springs. These are available from Hinson, Barnett and Pro Circuit. Gearing. As a rule of thumb, Novice and Vet riders added one tooth (13/49), while Intermediate and Pro-level riders went for 14/52 gearing (this is lower than stock, but not as low as 13/49). Skid plate. To protect the engine cases and water pump, we run the same carbon fiber skid plate that Kevin Windham uses on his Geico Honda CRF450. It retails for $199.95 from www.lightspeedcarbon.net. Exhaust system. The Honda CRF450 loves aftermarket exhaust systems...to the tune of 2-1/2 horsepower at peak and a broader powerband from idle to sign-off. We never met an aftermarket pipe that didn’t make the CRF450 run better, and we have tested Pro Circuit, FMF, Yoshimura, DR.D and Vance & Hines pipes. Radiator cap. The CRF450 runs hot. The cheapest and easiest solution is to swap out the stock 1.1 kg/cm2 radiator cap for a 1.6, 1.8 or 2.0. Q: IS THE 2012 HONDA CRF450 FASTER THAN THE 2011 CRF450? A: No. Honda made no changes to the engine, mapping, exhaust or throttle body for 2012. The 2012 engine is the 2011 engine. Q: HOW FAST IS THE 2012 HONDA CRF450? A: Given that it wasn’t very fast in 2011, it is not very fast in 2012. That said, the CRF450 engine is very tractable, well modulated and pleasant to ride. It produces what one MXA test rider referred to as a “no-hit, no-rush, no-hurry” style of power. Because it revs predictably, the powerband is quite usable and is well suited to the typical local motocross racer. Q: WHAT IS THE BIGGEST FLAW OF THE 2012 CRF450 POWERBAND? A: It’s flat on top—very flat. It makes very good power from 5000 rpm all the way to 8600 rpm. Then, the power stops climbing. It makes the same amount of power at 8000 rpm as it does at 9000 rpm, as it does at 10,000 rpm, as it does at 11,000 rpm. There might be a scenario where a flat powerband would be a plus, but we can’t think of one. Q: HOW DOES THE 2012 CRF450 RUN ON THE DYNO? A: The Honda CRF450 isn’t going to win any dyno shootouts with its power output. The 2012 CRF450 pumped out 52. 59 horsepower. That is the least of any of the Big Five 450s and almost three horsepower less than the 2012 KX450F. Brembo-equipped European bikes, with their 260mm and 270mm front rotors, blow the CRF450 stoppers out of the water. Additionally, when used hard, the CRF450’s Nissin units fade fast. Among the solutions to Honda’s brake issues, along with oversize rotor kits and special brake fluids, is the simple option of removing the air-blocking disc guards. With the disc guard removed, the rotor and caliper run cooler and last longer. Yes, we know that the front disc guard is a value-added part that only Honda offers, but what good is a value-added part that lessens performance? Honda could save the money to use on some more important upgrade. Perhaps they could cast an ignition cover that doesn’t crack. Q: WHAT RACE MODS DOES MXA MAKE... THAT WE DON’T EXPECT HONDA TO MAKE FOR US? A: On a race-by-race basis, the MXA wrecking crew tries lots of products, mods and ideas. Here are the ones we recommend: Fuel filter. Over the course of a race season, a lot of dirt gravitates into the gas tank. Some of it is from debris in the bottom of your gas can, and some is from when you have the gas cap off in the pits. This dirt eventually makes it to the fuel pump’s filter, which can, in extreme cases, clog the filter and stop the engine (rarely at an opportune moment). MXA runs Splitstream fuel filters in our gas tanks. This simple and easy-to-use sock-like filter fits in the gas-tank open- ing and stops dirt clogs from getting to your fuel pump or injector nozzles. For more information, go to www.split-stream.com or call (503) 830-6433. Flywheel weight. The CRF450 responds well to heavier flywheel weights. We use a 17-ounce Steahly flywheel weight to torque up the bottom end and carry the existing power farther into the top end. For more information, go to www.steahlyoffroad.com. Tires. For 2012, Honda has switched to Dunlop MX51 tires front and rear. Most MXA test riders like the rear MX51 (in a 110 size, not the 120 that Honda specs), but we prefer to run the Dunlop MX31 front tire for intermediate terrain. Hour meter. Because of the Honda’s dual oil chambers, it needs oil changes more often than the YZ, KX, RM or KTM. With only 650cc of oil in the engine, an hour meter is the best way to keep track of the time between oil changes. For more information on hour meters, go to www.dubachracing.com. Clutch springs. If you can’t afford a full Hinson six-spring clutch, we recommend installing stiffer clutch Punch: The CRF450 engine produces a mellow and easy-to-use style of power that makes it easy to ride. There is none of that rushing around on more powerful bikes.