Riding offroad is one of the best ways to build your skills and fitness for riding hard on the asphalt. So for most folk, a dirtbike makes a lot of sense – in theory. But for ‘proper’ off-roading, you need a van or trailer, you have to schlepp out to the wilds if you live in town, and the bike sits doing nothing most of the time. Meaning it’s not practical for lots of folk.
Enter the road-legal enduro machine, like this CRF450L. It’s based on a proper dirt racer – Honda’s CRF450R MX machine, but is softened, legalised, detuned, and has lights (all LED), licence plate, speedo, horn – all the stuff needed for a road bike. The sweet titanium (!) fuel tank is a bit bigger than the racebike too – though most of the plastics are spot-on in terms of 2019 MX bike style.
Sadly, the engine’s had a bit of a caning to meet Euro4 regs, and stand up to possible road abuse. We doubt many folk would sit on the motorway at 90mph for hours on end on one of these, but Honda has to bear that possibility in mind – so the two-ring racing piston is replaced with a longer-life three-ringer, compression is down to 12:1 from 13.5:1, cam timing is softer, crank is heavier, and you get a six-speed gearbox instead of five. And, of course, there’s a huge silencer and catalysed exhaust on there too, the radiator is larger, it gets a fan, etc etc etc.
The result is a soft 18.4kw; 25bhp, just. That’s a little disappointing – an ancient Suzuki DR-Z400 makes nearly 40bhp, albeit without the necessary modern emissions compliance of course. On the plus side, the CRF450L only needs a major engine stripdown service every 20,000 miles. Which will take a while with 25bhp and a 7.6l fuel tank to be fair, ha.
The all-up weight of just 130kg wet is encouraging though – this is a proper skinny lightweight beastie. And while the power might be a handicap on the M6 Autobahn section, it’ll be fine when used as intended – a nice, smooth enduro bike that can plod its way through almost anything in terms of off-road riding, while also getting you to the trails from your city pad, with ease.
Engine: Liquid-cooled 4-stroke single cylinder uni-cam, 449cc
Bore and Stroke: 96.0mm x 62.1mm
Compression Ratio: 12.0:1
Carburation: PGM-FI Fuel injection
Fuel Tank Capacity: 7.6 litres
Clutch: Wet multiplate
Transmission: six speed, chain
Frame: Aluminium twin tube
Caster Angle: 28.5°
Seat Height: 940mm
Kerb Weight: 130.8kg
SUSPENSION: Front, 49mm Showa steel-sprung USD fork, Rear, Showa monoshock using Honda Pro-Link system
Wheels: Aluminium spoke
Tyres: Front 80/100-21 Rear 120/80-18
More info: http://www.honda.co.uk/motorcycles.html