2019 Honda CRF450X

Legally Performing

MSRP: $9799.00 +$380 destination charge.

Roost
  • Honda's loved X characteristics updated. Green-sticker dirt bike riders rejoice.
  • Improved in every category over the older version.
  • Trusted Honda durability built in and over-engineered.
Endo
  • It's a little tougher yet in some ways easier to increase performance properly for racing applications.
  • Clutch action has a vague feel at the lever.
  • Fuel tank size a little small for some riders.

Credits

  • Writer: Jimmy Lewis
  • Photographer: Jimmy Lewis

Introduction

  • After nearly 15-years the CRF450X is all-new.

The CRF450X is an all new bike for 2019, and it is a bold step for the Red Riders. It is an emissions and sound compliant off-road bike with a wide task list assigned to it. As close as it is to the street-legal CRF450L, there are enough changes and differences to make it a different creature and it serves as a lot more than a stripped down L. Honda understands the differences in the regulations the bike must meet, so they really got the most out of the X that they felt they could. Plus it needs to carry over the CRF R-like performance -- at least as much as it can.

Off-road riders will have to keep one very important fact in mind. The US Government, in the form of the EPA, and state entities such as the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have significantly tightened the regulations on manufacturers who produce OHV’s in every way, shape, and form. Coming from a dirt bike perspective, this has not hit home just yet, unless you live in California. But in the on-road vehicle world, companies are getting hit with huge fines for having cars, trucks, and even motorcycles that do not meet emissions or sound standards.

In addition, vehicle emissions systems have also had to be made tamper proof. Companies are thinking about these regulations on any vehicle they sell. Honda has learned this the hard way on their car side of the business and they will not take any chances on the motorcycle side. That is why the CRF450X is like it is and why there is an R and RX sold as pure competition racers.

"As close as it is to the street-legal CRF450L, there are enough changes and differences to make it a different creature and it serves as a lot more than a stripped down L."

Changes

  • Everything is new, no carryover parts from 2006.
  • A blend of L (on-road) and R (motocross)

Everything on the CRF450X is new. Calling it an off-road CRF450R would be accurate but missing how much really has to go into making this bike. The initial concept, which we have on good authority, was to take the previous CRF450X and make it better, but also be the platform for the CRF450L dual-sport bike with minimal changes. First, it had to have the flexibility of a six-speed, something that Honda has shied away from since the XR350R, if you can remember that far back. That takes a whole different frame from its motocross brother mostly in width down by your feet. Otherwise the overall dimensions are very similar with only a slight variation in head angle when compared to the older X. Luckily the suspension components did not get downgraded from the motocross bike, just set up for the job. Adding all the necessary parts to make the engine long lasting and sound and emissions compliant make the X and L motor all its own. Don’t be fooled by the similar shape to the R engine, just about every part was looked at and many slightly altered. Things like the thermostat housing and the air intake/recirculation for the exhaust are cast into the cylinder head. In some places, steel replaces titanium, except for the gas tank -- titanium replaces plastic. The piston, for instance, has two compression rings instead of one while also making slightly less compression.

There was a huge focus on keeping the bike within the sound limits, which necessitated major changes to the exhaust system. The muffler is very mechanical in design -- just like a car. It is also very heavy but does not have a catalyst like the L model does. The air intake is channeled and there are foam sound dampers everywhere.  In addition, Honda developed very clever plastic covers over most of the engine. On the safety side, you get a starter safety switch on the clutch.

"Everything on the CRF450X is new."

Power

  • Smooth robust power than does not produce a lot of sound.
  • So quiet you might doubt the power that is available.
  • We fought stalling issues in technical riding with a vague clutch feel.

The CRF450X is a very quiet motorcycle. Crazy quiet in fact. But for as corked up and quiet as this bike is, the power is pretty good. Especially if you try to judge it without trying to hear it. Compared to a motocross bike, say the CRF450R, yes, it is down on horsepower numbers, but the numbers become subjective, especially when you ride it.

