Let’s not sugar coat this or cause any confusion. BMW screwed up with this bike. The suspension is so bad and confusing that we could not get confident on the bike or ride it in any way where we could get a good feel for how the bike might be capable of handling.Compounded that was the fact the we were forbidden by BMW to ride it in California any longer (because the bike is not C.A.R.B. compliant) and we still, two months later, are waiting for parts that are broken on the machine. We need a fender, a mud flap (which are still backordered) and the rest of the Akrapovic exhaust system that we asked for. The header and a selection of sprocket showed up the other day but we are so unmotivated to ride this bike it is just sitting and waiting till all the stuff shows up.What went wrong? Why is the suspension so bad? We have no idea and we had a lot of riders ride this bike to see what it was trying to accomplish and no one was truly happy. Especially if they’d ridden any of the other machines we have around.The suspension has a stiff or stiction feel at the top of the stroke, especially the fork. Then it blows through the stroke, with little control and will bottom way too easy. It makes turning difficult and makes riding hard and charging difficult to do. Somehow they valved the rear shock to match this horrible performance and the bike is balanced, which is only a good thing if you like a stiff feeling ride that blows through the stroke and bottoms frequently. Do not jump the bike. If it is cold out the jarring will break the fender and you’ll be like us, all duct taped up.Aside from that we can talk about the motor. It is really good and puts out some strong torque and revs out to a decent top end power build. And even with the non-race map activated, this bike gets along just fine. As long as you don’t need to shift. First is a granny, great for super technical trails, but the gap to second is gigantic, there needs to be another gear in between. Then if you think that gap is bad, try the jump to third. And it gets worse all the way to sixth. Tighter final drive gearing will help, and it will still have plenty of spread, first will just become useless. And I like a wide ratio gear box, this was just way too much, again the victim of attempting to meet street mandated regulations with a bike that is supposed to be a dirt bike. The crank mounted clutch took a lot of abuse and never whimpered at us, something we were concerned with. But BMW has a lot of experience with fast-spinning clutches on crank ends and materials have gotten a lot better since this was not possible.The other strong point for the BMW is its very thin and roomy layout. If you are tall, you will instantly feel at home on this bike. Its bars are far forward and tall, the seat holds your legs up from getting folded and the bike is narrow where you sit and ride on it. You can get as far forward as you’d ever need. Smaller riders tent to feel a little stretched out and are best suited riding standing up most of the time. After all, this bike has a stiff seat with a really hard spot where the gas cap is. And with that you can never tell how much of the 1.9 gallons of fuel is left, we were running out anywhere from 40-60 miles depending on the terrain.As mentioned we could not get a feel for the handling. The bike feels stable and acts stable but the steering is also heavy. And awkward looking to the rider as the beak on the front looks bulky and drops off steep. Since the steering is heavy it seems the overall handling takes on that feel as well, the weighty muffler and mellow build of power can also amplify this feeling. It reacts best to riders standing in the pegs and steering the bikes with a lot of footpeg influence. We could not pinpoint any advantages or disadvantages from the countershaft on the center of the swingarm pivot and had no issues with the chain, we just ran it tight.The brakes are strong and not quite as aggressive as some. The shifting is adequate. The brake lever takes some time to find. Most riders liked the look of the BMW but anyone who worked on it wondered why it took so many screws or nuts to get anything off or on.Where does this leave the G 450? We don’t know. BMW has a tradition and a history of doing things different and making them appeal to a certain kind of rider who can appreciate the bikes for being unique. But there bikes fit into niche markets (of sorts, ones that are not serviced by the Japanese) and they are not going head-to-head in a well established arena of high performance machines. The marketing and direction worked on the street side. BMW still produces a number of bikes that are just plain weird to conventionalists but are praised by riders who love them. I have a BMW 1200 GSA and I really like it, it is my favorite street bike. So if you hate good suspension and love big transmission gaps, this could be a dirt bike for you. For the rest of us, something needs to be done.Specs:
Claimed Weight (tank full): 267 lb.
Actual Weight (tank full): 274 lb.
Seat Height: 37.7 inches
Footpeg Height: 16.7
Ground Clearance: 13.0
Street Legal (y/n): Y
Fuel capacity: 1.8 gal.
