It’s More Than Just an Off-Roader With A Tag Holder

If you’re all about that trail-life, but aren’t necessarily feeling the trailer-life aspect of it, then Honda’s new CRF450L was built with you in mind. The “L” is based on the CRF450R, and was designed as a sister-bike to the 450X of the same family. It’s a street-legal machine with mirrors and lights that’ll let you connect the dots between your favorite trails via blacktop. As for the brown top, a 449 cc plant generates the power with a light-pull clutch and knobbies to keep it under control.

  • 2019 - 2020 Honda CRF450L
  • Year:
    2019- 2020
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    single cylinder
  • Displacement:
    449 cc
  • Top Speed:
    90 mph
  • Price:
    10399
  • Price:

Honda CRF450L Design

2019 - 2020 Honda CRF450L
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2019 - 2020 Honda CRF450L
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Since the visual impact of the street-legal goodies is minimal, the CRF450L comes off with an undeniable bent for off-road work.

The dirtbike DNA is strong with the CRF450L. It leads off with a large, tripletree-mount front fender that moves its weight from the unsprung category to the sprung one in a bid to maximize the front suspension’s sensitivity over terrain. A set of uprights add a negligible amount of mass, but they’re a necessary evil on inverted forks, especially ones that are meant to get down and dirty while out in nature.

The factory tops the front end off with a cyclops headlight buried in race-style graphics on the flyscreen that suggest a number plate with matching areas on each side, to much the same effect. LED turn signals ride on short standoffs to complete the forward lighting.

A short-rise handlebar puts your hands right in line with the steering stem, and it defines the rider’s triangle in such a way as to enable you to ride it seated, or standing on the pegs. Unlike the dirtbikes of old, the two-gallon fuel tank has a minimal hump which allows the bench seat to be extended quite a bit for the more technical stuff, plus the cap comes with an emergency cut-off that keeps the fuel contained if the bike winds up on its side. The minimal deflection in the saddle gives the flyline a very flat trajectory for that fore-and-aft weight shifts.

Bodywork is very Spartan with just enough cowling to screen the radiator and cover some of the tank while it supports the saddle and extends back to form the rear fender, and that’s it; nothing else is left to the imagination. Under the tip of the tail are the LED taillight and turn signals with a short mudguard/plateholder combo to finish it off. Since the visual impact of the street-legal goodies is minimal, the “L” comes off with an undeniable bent for off-road work.

Honda CRF450L Chassis

2019 - 2020 Honda CRF450L
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2019 - 2020 Honda CRF450L
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2019 - 2020 Honda CRF450L
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Suspension is appropriately tuned for its trail-to-trail performance and brakes are upgraded with thicker discs and larger reservoirs to combat brake fade.

Honda went all out to keep the overall weight down on the CRF450L, and it shows in the final 289-pound wet weight. It starts out with an aluminum, twin-spar frame, and narrow subframe with a titanium fuel tank. The yoke-style swingarm comes injected with urethane in a bid to reduce the amount of noise transmitted through the structure. Showa provides the suspension with a beefy set of inverted forks that run with a 49 mm inner tube diameter and is adjustable for both compression and rebound damping. Out back, a coil-over shock and Pro-Link hardware takes care of business with the full trinity of adjustments, but across the board the suspension is appropriately tuned for its trail-to-trail performance.

A 260 mm disc and twin-pot caliper slow the front wheel with a 240 mm disc and single-piston anchor to slow the rear. The brakes borrow from the 450R model, but are upgraded with thicker discs and larger reservoirs in a bid to combat brake fade.

As for the steering geometry, the 450L runs with a 28.2-degree rake angle and 4.6 inches of trail over a 58.9-inch wheelbase to give it a bit of extra stability. Ground clearance is generous at 12.4 inches off the deck, and naturally, that pushes the seat up, as well so the saddle rests at 37.1 inches high, which will be a stretch for many riders but is typical of the genre. Laced wheels round out the rolling chassis with IRC hoops in an 80/100-21 and 120/80-18 on the front and rear, respectively.

Front Suspension: 49 mm leading-axle inverted telescopic Showa coil-spring fork with rebound and compression damping adjustability
Rear Suspension: Pro-Link Showa single shock with adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping adjustability
Rake (Caster Angle): 28° 20’
Trail: 4.6 inches
Front Brake: Single 260 mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Rear Brake: Single 240 mm disc
Front Tire: IRC GP21 80/100-21
Rear Tire: IRC GP22 120/80-18

Honda CRF450L Drivetrain

2019 - 2020 Honda CRF450L
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2019 - 2020 Honda CRF450L
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2019 - 2020 Honda CRF450L
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The light-pull clutch increases fine power control and feathering with the extra benefit of reducing left-hand fatigue.

Honda tuned the powerplant specifically for trail riding by increasing crankshaft inertia by 12 percent to maximize torque generation. As it stands, the mill cranks out a total of 41.7 horsepower with 23.6 pound-feet of torque on tap; plenty to make our European brothers and sisters jealous as their model is restricted to a paltry 25 ponies.

A 96 mm bore and 62.1 mm stroke makes for a fast-revving thumper with a total displacement of 449.7 cc and a smokin’ hot compression ratio of 12-to-1 that’ll demand premium road champagne at every fill up. The Unicam head uses finger followers with DLC treatment to extend service life, and the piston was changed to have a three-ring design for improved sealing of the combustion chamber.

