If you saw my blog post a few months back, you know Honda recently let us borrow a CRF250 Rally and we liked all the adventure they’d packed into that bike, AND if you know us, you know we’ve been in love with their old XR400’s for some time now… we’ve always got 3 or 4 in our quiver on any given day.
When we caught wind they’d soon have a plated 450 with an electric start (possibly the only shame in the virtually indestructible XR400s game) we started to stalk social media for pics and salivated when we saw how tasty it looked in spy photos and teaser posts. We’ve been invited to a few bike launches. So when our bud, Jason Abbott over at Honda asked us to join him and his team for the unveiling of the new dual sport in their line up, we were a bit more excited than usual to make the drive over to the FOX HQ in Orange County.
We wanted to see first hand how the #ridered guys did with their contribution to the growing number of guys and gals that have fun on dirt bikes you can ride on the street, too.
At the party, everyone was impressed with the looks of the bike. LED headlight, clean Honda graphics, black rims, and a tidy seat all combine to make for a sexy bike right out the box. The DOT mandated blinker and tail light assembly wasn’t terrible either but something a lot of guys will tune up right away (either with sleek aftermarket units OR after a couple of spills at the local OHV park…thats how I usually deal with ‘em).
Honda’s website states this bike comes in any color ya like as long as its red. Ships with titanium a 2-gallon tank and it’ll get approximately 50 miles to the gallon. It weighs in at 289 pounds when filled with all fluids including the aforementioned petrol. Almost 300 pounds isn’t the lightest bike around (similar offerings in Europe tip the scales at 350 wet) but a true dual sport isn’t meant for ripping the track most days. Instead, it's great for navigating trails, fire roads and the occasional jaunt on the highway.
I haven’t been riding enduro my whole life but I’ve found more than a few instances where a heavier bike actually smoothed out the ride, and the inertia a couple extra pounds gives ya helped climb up some of the steeper stuff I’ve ridden, so I wasn’t put off by this fact at all. I figured some of the extra LB’s could be attributed to the six-speed transmission, and the foam-filled swing arm and all the other CARB stuff ya need to be street legal in most states (a lot of which I imagine could be removed rather quickly once ya decide if you need it or not).
After seeing how sexy the 450L was in person, of course we wanted to ride one, BUT apparently so did everyone else because it was damn near a year before we were able to take delivery from Honda. When Jason beeped me and let me know he had a bike we could thrash for a month, I was ecstatic.
He actually dropped it off in person and made time to ride too which was nice for me but probably painful for him as my ‘riding’ was most likely at a slower pace than he’s accustomed to. Thankfully for me, he’s a patient man. We hopped on the mean streets of my hometown (Murrieta, CA) and headed towards the Elsinore foothills.
First thing I noticed after pushing the magic button to start the fuel injected 450 was how smooth the bike idled and how quiet it was, both things that make long rides that much more enjoyable. We pulled outta my Olde Towne compound and into traffic and I was impressed at the power and torque the bike had off the line… This bike is F A S T fast! Gearing was great for maneuvering in and out the cars we encountered.
We headed north to the poppy filled fields that line the 15 freeway that give way to the infamous rocky hills featured in 3/4 of the motocross videos to come out in the last 25 years. We all know Southern California is crowded, but there is still tons of great spots to ride down here, all within spitting distance of a major highway most of the time.
Elsinore garnered off-road fame when a certain 60’s celebrity spent some of his off time racing the famed Grand Prix and though the area has seen a huge influx of people looking to escape the confines of the neighboring Orange and Los Angeles counties, we’ve still got lots of space to get a little mud on the tires and spring is the perfect time of year to do just that, especially after the wet winter we experienced this year.
So like Iron Maiden suggests, we ran to the hills. Jason and a couple of my faster friends in the front, my mediocre MX skillset possessing ass in the rear.
The 450L comes equipped with DOT tires that are great in the street but like most other DOT tires, kinda crummy in the dirt. The only reason I mention the meats being slippery in the dirt is this bike is POWERFUL and could use all the traction it can get. Big, rutted uphill jaunts weren’t a problem, even in the wrong gear (as I frequently am) and much to my surprise, I was making it up faster then I am accustomed to on the 20 plus-year-old air-cooled tractors I typically ride.
Big balls coupled with super smooth suspension make this an easy bike to ride all day, both on AND off pavement. I was happy with the stock seat but I know lots of guys will opt for one that’ll work for a shorter inseam and as I write this, I see there are already a couple options for them. I’m sure a pipe and a tune would wake this thing up considerably too but I really liked the smooth, predictable power it produced fresh from the factory configuration. So much so I’m not sure I’d mess with it (or not until I busted the pipe off going ass over tea kettle in rock garden).
Riding this bike on trails, fire roads and the street was a joy for me. I loved the e-start when I crashed (the reinforced radiators were valuable here too) or when the temps rose as the day progressed. The digital dash was easy to use and showed how many miles till I ran outta gas (tons better than the guessing game I usually play) and the stock mirror actually stayed in place at speed on the highway.
In my opinion, this bike really doesn’t need much (if anything at all) to be a great daily F.R.U. (fun recovery unit). Add gas and the fun will follow I feel.
If yer the kinda rider that wants to hit the track on occasion, we had our buddy Rick Yorks session a local private riding area and you can tell by the pics, this bike does pretty ok there as well.
Rick liked the available power, wasn’t hindered by the weight and had no problem airing it out on this plated offering from our buds at the Honda MoCo. As always, fun and reliability are what these guys do best and the 2020 CRF450L is no exception to that rule. Thanks again guys for the loaner, let us know when we can keep it a little bit longer!
More info: https://www.honda.com