Honda CRF450L EX­CLU­SIVE TEST If you long for the days of XRS, DRS and XT’S or sim­ply want to do a bit of trail rid­ing – novice or hooni­gan – Honda have just the bike for you…

BIKE (UK) - - NEW BIKES 2019 - By J P Pho­tog­ra­phy Honda

IF YOU DON’T want an en­duro, a mo­tocross bike or a bulky ad­ven­turer, what new bike do you buy if you fancy a bit of trail rid­ing? It’s a ques­tion Honda have boldly an­swered with their new CRF450L – a fully ho­molo­gated, dual-sport off-roader and trail bike for a new gen­er­a­tion… At Honda’s Off-road Cen­tre near Taun­ton, for the bike’s launch, and ser­vic­ing/re­li­a­bil­ity emerge as hot top­ics be­cause this 450cc en­gine boasts 18,000 miles be­tween ma­jor ser­vices, which is huge for a dirt bike. Part of the process of mak­ing the 450L re­li­able and user friendly was to halve the CRF450R mo­tor’s power to 25bhp and just un­der 25 lb ft of torque. It doesn’t sound much but crank in­er­tia grows by 12% to pro­duce us­able torque – a twisty Tar­mac ride be­fore a day of dirt ac­tion in Devon quickly prove the point. The six-speed gear­box gets plenty of use de­liv­er­ing 70mph com­fort­ably and with a friendly, Euro-4 com­pli­ant ex­haust it doesn’t alarm the lo­cals ei­ther. The CRF450L is ac­com­mo­dat­ing to ride just like a trail bike should be – not too tall, not at all fierce but friendly and with no sharp edges to put off the novice. A slightly longer wheel base (18mm with 6mm longer trail than the CRF450R) plus a nar­row 120 sec­tion rear tyre make it sta­ble but happy to turn on and off road. Rip­ping around var­i­ous awe­some trails be­hind Honda leg­end Dave Thorpe proves the 450L can hus­tle too. Ba­si­cally we rode the wheels off the thing and proved the breadth of the 450L’s skill-set stretches from novice to hooni­gan. Trail bikes or­di­nar­ily have sus­pen­sion closer to a damp sponge than a coiled spring. The 450L’s Showa sus­pen­sion is soft and for­giv­ing in the ini­tial stroke but soaks up hard hits bet­ter than you’ll find on some en­duro bikes. I was more im­pressed by that than any­thing. The CRF450L can be a Sun­day dirt bike, your first trail bike and even a great ba­sis for an awe­some rally bike. It’ll do all that and eas­ily tackle a club en­duro (it just needs grip­pier tyres in­stead of th­ese du­alpur­pose IRC ones). I’d add a set of hand­guards, plus a dif­fer­ent ex­haust (sav­ing weight) and you’d be good to go. My main con­cern is that its high price will in­hibit po­ten­tial cus­tomers from mak­ing this their first dirt bike and that’s a shame. The world is surely ready for a new ver­sion of old trailies such as the XR, XT, KLR and DRS. The CRF450L is that bike but at least 30 years bet­ter.

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