In the current state of off-road motorcycles, there are few firsts. New models from the popular stable of brands are molded, updated copies of copies with new originals brought in every third or fourth revision. With the addition of the BMW G450X, that sequence has been interrupted. Now there’s something completely new.There are a lot of things to take in when witnessing the BMW for the first time. Let’s get those eyes open.First, notice the unique motor-frame-drivetrain relationship going on here. Every aspect of the motor, from its cylinder angle to its final drive shaft, has been developed for a specific purpose and benefit. The most obvious is the countershaft sprocket relationship to the swingarm. The two spin, rotate and are secured to and from the same centerpoint. This unique relationship allows every other piece of the BMW 450 puzzle to work. It enables the bike to have a longer swingarm. Increased traction and stability were the performance goals, but the design effects are much broader.Then there’s the build of the motor. The crank and clutch are also unique in that they share the same centerpoint, the clutch is actually on the crank end. That means the clutch spins faster (2.6 times as fast as traditional designs) and is smaller in overall size. Again, in plain English this means “there’s less stuff inside the motor there to move around.” This provides a straight line and a rather long intake tract for the dual-throttle-body EFI system. From the airbox (located where the fuel tank is traditionally placed), through the throttle body and into the cylinder is a direct shot. This system is unique in that it isn’t retrofitting a carburetor-equipped bike into a fuel-injected bike but is fuel injected from the beginning by design.Fuel is held in an eight-liter tank (2.1 gallons) under the seat with fill access via a pop-in cover and screw cap. Two different seats (regular and short) are available, and the handlebar mounting position is ultra-adjustable to fit large-to-small pilots.Since the pivot point for the final drive and swingarm is the same, the motor can be placed farther back in the chassis and, thus, tilted farther forward. This placement inherently raises the mass, moving it as close to the bike’s center of gravity as possible. It is all about balance and ease of movement. The less weight you’re moving out of center, the easier it is to move the weight…get it? We do (mostly).While almost everything is unique to this motor in design and placement, the character of its performance mirrors more traditional bikes in the class.As we idle directly out of the parking lot and through the quaint Spanish mountain community, I realize I’m flanked by Jol Smets and Andy Littenbichler-BMW’s talented development riders tied to the G450X. Andy is fresh off the Beemer’s largest race success: An ultra-respectable second place at the Erzberg Hard Enduro, a notoriously nasty enduro race, in Austria. Smets is straight off a spectacular world GP motocross career with four World Motocross championships.It doesn’t take long for us to leave the pavement and hit the trail, and immediately I know the 450 powerplant is one thing: powerful. In stock configuration (in compliance with strict Euro emissions regulations) the delivery is smooth and strong. It’s not aggressive and has the drivability of a smaller-displacement bike. Don’t say she’s slow, though. When needed, the bike comes alive and truly accelerates into a long top-end.The cable clutch pull is manly, and engagement is solid and quick. There isn’t a lot of fudge room between off and on with the left throttle (that’s your clutch). It’s easily modulated, but with its weighty pull, long and technical riverbeds or rock-hopping trails will leave your left digits fatigued. The clutch also makes a semi-cool whirring sound on deceleration, in case you were wondering about cool noises.
The most interesting performance aspect I discovered during my short stint on the BMW was the direct result of a simple electrical loop. I’m not sure what BMW is going to call this plug-in patch or if it will be installed on United States-bound models. But when you plug it in, the bike literally makes 11 more horsepower than stock. That’s wild, right? Well, the areas the power goes may even be wilder. First, the bottom is awakened. The bike rips with full-on motocross bike ferocity and pulls just as strongly through the range to wherever the top of the top-end is. I didn’t really find it. This alternative ignition/EFI mapping or circuit or sequence completely fills in any soft spots of the stock programming. I would later learn that it’s a much richer circuit (non-emissions compliant) so it makes sense that the bike came alive.I really can’t wait to see how these bikes land in the States. There’s a lot of power potential here.The chassis and suspension of the G450X are at least as original as the motor. While its components are shared with other brands (Marzocchi fork and hlins shock) the pieces in between are much different. The stainless steel frame feels rigid with minimal flex and wallow. The bike doesn’t squat in the rear, and if anything, the seat height feels higher than most in the class.As always, bike sag is ultra important, and BMW suspension techs stressed that 40mm of bike sag (no rider) was ideal. In our day, the bike felt a bit high in the seat and reluctant to really settle under acceleration or when entering corners. The only complaint I couldn’t settle with ride height and clickers was a stepping-out sensation from the rear. Honestly, this could be an issue with the Metzeler Six Days Extreme tires more than anything. Sag experimentation shall continue and we’ll surely be adjusting clickers (which are toolless hand knobs on these hlins shocks-totally cool), swapping tires and riding some serious hours when we get our long-term test bike.The BMW’s fork performance was coming around to our liking about the time we had to call it quits (and pack up for the 12-hour flight back home). They held up well in the stroke and resisted bottoming sweetly, even when jumping motocross jumps with little or no landing. Initially, the set felt stiff and tended to deflect in true trail situations. We were told production bikes feature 15 percent less initial compression damping to the shim stack to deal with the sensation. We clicked the feeling out for the most part, anyway, but we look forward to running a U.S.-spec fork in our own backyard to truly dial it in.In our quick meeting, I can say the big German bike is stable-feeling, straight-line happy and can accelerate with the best of them. The motor is really impressive for a first-year bike, a first-year model and as a company’s first year jumping in. The biggest problem I had was with the right-side engine guard. It kept “imitating” a rear brake pedal and had me sailing past a few corners and right by some surprised photographers.The unknown is all around this bike. As of press time, we’re told the G450X will be 49-state street-legal with California close behind. We don’t know if the machine will come with the alternative mapping installed or available from dealers. We also don’t know if it will be offered in a competition-only race model (like KTM’s XC line). We don’t even know what it will cost. So, we’ll wait. Like you. And patiently look forward to a time when we have a truly new bike in our garage.