Dual-sport bikes dominated this week at Dirt Bike Magazine, as we get deep into a shootout between the Honda CRF450L, the Husqvarna FE450, the Beta 430RR-S and the KTM 500EXC. The four bikes don’t exactly match in displacement, but this isn’t about a racing class. These are what we consider the four best dual-sport bikes in the world from an off-road rider’s point of view. We will let other websites and publications talk about how well rounded they are for commuters and road riders. For us, the street portion of the test has only two questions: 1. Is it legal on the road? 2. Is it practical on the road? For all bikes, the answers are yes and yes.

Honda CRF450L, Husqvarna FE450, Best 430RR-S and KTM 500ECX

With our dirt-heavy emphasis, we stripped the bikes of their original tires. The Honda’s IRCs are mostly street and the Continentals on the KTM and Husky were selected to help those bikes pass sound tests. Only the Michelin Enduros on the Beta are dirt oriented, but even they have reduced knob height as required in Europe. We put all the bikes on Mitas tires, which are the most aggressive DOT knobbies we could find. If you don’t know Mitas, you might remember the firm’s parent company: Trelleborg.

We included the KTM 500EXC because there’s no 450 in the company’s regular dual-sport line. There is, however, a limited edition Six Days 450 EXC if you can find one.

In weight, the four bikes span a wide range. On our scale, the KTM 500EXC is 244 pounds without fuel. It has a WP Xplor fork and PDS rear suspension without linkage. The Husqvarna has a similar motor and the same fork, but the chassis, rear suspension (with linkage) and bodywork are all different. It weighs 248 pounds. The Beta uses Sachs suspension and comes with a Trail Tech GPS as standard equipment. It is 252 pounds. The Honda is 277 pounds. In price, they break down like this: Husqvarna: $11,099, KTM: $11,199, Beta: $10,499 and Honda: $10,399.

The Beta 430RR-S might be the smallest, but it has the most power.

In peak power, the Beta is tops despite its smaller engine size. The people at Honda, KTM and Husqvarna are quick to point out that Beta is playing by a different set of rules. Small manufacturers aren’t scrutinized as closely by the EPA, so the 430RR-S is louder (but still quiet), and presumably has more tailpipe emissions. Fine with us; it’s still legal in all 50 states. In low-end power, the KTM’s extra displacement gives it an advantage. It should be pointed out that KTM doesn’t offer a 450 in its regular line-up. There’s is a limited-edition Six-Days 450, but these disappear quickly. The Honda is still very close to the KTM in power, particularly on the bottom. The Husqvarna isn’t that far behind, but in motor performance, it’s still in fourth place.

The Honda CRF450L’s disadvantage in weight is inescapable, but it’s the most comfortable bike of the bunch.

Suspension is another matter. The Honda clearly comes out on top here. We have often heard that heavy bikes have better suspension, and that might be a contributor. It still has the best overall ride. The KTM is much improved over last year’s version. The fork dives less and everyone likes the PDS rear end. It’s still very soft, overall. Riding the Husky and KTM back-to-back allows you to explore the differences between PDS rear suspension and linkage. For slow-speed trials, most riders say they like the PDS better. As speeds increase, the linkage design on the Husky feels more stable. Clearly, there’s much more testing to be done here. If you were to modify these bikes for closed course racing, most riders say they would like to start with the Husky’s design. For Beta, the Sach ZF fork is new this year. It’s firmer than the suspension on the other bikes. That makes it more stable, but it can feel harsh in choppy terrain. It also has the thinnest, least comfortable seat.

The Husqvarna FE450 is vastly different from any of KTM’s dual-sport bikes. Not only is it a 450, but it uses linkage suspension and has a very different feel.

There’s no denying that the Honda’s weight is a big handicap. It’s such a big, heavy bike it truly feels like it belongs in a different category. On tight trails, it’s also difficult to ride because it stalls easily. The KTM is at the other end of the spectrum. It might be the biggest in displacement, but it’s also the lightest and has the best low end power. It loves tight trails, although it, too can flame out occasionally. Only the Beta runs cleanly down low; it almost never stalls or coughs. We have lots more testing to do here, mostly because this shootout is way more fun than anything else we do all year. Stay tuned.


USA’s Becca Sheets charges through the day’s last test, day 5 will consist of two new test and one test from today. Copyright Darrin Chapman

Darrin Chapman has been in Chile covering the ISDE for Dirt Bike all week, and he’s been supplying some epic photos. The race itself has us on the edge our our seats as the U.S. team is battling with the Aussies. Today, it looked like the Australian team edged a little farther ahead, with Daniel Milner winning four of the six tests. Taylor Robert won the other two, and Steward Baylor is getting faster and faster. Right now, Robert and Baylor are 1-2 in the 450 class, but Milner is leading the big bike class and the overall. Each team consists of four riders and the top three scores count each day. Australia lost a rider on day two, but Milner, Daniel Sanders and Josh Strang have been flawless. It will come down to the final moto tomorrow. The bad news for us came on  day three when Destry Abbott crashed out. He reported that the dust was horrendous, but he’s not seriously hurt and he’s staying to support this son Connor, who is eighth in the C2 (Club, 450) class. You can watch the scores live by downloading the ISDE app, here.


he 2018 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series, an AMA National Championship, concluded, October 27 and 28, with the AMSOIL Ironman GNCC in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Since 2010, this event has been deemed a “pink race” in honor of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with several partners participating to raise money for the cause.

This year GNCC and its partners raised a grand total of $10,981, however this amount is looking to increase with the online auctioning of the 2018 AMSOIL Ironman Pink podium backdrop. The Ironman GNCC Backdrop will be available for silent auction bids over the next three weeks leading up to and ending at the Awards Banquet in Morgantown on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. The pink backdrop is an annual tradition and special piece that is signed by class winners and top podium finishers throughout the weekend with proceeds included for the final donation to the Faith Alliance Fund at the Montgomery County Community Foundation. To place your bids, email your silent bid, full name and phone number to [email protected] by Nov. 30 and look for the pink backdrop set up at the Awards Banquet for final bids.


William Gloege has one of the best adventure Vlogs I’ve seen. I met him at a Honda Africa Twin press event last spring, and I’ve been following him ever since. He was a corporate real estate salesman a few years ago, when he decided he wanted a change. He sold out and hit the road on a Kawasaki KLX650. Since then, he’s been around the world, shooting his Vlog as he goes. The upgrade to an Africa Twin was a forgivable indulgence.

That’s all for now.

–Ron Lawson

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