When you’ve got a bunch of high-power 450s throwing dirt around at popular moto tracks like Racetown, conditions can get rough quick. So one can only imagine how much gnarlier it is the day after with zero track prep. And this is the exactly the kind of situation in which you want to be aboard a Yamaha, because when conditions are at their foulest, the YZ450F is at its best.
Charging on the Yamaha is easiest in the rough stuff. As in years past, the Kayaba suspension is ridiculously smooth and forgiving.
One of the biggest attributes of last year’s machine was how supple its Kayaba suspenders felt. And we’re happy to report that this impressive trait is back. If you’re looking for the most comfortable motocrosser, then you can stop reading right here because the YZ450F is it.
“Without a doubt, the suspension is my favorite thing about this bike,” said Armstrong. “The fork is super plush and soaks up everything in its path.”
“Cadillac. This bike is the Caddy of the lot,” said Simon. “The fork and shock were just really plush feeling and soak up everything, high- and low-speed, doesn’t matter. Definitely the most forgiving suspension out of all the bikes.”
In addition to the Yamaha’s outstanding suspension compliance, once you set rider sag (between 102-106mm), you’re not going to need to make a whole lot of adjustments, as the baseline suspension settings out of the box suited our group well. Throughout the day our Yamaha tech had to have been bored out of his mind because none of our testers felt the need to make nearly any adjustments.
Although the ’09 YZ450F benefits from a new swingarm, rear suspension linkage, and rear hub, we couldn’t notice a difference. What we did perceive however, are the same mild-mannered handling traits we enjoyed on last year’s bike. Although the Yamaha isn’t the sharpest turning, it does turn well and never catches the rider off guard. Add in the unflappable chassis and high level of stability and it seems nothing can faze the Yamaha.
The YZ450F is fairly mellow in the corners, but it loves going in deep and using its big set of brakes to get slowed down.
“The Yamaha is probably the mildest mannered bike here,” remarked Armstrong. “It turns easy and is quite good most of the time, except in the really tight stuff. There it was hard to get it to dive in and sometimes the front end wanted to push a little at entrance.”
Simon’s comments echo Armstrong’s observations: “I think they have some improvements to do [Yamaha]. The bike just doesn’t like to get down in and lay over when cornering in super rutted and tight sections. What I really like though is how good it is in the flat corners. It flat tracks really well.”
Even though the Yamaha isn’t the best in the really tight stuff, rushing into the corner was an area in which all of our testers really appreciated the Yamaha’s strong set of brakes.
“All the brakes on these bikes are pretty good,” said Armstrong. “But the Yamaha’s are just a hair stronger, which lets you charge into the corner a bit faster.”
The most common adjective you’d hear our testers use to describe the Yamaha’s engine was slow. And when ridden back-to-back with the three fuel-injected bikes it does, in fact, feel considerably more sluggish. But a look at its dyno chart proves that the Yamaha isn’t slow it all. In terms of peak power, only two horsepower separate it from the class-leading Kawasaki. Problem is that you don’t ride around at maximum power all the time. You ride through the rest of the rev range and this is where the Yamaha lacks compared to the other bikes.
Smooth doesn’t necessarily equate to slow. As the only carbureted Japanese 450, the Yamaha isn’t as snappy as the other machines.
“The thing about the Yamaha’s engine is that it’s deceiving,” remarked professional motorcycle road racer and vet intermediate rider Jeremy Toye. “Its power comes on soft and takes a while to spool up, but when you’ve got it zinging near the top it actually goes pretty good. Not as good as the other bikes though.”
Simon’s two-cents on the Yamaha: “It’s very smooth and easy to ride. Doesn’t have the throttle response or the torque of the EFI bikes but in the end it makes it easier to ride. By no means is the motor slow, but it’s not quite at the same level the others seem to be.”
In fact, the Yamaha’s mellow power delivery could bode extremely well for a rider looking for something gutsier than a 250F but not quite as crazy as an EFI 450. Plain and simple, the Yamaha’s power is easy for anyone to access and won’t wear a rider out. Not only that, it’s the only bike that is still carbureted, so it’s easy to start and has far more engine character than the other computer controlled bikes – making it entertaining to ride. In the end, the engine isn’t the fastest, but it is the tamest and that’s the YZ’s niche.
Yamaha may be behind in the technology war of 2009, but there’s still plenty of winning qualities about the YZ450F.
Due to its mild bottom end, working the clutch seems to be a necessicity on the Yamaha in order to get the power up. Fortunately, the Yamaha has one of the lightest clutch pulls and is completely devoid of any hint of fade.
Both Armstrong and Minor reported issues with the five-speed transmission. For Armstrong it was a couple of false neutrals between second and third gear, and for Minor it was the large amount of shift force required to shift gears. Both were enamored with the high-quality ProTaper aluminum handlebars, however, which come standard on the YZ450F. Another plus is that the top triple clamp offers two sets of mounting holes which allow the rider to position the handle bars at standard position, 10mm back or 10 or 20mm forward. The Blue machine also makes use of the widest size footpegs, which help disburse impact loads when landing jumps.
There is no doubt in any of our testers minds that the YZ450F is the easiest bike to just hop on and ride. Its forgiving suspension, mellow powerband, and trustworthy handling make it a solid choice.