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Honda CRF450x Tested - The Best Off-Road Bike Ever Made!- Dirt Illustrated

Honda CRF450x Test with Johnny Campbell.

Dirt Bikes: The 2012 Honda CRF450X is quite possibly....the best dirt bike value in the world.
Honda 450x - The Best Off-Road Bike Ever Made.
By The Staff of Dirt Illustrated | 2012-03-12

Photos by Mark Kariya

You may read the story here or in Issue 1 of the digital edition of the magazine click here.

One of the tag lines for Honda’s advertising campaign for their Honda CRF450X, is that it has won more Baja races than all other 450 class machines combined. It has done exactly that in the hands of one of the most legendary Baja off-road racers ever - Johnny Campbell.
High speed endurance racing takes mental as well as physical strength to make good decisions.
With 10 Baja 1000 wins, as well as a boatload of SCORE and BITD (Best in the Desert) titles- Johnny has now mostly retired from off road racing. He now spends his time managing the Honda Off Road Race team, through his business, Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR).

The JCR off-road race team consists of Kendall Norman, Colton Udall and Quinn Cody, and from time to time-Johnny Campbell himself.

Making Great, Even Better…
As one of the industry’s top development riders, Campbell has played a large role in the racing development of the CRF450X. His JCR team won the 2008 and 2009 SCORE 250, 500 and 1000 races, showing Honda that he knew what he was doing, and could help them refine the Honda CRF450X even more.

We spoke with Johnny on our recent test evaluation of the 2012 Honda CRF450X and got some inside info on what he thinks about this all-around off road trail machine.
For the money spent, the CRF450X is the single best all-around dirt bike you can buy. It is bulletproof, ergo comfortable, easy-to-ride, and offers top of the line tunability.
DI: What single feature do you like the most on this bike and why?

JC: I’d have to say that the four-stroke Unicam engine in the CRF450X is the single most important feature on this machine. Its ultra reliable, has a good, strong, easy-to ride powerband, and will get you to the finish line or back to your truck every time.

DI: How does it stack up to the competition out there? Price? Quality? Reliability? Rideability?

JC: The CRF450X has no real competitor. Some of them offer 450 off road bikes, there is nothing more versatile than this bike. You can race New England trails to Baja. It has won every Baja 1000 it has been in.

Extremely clean lines, a smooth and even transistion from seat to the front of the bike make the CRF450X one of the most comfortable dirt bikes on the market.
DI: What type of rider do you feel fits this particular bike? Why?

JC: Anyone wanting a bike that can do a wide range of riding activities. From tight woods trails to wide open, Baja-like terrain. The all around rider who wants a reliable and rugged off road dirt bike that he knows will get him there and back on a regular basis, all at a good price point.

DI: When it comes to getting value for your dollar, is this the best off road motorcycle you can buy currently? Why?

JC: Yes. It is the best value for your dollar for an off road bike. You’re not going to replace parts as often. You can take it anywhere and do almost anything on it. From MX Grand Prix, enduros, or Baja.

Attention to detail is what makes a Honda a Honda. The ergos from the levers down to the pegs are perfect.
DI: In your testing and Baja racing career. How much development work from that went into this bike?

JC: We first started testing the CRF450X in 2005-2005. Eventually it became our main racing machine, replacing the XR650 in 2006. It was such a stable platform to start with, that it was a lot easier to make it Baja-fast really quick. We could gear the X up to go all the way up to 110 mph.

DI: How would you compare this bike to the XR650’s you’ve raced in Baja?

JC: The XR series bikes were trail bikes we made into racers. The X series bikes were more designed to race. Quicker acceleration, lighter, more nimble on the trail than the XR series.

Honda uses a flat-slide carb on the 450X instead of the 450R’s fuel injection. A dual sump oil system and lots of R&D hours have made this engine one of the most reliable motors ever built.
About Johnny Campbell & JCR:
DI: What made you decide to retire from racing in Baja?

