Motocross bikes may be the most specialized dirt bikes for a particular task, and dual sports may offer the luxuries of road and off-road travel, but only true trail bikes are tailored to the conditions that manifest themselves in the expanses of nature.
Sometimes marketed as simply “off-road” or even “enduro,” these five-speed trail bikes are best suited to take the long runs and hard impacts of a long day in the woods and hills of the back country.
Yamahas have long been a favorite trail bike, and the WRF450-F is the modern proof of that notion. With a bright headlight, LED tail light and complete LCD enduro race computer, the WRF-450F a trail eater for all conditions, including backwoods racing.
Fuel injection on the one-cylinder thumper puts a checkmark in the column beside the words “throttle reliability.” Yamaha’s temperature-regulating radiator fan covers the overheating side of reliability. An 18in rear wheel, skid plate, kick start and kick stand add to the WRF’s place as a top-choice trail bike, and the 270mm front brake doesn’t hurt, either.
The two-gallon tank and 271lb wet weight keep it in line with other trail bikes in the physical bulk department. Unlike other trail bikes, instead of a usual 96 x 62mm bore and stroke, Yamaha opts a millimeter big in the bore and short in the stroke, with a 97 x 60.8mm rating, which boosts efficiency.
Suzuki knows well the important features of a trail bike, and covers those bases before anything unnecessary. Fuel injection is expected, and a bright 35W headlight and LED tail light keep it lit up with the competition. An enduro-ready full instrument cluster with low fuel light can save you in a lapse in gas-mileage judgement.
A few extra points that add quirk to the RMX450Z are the airbox, which features a hinged lid for quick air-filter maintenance, and the Renthal Fatbar, which helps to absorb impact and reduce vibration more than regular dirt bike handlebars. Suzuki’s trail-ready suspension uses high-performance SHOWA forks with full adjustability, too.
Honda also covers the bases with the CRF450X in the spec department, with an 18in rear wheel and LED tail light. Also normal is the 269lb wet weight and electric/kick starter.
On the Honda, a Keihin 40mm flat-slide carburetor with Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) controls fuel to the engine. 240mm disc brakes with twin piston calipers aren’t the nicest in the bunch, but they are enough to stop on dirt.
Honda’s dual radiators are a welcome feature, with a refined core area for improved heat dissipation, and its T-ring chain travels on 13-tooth and 51-tooth sprockets. The single-cam engine helps save weight and allows for a narrow valve angle, which flattens the combustion chamber.
KTM 450 XC-F
KTM is the rogue and highly successful outsider in the group. It 450 XC-F is a one-cylinder, four-stroke, five-speed setup doesn’t scream outsider, but its 222lb weight without fuel does. The weight reduction is achieved through a light lithium ion battery, Galfer Wave discs on the Brembo brakes and a high foam volume in the seat, which adds comfort and matches the previous model weight-wise.
Another weight reducer is KTM’s Twin Air filter. Easy to mount and changeable without tools in seconds, it’s a standard and original KTM feature.
A bike that strays from the 96 x 62mm bore and stroke, KTM’s 95 x 63.4mm bore and stroke would seem less efficient, but we trust the Austrian company that continues to push technological and mechanical boundaries, so we’ll hang with them on this one.
2017 Kawasaki KX450F
Of the big four Japanese makers, Kawasaki is the only not to offer a trail-specific 450. The decades-loved KLR650 shares trail capabilities with legal road travel, but the trade-offs should be noted. Kawasaki also offers the four-stroke KLX series of trail bikes, but they max out at 144cc.
The four-stroke, one-cylinder KX450F was voted the Best Motocrosser of 2016 by Cycle World, so the 2017 is probably more than capable off the track and onto the trail. Its 270mm disc with double piston caliper adds 30mm to the usual brake size to the usual trail bike.
Photo credit: Yamaha Motorsports