2007 450 MX For My Money

JC Hilderbrand | February 11, 2007
We were jumping with glee to finally have our shot at a head-to-head comparo.
We try to pick the bikes objectively based on their performance in a series of tests. But, when it’s over we sit down for a cold one and plenty of “ifs” and “buts.”

For My Money

We shed blood, sweat and tears during our test (changing tires, pounding laps and trying to pick a winner) but when it was all said and done, we did get to ride a bunch of sweet bikes on some pretty fun tracks. The catch, of course, is having to give them all back once the test is finished. As the MotoUSA trailer was loaded for the final time, each rider had a gleam in their eye – one that had a distinct color. As much as we try to be objective and scientific about our testing, once the work is done and the bench racing commences, hidden biases and brand loyalties come out even in the most stone cold testers.

It’s a lot easier to be critical and put the smackdown on a bike when it isn’t yours but the same wouldn’t always be true if those test riders had to shell out their own greenbacks for a new bike. This feature is all about how persnickety we can be and what makes our test riders tick. Then again, maybe it’s just about our favorite colors.

Alvin Zalamea – 5’8″/150 lbs/Pro

It’s a toss up between the Honda and the Yamaha. From a perspective of going pro and competing in the Nationals or someone that wants to just hammer the thing right out of the crate and ride at Glamis I would choose the Honda. Why? Because Honda’s reputation for building a great product. In my opinion, its R&D surpasses the others by a fair margin. Other than the Yamaha, the other bikes are just a carbon copy of the CRF. Think about how long Honda has fine-tuned its 450. I wonder what’s up its sleeve in the years to come. 

Unless you train like Ricky Carmichael  being able to hop on and go is something every regular rider contends with. You re in tender hands with Yamaha.
Unless you train like Ricky Carmichael, being able to hop on and go is something every regular rider contends with. You’re in tender hands with Yamaha.

I remember back in 1997 when Dave Arnold was the test engineer. They would hire a schmuck novice like me for like 300 bucks a day to give the Japanese feedback on their new aluminum-frame CR250. I was just a 19-year-old kid and had no idea what the heck I was doing and still Honda wanted my opinion. Imagine who else was involved and how much money and ingenious Japanese/American thought are invested in these bikes so that the average to pro rider can relate. The bike as a whole is built to hold up to a season of racing or a yahoo’s sand dune extravaganza. The motor is powerful enough to compete on a national level. The suspension is tunable for a track that a national pro can attack. As their old slogan goes “Ride Red.”

Now, as for me and my money which is about zero (I have my bike for sale as I’m writing this – that’s how much money I don’t have). For my riding situation I’d take the Yamaha, man! Since I manage to ride these days about as often as the lunar cycle turns a new moon, I like that I can ride the thing for about two hours straight and have the biggest smile on my face. I might have blisters and a sore wrist but I don’t have to be in great shape to ride the bike at a respectable speed. The bike is so much fun to ride. The motor is super friendly and Yamaha is thinking outside the box from frame design all the way down to nipples on the tires. Plus how could you beat that Yamaha blue?

Horban was another Yamaha buff. Having the ability to keep the YZ-F up in the revs where it really kicks ass is important.
Horban was another Yamaha buff.
Having the ability to keep the YZ-F
up in the revs where it really kicks
ass is important.

Mike Horban – 5’9″/150 lbs/Pro

Yamaha was the best package with the smoothest power and easiest to ride – everything just added up. The Honda was also a great bike with a light feel and good power. I was surprised how close the Suzuki was to the CRF and was impressed with the fork and shock. They really made it a good bike. Kawasaki just needs to change a few things to make it really comparable to the others especially how it felt the biggest and heaviest.

I’d be visiting the Yamaha dealer to get my new bike. Besides, I know the guys down at the local shop and it couldn’t hurt to get a little discount. I’d have to spring for the special edition white version because that blue plastic just gets so thrashed.

Chuck Sun – 5’9″/190 lbs/Vet Expert

I’m gonna roll with the Suzuki. Here’s the reason why and how I would set it up. Riding off-road is a lot of my passion these days but I still love moto because it’s still fun, so set-up will be for the motocross track.

It’s pretty clear that Chuck likes yellow.
It’s pretty clear that Chuck likes yellow.

In stock trim the unbalanced suspension (for me at least) held the Suzuki back from a top position so I would take care of that first with a Dick’s Racing set-up. That would include firmer shock valving which would in turn place a little more weight on the firm front forks. It may be that we would have to visit the forks for a plusher ride for my current speed. Running the Pro Taper Windham RM mid bar would provide a little more room in the cockpit and relax my riding position as the bar height is taller than stock. Suzuki power is plenty strong off the bottom so I would gear it a couple teeth taller with a new Pro Taper rear sprocket. This will make it easier coming out of turns and reach out a bit further between each corner.

FMF has a private stash of dual exhaust pipes that the off-road factory guys are using and are reported to spread out the power band. Besides, they look cool and sound great. I’d have to modify the airbox on the 450 in order to accommodate the FMF system, which is why these exhaust pipes are not broadly marketed.

Balanced suspension with one of the best power plants in the class would make this an ultimate motocross weapon. Can’t wait to give it a go!

Many of our test riders were happy with the way the Yamaha rails.
Many of our test riders were happy with the way the Yamaha rails, Ian included.

Ian Martin – 5’6″/135 lbs/Intermediate

After testing all four 450s, the bike I would choose to buy would be the Yamaha YZ-F. The Suzuki and Kawasaki were a surprise with their incredible bottom-end power, but the Suzuki didn’t handle as well as the Honda or the Yamaha. The Kawasaki had great brakes but with that much low-end power a lightweight rider like me has a hard time keeping the front end down while coming out of the corners. The CRF was smooth and light feeling with a great powerband, but for me the Yamaha was perfect.

The reason I chose the Yamaha was that it had great stopping power, awesome clutching, and smooth, arm-stretching power from idle all the way up. The suspension was easier to tune for my weight without changing springs. The Yamaha also comes stock with Pro Taper handlebars versus the Honda’s higher Renthal bars which works better for short riders. I loved the YZ450F.

JC Hilderbrand – 5’11″/190 lbs/Novice

Last year the Kawi and Suzuki both had 4-speed tranny’s and JC picked the RM-Z. Apparently that extra gear was all the KX-F needed to get the nod.
Last year the Kawi and Suzuki
both had 4-speed trannies and
JC picked the RM-Z. Apparently
that extra gear was all the KX-F
needed to get the nod.

Kawasaki would be sending the collection agency to my door in 2007. For one because I’m poor but mostly because I’d likely never get off the bike long enough to write a payment check. The thing that sold me on the KX-F this year is its motor and 5-speed tranny. I’m a big fan of a bike that produces usable power and the Kawi spits it out anywhere and at any time. Besides, I’m a swinger and the new transmission is a bit better for frequent trips off the MX course.

The Yamaha has lots of usable power also but it felt somewhat uninspired to me. I loved the Suzuki motor (as I did last year) but the bike never sat well with me – I simply could not get comfortable on that thing and constantly felt like I was working hard to keep it together. I guess the Honda would probably be my second choice but I’ve been a Red Rider for many years and need to switch it up. Besides, the suspension was my least favorite as a novice and the thing wasn’t as fun to ride as the other bikes. I did like the ergos, however, but that isn’t enough to earn rights to my bounced budget. For my money, I’d swap green for Green.

Back to the 2007 450 MX Shootout.


JC Hilderbrand

Off-Road Editor| Articles | Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA’s Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn’t matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.

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