We’ve been interested in the CRF450X since it first came out in 2005 but became even more interested when Honda announced a new 2019 model. We’d had the chance to ride a ‘17 CRF450RX and had really gelled with it, so we were hoping we’d have the same experience with the new 450X. We were looking for a bike with a wider gear ratio and more flywheel effect, and that was just what the 2019 CRF450X was on paper. So, we pounced on the opportunity to ride and outfit the newest version. We bought our ‘19 brand new and took our time with it, resulting in this long-term test and build.

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A Weighty Issue

The first thing we noticed about our new CRF450X was that it just looked heavy. Part of that could be because it shares so many components with the CRF450L, but we were curious enough to put the 450X on a scale. For fun, we put our new 450XCF on the scale, too – not the same bikes, but both brand new 450s. Coming in at 270 lbs., the CRF was 35 lbs. heavier than the KTM. With that comparison fresh in our mind, we got to thinking on how to make the bike lighter. We started with the normal things like removing the plastic case covers and then moved onto calculations to slim down the weight. It didn’t take much of that to realize we were headed down a rabbit hole. So, we scraped the original plan and focused the build on how we wanted the bike to handle, what the power characteristics were, how the suspension felt, and everything we could do to set up the bike for our preferred riding.

Set-Up

Setting up a bike means setting it up for how you like to ride and what type of riding you like to do. A top priority for us was making sure the CRF450X could handle itself on difficult single track. More than that, though, we wanted the bike to be versatile and generally high performing across varied terrain, including desert racing. That versatility started with the suspension. Stock, the suspension – springs, valving– was just too soft for our liking, so we shipped it off to Dicks Racing. What we got back was a dialed-in suspension with spot on settings. In fact, we didn’t get the new suspension bolted on until the night before a desert race, and it still felt great during the race. We might’ve changed one clicker here or there, but overall, the suspension was right where we wanted it. It’s critical to get your suspension dialed in, especially on a heavier bike like the CRF450X. Throw a bigger rider on an already heavy bike and you’re going to need to go up in spring rates. The higher spring rates will hold the bike up high in the stroke, making it more plush because it lets the suspension move freely in the plush area of travel.

CRF450X Riding Through the Desert

With the suspension taken care of, we shifted our focus to the handlebars. We knew from the beginning that we wanted this bike to be raced, so a steering stabilizer was a necessity for us. We opted for the Scotts Steering Stabilizer for this bike. In the high speeds, the stabilizer brings a lot of peace, along with being more comfortable during the longer rides. Since the Scott stabilizer mounts under the bars, you have to account for an extra inch in height on your handlebars. We used to like having our bars up a little higher, but we’ve come to realize we can corner better and the bike handles better if the bars can stay a little lower. That’s why we installed the Pro Taper Evo Steering Dampened Low Bend handlebars. Putting those bars on there with the stabilizer ended up putting us back at the stock bar’s lower height that we had liked. We also made sure to wrap our new bars with the Tusk D-Flex Pro handguards. An update to the already popular handguards has given them a bigger shield, and we’ve loved having them on our bike – we never run our bikes without them.

Protection

Taking a bike on races, through gnarly single track, and over logs and rocks is going to beat it up, which is why taking a few protective measures can go a long way. The stock skid plate was ok, but we were looking for just a little more protection. We opted to install to the Works Connection Aluminum Skid Plate with rubber isolators. A common complaint about skid plates is that you bolt on a rigid one and you lose some of your frame flex, but that’s not the case with the Works Connection due to its rubber isolators. Their skid plate is bulletproof, too. There are some gouges, nicks, and scrapes here and there, but the frame and cases are in good shape, so the skid plate has definitely been doing its job.

We moved on to the chain guide next. Our Hondas in the past have struggled with guides coming off of the swingarm, bending, or breaking altogether, so we installed the T.M. Designworks chain guide. It’s by far and away the strongest guide on the market right now, and we’ve had no problems running it on our bike. We also made sure to install a Tusk Disc Guard to keep our rotor nice and straight with no wobble.

