BMW has a long, storied history of doing things its own way. Back when there wasn’t a conventional path to follow, things like opposed-twin engines, shaft drive and 800cc dirt bikes just sort of happened. But as motorcycle design became more homogenized, both off-road and on, BMW didn’t exactly adapt with it. It just went ahead and pioneered a few things along its merry way, despite what everyone else was doing. Anti-lock brakes, single-sided swingarms, bigger and more powerful opposed-twin Boxer motors as well as flat four-cylinder Bricks. What does any of this have to do with the G450X? Well, it will all come together now since we finally get what this bike is doing.See, BMW decided it wanted to get into the dirt bike business. And in almost the biggest way you can aside from going supercross or motocross racing, the German company was going to build a flagship 450cc enduro bike, arguably the most crowded segment in the dirt bike world, It was going to do it right by making the bike dual-sport as well. And BMW was going to do it its way which, as we’ve pointed out, differs from the norm.With unconventional design throughout the bike-a clutch on the end of the crank, an engine that spins backward of every other bike out there, a swingarm pivot center on the countershaft sprocket and a lot of residual tweaks-the G450X would not only cry out by being different, it had all the odds stacked against it because it was so. And the 2009 bike arrived with some of the most horrific standard suspension settings in recent history. It was so bad, in fact, that Dirt Rider could never get comfortable on the bike or dial a setting in the suspension to actually feel what the bike was trying to accomplish. This was not for lack of trying. Then we struggled to get the performance parts the bike was being sold with, never got some replacement parts that we broke and, since the bike was only a 49-state release and we were based in California, all parties decided it best to just wait for 2010. That was probably a good thing.BMW went back and put proper suspension settings on the new bike with a whole new fork cartridge in the Marzocchi front end plus a tighter offset on the fork dropout (32.5mm instead of 35mm) while the triple clamp offset remains at 27mm. The rake on the frame was pulled in almost a degree as well. The Öhlins shock was tweaked, but not drastically. The seat was redesigned with a less brick-like foam density. Some minor revisions inside the electronics of the bike have it starting easier and pulling even better, especially in the competition setting. And with every bike comes the racing kit that includes a smaller taillight, a muffler, a jumper to activate the competition power setting, a reduced size rear fender mud flap and two separate smaller countershaft sprockets so there is no getting lost in unleashing the bike the G can be.Even with all these goodies one of the best things about the BMW is that you can just ride it box stock and it will perform admirably if you don’t mind a lower peak power and some tall and gappy gear spacing. Like a Honda CRF450X, you can ride it right off the dealer’s showroom. Better than the Honda, you can ride it down the street and not get in trouble! It is likely the only truthfully competition-based dual-sport bike that you can do this on. Yes, it runs this much better than a showroom stock KTM. Thank the wonders of fuel injection for that.
After a short confirmation ride on a showroom stock bike we went straight to competition settings and headed for the trails. Here (we chose the 13-tooth countershaft sprocket) the five-speed gearbox still has nearly the legs of its six-speed competition. The boosted power output that feels roughly 30 percent better to a rider can easily pull any gaps there still might be, and the motor has the revs to give the bike legs on top to approach 100 mph. It will chug down lower than almost any other bike, and it does it on a bike that does not act like it has a lot of flywheel weight. It picks up exactly how you choose to ask it through the throttle, and it makes a nice, mean and respectable sound out of the competition muffler, spark arrestor included! We have no complaints about the motor, and it is as fast as anything in the class in drag races or roll-ons. It starts right up, shifts just fine and the clutch will take more abuse than we ever thought it would; we have not smoked ours yet, and we’ve put it through the paces. The one thing that does stand out is the BMW can feel like it has more compression braking than some riders prefer, even though some effort was made to lessen this feel with timing and fuel delivery tweaks.This year we can talk about the suspension and handling because the suspension actually works respectably now. It isn’t the best in any one area, but the improvement over last year is so huge it is almost unbelievable they are the same components. And if we have any complaints, it comes down to two slight peeves. The front end can feel a little harsh or deflect, but that was usually overcome with a boost in rear spring preload to put some more weight on the front wheel. Also, the second half of the stroke can be a little soft for more aggressive or heavier riders, and clicks did not make much of a difference here even though we were a lot slower/stiffer up front. But we are being pretty critical to extract that. We also found the shock’s rebound has a huge effect on the character of the bike, much more than most bikes. We slowed ours a bit over standard. Even though the shock is angled something like a KTM-style PDS setup, it is not a PDS.Where the BMW shines brightest has a lot more to do with the handling character coming alive than what we feel is the suspension performance. The bike has a very long and stable feel in a great way. It begs to go straight through anything that is in its way and especially the stuff that would upset a more twitchy bike. Usually a bike set up like this is reluctant to turn, but the BMW is eager and very quick steering at the same time. The G450X almost acts like it has a steering damper on it until just before you want to have the front end go someplace, then it magically disappears and the steering gets feathery light. The front end tracks and steers in a very predictable and controlled way, again like there is some steering damping going on. The bike remains very agile on acceleration chop, but its most impressive characteristic was its hill climbing ability. Somehow the long swingarm feel comes through, and it acts like it pushes the front end into the ground when climbing. Other standout features are the ease of standing when riding this very thin machine. If you like to ride standing up, there are not many bikes that work this well when your butt is off the seat, and even though the seat is improved, it isn’t spectacular by any means, especially if you are tall enough to sit atop where the gas cap hides. But otherwise this bike really fits tall riders.
