across the middle and into the top end. Unlike some
of its fuel-injected brethren, it doesn’t feel jerky off the
bottom; it lines up its electronic Xs and Os to deliver
just the right amount of fuel for the demands of the
rider’s right wrist. This is a very good engine.
Yamaha YZ450F: For 2012, Yamaha made two
major changes to the YZ450F: (1) They installed a
longer and more restrictive muffler, which killed
low-end power and slowed the revs down. ( 2) They
advanced the ignition and richened the fuel mapping
to get back what they lost with the longer muffler.
Surprise! Yamaha’s hocus-pocus engine tuning actually
worked. The 2012 powerband is better than the 2011
powerband. It comes on with a smooth burst off idle,
but feels broader and faster than last year’s engine.
FIFTH PLACE (TIE)
Honda CRF450: This is an approach/avoidance
kind of motocross powerband. On the “avoidance”
side of the scale, the 2012 CRF450 is mellow. Very
mellow. It produces several horsepower less than the
bikes it competes with, and the power it does make
is situated below 8500 rpm (everything above that is
basically noise). On the “approach” side, the Honda
CRF450 is easy to ride, very light and not the least bit
scary. The old, herky-jerky low-end throttle response of
2009 is gone. In fact, most of the rush is gone. All in
all, the CRF450 is a bike that is easy to ride because
it is slow.
FIFTH PLACE (TIE)
KTM 350SXF: We love the 2012 KTM 350SXF, but
with one big caveat: We love it in comparison to the
2011 KTM 350SXF. On the track, it gives up over 10
horsepower to even the slowest 450cc motocross bike.
Plus, its peak horsepower is at a very high 12,200
rpm. This isn’t a traditional Open-class motocrosser. It
is Goldilocks’ race bike—not too hot, not too cold, but
somewhere in the middle. We could ride this bike fast,
but we couldn’t make it go fast just by turning the
throttle like we could with a KX450F.