Today was a big day for us at Dirt Rider—specifically Karel Kramer and myself—as we were the lucky ones to spend a day riding one of the first CRF450Xs in the country. We met the Honda folks East of San Diego at Corral Canyon off-road park to spend the day roosting on one of the most anticipated bikes of the year.We hit the trails in perfect conditions, and as you’d expect from a Honda, the whole feel and performance of the bike is impressive. First, there isn’t anything to remove, rewire or unplug. We rode the California model, which differs from the 49-state bike only with the air-injection system. Performance-wise the bikes are the same and the extra hoses and parts amount to just a pound.Box-stock this bikes runs like you’d expect a KTM or Husky to do. It supplies a full-power delivery without any hiccups or hesitations at any rpm. The pull starts way down low and is pretty responsive and snappy. Once on the cam the pull is very linear and the engine revs into the 10,000-rpm range, but the power tapers off before that. In fact, the bike is tuned to produce max power in the 7000-8000 rpm range, and there is plenty of boost to get the job done in the most power-consuming conditions. And this power bounty is produced so quietly that the loudest sound is the chain slapping around!Another bit of good news is the unfriendly handling of the CRF450R chassis and the punishing motocross-spec suspension in off-road conditions isn’t present. The X has its own unique frame and it shows on the trail. It is a stiff, precise ride, but it doesn’t deflect off every bit of chop, root or rock it encounters. Suspension-wise it seems Honda was after a setup that can suit a wide variety of riders and conditions. The spring rates are on the stiff side, and they hold the bike up in the stroke. Even Karel was surprised by spring rates he feels will suit heavier riders just fine. I was even more impressed that the bike stayed plush and compliant for me on the tighter and slower trails. The X will be a little firm for the true East coast woods rider, but it won’t upset anyone out west, or those cursed with whoop-de-do riding.The handling strikes a fine balance between stability and tight turning. When laying the bike into turns, it knifes in and sticks like an MXer. The CRF250X acts likewise, so the 450X may set a new standard for larger enduro bikes. With the sag set properly, the front end feels light and precise. If the rear rides low, the steering slows down and the fork starts to feel overly stiff. You can feel that the bike is heavier than a true motocross machine when you’re blitzing through bumps, but you have to kick start those things! The electric starting was flawless for us, even though the starter motor on the 450 is smaller than the one the CRF250X. As long as you don’t bury the rear shock into the bump-stop, it tracked straight and true.Contrary to rumors, the CRF450X is not in dealers yet, and will be released mid-March with an MSRP of $6999.We plan to torture it a bit more and give you the full impression in the April Issue of Dirt Rider. Then the bike is slated for the off-road grudge match at our annual DR 24-Hour. Pick up the magazine, and stay tuned for all the results.