Written by Ryan Dudek, Photos by Brian Blades
There was much excitement in 2005 when Honda introduced the CRF450X enduro bike, based on the award-winning CRF450R motocrosser. But to Honda’s dismay, the X wasn’t received with the same enthusiasm as the now-seven-time Ten-Best winning 450R. By no means was the X considered a bad bike; it just missed the mark slightly and therefore didn’t top any comparison tests.
Despite the 450X coming up just a touch short in previous years, Honda has made a few minor changes that drastically alter the 2008 model. The most noticeable improvement comes from a combination of revised triple-clamp offset, front-axle placement and the addition of a steering damper. The triple-clamp uses 22mm of offset (previously 24mm), same as on Honda’s 2008 MX’ers, while the fork features 2mm-shorter axle lugs as implemented on its moto siblings in ’06. These changes bring the front wheel closer to the engine, shorten the wheelbase a quarter-inch and increase trail by 4mm. To ensure stability and enhance cornering feel, Honda added its Progressive Steering
This combination dramatically enhances handling. In tight terrain, the X no longer feels like a 260-pound four-stroke but more like a light and agile two-stroke. The effortless turning action is bliss, giving the CRF unmatched cornering ability without taking away high-speed stability. Complementing the improved steering is a new Dunlop 742FA front tire that offers better grip
Another change that gives the X a lighter steering feel is the smaller, 1.9-gallon fuel tank. This is a big drop from the previous 2.3-gallon unit. The reduced capacity allows a narrower seat, making the front of the bike slimmer and giving the rider much better mobility. On the previous model, the rider had to wrestle to stay forward on the bike, but not now. And fuel mileage?
Figure you’re going to be good on 50-mile rides. We pushed it to 61 miles on a tank before it dried up when trying to run it out; oversize aftermarket tanks are available if you need more range.
There were very few changes to the liquid-cooled 449cc Single, so power is similar to that of the previous model. The engine uses a lighter and more compact decompression system and is fed by a new 40mm Keihin carburetor with revised settings, a redesigned accelerator pump and altered linkage. Jetting is spot-on, giving the bike crisp, smooth power with close-to-perfect throttle response. No longer will owners need to purchase a special “power-up needle,” as the motor performs strongly in stock form.
It’s surprising what a big difference small tweaks can make. The $7399 CRF450X practically feels like a new machine, offering superior balance between technical terrain, tight woods and open desert riding. The agile chassis and powerful engine bring the X to the top of the off-road charts.
Originally published in the July 2008 Issue of CYCLE WORLD.
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