Much hype has been made about Honda’s street-legal 2019 Honda CRF450L, and we’re here to tell you that this bike delivers on the promise of a legitimate off-road dual-sport challenger to the European brands. This bike is designed to get you from trail to trail with small pavement sections in between.
The bike is a big step up from Honda’s existing dual-sport 250L, as it shares its DNA with Honda’s CRF450R, RX, and X models. The 250L really didn’t match the motocross CRF250R in terms of performance, but the 450L is much closer in concept to the 450 motocross versions.
We asked the attending Honda engineers about power on the U.S. edition 450L and the number of about 31Kw was given. That’s about 41HP, so in this stock form with all the emissions considerations, the Honda has plenty of grunt.
The bike has really a really linear power delivery and is easy to ride, with predictable power everywhere.
The CRF450L shares about 70 percent of its components with the other CRF450 models, with 30 percent of the bike being built with CRF450-specific parts. The valve sizes are the same as the other bikes, but many of the engine internals are unique to the 450L, such as mass being added to the crankshaft and clutch basket.
Although lower in horsepower numbers than a KTM 500EXC-F, the Honda makes up for any lack of power with its smoothness of operation. By adding a urethane-injected swingarm, sprockets with dampening, plastic covers on the motor, and Honda’s always-great transmission, the 450L is smooth and quiet. With a wide-ratio six-speed box, the bike is equally at home on tight single-track in first gear or cruising an asphalt section at 65mph. Part of the concept of quiet and smoother operation is to reduce fatigue if you are all day in the saddle.
Our route for the ride day had pavement, fast gravel fire roads, and single-track, and not once did we think, “Man, I wish this thing had more power.”
The increased capacity radiator has an electric fan that kicked on occasionally in the tight sections. The muffler on the 450L is really quiet, and it lulls you into a sense that you’re not going fast because the bike is not barking loud, but that’s not the case. The bike has a dedicated (read: locked) ECU, so adding an aftermarket pipe could prove problematic. Also, its catalytic converter makes it street legal in all 50 states.
Although tuned specifically for off-road riding, the 450L shares its suspension platform with the motocross CRF450R and the off-road CRF450RX and CRF450X. That means a Showa 49mm coil spring fork and Showa shock with Pro Link system. On the trail, the fork handled everything well and the bike felt very balanced. Honda recommends 110mm of sag on the rear shock.
From small stutter bumps in fast sweeping turns to whooped out single-track, we felt at home with this suspension set-up.
The 450L shares its aluminum twin-spar frame with the new 450X. The frame is slightly wider than the R and RX models and weighs in around five-and-a-half pounds heaver than the motocross track bike. We like that the aluminum sub-frame allows for more robust luggage options to be mounted on the bike.
The titanium fuel tank has a capacity of slightly over two gallons. On our ride, we were getting about 45mpg in varying terrain, so depending on where and how you ride, 85-95 miles for the fuel range seems reasonable. We know that IMS has already got a larger capacity tank in the works.
The whole bike has LED lighting, and the headlight is BRIGHT. The turn signals are low profile and have the ability to bend up and down by 90 degrees, so if you drop your bike, they should hold up and not snap off.
The digital meter is a big plus—no more 99.9 rollover analog trip meter. The meter has Trip A and Trip B, plus a great feature: fuel used. This takes the guesswork out of your ride. Also, there’s an average fuel consumption readout. As stated above, we got about 45mpg on our day.
The front brake setup features a large capacity reservoir and a thicker rotor. From a styling standpoint, we love the black rims on the 18/21 wheels. The mirrors are quite large, which is great on the street, but we would probably replace them soon for smaller aftermarket units, as in the single track we whacked them on branches more than a few times.
Would we buy a Honda CRF450L? The answer has to be yes. Honda has finally delivered the bike we have been waiting for from them for a long time—a bike you can ride out of your garage right to the trails. The build quality is typical Honda, meaning it’s good. The performance is good in stock trim, so while with dual-sport bikes its always tempting to dig into the aftermarket to improve performance, we might just leave the bike in its factory spec. It’s smooth, quiet, powerful, and, judging by Honda’s reputation, it will be reliable.
The 450L comes with a one-year standard warranty, with the ability to extend for a further five years. That’s pretty good for a street-legal dirt bike!
MSRP for the 2019 CRF450L is $10,399. You can find more info and specs here.