2012 HONDA CRF450
Q: WHAT DOES THE 2012 CRF450 POWERBAND FEEL LIKE ON THE TRACK? A: All is not lost with the stock CRF450 powerband. It is still a capable motocross weapon—if used properly. As a rule of thumb, flat powerbands work best when short-shifted. In the case of the 2012 CRF450, that means shifting just short of peak. No big deal, because peak on the CRF450 is in the right spot. If you don’t shift at peak and persist in revving the engine—and it will rev for an extra 3000 rpm—you will not be rewarded with forward thrust, because there is no torque or thrust to be gained by going past 8600 rpm. Revving the engine will produce more noise, but not more power. Test riders said that the powerband was “mellow.” They didn’t mean that as a criticism as much as an apt description. Since the hit was muted and the power electric, the CRF450 was less jerky and violent than bikes with big horsepower numbers. It could be ridden harder because it rewarded aggressiveness with a hooked-up feel instead of a wheelie and a swap. The 2012 Honda CRF450 was manageable in the corners, which translated into greater exit speed. And that exit speed could more than make up for any horsepower deficit on the straights. The same held true on all but the longest starts. It got out of the gate with very little drama and, if shifted at peak, could hold its own into the first turn. Q: HOW DOES THE 2012 CRF450 HANDLE? A: It’s no secret that the MXA wrecking crew has issues with the frame geometry on the 2009–2012 Honda CRF450s. We understand Honda’s desire to try something different, be on the cutting-edge and attempt to leapfrog over the rest of the 450 pack, but there is such a thing as being too different. In a nutshell, the CRF450 has a strangely configured chassis that exhibits oversteer to the nth degree. The tendency of the front end to tuck under at turn-in, understeer from center-out and require countersteering on the exit of the turn is disconcerting. Thankfully, savvy CRF450 tuners can iron this out with three simple setup tricks. What are those tricks? (1) Balance. To calm down the CRF450 chassis, the front and rear of the bike need to be brought into balance. The quickest way to achieve this is to stiffen Rise: Taking a cue from local racers and the aftermarket, the 2012 linkage lowers the rear by 5mm and softens the curve.
the forks so they can complement the relatively stiff CRF rear suspension. As you may have noted, one of Honda’s changes for 2012 was stiffer fork springs. This was a good idea. ( 2) Stinkbug. When Honda designed the chassis for the 2009–2012 CRF450s, they went the stinkbug route— down in the front and up in the rear. Most savvy CRF450 riders use a two-prong attack on this setup. First, they stiffen the forks to hold the front end higher in its stroke. Second, they install a longer rising-rate linkage to lower the rear of the bike. Although the linkage may seem like a suspension mod, it was really a handling mod. As you might have noted, another of Honda’s 2012 changes was a new rising-rate linkage (bell crank and pull rods). The result is a slightly softer feel to the shock and a lower rear end. Good stuff ( 3) Oversteer. From a handling point of view, oversteer is not necessarily a bad thing. It is required to some degree to set the action of cornering into motion, but too much oversteer results in a lot of wagging at the handlebars to get the bike to hold a selected line. The Band-Aid for oversteer is to slide the forks up and down in the triple clamps to find the correct head angle for the existing track conditions. With stiffer fork springs and a lower rear end, the rider can reconfigure the frame geometry himself. Q: HAS HONDA FIXED THE HANDLING ON THE 2012 CRF450? A: That depends on what your definition of fixed is. If you mean fixed as in “made perfect,” then no. If by fixed you mean ameliorated some of the problems, then yes. Q: WHAT WAS OUR BEST FORK SETTING? A: We have to give kudos to Honda’s engineers for doing what we asked them to do 10 years ago, by finally putting stiffer fork springs in the Kayaba forks; Honda has saved buyers of the 2012 CRF450 untold dollars. Okay, it took them 10 years to do it, but let’s not dwell on the past. The 2012 forks get a 0.49 kg/mm set of springs to replace the previous 0.46 springs. Additionally, the chromed fork legs have been beefed up to lessen flex in the corners, and the oil height has been raised 10cc. For hardcore racing, these are MXA’s recommended 2012 Honda CRF450 fork settings (with the stiffer fork springs installed): Spring rate: 0.49 kg/mm Oil height: 365cc Compression: 12 clicks out Rebound: 9 clicks out Fork leg height: Flush with clamps Notes: With the stiffer fork springs, the bike rides higher into corners, doesn’t dive as much, which lessens oversteer, and stays in better balance. Don’t be afraid to move the forks up and down in the clamps to alter the head angle to achieve the steering response you want. Q: WHAT WAS OUR BEST SHOCK SETTING? A: The 2012 CRF450 shock is unchanged from 2011, but it works differently because it is attached to a totally new rising-rate linkage. The new rising rate, achieved by a reconfigured bell crank and pull rods, is softer across the board than last year’s all-new bell crank and pull rods, which were stiffer across the board than the 2010 rising-rate system. The 2012 setup is closer to the 2010 curve than the 2011 rate. On the plus side, the new link lowers the rear of the bike by 5mm.