2012 Honda CRF450R First Impression and Video
Honda kept it simple for 2012, both in terms of updates to its flagship CRF450R, and in terms of where the introduction was held. The introduction took place at Adelanto’s Racetown 395 in SoCal, which makes reviewing the bike simple as most of the motojournalists live in the area and are familiar with the track. As for the bike, Honda has always been pretty consistent with their MX machines, and the 2012 CRF450R gives those familiar with the CRF a bike they’re used to while addressing a few key points to improve the bike for MX purposes straight off the showroom floor.
Since the most recent incarnation of the CRF450R was introduced for the 2009 model year, riders have seemed to have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it. First off, the Honda platform is always solid. Ergonomics are always such that most racers can sit on a Honda and close their eyes and reach for the handlebars, and they’ll be exactly where they want the bars to be. And it’s no different for this Honda.
However, in an effort to make a 450cc machine that cornered, Honda seemed to go a bit overboard with the early models, as the rear suspension featured a linkage system that left the bike feeling like a stinkbug, with its rear end way up in the air. It felt awkward and unstable. It took until the 2011 model year for Honda to address this, although the aftermarket addressed it nearly immediately in 2009. But Honda’s fix still didn’t go far enough in 2011, and in 2012 the biggest improvement for the Honda comes in terms of the suspension. Out back, a new linkage finally levels the machine out, and on both ends the suspension is sprung stiffer straight out of the box. While this creates a good balance overall, probably the biggest benefit is that the stiffer fork prevents the front end from diving under braking while entering corners, which goes a step further toward preventing the “stink-bug” effect that was an issue previously.
So, in some ways, the 2012 Honda CRF450R kind of seems like the 450 that Honda should’ve come out with in 2009.
And that leads us to the engine: There are a lot of things the Honda does really well; the clutch works really well, and shifting is solid and predictable. But the CRF450R does sort of fit another Honda pattern: Remember the CR250R two-stroke of the ’90s through 2001? That engine was remarkable. It was truly a powerhouse and a great racing engine in stock trim. But then when Honda decided to “revolutionize” its two-stroke engine with the “RC Valve”, the 2002 Honda CR250R seemed to lose some of its grunt. It was still a great race bike after it was modified, or for smaller racers, but it paled in comparison to the pre-RC-valve bikes. Similarly, the 2008 and previous CRF450Rs were powerhouses. They really had tons of torque down low and pulled for days, too. But ever since Honda “revolutionized” the 450cc engine with EFI, moving the exhaust outlet to the other side of the cylinder, etc., all of that bottom-end grunt sort of just disappeared.
The engine is still solid, and it does nothing poorly; it doesn’t vibrate excessively or have any hiccups in the power application or anything like that. It just simply doesn’t have that tremendous power like it used to. This isn’t all bad, though, as Chris Denison pointed out in the video; if you’re not that big, it’s a great engine and the fact that it’s not explosive doesn’t mean the bike is not a rocket. But if you’re bigger, or on the fast side, you’ll find yourself having to ride it more like a 250F than a 450.
As a motocross performance platform, the CRF450R is still a great machine. You may have to seek out aftermarket solutions to build some more horsepower, but we’re motocrossers and that’s what we all inevitably do anyway. And the reward for taking a Honda product and being smart with its modification to suit your style and purpose is usually a very solid, predictable, and fast race machine. And the 2012 CRF450R is likely no exception to that rule.
For the video test of the 2012 Honda CRF450R, click here.
Add a Comment
By submitting a comment you grant Motocross.com a perpetual license to reproduce your
words, name and web site in attribution.
Comments may be removed at an administrators discretion. Your email is used for verification purposes only and will never be shared.