It isn’t often that we’re surprised by a new bike, but this model was a shocker. Honda has a KTM hunter! The CRF450RX is an off-road racer built with the same design parameters as a full-race motocross bike. There’s no emission equipment, no spark arrestor, no sound reduction; all the power-making hard parts are identical to the new motocross bike. That, of course, means the RX isn’t legal on some state and federal trail systems, and that it’s not eligible for a California green sticker. For those environments, Honda still offers the older carbureted CRF450X, which is quiet, clean and legal. The RX is designed to go head to head with the KTM 450XC, the Husky FX450 and the Yamaha YZ450FX, which are all considered closed-course competition bikes, but for off-road racing as opposed to motocross.


In order to appeal to the off-road crowd, the RX has the electric starter as standard equipment. It also has softer suspension, an 18-inch rear wheel, a 2.2-gallon fuel tank (made of plastic) and a kickstand. The motor hangars are also different to allow a little more compliant feel in frame flex. And even though everything in the motor from the piston to the pipe is the same as the motocross model, the mapping is configured for a more trail-friendly power delivery. Both the motocross and off-road 450s have a handlebar-mounted switch that allows for a change in ignition maps.

American Honda keeps many of its milestone cars, motorcycles and race hardware in a facility near its Torrance headquarters. During the unveiling of the 2017 CRF450R and CRF450RX we took a look at the bikes and cars on display.


I’ve always liked off-beat motorcycles, especially when they actually offer something that the mainstream guys don’t. TM is like that. Rolf Schmidt is the importer for these low-quantity Italian bikes, and he just showed some of the company’s 2017 stuff. This marks the company’s 40th anniversary. Throughout that period, TM has manufactured a few hundred motorcycles each year, concentrating on fine detailing and craftsmanship. The bikes are always fast and light.



TM even goes so far as making its own rear shock. For 2017, the two-strokes will get a new servo for the electronic powervalve, new shock valving and updates to the KYB coil spring fork.


The company also make four-strokes, although they tend to be very expensive. There will be a new 300 four-stroke off-road bike added to the line for 2017, but photos are still not available. TM is very Italio-centric, which is a made-up word that means things get done when things get done. Usually, the new models are shown at the Milan EICMA show in November. The MX300 shown here will sell for $8895.



This is a premium helmet comparison put together by the guys at Chaparral. It’s very well done and gives weights, prices and features for the Shoei VFX-W, Arai VX-Pro, Leatt GPX 6.5 V.01, 6D ATR-1, Bell Moto 9 and Troy Lee SE4 Carbon. I’m very impressed with the quality and the approach, but I can’t necessarily endorse the conclusion because I would have to crash in them all. I might have, but I can’t remember.




Up next on the list of test bikes that have been delivered is the Beta Xtrainer. I love this bike, but it’s hard to explain. It’s not fast, it’s not a racer and the list of things it can’t do is pretty long. But it awesome! The Xtrainer is made for trail riding on super tight, technical trails. It’s the type of riding I personally love. The bike is downsized about 10 percent and the power is tuned for bottom end torque. You can get through sections that are impossible on a normal bike. It also has electric start and oil injection. The price is $7299.


We also just got our hands on an SSR 450. This is an Asian clone of a Honda CRF450X. At first we had very limited enthusiasm about riding it, but when you look at it up close, it’s actually pretty impressive. For $4699, the quality is actually excellent. The frame has welds that put Honda to shame. The front brake is a Nissin. This company didn’t use a Keihin FCR carburetor, which is one of the key components that makes the Honda CRF (and basically all carbureted four-stroke competition bikes) work so well. Instead it has a Teikei carb, which is a huge Japanese corporation with resources comparable to Keihin’s. It might just work. Tom Webb will be testing this bike himself.


The nationals are back! I thought I wasn’t going to make it.







See you next week!


Ron Lawson

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