A fallen champion thrown from the limelight; the brawn of well-sorted EFI, a defiant off-roader crossbreed; one big no-show, and a bike so radical it had the entire industry frothing. This is the 2010 MotoUSA 450 Motocross Shootout.
The 450 Motocross class represents the pinnacle of dirt bike development, providing a platform for the world’s premier outdoor motocross and Supercross series. Wrapped in each manufacturer’s recognizable livery, these thoroughbreds offer powerful-yet-compact engines capable of pumping out over 100 horsepower-per-liter. Carrying no more than 251 pounds, open-class motocross bikes capitalize on power-to-weight ratios that powersport industries, two wheels or four, struggle to match. Not to be outshined, the rest of the technology is equally brilliant with high-tech chassis featuring adjustable suspension and 12-plus inches of travel, hydraulic disc brakes and integrative motocross-specific controls.
In our 2009 450 Motocross Comparison, Kawasaki bridled the power of fuel injection and reigned supreme with its KX450F. Although it looks virtually identical in 2010, wearing green plastics and black wheels, the KX-F has been tweaked in an effort to defend its crown. (Learn more about the individual changes in the 2010 Kawasaki KX450F First Ride.) Like the Kawasaki, the Honda
CRF450R received engine and chassis refinements for the 2010. We came away impressed with the former shootout winner’s enhancements during our 2010 Honda CRF450R First Ride at Racetown 395. Honda tried something different in ’09 and suffered the consequences, but it’s looking for improved suspension and updated engine settings to lead it back to the front.
If any bike has the reigning champ in its crosshairs this year it’s the radically-overhauled Yamaha YZ450F. This is the only bike that comes to the table completely new. With rumors and hype swirling around the unproven machine, Yamaha gave MotoUSA a shot aboard it at the historic Budds Creek Motocross Park. During the course of our 2010 Yamaha YZ450F First Ride, it became obvious that the rest of the 450 class had its work cut out.
Making its first appearance in a MotoUSA 450 Motocross Shootout is Austrian manufacturer KTM and its 2010 450 SX-F. Having never compared the SX-F against anything else, we’re anxious to find out if the Orange machine can truly go head-to-head with the best from Japan. Sparked by push button electric start and blending some of its leading off-road formula, KTM takes a different approach. The Austrians stood up against EFI and continues to employ a carburetor – proving that being different can be surprisingly good.
Notably absent from this test is Suzuki and its updated 2010 RM-Z450. The reason? Reeling from the pulverized economy, Suzuki eliminated its entire powersport press department just weeks ago including the street, off-road, and ATV segments. With the department in limbo, it was impossible to procure a test bike. Word on the street is that Suzuki is still planning on importing the bike into the U.S., in order to meet racing homologation requirements, but it’s unknown when the bikes will actually be in dealerships.
Although, it isn’t legal in AMA Supercross or motocross competition, we still wished to understand how Italian motorcycle manufacturer Aprilia and its unique V-Twin powered MXV 4.5 motocross bike stacks up against its Japanese and European rivals. Unfortunately, Aprilia wasn’t able to supply us with a bike to examine. Likewise, another European class entry, the Husqvarna TC 450 also eluded us this time around.
So with four brand-new MX machines in tow we headed back out to Southern California’s high desert, the location of one of our preferred motocross racetracks – Racetown 395. This desert track offers the widest variety of corners, straightaways, and obstacles – including deep ruts, sharp-edged whoops, loamy berms and small-, medium- and mega-sized jumps. Testing duties were handled by an equally diverse assortment of riders with resumes ranging from ex-Supercross pros to novices—allowing our testers to hone in on the strengths and weakness of each bike. Every aspect of the motorcycle was rated based on rider opinion via a Formula One points scale. We also broke out our data acquisition equipment and conducted a simulation holeshot and third gear roll-on test. We recorded the both the time and speed it took the bikes to cover a distance of 165 feet. Lastly, we factored objective data, including horsepower, weight, price, etc. to determine which of these four dirt bikes belong in your garage.