Motorcycles

Honda puts hardcore adventure on the menu with street-legal CRF450L motocrosser

Honda puts hardcore adventure ...
The 2019 Honda CRF450L links up the trails
The 2019 Honda CRF450L links up the trails
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2019 Honda CRF450L: simple dash and keyed ignition with steering lock
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2019 Honda CRF450L: simple dash and keyed ignition with steering lock
2019 Honda CRF450L: a genuine off-road weapon with a license plate
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2019 Honda CRF450L: a genuine off-road weapon with a license plate
2019 Honda CRF450L: road capabilities are best described as basic, but this is one high-powered dirt squirter you won't need a trailer for
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2019 Honda CRF450L: road capabilities are best described as basic, but this is one high-powered dirt squirter you won't need a trailer for
2019 Honda CRF450L: much more at home off road
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2019 Honda CRF450L: much more at home off road
2019 Honda CRF450L: a road legal motocross racer
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2019 Honda CRF450L: a road legal motocross racer
The 2019 Honda CRF450L links up the trails
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The 2019 Honda CRF450L links up the trails
2019 Honda CRF450L: a big brother for the CRF250L
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2019 Honda CRF450L: a big brother for the CRF250L
2019 Honda CRF450L: frame is derived from the CRF450R but modified
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2019 Honda CRF450L: frame is derived from the CRF450R but modified
2019 Honda CRF450L: runs an 18-inch rear wheel instead of a 19
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2019 Honda CRF450L: runs an 18-inch rear wheel instead of a 19
2019 Honda CRF450L: slightly more stability-focused geometry at the steering head
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2019 Honda CRF450L: slightly more stability-focused geometry at the steering head
2019 Honda CRF450L: exhaust has been reworked to keep it quiet for the road
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2019 Honda CRF450L: exhaust has been reworked to keep it quiet for the road
2019 Honda CRF450L: LED headlight
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2019 Honda CRF450L: LED headlight
2019 Honda CRF450L: big ol' sidestand
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2019 Honda CRF450L: big ol' sidestand
2019 Honda CRF450L: has a road-friendly steering lock for safe parking
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2019 Honda CRF450L: has a road-friendly steering lock for safe parking
2019 Honda CRF450L: a sixth gear in the transmission makes this somewhat freeway-capable
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2019 Honda CRF450L: a sixth gear in the transmission makes this somewhat freeway-capable
2019 Honda CRF450L: joins the KTM EXC-F 450 and 500 among the most hardcore road/trailies on the market
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2019 Honda CRF450L: joins the KTM EXC-F 450 and 500 among the most hardcore road/trailies on the market
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Adventure riding comes in many shapes and sizes these days, but Honda has just released one of the most hardcore road/trail bikes we've ever seen. The new 2019 CRF450L is effectively a street-legal version of the CRF450R motocross bike – something that you could easily punt through an enduro race but then ride home. And this is no half-measure, either; Honda has had to make a ton of changes to get something similar to the 450R onto the road.

Engine

The 450L's engine is based on the 449cc unicam single-cylinder four-stroke powerplant in the 450R, but with a number of changes to make it both road-legal and highway appropriate.

For starters, there's a sixth cog in the gearbox, which'll help it cruise on the freeway without vibrating your fingers to jelly. There's electric start that uses a lithium-ion lightweight battery, as well as dual high-capacity radiators and an electric fan.

The engine crank is heavier (giving an improved feel for the toque during trail riding), the compression ratio is a little lower, and the rear wheel gets a cush drive to help take some snappiness out of the R's racy drivetrain.

2019 Honda CRF450L: frame is derived from the CRF450R but modified
2019 Honda CRF450L: frame is derived from the CRF450R but modified

Noise and emissions are key problems for high-performance dirtbikes seeking road registration. These are addressed with the addition of an O2 lambda sensor to manage fueling and ignition timing, which comes with a redesigned airbox and large-volume exhaust that includes a catalyzer and air injection to clean up tailpipe emissions and keep noise levels under the limit. Engine covers on both sides are also thicker to dampen mechanical noise from the motor, and the swingarm's hollow insides are now injected with urethane, as that was apparently unacceptably loud on the road as well.

