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Honda Finally Introduces a Street-Legal 450cc Dual Sport – Derived from Motocrosser!

More than a decade ago, we began looking for a hardcore dual sport built around a Japanese manufacturer’s 450cc motocross weapon. Honda just introduced one … the 2019 Honda CRF450L. The “target price” is $10, 399, and it is expected to be available in September of this year in U.S. dealers.

No, this is not a namby-pamby, overweight dual sport. It has an Unicam single-cylinder 449cc engine not that far removed from Honda’s motocross bike, and it is extremely light weight for a street legal motorcycle of such displacement, i.e., a claimed 289 pounds with all fluids (including a full tank of gas). Have a look below at Honda’s description of this new model:

This is the bike so many have been waiting for. The one serious riders have dreamed about. A true street-legal dirtbike that offers the reliability, refinement and quality of a Honda, along with the light weight, handling, and power of our best off-road machines. Introducing the new 2019 CRF450L. Sure, you’ve seen dual-sport bikes before, but this is something much, much more: a true trail-to-trail machine. Developed in tandem with our all-new 2019 CRF450X, it features a powerful 449cc Unicam engine, twin-spar aluminum CRF chassis, six-speed transmission, and premium suspension. Electric start? Naturally. All-LED lighting package? Of course. Until now, you’ve always had to choose between performance and reliability. No longer—with the CRF450L, you get the best of both worlds. And “best” is a word you’re going to hear a lot when you’re talking about this bike.



Fully Street Legal

The CRF450L is equipped with a catalytic converter and is fully street legal in all 50 states. That means you can ride it wherever it’s legal to operate a motor vehicle—in state and national parks, on the road, on public lands. Plus, you don’t need to haul your bike to the trailhead in a truck or on a trailer. Best of all, it makes finding gas a breeze.

Electric Start

An electric start system ensures trouble-free starting in all conditions. The electric starter also drives the clutch side of the crankshaft to provide superior lubrication to starter gears while producing a narrow engine with a short, strong crank.

Six-Speed Transmission

Like our CRF450X, the CRF450L rocks a six-speed gearbox. That gives you a low gear perfect for tight, slow situations, and a top gear that’s tall enough for highway riding to the next gas stop or trailhead.

Lithium-Ion Battery

Light, compact, and offering excellent performance—just like the CRF450L itself! Conventional batteries are heavy, but not this premium piece. It’s all part of why your new CRF450L performs as well as it does.

Inertia-Tuned Crank

We redesigned the CRF450L’s crank to have 13 percent more inertia than the CRF450X. Why? To smooth out power delivery and make the engine more user-friendly in tight, technical situations.

Dual Radiators

The CRF450L’s dual radiators feature a refined core area for superior heat dissipation compared with conventional dual-radiator designs. A coolant recovery tank is located in front of the engine between the frame downtubes for improved center of mass, and the tank is protected by a plastic skid plate.

Final-Drive Sprocket Damper

Designed to keep your bike quieter while not adding any weight, these unique drive sprockets are just another example of the CRF450L’s innovative engineering.

Electric Fan

The CRF450L is a “ride anywhere” type of bike, and because conditions vary so widely, we’ve equipped it with a light electric fan for the radiator. Rock crawling or riding on a hot Arizona single-track, it helps keep your engine running cool.

Titanium Fuel Tank

Holding 2.01 gallons, the CRF450L’s premium titanium tank is light and tough.

Skid Plate

The CRF450L’s factory skid plate is light, yet also offers the engine and lower-frame protection serious riders demand on a machine like this.

LED Headlight

The CRF450L features an all-LED lighting package, including the headlight. That’s a big deal, because it takes a lot of weight off the front end. And the lighting pattern is also specially designed for both on- and off-road situations.

LED Taillight

The LED taillight is integrated into the rear fender. It’s light, compact and rigid.


449cc Unicam Engine

Honda’s Unicam cylinder heads combine the best of single- and double-overhead-cam designs. The configuration contributes to a compact engine that saves weight over a comparable dual-overhead-camshaft motor and also permits a narrow included valve angle. This flattens the combustion chamber to facilitate ignition flame propagation, allowing a high compression ratio. Since less space is taken up in the cylinder head, the camshaft sits lower in the head for a more compact engine and a lower center of gravity.

Titanium Intake Valves

Lightweight titanium intake valves permit use of smaller valve springs, reducing overall engine height.

Fuel Injection

The CRF450L features our proven fuel-injection system. It’s part of the reason the CRF450L offers such excellent torque and spot-on metering and response, especially in the critical low-rpm range. It also automatically compensates for elevation and weather changes.


Twin-Spar Chassis

This is the same design as our all-new CRF450X uses, and that’s a really big deal. It means the CRF450L is a true off-road bike, and not some compromise. The twin-spar aluminum frame is both light and stiff, and provides the basis for the CRF450L’s excellent handling. The chassis geometry is specially selected for responsiveness, and also is wider than the standard MX frame to accommodate the six-speed transmission.

