Honda CRF450L


Julian Challis spends some quality time in the garage getting his CRF450L ready for action

It has been four months, and I have to admit, I’m loving having the Honda CRF450L in the Challis fleet. It’s been 11 years since I rode a CRF450R in local hare-and-hound races and enduro events across the South West, and I’m just as impressed with the 2020 road-legal version as I was with the big ‘crosser’ back in 2010.

While I’ve got nothing but praise for my trusty KTM, the overall build quality of the CRF450L is on another level. Every time I do a bit of fettling in the garage, I’m left looking at how well a part is made, or at the quality of the fasteners. That may sound a tad geeky, but hell, this bike is beautifully put together.

However, I make more adventurous demands of a motorcycle than I used to, so leaving the bike in standard form was not an option. In fact, the past two months have been a veritable parcel fest as a wonderful selection of parts arrived on my doorstep. First up, was the custom-made screen from Skidmarx. It needed just four holes drilled into the front headlight cowl to mount it, which took seconds. The screen has a very light tint and looks and works just as well as I’d hoped.

The Ventura rack and luggage arrived from Motohaus a few days later.

It was specially made for the Honda so installation was simple and easy. The brackets can vary to take a simple grab handle, a small rack that can go over the rear seat, or a mudguard, depending on which way you fit it. Finally, there’s a well-made tail pack that slides onto the rack and secures with two clips. It’s going to be ideal for a trip on the Trans Euro Trail later in the year.

Out on the trails, the new Dunlop tyres have completely transformed the bike on the sloppy mud of my local lanes. They hooked up instantly and keep the big Honda wonderfully planted. They’re pretty impressive on the road too despite the wide-spaced knobbies, and you soon forget you are riding on so little rubber. However, the need for handguards became more pressing when I managed to snap the brake lever on a relatively low-level crash on the trails just south of Cirencester. The bike refused to start afterwards, but luckily a former CRF250L rider was on the ride. He helpfully pointed out that the Honda fuel injection had cut out and the bike needed to be switched off and on again to reset.

Returning to the road manners of the bike, I’m going to uprate the brake lines from the stock rubber to braided stainless lines from Venhill for better feel and performance on the blacktop. The fitting of an uprated engine control unit (ECU) is also going to improve the bike’s performance. Many dealers are now selling the CRF450L with the power upgrade included and there are some seriously good deals out there, making the big Honda an increasingly attractive option. Once the final upgrades are done, it’s finally going to be game on for some big trips during the next few months. And, after being locked in for so long this year, I’m going to stay out for a very long time.

Specs at a Glance

Price: £9,469
Engine: liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, four-stroke unicam
Capacity: 449cc
Maximum power: 24.6 bhp
Suspension: Front; fully- adjustable 49mm leading-axle inverted telescopic Showa coil-spring fork. Rear; fully-adjustable Showa single shock
Brakes: Front; 2-piston caliper hydraulic. Rear; 1-piston caliper hydraulic
Tyres: Front; 80/100 21-inch tyres. Rear; 120/80 18-inch tyres
Weight: 131kg (wet)
Tank Capacity: 7.6l
Tank range: 110 miles
Seat Height: 940mm