2021 Honda CRF450RL
There are many key components to look for in a dual sport, and the 2021 Honda CRF450RL checks many of those boxes.
- Comfortable dirt-bike-like ergonomics and slimness
- Receives an ECU reflash that improves the engine performance
- Exceptional nimbleness
- Noise reduction efforts are well thought out and well applied
- Long 12-inch suspension travel
- Great versatility in tire fitment
- Engine vibration felt from every touch point, especially at 90 mph speeds
- Short maintenance intervals
Shoppers looking for a versatile dual sport will find the CRF450RL to represent Honda’s dual sport class well with its durability, versatility, nimble, comfortable ride quality, and thoughtful detail.
The Honda CRF450RL is a road-legal dirt bike with performance and durability for meeting off-road and street riding needs. The addition of the “R” to the name (previously known as the CRF450L) supports its roots of being heavily based on the competition-spec CRF450R platform.
Updates for 2021
The main updates that Honda highlights is the name change to the CRF450RL, from the outgoing CRF450L of 2020. Additionally, the ECU is remapped, there are restyled graphics, hand guards now come standard, and the MSRP decreases by $400.
Pricing and Variants
The price drops to $9,999 ($400 dip from last year’s CRF450L).
Powertrain: Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The new CRF450RL is powered by Honda’s legendary 449cc Unicam single-cylinder engine. In , he relayed that it produces around 38 hp, which is significantly less than the R model (around 55 hp), but it is detuned for reliability and durability. With its six-speed transmission and communicative cable-actuated clutch, it works really well. He also said that because of its 450R roots the engine is a little cold-blooded, but thanks to the reflashed ECU the engine runs cleanly and provides a smoother bottom-end performance. Engine vibration, however, is felt from every control point, especially at 90 mph speeds.
This bike is extremely nimble with its claimed 291 pounds, though it is 47 pounds heavier than the motocross version. This weight difference is because Honda had to revise components to meet street-legal requirements and incorporated thoughtful noise reductions on the engine, swingarm, and drive sprocket.
Suspension travel is 12 inches (front)/11.8 inches (rear) and provides, what Waheed stated, as a “very pleasing ride quality over the bumps.”
The 21-/18-inch IRC tires provide good grip on both street and dirt, but if the rider prefers one application over the other, more street- or dirt-biased tires are easily available.
Although our test rider did not get a chance to ride it in the traditional dual sport sense of going from street to dirt road, he did ride it on a G-rated arenacross track where the CRF450RL proved to be very capable and it will bring that capability to the dirt roads/trails with minor tweaks to tires and suspension.
The braking package includes a single 260mm disc/two-piston caliper (front) and 240mm disc/single-piston caliper (rear) configuration. The front and rear brake’s responsiveness is well liked by test rider Waheed, and braking performance for the street is just fine.
Fuel Economy and Real-world MPG
During Waheed’s commute, he reported that he averaged around 30 mpg if riding near its 90 mph top speed, but the average would be higher if ridden at city speeds.
Ergonomics: Comfort and Utility
The ergonomics are like, you guessed it, a dirt bike. The seat is at a tall 37.2 inches and is skinny between the legs. Waheed pointed out that the shrouds are nicely wide for gripping with the rider’s knees in both seated and standing riding positions. The position-adjustable Renthal handlebar has an upright bend keeping the rider sitting tall and comfortable.
Its decently sized serrated footpegs are also appreciated by Waheed as it provides good boot-to-peg grip.
The instrumentation is a simple, yet effective LCD display with dual tripmeters, gas mileage, clock, speedometer, and odometer. The LED headlight supplies a nice spread of light for night riding; the taillight and turn signals are also LED.
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
From a street rider’s point of view the maintenance intervals for this machine are very short—oil will have to be changed every 600 miles (or 30 hours of use). Warranty is a one-year unlimited mileage warranty with the option to extend with the HondaCare Protection Plan.
With Honda’s legendary craftsmanship and attention to ride quality, this slightly revised dual sport makes for an enjoyable ride for both on and off-road applications. A $400 price decrease is always welcome as well.
2021 Honda CRF450RL Claimed Specifications
|Engine:||449cc, OHC, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder four-stroke; 4-valve|
|Bore x Stroke:||96.0 x 62.1mm|
|Fuel Delivery:||Programmed fuel injection w/ 46mm downdraft throttle body|
|Clutch:||Wet, multiplate; cable actuated|
|Front Suspension:||49mm inverted telescopic Showa fork, compression and rebound damping adjustable; 12.0 in. travel|
|Rear Suspension:||Showa single shock, fully adjustable; 11.8-in. travel|
|Front Brake:||2-piston caliper, 260mm disc|
|Rear Brake:||1-piston caliper, 240mm disc|
|Wheels, Front/Rear:||D.I.D DirtStar; 21.0 in. / 18.0 in.|
|Tires, Front/Rear:||IRC GP; 80/100-21 / 120/80-18|
|Ground Clearance:||12.6 in.|
|Seat Height:||37.2 in.|
|Fuel Capacity:||2.0 gal.|
|Wet Weight:||291 lb.|