And, in the plus column, the Honda CRF450 exhibits some of the Suzuki’s good traits at turn-in (when the bike first initiates the turn). It has a light feel, and the front wants to turn. But unlike the RM-Z450—which oversteers in and is neutral out—the CRF450 oversteers in, understeers out and never returns to neutral until you accelerate away from the corner. This wallowing reaction can make a simple left-hand turn into three or four different turns. Q: WHAT WAS OUR BEST FORK SETTING? A: We didn’t have a best fork setting. We couldn’t race the CRF450 forks in stock trim. Our pro test riders would come back from a test session and claim the forks were “broken.” We’d pull them apart, check every part and measure the fluid volumes and find they were to spec. Finally, we did what we have always done with CRF450s and we swapped out the stock springs for stiffer springs. For hardcore racing, these are MXA’s recommended 2011 Honda CRF450 fork settings (with the stiffer fork springs installed): Spring rate: 0.49 kg/mm (0.46 stock) Oil height: 355cc Compression: 12 clicks out ( 13 stock) Rebound: 8 clicks out Fork leg height: Flush with clamps Notes: If you want to keep the stock fork springs, slide the forks as far down into the triple clamps as possible to raise the front of the chassis. Q: WHAT WAS OUR BEST SHOCK SETTING? A: With the soft forks, it is very hard to make any judgment on the shock linkage. Without changing the front fork springs, the rear shock will never work up to its potential; they are joined at the hip. As far as the changes to the rear suspension being a major improvement, we liked last year’s rear shock and liked this one also, but we don’t feel a major improvement. For hardcore racing, these are MXA’s recommended 2011 CRF450 shock settings: Spring rate: 5. 4 kg/mm Race sag: 105mm Hi-compression: 2 turns out (1-1/2 stock) Lo-compression: 14 clicks out Rebound: 14 clicks out Notes: If you plan to race it with the stock fork springs, set the race sag at 110mm (or maybe even 115mm). Once you put the stiffer fork springs in place, set the sag at 105mm. This is not a suspension fix, but it addresses balance issues. Q: WHAT IS THE WORST PART ON THE 2011 HONDA CRF450? A: The clutch is a joke. Amazingly, Honda did put some work into their fragile four-spring clutch (although they didn’t mention the changes in their specs). For 2011,
the CRF450 clutch has a jutter spring and stiffer clutch springs. A jutter spring is a Belleville-style washer that fits behind the clutch pack and works in conjunction with one small friction plate. The goal of a jutter spring is to preload the clutch pack to lessen the tendency of the clutch to jump, jerk or jutter when engaged. This is not a problem that we had with the four-spring CRF450 clutch. Instead, our problem was that the CRF450 clutch was so weak that it would lose lever pressure any time it was used hard. And, it would burn up in four hours no matter how it was used. Is there a fix? There are several. If you don’t have any money, remove the two jutter springs and the small friction plate and put a normal CRF450 clutch plate in its place. This will increase the surface area and return the 2011 clutch back to 2010 specs, but with the benefit of stiffer clutch springs. If you are bucks-up, put Hinson on your speed dial and order a six-spring clutch. Q: WHAT DID WE HATE? A: The hate list: (1) Clutch. This is barely a clutch. It has the life span of a Gypsy moth. ( 2) Footpegs. These are barely footpegs. ( 3) Oil window. We love oil windows. We hate dipsticks. ( 4) Gearing. We don’t think the low-to-mid powerband is in sync with the gearbox ratios. ( 5) Brakes. Lose the disc guards front and rear. They don’t help the brakes fight off fade from over- heating. ( 6) Fork springs. Soft forks don’t just affect the suspension; they ruin the handling. Q: WHAT DID WE LIKE? A: The like list: (1) Sound. Honda went from a decibel scale offender to a very pleasant-sounding machine. ( 2) Weight. Our CRF450 weighed 10 pounds less than any bike in the class. And test riders who jumped off of one brand and onto the CRF450 said that the lighter weight was very apparent on the track. ( 3) Kayaba shock. We like the 2011 shock, but we wish Honda had used the money they spent on the new shock linkage to buy aftermarket links—because they work better. ( 4) Pick-up points. Honda uses a double-walled rear fender in the spot where your hand has to go to pick up the bike. This is a pleasant surprise when compared to the ragged edges of some bikes. ( 5) HPSD. It’s bigger and, unfortunately, it is necessary. It should be noted that it isn’t necessary on good-handling bikes. Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK? A: We are living in a struggling economy, and the motorcycle manufacturers have seen their bottom lines shrink. Historically, Honda has redesigned their frames every couple years. Their engineers have been very responsive to consumers’ complaints in the past. Unfortunately, the R&D budgets for motocross bikes aren’t what they used to be...and until they are, the CRF450 will stay exactly what it was. ; Linkage: It’s all-new, but not all better.