Our 2019 450 Enduro Shootout was one of the most exciting and anticipated tests we have done. We had a huge range of machines including the Honda CRF450L – to read the full shootout, check out issue #228 of Dirt Action Magazine, on sale now.
The CRF was the bike most riders professed to be surprised by. It’s fair to say most expected less from it, but to a man everyone came away impressed and keen to see what it was capable of over a longer term.
As we’ve described before the CRF450L is what Yamaha should have released as the WR450R (Yamaha Australia knows this), but Honda beat them to it. We have more choice in ‘race ready’ bikes than we need and a hole were all the trailbikes used to be. This is a problem arguably caused by the Japanese but to see Honda address it directly is encouraging and they’ve done it damn well.
The CRF offers typically Honda-like ergos that are open and very ‘on-top.’ It’s a somewhat racey feel, borrowed from the CRF450R motocross bike from which it is largely based. The engine note is barely audible through that gargantuan pipe, and the bike offers so little feedback through the bars and chassis that it’s hard to fathom you’re on a 450F based off a mighty motocross weapon. This is a large part of the appeal of the CRF; it goes about its business quietly and effectively and it’s quite easy to forget what gear you’re in because there’s so little mechanical vibes or engine noise.
It carries more weight than the most of the others but it’s impressive how little that becomes an issue on the trail. The suspension is very plush and the typical Aussie rider will find it under-sprung, but at anything up to a solid intermediate pace it offers a comfortable ride that would serve well with hours in the saddle ahead of you.
It’s clearly not up for a race day like a large chunk of the competition is, but most riders don’t race, they trail ride. It could be made more suitable to racing, but why bother when there are better stock options and it would be disregarding what this really is – a damn good trail bike.
DAMIEN ASHENHURST – TRAILRIDER
“The Honda is almost everything I need but something doesn’t quite grab me and pull me in. It’s amazing how quiet it is and how smooth it is and I reckon it’s a very good all-round trailbike that’s come at a time when we need exactly that. Ride it to work during the week and it won’t totally embarrass you with lap times on the weekend. I’ve ridden the bike a bit now and each time found I couldn’t find a happy place with the suspension which I suspect because I eat too many pies. But there’s no denying this is a very good bike that I suspect will exceed many reader’s expectations.”
TODD REED – FORMER PRO
“Coming into the shootout I wasn’t expecting a whole lot out of the CRF450L, and judging by the limited research I had done, I was wondering what Honda was trying to achieve with the CRF-L.
After a few solid sessions on the big red machine, it became obvious that Honda have unearthed a few pages out of their own playbook and created themselves a modern day XR. I can see the raised eyebrows on everyone’s face out there right now, but in my opinion this is an absolute genius move from the folks at Honda. After all the XR is arguably the most iconic trail bike from the 80’s and 90’s.
Out on the trail, the CRF has a very calm demeanour with an engine that is super easy to ride, the suspension is plush and forgiving, and the chassis has that distinctive CRF race bike pedigree which offers sharp and precise handling. In short, the CRF has the ergonomics and handling of a modern day race bred machine, but with a mild character that makes it one of the best trail bikes I’ve ever ridden. It’s a package that offers you the ability to roll up your garage door, commute out to the local trails and chase the dust until sunset.”
GRANT SAYERS – A GRADE
“The Honda was a surprise package; it was a nice comfortable bike that can be ridden all day. An excellent trail bike, it handles our technical loop well and I could do more laps on it then almost any other bike. Although it’s aimed at the true trail rider, stripping some weight, the suspension beefed up and a change in the gearing it would make a fairly competitive bike.”
SHANE BOOTH – FORMER PRO
“This bike probably won the best looking for me, something about it just constantly caught my attention. The red and black just works and it’s nice to see a new Honda back amongst these enduro bikes. The Honda screams potential, as we tested the bike it was pretty in full ADR spec so there are some covers/protectors on the bike that many riders may remove once it’s in their garage and before they hit the trail. There are also some items that restrict performance quite a bit, the muffler being the most prominent; again this is all to do with the ADR requirements. Given all of this this bike still felt very good on our test loop. Its smooth power delivery may not have been the most exciting but it’s probably the engine most trail riders should be riding. Ergo’s are great, a nice flat seat and slim feel between your legs. I firmed up the fork a little to help it hold up in the stroke through some of the more technical terrain we had and that improved feel for me. A very good bike.”
JEREMY CARPENTIER – CURRENT PRO
“The CRF450L is an awesome trail bike! It felt a bit heavy when you want to go fast, but the chassis is good, you feel like you are riding a Honda. It has good suspension which was really stable throughout all aspects of our test loop. Although this is a great trail bike, it doesn’t need much work to make it a good race bike.”
LYNDON HEFFERNAN – FORMER PRO
“It is super quiet with no vibrations, and it made no induction noise and almost no muffler noise and this was actually really pleasant to ride it this way especially if you are doing long multi day rides.
The power so smooth and this would be a great choice for anyone wanting a more trail friendly bike, It could quickly cheaply and easily be turned into a more enduro / race machine as I suspect the airbox could also open up for some more vital oxygen, change the mapping and fit a pipe and you have serious enduro weapon- you could just buy the CRF-X version and rec rego it for Victoria and comp rego for NSW Enduro events!
Fantastic gear box – stood out as best of all the bikes.
Both brakes and the overall suspension etc all excellent, although was a on the softish side but again perfect for trail riders up to 100kg and yes for a racer it could do with a touch more power but that would easily come with a muffler and lose some weight at the same time.
Great platform, really loved this bike other than extra KG it carried due to full ADR rego gear on the test, If it lost 3-4 KG which is easy to do it would be right there!”
CONOR FRASER – B GRADE
“You immediately notice that this bike is heavy as you take it off the stand, the key lock steering and fuel cap scream weekday commuter over the other race ready bikes in the test. However, once you are moving, all of the aforementioned goes out the window. What feels like the heaviest bike on the stand, is not even noticeable as it comfortably handled the roughest sections of the track with ease. The 6-speed gearbox delivers versatility that allows you to slowly ascend snotty hills in first gear, only to cruise down the highway with nothing but a murmur coming from the engine. 7/8th Bars and an eternity of plastic ADR components don’t do much for the bikes “cool factor” but the incredibly well-balanced feel of the CRF450L inspires confidence on everything from rocky uphills to wide open sand berms.”
It goes about its business quietly and effectively and it’s quite easy to forget what gear you’re in because there’s so little mechanical vibes or engine noise