TOR­TURE TEST

RACE TEST­ING THE ALL-NEW HONDA CRF450RX AT THE ADE­LANTO GRAND PRIX

Cycle World - - Front Page - By Bren­dan Lutes

Race test­ing a nearly show­room stock Honda CRF450RX at the Ade­lanto Grand Prix, for the sake of putting Honda’s “race ready” claims into prac­tice.

It’s now two days later and I’m still sore. The in­fa­mous Ade­lanto Grand Prix sucked me in and spit me out. Never mind the fact that my bat­tered, 34-yearold body can’t han­dle the abuse of an hour-long grand prix like it used to, but I also haven’t held a dirt bike wide open across any stretch of land—smooth or rough—for quite some time.

In spite of all this, and my bet­ter judg­ment, when we took de­liv­ery of the highly an­tic­i­pated 2017 Honda CRF450RX, I thought to my­self, “What bet­ter way to test a ‘race ready’ bike than ac­tu­ally rac­ing it?” A few emails later, and sud­denly I was com­mit­ted to re­liv­ing a race that my 16-year-old self used to lose sleep pre­par­ing for.

Why sign my­self up for the pain? Sim­ple. Rac­ing has been a part of me for as long I can re­mem­ber; it’s what I lived for as a kid and what I al­ways put the ma­jor­ity of my ef­forts into. As I got older, pri­or­i­ties changed. I re­al­ized I couldn’t make a liv­ing twist­ing the throt­tle, and I de­cided to go the path of jour­nal­ism, which from time to time still al­lows me to scratch the prover­bial rac­ing itch. And let’s be hon­est—there re­ally is no bet­ter smell than fresh, wet desert in the morn­ing and few feel­ings like step­ping out of your com­fort zone on two wheels. This was my chance to get back to both.

Held in the boom­ing high-desert me­trop­o­lis of Ade­lanto, Cal­i­for­nia, the an­nual Dis­trict 37 Ade­lanto Grand Prix has a rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing bru­tally fast, rough, and un­for­giv­ing—a per­fect stage for putting the closed-course 450RX to the test. To get the bike and my­self ready, I got ac­quainted with it at the lo­cal mo­tocross track (which it han­dled ex­tremely, al­beit sur­pris­ingly, well), re­placed the stock 50-tooth rear sprocket with a 46-tooth, re­moved the kick­stand, and in­stalled my pre­ferred grips.

Ev­ery­thing else re­mained stock, which might sound crazy. Thing is, even in stock trim, the 450RX is about as close to com­pe­ti­tion-ready as it gets. The three ig­ni­tion maps, elec­tric start, 18-inch rear wheel, large tank, plush sus­pen­sion, and com­fort­able er­gonomics give the bike just about ev­ery­thing you’ll need for off-road rac­ing. Hold maybe the large co­jones.

“Speed has never killed any­one. Sud­denly be­com­ing sta­tion­ary… That’s what gets you.” —Jeremy Clark­son

THIS IS A RACE STORY

“Just twist the throt­tle and go straight.” That was the re­ply I got from the race of­fi­cial when I asked about the start­ing pro­ce­dure. Sit­ting on the start­ing line was a mix of emo­tions. I was ner­vous, ex­cited, and scared all at the same time. All that sat be­tween a good start and my­self was an as­phalt straight­away lead­ing into a sweep­ing, wide-openthrot­tle sand turn—su­per easy and not in the least bit in­tim­i­dat­ing, right?

When the start­ing light turned green, I dropped the clutch and tried to not wheelie. Thank­fully, my choice in tall gear­ing made a dif­fer­ence, and the CRF hit its stride in the top-end, pulling past most of the rid­ers on the grid. I hit the dirt in fourth.

That first lap was a mix of try­ing to re­mem­ber to breathe and get­ting ac­quainted with the RX at race speed. Un­til that point, I hadn’t pushed the bike to see how it han­dled off-road con­di­tions. Luck­ily, de­spite my not touch­ing the click­ers or spend­ing much time on the bike, the sus­pen­sion felt good and han­dled the rough, high-speed desert ter­rain ex­tremely well, re­main­ing bal­anced and plush.

There were, of course, times where the front end got loose, sug­gest­ing the bike could’ve used a lit­tle fine-tun­ing for th­ese spe­cific con­di­tions. As the race wore on and my arms got more tired, I was def­i­nitely wish­ing the RX came with a steer­ing sta­bi­lizer too.

In spite of all that, I was im­pressed with the han­dling of the bike. It felt nim­ble, sta­ble, and the Showa spring fork pro­vided smooth, pre­dictable ac­tion. Three laps in, I grad­u­ally tired and took my seat on the strug­gle bus.

Power-wise, the RX held its own against Dis­trict 37 reg­u­lars. Still, while the tall gear­ing I chose worked great in the desert, I found my­self wish­ing I had in­stalled a 48-tooth sprocket rather than a 46 for the tech­ni­cal En­duro­cross and mo­tocross sec­tions. Ev­ery time I en­tered the EX sta­dium, I took a deep breath, down­shifted to first, and hoped I didn’t stall the bike or lose much time on any of the tech­ni­cal ob­sta­cles that wound around the sta­dium floor (logs, trac­tor tires, dread­ful fire­wood pit, and the like).

Thank­fully, the RX’S pow­er­plant still had plenty of power to pull a 46-tooth sprocket through all the ob­sta­cles and over the two mud-hole jumps on the MX sec­tion. Sim­ply put, for an off-road bike, the RX doesn’t lack a healthy lowend hit or top-end pull.

THE RACE TO THE CHECK­ERED

I was barely hold­ing on as I com­pleted the fi­nal lap but was over­all im­pressed with the 450RX. For be­ing com­pletely stock, the power, sus­pen­sion, and over­all per­for­mance lived up to the hype, get­ting me through the race with­out any problems. One thing that stood out to me was that with only lim­ited time on the bike, I was com­pletely com­fort­able at race pace. In the end, I fin­ished sev­enth in the Heavy­weight Vet Ex­pert class and ninth over­all—a de­cent fin­ish that I was proud of and one that I be­lieve high­lights the im­pres­sive ca­pa­bil­i­ties of a bike that Honda built to race.

Straight off the show­room floor, the CRF450RX re­ally is as le­git as most fully mod­i­fied off-road race ma­chines.

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