Julian Challis takes the Honda CRF450L off road for the first time and is mightily impressed.
My first month or so with the Honda CRF450L long-term review bike has proved to be an extremely positive experience and served to thoroughly endorse my initial impression that this was going to be an ideal replacement for my previous KTM 690 Enduro.
My first forays out on the 450 came courtesy of local lanes around Bath and down towards Somerset with the Bristol Trail Riders Fellowship (TRF) boys, and there was much interest and maybe a touch of envy about the new bike. And who can blame them? The Honda is a great looking machine, firmly from of the ‘motocrosser with lights’ end of the spectrum rather than a ‘pipe and slippers’ trail bike. And boy does it handle.
The MX frame and high spec suspension allows you to float through the lanes with the minimum of effort through the pegs and bars, and the riding position, whether seated or standing, is pretty much spot on. And when it comes to the power output, which on paper is woefully low to make the bike A2 compliant, the Honda motor feels beautifully torquey and flexible out on the trails.
OK, so it’s nowhere near where a 450 should be and Honda have obligingly confirmed that American spec ECU kit (which almost doubles the power) is now available in the UK and that there’s one heading its way to me. But even as stock, the bike is pretty damn impressive.
What wasn’t so impressive however were the tyres that the bike had come fitted with. The round profile and close tread pattern might have worked well for a bit of urban tomfoolery while dicing with Bristol traffic, but when it came to the rain sodden and muddier lanes, then it was clear that, certainly for winter riding, I needed an upgrade pretty quickly.
The solution came from the lovely Dave Plummer at Dunlop, who cheerfully offered up a set of the all new Geomax EN91 Enduro hoops for test on the bike. In terms of the tread pattern, they are perhaps the polar opposite of what I was replacing, with wide set blocks and fantastic looking side grip. While not exactly designed for the blacktop, these bad boys will make the mighty CRF stick to the trails like chewing gum to your shag pile. And do they look cool too? Hell yes!
Now aside from the trail riding jaunts at the start of the year, the bike is going to need to be ready to take on some bigger adventures into the spring and summer. At the front end, I’ve fitted a USB charging point so I can run Viewranger on the iPhone, and to offer both the phone and me a bit of weather protection, not to mention add a bit of Dakar-cool following Honda’s momentous win this year. The chaps at Skidmarx in sunny Weymouth are making a custom screen to mount onto the stock front cowl and its surprisingly good headlight.
At the back of the bike I’m going to need some luggage options for the bigger trips, but with few options available from UK manufacturers, I’ve sourced a cracking rack and luggage system from Kiwi company Ventura via UK distributor Motohaus. By next issue it will all be fitted and ready to take on the Great Western Trail. I can’t wait