Whereas the motocross world has undergone a suspension revolution of sorts by introducing such weight saving techniques as separate function forks and air-sprung forks, the CRF450X sticks with the proven and reliable inverted 47mm Showa cartridge fork that offers 16-position rebound and 16-position compression-damping adjustability to tailor its 12.4-inches of front wheel travel. The rear suspension’s 12.4 inches of travel are managed by Honda’s trademark Pro-Link rising rate linkage with a Showa single shock that features adjustable spring-preload, 17-position rebound-damping adjustability, and compression-damping adjustments separated into low-speed (13 positions) and high-speed (3.5 turns).
We certainly couldn’t find fault with the CR450X’s suspension. It’s more than capable of slamming through rough off-road chop at high velocity while maintaining ample low-speed sensitivity in stutter bumps or rocky sections. Expert DirtBikes.com tester Sean Borkenhagen also reverted to motocross antics and attempted several huge jumps with multiple g-force landings on the 450X. It passed with flying colors, delivering excellent cushioning from skyshots without bottoming. It’s good stuff.
The 450X’s brakes are also exceptional. Its single 240mm front disc features a Nissin twin-piston caliper that delivers plenty of braking power with a linear feel, and its 240mm rear disc likewise exhibits a good feel and easy modulation without any undesirable tendency to lock up the rear wheel. Of course, having good tires also helps, and the CR450X’s 80/100-21 front and 110/100-18 rear Dunlop tires deliver plenty of bite on everything from hard pack to soft sand with excellent durability.
Out on the trail, the 450X at least feels smaller than its 267-lb. weight would suggest, with a slim seat, narrow aluminum perimeter chassis and quality Renthal handlebar that offers plenty of leverage in any terrain. While the seat is slim, it is well padded, and the overall seating position is very comfortable for longer off-road excursions. We’d have no trouble riding the 450X all day, every day.
While the CRF450X sports exceptional attention to detail—for instance, we especially liked the trap door in the left side panel, which makes removing the air filter for easy servicing a snap—we would like to see it come with a few more off-road amenities, such as handguards to ward off bashed fingers on tight wooded trails. Also, a rear fender-mounted tool bag, such as the one that was delivered on generations of big XR’s would be a welcome return. What else would we change? Assuming it could be done without raising the X’s cg, a fuel tank with more capacity than the X’s current tank would be a great way to extend our off-road riding fun. Of course, most of these items are already available via the aftermarket.
Overall, though, we’re stoked with the performance and feel of the Honda CRF450X. Its engine power, suspension and chassis are well suited for a wide variety of off-road terrain and rider experience. Its list price of $8440 is more than fair when you take into account the build quality of the bike and Honda’s excellent reputation for reliability. And while it wouldn’t be our first choice as an all-out racer in stock form, the CRF450X is worth a serious look if you spend most of your time riding in the desert or the woods rather than burning laps on a motocross track.