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Friday, December 19 2014 @ 08:35 PM ICT

The 2012 Honda CRF450R - The Best CRF450R Ever

Dirt Bike Review and TestsThe Honda CRF450R has always been a popular all-round 450cc MX solution and with a number of revisions for 2012 the handling of the CRF450R is now more refined than ever. But with much of Honda's development focus going toward balancing out the CRF450R's chassis, the engine is essentially unchanged for 2012. As a result, our opinion still stands that this is the smoothest, most linear Honda CRF450R powerband to date.

Acceleration through the entire spread is strong and the mid-to-top-end pull is potent and usable. However, the incredible smooth character of the power down low left several riders craving something more 'exciting.' One of our test riders, noted the difference between throttle response and hit in that 'throttle response' refers to the precision and crispness with which the power can be accessed at all rpm ranges, while 'hit' refers to the off-idle, crack-of-the-throttle snap that a bike has down low. In relation to the Honda CRF450R, the bike has excellent throttle response but a slightly soft hit.

Super-fast racers simply want a more explosive initial turn of the throttle – much like the Yamaha and Kawasaki have displayed – while slower, mellower or smaller MX-ers may actually appreciate the ease of use low while feeling bike the mid-to-top is overly powerful. It's a two-sided coin in that the Honda CRF450R elicits different opinions from different riders based on delivery preference and ability level, but the bottom line is the Honda CRF450R's power is smooth, strong and – best of all – tunable.

We took advantage of the PGM-Fi's (Honda's programmable fuel injection system) adjustability by tuning out a lean pop and erratic idle that occurred in high-temperature, low-humidity tack conditions. By making the fuel injection map +2 percent (richer) at zero percent throttle opening from 1,500 to 7,000 rpm and +3 percent from 8.000 to 12,000 rpm, we were able to smooth out the erratic idle and turn-burn issue that our riders were feeling. Who knew that virtual jetting could be so fun and effective? While we were at it we asked Honda's technicians if it was possible to liven up the hit of the CRF450R via tuning. The quick answer is yes, it is possible to advance the timing of the bike and get a more aggressive off-idle character, but the power would most likely be detuned elsewhere. Down the road, this could very well be where aftermarket accessories like exhaust systems come into play.

One engine-related issue that we have yet to overcome with technology is the CRF450R's picky starting procedure. As mentioned about last year's bike, the CRF450R is not a perfect starting machine, and the bike shows some reluctance to start when hot. Honda's answer is to use a full, solid kick stroke, as the bike does not respond well to hacking or 'half-stroking' the kick-starter. Somewhere, an electric starting CRF450X is sticking its tongue out at its full-off-road brother.

Without a doubt, the Honda CRF450R is a changed machine following the new linkage assembly and revised shock valving that were added for 2012. The Honda now has flatter, more balanced stance that is held down much better in the rear end, and the stinkbug feel of the bike is a thing of the past. Honda has used 105mm of race sag as a best setting for the Honda CRF450R for a few years now, but with the revisions in place riders who prefer more weight on the front end can run as little as 100mm with complete confidence. We played with the shock clickers a bit but have to agree with Honda that the stock setting is probably the best overall setup; high-speed bump absorption and stability in chop are both outstanding. One tester commented that the shock could use some extra damping at the end of the stroke, while another felt a bit instability by way of side-to-side wobble when the bike is bottomed out hard. Overall, though, the suspension setup is great and contains no odd surprises.

Also new for 2012 are stiffer fork springs on the Honda CRF450R and a redesigned axle collar that spreads loads over a thicker area to keep the front of the bike more stable. Together with the shock revisions, these changes make for improved feel under heavy braking and coming into corners, resulting in the best-cornering CRF450R yet. While some setup and wide-arcing is still required to hit an inside line, the Honda CRF450R now feels settled in turns and much less prone to understeering.

On tighter tracks the Honda CRF450R could be accused of being overly planted, yet the chassis maintains a light and nimble feel that still boasts impressive stability. The Honda stays very strai8ght and leans well into turns, while responsiveness in the air is similarly outstanding. Our testers experienced no odd feedback through the redesigned footpegs, which are 7mm wider front to back, 5mm wider side to side and are much less prone to clogging with mud than older Honda pegs. Braking and clutch action are both smooth on the Honda CRF450R, though we did have some stalling issues that were remedied by adjusting the clutch free play and turning up the idle on the bike. Last but not least, Dunlop MX51 tires are now the standard front and rear rubber for the Honda CRF450R and provide a proven traction platform for a multitude of track conditions.

If you were a Honda fan before, you're likely going to be plenty pleased with the changes to the 2012 Honda CRF450R. And if you haven't been red hot on these bikes in recent years, you may want to take another look at the 2012 Honda CRF450R because this bike is much better than any previous models...

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