Bikes > Ride

CFMoto 450MT: Redefining the entry-level ADV bike segment

Big trouble for the competition

It's tough to beat the pricing and the specs. PHOTO FROM CFMOTO

Ride enough Philippine trails and you’ll eventually come to the conclusion that big-displacement adventure bikes aren’t as cracked up as they look in all those fancy marketing ads. They’re heavy, they’re tough to manhandle in a tight section, and unless you’re Pol Tarrés, getting a big adventure bike to dance all day on a trail is not fun at all.

An upright windshield, tall side panels, a large tank, and properly sized tires for the complete ADV look. PHOTO FROM CFMOTO

Hence, the popularity of middleweight bikes like the KTM 790/890 Adventure and the Yamaha Ténéré 700. They have the power to make quick work of expressway slogs while being nimble enough on a singletrack or a gravel back road to be immense fun.

But they’re still expensive and out of reach of many erstwhile riders, while also still being quite a bitch to pick up when you drop a bike that’s already loaded down with all your gear.

The windshield can be lowered or raised on the fly. PHOTO FROM CFMOTO

So, the small-capacity, expressway-legal 400cc class has always been the most interesting, in my opinion. They’re in the P300,000 to 400,000 range, making them more accessible to the vast majority of riders while also offering the kind of real-world performance that most ADV riders will ever actually need.

Everybody wants something like a KTM 450 Rally Replica for its Dakar-winning pedigree, but in reality, the average rider could never really reach its race-winning potential. The skills will run out long before the bike hits its limits.

Enter the CFMoto 450MT. Right out of the gate, it comes out swinging with a punchy 449cc parallel-twin with a 270° crank, 44hp of output, and 44Nm of torque.

The parallel-twin is a gem with its throaty rumble and torquey nature. PHOTO FROM CFMOTO

Competitors like the popular KTM 390 Adventure and the Royal Enfield Himalayan make do with a single-cylinder, and the difference in character is immediately felt once you twist the throttle.

The parallel-twin has a gratifyingly uneven pulse like a V-twin, and even with the stock exhaust, it sounds lovely. This is the same engine that powers the 450SR and the 450NK, albeit tuned for more torque down low.

It has enough power to kick the tail out if you've got the skills. PHOTO FROM CFMOTO

Suspension duties are handled by a quality set from KYB: a USD fork with 20 clicks of adjustment for rebound and compression, and a rear shock adjustable for rebound. Suspension travel of 200mm and a ground clearance of 220mm are good enough for all but the worst trails.

The adjustable USD fork is unheard of in this class. PHOTO FROM CFMOTO

The spoked, tubeless tires are shod with blocky CST rubber—21 inches in front and 18 inches at the back, exactly what you want in an ADV bike for rolling over the nasty stuff. A button on the left switch pod deactivates rear-wheel ABS and traction control on the fly.

The tank holds 17.5L, and the seat can be specced for 800mm and 820mm height options, with an 870mm seat as an optional accessory.

The standard seat options are 800mm and 820mm, with 870mm as an accessory. PHOTO FROM CFMOTO

A metal bash plate, handguards, and manually adjustable windscreen are standard. All that for P329,800, and you can choose between the standard low fender or the enduro-style high fender.

You can choose between low and high fenders. PHOTO FROM CFMOTO

So, go back again to that price. It’s unbeatable. The KTM 390 Adventure (a fun bike I owned and thrashed for the past three years) currently retails for P338,000. The suspension is nonadjustable; the front tire is a smaller 19-incher; it has less suspension travel; and the single-cylinder is peaky, not liking low revs at all (unlike the 450MT).

The much-awaited, second-generation Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 has a newer, long-stroke single-cylinder that makes less power and torque, while the suspension is still nonadjustable. And it has a higher price tag of P339,000, too.

The big tank and the chunky tires make it look like a bigger bike. PHOTO FROM CFMOTO

These comparisons were going on in my mind as I headed out for a full day’s ride in El Nido along with my designated group. CFMoto and Philippine distributor Motostrada pulled out all the stops for the global launch of the bike.

