CFMOTO 450MT REVIEW | BIG THINGS ARE HAPPENING

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A group of CFMOTO 450MTs  lined up on a beach

In 2022 KTM and CFMOTO confirmed they’d been working in collaboration to bring a 490 Adventure to the market in 2023.

2023 came and went and no Austrian 490s appeared. Pierer Mobility AG (KTM’s parent company), possibly spent the development money to instead buy MV Agusta.

The 490cc party was over. The balloons were all deflated, someone threw a drink at the DJ and the lights went out.

Talk of the rumoured 750cc adventure model also faded as we walked away.


But over at CFMOTO, another party was just getting started. New models were announced one after another in quick succession.


And it surprised us all by announcing a 450MT and then swiftly set a blisteringly low retail price and announced a release date.


The 450 immediately set keyboards ablaze, wallets were spanked, and orders came into CFMOTO Australia thick and fast.


The 450MT was offered at a pre-order price of $8,990 with final retail pricing settling at $9,490.
And those initial pre-orders were around three times greater than any other CFMOTO model released to date.


The people had spoken. Without laying eyes on the motorcycle and before independent reviews had surfaced it was clear the 450MT had struck a chord. This was going to be a big deal for CFMOTO.

WHO THE HELL ARE THESE GUYS?

CFMOTO has been in business for 35 years. Founded in 1989 and headquartered in Hangzhou, China it employs over 5500 people and is listed on the Shangia Stock Exchange.


The company can design, develop and manufacture hardware in-house across its ATV, side-by-side and motorcycle range.


There are four CFMOTO R&D centres in China, America and Italy with six production plants in China, Taiwan and Mexico as well as 4000 dealers worldwide.


Since 2013 CFMOTO has been in partnership with KTM and Husqvarna and expanded that to include Yamaha in 2023.

The company tops 4-wheeler sales in 27 countries, including Australia and it is currently the fastest-growing motorcycle brand in China over 250cc.

CFMOTO has grown revenue through some tough economic times from $275 million US in 2017 to over $1.6 billion dollars in 2022 (2023 figures not yet available but an 8% growth is expected).

In 2022 the company sold just over 300,000 units with motorcycles making up 46% of the overall.
In 2023 the international (outside China), motorcycle revenue expanded over the previous year by about 50% to $280 million US with around 90,000 bikes sold.


The company does its biggest business in North America (ATV sales are massive), China and Europe with Australia representing about 4% of total sales.

Last year CFMOTO entered the MotoGP world with a Moto 3 team which has already grabbed its first win.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

We got the chance to ride the 450MT at the global launch in the Philippines and you can check out our video right here to see just what went on both on the bike and behind the scenes.

The setting was El Nido, on the island of Palawan. The heat and humidity were off the charts but there was a real buzz about the launch of a bike that has clearly scratched an itch for riders the world over.

Jumping on the bike I was struck by how low the seat height was. The bike looked tall, but the seat height had me flat-footed with both feet on the ground. This is perfectly fine except that it means there’s a fairly hard knee bend when you lift up onto the footpegs.

I would certainly opt for the taller, mostly bench-shaped seat (I’m 5”11 for reference) to alleviate that bend which become tiresome after a while.

The seat itself has a nice shape and feel. It’s a stepped seat so you’re more or less locked into place when you’re sitting, which is something the taller seat rectifies by offering you more freedom of movement.
The levers feel cheap, but not unpleasant, while the clutch has such an unbelievable light pull it almost made me check to see if the cable was attached.

The footpegs are pretty basic with removable rubber inserts. They’re a good size through and I wouldn’t rush to replace them.

The switchblock is KTM-ish which indicates it’s pretty simple to comprehend and use. There aren’t too many reasons to jump into a menu though as the ABS and traction control can be switched on and off (they are linked), by a single button.

There aren’t any ride modes, no wheelie control, engine braking or CarPlay to mess with. Just ABS and traction control which I turn off immediately and find myself henceforth free of electronics demanding my attention.

The engine fires to life with a muted grumble which builds into a full-throated and deeply satisfying roar as the revs rise. The exhaust note on the 450MT might be one of my low-key favourite aspects of the bike.

AND WE’RE OFF

The 450MT’s engine had a little surge in the early revs which wasn’t problematic, but it was noticeable. Interestingly I noticed it faded as the bike heated up until the early delivery was quite smooth.

The gearing is a little low for my liking and the pull off the line feels a bit like I’m wasting good revs, but once it’s into the mid-range you find a very workable and eager powerplant.

It’s not a bolter, but it’s not shy at responding to throttle input and maintains a nice pull right into a generous top end where you might need some spunk to pass vehicles at freeway speeds. And again…that exhaust note is a credit to the engineers.

This is a versatile engine that’s not a mirror of a 450 enduro bike. It’s here to suit a wide range of riders the world over and as such, overt aggression is unwarranted. Is there enough there to have fun with? Absolutely.

CFMOTO says there are 4000 hours of testing behind that engine which is also found in a few other models including the 450SR S sports bike which can be found screaming its nuts off while cutting laps at local circuits.