The X runs with a corked-up feeling but it is not as lean feeling as the L. It is less snappy right off idle and puts out some pretty good hit if you snap the throttle hard. There isn’t the “pow” snap of an open exhaust motocross bike and you have to turn the throttle a little farther to get the same response--but any time you need power off the bottom, the CRF450X delivers - plenty. You just need to be at a slightly higher RPM to get the same power from the quiet bike. The pick-up of RPM is not as quick as an open exhaust until it is revving a little higher in the range. Here, the throttle response is always lively and instant. On top, the horsepower figure is roughly 43 or so. Nothing special, but it is more than you will use most of the time. Enough to push the bike to over 100 MPH and enough to climb most hills.

The fuel injection is spot on and the only thing we noticed is that once in a while it can be a little hard starting for no particular reason, hot or cold. It seemed to like a slightly altered throttle position and then it would fire up, almost like cleaning out a two-stroke in the old days but not to that extent. The bike did not care about altitude and seemed to handle a wide range of temperatures without a hiccup.  Sub-freezing starts required the cold-start (choke) to be used but were not an issue.

For fuel range Honda has put a very nice digital odometer with a fuel consumption function that is very accurate. A nice touch since seeing the fuel level in a titanium gas tank is impossible. Our bike averages between 34-40 MPG for most of the 1500-miles we have on it. At just over two gallons we felt safe on 70-mile stints with the low fuel light coming on for the last few miles. Since most of our rides stretch this range a little between gas stops we installed a larger IMS tank (from our CRF450L). The 3.2-gallon tank got us easily past the 100-mile range.

Just like on the L, the clutch activation gave a few of our testers fits. For general riding it is fine; however, the lever has a rather easy pull with a relatively vague and long point of engagement. For some this meant stalling often and for others it did not give confidence for really technical riding when clutch use was needed. We could see those that already slip the clutch a lot getting into trouble with this as it seems to worsen with heat. For us, the clutch seemed to take any abuse we threw at it. We even heated the motor to the point of using the coolant catch tank (there is no radiator fan on the X.) The restrictive exhaust may be responsible for a good portion of keeping the motor hot too. We’ve tested some solutions with Rekluse parts and had success and will do a follow up article soon. But for most riders in regular riding the clutch will not be an issue.

Shifting on the new six-speed was good and the ratios are overall close together but with a long spread. First gear is just a tad tall for really technical riding and sixth is right where it needs to be for high-speed riding. You no longer need to re-gear to go to Baja.

Onto another hot topic, over the internets, is people wondering about the service intervals. Oil changes require the skid plate come off and you need to be careful threading in the the large drain plug. We wish the skid plate had a hook-like fastener to catch the lower frame rail instead of a third 10mm headed bolt, but this in not the Honda way. Refilling the oil is done through a smallish fill hole. Checking the level on the black dipstick isn’t as easy as when they were a more white or tan color. The air filter is a tight fit and easy to drop dirt into the air boot but it is also easy to wipe out. Overall maintenance is simple unless you have worked on Orange or White bikes--then you will think it takes a little more time and effort.

We’d ride this bike for a long time before worrying about anything going wrong. Keep dirt from passing through the filter and the oil from getting too worn down and it should easily last for 100’s of hours. Honda’s reliability is generally excellent. But, getting a feeler gauge in to check the intake valve, now that is something worth complaining about, but you shouldn't have to do it very often, even if the manual says to do so.

So the big question is, can you modify the CRF450X? The answer is yes, but it isn’t as easy as it was previously. Just throwing a pipe on will get you some more noise and some snappier throttle response but definitely not any more power, maybe even less. It is borderline lean and goes flat on the top end. So for making the bike into a closed course race bike, you will need to alter the fueling. Companies like JD Jetting and Vortex will have options. Even taking off the air box lid and allowing more air into the filter leaned the bike out and did not help power.

