We now have a 2021 Honda CRF450RL dual-sport test bike, just in time for some good trail-riding weather here in Southern California. The Honda CRF450L was the biggest news in the dual-sport world two years ago when it was first introduced. Since then, the frenzy has died off considerably as riders realized that Honda did what Honda does; over-building the bike somewhat. The 2021 model has the first real changes since the bike was introduced. It got hand guards, the engine was remapped and Honda’s marketing department decided to distance it from the budget-oriented CRF250L by calling it the “RL.” It also looks very different with styling to match the new CRF450R motocross bike.

Honda just announced the 2022 CRF450RL, which will be identical to the ’21 model, right down to the price: $9999.

This bike was originally inspired by the previous (2017-2020) Honda CRF450R motocross bike. When you start to really look at the bike part-by-part, it’s apparent that Honda redesigned just about everything, even though the basic configuration is the same. The motor still has the Unicam design with finger followers on the intake valves and rockers on the exhaust side. The RL has a lower compression ratio (12.0:1 as opposed to 13.5:1), a different cam and, of course, different mapping and a very different exhaust. The gearbox is a six speed and it has plastic covers to help contain engine noise. The frame has most of the same dimensions as the R that it was based on, but has a number of extra brackets and so forth. The Showa suspension components are the same components as the motocross bike’s, but with softer valving.

Pete Murray playing on the 2021 CRF450RL.

When this bike was first released, it took a lot of heat for its weight. That hasn’t changed. On our scale, it weighs 277 pounds without fuel. For comparison, the KTM 500EXC is 243 pounds. That’s a big handicap, almost putting the Honda in a different category from the KTM, Husky and Beta. Setting that aside, the Honda has a lot going for it. The suspension is excellent–by far the best in the dual sport. We actually raced our previous 450L test bike in the 24-Hours of Glen Helen as our night bike with stock suspension. The reason we did that was because the headlight is so powerful–again, the best in the class. Power is decent, considering how quiet the bike is. Low-end torque, in particular, is great. It dies off on top as you would expect from a fully certified and EPA approved bike.


We installed STI Tech 2 tires almost immediately.

Like all dual-sport bikes, the tires that come on the Honda are very street oriented. We have to confess, we didn’t even ride the bike with the stock tires. They aren’t much fun in the dirt, so we installed a set of STI Tech 2 tires, which are full knobbies but fully DOT approved. The STI tires are actually excellent even by full-dirt standards. When you install full knobs, you have to also install rim locks, or you will simply spin the valve stem off. Then you need to balance the tires if you plan on riding the street at all. While we were at it, we installed STI heavy duty tubes.

The Honda uses a number of interesting measures for noise suppression, like plastic engine guards.

We presume that the reason that Honda updated the mapping for 2021 was because of the bike’s occasional tendency to stall. This wasn’t a flame-out scenario, where the bike coughs and dies as you open the throttle. It would only happen then you close the throttle. Riders often turned up the idle to compensate, although that wasn’t necessarily a good fix. Unfortunately this is still a problem. It doesn’t happen frequently, but when it happens, it’s annoying. Initially, we also had a few flame-outs, but these went away as the bike was broken in.

We’re not going to go crazy, but we want to make a few subtle, smart modifications to improve the Honda. Now that the bike has been around for a couple of years, there are lots of good project bikes to learn from, like our IMS Honda from last year. For the full test of the 2021 Honda CRF450RL, check out the June, 2021 print edition of Dirt Bike.


The Wild Boar GNCC was last weekend amid the chaos of Daytona Bike Week. It was another big turnout with 1177 bikes. The organization provided us with some very interesting stats afterward. The fact that KTMs, Husqvarnas and GasGas’s represent 57 percent of those rider is pretty interesting. Check out the Wild Boar photo gallery from Travis Fant.

Beta 8
Cobra (youth only) 13
Honda 69
Husqvarna 152
Kawasaki 107
KTM 488
Sherco 12
Suzuki 16
TM 4
Yamaha 269
Other 8


Bike Live Views: 13,917
Bike Unique Views: 8,961
Total Hours Watched: 5,896
3 hour broadcast


Yamaha is going to be out at The General GNCC at Aonia Pass this weekend, and they have some fun activities and cool giveaways planned.

  • Free Yamalube Product**
    • Stop by the Yamaha display Friday from 1pm-5pm, Saturday from 9am-5pm or Sunday 9am-12pm to receive your free Yamalube product*
  • Supercross Viewing (Saturday night)
    • Watch a live airing of the Supercross from Arlington, TX and help us cheer on Team Yamaha!
    • (Please bring your own chairs and abide by social distancing recommendations)
  • Grab & Go Dinner box (Saturday night)
    • Bring the ticket from your registration packet to the Yamaha display Friday between 1-5pm or Saturday before 3pm for your wristband (max 4 per rider family*) to receive a free grab & go dinner box from Zaxby’s on Saturday at 6pm!**
  • Raffle Prizes (Saturday night during Supercross)!
  • Onsite Giveaway of a Yamaha TT-R110E during Saturday night’s Supercross viewing. (Must be present to win.)
  • Special Announcements

If you have any questions, please e-mail Yamaha at [email protected] or stop by the Yamaha display starting Friday at 1pm.

*Must be able to prove that you are a Yamaha racer (rider reg sheet will be used for reference)
**While supplies last; first-come, first-served


The 3-Bros Six Hours of Glen Helen is Sunday and  it might be a record turnout. The course will be eight miles and the dirt is still wet! The racing starts at 8:30. Click here for more info.



It is almost time again for the Wiseco 2-Stroke MX World Championships hosted by Fasthouse. This year’s event marks an iconic year for Wiseco, as 2021 is Wiseco’s 80th anniversary. The gate will be dropping on April 3, 2021 at Glen Helen Raceway.

More event details and content can be found on our site here: https://blog.wiseco.com/wiseco-2stroke-mx-world-championships-glen-helen-2021

For complete schedule, classes, and pre-entry, please visit: https://glenhelen.com/6355-2/

See you next week!

–Ron Lawson


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