Its biggest drawback comes from the overly low gearing, and I’d love to try the bike with three fewer teeth at the rear sprocket to feel what a difference that makes.

The gearbox has a good feel with a nice positive shift feel without feeling cheap and clunky. As with the levers up top, I’d opt for a brake and gear lever with better feel if you plan to do a decent amount of offroad riding.

The 450MT carries weight fairly high with the bulk of the fuel tank sitting above the seat line, in a similar fashion to the Tenere 700.

The way it carries this weight is no great impediment on the dirt, but you can feel the slight resistance to tipping when you’re seated, again, just like on a T7 but with less bulk in the calculation.

In the standing position with your weight on the pegs and lowering the centre of gravity the 450MT feels far nimbler and this is how you ride it most aggressively.

The limitations for this point arise through the KYB suspension, which is soft, but it is adjustable so changes can be made and that’s what I did.

About a third of the way through the day I wound on 3 turns of pre-load and 4 clicks of rebound at the shock (there is no compression adjustment) and at the forks I sped up rebound by 4 turns and slowed compression by 4 clicks.

This gave the bike a firmer feel and increased bottoming resistance but most importantly it helped keep the forks in the sweet spot of the stroke and helped alleviate kicking from the rear.

And once you have a better shock feel you start to reduce unwanted forces that transfer through to the front of the bike too. This is the value of having adjustable suspension, something a few competitors do not offer.


It was guesswork as to what settings would be best and I didn’t want to entirely lose comfort, but the settings improved the ride greatly. The bike felt more stable and balanced as well as capable of being pushed a fair bit harder.

I’m bang-on 100 kilos for reference. And I’m a handsome young man who enjoys walks on the beach and snuggling up to watch romantic comedies with a special someone. OK, none of that is true except the 100kg part.

The KYB kit on the 450MT is soft and while it is tuneable, it won’t produce a performance level akin to that on a WR450F. But, by this stage you most surely understand that isn’t the role of the 450MT anyway. That’s not its mission in life.

The MT stands for Multi-function Touring. This is a pretty apt description of the 450MT as it is for the 800MT as well. It’s a small-capacity adventure tourer that was built to serve riders who split time between commutes and adventures.

Riders that are after a non-threatening motorcycle, something that’s more than Coldplay than Rage Against the Machine.

But CFMOTO isn’t ignoring the dirt crowd. The 450MT comes with tubeless tyres, the frame is a three-piece construction to allow repair or replacement. 220mm of ground clearance is very much a figure that suits offroad riding and the airfilter is very easy to reach and maintain.

The 450 also connects to CFMOTO’s smartphone app to keep ride details, establishes a geofence for security and best of all, accepts updates over the air which we’ve utilised and been impressed with in the past on the 800MT Explore.

IT’S ALL THERE

If you wish to get more from the 450MT then you will be visiting a suspension tuner and fitting more robust springs. After buying a bike for $9,490.00, this is no big deal. T7 owners have been doing it since its release and they paid around twice that price.


But you may not ever need to do this. It’s decent suspension for the price you’ve paid for the bike, and you may find that’s all you’ll ever need.


And it keeps coming down to that price. $9,490.00 is very low in today’s adventure market. My Africa Twin Adventure Sports cost me about $28,000 and I can’t take it anywhere that I can’t also take the CFMOTO 450MT.


I may get there quicker on the Honda, and I have more fuel range, but it’s a massive unit that doesn’t enjoy the technical tracks so much and burns through tyres like it has a vendetta against rubber.
I can buy 3 450MTs for the cost of my Africa Twin and my annual tyre costs would dramatically decrease.
There is a lot to like in the CFMOTO’s value proposition.

CFMOTO is backed in Australia by a very large distributor, and they have good people in place who are active in the industry.

You won’t find as many dealers as one of the five major manufacturers and in some cases, the dealers that came on board early with CFMOTO might be showing signs of being overwhelmed by demand, while larger dealers are actively seeking the brand for their showrooms.

This is a sign of a manufacturer growing and growing fast. Where CFMOTO is at right now reminds me to a degree of the Japanese manufacturer’s rise. There was a time when ‘made in Japan’ was a punchline to a joke.

Electronics and motorcycles played a huge role in turning that around, as did innovative thinking and constant evolution. But, arguably, this is not how Japan appears now and instead, the big four present as increasingly conservative.

Another apt comparison would be Korean car companies which lifted themselves from relative obscurity largely through aggressive pricing.


There is no huge paradigm shift in the near future, but it’s hard to deny one is possible just over the horizon and a company like CFMOTO seems to be driving that bus with intent.

As for the 450MT…it won’t be the only sub-500cc adventure model. It’s genuinely too good at what it does, clearly cheap enough to manufacture and enjoys a vocal demand. The big five can’t ignore this, but CFMOTO has already beaten them to the dealer floor.

If your adventure style is more Coldplay than Metallica or more at ease than enduro…then the 450MT is worth a test ride.