Manufacturer Website: www.bmwmotorcycles.com
By Bob Surmon
AKA San Felipe Bob
Weight: 180lbs street clothes 195ish with full gear and fanny pack.
Riding ability: Varies
I prefer to ride tight technical trails. (Slow is my new Fast).
District 37 Expert, SCORE sportsman champion
Claim to fame: Solo’d the Baja 2000 in 59 hours.
Excuse for riding too slow: I have been off the bike for 9 months taking care of my now 9 month old son.My 3rd bike of the afternoon was the BMW 450. Right away I could tell something was very different about this bike, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Once again I was off on the 3rd more technical loop. The bike seemed to be very stable at slow speeds almost to a fault. It also seemed like it was riding in the bottom half of the suspension. Maybe it was set up for a lighter weight rider? As I went along I tried many different riding positions and styles. At the end I ended up riding it like a heavier bike that what it actually is. I rode it more like an XR600 / KTM LC4.It did not respond very well to aggressive use of the clutch in the corners so I just left it in 1st gear and used the throttle to control entry and exit speed in the corners. This bike was very plush as long as you didn’t hit anything too big or too fast. The forks have a tendency to blow through the stroke pretty easy. A smooth riding style was required to survive. As I got more comfortable I could tell this would be a great bike to ride for very long distances. It hooked up great without too much wheel spin or too much arm ripping power.I did notice a bit of vibration when I lugged in 2nd gear. (Lack of Talent on my part?).The rear brake appeared to be tucked in under the side case. (Probably due to a previous riders tip over?) So I pulled it out a tad and all was well with the brakes! Gearing seemed a bit tall for the tight sections of the 3rd loop. No issues with the clutch and the engine has plenty of power bottom to top. I had a chance to ride this bike later in the evening on different terrain.My final conclusion:
San Felipe to La Paz Nonstop! I’m taking the BMW! I could ride this bike for days straight and not get too tired. Of course I would have to ride it slower than I would a CRF450 ..But I could not ride the CRF 450 for more than a few hours without getting tired. I might add a bit more padding to the seat so the gas cap can be protected from my tail bone. Or is that the other way? Tail bone from gas cap. A fun bike to ride………. just not anything like other 450′s I have ridden.This would be a great bike to ride from Mexico to Canada off road! But I can’t ride it in California!
San Felipe BobShawn O’ Leary
I feel as if this bike was set up for about 60% street 40% dirt riding. It seems to track very well in ruts and settle into corners great. However the suspension seems very soft and will blow throw the stroke on large braking bumps and small off road style jumps. As for the power it was smooth but pulls about as strong as a 250F. Moving onto the brakes they felt plenty strong with great articulation and a non-fading feel. One thing that really stands out as needing improvement is the seat or lack there of.BIKE: BMW450
NAME: Brett Nicholas
RIDING ABILITY: Intermediate
Comments: I was excited at the prospect of riding the BMW, after holding the company and their machinery in high regard for many years, coupled with the signing of Knight and Salminen. I currently own a CRF450, though owned and rode trail bikes back in Australia earlier this decade, so was interested to see how things had progressed in the off road market. After mounting the beemer, weight was the first thing that came to mind as I cruised away from the collection. Japanese bikes seem much narrower and lighter, and aligned to MX bikes comparative to this thing. Having selected the German Tank for my first ride I regretted eyeing off the tightest trail loop not too far from the take off point.I entered the loop by dropping down a relatively easy though sandy section, yet was quickly caught out by the weight in the front end. The suspension was far too soft for my build, though the geometry also seemed like the rear was too high or the forks too far through the clamps. I started questioning my commitment to the trail as I watched my riding partner tear away on the KLX, considering we’re normally close in speed. The gearing wasn’t optimal for this trail either, which caused the bike to languish quite a bit as you’d turn tight corners and try to blast up short and steep accents. The motor felt strong though I didn’t get to open her up any faster then a quick burst in 3rd, due to the nature of the trail we were on.I was also caught out by the rear brake pedal, which is partially hidden or placed next to the engine case. With size 13 ski’s for feet, my toes would catch on the case every time I’d be ready to square