Moving around in the saddle of Honda’s CRF450X is easy and comfortable. A slim profile not only makes for great ergonomics, but pays dividends in the handling department as well.
Honda has arguably had the most popular 450cc motocrosser over the past five years, and for good reason. The CRF450R is an awesome machine, which we found out in our 450 MX Shootout, but that incredible bike was first released in 2002 while the off-road CRF450X version was held back until 2005. As you can probably guess, the X model was based around the motocross version but with off-road interests taken into consideration. When compared solely to an MXer, the 450X is obviously the better off-road model, but after testing all six of our enduro bikes together, it was clear to everyone that this Honda still has a generous amount of moto blood coursing through its veins.
Starting with the Unicam, 4-valve motor, the CRF-X powerplant comes on hard compared to the other bikes. Snappy throttle response and abrupt power make riding aggressively a blast, but it also has its downsides. Many of our test riders complained of getting worn down by the rowdy 450X. This bike didn’t make the biggest numbers on the dyno, but it often felt like it on the trail.
A common topic of discussion between test riders was the nervous Showa suspension. The 47mm inverted cartridge fork offers up plenty of adjustment, but our riders were unable to find a happy medium with the settings. We tried softening the compression damping in order to better absorb sharp impacts, but it didn’t help with the twitchy sensation. Our faster riders didn’t like how the softer settings negatively affected the Showas’ ability to soak up bigger jumps. The front end refused to give us that rock-solid feel and would surprise us with unexpected behavior even at a moderate pace. With 27 degrees of rake, 4.4 inches of trail and the shortest wheelbase in the test, the X was quick handling to begin with, which likely accented the fork issues.
Like the motor, the suspension rewards aggressive riding. The times we suffered the most issues were during a muddy session where speeds were down and when clawing our way through rock gardens. The shock is more to our liking. Softening the compression two clicks and adding one measure of rebound smoothed things out nicely and offset our qualms with the front end.
The moto-like motor and chassis gave the Honda an aerial advantage. Even so, the suspension will bottom on bigger hits like this one.
As always, the brakes on the Honda are very good, particularly the front. However, the days of being head and shoulders above the competition are gone, as there were a couple other machines that had equal or better pinchers. Husaberg and KTM both offer better front binders, and the Sherco’s total package is on par with the quick stopping Red Devil.
We had the CRF for the longest amount of time but noticed that it showed wear very quickly. Nothing ever broke on the Honda, but by the time we gave it back we had tacoed both radiators, dented the header pipe, tweaked the bars and scuffed every piece of plastic on it. There’s definitely something to be said for components that bend rather than break, but the sleek look disappeared pretty quickly on Big Red.
“The Honda does a lot of things well, but when you put it up against the others back-to-back, it starts to show some flaws,” says our vanity-obsessed Editorial Director. “The styling is great. I love the aluminum frame, but the seat is hard, the mileage gauge is so plain and it seemed to be very susceptible to crash damage.”
The CRF450X is an excellent off-road machine, and it offers a bit more for those riders who swing both ways, which explains why BC felt so comfortable on the CRF. Knowing the X’s past, this red-haired beauty won’t hesitate to pull a quick change of outfit and hop on the dance floor with ‘dem motocross boys,’ but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
– Vulnerable radiators.
– Stone-aged odom. Yeah, it works, but let’s get with the technological revolution, eh?
– Hardest to gauge when refueling.
– Rubber-mounted bars a big plus.
– MSRP: $7,199
2007 450 MX For My Money
2003 Ducati 749S
2006 450 Enduro Shootout
2006 ATK 450 Enduro Comparison
2006 Honda’s CRF450X Comparison
2002 Ducati 998
2002 Kawasaki ZX-12R
2005 Sherco 4.5i Comparison