Bikes 27 Jan 2012

Full Test: 2012 Honda CRF450R tests Honda’s refined 2012 model of the award-winning CRF450R.

Honda’s CRF450R has widely been recognised as ‘the’ bike to be on when it comes to AMA Supercross and the AMA Pro Motocross series over the past 12 months.

Ever since Australia’s own Chad Reed signed for Honda and rode what was largely a production version of the CRF450R to race wins in supercross last year, riders worldwide gained huge respect for the bike.

Of course, the TwoTwo soon gained factory support from Honda and earned himself a factory bike, however the production rules in the U.S. mean that those bikes Reed, Trey Canard, Justin Brayton, Kevin Windham, Andrew Short and co. are racing are similar in a lot of ways to the ones that we can buy.

Back home in Australia, Honda hasn’t had quite the success it’s looking for to date with the Carlton Dry Honda Thor Racing team, but the signing of former world and AMA champion Ben Townley alongside current British champion Brad Anderson should change that. had a CRF450R from Honda Australia over the holiday and Christmas period for this very test, which proved to be a positive one on all accounts for big red. We knew Honda had a good base to work with, so it really was just a matter of finding out how the latest revisions to the chassis stacked up.

Honda has focused on its front-end for the 2012 model CRF450R. Image: Charise Weston.

Released in October last year, the 2012 CRF450R has revised suspension, which is designed to improve stability and tracking according to Honda’s press kit.

The front forks have new stiffer spring rate, along with stiffer outer fork tubes and larger front axle collars. Combined, the front-end is more rigid than ever before.

At the rear, the new model has a fresh new Pro-Link linkage, which enhances traction and limits ‘squatting’. What this does is help the bike to remain balanced, both on acceleration and under brakes. The link is designed to have a softer start and stiffer finish.

Apart from that the 2012 Honda CRF450R has wider, longer footpegs that I think we can all appreciate, especially off heavier landings. It is simple refinements like this that continue to improve the Honda year in, year out, without any major overhauls.

Honda has definitely got it right in the steering department, especially in those turns where a nice rut has formed and you can track it in at a fair speed. Flat turns are a little tougher, but the balance of the bike does help get through them once you sort a good line.

The 2012 Honda CRF450R was released in Australia late last year. Image: Charise Weston.

For me I would even say that the 48mm KYB fork is a little bit too stiff as it does give you an extremely rigid feel, however this may just be because I was switching between the CRF250R and the 450 during our tests. I have a feeling that if you fine-tuned the suspension to match, you’d really find comfort in the handling of the CRF.

The rear KYB suspension has a slightly softer feel than the fork, albeit still well balanced, and as planned, it does gain stiffness as the suspension goes further down into the stroke.

Again, this could do with some fine-tuning to suit my specific requirements for my weight, speed, etc, but in standard trim it still felt comfortable enough and I was able to have good fun – that’s what it’s all about after all!

Ergonomically, the 2012 Honda CRF450R is great as we expected it would be. It’s thin enough to give it a nice compact feel, but still feels like you have a lot of area to clamp onto when on the gas. The Renthal handlebars feel good enough to race with stock, but I personally would switch the grips out for a thinner set.

Dunlop’s MX51 tyres are a pretty good all-round tyre, but tend to wear pretty quickly on the hard-pack tracks that we’re experiencing at the moment during summer in New South Wales (well, dry and hard for the most part). They definitely work well, it’s just a matter of making them last on the 450.

If you're looking for an all-round package, check out the 2012 Honda CRF450R. Image: Charise Weston.

Those are the grunt of the chassis changes, and as far as the motor goes, Honda has opted to leave the 449cc fuel injected Unicam engine as is for this year. It’s already proven popular in production trim and converts well to a factory race bike (look at the success of Chad Reed), so there wasn’t any real need to switch things up just yet.

The engine in the CRF450R is particularly friendly compared to most (just like the CRF250R), but don’t be fooled, because there is plenty of power on hand. Apart from what felt like a worn out clutch on the test bike, we were stoked with the user-friendly delivery of the power.

All that I’d really look at as far as the engine goes is to fit an exhaust, which is more so to unleash a deeper note, rather than trying to extract any more power out of it. The Honda has a good balance of power that is usable, without being too aggressive, which is important for the majority of us.

At $11,490 the 2012 model Honda CRF450R can be yours in Australia, and at that price, you’re almost guaranteed to get a whole heap of quality that will go the distance – that’s just what we’ve come to expect from Honda.

Click here to see the full specifications on the 2012 Honda CRF450R

Rider Wear

Jersey/Pants: 2012 FOX 360 Future (Green)
Gloves: Deft Family Artisan SkullCandy (White/Blue)
Helmet: FOX V3 Carbon
Goggles: Oakley Mayhem
Boots: Alpinestars Tech 10
Neck brace: Alpinestars Bionic Neck Support
Knee brace: PodMX K700