HOW DO THE 2012 450s RANK IN OTHER
Life would be simple and shootouts would be
easier if horsepower were all that mattered. MXA
could just hand the trophy to Kawasaki and call
it a day. Or, maybe the most emphasis should be
placed on suspension—in which case, Yamaha is
the king of the class. What about handling? If that
were the feature by which bikes were ranked,
KTM could just walk away with the gold.
Sadly, for the bean counters, shootouts aren’t
won by the most powerful bike or the best
suspended or the best handling, but by the bike
that ties all the pieces together.
Of the six 2012 450cc motocross bikes in the
MXA 450 Shootout, here is how they rank in
WHICH BIKE WEIGHS THE LEAST?
The Honda CRF450 weighs 231 pounds. It is
followed in order by the KTM 350SXF (236
pounds), Yamaha YZ450F (238 pounds), Kawasaki
KX450F (242 pounds), KTM 450SXF (243 pounds)
and Suzuki RM-Z450 (244 pounds).
WHICH BIKE HAS THE BEST BRAKES?
No contest. The KTM 350SXF and the KTM
450SXF have no peers. They come stock with the
biggest rotors and the best pucker power. Third
is the Yamaha, fourth the Honda, fifth the Suzuki
and last the Kawasaki.
WHICH BIKE SHIFTS THE BEST?
The KTM 450SXF shifts a hair better than the
KTM 350SXF (because it doesn’t rev as high and
thus puts less load on the gearbox). The third
best-shifting bike is the Honda CRF450, but it is
way below the consistency of the two Katooms.
Fourth is the Yamaha YZ450F. (It is a little sticky
on the upshift from second to third.) Fifth is the
Kawasaki KX450F. (Kawasaki changes their shift
mechanism every year, but it never improves.)
Last is the Suzuki RM-Z450. (It shifts when you
don’t want it to.)
WHICH BIKE HAS THE BEST CLUTCH?
No surprise! The KTM 450SXF has the best
clutch. Not only is it hydraulic, but the preload
can be changed by spinning an adjustment wheel.
The second-best clutch is on the KTM 350SXF.
It doesn’t get the trick diaphragm clutch of the
450SXF, but it is hydraulic, has a steel basket and
can take serious abuse. Yamaha brings up the
middle with a workable clutch. Kawasaki may
have added stiffer springs for 2012, but the
positive feel is still short-lived. The Suzuki
RM-Z450 clutch is barely a clutch. And, in last
place, is the four-spring clutch of the CRF450.
It’s almost useless.
WHICH BIKE IS THE MOST RELIABLE?
When it comes to reliability, the Yamaha
YZ450F is the best all-around bike. It can take
abuse, rack up mega hours, skip valve adjustments and keep right on ticking. The two KTMs
are second and third. KTM uses quality parts (and
the 350SXF has fixed its electrical and TPS
gremlins from 2011). The Kawasaki, Suzuki and
Honda are in a tie for least reliable.
WHICH BIKE HAS THE BEST TIRES?
Given that the Kawasaki comes with