2017 HONDA CRF450 vs.
takes that Showa and Kayaba made in the ensuing four
KTM’s WP-made AER air forks are the best air forks
ever made for a production motorcycle. Honda’s Showa-made coil-spring forks are not the best coil-spring forks
ever made—that honor still goes to Yamaha’s SSS
forks. As a result, KTM has better forks than Honda’s,
which suffer from a split personality of plush in the
first half of the travel and harsh in the later stages.
Paradoxically, Pros thought they were way too soft,
while everyone else thought they were too harsh.
Q: WHICH ONE HAS THE BEST SHOCK?
A: Honda’s rear shock setup left most test riders
confused. The rear seemed to have a lot of free-flow movement and seesawed under acceleration. In rough bumps,
this seesawing motion would lead to a considerable
amount of kicking. Initially, we felt that the shock-spring
rate was too light, and it was for fast Pros, but once we
set the sag, the standard shock spring’s free sag was in
the ballpark. But, on the track, it felt under-sprung.
As for the KTM rear end, we never varied too far from
the stock settings and enjoyed the new, lighter spring rate
that KTM spec’ed for 2017.
Q: WHICH ONE HANDLES BETTER?
A: If this shootout-in-a-shootout was between a 2016
CRF450 and the 2017 CRF450, the 2017 would wipe the
floor with last year’s Honda. For eight years Hondas
have lived under a shadow of oversteer and understeer.
Although the 2013 chassis was slightly better than the
2009–2012 platform, it wasn’t great by any stretch of the
imagination. Thankfully, the 2017 frame, which is a throw-
back to the 2008 numbers, is calmer in a straight line and
superb at turn-in. It is a little loose from center-out, but this
can be easily ironed out with suspension and ride-height
As for the KTM, it’s a dream. In fact, it could navigate
around a racetrack while you slept behind the bars. It is
so neutral that you don’t need any major input to get it to
turn. Test riders claim that they control it with their knees
like a downhill skier—stable, agile and quick. The KTM has
the best all-around handling of 2017.
Q: WHICH ONE HAS THE BEST BRAKES?
A: We don’t hate the Honda’s front brake, but they
aren’t up to the standard of KTM’s Brembo units. Plus,
in a long moto, the front brake on the Honda fades; we
removed the plastic cover to get more air to it.
Q: HOW MUCH DO THEY WEIGH?
A: The KTM hits the scales without fuel in the tank
at 222 pounds. The Honda weighs 233 pounds, which is
exactly what it weighed in 2016. MXA always weighs its
bikes without fuel, which is how the AMA and FIM weigh
them. You might see weight charts where the Honda isn’t