - 2019/2020 HONDA CRF450X
The model information came out for the 2020 Honda Off-Road line up and the CRF450X was unchanged for 2020. So as such, here is a throwback of the test on the 2019 model which is no different to the new one. Enjoy.
Since 2006 - the Honda CRF-X range has been the go-to for many red riders and racers. During the past decade, no other machine that we can think of has stood the test of time, while remaining literally untouched in any developmental department. You could take this two ways. However, Honda have finally updated their 450X with this all-new version. Let’s take a look at the 2019 Honda CRF450X.
It’s time. To be fair...it’s been time for a long long while now. Having graced our shores since 2006, the Honda CRF450X has not changed one single iota. That’s 12 years of the same bike coming out of the factory with no updates and no development. So, yeah... it’s time.
2019 is the year for the Honda 450. With the release of the 450L, the 450RX two years ago, and now the 450X, Honda have re-entered the Off-Road and Enduro market in the big bore capacity. It’s really good to see. The writing was on the wall with the release of the 450RX, and with the 250RX now on dealer floors, look for an all-new CRF250X very soon we reckon.
But enough of all that - we are here for the Honda CRF450X - a bike that took the world by storm in 2006 and was surprisingly relevant even today, showing how good the bike actually was. It was never a bike that was great at any one thing on the track through. More of a solid reliable steed that you could count on to do everything you needed. It was a trail bike that was good enough to win championships in America in Baja racing and Cross Country events. But for 2019 - EVERYTHING is different.
Based off the CRF450R that Honda have had great success with, the engine, gearbox, frame, body work, ergos, etc are all new, which as we mentioned before, was about bloody time. The complete redesign brings the 450X back inline with just about every other manufacturer who produce 450cc Enduro bikes. Everyone else is already injecting fuel and have been doing so for a long time now, with Yamaha and KTM being the Honda’s main track rivals.
With the Uni-Cam engine now injected to keep up with the times, Honda went to work on everything else in an attempt to bring the ‘X’ back to the minds of potential buyers who are looking for all the tech they can get in their bike, while still maintaining its core Honda feel. It has a lower compression compared to the 450R and a heavier crank mass which helps low down torque.
The chassis is straight from the MX version, but with some different engine mounting positions and a different sub-frame to accommodate the single sided muffler. The 6-speed wide-ratio gear box gives more gear selection options, and it has all the usual Enduro specs like 18-inch rear wheel, larger tank, different top clamps, larger radiators (but with no fan), and a lithium-ion battery for the starter. Great on paper - but what about the track?
CLICK HERE to check out the specs for the Honda CRF450X.
Jumping on the bike it is still Honda feeling. For the ‘X’ the option to keep the ⅞ bars is not what we would prefer but the bend seemed right on for the ergos. No forward mounting hole for larger riders like the ‘R’ though. The seat felt firm while the larger tank sat high compared to other brands. This didn’t affect its ability out on the trail though as you hardly noticed the extra bulk up top - just a visual thing.
Generally speaking, the ‘X’ models are sprung for real trail riding, and this was no exception. The soft and plush feeling through the forks was nice when riding at a nice steady pace. It would collect all the harsh bumps and provide good grip on entry and exit of corners. Get a little pace on though and the forks start to show their limits. The springs and valving are a little too plush, as when hitting G-outs, all the travel would be used and you could feel it bottom out, before it pushed back on you and gave the feeling of being a little dead. The rear shock was much the same. When riding at a trail pace, it was super-comfortable and didn’t do anything silly. But start to get aggressive on the track and the rear would also bottom out and then kick a little on rebound which would be a little unsettling at high speeds.
With the soft settings, the forks would often dive a little too far when braking into a corner, and make it feel like it wants to knife a little, especially in soft terrain like sand. Where the 450X would excel is in the tricky stuff and rocky terrain where speed wasn’t your main priority. The front would keep straight and not deflect off things and the rear would track nicely. It was also pretty stable at speed so long as you were not hitting big holes and G-outs and it really responded well to riding the bike on the pegs.
