Honda’s new CRF450L is good but is it good enough?

Honda’s new, nearly-£10k CRF450L is great on trails and good on the road


Fol­low­ing on from the suc­cess of the CRF250L and the CRF250 Rally, Honda have re­leased the long-an­tic­i­pated CRF450L. Based on their flag­ship mo­tocross bike, the CRF450R, the 450L has off-road pedi­gree, but that is not where its true call­ing lies. De­signed as a trail bike rather than a full-on com­pe­ti­tion bike, it’s in­tended to be an off-roader for ev­ery oc­ca­sion.

More sta­bil­ity

Although based on the MX model there are fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ences. Start­ing with the chas­sis, it has a longer swingarm, a more re­laxed steer­ing head an­gle and an 18mm longer wheel­base, which give in­creased sta­bil­ity.

All torque

Honda claim just 24.7bhp, which is prac­ti­cally the same as the 250L and around 20bhp less than you would ex­pect from a mod­ern 450cc sin­gle. But to in­crease ser­vice in­ter­vals and meet Euro4 reg­u­la­tions, 24bhp is all you have. But be­fore you lose in­ter­est and dis­miss it as a non-starter, peak torque is a re­spectable 23.6ftlb (7ftlb higher than the 250L) and the key to its real-world per­for­mance.

The com­pres­sion ra­tio is down to 12:1 from 13.5:1 of the MX model and there is a heav­ier crank with 13% more in­er­tia, which, along with re­vised fuel in­jec­tion and valve tim­ing, makes for smoother, less in­tim­i­dat­ing power de­liv­ery.

Wider ser­vice in­ter­vals

Ser­vice in­ter­vals are at just un­der 20,000 miles for a full en­gine strip and 600 miles for an oil, oil fil­ter and air fil­ter change, which is good com­pared to a com­pe­ti­tion MX bike where these things are mea­sured in hours rather than miles.

On the trail

De­spite its lack of out­right power, the torque makes for an en­gag­ing and en­ter­tain­ing ride. It’ll bur­ble along in first, sec­ond or third gear but is also happy to be revved. That elon­gated wheel­base means it feels planted and sta­ble whether blast­ing along fast tracks or over bumps, but lit­tle has been lost in terms of agility. Nav­i­gat­ing steep down­hill tracks or weav­ing through trees is an easy and pre­dictable ex­pe­ri­ence.

If you try to ride it like an en­duro bike rather than a trail bike, the CRF is sur­pris­ingly ca­pa­ble. Yes, you can feel the ex­tra weight which makes hus­tling it slightly more phys­i­cal but it can be rid­den at a brisk pace, with the lack of power ac­tu­ally con­tribut­ing to the easy-go­ing and use­able char­ac­ter of the bike.

It’s also in­cred­i­bly quiet, which is a bonus for green lan­ing. An­other plus is the six speed gear­box, with sixth act­ing like an over­drive for road work, and giv­ing the po­ten­tial to sit com­fort­ably at 70mph.

The only neg­a­tive in terms of per­for­mance is that de­spite the heav­ier crank and re­vised fu­elling it is still lumpy off the bot­tom, mak­ing it easy to stall un­til you get used to it.

MCN’s Michael Guy gets to grips with the lat­est CRF

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