Dubach Racing Honda CRF450X Review

June 10, 2009
JC Hilderbrand
JC Hilderbrand
Off-Road Editor|Articles|Articles RSS|Blog |Blog Posts |Blog RSS

Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA's Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn't matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.

Dubach Racing Honda CRF450X Project Bike
The Honda CRF450X is the premier western off-road machine. Dubach Racing let us test their version which basically put the stock bike on steroids.

Racers out West go fast. Not fast in some relative way, just plain fast. Desert racing, WORCS, Hare and Hound, GP and motocross are all popular formats known for high speeds, big whoops and hard impacts. Anyone who has ridden the Honda CRF450X knows that it has all the characteristics of a western racer, so it’s no wonder that Dubach Racing Development chose the 2009 450X as a starting point for its endurance project. There’s a bit of difference between building a bike to go fast and building one to go fast for six, 12 or 24 hours. Much of that lies in the bike’s ability to survive physical damage from the terrain and from the rider, so most of the modifications and bolt-ons used by DRD focus on making this bike tough.

Dr. D and crew had some plans for the motor, “First and foremost DRD had to unplug anything and everything,” says DRD’s Mark Tilley. Honda’s emission controls were removed by an Applied Racing block off kit which dropped weight and helped clean up the motor’s performance in conjunction with the DRD exhaust. At the heart of the build are massaged  intake and exhaust ports which feed into a complete SS/A exhaust system. The stainless steel and aluminum exhaust arrangement has a USFS-approved spark arrestor and can be used with a quiet core insert for additional stealth. A complete Wiseco clutch kit is a primary durability upgrade. The forged basket, inner hub and pressure plates can handle just about anything you can throw at it over the course of a race, and the finished pieces use a Teflon coating and hard anodizing. This thankless component gets some outward love via a side cover which held up against scuffing much better than stock. Riders operate the clutch with an ASV unbreakable lever, but we noticed that the CRF’s notorious clutch pull is still very stiff. Keeping an eye on the mill is one of DRD’s hour meters.

Dubach Racing Honda CRF450X Project Bike
Suspension mods were handled by a known leader in desert racing, Precision Concepts.

While the Doctor administered his medicine and a big dose of Honda Pro Oils inside the Norco, California headquarters, the suspension headed off elsewhere to get overhauled as well. When it comes to going really fast across the desert, few companies are more trusted than Precision Concepts Racing. These guys are responsible for all those Baja championships as the official motor and suspension shop for Honda’s factory off-road program, now the Johnny Campbell Racing team. Go to any local AMA district event, Best in the Desert or Baja race and the number of fork legs with Precision Concepts stickers on them is startlingly obvious. The 47mm Showa fork and rear shock were changed internally for more controlled damping and better bottoming resistance. Our test ride was by no means full of deep whoops, but it did inflict a few hard hits and we never touched the bumpers. It has a rigid feel initially but that starts to go away as speeds increase.

The Honda Progressive Steering Damper is an excellent feature for the stock bike during most trail riding, but DRD was expecting more violent impacts. A GPR stabilizer graces the front end to keep the Universal handlebars under control. GPR is a popular choice among desert racers, but personally we’re not particularly fond of the unit. Steering is slowed dramatically, even when the adjustment is turned all the way out. More forgiving handling can be found with a Scotts damper, which would have been our first choice, but the GPR proves its worth when that extra-nasty jolt comes unexpectedly. Soaking up hard impacts is also a responsibility for the wheels and tires. Dubach left the stock rims and hubs, not surprising since factory Honda has tested countless brands and still runs stock components for their race efforts, but shod them in the new, aggressive Dunlop Geomax MX51 intermediate tires. Even though the wheels are nothing extraordinary, there’s plenty of cool stuff attached to them which add to the racing formula. A TM Designworks chain guide beefs up protection for the drive system which is anchored by Tag Metals sprockets. AP Racing brake pads offer fresh bite on the rotors and Zip-Ty Racing adds an axle puller, chain adjuster blocks and aluminum shark fin.

