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.
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.
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