Freshly Built Bike Through the Desert

Performance

At a 3-gallon capacity, the IMS tank is the first thing anyone sees when they look at the bike. Though it looks big, it doesn’t feel big while you’re riding – your knees fit underneath it, the tank fits well, and it doesn’t bulge out. What’s more, having 3 gallons of fuel is extremely convenient – you can go over 100 miles a tank without having to worry about how much fuel you have. The size isn’t necessary for desert racing per se, but it’s well worth it for the trail rides.

Next, we turned our attention to the exhaust. The stock system was quiet and felt a little choked up, so we decided to invest in something that was freer flowing. For us, that was the FMF Quiet Core IV. The system comes with a quiet insert that’s a spark arrestor, and if you run it in that configuration, it isn’t much louder than stock and flows much better. Remember, though, that changing the exhaust means you have to richen the fuel. JD Jetting has their fuel controller called the Power Surge 6X Fuel Injection Tuner. It allows the rider to increase the fuel to match the freer flowing exhaust. It also has a small air filter cover that we replaced to make it even more open. The combination of those things gave the bike so much more power and just made it feel so much better.

New Tires and Wheels

One thing that we considered doing was installing the FMF Power Bomb Header. While we didn’t end up doing it, we’ve heard good things about the Power Bomb with several riders saying it’s smooth down low with a nice, linear feel. And, if you want to get a little rowdy, you can take out the quiet core insert if you’re on a track or in an area that isn’t sound controlled. It really makes the bike bark off the bottom, albeit a little flatter. When we get tired, though, we like to ride with the insert in so that we can hang onto the bike a little longer! Either way, we’re happy with the power the 450X puts out. We’ve heard of people doing some crazy things like making it a 6-speed transmission, but we just can’t imagine getting to the point where this bike needs that.

Tires and Wheels

Moving on to the wheels and tires, we chose the Tusk Recon Hybrid tires for the front and rear. Hybrid tires are something that have come out more recently and are a combination of MX tread and a trials-tire carcass. When we were designing the Tusk tires, we were trying to hit more towards an MX tire, so it has a stiffer carcass than a full-on trials tire but still has plenty of bump-absorption and the ability to flex around and make traction. The result was a tire that hooks up like you wouldn’t believe. It’s definitely better suited for slick rock, up the canyon, boulders, and loose stuff than high speed desert racing, but for trail riding and the extreme stuff, the hybrid tire is the way to go.

Fresh Ruts from the New Bike

And since we hate getting flats, we paired the tires with the Michelin Bib Mousse tubes. We’ve run the Bridgestone Ultra Heavy Duty Tubes in the past and in other bikes, but we wanted extra protection for our CRF450X. The Bib Mousses have been around for a while, and we’ve always had great luck with them. They’re our go-to foam insert because we know exactly what to expect with them.

For the wheels, we installed a shiny new set of the Tusk Impact Wheels. Strong, durable, and reliable, these wheels are an undeniable bang-for-your-buck. Plus, they add great color to your bike with several options for customization.

Fresh Look

Attack Graphics took care of our nearly finished CRF450X with a set of personalized graphics. With those graphics and their Rocky Mountain Seat cover, our bike had a distinct and fresh look (not to mention the seat cover is ultra grippy and comfortable).

Looks and performance wise, the stock headlight was the next thing that needed updating. We’re using the title “headlight” loosely here – what came on the bike was more of a daytime running light that we would not be confident using at night. So, we switched it out for the Baja Designs Squadron Sport LED light. The Baja Designs light fits right into the stock light’s spot and runs off of AC power with an AC to DC converter right on the light. It’s a 5-minute install time at the most, and the Squadron is one of the brightest lights we’ve seen on the market.

Of course, the bike wouldn’t be complete without a few extras, so we added a few bling parts here and there, a new shifter, some new levers, all new engine plugs, and the Primary Drive chain and sprocket. These parts really tied the bike together and finished it off nicely.

Built Bike on a Stand

How’d it Do?

