XR650R vs CRF450R vs CRF450X

I am looking into buying a new bike. I have just started my kids on KX65's and planning on taking them racing. They will do some MX and some hare scrambles. I would like a bike that I can do both on, in the over 40 classes. I am a little worried about the suspension on the XR being able to soft for the MX track, though I do not plan on getting crazy air on it. From the CRF stand point I am worried about maintenance cost and reliability. Can anyone tell be how well the XR will handle the MX track. I would love to hear from people who have ridden both of them. Any input on which one would handle both the best, and what draw backs each would have.


Simply answer: The XR650 sucks on a MX track. It likes to stay on the ground. You will be punished for making a mistake while jumping it.

CRF is a pure-bread MX machine that can handle HS double duty, although it may require more maintanence.

The CRFX is un-proven, right now it is just considered an overwieght play-bike with suspect issues.

Honda has decided not to make a great all-around bike for several years now. You will have to look at the orange bikes for that.


You don't want the 650r for MX work unless you're doing it to get in shape or to just have some fun. Sure it can be done, but you'll never be competitive at MX with an equal skilled rider on a CRF450. You can blast the straights and attack the whoops, but your corner speeds will suffer and you'll take a beating on larger jumps. Occasional large jumps are fine, but doing them over and over again can take a toll on you when compared to riding a CRF450. If you were just going to occasionally play ride on a MX track, but spend most of your time in the deserts where things open up a bit more, then the 650r becomes more attractive, especially when factoring in maintenance schedules, ease of service, long term reliability, etc.

The CRF450R will be the most competitive if you're thinking MX, but the CRF450X may likely have the most appeal to you being over 40 (e-start is nice), hare scrambles (e-start is nice) as long as your MX riding is just for the fun of it. The 450X will be a better choice for MX than the 650r. If you enjoy riding at night as I do, then also factor that in since the 450r doesn't have lighting, but it can be added at an additional but significant cost. The world is turning to quiet exhaust systems and the 450x shines there too. Here’s just a few things that quickly come to mind when I think of these bikes.

XR650R PRO's

#1 bike from this group for desert racing and hauling-ass across the desert or on trails, washes, etc. This bike loves Baja and it can also make a great dual sport bike. Suspension is fairly good once you spring for your weight and its pretty stable at speed. It has lights. It's extremely reliable. Lots of cool aftermarket parts. Can be ridden super slow and does fine on many trails. It loves big hills and the big torque engine makes riding varying terrain super easy if you just want to chug your way through it. As long as this bike is moving, it feels much lighter than it actually is. It's extremely versatile for a wide range of riding, but shines at higher speeds in the desert. It can also be competitive at some hare scrambles and its currently used by team Honda as a weapon of choice for some events. The maintenance is simple and reliability is proven. Lower priced than the CRF’s. Not much to worry about when buying a clean used one as opposed to buying a used CRF with the same amount of hours on it.

XR650R CON's

#3 MX bike. It's too heavy for MX and will beat you up after a while. It will do single track, but it's not the best single track bike for super tight twisty down hills, steep loose down hills or canted twisty trails. No e-start. When the bike stops moving, it feels like it has gained 50 lbs.


#1 MX bike. Serious performance from 450cc’s. Best MX suspension and bike geometry. Good reliability for a state of the art race machine. If you’re going to race and want to be competitive in the 450cc class, this is your bike. Tons of aftermarket goodies. Lightest weight compared to the 450X and 650R.


#3 desert bike. Maintenance is more intensive than the 650r and you won’t get XR reliability. No lights. No e-start. Loudest stock exhaust and won’t always be legal everywhere. Not the best trail bike, but it works. Be careful when buying used as these engines can get expensive to repair if you need all the work done by a dealer. A CRF that’s difficult to start or that has the valves more heavily shimmed could be an indication that the engine may need some money put into it, so factor that in if buying used.


#2 desert bike. Can be a #1 or #2 hare scramble bike depending on the event, but it will be competitive. #2 MX bike from this group. Reliability should be better than the 450R. Has e-start. Has lighting for night riding. Has a sound legal and spark arrested exhaust for trail riding without hassles. Will have lots of aftermarket support. The 450X should make an excellent off road bike for a large number of weekend warriors. It should make an excellent play bike for the desert, trails, MX, hare scrambles, etc, and it will be competitive for many events, but leave the serious MX stuff to the 450R.