All the bits and pieces are pretty tight on the German machine. The brakes are strong, and the front rotor is even solid to keep the pads fresh in the mud. Some riders had a hard time finding the shifter and brake pedals when coming off other bikes. With just over 1.8 gallons you can plan on between high-40- and even 70-mile trips depending on the way you ride the bike; too bad there isn’t much in the way of slightly larger tanks that are affordable. You really feel that this bike has a clutch cable, not a hydraulic clutch. And that’s too bad. Adjusting the chain tight is a cinch, and until you ride one of these you will never notice the slop that a lose chain creates; now, some of us do and it is unnerving. The downside to that tight chain is you lose some of the feeling of the rear brake too. The radiator cooling fan is stock and does a great job at keeping the bike cool. Then there is the three-year/36,000-mile warranty this bike is sold with. That alone will have dirt bike riders’ heads spinning, but remember that it is for mechanical defects and takes into consideration the published life spans of wear items. Service on this bike is a little more complex than average but nothing too far out there for a typical garage mechanic. Oh, and wear out the stock tires as fast as you can; your overall handling and performance will love non-DOT tires.If there was one serious complaint on something that really baffles us, it’s this: We’re pretty amused with the odometer pickup being placed on the rear wheel. Now we not only ride faster than everyone else (especially in soft and slippery conditions!), we ride farther than other bikes on the same ride, about 10 percent farther on average over several rides.This BMW G450X has made one of the all-time greatest comebacks for a bike we never thought we would have anything good to say about. Obviously, having the suspension tuned on this bike makes a big deal. But the writing may be on the wall for this machine as tougher times has BMW concentrating on its core streetbike business and leaving the dirt bike building to sister company Husqvarna. In fact, the Germans gifted the Italians this very engine to see what they could do with it. Either way, this bike will live on; too bad it didn’t start out its first year the way it has its second. It is really hard to overcome a first impression, but for sure the 2010′s showing has made 2009 a bad dream long gone.
6’1″/210 lb/B Rider
What a difference a year makes, and perhaps more correctly what a difference correct setup makes. I was very disappointed in the first BMW 450 we tested. Since then BMW has upgraded the plastic and made sure parts are available so we could change the gearing. I rode the bike primarily off-road, so it was in competition mode. The exhaust note was reasonable, and the performance was quite good. The bike has a slim, solid, planted feel that I really like, with perhaps the most comfortable standing position of any off-road bike for a tall rider. I never tried the bike with any different tires, but the front end stayed straight, and the rear seems to just float loose behind it. Perhaps different tires will cure that, but for now the BMW was not my favorite bike on narrow, loose single-track on the side of a hill. Everywhere else I liked the handling and the rider accommodations. The engine is very smooth (delivery and vibration), and with the gearing lowered it is solid and responsive. For me the lower gears are still a little gappy but no other street-legal or off-road 450 feels this slim. Toss in the great warranty, and this is now a major contender where it was a solid miss for me last year.
Specifications: 2010 BMW G450X
Claimed weight (tank full): 267 lb
Actual weight (tank full): 274 lb
Seat height: 37.5 in.
Footpeg height: 16.7 in.
Ground clearance: 13.0 in.
Fuel Capacity: 1.8 gal.
*Including destination charges and competition parts