In the year we spent testing and working on this bike, we were able to really finetune its handling, performance, and looks to our exact riding needs. We had a lot of fun doing it, too, and now we’re just enjoying having a bike that’s not only everything we need, but everything we could want from a bike. We think we’ll be riding this one for several years to come.

Comment

Tell Us What You Think

What do you think of our bike build? What are your must-have additions, and do they match any of our recommendations? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

Parts Available at Rocky Mountain ATV/MC
Scotts Performance SUB Mount Complete Stabilizer Kit ProTaper EVO 1 1/8″ Handlebar Steering Damper Low Bend Black Clean Speed Steering Stabilizer Scotts Submount Cable Guide
2019 CRF450X Build: Scotts Performance SUB Mount Complete Stabilizer Kit 2019 CRF450X Build: ProTaper EVO 1 1/8 2019 CRF450X Build: Clean Speed Steering Stabilizer Scotts Submount Cable Guide
Odi V2 Emig MX Lock-On Grips Black/Red Tusk D-Flex Pro Handguards Black 1 1/8″ Bars Tusk Grip Donuts
2019 CRF450X Build: Odi V2 Emig MX Lock-On Grips Black/Red 2019 CRF450X Build: Tusk D-Flex Pro Handguards Black 1 1/8 2019 CRF450X Build: Tusk Grip Donuts
Tusk Impact Complete Front and Rear Wheel Kit Primary Drive Sprocket Bolt and Nut Kit Primary Drive Rear Aluminum Sprocket 51 Tooth Black
2019 CRF450X Build: Tusk Impact Complete Front and Rear Wheel Kit 2019 CRF450X Build: Primary Drive Sprocket Bolt and Nut Kit 2019 CRF450X Build: Primary Drive Rear Aluminum Sprocket 51 Tooth Black
Renthal Front Sprocket 13 Tooth Primary Drive 520 ORH Gold X-Ring Chain 520×116 T.M. Designworks Factory Edition 2 Rear Chain Guide Red
2019 CRF450X Build: Renthal Front Sprocket 13 Tooth 2019 CRF450X Build: Primary Drive 520 ORH Gold X-Ring Chain 520x116 2019 CRF450X Build: T.M. Designworks Factory Edition 2 Rear Chain Guide Red
Attack Graphics Custom Race Team Complete Bike Graphics Kit CR Red Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Pro Series Seat Cover Black/White Michelin Bib Mousse Foam Tube 90/100×21 (M16)
2019 CRF450X Build: Attack Graphics Custom Race Team Complete Bike Graphics Kit CR Red 2019 CRF450X Build: Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Pro Series Seat Cover Black/White 2019 CRF450X Build: Michelin Bib Mousse Foam Tube 90/100x21 (M16)
Tusk Recon Hybrid™ Tire Tusk Billet Race Foot Pegs Works Connection Extended Coverage Skid Plate with RIMS
2019 CRF450X Build: Tusk Recon Hybrid Tire 2019 CRF450X Build: Tusk Billet Race Foot Pegs 2019 CRF450X Build: Works Connection Extended Coverage Skid Plate with RIMS
JD Jetting Power Surge 6X Fuel Injection Tuner (NO CA) Tusk Billet Rear Disc Brake Guard Red Tusk Aluminum Brake Pedal Red Tip
2019 CRF450X Build: JD Jetting Power Surge 6X Fuel Injection Tuner (NO CA) 2019 CRF450X Build: Tusk Billet Rear Disc Brake Guard Red 2019 CRF450X Build: Tusk Aluminum Brake Pedal Red Tip
Twin Air – Air Filter FMF Hex Q4 S/A Silencer Baja Designs Squadron Sport LED Light Kit
2019 CRF450X Build: Twin Air - Air Filter 2019 CRF450X Build: FMF Hex Q4 S/A Silencer 2019 CRF450X Build: Baja Designs Squadron Sport LED Light Kit
IMS Fuel Tank (NO CA) 3.0 Gallon Natural
2019 CRF450X Build: IMS Fuel Tank (NO CA) 3.0 Gallon Natural