What you should know
about the return of the X
1. Honda stopped making the CRF450X after 2009 but never
dropped it from the line. The truth is, Honda overproduced motorcycles in ’09, and between the bikes on the showroom floors and in
the warehouse, there was no need to make more. Now that the
backlog is gone, the assembly line has been fired up again. The
vehicle ID numbers might say 2012, but the bikes are identical to
the 2009 models.
2. The Honda has a carburetor that passes EPA standards
without any tricks. That means it’s very clean and quiet, and it’s
legal on public lands, particularly in California. The price is that it’s
a little lean, but it’s still perfectly rideable without modifications.
3. There’s an air pump located on the motor as part of the
emission package. This is an eyesore but does no harm. Leave it on
unless you have a proper kit that can remove it. The carb needle is
fixed, and the fuel screw is difficult to alter. The Feds run a tight ship.
4. Honda still uses the same basic motor that was introduced
in 2002 on the original “R.” The X came in 2005 and was updated
in 2008. Many people consider it Honda’s best motor platform ever.
But, in stock form, it’s kinda slow—especially compared to the others in this group. Low-end is good, but it doesn’t rev. That can be
changed with alterations to the airbox, jetting and pipe, but it will
no longer be clean, quiet or legal. When it’s unplugged, the Honda
is capable of winning the Baja 1000, and it does so regularly.
5. Everyone likes the Honda’s overall handling and layout. As
the old man in this group, the X is a known quantity. It has helped
define what a 450 off-road bike should be. It has no headshake,
thanks in part to the Honda Progressive Steering Damper System. It
feels well-planted in turns and is comfortable. It’s no lightweight,
though. It feels heavy, despite the fact that it also feels small and
6. For most riders, the suspension is a good compromise.
Honda didn’t skimp on the components; they are top-shelf Showa
units. Honda leaned toward the more serious riders with the spring
and damping rates, so it can handle whoops easily. It’s not set up
for beginners. You could do a lap on a motocross track without
feeling out of place.
7. Quality is excellent. The side-access airbox is easy to open,
the wheels are strong, the brakes are good, and the gear ratios are
perfectly spaced. The Honda has an oddly high price of $8440,
even though there are a few cost-cutting measures, like the 7/8-
inch Renthal bars and old-world footpegs.
8. Fuel range is nothing to get excited about. The Honda holds
just over 2 gallons, which, oddly enough, is typical of all the bikes
in this group except the KTM, which holds a half-gallon more.
There are several aftermarket tanks available, including some enormous rally tanks. Oddly enough, replacing the tank makes the bike
noncompliant for emissions. We have never heard of this creating a
problem in the real world.
9. There are about a zillion other aftermarket parts available.
These include items like Trail Tech’s high-output lighting coil and
MecaSystem’s Rally Fairing. The Honda is probably the most
accessorized dirt bike currently available.
10. Overall, the Honda has no detractors. Everyone likes it, but
the bike is showing its age in a class of newer, faster hardware.