This is a wild motorcycle that only could have been built in Italy. No other nation of riders would have had the imagination to build a V-twin motocross bike. Josh Choppins proved it could be competitive in the right hands a few years ago. It’s not for everyone—just riders who are driven to be different.
Price: TBA
Honda made few changes to the CRF450R, but every one of them was pre-approved by the Honda-riding public. Most riders had already established that a different linkage, stiffer fork, wider pegs and new tires were all good things, and the bike remains the lightest 450. It’s not perfect, but there’s no doubt the bike is better for 2012. Price: $8440
Husqvarna started with a BMW dual-sport bike and redesigned it to work for MX. The TC449 is the result, and it has some truly unique features, including a crank-mounted clutch and a countershaft sprocket on the same axis as the swingarm pivot. A little heavy and unorthodox, but competitive in GP-type racing.
Price: $7999
Kawasaki had a great year in racing, and this bike is one reason. The 2012 KX450F was handed to Ryan Villopoto halfway through the season, and he set off on a winning streak that earned him the outdoor title. The KX features “Digital Launch Control,” as well as easily altered ignition curves. It’s also very fast.
Price: $8399
KTM has no trouble finding horsepower. The 450SX-F is a mellow monster. It’s completely controllable and fun to ride too. The KTM stands out in the 450 class because it has electric start and a carburetor. Last year it got linkage-style suspension and gained a little weight, but it’s still a contender for top MX bike.
Price: $8799
The RM-Z450 has a wildly successful racing pedigree with riders like Ricky Carmichael and Ryan Dungey manning the controls. The truth is that it’s a great bike with any rider. This year Suzuki let its R&D staff sit back and relax. It has no changes aside from the graphics, but still has features like easily tailored EFI mapping.
Price: $8399
TM 450MX
Last year TM re-entered the U.S. market mid-season with a surprisingly good line of bikes, including this EFI 450. It’s back with options that include Ohlins suspension. The big TM is competitive, handmade and very beautiful. Price: $9636
Two seasons after the debut of Yamaha’s startling reverse-cylinder YZ450F, the bike remains the center of controversy. It has proven reliable and fast, but some riders never drank the Kool-Aid. The rearward tilt of the cylinder helps centralize mass and places the airbox on top. Mild exhaust and suspension changes come in 2012.
Price: $8350
KTM made a name for itself by exploring odd categories. The 350SXF takes that philosophy to a new level. The electric-start EFI 350 went up against the best works bikes on the European GP scene and came out on top. Here in the U.S. it’s popular for riders who simply don’t want their life force drained by a big 450.
Price: $8499
Unlike all the other motocross bikes that recently entered the world of fuel injection, the Honda CRF250R did not gain grotesque amounts of weight. For 2012 it remains fairly light and gets a smaller throttle body, suspension upgrades, new footpegs and tires. It’s still a contender in the ultra-competitive 250F motocross universe.
Price: $7420
Husqvarna pinned big hopes on this bike when it was released a few years back, and while its handling was well received, it didn’t deliver enough horsepower to hang with the 250F pack. Last year it got fuel injection, and this year a new head promises to give it a necessary boost. It features KYB suspension at both ends.
Price: $6999
Kawasaki took a page from the street bikes in its line and gave the KX250F a secondary injector “upstream” from the throttle body. This starts sharing the fuel-delivery responsibility at high rpm. The bottom line is that most riders feel the KX250F is much more powerful for 2012, and it is already the winningest bike in its class.
Price: $7399
KTM’s not afraid to take a chance. One year after the 250SX-F was redesigned with linkage and fuel injection, it got another big change. For 2012 it becomes the first electric-start 250F motocross bike. Over a two-year span the bike went from the lightest to the heaviest bike in its class, but it might pay off for the starting impaired.
Price: $7699
We get letters every month complaining about how the manufacturers have abandoned two-strokes. It’s not true. The KTM 250SX is still around and still moving forward with every model year. It now has linkage suspension just like the latest generation of four-strokes, it’s fast and the price is great.
Price: $6899
Suzuki stood out in our 250F shootout last year by virtue of being nearly free of pitfalls. But it was close—it’s always close in that class. The 2012 RM-Z250 has no significant changes, but it will remain near the front of the class. Its biggest asset is its handling in turns and its well-tuned Showa suspension.
