SINGLE TRACK TESTED: 2019 HONDA CRF450L

The much anticipated 2019 Honda CRF450L is already old news. The massive hype leading into the release has subsided and the dual sport world has returned to normal. To Honda’s credit it, the hype and excitement leading into the release of the CRF450L was warranted. The dual-sport market is scorching hot right now and is one of the few segments of the motorcycle industry that is growing, so a new dual-sport is big news. KTM, Husqvarna and Beta have owned the hardcore dual-sport market for a long time and shockingly, it has taken until 2019 for a Japanese manufacture to figure out there is a thriving market thirsty for an off-road capable dual-sport bike. There are plenty of reviews and comparisons floating around the interwebs if you need info on how a stock CRF450L performs. The bottom line is the Honda CRF450L is a great dual-sport machine. It isn’t quite as off road race ready as the KTM, Husky and Beta, but it is light years ahead of a girthy and heavy DRZ400. The reality is the Honda CRF450L is a darn good trail bike in stock trim and it is just a few modifications away from being a complete ass-kicking single track warrior. 

Because Upshift knows there isn’t a reader who would ever leave a 2019 Honda CRF450L bone stock, neither did we. Through the addition of a few simple goodies, we upped the trail worthiness of the CRF450L, and we did it without spending a stupid amount of money. We chose to up the distance between refueling via an IMS 3.2 gallon tank. This bump in fuel capacity carries the CRF450L 100 miles before having to break for petrol. That isn’t an exact mile science since everyone twists the throttle at a different rate, but it is a pretty good baseline. The IMS tank fit well and wasn’t much wider than stock. Of course if you are going to be in the saddle all day you want a comfortable seat. We consistently chose Seat Concepts to ensure our butt cheeks are comfy. No handguards on an off road bike? The horror! We handled it with a set of full wrap guards from Acerbis. A set of IMS “Core Enduro” footpegs not only added better grip for our boots, but increased comfort. The Upshift graphics, while not a performance enhancer, did make the CRF450L pretty wicked. 

Overall the stock suspension is damn good on the CRF450L so we didn’t mess with it. As I preach to anyone willing to listen, choosing the right tire for your type of riding is as important as any other upgrade to your machine. This was my first experience with Shinko tires and now I’m a firm believer in the Shinko 505 Cheater for an all-around rear tire in a wide variety of terrain. It is a pretty big tire with a trials tire like compound, meaning it is soft and hooks up awesome, especially on roots and rocks. The 505 Cheater also offers a lot of cushion when paired with the TuBliss System. The TuBliss System allows lower tire pressures without the fear of pinch flatting a tube. I ran 10 psi in the rear and 12 psi in the front Shinko 216 tire. The tire and air pressure set up worked really well with the stock suspension. 

On a side note, we did do some riding with a Yoshimura RS-4 slip on muffler. While the Yoshimura muffler added some noticeable power throughout the power curve, the lean mapping caused some low speed flame out and noticeable popping on decel. If you want to run a more open exhaust system and have the bike work properly requires a remapped ECU, which we didn’t have so we went back to the stock muffler. The stock power is very smooth and provides good power and torque for most off-road situations. Riders who love open desert and brute power will want to get an ECU and more open up the exhaust. Of course, modifying anything engine wise on the CRF450L makes it no longer street legal in states like California.  

In stock trim the Honda CRF450L weighs close to 30 pounds more than the KTM 500 EXC. That’s a lot, but as cliché as it sounds, it doesn’t feel 30 pounds heavier out on the trails. The extra weight comes into play when muscling the bike around in a tight spot, or picking it up after a tip over. The advantage the Honda CRF450L has over other enduro based dual sport bikes is its stability. It goes in a straight line very well, and that includes over rough terrain, not just down a dirt road or the freeway. The plush suspension, forgiving tires and good geometry made the most technical terrain predictable and fun. 

Overall, the 2019 Honda CRF450L is a damn good dual sport with a lot of potential in any direction you want to take it. You can knock some off some weight, bump up the power excitement, tune it into a lethal trail weapon, or add long distance goodies onto it, leaning more toward the adventure side of things. Go to https://powersports.honda.com/ for more information.

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Chris Glaspell

The success of any online publication depends on the quality of execution, and
in this respect UpShift Online’s success is virtually assured.  It was founded by veteran motorcycle industry professionals: English-born photographer Simon Cudby, the premier photographer in the world of motocross, and Chris Glaspell, creative director with firms serving clients that include Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Cycle World and Yoshimura. This, plus Upshift’s veteran editorial staff and unrivaled journalism, will gives readers unparalleled views of adventure motorcycling.