because the engine produces competitive horsepower below 7700 rpm, all is not lost. Because it is less jerky, abrupt and violent than almost any other bike in the 450 class, MXA test riders could concentrate on rolling the power on earlier. Without any chance of wheelying or blowing the rider back with a burst of power, the 2011 Honda was more manageable in the corners. Since the power delivery is rather leisurely, every test rider thought the slower-revving 2011 CRF450 powerband was longer. It wasn’t. The best power is from 5000 rpm to 7700 rpm. After 7700 rpm, the engine is flat. You could still rev it to the moon, but it wasn’t going to move one iota faster than the speed it achieved at 7700 rpm. Flat powerbands work best when short-shifted. In the case of the 2011 CRF450, that means shifting just short of peak. Revving the engine out to the rev limiter will produce more noise, but not more power. Q: IS THE 2011 HONDA CRF450 ENGINE COMPETITIVE? A: Not for a pro, but for the vast majority of 450 Novices, Vets and profes- sional practice riders, the 2011 powerband is better than either the 2009 or 2010 iterations. The 2011 makes more power than either of its brothers, but does it in a very friendly way. Q: DOES THE 2011 CRF450 PASS THE AMA SOUND TEST? A: Yes, it passes the AMA’s 94 dB sound test with ease at 91. 6 dB. It doesn’t pass the FIM’S 115 dB two-meter-max test, but it is as close as any Japanese brand that we have sound tested at 115. 5. The reduced sound output is the result of choking the engine down. Conversely, the mellow powerband is a result of the 10mm-smaller muffler core. Honda installed a 4-inch-longer muffler with a smaller outlet and, as a result, throttle response is very lackadaisical. That is the price we pay to get bikes that are quiet. Q: DOES THE SMALLER THROTTLE BODY CURE THE FLAMEOUT PROBLEM? A: No, but the problem is nowhere near as acute as it was back in 2009. Going from a 50mm to a 46mm throttle body does help the engine pick up cleaner in off- idle to full-throttle situations, but it doesn’t eliminate the infamous CRF450 flameout. If you coast into a corner with the throttle off and suddenly wick it on, there is a vacuum gap that could make the CRF450 cough and die. Savvy riders can all but eliminate the issue with plentiful clutch use and a steady roll-on. Q: HOW IS THE GEARING? A: We geared it down one tooth from 13/48 to 13/49. Q: HOW DOES THE 2011 CRF450 HANDLE? A: Back in 2002, the MXA wrecking crew caused a furor when we said that the original CRF450 handled like a “garbage scow.” Truth in advertising compels us to tell you that none of the MXA test riders have ever piloted a garbage scow—so we were talking through our hats. That said, the 2002 Honda CRF450 was a horrible-handling bike, and the 2011 CRF450 also has some serious issues with balance, stinkbugging, soft forks, oversteer, sketchi- ness at speed and an unwill- ingness to do what you ask it to do. So, if you ask us how the 2011 CRF450 han- dles, we would be tempted to run down to the harbor and hitch a ride on a garbage scow to see if the accolade fits. Q: DIDN’T HONDA FIX THE HANDLING FOR 2011? A: No. The only change that Honda made to the handling package was to put a bigger, stronger steer- ing damper on the frame. What does that tell you? The MXA test riders have issues with the latest gener- ation of Honda frames (2009- 2011). This is nothing new. We had issues with Honda frames in the past, starting with the 1994 steel frame, progressing to the 1997 aluminum frame and, more recently, the 2002-05 CRF450 frames. To be fair, it should be noted that we liked the 2006-08 CRF450 frames. To get the 2009-2011 Honda frame to handle means that the consumer has to address these three issues: (1) Balance. The front-to-rear bias of the CRF450 is out of whack. The forks are too soft—way too soft. If you read the list of changes that Honda made for 2011, you might have noticed new fork valving. Forget it! It isn’t any better than it was. The front end dives under deceleration, which causes interaction issues with the much firmer rear suspension. ( 2) Stinkbug. It is down in the front and up in the rear. We had hoped that the new shock linkage would lower the rear like the Pro Circuit, Ride Engineering and Factory Connection linkage arms. It doesn’t lower the rear, and, with the exception of more bottoming resistance, the overall feel is very similar to last year. ( 3) Oversteer. Oversteer is not a bad thing—as evidenced by the brilliant handling of the Suzuki RM-Z450. Tuning fork: Honda didn’t detune the 2011 CRF450 engine, but the choked up muffler made the power very mellow.