2019 Honda CRF450X

Editor Score: 92.25%
Engine 18.0/20
Suspension/Handling 14.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.0/10
Brakes 9.25/10
Instruments/Controls4.75/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.0/10
Appearance/Quality 9.5/10
Desirability 9.25/10
Value 9.5/10
Overall Score92.25/100

There’s really no other bike in the off-road dirtbiking world that carries more clout than the Honda CRF450X, except for possibly the XR650R or XR400R models the 450X was designed to replace. Originally introduced in 2005, the CRF450X went on to win the 2006 Baja 1000 in its first attempt. Since then, it’s become the winningest bike in Baja 1000 history, with 11 wins at the 1000 and nine at the Baja 500. As if that weren’t impressive enough, Honda-mounted teams have won 20 of the last 21 Baja 1000s. So, to say Honda knows a thing or two about building a competitive, well-rounded dirtbike would be a massive understatement.

The 450X was updated in ’08 with a new triple clamp, a steering damper, and slimmer fuel tank. Then again in ’09, but only cosmetically, to better match the rest of the CRF line. For 14 years, the 450X basically went unchanged because clearly it wasn’t broke, so why fix it? Well, as time marches on, so do EPA emissions restrictions and government regulations, and the X – which has been carbureted, until now – needed a little love to ensure its 50-state legal, year-round riding eligibility. If you live anywhere other than the land of laws, I mean… uh, California, this part doesn’t matter to you, but the CRF450X is now one of only two 450cc green-sticker dirtbikes (Yamaha’s WR450F is the other). The rest of them are red-sticker only, which limits when and where you can ride here in the beautiful Golden State.

The 2019 CRF450X is 50-state eligible and California green-sticker compliant for year-round riding in places like this, which could otherwise be restricted to only certain times of the year. The 450X keeps all your riding options open.

The CRF450X bridges the gap between the CRF450RX off-road competition bike and the long-awaited CRF450L street-legal dual-sport, and it’s all-new for 2019. The 2019 X is completely revised with an emissions-compliant, fuel-injected engine, a new chassis, revamped suspension, and slick, updated bodywork. Like the rest of the CRF models, the X is infused with most of the R’s DNA, save for slight tuning differences that make it better suited for its own environment, which includes everything from wide-open desert trails to mountainous single-track, and anywhere in between.

The 450X’s engine employs about 70% of the same parts as the R, but it’s been tweaked in a few key areas for more torque and tractability down low. Improving overall off-road potential and user-friendliness, its crank mass inertia’s been increased by 12% over the R’s, it gets a newly shaped 3-ring piston, a wide-ratio six-speed transmission, and of course, dedicated ECU settings. Additionally, you get case covers that not only help damp noise, but also offer added protection from those perfectly placed, day-ending, trip-ruining, wallet-draining, depression-inducing rocks that are rarely ever just a quick push back to your truck/camp/or garage. The whole underbelly gets a nice skid plate, too.

With protective parts like engine case covers, a skid plate, and rotor guards, the 2019 450X is well equipped to venture out into the unknown with the confidence to make it back.

What else – the CRF450X’s exhaust pipe is now 3.9 inches longer and 3.1mm wider in diameter (0.1 inches makes it sound more trivial) than the 450L’s, which shares the same engine platform. However, there’s no catalyzer in the muffler weighing it down or choking it up, just a spark arrestor. All of this translates to more bottom end and midrange punch, and a 5-pony increase in horsepower – we’ll take it! The six-speed transmission is also a welcomed improvement with nicely spaced gears to help tackle a wide variety of terrain. Completing the off-road package is, of course, an 18-inch rear wheel and side stand.

First, while not quite a granny gear, will let you crawl or tip-toe through tight, technical sections, while sixth, allows you to pull your best Johnny Campbell impression as speeds climb north into the triple digits. I do think, however, first gear could still be a smidge shorter – but that’s nothing an extra tooth or two on the rear sprocket wouldn’t fix. Meanwhile in sixth, the X has legs for days, and I saw 96 mph on the 450X’s LCD gauge without hitting the limiter before my self-preservation instincts kicked in and asked me what the hell I was doing… Those Baja racers have some serious cojones. How much faster could you possibly want to go?

For riding speeds anywhere in between, the 450X motor makes plenty of torque downstairs to tractor up and over most any obstacle you point it at with minimal, if any, clutch work at all. The power continues to build linearly with an impressively potent midrange punch before falling off a little up top. The X doesn’t have the same top-end pull or overrev like the R and RX models do, but that’s ok. Just grab another gear and keep surfing that delightful torque curve. In fact, the CRF450X almost feels like it prefers to be ridden a gear high, and it rarely stumbles, allowing you to ultimately ride smoother and faster, for longer periods of time, with less fatigue. 

