2011 Suzuki RM-Z450 Comparison

JC Hilderbrand | December 22, 2010

Changes to the 2011 RM-Z450 are mostly unnoticeable to the naked eye. Internal tweaks include the compression ratio jumping to 12.5:1, revised intake and exhaust timing and new fuel map settings. The Keihin throttle body has a more durable injector and the crankshaft bearings are more durable, which is good since we know riders who suffered several crank issues last year.Suzuki is also conscious of the AMA’s new 94 decibel sound limit and has cut the emissions with a reshaped muffler. Also on the list of changes are a new aluminum piston in the front Nissin brake caliper and a new 250mm brake disc.

Thanks to its seamless spread of power and chart-topping dyno results (54.6 horsepower, 36.2 lb-ft), the yellow bike has a class-leading engine that our testers ranked equal to the mighty Kawasaki. Power delivery feels much like the CRF’s, but with more all across the spectrum. What didn’t compute was the acceleration testing. Despite having an output like the Honda and numbers like the Kawi, the Suzuki fell to last in the holeshot and roll-on demonstrations. It’s likely that a tire other than the 110-spec Bridgestone could have made a difference.

The torque chart indicates a slight dip off the bottom before screeching into the midrange and then starting to sign off around 7500 rpm. Horsepower keeps climbing until maxing out at 9000 rpm, but the Suzuki holds an advantage over the other bikes from roughly 7000 to 11,500. We put this to good use on the long straight at Glen Helen and while motoring up the steep hills.

2011 Suzuki RM-Z450
Rowing through the gearbox is an act of joy on the RM-Z.

The transmission and clutch are another high point that guided the RM-Z into a front-running position. Clutch pull is light and the RM-Z is the bike most willing to allow an upshift while climbing Glen Helen with the throttle smashed.

One of the major complaints is with the fork. Generally our testers had a hard time getting the 47mm Showa fork to act compliant. Harsh was the word of the day, though our fastest tester was high on the setup, ranking them second behind the always-amazing YZ-F suspenders. Despite struggling to get the fork set up properly, all of our riders give the Suzuki props for its insanely light steering. Making an inside turn is as simple as just thinking about it. In addition to Suzuki’s trademark handling, the 2011 450 is notable for its stability as well. Hammering across a motocross track at speed is going to unsettle a bike at some point, but the Suzuki has found a great balance between the intuitive cornering we all want and the solid tracking needed to stay in control.

If anything the Suzuki is a bit heavy at 249 pounds (curb) and with only 1.6 gallons of fuel, there isn’t a lot to lose once the tank is empty. Even then it’s still the second heaviest. The bike hides its weight, but not as well as some of the others, though our better jumpers never had any complaints about the bike’s aerial manners. As far as scoring goes, Suzuki finishes second overall thanks to consistent performances in the objective and subjective categories. It was second overall in both divisions with only a single last-place judgment and three top placings. It’s that kind of overall complete package that is necessary to win a shootout, and the Suzuki came closer than any other.

2011 Suzuki RM-Z450 Rider Impressions:

2011 Suzuki RM-Z450
Smooth power means the Suzuki can be somewhat deceptive about its speed as well.

Kody Koger – 6’0” – 182 lbs – Pro
The bike was great. It suits my riding style very well and once we figured out the rear suspension I was ready to go race that thing. The rear kicks side-to-side with the stock settings, but slowing the rebound and speeding up the high-speed compression made it right. The front fork worked very well for being stock, Suzuki technicians slowed down the rebound and stiffened compression a couple clicks and it worked good all around the track. This is a very stable bike and turns with no issues. You can maneuver the bike whichever way you want to without having to fight it.

The Suzuki motor is great. It is fast all over and the throttle response is spot on which makes the bike even better to ride. The clutch worked well, once it got hot it didn’t slip that bad and the stock gearing works with the motor.

Bret Milan – 6’4” – 210 lbs – Intermediate
The Suzuki allowed me to take lines I couldn’t get to on other bikes. I’ve never ridden a Suzuki before, and I was really impressed by how confident I was in corners. It follows a rut just as well if not better than the other bikes, but none of the others could touch the Suzuki in a flat corner with no berms or ruts. Nothing will turn inside the Suzuki. I never had any problems with straight-line stability through rough sections, either. I could only find one flaw with the handling package – in sandy, loose berms, the front end has a tendency to knife. The stock springs were too light for me, and I’d really like to see if a stiffer set would solve this problem. With a few suspension clicks I was able to get adequate function from the suspension.

The Suzuki delivered power like the Honda on steroids. I felt like short-shifting was the best way to get the most out of the Suzuki motor, as it didn’t want to rev out like the KTM. The Suzuki has a really fun and confidence inspiring power delivery. As much as I liked the rest of the bike, the ergonomic package of the Suzuki was one of the worst for me. While standing, I was very happy with the placement of the controls and the layout of the bike. As soon as I sat down, my opinion changed. The footpegs, seat and handlebar triangle felt too tight for my large frame. I would love to try the Suzuki with a taller and flatter seat, but my fear it would affect the bike’s incredible cornering prowess.

JC Hilderbrand – 5’11” – 190 – Novice

2011 Suzuki RM-Z450
Riding the RM-Z450 will make any rider feel better in the turns. The Suzuki isn’t picky, it’ll go wherever you want.

It’s been awhile since I rode a Suzuki so it was good to get back in the saddle. This bike feels like I think the Kawasaki would if it were thinner and handled like a jackrabbit. In terms of sheer handling potential, I wouldn’t put anything past the RM-Z, but I couldn’t quite get the suspension to loosen up enough to reach that potential. The Honda, for instance, is a little more supple and forgiving, which lets me get it into the right positions. Eventually I found a happy spot with the shock, but the fork was pretty stiff for me and it caused the bike to deflect more than I wanted it to, especially when trying to aim for a rut and having to plow through braking bumps. Once I got that baby into the rut though, that was it. Even the smaller, lighter Honda couldn’t compare. The Suzuki makes me feel like I’m much better in the corners than I really am.

Enough about the handling, we know Suzukis can turn. The motor is just as amazing. It’s strong and very user-friendly. The only problem I noticed was that it is hard for me to ride way up in the rpm – not because the engine, but because the suspension felt even stiffer and caused me to make mistakes. I didn’t really mind though since it has the power to ride anywhere in the rev range and shifting it is as simple as it gets on a 450. Fantastic bike.

2011 Suzuki RM-Z450
The Suzuki has found added stability for 2011 which gives it a well-rounded attack on any motocross track.

Chris See – 5’10” – 165 lbs – Pro
Suzuki’s RM-Z was just overall slow in all areas, but it was very smooth and created usable power which made it feel as if I wasn’t moving when really I was going at a steady pace. With a little work this engine could be incredible, but in stock trim it just felt slow to me. Shifting was so smooth and effortless it just fell into gear which was great, but at times the bike was so easy to shift that if your foot so much as tapped it the bike would drop into a false neutral. The clutch feel was smooth, grabby and responded well to use, but when it got abused it faded fast and I had to put the quick-adjust to work a lot.

This bike seems to be built for an average-size rider and fits me great. The front fork is pretty harsh throughout the stroke, so we went two clicks softer on the compression and slowed down the rebound one on the forks and the bike was good all day, as for the shock we set the sag at 105mm and went two slower on the re-bound from stock form and it worked great all day. I was very disappointed in the brakes. As the front got hot it felt as if I had to pull the lever all the way to handlebar to get any kind of stopping power, as for the rear it just didn’t feel strong, like I had to stomp with my heel to get it to work.


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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