JC: I had accomplished all my goals in racing and felt it was time for a new challenge. I’m not 25 years old anymore and since I’m older and wiser now, my next chapter was to share my knowledge with the next generation.

DI: Whats tougher? Baja, Endurocross, Hare Scrambles, National Enduros? Why?

JC: I don’t think that any one discipline is harder or better than the other. I believe the longer endurance races are the hardest though. It’s not just physical, but mentally strong. You have to make wise decisions at high speed, when you’ve been on the bike for long stretches.

DI: What kind of products are you coming out with for off road riders at JCR?

JC: We actually are developing new parts for Western Power Sports and Fly Racing. We will be focusing on making some new products for the Hondas and do more testing on rugged off road ride gear-aimed at the long distance rider.

The simple and quick chain adjustment and drilled out rear brake rotors show some of the attention to detail that the Honda X model exudes. Nice work.
DI: What do you look for in a rider whom you might sponsor?

JC: I look for raw talent first. Not necessarily someone who is already a champ, but someone who I can build into a champion. Start at the grass roots and go from there. If you don’t have heart, talent, and desire, you’re not going to make it. I want a guy that tries hard and never gives up. If you’re in the middle of nowhere and your bike breaks down, what do you do? I look for guys that know how to deal with that. You have to also be good at talking with people, be approachable, and love what you are doing and show it.

DI: How important is it to race off road?

JC: I think its really important. You get more testing done when you do that and the end result is a product that is better. We also want to associate the brand with the younger racing audience.

DI: How important is it to race off road?

JC: I think its really important. You get more testing done when you do that and the end result is a product that is better. We also want to associate the brand with the younger racing audience.

DI: Scariest moment racing?

JC: I had one in the 2001 Baja 1000. I was going down a sandwash and had a cow jump out in front of me. It cartwheeled me off the front of the bike in an instant. My Camelback burst and cushioned the blow, but it took me a minute to know what had happened.

Was I hurt, paralyzed? It happened so fast, it was like a bomb went off and then I’m on the ground. Amazing enough, I didn’t even get a scratch, I got up, got back on the bike, and never even lost the lead. The only problem with the bike was a bent front brake rotor.

DI: Funniest story racing?

JC: In 1998 I was going down the coast on the Baja side and was pre running and I jumped over a dune and there was a porta potty and I cleared it. Luckily there was no one in it. (laughs).

The X has a lean, almost Spartan look to it. The aluminum frame is one of the best Honda has ever produced. The overall handling is confidence inspiring and Honda’s penchant for reliability has made this machine the endurance king of Baja.
Dirt Illustrated Overview of the Honda 2012 CRF450X
HANDLING: Very nimble feeling, great on the trail whether you are going slow or fast. Good single track handling and very stable in the whoops. Corners like a hot knife in butter.

SUSPENSION: The stock Honda 450X suspension is very plush for the average rider, and it doesn’t wallow or swap out at all. You can adjust the sag, high and low speed damping, and dial it into whatever type of riding you’re doing. The adjustment range is also very sensitive, in that you can turn it one click on the damping settings and really notice it. One click can make a big difference on the new aluminum chassis bikes. It’s only when you start going Baja race speed, that you might need to invest in a bit more damping.
ENGINE: Stock, the 450X is very mellow, its tuned to meet the EPA and green sticker regulations, so it has a smaller air intake and noise restrictions built in. It is very trail friendly power, but by rejetting the bike, you can easily gain more power. By doing the airbox mod (see our top 10 450X mods) and adding a pipe, you can easily get 6-7 more hp. Stock the X puts out around 43 hp. Our race bikes are rated at a little over 50 hp. Anymore and you simply are wasting it in useless wheelspin and possibly sacrificing the reliability, which is all important in long distance racing.
OVERALL PACKAGE: For the money spent, the CRF450X is the single best all-around dirt bike you can buy. It is bulletproof, ergo comfortable, easy-to-ride, and offers top of the line tunability. In our (and Johnny Campbell’s) opinion, it is a superb trail machine, a capable Grand Prix racer, and the ultimate Baja weapon. That says a lot right there.