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Honda CRF450X
The MoJazz Ultimate Adventure Bike

Hasta la vista, baby.

by Martin Hackworth

Photos: Martin Hackworth, Megan Broyles, Pro Circuit, Works Connection

Son of Bodacious

Honda CRF450X

     OK - so we are just a little stubborn. When the Honda introduced the XR650R some years back as a replacement for our Leatherman tool reliable XR600R we resisted (what's up with a radiator?). Later, after we'd come around and embraced the modern age, the high-revving CRF450X came along to replace our rock solid and beloved torque monster BRP and we resisted again (Whaddya mean valve maintenance? And shims - sheesh!). But in the end there's nothing quite so enthusiastic as a convert when it comes to either religion or dirt bikes. That said we are fully prepared to admit that our highly trick 2009 CRF450X simply rocks the world. Riding it back to back to back with our complete collection of large-bore, Baja-conquering Honda thumpers is akin to tossing a light saber into a battle previously waged with rocks and sticks.
     We are pretty hard on bikes. Our favorite rides encompass everything from gnarly single-track to deep sand to river crossings to rock strewn ATV trails high in the mountains to 100 mph fire roads. A short ride for us is 100 miles. We ride when its hot and cold. We require long range, light weight, flexible suspension and bulletproof reliability. When you are way out in the middle of nowhere after dark by yourself the premium is on what you can rely on to get you where you want to go. The CRF450X is the newest in a long tradition of Honda thumpers that fills this niche well. 
    The basic CRF_X platform has been around for several years so reviews and opinions on it are plentiful. The MoJazz CRF450X is a fairly unique project bike that we built specifically to replace our highly custom XR650R. Our only reservation concerned reliability. The XR650R is probably the most overbuilt and essentially bulletproof bike ever produced. In all of our years of 1000 mile ironman rides through the night - in places where failure would have meant catastrophe - we never experienced as much as a hiccup. Legends are born of legendary deeds and the XR650R, as far as we are concerned, is a true legend.

     We've ridden a few stock CRF's around and were impressed with how well they performed right out of the box. But there's a lot more in there with a little work. That's what we were after.

Engine Modifications

     We didn't even bother to ride our CRF450X around the block after it rolled off the truck. Instead it went straight onto the lift of Pocatello Power Sports owner Chris Hymas for the Honda closed-circuit engine, exhaust and airbox modifications and a Hotcams stage 2 cam (since swapped for a stage 1 cam). 
We also spent some time experimenting with different needle settings for the main jet eventually determining that the top position (leanest mixture) produced good fueling from a range of 2000 all the way to 10,000 feet of altitude.     
Installing the IRP oil cooler is a snap and it works great. Oil capacity is increased and the bike runs much cooler (in conjunction with a Trail Tech Fan). And the directions are in actual English - tres cool. 
Son of Bodacious
With 13-49 sprockets and 4.75 gallons of gas our heavily modded CRF450X is good for 175 miles before we start getting really worried about fuel. The 3.77 gearing in this platform is extremely versatile - allowing our CRF to stretch its legs on everything from gnarly single track to fire roads. 
    After a few rides we decided to replace the stock 450X head and valves with a 450R head and aftermarket valves (Wiseco titanium intakes and Kibblewhite stainless exhaust) and raised the needle one clip setting. The 450R valves are bigger with stouter springs and we are happier with the extra horsepower and less nervous about fragility (Note: After swapping out the OEM head and valves for the R upgrades we went 20 months and two seasons of racing before we found a valve even close to being out of spec). A little of the down-low torque appears to have been lost with the R head (verified on the dyno) so we modified our final drive ratio for a little more low-end grunt.

     The Pro Circuit T4 CRF450R full system we installed is not only much lighter than stock but really allows the engine to breathe. It's a little loud, though far from obnoxious, and the stainless steel header is a thing of beauty all by itself. When coupled
with the airbox/emission mods and the Hotcams Stage 2 cam the CRF leaps forward in every gear and surges to furious top speeds (100+ mph with 3.13 or less gearing).

