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Comparison test: eleven current sport enduros

450 sports enduro

Never before have eleven sport enduros of a single displacement class had to compete at MOTORRAD. Now it was time.

JOël Smets, Kari Tiainen and Didi Lacher are thinking about the workload. Two days to test eleven motorcycles, this task inspires even the warriors who are hardened in the Motocross and Enduro World Championships. Because one thing is certain: the most extensive 450cc sports enduro comparison test that MOTORRAD put together with five other magazines will not show any southern composure. Not even here, in the heart of Spain on an off-road area near Madrid. Tea workload could have been even greater, however. But Aprilia with the two-cylinder RXV, Honda with the HM models and TM Racing canceled. A pity.

by Diego

Vive la France: With the 450, Sherco is taking a somewhat conservative path. After all, the 4.5i offers plenty of traction.

Well, the tanks are full, the machines are rolling on identical tires (Metzeler 6 Days Extreme), and even the weather is typical of Enduro. Rain made the mud holes muddy and the rock driveways slippery. But the sandy soil prevents the worst, the terrain remains easy to drive on. In autumn, MOTORRAD confronted the two spectacular new releases of the 2009 season, the BMW G 450 X and the Husaberg FE 450, with the market leader in this class, the KTM 450 EXC (MOTORRAD 22/2008). The result: top dog KTM defended its territory and relegated Husaberg to second place, ahead of BMW to third. Which now begs the question: Where are there gaps in this pecking order for the competition? Before, in between or just behind?

The motors

by Diego

Suzuki RM-Z 450 E: 114 kilograms, 50 hp, injection, fork / strut: Showa, price: 6990 euros.

The singles chug away. A feat, just press the E-Start button. Fine. Only the Suzuki RM-Z 450 E demonstrates the proximity to the basic motocross model and leaves it at the kick starter. What Didi and Co. will bitterly curse after falling over in the driveways. The course is deep and calls for the engines from the first meter. The calculation for the 310 Husqvarna doesn’t work out here. When it comes to mere muscle tension, the little Italian with a meager 37 hp has to fit. After all, the strength of their concept lies in the small oscillating masses. And they only become noticeable later on the narrow, already dried-out route. The TE 310, which is based on the 250, can be thrown from curve to curve in a playful way and with almost perfect traction and minimal vibrations, it keeps the pilot away from stress. Like a bulldozer, on the other hand, its big sister, the TE 450, plows through the mud, pushes forward powerfully and shines on the first stony driveway. It rumbles calmly over the boulders, conveys pure enduro qualities. On the other hand, the engine, which has been in principle unchanged for many years, is reluctant to swing up to higher speeds despite the dohc cylinder head, then vibrates unwillingly, can be switched a bit doughy and only starts after a few seconds despite the electric starter in a hot state.

The Sherco engine is also traditional. The character of the machine produced in Nimes / France belongs to the old breed. The in-house drive unit starts at lower speeds thanks to the very well-coordinated injection system, it is gentle and easy to control, delivers excellent traction on rough terrain and can therefore easily be tripped over the rocks. However, the ohc motor takes care of liquid rooms. It only revs up cautiously, vibrates and noticeably affects handling with its large centrifugal mass. At the opposite end of the scale is the Suzuki engine. The origin from the motocross camp can be clearly seen. Despite the mitigating influence of the very quiet exhaust system from the French supplier CRD, the RM-Z bites hard even at low speeds. The dance over the gravel parquet often turns into an egg run, which makes the clutch, which is difficult to dose in these situations, even more tricky. Especially since the fear of stalling comes along. The lack of an electric starter ensures that nerves remain permanently under high tension in the climbing garden. That the Suzuki calms down immediately when speed is picked up. In deep mud and open terrain, it stands up to the best in the industry.

by Diego

Kawasaki KLX 450 R: 118 kilograms, 43 hp, carburetor, fork / shock absorber: Kayaba, price: 8,795 euros.

The gas-gas engine also likes it cross. The punch at lower speeds catapults the motorcycle with verve out of every residential area, but ignores the enduro part. The EC can only be balanced over slippery ground with a lot of fine motor skills in the gas hand. After all, her trainer also benefits from her racing predisposition. A short burst of gas is enough to lift the gas over obstacles. The Yamaha remains enduro through and through. With a smooth start and easily calculable transition to higher speeds, life in the undergrowth is more unspectacular than with hardly any other engine. However, the heavily damped standard silencer of the homologated version burdens the famous engine with a strong drag torque (engine brake). Good: The German importer adds a – compliant – retrofit part to the WR, which is supposed to ensure a freer exhaust gas flow and more spontaneous response.

Kawasaki goes the opposite way. The KLX-Single is very lively from low speeds to the highest regions. Whether in critical passages or under full steam – the Kawa can do it. In practice it is hard to believe that this universal characteristic is clouded by a tame peak performance of 43 hp – and therefore forgive. Exactly the other way around, the brand new Husaberg unit deceives about the powerful 48 hp. The unconventionally built-in motor is extremely gentle and wonderfully adjustable, making it the absolute boss in the ring, especially on stones. Against this background, the fact that high speeds are not the strength of the Husaberg can be tolerated. Because the feed flattens out at the top, and requires early upshifts for efficient use.

