Here’s How Honda’s Confusing CRF450 Lineup Actually works

Motorcycle naming has really gotten out of hand.

Honda CRF450RL on the track

The Honda CRF450

Take a look at Honda Powersports website. There you will find 6 variants of the Honda CRF450. There is the CRF450R-S, CRF450R, CRF450RWE, CRF450X, CRF450RX, and finally the CRF450RL. To think that each of these is a different bike with a specific purchase can make it daunting to choose the right model.

To make life easier, here is a quick rundown of the basic differences.

The CRF450 Lineup

  • CRF450R-S: An entry level motocross CRF450 starting at $8,599
  • CRF450R: A motocross CRF450 with upgraded components starting at $9,599
  • CRF450RWE: Top of the line motocross CRF450 with the best components and styling starting at $12,399
  • CRF450X: The “Baja” style CRF450 with a six-speed transmission for high speed riding for $9,799
  • CRF450RX: A CRF450 with suspension tuned for enduro riding and an 18″ rear wheel for $9,899
  • CRF450RL: A heavier, detuned CRF450 with a six-speed transmission that can ride both on and off-road for $9,999

Recently we had a chance to test the dual-sport CRF450RL both on and off-road, and through doing so we learned a lot about the lineup. The street legal CRF450RL weighs a whopping 47lbs more than the 244lb CRF450R motocrosser. Much of that weight comes from road focused additions so that highway riding is possible.

Street Riding

While the CRF450RL rides better than expected on at high speeds, I would advise against it. Honda recommends an oil change every 600 miles on the street, so racking up miles will cost you. That’s just as well though, because the 40 horsepower 449cc Unicam engine vibrates furiously at highway speeds.

The rest of the bike does seem surprisingly at home on the freeway though. Off-road, the CRF450RL is big and very heavy. The engine also makes about 15 fewer horsepower than its motocross cousins.

Off-Road Performance

That being said, the dual-sport CRF450RL is no slouch. Our expert rider, Andy Smith, found the CRF to be a well sorted overall package. From suspension, to chassis, to brakes, everything worked as he hoped. Even the 450’s street legal tires performed on an exceedingly dry track.

Andy felt the bike was much happier at low RPM. The Unicam has no shortage of torque to pull you forwards, and at higher RPM the throttle is jumpy. For those of you familiar with this 449cc engine, stalling is still a frequent problem.

Thanks largely to lean tuning for emissions, this CRF has a noticeable flame out issue. Luckily the problem is nothing that can’t be remedied with a quick ECU tune.

If you live nearby a trailhead, the street legal CRF450RL makes sense. It manages to do both street and off-road riding with confidence. Fair warning, it is a large motorcycle with a 37.2 inch seat height, so be prepared to sit a ways off the ground. If you don’t plan to ride on the street, I recommend you ditch 47lbs of weight and go for an off-road model.