A true dual-purpose motorcycle should be many things; off-road it needs to be light weight, with quality suspension and handling ability that keeps life easy as the going gets harder. Its engine has to make good power and torque from the bottom up – the sort that is supremely usable, allowing the rider to find all the rear wheel grip possible, whatever the terrain.
All the attributes that make it great fun off-road also enable it to be really useful around town; narrow and nimble, a dual-purpose machine slips through gaps, soaks up the hits from rough roads and stays well ahead of traffic thanks to smart, low-gear acceleration. It also needs to be turn-key reliable, with sensible intervals between major service work.
Competition machines can make a solid base for dual-purpose adaptation. But there is much to consider. Race-level performance brings with it an intensive maintenance schedule, which is simply too much for many ‘hobby’ trail riders, who just want to push a button and go – and keep on going, Furthermore, a barely-disguised race bike can mean crucial road-going elements - lights, indicators, ignition switch - are not as user-friendly and durable as they should be.
Honda understands this, and with a desire to produce a dual-purpose bike that draws strongly on the fundamental performance of a race machine, yet with much more ‘normal’ service intervals and high-quality road ancillaries, has taken its CRF450R moto-crosser as the base to start from, and created the new CRF450L.
It is unmistakably a race-bred CRF – and looks it – but with the additions and modifications needed to make it both road legal and supremely useable in a trail environment. As such, the CRF450L is a complete package, as happy roosting trails as it is linking them up on-road. And with Honda engineering and build quality at its core, is sure to do so for years to come.