Earlier this year, we tested the 2023 CFMOTO 300SS, a small and capable sportbike that is the company’s bestseller worldwide. Next up the ladder is the CFMOTO 450SS, which joined the 10-model lineup this year.
The CFMOTO 450SS rings in at $5,499, which is $1,000 more than the 300SS. For the extra grand, the 450 delivers 158cc more displacement and one more cylinder than the smaller bike’s 292cc Single. It also features a Brembo front brake caliper, adjustable levers, a more informative and brighter TFT display, and other upgrades. Color options for 2023 are Nebula Black with blue accents or Zircon Black with red accents.
In the small sportbike segment, CFMOTO is the only manufacturer offering a 450, and the 450SS’s liquid-cooled 449cc parallel-Twin makes a claimed 50 hp at 9,500 rpm and 28.8 lb-ft of torque at 7,600 rpm. Its closest competitors are the KTM RC 390 (44 hp, 373cc Single, $5,899), Kawasaki Ninja 400 (45 hp, 399cc parallel-Twin, $5,299), and QJ Motor SRK400RR (44 hp, 400cc parallel-Twin, $5,099). The CFMOTO, KTM, and QJ Motor all come standard with ABS, but it’s a $400 upgrade on the Kawasaki.
- Helmet: Fly Racing Revolt Rush
- Jacket: ScorpionEXO Women’s Cargo Air
- Gloves: Alpinestars Stella Copper
- Pants: Alpinestars Daisy V2 Women’s Riding Denim
- Boots: Highway 21 Axle Leather Waterproof Shoes
The 450SS’s engine has Bosch fuel injection, dual overhead cams with 4 valves per cylinder, and a 270-degree crankshaft, which gives it a rumbling sound and feel. The engine is mated to a 6-speed gearbox and a slip/assist clutch. The bike’s wet weight is 370 lb, only 6 lb heavier than the 300SS, and it has a 3.7-gal. fuel capacity, a 31-inch seat height, and a 53.5-inch wheelbase.
Suspension comes in the form of a 37mm inverted fork and a multi-link rear shock with preload that can be adjusted using the small toolkit under the seat. Stopping power comes from a radially mounted Brembo M40 4-piston front caliper biting a 320mm disc and a single-piston floating caliper and 270mm disc in the rear.
Upon pulling up at my local CFMOTO dealer and parking the 300SS beside the 450SS, I noticed that the 450SS has a similar overall appearance to the 300SS but with features that make it look sportier and a bit sexier. From the streamlined windshield and larger exhaust to the sliders on the bodywork and race-inspired winglets, the 450SS looks like it means business. Upon turning the key, the LED headlight performs a sort of welcome dance in which light flows from top to bottom and flashes to catch the eye of passersby.
Firing up the 450SS produces a nice growl from the 449cc parallel-Twin. The seating position is comfortable for me, and I could ride the 450SS for longer periods of time than I could the 300SS before I needed to hop off and stretch out. At 5-foot-1, I had plenty of leg room and seat room. The reach to the clip-ons was a bit long but not uncomfortable.
Rolling on the throttle, the 450SS delivers immediate power. Initial throttle response is a little jumpy, but that smooths out in higher gears. Once it gets going, the bike has enough power and grunt on tap for me to do everything I want to do whenever I want to do it. To see how the 450SS stood up against longer hours in the saddle and more aggressive corners, I spent three days putting about 700 miles on the bike in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina.
Wanting to make progress on my way to Robbinsville, North Carolina, from my home in Middle Tennessee, I ripped the 450SS up the interstate for about 130 miles, and the bike was happy to play along. (See sidebar below about 129 Cabins, a motorcycle-friendly inn where I stayed on this trip.) Whenever I needed to push past slower-moving traffic or change speeds, it was eager to comply.
When I got off the interstate and started winding my way through the mountains, the 450SS felt right at home. One upgrade over the 300SS that I appreciated was the front brake. Where the 300SS’s front brake felt weak and needed some encouragement to apply the right amount of pinch, the 450SS’s Brembo M40 front brake was responsive and shed speed quickly. It was a welcome upgrade when I hit the twisty roads through the mountains, including my first foray on the Tail of the Dragon.
