Julian Challis finds his farkling pays off on a journey along the Great Western Trail.

No sooner had I put the CRF450L into the workshop for an ECU upgrade to improve the bike’s performance, the world ground to a halt. With no riding allowed, my beautifully prepped CRF450L enjoyed a somewhat enforced holiday. I finally retrieved the bike a few months later, and it has been an absolute joy to ride on the trails ever since. 

The upgrade made a fantastic improvement. The low-level throttle response was just as gentle and usable on the tricky stuff, but the freer breathing and bigger hit of the new electronics gave the big Honda the boost it needed. Ok so it’s still not like a 450 crosser, but that would be fairly annoying and impractical away from the racetrack. Armed with the new and improved CRF, I’ve enjoyed mile after mile of post-lockdown trail rides including a fantastic jaunt on the Trans Euro Trail (TET) 

Now originally, I’d planned to tackle the Great Western Trail section of the TET in two bites scheduled for April and June. With those dates in the bin due to world events, the lifting of some restrictions in early July meant that I could at least reschedule the Bristol to Land’s End section. A small flurry of emails, phone calls and deliveries saw a collection of parts to complete the preparations for the trip. First up were the rather wonderful Bark Busters that came from R&G. It’s not a supplier I’d normally associate with off-road kit but it was able to provide some gorgeous red and white guards supported by an alloy frame. 


PRICE: £9,469
ENGINE:  liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, four-stroke unicam 


POWER: 24.6bhp

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

WEIGHT: 131kg (wet)
7.6 litres

TANK RANGE: 110 miles
940 mm

Second was a new chain to replace the stock Honda item, which like most Japanese OEM off-road chains, seems to be made of metal coloured liquorice. Classic Enduro came up with a suitable RK X-ring replacement. At much the same time, Dunlop had sent me some new dual sport hoops in the form of a monster D908 Rally Raid for the rear and a D606F at the front. As the rear was quite so chunky and I hate changing tyres on the roadside, I had a mousse fitted at the back and a heavy-duty tube at the front. The final step was a filter and oil change. 

So, how did the Honda CRF450L cope in its new role as an adventure bike on the Great Western Trail? Pretty damn perfect I’d say. The new hopped-up engine allows you to conquer everything from the trickiest trails to the fastest dirt roads with ease, and on the blacktop, that extra oomph is good for motorway speeds and beyond, assisted by my Skidmarx screen, pin-sharp handling and super sticky tyres. The luggage proved to be excellent, the navigation system worked well, and the sun shone for almost all of the journey. 

Next up, I’m planning to embark on a northern caper where I’ll ride coast to coast, which is a journey planned for before the nights start to close in. I’ll travel from Whitby to Morecambe and back with the boys from the Trail Riders Fellowship. Gentlemen, please start your engines. This may get messy!