2022 Honda 450 RL: motocross motorcycle approved for the street


Let’s get this straight: The most popular motorcycle ticket in the COVID era has been “ADV” or “adventure bikes,” with sales skyrocketing. An ADV bike is like a street bike that you can ride on dirt roads. They lean towards on-road comfort, with some off-road capability. A BMW GS could be the best poster of the breed – or the new Kawasaki KLR 650. If you know anything about motorcycles you know they’re comfortable machines for the long haul but, unless you’re super talented. , they can become a handful when you hit technical off-road. The enemy is weight, typically reaching 440 to 500 pounds. The 289-pound Honda 450 RL 2022 is decidedly not that fashionable ADV machine then.

The Honda 450 RL is a barely street-legal off-roader, designed to bombard fire roads and more technical trails than the average biker would ever tackle with a heavier ADV machine. Want sophisticated ABS and traction control? Fairings and instruments? How about a USB port? Maybe a tachometer? Sorry, the Honda 450 RL gets none of that. Instead, it has an exceptionally stiff frame, killer motor, impressive brakes, and suspension to die for, making it perfect for our test plan.

We took the Honda 450 RL through the Vermont portion of the Backcountry Discovery Route (BDR), a series of roads and trails that exist across the United States that are loosely mapped by enthusiasts. The Vermont section is considered one of the toughest in the country, and it has been made even more so by recent tropical storms that have left “Class 4” connections (mostly snowmobile trails) so saturated and sloppy. than a Louisiana bayou.

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A lively engine

Honda gave the 450RL a different tone to its simple 450cc than the 450R you typically see on dirt, but the throttle response is still instantaneous. It’s not quite a two-stroke all-terrain motorcycle.

Although you would have to go above 7,000 RPM to find maximum horsepower, the torque curve is relatively flat and fat, which means you’ll feel that 3,000-7,000 RPM tug. When we pulled through the deepest, slickest, and muddiest terrain in Vermont, we could happily shift into second or third (or even fourth) gear and know that at just about any speed, we would be ready to shoot.

In fact, the first gear is so low that for anything close to a rock face we stayed completely out of that cog, just to keep the bike from rolling under us.

The downside to all that muscle: This six-speed Honda is designed for more off-road than on-road riding. Sure, it’s snot to rock at 70mph, but this engine is much happier bombing rock gardens and mud bogs at 30mph than the Interstate at freeway speeds.

Side profile of red dirt bike against desert landscape
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A dream of suspension

Because Honda was kind enough to let a few of us test the CRF-450RL, we got to see how the bike performed under different weights and body types, from around 5’7 “to 6’5” and 150 pounds to well over 200 pounds.

We all loved the Showa pendant light. Is it steep? Well, relatively speaking, yes, but in relation to what? Lighter off-road bikes are more playful, but compared to the generally heavier ADV bikes that hit close to 400-500 pounds, the 450’s shocks were great for cutting tight lines on rocks, roots and around or just over the edge. over each obstacle. This bike is also very predictable on the road. The Honda may be less ideal for melting miles of freeway, but two-lane driving in rural Vermont has never been scary or nervous.

What is an open-air fork and shock demerit? The 37.2-inch saddle height puts smaller riders on tiptoe.

Yes, this suspension offers 12 inches of travel front and rear, and just over 12 inches of ground clearance, which in addition to great internals is why it’s totally painless and particularly agile.

One of the reasons ADV bikes have become more and more popular is that they reach a softer (lower) point between the view of the road and the ride height. Here we’re closer to the off-road bike bias of the chassis this Honda was built on, which is strictly for churning mud, not bitumen.

Man riding red dirt bike up a steep hill
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Creature comfort (and limits)

Honda had to decide on street cooking legality in the 450RL, and some of the smoother parts include a very strong aluminum chassis that extends all the way below the rear fender, so you can attach saddlebags. saddle up and do what we did – extend a trip over a week. They also gave this Honda great brakes that are not aggressive for motocross so that you are less likely to get in trouble, but much stronger and without fading on the street. It’s smart, just like a heavily under-armored engine.

But there is almost no protection from the wind. And the vibrations of the engine at highway speeds are noticeable, and unfortunately made worse by a seat as hard as iron. We got it: The 450RL was born out of Honda’s off-road 450R lineage, but a $ 10,000 motorcycle like this faces machines that compromise on creature comfort.

Our biggest gripe in this vein isn’t the seat (you can easily replace it): it’s the puny fuel tank. At two gallons we were forced to carry extra gasoline as we were concerned about running out of fuel and we were confronted. A mountain bike with a small tank is normal; a bisport bike is supposed to allow travel, hence the full frame which allows the addition of saddle bags. A bigger tank would increase the weight, but if you have to haul cans of gasoline anyway, you just added that weight back.

Choose your pleasure

One of the attractions of the Honda 450 RL is the fact that it forces the rider to make a decision at the time of purchase. If you buy a convertible, you choose a louder car for the pleasure of driving in the open.

The 450RL is that kind of argument: you don’t buy it for the streets. This is not your ADV cappuccino softie. It is not intended for this use or for this rider. It is meant to tear apart and leave those ADV aspirants in its perch. And, yes, to turn beautifully and freely, and meander through singletracks with the kind of agility that will make you a better rider.

Like this convertible, it wasn’t built for everyday, but for that perfect day in the dirt.

[From $9,999; powersports.honda.com]

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