Price: $7399

We didn’t expect many changes for the 2012 YZ250F; if anything, we figured it would get fuel injection. Wrong-o. It got significant changes to the valve train, gearbox, intake and exhaust. It also got a new frame just two years after the bilateral aluminum design was introduced. But, it didn’t get EFI. The new YZ250 is faster and better.
Price: $7250
Yamaha says the company will continue to make the YZ250 two-stroke as long as people buy it. The bike hasn’t changed in any meaningful way since 2007, but it was considered the best of the breed at that time. We’re surprised that the price has continued to climb since then.
Price: $7150
KTM 150SX/125SX
After a brief hiatus, the KTM 125 two-stroke returns with a new frame and linkage suspension. It remains the most powerful bike in the class—which is very small, indeed. And its big brother, the 150SX, remains in the lineup, identical—except for a bigger bore and a longer stroke, bringing it to 144cc.
Price: $6399/$6299
TM 125MX
TM was once known for making the fastest small-bore two-strokes in the world. The small company developed a reputation in the kart racing world, as well as in the 80cc class at the ISDE. There is also a 144cc motocrosser that was developed from the 125 two-stroke, but has a longer stroke and a larger bore.
Price: $7999
We love this bike. The Yamaha YZ125 outlasted all the other Japanese 125s for one simple reason: it was the best. Now it remains in Yamaha’s line, albeit unchanged, as a perfectly logical step for young riders graduating from the mini ranks. Many tracks and racing organizations still promote a 125 class.
Price: $6290
It seems that European makers are still very enthusiastic about the future of the two-stroke. Husqvarna’s CR125 is light and compact. What makes it such an exceptional deal this year is that Husky throws in a free parts package with every bike sold, including a 144cc cylinder and piston.
Price: $5999
When this bike was introduced, it seemed logical that it was just the first of a new breed of mini four-stroke race bikes. History didn’t play out that way, and the Honda now stands alone as the only four-stroke for young racers. Rules vary from club to club as to what class it must enter.
Price: $4990
KTM offers its 85 in standard form as well as in premium configuration. Called the SXS, this version has an upgraded ignition, FMF exhaust and Dunlop tires. Even the standard version is fairly upscale, with WP suspension, Brembo brakes and a hydraulic clutch.
Price: $5899/$5199
Kawasaki continues to grow the fastest amateur riders in America through its “Team Green” program, and they all spend time on the KX85. It’s a small bike as 85s go, but has potential and is easily hopped-up. The KX100 is a big-wheel version of the same bike, although not typically used as a racer in the Supermini class.
Price: $4149/$4349
A few years ago, Suzuki was generally considered to have the best motor in the mini class. In stock form, it might still have the most low-rpm performance. The chassis is small by modern standards, although slightly larger than that of the KX85. The Suzuki is especially welcoming to smaller riders. The L has larger wheels.
Price: $4199/$4149
Yamaha has the best deal in the 85 class. The YZ’s chassis is more modern than either the Kawasaki’s or the Suzuki’s, and it sells for $1000 less than the four-stroke Honda. The YZ is a little larger than the other Japanese two-strokes and offers more suspension travel for the older/larger rider.
Price: $3990
Cobra has been developing its 65 for several years now, and 2012 will bring yet more refinement. This in an American-made motorcycle, and it’s virtually hand-built. As of press time, few details of the new version are known.
Price: TBA
Kawasaki understands that the future of the sport is filled with riders who weren’t born when James Stewart rode for Team Green. That’s why the company has such thorough coverage of the mini ranks. The KX65 isn’t the fastest bike in the class, but it is the most affordable bridge to the big leagues, and it has a manual clutch and gearbox.
Price: $3549
Just like its offerings in the 85 class, KTM provides two options in the 65 ranks. The 65SX already dominates racing, and now the SXS is available to push the envelope a little farther. It offers an upgraded power valve, an FMF silencer, Dunlop tires and other perks for $800 more.
Price: $5199/$4399

































Comments are closed.