This new 450X tips the scales at 275 lbs, which is seven pounds more than the outgoing model, but you hardly notice its weight even when dancing through technical, twisty single-track. For guys who like getting caught up in weight figures, just remember how many off-road, GNCC, or Baja races this bike has won.

A pair of 49mm Showa fork legs up front and a Pro-Link Showa shock out back soak up the bumps. They’re the same as the dual-chamber units used on the R and RX models, but with a softer spring rate and optimized off-road valving. There’s nothing like a few miles of deep desert whoops to get you warmed up first thing out of the gate in the morning, but when you’re chasing an off-road legend like Johnny Campbell, you don’t complain – and neither did the CRF450X’s suspension. While initially soft in its stroke to float over all the smaller bumps and ripples, the X’s suspension also soaks up the deeper whoops without delivering any drama or rear-end swapping back and forth. Faster, more experienced riders who know what they like will, of course, send their suspension out to get done, but the X’s stock units, with their full range of adjustability, will suit everyone else just fine.

The only time I ever bottomed the suspension out was while jumping. It performed almost flawlessly pretty much everywhere else. I would experiment with the compression clickers, though, and perhaps even add a little more fluid to the fork to firm up the second half of the stroke if I owned one myself.

Whether putting around or hauling ass, the 2019 CRF450X has a really solid, tight feel to it. Everything going on is communicated clearly to the rider through the chassis, giving a more ‘one with the bike’ feeling as an extension of yourself rather than just holding on for the ride. This is great for newer riders, who are still figuring the whole riding in the dirt thing out, as well as faster, more seasoned guys alike. Much of this stability and planted feel is thanks to the X’s 28-degree rake (compared to the R and RX’s sharper 27 degrees) as well as the fork lugs, which position the front axle just a tad further forward.

Or further up! Between the CRF450X’s torquey motor and its chassis’ stable nature at speed, clutching up fourth or fifth gear wheelies isn’t only for the Moto-Gods anymore.

I only have two gripes with the new 2019 450X, though, and the first is the omission of a steering damper. While the aforementioned chassis geometry does a great job in keeping the bike perfectly stable in 95% of riding conditions, the added comfort of a steering damper to keep the front end shake-free while haulin’ balls over rough terrain is almost priceless. Dampers work great at preventing deflection in slower, rockier stuff, too. Guys who run aftermarket stabilizers know what I’m talking about, and Honda has equipped their 450Xs and Rs with HPSD (Honda Progressive Steering Damper) units in the past, so why not now?

Another thing I’d like to mention is that I love the adjustable top triple clamps on the R and RX models, where you have the option to move the bars forward and back to optimize comfort through your rider triangle. For a taller guy like me, having the luxury to move the bars forward an inch or so changes everything, and being able to do it without having to go to the aftermarket is a game changer. So, why Honda has it available on other models and not this one is a bit of a head scratcher – hopefully next year, fingers crossed. The inclusion of these two features would make an otherwise fantastic trail bike, perfect – in my book.

Missing from this picture that I hoped we’d see is an adjustable top triple clamp. But otherwise, the ‘19 450X has really nice ergos and a clean cockpit that will comfortably suit a wide variety of riders. This new X also has a 2.01-gallon titanium fuel tank and larger capacity radiators. A neat feature about the fuel system is that it measures the amount of gas consumed, rather than what’s left. This makes it easy if you were to ever put a larger tank on there.

Actually, one other tiny thing I need to mention is the halogen headlight. While it keeps weight and cost down, the 450L got an LED this year, so why didn’t the X? It’s really only a nitpick – if that – and I don’t fault Honda for it. Guys doing any real nighttime riding know any stock headlight isn’t going to cut it and will look to the aftermarket for better solutions. Otherwise, the 2019 CRF450X has plenty of other things going for it, like a super light clutch pull and a 2.01-gallon titanium fuel tank, which make long days in the saddle chasing the horizon not only possible but easier, too.

Overall, whether for trail dads, weekend warriors, or Baja racers, the Honda CRF450X is one of, if not the most solid and versatile dirtbike platforms ever designed, and the all-new 2019 model will undoubtedly carry the X’s off-road legacy long into the future. If you’re looking for a bulletproof, go-anywhere, do-anything dirtbike, this Honda is definitely worth checking out. What’s more, being a Honda, you know reliability won’t be an issue, and you’ll have a vast aftermarket to tweak or customize yours however you want. Coming in at $9,799, the new 2019 CRF450X isn’t exactly chump change, but then again, nothing is anymore. What you get right out of the box, though, is one of the best-sorted, well-mannered, performance-inspired, off-road trail bikes on the market. 

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