FORK WORKS: WP HONDA CRF450 CONE VALVE FORKS
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Ain’t life strange. When the MXA wrecking crew started testing our 2016 Honda CRF450, we had high hopes for its Kayaba PSF-2 forks. The PSF-2 forks on the CRF450 are a blend of the original PSF-1 forks (used by Honda on the 2013–’14 models) and WP 4CS forks in that the rebound damping is in one fork leg and compression damping is in the other. The difference between PSF-1 and PSF-2 is that PSF-2 features both high- and low-speed compression and high- and low-speed rebound damping adjusters on the top of the respective fork caps.
Unlike Showa SFF TAC forks, which run about 170 psi, PSF-2 forks only use 35 psi. The whole idea behind the Kayaba PSF-2 forks is appealing. They are simpler to work with than the Showa SFF TAC air forks, don’t run high pressures, only have a single Schrader valve and have high- and low-speed adjusters. However, we don’t like them. They defy setup, and no matter what you are trying to achieve at one end of the stroke, you are unraveling something at the other end. These forks just aren’t very good. They don’t seem to have an air pressure setting that holds them high enough up in the stroke for big jumps and fast riders without being too harsh in the chatter bumps. Then, when you lower the pressure to make them absorb the small to mid-sized bumps, they dive under deceleration and are very harsh. With the CRF450’s PSF-2 forks, you have to pick your poison.
SO, WHEN WE WENT LOOKING FOR A SOLUTION FOR OUR 2016 HONDA CRF FORK WOES, YOU WOULD THINK THAT WP WOULD BE THE LAST PLACE WE WOULD LOOK.
The strange thing is that we often experience the same sensations from WP’s 4CS forks. We can get them to work for big bumps or for little bumps, but not for big and small bumps at the same time. So, when we went looking for a solution for our 2016 Honda CRF fork woes, you would think that WP would be the last place we would look—and it would have been if we had planned on bolting a set of OEM production WP 4CS forks onto our Honda. That wasn’t in the cards; however, WP Suspension offers the equivalent of a Showa A-kit fork, called a Cone Valve fork, not just to KTM owners but to Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Husqvarna and Yamaha racers.
The MXA wrecking crew test riders have had considerable experience with WP Cone Valve forks in the past year from testing the works bikes of Ryan Dungey, Andrew Short, Jason Anderson and Zach Osborne; however, those forks have been full-race, 52mm, factory parts that are set up for the fastest riders in the world. We wanted something that was better suited to the riding styles and budgets of regular folk, which is where WP Suspension’s bolt-on 48mm Cone Valve kit fork comes into play. Designed to slip effortlessly into stock Honda CRF450 triple clamps, the WP 48mm Cone Valve forks are a direct replacement for Honda PSF-2 forks. Fitment is no fuss, as the Honda axle, brake caliper, fork guards and brake hose clamps are all stock Honda items.
When testing began, the MXA crew was cautious. These weren’t 52mm works forks set up by the factory team; they were out-of-the-box 48mm forks with who-knew-what kind of valving in them. We started with our Pro test riders and let them spend a couple days fiddling with the WP forks. Then, we brought in the Intermediate and former Pro test riders and let them spin laps and clickers. Next, we went testing with several Vet riders. And, finally, we downsized to 140-pound lightweights. The verdict? Everybody loved them. Back to back against a PSF-2-equipped CRF450, the WP Performance Cone Valve forks were a smash hit. With nothing more than a few clicks in either direction from the standard settings, every MXA test rider, regardless of skill, weight or anti-WP bias, loved these forks. Ain’t life strange?
The facts? Cone valve forks are available for 2016-17-18 CRF450s. You can order the Cone Valve forks directly from WP Suspension at (951) 310-3300 or www.wpfactoryservices.com. They are also available from any of five authorized WP service centers (found on the WP website). The retail price for the CRF450 fork is $3150, plus $120 for the spring rate best suited to your riding style and weight. (We ran a 4.8 N/m spring.) You can also get a WP Trax shock for $2000, and a spring for $120. That might sound expensive at $5290 for the full kit, but a complete Showa SFF TAC A-kit (forks, shock and triple clamps) will cost you $9200.