AND THE 2012 450 SHOOTOUT WINNER IS...
Before we tell you who won in 2012, we need to go
back one year and tell you where the 2011 bikes ranked
just 12 short months ago. The KTM 450SXF was first,
Suzuki RM-Z450 second, Yamaha YZ450F third, Kawasaki
KX450F fourth, KTM 350SXF fifth and Honda CRF450
When you analyze what has transpired on the R&D
front since the 2011 MXA 450 shootout, you don’t need a
best friend named Dr. Watson to realize that some bikes
made big development moves while others stood pat
with what they had. Plain and simple, the brands that
made no serious changes cannot expect to move up in
the 2012 rankings from their 2011 placings. On the other
hand, bikes that made changes that improved the bike
have the potential to move forward.
Of the six 2012 450cc motocross bikes in the MXA
shootout, here is how they rank overall (from last to first).
SIXTH PLACE: KTM 350SXF
Number six! If you are confused about how the almost
identical KTM 450SXF could win the 2011 MXA 450
Shootout and finish second in the 2012 version, while the
virtually identical KTM 350SXF is stuck back in last place,
you can quit scratching your head. The KTM 350SXF
makes 10 horsepower less than its orange stablemate.
The 350SXF isn’t comparable to a 450cc motocross bike
in speed, thrust or torque. Yes, it can be ridden to the
front of a 450 race, but then so could a 250cc four-stroke.
For riders looking for the ultimate expression of moto
power, the KTM 350SXF isn’t it.
With 100cc less displacement and peak horsepower
that hovers above 12,000, the KTM 350SXF is at a major
disadvantage against bikes that are full-size, make as
much as 55 horsepower and reach their peak at 8000
rpm. We would love this bike if it weighed 10 pounds
less than it does now, because that would allow the
power-to-weight ratio to provide an advantage.
Power: Kudos to KTM’s R&D department. They
improved the power of the 2012 KTM 350SXF by
bringing more power down to where it can be used.
Suspension: Last year, we said that if the 350SXF
came with the fork and shock from the 450SXF, it would
be a much better bike. Well, we got our wish--and it is a
much better bike.
Handling: The best in the 450 class.
The word: This bike lives up to its billing. It is faster
than a 250 and not as brutal as a 450. That’s it. That’s all
it ever claimed to be.
FIFTH PLACE: HONDA CRF450
Number five! The MXA wrecking crew gives the Honda
R&D department props for what they achieved in 2012—
with very little R&D money. Instead of going in circles
like they have since 2009, Honda’s engineers took a close
look at what their consumers, who are motocross
racers, were doing to their bikes. Then they duplicated
that on the 2012 production line. Very smart. It would
have worked, too, except for the fact that the engine
had been toned down too much and the four-spring
clutch was never beefed up. We think that the stiffer fork
springs, subtler rising-rate linkage and new footpegs are
worthwhile additions to the CRF450 package, but they
Power: The Honda CRF450 is mellow. It makes good
horsepower from idle up to 8500 rpm. Then it goes flat—
Number four! Yamaha made some significant changes
to the YZ450F for 2012. They just weren’t significant
enough to move the reverse-engine YZ450F up in the
ranks. Instead, it dropped one spot. That is a shame,
because the 2012 Yamaha YZ450F has unbelievable
suspension. An AMA Pro could roll this bike off the