Cool tool or fool?s dual, depending on how you look at it

“What in heaven have you done?”
    “Nothing,” we said in unison, with a still-holding-the-grenade-pin kind of guilty look. “Well, we made a dual-sport bike, that?s all.”
“Out of a CRF?” cried the Honda rep. “That?s just wrong!”
A bystander overheard us and stopped in his tracks. “That?s a CRF? I haven?t even seen one yet. What in heaven have you done to it?”
You could have put us on display and sold tickets. “See the mad editors and their incredible waste of a great MX bike! Marvel at their stupidity! Gasp at their evil handiwork!”
Yes, we took one of the only Honda CRF450Rs in the country and hung horns and turn signals off it. Yes, we took a 233-pound motocrosser and made it into a 240-pound street bike. Yes, it will make any pure MX rider?s blood run cold. But it will make the eyes of any hardcore trail rider light up with delight.

We just wanted to go trial riding on a light, fast bike. But here in California, that?s easier said than done. Here?s the problem: the eighth digit. If the eighth digit of the vehicle ID number is a C or a 3, that alerts the DMV that it doesn?t meet California emissions requirements and it can?t get a green sticker. So if you want to ride it on public trails, you have a choice of either running and hiding or making the bike street-legal in some other state. Then you can smuggle it across the Tofu Curtain into California, have it inspected, pay an impact fee and presto! You have a California-legal bike with a license tag to boot.
Like most MX bikes, the eighth digit on our CRF was a C. So the first step in converting the bike to a trail bike was to convert it to a street bike. Strange but true.

White Bros. has recently hooked up with a company called Electrix to make dual-sport kits. Honda didn?t make a lighting coil for the CRF450, so Electrix did. It simply replaces the stock generator coil with one that provides for the stock ignition as well as another 45-watt output lead. That, in turn, charges a DC powerpack mounted behind a new headlight. Virtually all of the dual-sport workings are within that pack. It has a key (that really works), a horn and front blinkers. A simple wiring harness goes back to a UFO fender extension that carries a taillight and blinkers. All that gets too heavy to be supported by the stock fender, so a brace had to be fabricated. For the mandatory speedometer we mounted a Trail Tech Panoram, which has everything except video games. It uses a magnetic pickup with a wire running up the brake hose.
All that was just to make it pass DMV?s inspection. We had our own inspection for trail use. The CRF is a motocrosser, pure and simple. It has motocross suspension in a motocross frame with a motocross motor. Even on the track, the CRF fork is a little stiff. It comes with a 0.46 kg/mm spring, which isn?t too stiff for a bike of this weight, so the White Bros. suspension department figured that things could be softened up with just damping changes. The rear suspension is softer and requires less drastic damping changes. We had them done anyway. A dual-sport bike needs an 18-inch rear wheel because there just aren?t that many 19-inch DOT tires. A Talon wheel was laced up with an Excel rim. We also figured that a taller seat was essential just to increase the comfort factor. We recovered the stock seat base with an N-Style CR tall foam inside. It fit after a little cutting. Actually, it would be a great idea to use the tall foam on the motocross version of the CRF, too.
For the pipe we used a White Bros. E-Series with a Quiet Core and about five discs. As for the rest of the motor, we weren?t quite sure what we needed. The CRF has a broad, smooth powerband, which should be perfect for trail riding. But it?s very quick revving. The crank and flywheel are super light for a four-stroke, and there isn?t enough room for additional weight. We decided to put the project together with a stock motor to see how it would work. Taller gearing would probably smooth out the powerband even more and would be necessary for even short stints on the pavement. We weren?t building a road racer. We just want to have it work well enough on the road to connect trails.

When we were done, we had a legitimate sub-240-pound dual-sport bike. Compare that to O.E. dual-sport bikes that weigh over 300 pounds and home-built versions that are around 270 pounds. The only bikes that come close are converted WR250Fs and two-strokes.
Does the CRF make a good trail bike? Absolutely! The power is nothing short of fantastic for an off-road bike. Just point it up anything, open the throttle and have fun. The Honda is an incredible hill climber. In sand and wide-open spaces, you never get tired of twisting the throttle and throwing big chunks of earth into orbit. On tight trails, the power can be intimidating, but the lack of weight saves you. It?s only when you get into really gnarly rocks and low-traction situations that you have to be careful. You are riding a 50-horsepower motocross bike with very little flywheel and a hair trigger. It?s not for the timid. Keep a gentle hand on the throttle and two quick fingers on the clutch at all times. The bike will stall if you give it a chance, especially with tall gearing. We used a 45-tooth rear sprocket initially, but discovered that it made first gear way too tall. At least if you stall the CRF, it?s no big deal. It always starts without much fuss. Just remember to pull the hot-start trigger.
Also remember to keep your rides short. The Honda engine is thirsty and the tank is small. We imagine that there will be several companies who step up to the plate and manufacture large fuel tanks for the Honda, but none have done it so far. That might be a good thing for now. You don?t really want to ride the bike across country. Even with the 45-tooth sprocket and a top speed over 100-mph, the bike feels revved out and buzzy at freeway speeds. Honda engineers would cringe at the notion of the bike being taken on the road. The engine only holds a little more than a pint of oil in its sump. Four-stroke singles usually have a tendency to lose oil through the crank vent when run at sustained speeds, and the Honda doesn?t have much to lose. We didn?t notice any oil loss on our bike; the CRF has a series of baffles designed to keep that from happening. But we checked it frequently to be safe.

Okay, so the CRF isn?t the perfect dual-sport bike. But the perfect dual-sport doesn?t exist. There?s nothing even close. And this project is better than anything you can buy ready-made. We?re betting that we won?t be the only ones to take a perfectly good CRF and deface it with lights and horns. It?s a great bike and it can take a little defacing around the edges. But don?t expect Honda to follow our example. We won?t even show the bike to another company engineer unless we have smelling salts handy.


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