     At the same time we added a Jagg oil cooler to reduce engine temperature and add a little more oil capacity. Recently replacement parts for the Jagg have become scarce so we recently replaced it with a Trail Tech Cooling Fan and IRP billet Oil Cooler. We replaced the stock coolant with Engine Ice and bolted on a Boyesen Supercooler. We also installed a Rekluse Core EXP and left hand rear brake.

     We had Power Sports perform a
dyno run on our 450X once it was all put together. With very conservative tuning (a rich engine, as far as we are concerned, is a cool running engine) our CRF cranked out 45 bhp and 30 ft-lbs of torque on the dyno - with a big old ding in the header!. What is even more telling is that it produced more than 40 horsepower all the way from 7000 to 10,000 rpm, and over 25 ft-lbs of torque from 5500 to 9400 rpm.  This is about the same as our highly modded XR650R but the manner in which the two bikes get that power down is revealing. Though the XR650R will get you from 60 - 100 mph faster, the CRF450X is so much quicker from 0 - 60 mph that it will leave big brother well in it's wake on the way to the same top speed. Subtract 60 lbs of weight, much of it up high, add the miracle button next to the right grip and the first impression contest is over pretty quickly.              
Suspension Modifications

     We had Power Sports install stiffer Showa fork and shock springs and reconfigure the shim stacks for a 200lb rider plus gear. We back off the compression damping from Power Sports settings for general trail riding but that's the only adjustment that we make. The stock Honda steering damper worked well enough - though its feel was different from the excellent GPR stabilizers we were accustomed to. Even after revalving the HSD wasn't quite what we were looking for (it's a true damper, not a stabilizer) so we replaced it with a Scott's low-mount unit that we are very happy with.

Electrical Modifications

     We installed a three-wire LED tail/brake light system to get us street legal, a Ricky Stator 100 watt stator to power our new Ricky Stator 8" HID race light, a harness for a pair of Trail Tech SCRM16 HID helmet lights (video) and a 12-volt power adapter The Ricky Stator high output stator is typical high quality we've come to expect from them and the 50 watt Ricky Stator 8" HID race light has been described by onlookers as "watching the sun rise." At approximately 100 lumens per watt our lighting system blazes at 11,000+ lumens (daytime is about 10,000 lumens per square meter). For normal riding we use the Trail Tech X2
T4 Header
The Pro Circuit T4 header is a thing of beauty. It gets the bike down the road pretty darned well too!
Three Generations of XR thumpersThree generations of large bore Baja conquering XR thumpers: Grampa Bodacious, Bodacious, Son of Bodacious. Ancillary Components

     We installed a Moose Eline header guard, an Acerbis 4.75 gallon desert fuel tank
 , an Acerbis skid plate, a pair of Cycra Probend handguards, Pro Taper Twister Throttle tube, an Acerbis mirror, RAM Mounts, a Works Connection Elite clutch perch, an ARC brake lever, Renthal sprockets (TwinRing rear), heavy duty Bridgestone tubes and Dunlop MX-71 tires. A Trail Tech Voyager serves as the CRF's trip computer.

     Fuel range with the Acerbis 4.75 gallon tank is a reliable 175 miles with 3.5 gearing. Though this is less than the 230+ we get out of the mammoth 7 gallon Acerbis Sahara we also got for the bike, the smaller tank (which replaces the radiator shrouds), barely has a wider profile than stock. Rideability is excellent and the tank petcocks (which work in conjunction with the stock) are commendably well-designed. The stock petcock had to be replaced due to clearance issues and the fuel line that came with the Acerbis tank was govno. The MDR dry brake system, however, is the shazz. Most of the time the smaller tank gives us all of the range that we need. 
MoJazz Honda CRF450X