The suspension provided confidence as I dipped and climbed. I adjusted the front brake and clutch levers with the dial adjustments on both, and I was glad to be able to shorten my reach and put the levers in easy grabbing distance. As a rider with smaller hands, needing to stretch my wrist to reach the front brake lever affects my grip on the throttle, and having a shorter reach allowed me to experience the 450 without such hinderances.
On my return trip to Middle Tennessee, I rode on wet roads and dodged storms for several hours. Although I didn’t push the bike too hard in the rain, the CST Adreno HS AS5 tires never misbehaved. They held onto the pavement and provided adequate grip in the turns. When the roads were dry, the tires felt even better. Some riders who are more willing to push the 450SS to its limits might desire a higher-performing tire, but I found the stock tires were plenty for my needs.
From the Cockpit
The 5-inch TFT display is also an upgrade over the TFT on the 300SS. I found the display on the 300SS a little hard to see in direct sunlight, but the display on the 450SS is always bright and visible. It also provides more information than the display on the 300SS. You’ll find speed, a tachometer, a clock, gear position, and fuel level, as expected. With up and down arrows on the left switch, you can also toggle between a variety of information, including an odometer, two tripmeters, range, average speed, fuel consumption, and average mph per trip.
The 450SS will also connect to a phone via Bluetooth, and from the CFMOTO app, the rider can pull up navigation and music on the display. The navigation worked the same as on the 300SS, which means there are still some kinks that need to be worked out. For example, when choosing a route on the app, I’m given two options. If I choose the longer option that avoids interstates and highways, the navigation will hold that route for a mile or two before trying to direct me to the faster route. I also still don’t like that the distance to the next turn is given in inches after coming within 0.1 mile of the turn, which was an annoyance with the 300SS as well. However, these are minor nuisances for which I expect CFMOTO will find a solution before long.
The 300SS comes with two ride modes. In contrast, the 450SS has no ride modes, but it does have two display modes. Concision mode provides more information and easier access to all the options, and Classics mode is simplified and puts revs and speed front and center.
One More Round
For a moto trip to and through the Appalachian Mountains, the CFMOTO 450SS proved a trustworthy steed that allowed me to work on my cornering skills with a confidence-inspiring ride. I enjoyed the 300SS as well, but if I were deciding between the two, I’d opt for the higher-powered and more refined 450SS for $1,000 extra. The parallel-Twin is impressively responsive, the Brembo front brake provides much better braking, and the dimensions are more comfortable for longer stints in the saddle. I’d be happy to keep this one in the garage and on the road for a while longer.
2023 CFMOTO 450SS Specifications
- Base Price: $5,499
- Website: CFMOTOUSA.com
- Warranty: 2 yr., unltd. miles
- Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel-Twin, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl.
- Displacement: 449cc
- Bore x Stroke: 72.0 x 55.2mm
- Horsepower: 50 hp @ 9,500 rpm (factory claim)
- Torque: 28.8 lb-ft @ 7,600 rpm (factory claim)
- Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated slip/assist wet clutch
- Final Drive: Chain
- Wheelbase: 53.5 in.
- Seat Height: 31 in.
- Wet Weight: 370 lb
- Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gal.
- Fuel Consumption: 63 mpg
- Estimated Range: 233 miles
SIDEBAR: 129 Cabins
My trip to Robbinsville, North Carolina, for this test ride not only provided me with excellent roads in the Appalachian Mountains but also a chance to get away and enjoy the beauty of the area. Not wanting to stay at an uninspiring chain hotel, I found a room at 129 Cabins that had exactly what I was looking for: proximity to great riding roads, solitude, and scenery.
Located off of U.S. Route 129 about 25 miles southeast of the Tail of the Dragon, 129 Cabins offers six private rooms on a wooded hillside, each with a private motorcycle garage. I stayed in a room with a king bed, but other layouts have two full-size beds or a king and bunk beds. Each room includes a large TV, wi-fi, air conditioning, a bathroom and shower, a microwave, a minifridge, and a breakfast area with a table and coffee pot. Outside each room is a covered porch with rocking chairs and a supply of firewood for the firepits located around the cabins. There is also a lodge available for rent for larger groups.
My room was clean and comfortable, as well as more spacious than I expected. The firepit provided a welcoming spot to relax in the evenings, and the porch was perfect for listening to the rain while I sipped my morning cup of coffee.
I’d recommend 129 Cabins to anyone looking for an Appalachian motorcycle getaway. Pricing starts at $89, and more information can be found at the 129 Cabins website or by calling 865-771-0957.