Heavier than the 450R, but lighter then the 650R. Probably won’t be as reliable as the 650R and maintenance will be more intensive (same as the 450R), but should be more reliable than the 450R. Not out long enough to prove itself, but so far so good. It’s a first year bike, so expect the ‘06’s to have learned some lessons. It’s the highest price of these three bikes.


Many Many thanks for you input. It was much more then I really expected. I have not kept track of off road bike for a long time. I am not really looking to get serious at any of the racing, but would like to stand a chance at a decent finish. I know the 450R would make a good bike, but like you said the engines requires much maintenance. I can do my own work, including full rebuilds if required. But, I will have the kids kx's that will require lots of maintenance already. I first started looking at KX500's, but I have not found a new one still in stock. That is why I am looking at the Honda offering. Always had good luck with them. I am just torn between what would be best for me. Being a single dad that has 2 kids to look after (Yes they live with me) I can hang it out all the time anymore. I will just try to take in everything I can find about each model before making my decision. You did make some very good points on the XR, but I live in Houston and will not have much desert to ride in and that seems to be were it shines. I kind of like the Idea of the 450x, but being a first year model keeps me on the fence. Plus I really do not like e-start on dirt bike, just added weight. If I get to old to kick it over, I figure it is time to quit riding.

Thanks again for all of the great feed back.

The maintenance on the 450r really isn't bad, but it's a bit more involved and more time consuming than the 650r, which is no big deal for some people. If you've been around bikes and can do rebuilds, etc, then it should be a piece of cake for you. The 450r definitely has the weight advantage of all these bikes and is defiitely the way to go for MX in my opinion. Try to get some time on these bikes from friends or meet up with some local TT'rs who may let you take a quick spin on their bike to further help in your decisions. If you're still hooked on big bore 2 strokes (I still love them), then check out the CR500AF that AJ from Service Honda builds. It's a bit pricey to some folks, but wow...what a bike and it weighs a good bit less than the 450r.



Here's a couple situations that come to my mind where I think e-start would come in handy for some people.

* While racing and following a bike up a hill / trail where a bike or a couple bikes go down in front of you and you happen to stall your bike. Kick starting on a hill isn't always easy, but pushing a button is and it can save time.

* When your bike stalls in the middle of a creek that's packed with racers and you've got no place to go, it's nice to be able to push a button as opposed to trying to kick or having your boot slip off the kick start lever if you're exhausted.

* If you bike goes down and its flooded, you may have to kick it a number of times before it fires which is easy when you're fresh, but towards the end of a hare scramble it can take a toll on your remaining energy and pushing the button can save time. The simple answer to all of these situations is to stay out front and don't fall :)

If you are looking to just race a few mx races and hare scrambles for fun I would say go with the 650. I have raced the 650 in both and it handles the woods better than the track but I did have fun on it at the track. If you want to seriously compete in the races I would say go with the 450r. You could go used and get both. :)

Good point, Big T. I have both, and wouldn't trade either one. I think the best do-it-all bike is probably a (gasp) orange bike (525 MXC). I rode one in Baja, though, & didn't like it compared to my pig. I've also ridden one in the woods, where I liked it a lot better, but not as well as my 450R. My 450 is set up for offroad, with suspension re-done, 18" rear wheel, wide ratio trans, etc. It will run circles around a 450X and weighs 20# less.

I raced a very technical desert race on the 650 about a month ago- got a third. Two weeks later, another technical one (though not as technical as the one before) on the 450- won it easily (intermediate class).

I did get passed by a KX500 on a long, sandy, VERY fast straight section about 3 miles long. He passed me like I was going backwards. So, the CRF500AF would be sweet, too, if you like 2 smokes. And it would be really good on an MX track. That would probably be my choice if I could only have one bike and wanted to do some MX. Probably more reliable & way less maintenance intensive than the 450. Hmmm....

Can you race a XR650R in the 250 MX class?


No you can not race a 650 in the 250 class, but I am looking to racing the over 40 class which is open cc.

Thanks to everone else for there input. You have really help out. I will take a week or so to keep looking at information before I decide which to get.


Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now