Engine Modifications: 
Honda closed-circuit mods, Pro Circuit T4 CRF450R stainless steel header and exhaust  (the R silencer required a welded bracket be relocated on the X rear subframe), Hotcams Stage 2 cam (since swapped for a stage 1 cam). CRF450R head, Wiseco titanium intake valves, Kibblewhite stainless steel exhaust valves, IRP oil cooler, Boyesen Supercooler.
Carb setting: Keihin 170 main jet. Needle clip in 2nd from top groove.
Electrical: Ricky Stator 100 W stator, Ricky Stator 8" HID race light, Trail Tech SCRM16 HID accessory lights. Honda three-wire tail/brake light kit. 
Engine/Clutch Lubrication: Honda  HP4S 10W-30,
Rekluse Core EXP
Gas Tank: Acerbis  4.75 gallon (18 L) MDR/dry brake filler cap. Acerbis Sahara 6.5 gallon tank.
Gearing: Renthal 13, 14, 15  tooth countershaft  sprockets, Renthal 47, 49, 51 tooth TwinRing rear sprockets.
Controls: Works Connection Elite Clutch Perch with Hot Start, ARC brake lever, Scotts Stabilizer, Renthal CR High bars, Renthal Kevlar grips.
Suspension: Showa Fork Springs: 0.49kg/mm
. (increased from 0.47kg/mm stock), Showa shock spring: 5.9 kg/mm (increased from 5.5kg/mm stock)
Bolt On Accessories: Trail Tech Fan, Cycra Probend handguards, Acerbis Mirrors, Acerbis Skid Plate, Bridgestone Ultra Heavy-Duty tire tubes, ProMoto Fastway F3 pegs450R front axle and spacer, Trail Tech Voyager, Trail Tech X2.
Price: $6450 for the bike + $4400 for parts and labor = just a smidgen less than $11K and immense happiness.

Made in the USA
, Made in Idaho
T4 System     We are big on small details like grips, levers and the like. The Works Connection Elite perch is well worth the money we paid for it (a lot). Same with the ARC fully adjustable brake lever that we actually sourced from our XR650R.  We replaced the stock bars with Renthal Fat Bars (CR High Bend) and Renthal Kevlar grips. We replaced the stock pegs with Pro Moto's excellent Fastway F3 units which provide a larger area for our size 13's, a wide range of adjustments (including lowering) and tenacious grip. We also replaced the stock clutch cover with a beefier unit from Hinson. Over time we've acquired Renthal 13, 14 and 15 tooth countershaft sprockets and Renthal Twinring 47, 49 and 51 tooth rear sprockets. We replaced the stock chain with a D.I.D. X-ring. Finally, we replaced the stock front axle, with it's hub odometer drive, with a 450R axle and spacer after we binned the useless stock odometer.    
Acerbis skid plate Works Connection Elite
      So what are our overall impressions? The bike, as currently equipped, is darned near perfect. We logged well over 1000 miles in just the first few weeks of owning the bike and could not be happier. Since then we've logged thousands of trouble free miles on both Tours of Idaho and in MXGP style racing (all we remove are the HID lights).

     Our final thoughts? Why in the heck were we so stubborn? The CRF450X is lighter and much easier to ride than our beloved (but now sold) XR650R. We are amazed at how much less fatiguing a long ride is on this bike. The lighter weight and electric start make for a much more pleasant experience. At one point in my youth I could dead lift 595 lbs - but even with that level of fitness there were times when by myself I could not easily wrestle my XR650R back onto the trail - and it was more than just advancing years. The 450X is much easier to manhandle back up a sidehill you've just ridden crashed on the wrong side of and that makes it safer when you are riding by yourself.

     The original XR600R was a hell of a motorcycle - built like an anvil but unfortunately about as fast and heavy as one as well. The XR650R was at least as bulletproof as its predecessor, and much faster, but was also heavy and steered like a barge. With the CRF450X Honda has finally build a trail machine that is fast, light, agile, actually steers and handles well (heck - you could take it to a MX track and not be particularly overmatched) - truly a bike that really feels much smaller but packs monstrous power. It takes some work to impart to any modern, light, high-revving bike anvil-like reliability, but it can be done.

    So we are into our CRF450X for over $10.5k. Is it all worth it? You bet - at least in our stubborn opinion.

Reader Forum
Pocatello Power Sports

Many thanks to our friends at Pocatello Power Sports for crafting our ultimate adventure motorcycle. PPS is one of the best motorcycle shops imaginable. We use PPS exclusively for MoJazz project and race bikes They can hook you up with the bike of your dreams too. 
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