FIRST RIDE, 2019 HONDA CRF450RX: THE WRAP

RIDING THE HONDA CRF450RX

Pete Murray and the 2019 Honda CRF450RX at Cahuilla Creek.
Pete Murray and the 2019 Honda CRF450RX at Cahuilla Creek.

Honda’s 2019 CRF450RX off-road racer is out and we spent a day with it this week. Most riders don’t understand what this bike is and why it exists, so up front, it’s important to be clear. The RX isn’t a trail bike. It isn’t even an off-road bike in a technical sense. It’s a closed course competition bike according to the rules set up by U.S. Customs. Sometimes that doesn’t mean anything to the rider, but in this case it does. The CRF450RX is essentially a motocross bike, just like the CRF450R. It has a big tank, softer suspension, a kickstand, an 18-inch rear wheel and different mapping, but all that means very little when you’re riding the bike. It feels like a motocross bike.

The Honda CRF450RX is mostly motocross bike with a little off-road fluff.
The Honda CRF450RX is mostly motocross bike with a little off-road fluff.

There are an increasing number of bikes like this on the market. The KTM 450XC, the Yamaha YZ450FX and the Husqvarna FX450 all are built on the same formula. They are MX bikes with a few off-road amenities, and if a trail rider buys one thinking it’s something other than a full-blooded, fire-breathing MX bike, he’s in for a surprise. In Honda’s case there’s a true off-road 450 on the way. The CRF450X is new for this year and it’s set up for real trail riding. To read Honda’s official release on the CRF450X, click here. KTM and Husqvarna don’t have such a bike, and instead direct customers toward their dual-sport models if they want real trail bikes.

For the 2019 model year, the CRF450RX gets all the updates that the motocross version got this year. It has a new frame and swingarm that are less rigid, the engine cases are new (without the kickstarter boss). and there have been some suspension changes. Like the 450 motocross bike, it has launch control now. And like all the race-oriented Honda models, it finally has a Renthal Fatbar, black rims and multiple mount holes for the handlebar pedestals.

2019 Honda CRF450RX

Riding the CRF450RX off-road is exactly like riding a full-blooded MX bike off-road. The softer suspension and mellower power delivery are fairly minor concessions on a real off-road ride. The Honda already has one of the most aggressive power deliveries, even in its motocross configuration. The gear ratios are the same as the MX bike, and there’s no fan or increased radiator capacity, so it will overheat quickly at low speed. When you take the RX on a motocross track, on the other hand, it’s perfectly at home. In fact, novices and older riders will like it better than the motocross version. The suspension is plush and the power delivery is more gradual. That’s why it’s important to know what the bike is  ahead of time. This is a racer, through and through. For the full test, check out the December print issue of Dirt Bike.

NATIONAL MX BACK IN THE DAY

This week’s random hard-drive search brought me back to the 2009 National MX series. That year was fun because the 450 class was completely up in the air. No previous champion was in the running as Ricky Carmichael and Grant Langston were retired, and James Stewart, the 2008 champion, was injured. That left the  top graduates from the 250 class as the favorites: Ryan Villopoto, and Mike Alessi. Within two rounds, though, both of those riders were out with injury. Eventually, Chad Reed won, and it was his only outdoor 450 title.

Photo by Ron Lawson
Mike Alessi was on top of his game in 2009. Unfortunately, he broke his leg later that year and never quite came back to the same level. Photo by Ron Lawson.
Photo By Ron Lawson
Ryan Dungey was the king of the 250 class in 2009. Photo by Ron Lawson.
Photo by Ron Lawson
Andrew Short was in the title hunt in 2009, but Chad Reed was the eventual champion in the 450 class. Photo by Ron Lawson.

Ryan Villopoto was the chosen one to win the 450 title in 2009, but he was injured early in 2009. Photo by Ron Lawson.
In 2009, WORCS Champion Ricky Dietrich was a fill-in rider on the Monster Energy Kawasaki team for the Nationals. He routinely finished in the top 10, earning new respect for the off-road community. Photo by Ron Lawson.

DESTRY AND COOPER ABBOTT TEEs

Destry and Cooper Abbott both qualified to go to Chile for the ISDE in November. Father/son teams have only qualified a few times before in the history of America’s involvement in ISDE racing, and we’re pulling for them to bring back some gold. You can support them by buying a T shirt for $25. Click here.

THE LAST DANCE

The last National MX of the year takes place tomorrow in Indiana. The 250 class has already been decided, but the 450 class can still turn. If Eli Tomac doesn’t finish a moto and Marvin Musquin wins, everything can change. Then the riders get a break until October, when the Motocross of Nations takes place back to back with the Monster Cup. These guys don’t have much vacation time.

That’s all for now

–Ron Lawson

 

 

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