Honda CRF450L, Hondas retaliation to the KTM500?

Honda CRF450L, Hondas retaliation to the KTM500?

 Honda has been around since 1946, that’s long enough to say they know the engine and motorcycle world as well or better than anyone. Hondas successful history coupled with their deep pockets means they have the resources to do a severe amount of R&D and know what the public wants. Though, they don’t always get it right. The CRF230M for example, that model didn’t exactly blow the minds of consumers. It seems, however, with the 2019 CRF450L they nailed ALMOST every aspect of the dual sport category and are going to show their efforts off happily. As far as competing with the KTM500, it doesn’t, and it doesn’t look like that’s the market their going after. KTM builds an excellent 500 for the money, and it seems like Honda has developed a 450 for everyone else.

The CRF450L bare essentials

For those of you with a short attention span and a higher interest for specs and details, let's quickly go over what the highlights are for the all-new 2019 Honda CRF450L, then review a few key features in more detail.

• Price tag MSRP: $10,399

• Engine: Unicam® OHC, four-valve, liquid-cooled 10-degree single-cylinder four-stroke

• Transmission: 6 speed

• Displacement: 449.7cc

• Horsepower: Mid 40’s (Honda doesn’t post horsepower)

• Torque: 23.6 ft/lb

• Front Suspension: 12.0” travel. Compression and rebound adjustment. 49mm

• Rear Suspension: 12.4” full adjustable suspension (Showa Shock)

• Miles Per Gallon: Riders claim 45-50mpg

• Seat Height: 37.1”

• Top Speed: 9mph. Governed.

• Fuel Tank: 2.1 Gallon Capacity Titanium Fuel Tank

• Wet Weight: 289lbs. Claimed

• Colors: Take a guess, it’s not Yamaha blue. Honda Red!

As die-hard Honda fans or those in the off-road and dual sport world may no, Honda is building up what they call their "CRF Collective." This collective makes up their CRF division of motocross racing bikes, their X and L line up, and their cross country racing bikes. Who doesn't fall into this category is their smaller and economic CRF250L.

The 450L version was taken from the blueprint of the Honda CRF450, an off-road bike. Then they turned it into something that can make it’s way from the fire roads, down the freeway, and into your garage at night. To make this happen Honda had to add all the usual accessories you’d need if you wanted your off-road bike to be street legal. This included; turn signals, mirrors, led lighting, LCD digital gauge, emissions legal exhaust, and a place to hang your license plate. The accessories along with needing to meet stringent emissions standards, also meant the bike need an exhaust upgrade. Once it was all bolted to the bike, it made for a slightly heavier machine than the usual CRF450’s. The total weight is 40lbs or so heavier than the CRF450R, for a total of 289lbs wet.

Weight Attributes

• Lithium-ion battery required to power the lights

• Emissions systems

• Emission focused exhaust

• AC generator

• Electric fan


Fun Facts About The Honda CRF450L

When you walk into a showroom to drool over all the shiny new bikes, you'd like to own or envision how this dealership might actually be your garage. You are looking at the final product of what was probably years or decades in the making. By the time the all-new CRF450L hit a Honda dealership near you it had been scrutinized over in many a boardroom meetings. Here are some fun facts about the CRF450L that was probably the result of some of those meetings.

• The letter “L” has a purpose. Honda says that it stands for legal. A representative and Large Project Leader from Honda, Mr. M. Uchiyama, was quoted as saying; “The CRF450L is about having maximum fun out on the dirt. It looks like a CRF450R because, really, it is – just a trail-friendly, road-legal version. That’s what the ‘L’ stands for – ‘legal’…”.  

   I’m sure marketing teams the world over look to come up with catching titles for their products, Honda seems to like to keep things simple.

• The titanium fuel tank was used because it is actually cheaper than a plastic fuel tank. I know you’ve been shopping around for titanium faring’s for your off-road bike and found that prices just aren’t as comparable to plastic, but here's why it works for the fuel tank. In the world of buying the raw product, plastic is defiantly cheaper. However, in the world of major production lines, often time is where the money is. Honda found that the wait times to mold and ready a plastic tank were not comparable to stamping out two sides of a titanium fuel tank and welding it together. So after some smart Japanese number crunching it seems going with a thin-walled titanium tank cut down on the bottom line. 