"There isn’t the “pow” snap of an open exhaust motocross bike and you have to turn the throttle a little farther to get the same response--but any time you need power off the bottom, the CRF450X delivers - plenty."

Suspension

  • Stiffer and more race inspired ride.
  • Great bottoming resistance and you can push it on the trails and in go-fast situations.
  • Can be softened for trial pace with clickers.

The CRF line has some of the best components to ever come on production motorcycles and we are told they are the same pieces as on the motocross bike save for some set-up changes for the application. They sure work like it. The forks and shock are likely way better than needed for the job, but they get the job done. Just like on the CRF450L.

Ride height on the X is pretty critical and for most, the magic number seemed to be around 106mm of sag in our testing. The spring will take riders from 170 pounds all the way to 210 without much of an issue. If the rear of the bike gets low, the fork starts feeling harsh. If the rear rides high, some riders felt instability in the bars and the rear was choppy in the bumps. But after getting happy in the ride height we did not play with or feel the need to mess with the shock for a very wide range of conditions.

On the fork it definitely got better with time and break-in. And, if it felt stiff on the small bumps, we liked bleeding a little bit of air to a negative pressure (push down a little on forks when bleeding and seal up) really helped more than changing the clickers. Also, opening up the rebound a click or two can help here. 

The stroke and action of the suspension allows aggressive riding and the setup seems to be more oriented to slightly faster, or western, conditions. The stiffer character matched the stiffer acting chassis. It will jump and handle whoops as good as a pure dirt bike and since the X is lighter in the rear, the shock worked that much better. The bike rarely bottoms and when it does, it does it in a very predictable manner. These components have real control of the stroke and also do not fade in the least bit. If a rider felt it was too stiff for them, going out 4-6 clicks on the compression of both shock and fork seemed to work wonders if a trail-riding plushness was sought after. We also found that the Dunlop tires have a stiffer nature to them that adds to the feel of the suspension. Unless we ran pressure below 12 PSI they transmit more feel to the rider. Some were really happy all-around when we switched to a Michelin Starcross 5 Medium and said it made the suspension feel better.

Overall the X is following the trend of a more aggressive suspension character. Though not as picky as we have found the RX to be in setting and handling, it is picky about ride height and tires.

"The forks and shock are likely way better than needed for the job, yet they get the job done."

Chassis - Handling

  • Don't believe the scale, the Honda handles like a bike 20-pounds lighter.
  • Precise and classic Honda handling with a little more willingness to slide as needed.
  • Trip meter and headlight shut off when bike is shut off--instantally.

At 273 pounds, the CRF450X is not light-weight--this bike is not going to win any awards at the scale. Riding it, you’d be hard pressed to guess the correct weight. Compared to the L, the X feels quite a bit lighter. Ride an R and you feel the weight of the X. All things considered, the X masks its weight on a chassis that is very roomy and pretty thin. It has a very neutral feel and was a very stable ride with the ride height set at 106mm. The turning in the bars is light and you have good feel through the footpegs, it is responsive and not a vague sensation. The X will really like a steering damper but not as much as a KTM, it feels like the CRF puts a little more of its weight on the front wheel. The new bike makes the old CRF450X feel heavy and very planted to the ground. It is easy to move around and the stock tank did not feel too wide. We could not feel any of the extra width in the lower portion of the chassis from the wider cases.

A few of our riders commented on the seat height feeling low, something that seems welcome. Likewise, the chassis is one of the most roomy and the seat is soft enough to actually sit on. Vibration is minimal and there is very little bar or footpeg buzz. There is nothing that sticks out or interferes with riding.

The handling of this bike is excellent considering the challenges of the weight. Typically on a Honda, the front wheel likes to steer and the rear prefers to follow rather than slide. However, the X will slide and it is comfortable doing so. Where Honda’s CRF motocrossers typically have been very light, we’ll call this one more middle-of-the-road since KTMs have become feathery by comparison. Over time, you realize the weight is more of a feeling than a number.