The BMW single-cylinder does not leave the slightest doubt about its potency. With its character reminiscent of an engine with a larger displacement, the short-stroke engine picks up vehemently from the lowest engine speeds in order to then force its way through the engine speed range. The only two downer: the noticeable engine brake puts a strain on the front of the car when you take the accelerator away in the narrow passageway, and the powerful acceleration demands a very sensitive hand on the throttle grip on slippery ground. The KTM crack must also have sensitivity in the right wrist. Provided that this is the case, the smooth-running, lively engine proves to be a universal genius, can be sensibly dosed in the lower regions in order to increase continuously from mid-speed. The group-internal division of labor is obvious: the good Husaberg single serves the enduro-oriented clientele, the fiery KTM propellant the motocross-oriented cross-country racers.

The landing gears

by Diego

The Yamaha WR 450 F makes life easy for its pilot. Weight: 118 kilograms, 45 hp, carburetor, fork / shock absorber: Kayaba, price: 8,795 euros.

Be it two or three hours in cross-country activities or full days in traditional enduro events, one thing is certain: the working hours in enduro sport are long. From this, the corresponding requirements for the chassis tuning are derived. Only sensibly appealing spring elements and successful ergonomics protect the rider’s condition over longer distances. The Sherco doesn’t find it easy with that. The deliberately softly tuned Ceriani fork puts a lot of load on the front hand on descents and tends to bottom out even when braking hard. Tea machine feels bulky and heavy, even comparatively old-fashioned and sluggish. The gas is more modern. Ergonomics and layout are up to date. Only the Sachs fork does not match the sensitivity of the Marzocchi forks predominantly used by the competition. And: In deep mud, the unprotected actuation of the throttle valve quickly clogs with a modder and thus ensures that the idle gas is not completely reduced.

The BMW technicians designed the combination of Marzocchi fork and Ohlins shock absorb to be sporty. Good for the cross test, but more sensitivity would be desirable on small waves or stones. Highlights of the white-blue: the stability on fast passages and the grip on the front wheel. Even without residents, the front literally digs into the ground. No effect without side effects: the stress on the forehand gives the G 450 X a somewhat sluggish feeling around the steering axis. Despite its innovative technology, the Husaberg basically remains true to its usual good character. It still gives you a secure feeling in trial-like circles, and in terms of handling has also developed significantly. The sensitive suspension only pays tribute to its comfortable design on fast, holey slopes – there the "mountain" pumps itself deep through its spring travel. The Yamaha is designed in a very similar way. Comfortably sprung, excellent steering precision, but overall a somewhat clumsy, nonetheless calming driving experience – this is exactly how we know the WR models.

by Diego

Test of courage: The technology of the BMW G 450 X throws a lot of the familiar overboard – and the result can establish itself in the top group straight away.

As a surprise guest, the Kawasaki shone in last year’s enduro comparison by MOTORRAD. Behind the rather conservative look of the KLX 450 R is an extremely nimble handling, extremely successful ergonomics and sensitive spring elements. When it comes to chassis tuning, hardly anyone can fool the beta technicians. Despite very good comfort, the Marzocchi fork and the Sachs suspension strut keep the machine high when driving, making it easier to circle in berms and deep ruts. The ergonomics are pleasing, the handling remains on the quieter side. Quiet, reliable, cool – this is how the Husqvarna TE 450 is again this year. The suspension is rather soft, the handling could be a bit livelier and the overall package a bit more agile. Nevertheless, if you come to terms with it, you can ride Enduro with absolutely no stress. As with the engine, the Suzuki also demonstrates its affinity for motocross with the chassis. Tight suspension, razor-sharp steering precision – a case for the special test. If you want to be quick with it, you have to be physically fit.

The same applies to the KTM’s suspension, which is also quite sporty. However, a sophisticated chassis geometry reduces the stress potential. No enduro can be circled more easily and precisely through furrowed passages or over wavy ravines. Respect. The Husqvarna TE 310 demonstrates how much the combination of chassis and engine ultimately determines the character of a motorcycle. The smaller engine fundamentally changes the chassis, which is identical to the TE 450. The suspension works more freely, the handling becomes worlds livelier, the perceived weight is drastically reduced. In short: The 310 is the better TE in most situations. Back to the original question: Are the three newest (BMW, Husaberg and KTM) the best even under pressure from the competition? Generally, yes. KTM and Husaberg retain the chairmanship, while the Kawasaki KLX 450 R is still secretly cheating in front of the BMW.


Lead by technology ?? According to this comparison test, the slogan certainly also applies to sports enduro bikes. With their technology offensive, KTM, Husaberg and BMW have put the enduro scene under pressure. Although the surprise guest Kawasaki and the well-processed beta can still keep up, this result means: No manufacturer can afford too little commitment in racing, slow further development or insufficient quality assurance in the future? not even in enduro sport.

MOTORCYCLE off-road ranking – placements

by Diego

Knowing how: Despite – or perhaps because of – down-to-earth technology, KTM continues to provide the reference in the 450 class with the 450 EXC.

1st place: KTM 450 EXC
2nd place: Husaberg FE 450
3rd place: Kawasaki KLX 450 R
4th place: BMW G 450 X, Beta RR 450 Racing Edition
6th place: Suzuki RM-Z 450 E.
7th place: Yamaha WR 450 F
8th place: Husqvarna TE 310
9th place: Husqvarna TE 450
10th place: Gas Gas EC 450 FSR
11th place: Sherco 4.5i 4T

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