If you haven’t already heard by now, Honda set the motorcycle industry on fire Wednesday with the announcement of its 2019 CRF off-road, motocross and dual-sport – yes, you read that right – dual-sport model lineup. While upgrades and improvements to current models are always exciting and welcomed news, the announcement of the all-new CRF450L is something that really took us by surprise, and ought to make some big waves in the motorcycle world.
Honda has always been known as one of, if not the most conservative manufacturers, so for Big Red to step out and break the mold like this is pretty awesome. I’m going to go out on a limb and say, I think Honda has played a role in just about every rider’s story and their introduction to motorcycling in one way or another. Growing up on XRs and then CRFs, It certainly did for me.
Having the ability to legally ride on- and off-road, as any dual-sport rider can attest to, is a big deal, and it truly opens up a world of opportunities. You can now go basically wherever you want. No one likes getting stopped by the police, told they can’t be somewhere, or worse, getting their bike impounded for not being street-legal – ask me how I know. The beauty of the CRF450L, though, is that unlike other dual-sports on the market (save for the KTM EXC-F and Husqvarna FE models) like the Suzuki DR-Z400, DR650, Kawasaki KLR650 or Honda XR650L, the 450L has more actual dirtbike DNA than the others. This essentially translates to higher performance capabilities.
Check out the spec sheet comparing the 2019 Honda CRF450R, X and L below. You’ll notice that, for the most part, all the fundamentals are the same.
|Engine||449.7cc liquid-cooled 10º single-cylinder four-stroke||449.7cc liquid-cooled 10º single-cylinder four-stroke||449.7cc liquid-cooled 10º single-cylinder four-stroke|
|Bore and Stroke||96.0mm x 62.1mm||96.0mm x 62.1mm||96.0mm x 62.1mm|
|Fuel System||Programmed fuel-injection system (PGM-FI); 46mm throttle bore||Programmed fuel-injection system (PGM-FI); 46mm throttle bore||Programmed fuel-injection system (PGM-FI); 46mm throttle bore|
|Valve Train||Unicam® OHC, four-valve; 10.0mm intake, steel; 8.8mm exhaust, steel||Unicam® OHC, four-valve||Unicam® OHC, four-valve|
|Transmission||Constant-mesh 5-speed return; manual||Constant-mesh 6-speed return; manual||Constant-mesh 6-speed return; manual|
|Final Drive||#520 chain; 13T/49T||#520 sealed chain||#520 sealed chain|
|Front Suspension||49mm fully adjustable leading-axle inverted telescopic Showa coil-spring fork||49mm fully adjustable leading-axle inverted telescopic Showa coil-spring fork||49mm fully adjustable leading-axle inverted telescopic Showa coil-spring fork|
|Rear Suspension||Pro-Link system; fully adjustable Showa single shock||Pro-Link system; fully adjustable Showa single shock||Pro-Link system; fully adjustable Showa single shock|
|Front Brake||2-piston caliper (30mm, 27mm) hydraulic; single 260mm disc||2-piston hydraulic; single 260mm disc||2-piston caliper hydraulic; single 260mm disc|
|Rear Brake||1-piston caliper hydraulic; single 240mm disc||2-piston hydraulic; single 240mm disc||1-piston caliper hydraulic; single 240mm disc|
|Front Tire||Dunlop Geomax MX3S 80/100-21 w/ tube||Dunlop Geomax AT81 80/100-21 w/ tube||IRC GP21 80/100-21 w/ tube|
|Rear Tire||Dunlop Geomax MX3S 120/80-19 w/ tube||Dunlop Geomax AT81 110/100-18 w/ tube||IRC GP22 120/80-18 w/ tube|
|Rake/Trail||27°22’ / 116mm (4.6 in.)||28°06’ / 116mm (4.6 in.)||28°20’ / 116mm (4.6 in.)|
|Wheelbase||58.4 in.||58.8 in.||58.9 in.|
|Seat Height||37.8 in.||37.4 in.||37.1 in.|
|Curb Weight||247 lbs.||275 lbs.||289 lbs.|
|Fuel Capacity||1.66 gal.||2.01 gal.||2.01 gal.|
The only main differences are the R’s compression ratio; 13.5:1 compared to the X and L’s 12.0:1, the various tires and each bike’s weight – which is mostly accounted for by the headlights, turn signals and heavier, EPA-compliant exhausts. The meat and bones of all three bikes are essentially the same, but each is tweaked and tuned differently for its own purpose.
The X and L have six-speed transmissions (which is one more cog than last year’s X), versus the R’s five, and the steering geometry is slightly different, but that’s to be expected for the quicker-steering R motocrosser. Here’s why all this is important and the real reason why we’re excited: At 289 lbs., the CRF450L ain’t no pig…
XR650L: 346 lbs. -> +57 lbs.
CRF250L: 317.5 lbs. -> +28.5 lbs.
KLR650: 432 lbs. -> +143 lbs.
KLX250: 304 lbs. -> +15 lbs.
DR650: 366 lbs. -> +77 lbs.
DR-Z400: 317 lbs. -> +28 lbs.
The CRF450L is lighter than even the two smallest 250cc dual-sports mentioned above. On the asphalt, you won’t notice the weight as much, but on the trail is another story. For the more hardcore dual-sport guys, the 450L can get even lighter with the removal of all the EPA stuff like the charcoal canister and heavy muffler, and that’s not to mention the performance gains you’ll get in return – a win-win if you ask me. While we don’t recommend or endorse doing that, it will be the first thing any true off-roader or prospective buyer would do. I know I would, and maybe even plan to now… Who knows?
The aforementioned dual-sports can tackle most light off-roading and fire roads with ease and more moderate terrain in stockish trim, too – sure, why not? – but the CRF450L should be able to hang with the real dirtbikes through the gnarly stuff, no problem. Before you say the other bikes can do what real dirtbikes can do, know that for the most part I agree with you, and yes, the XR650 has dominated Baja in the past. Any bike in the right hands is capable of just about anything. I’ve even seen an XR650 run underwater – like, completely submerged, exhaust burbling and everything – and for a lot longer than I would have ever imagined. A few kicks later and it came back to life. That’s a Honda for ya, baby!
On the other hand, maybe you’re not a big off-road rider, and would rather slap some 17s on and turn it into a supermoto – you’d have our blessing, that’s for sure. The amount of fun you can have on a supermoto should be illegal. Just kidding, but with everything else slowly becoming outlawed these days, we’re surprised the fun-police haven’t blown the whistle on motards, yet. So get after it while you can!
The 2019 Honda CRF450L is expected to become available in September, and $10,399 might sound like a pretty penny, but you can’t put a price on all the places you could go and the amount of legal fun you could have on this thing in the process. With two sets of wheels and tires, you could have the ultimate motorcycle. Just sayin’…