The Honda CRF 450 L – This is not the bike you’re looking for

Honda recently announced a street-legal version of their CR450R Motocrosser. More Enduro oriented and plated the announcement sparked immediate buzz in the Adventure riding community. The more hardcore-oriented proponents of this segment have been longing for a lightweight, medium power travel bike ever since the trend among bikemakers shifted to the mainstream market with its demand for high-power, top of the line “Adventure” Bikes. Now I did put adventure in quotes there as I have come to the firm belief that these 100hp+, gadget heavy monsters are more the equivalent to an SUV than a Jeep.

Without looking at the specs of the Honda, it was easy to make quick assumptions about the bike based on what they had done with the CRF 250 L., But looks can be deceiving.

2019 CRF450L

What looked good at first glance turned into a bit of a turd when going into the details of the bike. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here, let’s have a look at what the CRF 450 L has to offer compared to its smaller sibling, the CRF 250 L and its direct competitor from KTM, the EXC 500 F.

Specifications

Let’s look at the numbers before the talk(all numbers given for the KTM are the street legal version). I’m throwing in the CRF 450 R in its non-street legal version as a reference point.

  • CRF 250 L 23hp/22nm
  • CRF 450 L 25hp/32nm
  • CRF 450 R 58hp/36.3nm
  • EXC 500 F – 50.hp/52nm

This is the first time people stared at their screen in bewilderment. 25hp, a measly two more than the CRF250L and half of what a 500 EXC has.
The reason for this is easily explained. Honda wants to target the European market with this as well and as such tried to stick strictly to the Euro4 emission rules.
Of course, that begs the question how KTM got their EXC street legal but that’s not something I can elaborate on, I lack the background. However, I think it’s safe to
assume there will be a way to open up the 450 L to unleash more power, but it begs the question why would I want to buy a bike that I have to fiddle around with in the first instead of just going for a KTM and have what I want right off the bat?

Some more specs:

  • CRF 250 L 108kg wet(7.8L tank)
  • CRF 450 L 130,8kg wet(7.6L tank)
  • CRF 450 R 110kg(6.4L tank)
  • EXC 500 F 120kg(8,5L tank)

Another WTF moment. The CRF 450 L while being barely an upgrade power wise over the CRF 250 L carries around more than 20kg of additional weight. Again, what were they thinking ?

 

Why it fails

Now, these specs alone pretty much get across what made me think Honda has lost a bit of their mind with this one. They seem to do that all the time. When all other brands were pushing out 1200cc Adventure bikes about 6-8 years back, Honda kept fiddling with its Crossrunner and Crosstourer line completely missing the train. They only caught up when they finally managed to push out the new African Twin.

That being said the bike isn’t a complete failure but in my opinion is just another attempt to deliver something without making up their minds first about what they want to do. The CRF 450 L seems to provide nothing the smaller CRF 450 L wouldn’t offer at half the price. There’s no rear subframe, the tank is still tiny, and the power in comparison is abysmal.

2019 CRF450L

What Honda has going for themselves, and this cannot be argued away, is their reputation for building durable bikes. I know people are driving their EXC’s all around the world and make them last but if one thing could persuade me towards the Honda its the durability. But then, why go for the 450 and not the 250 L(or its rally iteration). There isnt a lot more to be said for the 450 L as an adventure bike per se. In my book its just a flawed Enduro concept, neither fish nor meat. A crutch that should be placed somewhere between the CRF 450 R and the 500 EXC but fails at that.

We will see what the future holds as far as sub 180kg adventure bikes go. Something tells me the KTM 790 that’s to come out “soon” will also fail to deliver in that regard and will be just another Starbucks cruiser like all the other 800cc bikes out there(Tiger, GS to name the most prominent). In the meantime, I’ll keep looking for a used XR 650L as the basis for my adventures, Keep it simple, stupid.

 

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