The X comes with a good kickstand, and lights that will get you back after dark. All of the controls are adjustable to get in the right position so setup is easy. We did not mind the 7/8s handlebar one bit in performance and most liked the bend. Some felt it was narrow in width and having to get a new clamp to go to oversized bars will annoy some riders.The brakes are very strong with excellent control considering the weight of the bike. The digital odometer is very good and features a simple rider interface with dual trip functions and a fun to watch instantaneous average MPG function. However, unlike the KTM, the bike needs to be running for the trip meter to operate. It should fire-up when the bike is moved and at least stay on for a few minutes after shutdown. Likewise for the headlight that will darken instantly with a stall. Try that riding technical trails after dark. We did and we didn't like this nor can we figure a way around it other than direct wiring to the battery. But for real night riding a better light is in order, luckily the bike seems to have plenty of power output to the battery to handle this. 

After 1500 hard miles our bike has been mostly flawless. Though the chain is still looking good it has a little more side-to-side play that we'd like and has started to eat the aluminum rear sprocket and the chain wear pads (as well as the side knobs on the tire). Especially the one on the swingarm where it has slapped the lower mount bolt off twice now. Sticky mud didn't help this.

And the evap catch system works. You pretty much have to drain it every couple of rides where it has collected spill-over from the gas tank vent system and oil out of the crankcase breather plus the odd bit of moisture that condenses in the system and engine.

"It has a very neutral feel and was a very stable ride with the ride height set at 106mm."

Conclusion

  • A perfect "just ride it" do-all dirt bike for the weekend warrior.
  • New potential for the Honda loyalist.

In our First Impression and Video Review, we pegged the 2019 CRF450X as the ultimate bike for the weekend warrior looking for a non-street legal dirt bike, especially if that rider just wants to leave the CRF box stock and just ride it. It will last a long time and be easy to live with and it performs well across the board. After we have had the X for a while, we are still thinking this way.

If you loved your old CRF450X, this bike improves that machine in ways the aftermarket could not. All of its characteristics are sharpened and fine tuned to make it current and competitive. And for a bike that runs so good right out of the box, legally, it is a hard act to follow, some manufacturers just staying out of the legal off-road segment or skipping straight to dual-purpose and letting the customer strip it down to off-road spec. We see Yamaha has a WR450F and rumors of the Suzuki RM-Z450X seem to continue. Some even speculate that KTM and Husky are thinking of getting back into this market soon.

We have added a bigger tank to get some more range and started to see what kind of power improvements we can make. Using an FMF Q4 exhaust and a JD Jetting Power Tuner to get the fuel dialed, the bike is responding well showing it has promise to get to the level of competition-only bikes that have to be modified in a reverse direction to make them into high-level off-road mounts. In reality, Honda brought out the new CRF450X just in time as the old bike was just about out of time--for a number of reasons, not just that it was 13-years old. The 2019 CRF450X has all of the improvements and upgrades it needs to be a viable player in the off-road world.

Have questions for us? We'll answer the good ones using the comments below!

 

Here's What Honda can tell you about the 2019 CRF450X and its specifications:

https://powersports.honda.com/Model/Build.aspx?year=2019&urlName=crf450x

Link to Video/Podcast discussion about the 2019 Honda CRF450X

Link to first impression with riding video of 2019 Honda CRF450X

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"The CRF450X will last a long time and be easy to live with and it performs well across the board."

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What Others Said

Dirt Rider use to test dirt bikes, not regurgitate the obvious. (Or blow up your screen with Harley ads!)
https://www.dirtrider.com/2019-honda-crf450x-first-ride-review
They still print magazines so they are pretty protective of giving out too much information before the ink dries.
https://dirtbikemagazine.com/2019-honda-crf450x-first-ride/