Remember I am over 100kg with all my gear and 6’2 so the bike is not sprung for my weight. I would love to try out the 450X again with the correct spring weight for me.
If we were to be straight up, like we claim to be, the new engine in the 450X is a bit underwhelming. We expected more power and more torque from this updated model. Especially as we know where this engine comes from - the CRF450R is pretty powerful, as is the 450RX. The engine feels really restricted, and with that huge can on the end it is easy to see why. Also, after a little research on the World Wide Web, it seems the 450X is marketed to the American’s as Green Sticker-ed, meaning it will be choked up to buggery to get that sticker slapped on.
Having said that - the power is so linear that it will often deceive you when it comes to actual speed. There is no hit from the power band, and it build its revs very steadily from idle to a short-ish top end. It is very easy to ride as you have a sense of confidence from the throttle, that it’s not going to bite you and spit you off.
Coming up to the mid range of the engine, you start to get a feel for where those 450ccs have been hiding. The bottom end will still tractor along but it just seems under-powered down low. The mid range sees that power ignite and with it, more response from the throttle and the ability to start to use that power to pop over things with the front wheel. The power is thrown to the ground and you get great traction out of the MX52 intermediate tyres. You can get a little more from revving it out further but the bike likes to be ridden a gear higher in the mid section of power.
One aspect that is usually overlooked is the speedo. For an enduro rider, the dash is where you get all your information from, like speed, distance and time, which you calculate in your head on the fly and adjust your riding as such. Gone is the old analog KM reader and in comes a new digital speedo that also brings the ‘X’ into this century. It also give a low fuel light, handy when there is no reserve tap due to fuel injection.
It doesn’t come stock with handguards like a KTM, but it does come with a skid plate, front and rear disc guards and engine case guards too, which no doubt save your cases from scratches and rock damage, as well as help muffle engine noise. The front sprocket guard is also pretty solid. Perhaps a little OTT. That will definitely pack with mud during winter.
A couple of drawbacks on the new ‘X’ - the clutch. Not the action or feel, which seems pretty spot on and slides on the fingers well - it’s the microswitch that signals to the engine that the clutch is in and the bike can be started. You have to pull the clutch all the way to the bar to start the bike which is annoying. If we had the 450X for long term use we would connect those wires to eliminate the issue. Honda also removed the quick access air filter door, so you have to take the seat off with tools to get at that.
The WR450F is new for 2019 - tweaks to the engine, chassis and a whole host of other things sees this version the best one Yamaha have made according to media from around the world. This would rank above the Honda in stock trim and very close to the KTM
KTM 405 EXC-F
Probably the top dog in the 450cc Enduro Class, the KTM 450 EXC-F is world renowned for winning championships and being the best. The new WR would give his thing a run for its money and probably has the better suspension package, but the KTM is the bike to beat in the class and trumps the Honda in stock trim.
The Suzuki is a great all-round package and for the price you can get it from the dealer, it should be just about first on your list. It lacks power over the other bikes but handles well and does everything it needs to. The amount of accessories you could put on this bike with how much you save in RRP is phenomenal!
The KXL is Kawasaki’s attempt to be relevant in the 450cc enduro class. Its a bit heavy, a bit cumbersome, and feels more like a trail bike on steroids over an Enduro bike. However, it does have a good power delivery and is also pretty cheap when compared to Honda, KTM and Yamaha. A big girl with a big heart.
The ‘X’ is a great trail bike - no two ways about it. It’s definitely better than its predecessor in every way - apart from maybe the engine in my opinion. The old ‘X’ has possibly the most linear and silky-smooth delivery of any bike out there (when jetted right), while having plenty of snap when you needed or wanted it. But as we stated earlier, the American Green Sticker that Honda wanted, to allow this bike onto roads in the U.S. is probably what is holding this bike back. That muffler is huge and we would be very interested in seeing how the new CRF450X performs after its been opened up a bit.
We know from where this model started (the CRF450R), that the potential for greatness is there in spades - we just need to dig it out.
Any questions or comments please feel free to contact me and I’ll do my best to help you out - firstname.lastname@example.org.