After overhauling the YZ250F last year, Yamaha turned its sights to the YZ450F for 2020, giving the 450-class motocross racer a redesigned engine and a revised frame. The YZ450F did receive a small update a year ago, but the last major revisions came back in 2016, so it was due for some attention.
Suzuki announced five returning off-road dirt bikes and one dual-sport model, each coming back for 2020 with color updates. Some of these models, like the RM-Z450 and RM-Z250, received substantial updates in the last couple of years, so it’s no surprise that they’re only getting updated graphics for 2020. Others, like the DR-Z125L, DR-Z50 and RM85 have remained relatively unchanged for quite some time now, so there’s no surprise there. The only street-legal model Suzuki announced today, the DR650S, is another long-standing model getting a new palette for 2020.
In 2015, after Euro brands had been long dominating enduro and GNCC-type racing, Yamaha stepped into the game with a serious contender, a closed-course off-road competition model to do battle with the Austrians and others from tree to tree around an enduro course. The Yamaha YZ250FX is heavily based on the YZ250F motocross bike, but has been outfitted with essential off-road racing components, some of which would be costly to impossible to build out yourself. For 2019, the field is becoming more crowded with Honda’s new CRF250RX and KTM’s 250 XC-F. How does the Yamaha stack up to an increasingly competitive class? We made our way to the California desert to find out.
Not all that long ago, if you wanted an off-road competition bike, you were stuck converting a motocrosser for off-road duty. More recently, if you were looking for a high-performance trail bike, you could either build out an “X” model, or start with a motocrosser and deal with the shortcomings of each where they may fall. My first real dirtbike, aside from the clapped out vintage machines my friends and I would tinker on in our youth, was a KX250F converted for trail duty. It was a great dirtbike to learn on and grow with out in the desert, but it had a fairly substantial list of modifications to get it to that point. With the Honda CRF250RX, the market for GNCC racer-types and avid trail riders alike receives a new performance-based model for 2019.
Not a week ago, I was barreling down a tight road in Baja comprised of deep sand at about 70 mph. I love riding in the sand. It doesn’t intimidate me, and I enjoy it. You see, I began riding off-road in southern California where the sand is deep and rocks are aplenty. To quote Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, “Oh, you think
darkness sand is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark sand; I was born in it, molded by it.” I’m no pro desert racer, but I was living out fantasies of being one for the last seven days in Mexico. As I ripped through deep sandy trails, I thought back to an analogy someone once told me.
Since my conversion five years ago to dual-sport from pure dirt bikes, with the purchase of my 2013 KTM EXC 500, the question of tires has been an ongoing experiment. My tire requirement list covers a wide range of needs. My favorite riding spot is about 25 miles from the garage including a quick freeway trip, a country road, then a winding paved climb where I practice my supermoto skills. From there, the dirt is your typical California mountain fare: super loose silt, baby-head sized rocks, roots and everything in between. The goal has always been to find a tire that can endure the pavement abuse, corner like a street bike and then inspire that rare confidence in the dirt – hooking up like we actually have had some moisture in the last six months – while lasting a good long while.
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.
By now, hopefully you’ve already read our street installation of this two-part test. If not, STOP! Please do check it out because it outlines and dissects each and every bike in great detail, and it very well might answer a slew of questions you might have that aren’t addressed here, in the off-road portion of the shootout.
Lo and behold, and thank frickin’ God, the 2019 Honda CRF450L is finally here. Every so often, a new motorcycle will come out, and it’ll shake things up and get people thinking. Perhaps it’ll make them see motorcycles in a different light, change their minds about them, or even convince them that, maybe owning a motorcycle could be awesome… Ain’t that just the craziest idea?
If you’re anything like me when it comes to riding in the dirt, you’re willing to sacrifice a little comfort and user-friendliness in favor of higher performance and better handling. This was pretty much always the case for me as I’d ride my CRF450R both at the track and on the trails, or in the desert/woods/mountains/etc. At the motocross track in its intended environment, the CRF450R is a beast; out in the sticks, the R still rules. However, it definitely gives up certain advantages and conveniences to more trail-inspired bikes like the CRF450X. Fortunately, Honda has built a do-it-all bike for riders like us who don’t want to compromise performance and handling at the track for convenience on the trail – the 2019 Honda CRF450RX.
Few other images of motorcycling have captured the psyche of riders and non-riders alike as much as that of a resolute motorcyclist hitting the open road for parts unknown. For Americans, it appeals to the lore of the rugged individuals that conquered the American West. Touring on a motorcycle is about as good as it gets – no matter what type of machinery you ride. Spending days out of the cities on remote rural highways is something every motorcyclist has dreamed about.
For this four-part series, we take a look at five easy bolt-on parts that will transform your ADV bike from a Starbucks-destined road queen, to a Dakar-ready desert blasting rally winner. Or something like that. This series is designed to show how much of a difference a few well-thought-out adventure bike upgrades can make to the off-road prowess of your big ADV bike.