After a well telegraphed build-up, Honda has finally released the 2019 CRF450L – one of the most anticipated dual sport bikes in history. Honda (and Japanese) motorcycle fans have been demanding new dual sport bikes from Japan for years as KTM, Husqvarna, and other smaller European manufacturers have trounced the ancient offerings from Japan Inc.
Moto journalists were recently invited to a press ride and the first reports on the bike are just now being released. Is the CRF450L everything the dual sport community has been demanding? Not surprising, opinions vary, depending on the skill and experience of each reviewer. Here’s what famed motorcycle racer Jimmy Lewis had to say about the new 450.
“This is not a bad motorcycle. In fact it is very good. But instead of having to read between the lines and guess what others are trying to tell you, here is the plain straight up fact. This CRF450L is not going to replace your KTM 500 EXC. It isn’t in that category though many hoped it would be. The CRF450L is a modern day XR650L..”
In other words, the best comparison for this bike are the WR250R, DRZ400S, XR650L, and DR60. Not the KTM 350 or 500 EXC bikes. This is not a “dirt bike with blinkers”. Instead, it is a modern version of the XR650L or the DRZ400 dual sport bikes. With a really short recommended oil change interval (600 miles). Here’s how Jimmy Lewis put it.
“Yet maybe this bike will be a better match for a different customer and best ridden stock? There are plenty of 250cc dual sport riders who might be looking for the next step up. Riders coming off a Suzuki DR-Z400 would be happily impressed. And if you are one of the many Honda XR650L riders out there looking for a lighter and higher performance Honda option, this bike is right in your wheelhouse. Want to do more trails than your Kawasaki KLX will handle, now we’re talking.”
How well will this bike sell? Time will tell but I could see it going one of four ways.
- “What??? The KTM 500 EXC is only $800 more than the CRF. For that kind of money, I want the more powerful, lighter weight, and longer oil change intervals of the EXC bike.”
- “What??? 600 mile oil change intervals? To hell with that. I’ll buy a WR250R and change the oil every 3000 miles.”
- “What??? $10,300 for a dual sport? No way am I spending that much money on a Japanese dual sport. I can buy 1.5 new DRZs for that kind of money.”
- “I want one. I want one now. I must have one. Now.”
Clearly, Honda is hoping that the majority of people go with option four.
So do I. I hope Honda sells a million of these bikes.
Austin used to have a Husqvarna motorcycle dealer (Napalm Motorsports) but they went out of business in 2017. Since then, if you wanted to buy a new Husqvarna motorcycle or get service on a Husky you already owned, the closest dealer was Munn Racing, a two-hour, 100 mile drive away. Certainly not an ideal situation.
The great news is that Austin has finally gotten another Husqvarna dealer. Austin’s well-respected and long-time KTM dealer, TJ’s Cycle, has picked up the complete Husqvarna line of motorcycles. If you live in central Texas and have been lusting after those awesome Husqvarna motorcycle now is your chance to get the bike you’ve been dreaming of and to do so from a local shop.
You’ve been wishing, hoping, praying, and hollering for the Japanese to come out with a modern 450 dual sport bike. You swore that if they would just make it, you would buy it. Your wish has been answered – today Honda announced the CRF450L street legal dual sport bike. 289 pounds wet weight. Wide ratio six speed transmission. Basically a modern, street legal dirt bike that appears designed to compete with the great stuff the Euro manufacturers have been producing for years now.
A lot of you have refused to buy a modern dual sport bike from the European manufacturers. Too unreliable you said. A too sparse dealer network. And the big complaint – the Euro bikes were just so expensive compared to the old dual sport bikes from Japan Inc. Japan has heard you and Honda has (finally) responded. On paper, the CRF450L looks like a great dual sport bike. It appears to hit all the right notes.
However, there is one potential issue with the new Honda. Modern dual sport bike costs more to design and build than old school dual sport bikes. The Euro manufacturers have been making and selling modern dual sport bikes in the $10,000 range compared with $6500 or so for old Japanese dual sports like the DRZ and XR650L. The new CRF450L is priced at $10,300 – similar to the Euro bikes.
It will be interesting to see if the primary reason the majority of riders have continued to choose to buy old school dual sport bikes is actual due to the cheap price. Will riders, in mass, pay $10,300 for a modern dual sport from Honda? Or will they say something to the effect of, “The Honda isn’t as good as the KTM and if I have to pay KTM prices I want KTM performance.” Or might they say, “That’s too much for a modern dual sport bike. I want a modern dual sport Japanese bike but I only want to pay the same price as the old bikes are sold for.”
If there is any justice in this world, this bike will sell like hot cakes. Time will tell.