• This bike is made in Japan, not Thailand. The world still runs ramped with stigmatisms, and where things are built can often determine the mindset of buyers as to the quality of the item. If you generalize dual sport bikes, you might have a preference for the perceived quality of the Japanese market. Then, if you’re thinking brand-less bikes with a two-year shelf life, you might site them as being of Chinese build. Whereas with Honda, where they choose to build might come with its own perception. The CRF250L, for example, is produced in Thailand and happens to be a budget-friendly motorcycle. Whether it’s on purpose or not, the CRF450L is built in Japan. That being said, I feel that Honda is going to have the same standards across all of their factories no matter where they are in the world. 

• One year warranties can magically turn into six-year warranties! Honda offers up the standard one-year warranty. But wait, there’s more…You can upgrade this with a five-year warranty to get a full six-years of motorcycle warranty. It excludes the common motorcycle edibles like tires, filter, lubricants, and things you outright wreck. As far as warranties are concerned, it's a pretty impressive deal. 

What you might not like about the CRF450L

Ok, let's tackle the big red elephant in the room, the price! For over $10K for what could be summarized as a dirt bike with lights and a place to hang your license plate, it’s not going to be the top buying choice for everyone. If Honda’s trying to provide options for the dual sport market for those who are buying DR650’s, DR-Z400’s, KLR’s and the likes. You defiantly aren’t going to win this crowd over on price, but you might win a few of them over on the 289lb weight. Those big single carbureted bikes do have looming death hanging in their future, just look at what happened to the KLR650, and it's recent inevitable extinction (link article here).

 The $10K price tag brings the CRF450L into markets with the KTM690 and Husqvarna 701, and I don’t think we will see too many KTM fans trading in orange for red. It depends on your focus though. If you were looking to choose one of those three bikes to ride across the planet, Hondas got the parts and service market covered worldwide much more than the KTM or Husqvarna would.

Maintenance. The idea of general maintenance is a glaring problem for something that is being pushed as a dual sport. If you’re used to ripping around on the weekends on your 250cc trail bike, then the idea of changing the oil every 500-600 miles is probably not a big issue. If you are picking up the CRF450L to use for running the freeways like your Super Tenere, a bike that is more likely to be getting 2000-3000miles between changes. And all you plan to do with your Honda is get your tires dirty with a bit of backcountry mud now and again. You’ll cringe at the idea of oil changes every 600 miles. At 1.22 quarts of oil 3-4 times a month and the time to do it, well you might need to wake up an hour early on the weekend to squeeze in some of that on-going maintenance.

Fuel capacity. It sounds nice saying that your bike is made with a titanium fuel tank and gets you close to 50mpg. However, at only 2.1gallons of fuel, well, your 100-miles of ride-range isn’t really putting you with the ranks of other dual sports that offer up a 4-6 gallon tank. Couple that along with a design that doesn’t allow aftermarket tank sharing with bikes like the CRF450R and CRF450X, and your aftermarket tank choices are going to be limited and therefore probably pricey.

 No handguards. Depending on if your riding focus is going to be aggressive off-road or mostly casual street riding, will probably dictate what handguards you put on your bike anyways. Really though, as a ready to ride machine, how does it not include a basic set of handguards right out of the box?


If you’re in the market for something shiny and new from Honda that you can take on just about any road you want, well then this is your bike. What the Honda CRF450L is not, is the budget-friendly CRF250L that's a bit shy on horsepower to get you ripping down the freeway. It’s also not the CRF450X, a bike that you’re more likely to be torquing around the dirt-track, and it’s not a long-range duel sport you’ll want to take across the planet. What it is, is a bike that’s going to give more options to riders looking to break into the dual sport class or lighten up from big thumpers that have previously owned. The bike looks like it's going to do well in the long haul, and bikers usually like to spend money on a bunch of over-priced motorcycle kit anyways. So why would it be any different here with your handguards and fuel tank.