Shootouts can sometimes be like finding a better flavor of ice cream. But with off-road comparisons and bikes from all over the world with very strange and unique differences, at least there is more variety than chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. With one all-new brand into off-road, two all-new bikes and then some very familiar faces, Dirt Rider was chomping at the bit to get this comparison going, so much so we beat the punch to our 2009 Torture Test, throwing the doors wide open for that foray.So we took the new bikes, grouped them together with the unchanged-for-2009 machines and went riding. We rode a lot. Many places and with different faces. Our experiences with the familiar bikes led us to do some specific modifications to allow them to better compete with the newest and latest offerings. Some of the changes, like the suspension valving, were done to complement what we'd be doing with these bikes and in reality could provide an advantage to any off-road 450. Other options like slipper clutches, automatic clutches, steering dampers, exhaust systems, steel clutch baskets, skid plates, oversize rotors and tire changes were in some cases specific to bikes that needed a little push or prod in a particular direction, but are items that could work on any bike and help it, if that modification offered what the rider was looking for.So we were off to the mountains and the deserts, across the valleys and on top of the hills to see if we could crown a new champion in the 2009 450cc off-road wars.BMW G450
What Were They Thinking?
This is one of the most anticipated 450cc enduro bikes, especially if you are a streetbike rider or a former World Enduro champion looking for a new and lucrative ride in 2009. Revolutionary in design, the bike could be considered more nonstandard than the Husaberg. With its crankshaft-mounted clutch, swingarm-pivot-centered countershaft sprocket and underseat gas tank, BMW looked to be reinventing the wheel, or at least trying to turn the wheel on its side. Did we need that?The Facts
* The motor makes plenty of power and good power at that, especially with the "racing" ECU setting enabled. It has solid chug right off the bottom and a smooth pull that resists stalling. A little slower revving than most of the others, it finished with a powerful top-end surge. But all that is cursed by running through a gearbox designed to pass street sound tests with gaps wide enough for two shifts. We tried to get sprockets to change this, but none were available in time. Same with the optional "racing" exhaust system, rumored to make the power even better.* The chassis layout is a breath of fresh air to larger and taller riders and it's the thinnest and slimmest bike in the test. A little stretched out for our smaller guys, it also bulged noticeably at the rear sidepanels when getting back in aggressive riding.* The suspension has to be the absolute worst suspension we've ridden in recent history. There is a harshness-especially in the fork-that finally breaks free and then proceeds to blow through the stroke and bottom. The shock is a little better but not much. It was so bad we took it apart to make sure something wasn't broken only to find low-quality tolerances in the fork as well as a shim setting that matched and explained the performance.* The rear fender broke in the cold, then broke again when we were lifting the bike. Then the lower mud flap broke off of it. This with all the heavy street stuff removed! We're still waiting on a replacement. We'd go to a dealer but they don't sell these bikes in California. Parts, two months after the bike's release, are an issue.* So it's street-legal, which is great for access to trails, but you wouldn't want to have to sit your butt on this seat for more than 10 miles (it is a plank). Plus, the bike vibrates as much as any in the test. Stock tires are junk. The rear brake is grabby. The steering is heavy feeling and the fender odd-looking to the rider. How much gas do I have left?The Verdict
We're not sure how BMW screwed the pooch this badly with a bike that seemed to have so much promise. Fixing the suspension, getting some sprockets and hopefully obtaining a new rear fender might make some huge, huge differences, and we are planning to let you know as we're keeping this bike as a Long Haul and trying to fix it. That is, if BMW doesn't come and take it away after reading this!