IRC GP Tires

The CRF450L’s tires give you good off-road traction and on-road life. Tires are always a critical part of any on/off-road bike, and we’ve hooked you up with some great ones here.

Low Center of Gravity

The compact Unicam engine and Honda’s famous concentration on center-of-mass engineering help keep the CRF450L’s center of gravity low. That means the bike feels lighter, and it helps handling too.

Works-Style Front Brake

Compact twin-piston front brake caliper, anodized-aluminum brake pistons and lightweight 260mm front disc offer great stopping power while minimizing unsprung weight for improved turning and handling.

Works-Style Rear Brake

HRC works-type rear brake system uses a 240mm brake rotor combined with an integrated rear master-cylinder and fluid reservoir, a set-up that eliminates the separate reservoir and hose.

18-Inch Rear Wheel

The CRF450L’s 18-inch rear wheel gives you an excellent choice of on/off-road tires.


Gear-Driven Counterbalancer

The Gear-Driven Counterbalancer reduces vibration and drives the water pump. Eight clutch plates provide the surface area necessary to handle the engine’s massive torque, while carefully matched clutch springs provide a light feel at the lever.

Renthal Fatbar

Aluminum Renthal Fatbar is rubber-mounted to help reduce rider fatigue and improve comfort.

Works MX Styling

Having a hard time spotting the differences between our factory MX bikes and the new CRF450L? You’re excused. The “L” looks like our MX bikes because it’s derived from them—the smooth bodywork makes it easy to move around, and the in-mold graphics not only look cool but are durable, too.

Black Rims

They may not help you go faster, but the sweet black DID rims sure look good.

Superior Ergonomics

Placing the rider’s legs at the narrowest part of the frame helps improve comfort and handling.


Hey, a sidestand may seem like no big thing, but take a look at the one the CRF450L uses. Tucked up high and out of the way, this forged alloy piece is just another example of how the CRF450L gets it right.

2019 CRF450L – Specifications


    Engine Type

    449cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke

    Bore And Stroke

    96mm x 62.1mm

    Compression Ratio


    Valve Train

    Unicam OHC, four-valve


    Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI), 46mm downdraft throttle body


    Fully transistorized with electronic advance



    Close-ratio six-speed

    Final Drive

    #520 Chain


    Front Suspension

    49mm leading-axle inverted telescopic Showa coil-spring fork with rebound and compression damping adjustability

    Rear Suspension

    Pro-Link Showa single shock with adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping adjustability

    Front Brake

    Single 260mm disc with twin-piston caliper

    Rear Brake

    Single 240mm disc

    Front Tire

    IRC GP21 80/100-21 w/tube

    Rear Tire

    IRC GP22 120/80-18 w/tube



    58.9 inches

    Rake (Caster Angle)

    28° 20′


    4.6 inches

    Seat Height

    37.1 inches

    Ground Clearance

    12.4 inches

    Fuel Capacity

    2.01 gallons

    Curb Weight

    289 pounds (Includes all standard equipment, required fluids and full tank of fuel—ready to ride.)

    Miles Per Gallon



    Available Colors


    Model ID


See more of MD’s great photography:



  1. Anonymous says:

    If I choose to go dual sport I have to pony up $10.399 for this (admittedly nice bike)or stay on the street and get a Yamaha MT-09 triple with 100hp for $8999. I realize they are different types of bikes but, just from a manufacturing standpoint, wouldn’t the Yamaha be more expensive to produce? I know other brands of dual-sports are even more expensive, so are they trying to make the DP bikes a prestige segment or what?

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      This class of dual sport is to the cheaper dual sports what a Tuono is to the MT-09. Some dual sports can be had for $5K if the additional performance isn’t of any value to the rider. Just like a fine MT-09 can be had if the Tuono is overkill.

      Lighter, faster, the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound over and over again without breaking to pieces, and the control to dash at breakneck speed through a narrow, twisty, hilly, tree-lined corridor with unpredictable terrain is the goal that performance-oriented dual sport enthusiasts seek. It just cost money, especially at the relatively low volumes produced compared to something like an MT-09 or even the more economical CRF250L.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s just the cost of a state of the art enduro bike. This bike and others in the segment are the R1-M and S1000R of the offroad/ dual sport world. Top of the line components throughout, no expense spared.

      Suspension is usually the first part of the bike where corners are cut and money is made. This 450L and others have really complex and sophisticated suspension. That’s a big part of the extra cost.

      The MT-09 is a great bike, but clearly Yamaha didn’t spec the bike with the latest and greatest of everything, otherwise its cost would be about the same as the R1.

  2. I’m glad we are getting more & more choices !

  3. Mick says:

    I’m in the make an E-start XR650R camp. I went to off instead of reserve on the petcock the other day and was surprised at how awkward I felt kicking the beast over when it ran out of gas.

    I haven’t ridden the thing a whole lot since I repatriated. It stayed behind for the five years that I lived in Europe, and rode a Multistrada.

  4. GreenMan says:

    Your turn, Suzuki.

    The DRZ400 is suddenly starting to feel old and boring. But knowing Suzuki; it might take a while.