Engine power is coupled to the six-speed transmission by a special, light-pull clutch meant to increase fine power control and feathering with the extra benefit of reducing left-hand fatigue. Since there’s a push-button starter, you won’t wear yourself out kicking it either, though I’d still like to see a kickstarter included as an emergency backup. Emissions are Euro 4 compliant, so I believe that makes it legal in any state in the union.

Engine: liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
Displacement: 449 cc
Bore x Stroke: 96 mm x 62.1 mm
Compression Ratio: 12.0:1
Valve Train: Unicam OHC, four-valve
Induction: Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI), 46mm downdraft throttle body
Ignition: DC-CDI
Transmission: Wide-ratio six-speed
Final Drive: #520 Chain; 13T/51T

Honda CRF450L Pricing

2019 - 2020 Honda CRF450L
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2019 - 2020 Honda CRF450L
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2019 - 2020 Honda CRF450L
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MSRP on the CRF450L is $10.4k and comes in Honda Red with white trim.

MSRP on the 2020 CRF450L is $10,399 MSRP, same as last year. Honda Red with white trim is the only palette you can expect so far. Honda covers your CRF450L with a one-year transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty.

Model ID: CRF450L
Warranty: One Year, Transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty (HondaCare Extended coverage available with a HondaCare Protection Plan)
Color: Red
Price: $10,399

Honda CRF450L Competitors

2019 - 2020 Honda CRF450L
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2016 - 2019 Suzuki DR-Z400S / DR-Z400SM
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In spite of the similarities, the DR-Z400S rolls for only $6.7k, which can be a dealbreaker against the Honda's $10k+ price tag.

The market isn’t exactly awash with street-legal trail bikes, but I think Suzuki is going to appeal to the same sort of buyer as the CRF450L with its DR-Z400S, so here we go.

Suzuki mainly sticks to the traditional dirtbike layout with a little dual-sport flavor thrown in for good measure. A high-mount front mudguard and flyscreen strike a similar chord, as do the blank, racer-style number plates on the sides, and such similarity is to be expected on function-driven forms like these. Like the 450L, the Z400S rolls with mirrors and blinkers plus a tagholder to meet street-legal requirements, but the dual-sport influence brings hoops that are more properly stealth knobbies than true knobbies, and as such, still likely be more secure on the tarmac.

Suzuki’s front stems come off a lower shelf than the Honda’s as they run with fixed values, but the rear shock rocks the full trifecta to break even on that end. Raw brakes stop the Z400S sans ABS support just like the Honda, but that’s to be expected on a trail-oriented machine, after all, so no harm there.

Suzuki powers its entry with a 398 cc thumper, and while official numbers are as scarce as hen’s teeth, unofficial feedback has the horsepower somewhere in the low forties, stock, which puts it right on par with Honda once more. In spite of the similarities, the DR-Z400S rolls for only $6,749, which can be a dealbreaker against the Honda’s $10k-plus tag.

He Said

“I’m looking at this from a pragmatic point of view; if the cost of having to buy/deal with a truck and trailer isn’t a straight trade, it’s close to it, especially once you factor in time and aggravation. I guess it depends on how much you ride. Still, Honda’s off-road experience is readily evident, and the fit-and-finish is what you’d expect from it. Looks like a capable machine.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “ This isn’t just an off-roader with a tag mount as some of the alledged dual-sports are. Suspension is plush. Steering isn’t as responsive as a proper Enduro, but it is a proper dual-sport, so there are compromises. If you’re looking for a full-on race bike, this isn’t it; but as a fun weekender to hit the trails, you can leave the trailer at home and be confident riding to your favorite trail head.”

Honda CRF450L Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
Displacement: 449 cc
Bore x Stroke: 96 mm x 62.1 mm
Compression Ratio: 12.0:1
Valve Train: Unicam OHC, four-valve
Induction: Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI), 46mm downdraft throttle body
Ignition: DC-CDI
Transmission: Wide-ratio six-speed
Final Drive: #520 Chain; 13T/51T
Chassis:
Front Suspension: 49 mm leading-axle inverted telescopic Showa coil-spring fork with rebound and compression damping adjustability
Rear Suspension: Pro-Link Showa single shock with adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping adjustability
Rake (Caster Angle): 28° 20’
Trail: 4.6 inches
Front Brake: Single 260 mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Rear Brake: Single 240 mm disc
Front Tire: IRC GP21 80/100-21
Rear Tire: IRC GP22 120/80-18
Dimensions & Capacities:
Wheelbase: 58.9 inches
Seat Height: 37.1 inches
Ground Clearance: 12.4 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.01 gallons
Curb Weight: 289 pounds
Miles Per Gallon: TBD
Top Speed: 90 mph
Details:
Model ID: CRF450L
Warranty: One Year, Transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty (HondaCare Extended coverage available with a HondaCare Protection Plan)
Color: Red
Price: $10,399

Further Reading

Suzuki DR-Z400S

2016 - 2019 Suzuki DR-Z400S / DR-Z400SM
- image 790488

See our review of the Suzuki DR-Z400S.

Honda CRF450R

2018 Honda CRF450R
- image 736583

See our review of the Honda CRF450R.

Honda

ALLYN IMAGES: DO NOT DELETE
- image 794666

Read more Honda news.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: honda.com, suzukicycles.com

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