Dubach Racing Honda CRF450X Project BikeDubach Racing Honda CRF450X Project BikeDubach Racing Honda CRF450X Project Bike
(top) Universal bars and GPR stabilizer, (middle) Full DRD exhaust, (bottom) Tag Metals sprocket, Zip-Ty axle puller and TM Designworks chain guide.

We threw it on our scales with a full tank of gas and it tipped in at a healthy 275 pounds. Honda says the CRF450X is 269 lbs stock. Taking the bike through tight, technical riding, the weight certainly became a factor, but when used correctly it feels lighter thanks to the Honda’s naturally thin and comfortable ergonomic layout. Our 2007 project 450X had far less in the way of additional goodies and it weighed in at 274 lbs. The DRD bike gets lightweight protection courtesy of a carbon fiber wrap-around skidplate from LightSpeed Performance Products. They also kicked in a heat shield for the carb to keep the fuel from overheating during long, hard abuse. Up high are wrap-around aluminum Acerbis handguards. A custom set of Dubach Racing/MotoUSA graphics from Factory Effex capped off the fresh look with some red anodized Ride Engineering engine plugs and matching CV4 radiator hoses.

Honda makes a very competent off-road bike, and it just happens to be one of the best available for high-speed racing. There’s no doubting that it was a good baseline for this endurance project build. Dubach Racing has years of experience putting together fast 4-strokes, and as we suspected, there wasn’t anything on the bike that we felt shouldn’t have been there. The only regret we have is not putting this niche racer in a better testing environment, as our days were admittedly on the more technical side. A trip to Baja or a multi-hour Glen Helen GP would have been just about right! We also didn’t get the lighting setup, but the bike was equipped with a gnarly set of beams prior to us getting ahold of it, thus giving it even more racing stamina. After sampling what the Honda can do and seeing how DRD played upon its natural strengths, we’ve got a feeling that if we ever get a chance to race this baby for a full day, our muscles will cry uncle before the bike does. 

Dubach Racing Honda CRF450X Parts List:
DRD Hour meter and bracket kit – www.Dubachracing.com 
DRD Complete SS/A systemwww.Dubachracing.com 
DRD Pro-packing systemwww.Dubachracing.com
DRD minor motor mods – www.Dubachracing.com
AP brake pads rear – www.apracingusa.com
AP brake pads front – www.apracingusa.com
Precision Concepts suspension – www.precisionconcepts.net
Factory Effex custom graphics – www.factoryeffex.com 
Tag Metals sprocketswww.tagmetals.com
GPR stabilizer – www.gprstabilizer.com
Wiseco complete clutch basket www.wiseco.com

Dubach Racing Honda CRF450X Project Bike
This bike prefers wide-open spaces where speed and brute force override technical precision.

Wiseco clutch cover – www.wiseco.com
Acerbis hand guards black  – www.Acerbis.com
Zip-Ty axle pullers – www.ziptyracing.com
Zip-Ty chain adjuster blocks – www.ziptyracing.com
Zip-Ty shark fin – www.ziptyracing.com
Ride Engineering air fuel screw – www.ride-engineering.com
Ride Engineering kill button – www.ride-engineering.com
Ride engineering timing plugs – www.ride-engineering.com 
Lightspeed Wrap around Skidplatewww.lightspeedperf.com
Lightspeed Carb Heat sheild – www.lightspeedperf.com
TM designworks chain sliders – www.tmdesignworks.com 
Dunlop Geomax MX51 rear tirewww.dunlopmotorcycle.com 
Dunlop Geomax MX51 front tirewww.dunlopmotorcycle.com 
IMS pro series pegswww.imsproducts.com
Honda pro oils – www.hondaoils.com
Applied Racing block off kit – www.appliedrace.com
Universal Fat Bars – www.universalmotocross.com
ASV clutch perch & lever – www.ASVinventions.com
ASV brake lever – www.ASVinventions.com
ODI Cush grips – www.ODIgrips.com 
CV4 Radiator Hoses Redwww.CV4.NET