Grab handles: Not a great handling
machine, the 2012 Honda CRF450 is
improved over its 2009 through 2011
brethren (thanks to stiffer fork springs
and a better balanced chassis).
For hardcore racing, these are MXA’s recommended 2012 CRF450 shock settings: Spring rate: 5. 4 kg/mm Race sag: 105mm Hi-compression: 1 turn out (1-1/2 stock) Lo-compression: 12 clicks out Rebound: 13 clicks out Notes: Is this the end of aftermarket CRF450 links? Probably not, since longer pull rods could easily lower the rear an additional 5mm, which would allow for more handling options. Q: WHAT IS THE WORST PART ON THE 2012 HONDA CRF450? A: The clutch is a joke. If you don’t have any money, remove the two jutter springs and the small inner-diameter friction plate and put one normal CRF450 clutch plate in its place. This will increase the surface area and return the 2012 clutch back to 2010 specs. If you have $50, put in stiffer clutch springs. These help keep the clutch alive, but can’t do much for the CRF450’s very short engagement throw. 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. What clutch? ( 2) Graphics. There is nothing more depressing than rolling a brand-new $8440 bike out of the showroom only to have people think that it is a one- or two-year-old bike. How can you tell a 2012 CRF450 from a 2011 CRF? The 2012 has silver footpegs and the 2011 has black footpegs. ( 3) Gearing. We don’t think the low-to-mid powerband is in sync with the gearbox ratios. ( 4) Brakes. Lose the disc guards front and rear. They don’t help the average-at-best front brake fight off fade from overheating. Q: WHAT DID WE LIKE? A: The like list: (1) Footpegs. The new pegs are wider and don’t clog with mud. ( 2) Sound. With a super-long muffler and a 26mm core, the CRF450 is very quiet, but all that restriction is what killed the powerband’s personality. ( 3) Weight. MXA’s 2012 CRF450 hit the scales at 231 pounds (without gas). For comparison, the 2012 KX450F weighed 242 pounds, the KTM 450SXF 243 pounds and the Suzuki RM-Z450 244 pounds. That 10 pounds was noticeable, and most test riders felt that the light weight of the CRF450 was one of its best features. ( 4) Linkage. Hurray for Honda. They may have just copied what local racers have been doing, but at least they were smart enough to copy a good idea. ( 5) HPSD. If ever a bike needed a steering damper, the over-caffeinated CRF450 is it. Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK? A: We think that Honda did the right things—or at least three out the four things it needed to do—for 2012. Maybe in 2013 they will put the 2008 clutch back in. We congratulate Honda on an intelligent R&D job for 2012. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, they turned to local racers to see what they had been doing to their CRF450s and copied them. That’s a smart way to make your bike better without breaking the bank. This is a better CRF450. Take a bow, because you were one of the Honda R&D riders this year. ;