Although Honda boasts the Baja-winning capabilities of a highly modified CRF450X, the true calling card of the stock Honda CRF450X is its EPA-friendly emissions equipment that keeps it trail-legal in California—the most restrictive state in the union for off-road vehicles. The off-road-only 2022 Honda CRF450X sits between the CRF450RX competition-only racer and the CRF450RL dual-sport bike. We put lots of miles on the CRF450X, from tight single-track to wide-open desert terrain. While it has many racebike characteristics, it’s a trailbike at heart, and that’s how we enjoyed it.Hopping on the 2022 Honda CRF450X, it feels instantly familiar. Honda has ergonomics down, and nothing feels out of place. It doesn’t hurt that there are six CRF450 variants, so we spend quite a bit of time on the platform. The cockpit isn’t complicated, with start and kill buttons taking care of the electronics—no power modes, traction control, or launch control on this one.
The big reason you don’t need any power modes for trail riding the 2022 Honda CRF450X is that the motor is a big sweetheart. Smoothly ramping up to a peak of about 40 horsepower with tons of overrev, plus a smooth run to a midrange maximum torque production of 30 ft/lbs.Unlike the barking CRF450R and CRF450RX, the X subdues the throttle response, focusing on retaining traction regardless of the terrain’s challenges. Honda achieves this by giving the CRF450X its own cam profile and piston, while increasing the crank mass. With a much less restricted exhaust system than the catalyst-saddled CRF450RL dual-sport bike, the CRF450X is a gentle step up from the CRF450RL, though not coming close to challenging the maximum power outputs from the R or RX.The 2022 Honda CRF450X is docile below about 5000 rpm. If you like short-shifting and lugging, the X will happily comply—it doesn’t have the flame-out problem that makes you want to keep the revs up on the RL. Above 5k, the delivery gets a bit more exciting, and by 8000 rpm, even the most aggressive rider will click up a gear on the flawless transmission.Honda wisely outfitted the CRF450X with a six-speed transmission, rather than the five-speed used in the R and RX. Matched with the broad powerband, the CRF450X is willing to take you anywhere. You can work your way through the most technical trails in 1st gear—a damper on the countershaft sprocket adds to the smoothness.When you get into open terrain, you can crank it up into 6th, which will take you up to speeds that will get you a ticket on an Interstate. This won’t happen in a blink of an eye, but it will transpire with a satisfying urgency if you’re hard on the throttle.If you get going too fast, the two-piston Nissin calipers working on a 260mm disc will reverse the process, and the rear brake has good feel when you need it. Also, you can easily keep tabs on your pace thanks to an easy-to-read LCD dash, though a configurable TFT display would be a cool upgrade.Balance is always the key to a successful motorcycle, and the 2022 Honda CRF450X is a testament to that maxim. The smooth power delivery matches high-quality Showa suspension that is wonderfully plush. This is precisely what we like in a trailbike—awesome suspension that puts a premium on rider comfort and traction delivery. Racers will consider the damping and spring rates to be unacceptably soft. That’s easily fixed by visiting a local suspension revalving shop, or buying a CRF450RX.For trail riding, the suspension is heavenly. The dampening prevents wild changes in the CRF450X’s attitude, and the spring rate is just enough to prevent the bike from packing down too quickly on rougher terrain.The compression damping is about the same as the heavier CRF450RL, and considerably lighter than the RX. Rebound is the opposite, with the X preventing the back end from hopping around by slowing things down. These differences are immediately felt, as the X feels like it’s gliding across the terrain. If you’re not satisfied with the stock setting, full damping and spring-preload adjustability are at your fingertips. Speaking of fingertips—the stock hand guards are greatly appreciated.Honda engineers added to the X’s ease of use by giving the X more flexible upper motor mounts and increasing chassis flex a bit. While the X doesn’t have anywhere near the exciting and responsive feel of the RX, over the course of a day’s ride through demanding terrain, you’re happy for the X’s emphasis on comfort if you’re riding for fun, rather than racing for a trophy (or cash).All is not perfect, of course. Hitting the scales at 275 pounds, the 2022 Honda CRF450X is no lightweight—it’s 24 pounds heavier than the RX—and the nearly 38-inch seat height puts you far above the dirt. Fortunately, in technical terrain, the suspension and power delivery mask the heft, for the most part. However, it’s a bit of a beast to pick up should you have a tip-over. It is worth noting that the CRF450X weighs just 10 pounds more than the CRF250F, making the transition easier for someone moving upmarket.At speed, the weight is less of an issue, though riders who frequently access 6th gear will probably consider a steering damper. On the upside, the rake on the X is kicked out a half-degree compared to the RX. With the fork angled at 27.6 degrees, stability is impressive at speed in the stock configuration.Honda mounted a pair of now-discontinued Dunlop Geomax MX52 tires on the CRF450X, rather than the superior current MX53. It’s an intermediate-to-hard tire with a substantial carcass to deal with the tortures provided off-road. Certainly, the MX52 isn’t a bad tire and had a good reputation until the MX53 replaced it. We liked the feel of the rear—traction when needed, and controllable when steering with the rear—but occasionally lost the front unexpectedly in looser terrain. We’ve peeked at the ’23 CRF450X, and it will have Dunlop Geomax AT81 rubber—good choice.Californians can thank Honda for keeping the CRF450X Green Sticker legal. Yamaha let the WRs’ legality lapse, narrowing the number of performance-oriented Green Sticker off-road motorcycles to only the X and, sort of, the Kawasaki KLX300R. We hear that Beta will have some Green Sticker 2023 dirt bikes to keep Honda honest. We wouldn’t complain if the folks in Austria would turn one of its lines of dirt bikes into a Green Sticker armada—maybe GasGas, the “fun” brand. While we’re dreaming, how about a CRF400F from Honda—a modernized version of the XR400R with EFI and electric start?As it stands, the 2022 Honda CRF450X is a fantastic trail bike. It has personalizable ultra-comfy suspension, a meaty motor with easily 10 more horses in it if you’re interested, impeccable handling, and an exemplary reliability record. That’s enough for us to celebrate its continued presence in the marketplace and out in the dirt.Photography by Kelly CallanRIDING STYLE
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This week, in the first segment Editor Don Williams talks to us about the new Kawasaki Versys 650 LT. It’s the middleweight ADV style machine that uses the same 650 parallel twin motor as the Ninja 650, so it’s an excellent performer in a user-friendly, good looking package.
In the second segment, I chat with one of my dearest industry friends—now retired Honda PR executive, Jon Seidel. Jon’s fascinating career spans some 30 years with Big Red, and gave him some great experiences with some incredible machines. I was fortunate enough to be invited on many of the press launches that he organized. His new project is documenting and saving many of the old archives from years gone by—and incidentally, if you have anything that may be of value to the project, please contact us by email at email@example.com and we’ll pass it all on to Jon.
So on that note, from all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!