off a corner or berm, leading to a few close calls and blown through corners on numerous occasions. A wider pedal would be required if I found myself the owner of the BMW.The net result was disappointment, as I truly struggled to get comfortable or excited by any aspect of the big girl. Lack of confidence in the front end, coupled with bad gearing and braking ability had me cutting the trail for a bee line back to the herd of awaiting 450′s.Pete Peterson: The BMW is a great bike to get if you want to try every other bike. Show up anywhere and the exotic James Bond of dirt bikes draws attention, and you’ll have plenty of offers to trade bikes for a loop – take them. The BMW felt big and clumsy and had the worst riding position of all – way forward and high. The suspension wasn’t plush, and I never felt comfortable enough to try anything on this bike. It sure looks exotic, though.This was truly the most disappointing bike out of all the bikes, what a pig.Owning a BMW GS1150R I was thinking this bike would reflect the design ingenuity of my GS, boy was I wrong.First off the gearing on the bike was awful. The gearing was so high in the low gears that if you wanted to go through anything technical you had to continually slip the clutch to go slow enough yet not stall. This in my mind made the bike worthless as a dirt bike.I did not care for the handling of the bike. The only place I can see using this bike would be to ride on fire roads with no technical terrain. The only problem with cruising down fire roads is that if you sit back and relax on the seat you get the hard rubber plug of the gas cap cover jamming up into your tail bone which was quite uncomfortable. Who ever thought of putting a hard rubber plug in this spot should be shot. I could not relax and sit on that portion of the bike. I had to slide forward towards the tank to be semi comfortable.If someone wanted to impress their friends by buying a “BMW” dirt bike, I would say save your money buy any of the other real dirt bikes above and not waste your money on this turd.
-Sean “Salty” CrowleyAs noted in the test, the BMW fits a taller rider best, and I actually got along with the handling and the riding position decently. I’m comfortable standing, and I like the slim feel of the bike. The seat is a plank. I found the power was smooth and energetic, but the gappy gearbox is beyond annoying. What saves this bike for me is the fact that it is fairly light for a street legal bike, and you can ride it on fast roads of the street without wringing the engine’s neck. I guess that is where that gappy gearbox is a plus. What it all comes down to is the warranty. If I was planning to ride a lot, and by that I mean dual-sport riding, the BMW would look really good with that three-year 36,000-mile warranty. That will take the fear out of owning a four-stroke!
6’1″/225 lb./B riderI rode this bike before most. And I’m still sort of impressed with the BMW even after it proved to be a lackluster performer in comparison to the established brands and new bikes in the class. When looked at as an engineering marvel, the things German designers have done are definitely unique. A crankshaft-mounted counter shaft sprocket and clutch that also acts as a swingarm pivot? Whoa. That’s a lot of intricate brain work going into re-designing a seemingly simple standard drive system that has worked for a long time. But BMW isn’t about being simple, they’re about building stuff that’s theirs. I look at the G450X as a stepping stone. A somewhat jacked up first step in the progression of an off-road brand. I like the way this motor delivers pumped up power. And this is a brand new motor. It’s really good at bringing the noise. My favorite thing to do with this bike is to find a fire-road or desert straight and see how fast I can go. It goes really fast. But I can’t tell how fast because my eyes are shaking in my head and I can’t read the speedometer. The chassis needs a lot of fine-tuning for the masses but surprisingly, we had a couple big guys that could get the bike to work decently. For the average-sized rider, its suspension performance is too poor. If you’re heavy enough to get the fork past the harsh initial range and not riding terrain fast enough to bottom it, it will work. Also, the ergonomics fit those around 6-foot tall better. It definitely misses its mark as a potent adventure bike (since it lacks a good road seat and ample fuel capacity) and now sits in a quirky position as a bike that doesn’t do anything very well. With their alignment with Husqvarna, their dedication to racing the World Enduro Championships in Europe with a true “A-Team” and a lot of feedback from their first run, I’m sure BMW will come out with a much better real-world off-road bike the next time around. At least, I really hope they will.
Jesse Ziegler, 5’10″, 175 pounds, Intermediate