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.