As I walked through Honda’s massive display at AIMExpo, I wondered which bike they were most excited about. So many choices, after all.

Could it be the coming-back-to-America Supercub? Or maybe the grin-inducing Monkey?

Monkey and Supercub at AIMExpo in Las Vegas

No. Not with their heritage.

The machine Honda says is causing the most stir at AIMExpo in Las Vegas is the new CRF450L. This is a machine that’s very closely based on Honda’s trail-racing machines, specifically the CRF450R. Honda likes to say that they took the motocross bike, slapped some lights on it and made it street legal.

Honda CRF450L at the AIMExpo in Las Vegas

The truth is a little different, of course. They redesigned some engine components, changed the frame to accommodate luggage and a wider engine, added exhaust elements to make the bike comply with emissions regulations, made the gearing taller, added elements to reduce vibration from the 449 cc single and so on. In all, the changes added weight, coming in at a claimed 289 lbs (131 kgs) wet.

The reason the bike is creating such a stir is that it’s not only in a hot market segment — true dual sports — but it offers the promise of being able to get you to the trail, carry you down the trail at near-race speeds and then transport you home again.

A true do-it-all ride.

Vulnerable tail extension on the Honda CRF450L?

But we live in the real world and not everybody’s going to love the CRF450L. We ran into a couple of guys who had some beef. One was the price — a steep $10,399. Another was the perception that the horsepower was kind of weak — just lower-to-mid 40’s (Honda isn’t precise yet.) The bash plate was deemed insufficiently sturdy. One guy thought the tail extension might break off. You get the idea — they had niggles. Since one of them sold bikes for SWM (basically, upgraded old-school Husqvarnas) he wasn’t exactly an impartial observer.

But for most folks, the CRF450L is a potential game changer. Hence the enthusiasm Honda was seeing and feeling on the convention floor at Mandalay Bay.

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