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Honda CRF450L Supermoto Conversion: MD Ride Review

When we tested Honda’s recently introduced CRF450L dual sport we were particularly impressed by the engine power. Surprised even. Honda likes to keep things quiet, and err on the side of reliability when it comes to performance tuning of a street-legal model. Nevertheless, the CRF450L rips for a single cylinder of its displacement.

We mused about the conversion of the CRF450L into a street-legal supermoto. When Honda told us they had built a one-off SM, we couldn’t wait to test it.

Honda outfitted the bike with Warp 9 supermoto wheels, oversized front brake rotor (with new caliper carrier), footpegs and rear axle sliders. Those wheels hold Continental Attack supermoto tires in sizes 150/60-17 rear and 120/70/17 front. The wheels meet the frame through suspension units tuned by Factory Connection, while the speedometer error resulting from the much smaller front wheel is dealt with by a Heal Tech Speedo healer. The stock seat is swapped for a Seat Concepts design.

When we first started testing the bike, the suspension balance felt way off. After experimenting with rear ride height and slowing down both the compression and rebound damping in the fork and shock, things worked the way we wanted them to.

The sticky tires and big front brake disc really transform the bike into a canyon carving weapon. Picking the bike up from one side and laying it down on the other to transition through tight, twisty roads is as close to effortless as you can imagine. The supermoto-tuned suspension soaked up mid-turn irregularities without a shrug. Sport bike riders of equal skill level don’t stand a chance when it comes to hanging on to the back of this bike … unless longer straightaways come into play.

The Seat Concepts seat cover took some getting used to. With pronounced ridges, it made it somewhat difficult to move fore-and-aft. The tires gripped well, and seemed to warm up quickly, but didn’t send strong feedback to the rider.

Top speed was down from the dual sport – the shorter rear wheel effectively reducing gearing. Highway speeds were still reasonably comfortable, but only for short periods. Adding a tooth, or two, to the front sprocket would address this.

We tested primarily on the street, but the suspension worked well off-road as well. Plush, but resisted bottoming. The extremely grippy Warp 9 footpegs meant our boots never slid, and changing foot position required conscious effort.

The oversized front brake rotor meant consistent, powerful braking on the street, with no fade experienced. Honda stuck with the stock front brake caliper.

So if you are fantasizing about converting your CRF450L to a street ripper, it can be done. Take a look at Warp 9’s web site for details and pricing on their supermoto products.


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15 Comments

  1. LT says:

    Making those additions without changing the gearing is a half-hearted endeavor. Doing both by my XR650L and CRF450X made them very streetable. Want the recommended gearing, check out supermoto junkies.

  2. tc2wheel says:

    Been there, done that; over a decade ago with my Honda XR560R.. made it street legal, too.

  3. Dino says:

    Wow. I thought i had seen my fair share of squids doing tricks, but that kid really made that look easy! Coolio!

    This was a reply to the you tube video from SurmaSlim!

  4. Grover says:

    Dualsport version with 50/50 tires is almost as good on the road for most riders and way better off-road. Incredibly how my Dualsport handles on the pavement with 70/30 tires.

  5. bipedal says:

    Nice but too pricey,wait for a used one.

  6. SurmaSlim says:

    If you know how to ride, this bike really delivers:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akbY4xNVvAY

  7. Gary says:

    I love (I mean really love) the bike, but there is much to dislike about the price. The CFR450L lists for $10,779 ($10,399 + $380 destination). Add to that the cost of the wheels, tires, brake upgrade and a street rear sprocket ($1,315 + shipping) and the rear seat (not necessary, but nice to have) and you are looking at a bike that is darn near $12,500. I’m sorry but that just doesn’t make sense. Oh, you’ll need to swap-out the exhaust to uncork that engine. Cha-ching!

    What does make sense is waiting a few years for the 450L to show-up on the used market and lacing up your own wheels. I did that with a titled DRZ400E that I got for $2,000 and the bike is just a hoot to ride. I’ll start searching for a used 450L in a few years.

    • Dave says:

      Or don’t wait for a used 450L and get ya’ a Husky 701SM?

      • Gary says:

        Yeah, or the KTM 690 SMC R for that matter (same bike). $1,000 less expensive than the modified Honda, 50% more power and a significantly smoother engine. The KTM does carry around an additional 60 pounds of weight, but I believe that the horsepower and comfort offset that. Further, no mods are necessary, And you can find 690’s used for 1/2 the price of the CRF.

        I still like the CRF-SM, but it’s not priced to compete with superior machines.

    • Ralph W. says:

      Buying a new bike and converting it often becomes very expensive. However, if you already have a CRF450L and decide you want to go road riding instead of dirt riding (or do both) a conversion can be the best option.

    • Jeremy says:

      You forgot to add the cost of reworking the suspension. 🙂

      I’ve ridden the 450L, and it doesn’t really need to be uncorked in my opinion. The power is competitive with the European street legal bikes of similar displacement. But then if you’re already gonna throw this much money at it, why wouldn’t ya, right?

      Some people can afford it, and some people just like things to be new. So to someone who wants a new, legitimate, high performance supermoto, this is just the price of entry.

  8. Hot Dog says:

    What a fun way, for an old dog like me, to get really messed up.