Another huge bonus for people planning to use the CRF450L as a hyper-extreme adventure bike is that service intervals are much longer. There's 20,000 miles (32,000 km) between major strip-downs, partially due to the L running three piston rings instead of the R's one. Mind you, don't expect this thing to act like a touring bike. The 450R needs an oil change every five hours of use, so even if the 450L manages to triple that you'll still be putting oil in it frequently if you try to rack up miles.

2019 Honda CRF450L: simple dash and keyed ignition with steering lock
2019 Honda CRF450L: simple dash and keyed ignition with steering lock

Chassis

The extra cog in the gearbox wouldn't fit in the current CRF450R's twin-spar frame, so Honda developed a new frame for the the 450L that's wider around the swingarm pivots.

Motocrossers like the 450R also don't have keyed ignitions – they end up upside down so much that you'd snap the key off sooner or later. But road bikes definitely need them, so the 450L gets one on the top triple clamp, under the bar guard that will hopefully protect the key if the bike goes for a cartwheel or five. There's also a steering lock, which required extra work at the headstock to implement.

The bike's geometry has been adjusted to reflect the fact this bike will be doing freeway speeds, with rake on the forks up by 1.2 degrees, trail up 7 mm for high-speed stability, and the wheelbase getting 3 mm longer as well.

2019 Honda CRF450L: big ol' sidestand
2019 Honda CRF450L: big ol' sidestand

Ground clearance (12.4 in/315 mm) and seat height (37.1 in/942 mm) are both a bit lower than on the 450R, perhaps partially due to the fact that the 450L runs an 18-inch enduro-spec rear wheel instead of the R's 19-inch motocross rim. Standard tires are IRC GP21/22s, which are a 50/50 road/trail hoop.

The titanium fuel tank is boosted almost 21 percent to two full gallons (7.6 L), which is a nice bump up, but we can see a lot of Safari-style extended range tanks getting fitted to these things if they take off as we'd expect for hardcore adventure riding.

All these changes – plus the addition of road gear like mirrors, indicators, license plate holders, and an LED headlight that's described as having "a penetrating beam" – come with a weight penalty. Where the 450R motocrosser weighs just 244 lb (110.6 kg), the CRF450L weighs 289 lb (131.1 kg).

2019 Honda CRF450L: much more at home off road
2019 Honda CRF450L: much more at home off road

This new Honda joins KTM's EXC-F 450 and 500 among the most hard-edged street legal dirt bikes on the market. They're proper open-class enduro racers with headlights, mirrors, license plates and smug middle fingers extended to any cop who pulls you over because that thing can't possibly be legal.

They won't do highways like a DR650, but they'll get you out of town to the trails just fine. And when you get there, you'll have an absolute, honest to god weapon at your disposal if you're good enough to get the most out of it.

Pricing for the CRF450L in the US is targeted at US$10,399, an US$1,100 premium over the 450R. Other markets are yet to be announced, but availability is slated for September.

The following video puts the CRF450L in context with the rest of Honda's CRF450 range.

Introducing the 2019 CRF Performance Line - Times Change

Source: Honda

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4 comments
Mzungu_Mkubwa
This is the dream bike of my youth. Too bad it's hit about 35 years too late! ☺ Nowadays, the Africa Twin (with a cushy aftermarket gel fat-butt seat) is more to my liking.
notarichman
As usual, mfgs. put on turn signals that break easily and stick way out to the sides. why not make them intentionally "break off/bend over" similar to truck mirrors so that if the bike is dropped they won't be destroyed? just put them either back into position or their electrical cable are strong enough to let them flop around and just plug them back into their "sockets" again. same thing with mirrors...no mfg. seems to make mirrors that stick out far enough to be useful, but don't break or vibrate so badly that they become useless.
guzmanchinky
Well, I have a 9 year old WR250R that is the best bike in the world. Now I might have to buy this one. Not sure about the oil change intervals? Need to confirm that first. And then it needs a larger tank, bigger rear sprocket, handguards, probably a better seat, oh man, here I go again... :)
jd_dunerider
Love what they have done! I agree about the blinkers and stuff though. They should be flexible, and/or detachable with quick releases to allow you to just remove them for trails and put them in your backpack or something. People will be snapping those blinkers off like nobodies business.