No fewer than 60 bikes were shipped over from Manila for local and foreign journalists and vloggers to thrash, and the 100+km route was about 60% off-road and 40% road, with the former consisting of provincial back roads, fire roads and singletrack, and a modified ATV park with three levels of difficulty.

CFMoto brought no fewer than 60 bikes for the global media launch. PHOTO FROM CFMOTO

With my seat at 870mm, the seat-to-peg distance was ideal, and my hamstrings didn’t feel cramped throughout the day. The handlebar is set high enough for Asian-sized riders such that stand-up riding feels natural, but guys 6ft and taller will need risers.

The cockpit feels roomy, with enough space to shift around as needed, while the big tank gives the illusion you’re riding a middleweight bike.

Stand-up riding feels natural with the bike. PHOTO FROM CFMOTO

The P-twin’s throaty rumble is hugely entertaining, and is quite an improvement from the flatulent single-cylinder character that’s the norm for this segment.

But the throttle response is too snappy at low revs and in low gear, making for a jerky ride on slow-speed trails. Without a dedicated Off-Road throttle map (not for this budget segment, at least), the only solution was to plunk the shifter into third gear while tractoring along at 20-30km/h.

The bike is comfortable to ride all day. PHOTO FROM CFMOTO

Being tuned for this kind of low-rpm riding, however, the bike was content to do that sort of thing all day, rarely protesting at my lack of trail aggression. There’s no quickshifter, but rev matching was a doozy, and I was shifting clutchless after first gear.

Pushed to the redline, the bike will top out somewhere around 170km/h. Cruising at a more sedate 70-80km/h in sixth gear on provincial highways gets the engine humming along at 3,500rpm, while also yielding good fuel economy of 23-25km/L.

The dedicated ABS on/off switch is very useful. PHOTO FROM CFMOTO

It’s a good thing that the suspension is adjustable, and if I had the time and the patience, I would have set the fork to be a little more forgiving.

You only need a flathead screwdriver to adjust the fork, and taking the time to set it just right will really make the bike shine off the pavement. As it is, the bike seemed to be set up stiffly for road use at the cost of bump compliance.

No complaints about the J.Juan brake setup. Stopping power is strong and linear, with just a little mush in the first half-inch of travel so you can finesse your moves on a trail.

The budget CST tires are the only thing you'll want to upgrade right away. PHOTO FROM CFMOTO

The switchable ABS works as advertised, taking only around two seconds to switch off the rear-wheel ABS, which you can do on the fly (no need to lay off the throttle while doing so).

The only thing I would change would be the tires. They look macho with their chunky blocks, but they’re not particularly grippy in the loose stuff despite their appearance.

The five-inch TFT dash supports smartphone connectivity. PHOTO FROM CFMOTO

At 175kg dry (add around 10kg when fully fueled and lubed), the bike isn’t the lightest (that would be the 158kg 390 Adventure). However, it’s light enough that getting it back up isn’t an impossible task even if you have to do it by your lonesome.

It’s also not quite as flickable as the smaller and lighter KTM, but the bigger tank and torquier motor make it feel more like a complete ADV bike.

The bike is well-suited for back-road adventuring, while still being expressway-capable. PHOTO FROM CFMOTO

Sort of like a Ténéré 450, if Yamaha actually made something like that. Without having ridden the new Himalayan 450 yet, I can’t say which is the better bike.

But RE has consistently tuned engines in the past for a gentler response off-idle, so I’m betting that the Himalayan will be more docile on a trail, fueling-wise.

It hits the sweet spot between price, features, and capability. PHOTO FROM CFMOTO

Motostrada has also done a great job of taking care of the customers as I’ve heard nothing but good things from people who’ve chosen this Chinese brand over traditional Japanese, Austrian, German, and Indian makes.

Someone new to adventure riding will find a ton of value in this ‘entry-level’ 450MT, but more experienced riders looking for a capable bike they can thrash around with no regrets will also love it.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.