    I’m betting on 2 years.

    Oh and Yamaha may also want to ‘update’ its WR250R.

    I just feel happy when a manufacturer steps-ups the game and ignites the competition.

    Remember Honda CBR250R?! Thanks to that little CBR; now we have over half a dozen lightweight sports bikes!

    Win/win, eh?

  5. Sam P Jones says:

    Appears to be near-perfect compared to my previous dual-sport mounts, (DR 400 and 650) My only concern rests with the aftermarket (Acerbis, primarily) in providing at least a 3 gallon tank. The factory 2.1 would be suicide for serious Baja work.

  6. Steve M says:

    Going to be a bunch of those 2 gallon Titanium tanks sitting in garages collecting dust. Thanks, but my Husky FE501 is going to stay in the stable for a while longer.

  7. Jeremy in TX says:

    I applaud Honda for stepping into the ring, even if they are always late to the party. Being so late to the party, I’d have thought they would be a little more weight-aware given the other competitors occupying this price point, but I guess the pretty heavy, long-in-tooth 450X is probably the starting point for this machine. That bike was about 270 wet if I remember correctly, so an extra 20 lbs for street legal bolt-ons seems about right.

    Or maybe the extra weight comes from beefed up internals and subframe? That is something many people would pay a weight penalty for.

    In any case, I bet it is a fine bike that will perform better than it’s specs would imply. The availability of a Japanese option in this market is enough to sell more than a few.

    And I have to say this… The 2 gallon titanium gas tank is ridiculous and gimmicky. So many people replace the fuel tanks for more range. What was the rationale here? Seems like a pretty high-dollar item just to save a couple of pounds on a bike that isn’t competitive with regards to the scale anyway even for customers who won’t replace the tank. At least it might make for some cool motorcycle decor in the living room.

  8. Tom R says:

    Anyone who can’t handle a 289-pound two wheeler with an engine and disc brakes should switch to, perhaps, mountain bikes.

    They are much lighter, and after a few months of exercise on one you just might have enough muscle and guts to ride the motorcycle again…this time without being the whiney nut behind the handlebars. Then you can work up to those monstrous 320-pounders.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      They can all handle a 289 lb bike. However, for practically the same money from the Euro bikes, they don’t have to. That is the point of the criticism, and it is perfectly valid. Anyone who worksout knows than manhandling 10% to 15% extra weight for four or five hours can take it’s toll.

      That said, I wouldn’t dismiss this bike just from the spec sheet. My experience with Honda motorcycles is that they are more than the sum of their specs. Everything seems to just work. The bike might handle just as light as it’s competition in use, even if it isn’t.

    • MotoMaster39 says:

      Defeats the whole purpose of using a higher maintenance engine by letting the weight get so high. I’d rather have an XR650 with upside down forks and a revalved shock.

      If I was gonna drop 10,000+ on a brand new dual sport, it better be a legit dirtbike with lights. The Euro dual sports ARE dirtbikes with lights. This Honda is an overweight dirtbike with lights. Not worth the maintenance schedule IMO.

      If you’ve ever ridden in the dirt, you’d know the difference between a 260 pound bike and a 290 pound bike are huge. It has nothing to do with “being able to handle” the weight. 10 out of 10 people would be faster on the 260 pound bike.

      • Don says:

        That is what I hoped the author would have discussed – the maintenance schedule of this bike vs. the offroad only version. The intensive maintenance required on the 450X is too much for me to bother with. I would hope that this 450L would (somehow) only require maintenance like the 250L (that I used to have).

        • Anonymous says:

          Maintenance will be much more frequent than the 250L. The 250L motor is based off of the CBR250. This new 450L is based off of the “uni-cam” CRF450R motor which is pretty maintenance intensive.

  9. GnG says:

    Wonder when the discussion on “will the motocrosser cylinder head fit” and likes will start

    • xLaYN says:

      LOL, a classic.
      I remember a veeeery old issue of sport rider where a GS500 with a GS1000 head without the outer cylinders and another myriad of custom work made the GS put around 50… 60? HP.

      It was obliterated when the SV650 saw the light.

      On the other hand… I will do a project like that if I had enough spare money, space and time to go over it.

  10. George Catt says:

    Put the Rally package on it and it will get my attention.

  11. red says:

    +1 on the XR650R based dual sport. This crf is a nice bike but leans too far to the dirt for me and costs too much. That space is occupied now. If that’s what I wanted I’d already have a plated ex/c. Wish they had updated the XR-L.

  12. Chase says:

    Honda was doing market research on this bike literally 8 years ago at a race I was doing. No wonder they are always behind the more nimble smaller companies.

  13. MotoMaster39 says:

    At 277 pounds dry, it might as well be an XR. I’d rather pay $1000.00 more for a Husky FE450 that’s 20 pounds lighter.

    Congrats on them finally making one, but it’s gonna be a hard sell being so much heavier than the KTM and Husky and costing about the same.

  14. todd says:

    I was hoping they’d make the XR650R street legal.