2012 Honda CRF450R: FIRST RIDE

Kit Palmer | September 13, 2011

Honda invited the media to Racetown 395 in Adelanto, California, to ride the 2012 CRF450R, which took on a few significant changes over the 2011 model.

You can feel the new CR hook up better, even on dry and loose ground.

Suspension was the focal point on next year’s CRF450R. The 48mm OAS Kayaba fork now has stiffer fork springs, thicker outer tubes and stronger front-axel collars, and the rear suspension features a new linkage that allows the KYB shock to ride 5mm lower into the stroke. The idea behind these changes is to make the Honda, which has had that “stink bug” feel in the past, more balanced and level while in motion, thus making it feel more stable and planted around the entire track. We found that the changes do just that but most noticeably when setting up for corners and while hard on the brakes. Now that the front end rides a little higher up in the stroke and the back in a little lower in the stroke, the bike remains more level and less “divey” in the turns. Plus, the front end feels significantly less busy and twitchy, so all this means that you can now maintain a little more front-end control when you’re hammering through the braking bumps, making it easier for you to hit your intended lines and easier for you stay there; at least that how it was on this day on this track, which is quite fast and quickly develops significant braking bumps.

Ruts also develop here, and we found that the bike has the tendency to stay in the grooves a little bit better now, too, which also relates to the overall planted feeling of the bike.

Like Honda promised, the bike does seem to hook up a little better out of the turns, which is most likely caused via a combination of things: the new linkage, new MX51 Dunlop tires, new overall flatter balance of the bike and the new smaller chain roller that Honda claims changes (reduces) chain torque and the effect it has on the chassis and how the back end squats and reacts under heavy acceleration. Honda also claims the smaller roller allows the rear suspension to work more “freely,” adding to the bike’s tractability when you grab a handful of throttle out of the turns.

Honda built stability into the 2012 Honda CRF450R.

And then there are the larger footpegs now found on the Honda. As expected, the bigger pegs provide better grip and better stability for the rider.

Except for some reprogramming of the CR’s FI fueling system, the motor is essentially unchanged over the previous CRF450R, which saw significant changes in 2010. The CR, of course, has tons of power and, like the previous model, is very manageable thanks to a generously wide and often times described as “soft” powerband. Like last year, the CR exhaust produces just 94 db via its restrictive muffler with an alarmingly small exhaust hole.

Overall, we were impressed with the new CRF450R after our first day on the bike. As always, the bike feels light, fits the rider like a glove, and is rather easy to ride for a pure-race 450. And it’s even easier to ride now thanks to some small but significant changes to the 2012’s suspension.

Some things haven’t changed like the CR’s lightweight and agile feeling and useable power.

But we’re not done with the 2012 CRF450R quite yet. After we visit a variety of other tracks down the road, we’ll have a complete test, which will include comparisons, on the 2012 Honda CRF450R in a future digital issue of Cycle News.


2012 Honda CRF450R Specifications

May 02 2011

Engine Type:449cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
Bore and Stroke:96mm x 62.1mm
Compression ratio:12.0:1
Valve Train:Unicam, four-valve; 36mm intake, titanium; 30mm exhaust, steel
Induction:PGM-FI, 46mm throttle body
Ignition:Full transistor with electronic advance
Transmission:Close-ratio five-speed
Final Drive:#520 chain; 13T/48T
SuspensionFront: 48mm inverted KYB Air-Oil-Separate (AOS) with rebound and compression damping adjustability; 12.2 inches travel
Rear: Pro-Link KYB single shock with spring preload, rebound damping adjustability, and compression damping adjustment separated into low-speed and high-speed; 12.5 inches travel
BrakesFront: Single 240mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Rear: Single 240mm disc
TiresFront: Dunlop MX51 80/100-21
Rear: Dunlop MX51 120/80-19
Wheelbase:58.7 inches
Rake (Caster Angle):27° 05′
Trail:116mm (4.57 inches)
Seat Height:37.6 inches
Ground Clearance:13.1 inches
Fuel Capacity:1.5 gallons
Curb Weight*:238

*Includes all standard equipment, required fluids and full tank of fuel-ready to ride.

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