Honda CRF450 X 2007 Comparison Review
Can the largely unchanged CRF X still compete with the stellar WR450 and new kid on the block, the KLX450
Having done all the work to get the 450R into Offroad 'X' clothes in 2006, Honda's engineers took a rest for the 2007 model, changing only the throttle housing, accelerator pump and linkage, and adding a lighter chain guide. Fair enough, most of the hard work had been done, engineering the serious MXer into a more friendly, robust off-road form - re-engineering the frame for flex, beefing up engine cases and nearly everything else, adding lights, bigger radiators, catch tank and a starter.
Since we've recently tested Kawsaki's new KLX and the Yamaha WR, we thought we better take a familiarisation ride and see how the 2007 CRF450 stood up against fresh competition. Who knows, maybe changing the throttle housing would make a world-beating difference?
To MTN testers, Honda has ergos, frame and handling package wired… period. Though it's a fraction cramped for the tall among us, as a package engineered to get a job done, it's hard to fault. The sensation at the bars is very direct. You know exactly where the front wheel is and the feel of security and balance is sharper than its competition. It turns hard and tight on the flat and rails ruts - even snotty, twisted, funny shaped ones - with an accuracy that makes even me look as though I know what I'm doing. It's equally handsome through fast corners and flexible enough to change line if you need to.
If there's any handling weakness it's in a tendency to exhibit a mild headshake at speed, however, only compared to the more stable Yamaha and rock-solid Kawasaki. It's not a malicious intention to grind you into the earth.
The suspension is initially very plush but firms up about halfway through the stroke, as is the case with nearly every Honda we've tested recently. The feeling is of using the first six inches of travel then settling, then needing a decent whack to make it use the rest. This setup may be a big contributor to the stellar cornering accuracy - theoretically it should keep the bike geometry consistent by minimising unwanted front-rear weight transfer - but trades off in that the 'settling' takes away some liveliness from what is already on paper the heaviest bike in class (though only by 2kg). It's still plush though, make no mistake about that, and offers ride comfort equal to its competitors.
The motor is lovely, providing big-bang tractability in the slush and torquing itself through a strong midrange. Even with the soundproof stuffing it revs out OK, but momentum is best maintained using the strong midrange urge. In the basement, it will flame out occasionally, like when you're on the side of a hill, in a sheep track with a stand in your clutch hand after taking photos. Avoid this scenario at all costs, because it will highlight the true disadvantage of a big bike wanting to do what IT wants, and you might get a burn on your leg because you're wearing jeans. Idiot.
So there it is - well engineered, reliable, stellar turning and handling, good stability, and a superb motor. It does feel a smidge heavier than its counterparts, and I hate the tyres, though that's easy to change. As it happens, I've got a sniff of the '08 model, which comes with Honda's sexy little steering damper, a slimmer tank and changed triple-clamp offset to increase the trail by 2mm (should make it more stable). All in all, if there's a 2007 bargain on the shop floor, you'll not miss out on much so go for it. The CRF450X is a great bike
Harder to pick than a broken nose…
So faced with the three choices we've tested recently - the CRF, WR and KLX, what would we have in our garage? Hard to say. We haven't slung a leg over the Euro's yet, and it's a shame Suzuki don't have a DRZ450 in the mix. There's no clear loser and realistically, there's only a colour choice between them. You'll get a good bike if you stick with your faithful local Yamaha, Kawasaki or Honda dealer.If you like a good grovel then pick the Yamaha because it feels the lightest (though they're all about the same).
If you ride the more MX take the KLX - the frame is straight from the KX450F and is stiffer and more stable at speed. If you like broad and (very) easy to use power, go blue; chuggy and strong, go red; or an electric surge off the bottom, take green. If you like good instrumentation, go for the Yamaha or Kawasaki. If you want a bike that pips the others in corners, take the Honda. If you're a bigger guy, take the blue one - the cockpit is a smidge larger. This could go on for days. Personally? I'd take the Yamaha because it feels the lightest and the ergos are slightly larger which suits me.