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Which is the pick of the MX1 bikes for 2020?

For the third year now, MotoHead got together with Italian magazine X-Offroad to put all the new 2020 model bikes up against each other to see which is best. This year there were 18 bikes in total from Honda, Husqvarna, Kawasaki, KTM, Suzuki and Yamaha, across the MX1, MX2 and 125 classes.

The test team!

However, once again there is an omission as TM again declined to be involved as the Italian factory has done every year. Their reason is that their company policy is not to be involved in comparison tests.

As every year, the bikes are weighed, put on the dyno for power and torque and their noise output measured. However, this year MotoHead’s chief tester Dave Willet was out of action with a broken arm. So we did things a little differently.

The bikes were ridden by 19 different riders but there were six main testers, two per class, who rode and judged the bikes over two days of intense riding.

All the bikes in the studio, MX1, MX2 and 125s

Magazine test rider Francesco Muratori and part-time MXGP rider Davide de Bortoli were the men tasked with the MX1 class.

Each of the bikes were given a score out of 10 for 16 different categories including stability, ergonomics, starting, brakes, handling and lots more. From these scores, a chart was produced to give a good impression of the bike’s total performance.

Scores on the doors.. well, indoors

With a score of 160 possible, we worked out the % score of each bike. This gives an overall rating, but of course there is much more to each bike than scores. Some bikes suit different riders more than others, so what is ‘best’ for one might not be for others. So we prefer to show the figures so you can see which area each bike excelled and match it to your needs.

New year, new circuit

In previous years we have used both the Dorno and Ottobiano tracks, both of which have hosted Italian GPs in recent years. They have a sandy surface, making them very much all-weather. But this year we went to a track that has a more intermediate surface, with some sandy areas. The track is the Cadrezzate  circuit near Lake Monate, managed by Carlo “Carletto” Caresana and his partner Alice “Aly” Bongiovanni.

If you’d like to ride there, it’s open in Summer time (from May) every day, except Tuesday,

from 9-6pm and on Wednesday from 9am-9pm. From October, however, the track is open every day, except Tuesday, from 9-5pm. And it costs €25.

The circuit is 1.65km long, camping with hot showers, toilets, a motorcycle washing station with pressure washer. For information:, +39 349 7097433.

The powerhouse class

Which is the pick of the MX1 bikes for 2020?

Once again we put all the bikes on a dyno to see how they fared against each other. We also did this last year, but you can’t make direct comparison as a different dyno was used, and atmospheric conditions make a big difference. It’s just a good comparison between the bikes on the day.

What’s really obvious from the chart is the very similar power curve from all the bikes on test. Of course, they all have lots of power. So it’s more of a race to see who can put the whole package together rather than which bike has the most grunt in stock form.

In recent times the two Austrian engines have excelled but now it’s clear all the others have come very close.

Let’s start by noting the unquestionable growth in performance of the Honda CRF450R. After years of being underpowered, last year the Honda came out swinging and it’s right there again, although there is an obvious dip  between 4,000 and 6,000rpm.

If you’re a revver you’ll love the Yamaha engine, and it makes the most peak power too.  It even manages to outpower the KTM-Husqvarna pair from 9,500 revs, with a really impressive over-rev. In terms of torque, the Mattighofen-made engines rule, and this translates into great drive. The Honda is not far behind, either.

The Kawasaki engine shows potential but there is a noticeable drop at around 6,500 rpm, which limits an excellent bike. We expect that with a few adjustments, the KX can progress a lot. The old-school Suzuki RM-Z is at the back of the pack, but in real terms is not massively off the pace at all.


  1. Yamaha YZ450F 54.80 bhp at 10.300 rpm
  2. Husqvarna FC 450 54.30 bhp at 10.300 rpm
  3. Honda CRF450R 53.60 bhp at 9,600 rpm
  4. KTM 450 SX-F 53.40 bhp at 9,500 rpm
  5. Kawasaki KX450 53.00 bhp at 9.400 rpm
  6. Suzuki RM-Z 450 51.90 bhp at 9,000 rpm


BHP king
  1. Husqvarna FC 450 46.23 Nm at 6,700 rpm
  2. KTM 450 SX-F 45.35 Nm at 7,000 rpm
  3. Honda CRF450R 45.25 Nm at 7,000 rpm
  4. Kawasaki KX450 44.86 Nm at 7,000 rpm
  5. Yamaha YZ450F 44.27 Nm at 7,200 rpm
  6. Suzuki RM-Z 450 43.29 Nm at 8,200 rpm


Total scores:

  1. KTM 136.5
  2. Honda 132
  3. Yamaha 131
  4. Husqvarna 130.5
  5. Kawasaki 128
  6. Suzuki 113.5

If you look at the total scores, then the KTM is quite clearly the winner with the Honda, Yamaha and Husqvarna all very closely matched, tailed by the Kawasaki then the Suzuki a fair distance back.

KTM came out on top in the scores

What the KTM did well was not scoring below 8 out of 10 in any category, with an amazing 9.5 score in top end power. And as it’s the lightest of the bunch, it is a Ready to race package, as the marketing always likes to point out.

The fact that the sibling Husqvarna is a few points behind, and very close to the Honda and Yamaha, shows just how similar all these bikes are. Buy any and you won’t be disappointed.

And if you manage to tweak the KX to make a bit more midrange, that’d be right there too. Only the old-school Suzuki lacks, and is the heaviest despite no electric start. But it’s a rock-solid handler that can be bought cheaper than the rest. There really is no loser in this class. It’s just that some bikes are a little bit easier to win on than others.