2017 KTM 450SXF
cut scientific factoids are not as evident on the track. Of
all its traits, the most clear-cut is how torquey the CRF450
feels when it’s in the meat of its powerband. Every test
rider claimed that the CRF450 was “torquey,” while the
dyno said it wasn’t. We’ll go with the test riders on this.
Is it as torquey as the KTM 450SXF? No. It doesn’t have
the sheer grunt of the more-powerful KTM engine.
Q: WHICH MAKES THE MOST HORSEPOWER,
THE HONDA CRF450 OR THE KTM 450SXF?
A: If you just looked at the peak horsepower part of
the dyno chart, the Honda CRF450 looks as though it is
super competitive on the dyno with the KTM 450SXF, but
nothing could be farther from the truth. Where the Honda
shines is at peak power. It tops out at 57. 49 horsepower
at 9900 rpm. Honda’s peak number is close enough to the
KTM’s class-leading 57. 98 that you think they have a dog
in the fight. Not so—at least not in the numbers tally. At
some points on the curve the CRF450 gives up as much
as 4. 5 horsepower to the KTM 450SXF powerplant. And
it surpasses the KTM only after KTM’s peak point on the
dyno curve. So, while 57. 49 horsepower is a very good
peak number, there’s not much meat below to support it.
Q: WHICH ONE HAS THE BEST CLUTCH?
A: This is no contest. KTM’s diaphragm clutch is a
thing of beauty. Not only is it mechanically durable, but
it can withstand the most abusive test riders with nary
a whimper. The 2017 CRF450 clutch is the best Honda
clutch we’ve seen since 2008, but, in true Honda fashion,
it is an odd bird. Instead of eight friction plates, the new
clutch has seven plates—and they are 2mm thick instead
of 0.4mm thick. Less plates require stiffer clutch springs to
maintain the same plate pressure as an eight-plate clutch.
Overall, we liked the 2017 CRF450 clutch much better
than the 2016 clutch, and light years more than the horrid
four-plate clutch of 2009–2012, but we had an issue. The
actuation point of the lever was way out on the end of
the lever’s throw, and test riders with smaller hands were
forced to operate the clutch with their fingertips, which
led to fatigue given the stiffer clutch springs. We adjusted
the lever in, but that didn’t move the release point inward.
Q: WHICH ONE HAS THE BEST FORKS?
A: Life is full of little ironies. Honda was an early
adopter of air forks and the first defector from the air-fork
fold, while KTM was a late transplant to air forks and the
only defector from the coil-spring school of thought. Given
these two facts, you would expect that Honda would be
standing on the high ground with their 49mm coil-spring-equipped, Showa A-kit clone forks, while KTM would be
suffering the woes and misfortune that befell Kawasaki,
Suzuki and Honda when they went to SFF-TAC and PSF
air forks. Surprise! KTM proved that by being last to the
air-fork party, they had ample time to rectify all the mis-