Year after year the Japanese refine their enduros, making them lighter, faster and more durable in an effort to claim victory in our annual 450 enduro comparo.
Getting the 2008 crew of Japanese 450 Enduro machines together has proven one thing: In this world of mass produced, 450cc two-wheel clones, there's still plenty of character to be found if you look in the right place. What do we mean by that? While motocross bikes are popular and fun to ride, no matter where you ride or race a motocross track doesn't vary that much in reality. There will always be jumps, ruts, braking bumps and a starting gate in some form and configuration, so when the machines are mind-numbingly close to one another in the grand scheme of things you can quite literally pick a winner by choosing your favorite color. However, the world of off-roading is a bit different.
Though grouped under the "enduro" umbrella, the sheer number of differences you'll find from one riding location to another exceeds anything the motocross realm can offer. That being the case, we were very pleased to discover that of the three Japanese-built enduros we tested, the 2008 Honda
KLX450R and Yamaha
WR450F each bring a completely different level of performance and purpose to the table.
We snagged the trio down in Southern California and whisked them north to our Southern Oregon headquarters, intending to put them to task for a month of testing in our rugged woods but it didn't turn out as we had hoped. Mother Nature has been frigid and moody lately, so when that uncooperative wench cut loose with an unseasonably long bout of snow we were forced to deviate from the plan. We did manage a day or two of light woods riding and one killer photo shoot in the snow, but rather than destroying the bikes with basically worthless testing in the snow-covered muck, we just filled up the MotoUSA Sprinter with diesel and dirt bikes and migrated towards the warmer climate of California.
The trio of 450 enduros are as clean as they ever will be. Once we put them to task at Gorman's Hungry Valley SVRA they would never be the same.
We didn't quite make it back to Los Angeles, stopping on top of the Grapevine for a couple days of riding bliss at Hungry Valley SVRA. This year our featured guest tester is a man who has been throwing roost for almost as many years as this author has been consuming oxygen. Chilly White holds silver and bronze medals for his ISDE efforts, and has placed first and second in the past two years as a Senior racer in the National Hare and Hound and District 37 Enduro series - that means he's experienced and fast as hell. His age and wisdom offset the youthful exuberance and achy joints of MotoUSA's biggest enduro fiends, Off-Road Editor, JC Hilderbrand, and Creative Director, Brian Chamberlain.
So grab your CamelBak, buckle-up your boots and strap your goggles on tight, because it's time to find out which of these hill-climbing, mud-bogging, roost-hurling off-road machines has earned the right to be called the winner of our 2008 Enduro Shootout.