2012 Suzuki RM-Z450 Off-Road Comparison

MotorcycleUSA Staff | February 16, 2012

Not making changes to a current model year motocross bike flies in the face of conventional wisdom, as the market is always looking for the latest technology to get a leg up on the competition. This year, however, Suzuki rolled the dice and left its premier MXer, the RM-Z450, untouched minus bold new graphics. This brave move seems to have worked in the favor of the RM-Z as it finished a solid second place in our 2012 450 Motocross Shootout. Our testers praised it for its punchy motor and laser quick handling. Can the ‘Zook stay at the top of the charts when the track ends and the trails begin?

Hopping on the Suzuki reveals a roomy, comfortable cockpit that fit just about every rider in our stable. The seat to footpeg height was spot on and the reach to the bars was comfortable. A slim midsection and relatively flat seat makes moving around on the RM-Z snag free.

Once again the 2012 Suzuki RM-Z450 finishes second behind the Kawasaki KX450F.
The 2012 Suzuki RM-Z450 earned a well deserved second place in the 2012 450 MX Off-Road Shootout.
The roomy and well laid out cockpit of the 2012 RM-Z450 allows the rider to mov about freely without snags.

“The Suzuki ergonomics are great for me. From the bar position to the foot pegs fit me perfect,” says Garcia. “The layout really enhances the feel of the bike and gives great feedback to the rider.”

Not everyone was complimentary about the entire rider interface. Some of the riders seriously disliked the sweep of the stock Rental Fatbars, feeling like they were transplanted from an ’82 RM and not straight enough for a modern RM-Z. With a different set of bars, the Suzuki might have tied for the top honors in the ergonomics with the KTM.

Tipping the MotoUSA scales at 253 pounds with a full tank of gas and the engine topped up with oil, the RM-Z450 is the second heaviest bike in this test, but it hides it weight well. Not once did anyone make a single comment about the heft of the Suzuki. With a 1.6-gallon fuel tank the yellow bike’s range was right in the middle of the group, allowing the fun to continue after the Honda has long run out.

During our motocross shootout praise was showered upon the engine performance of the RM-Z, and it continued right on into our off-road testing. Ranking second in just about every rider’s score sheet, there was little doubt the Suzuki ripped. It delivers a strong yet controllable punch down low and pulls strong all the way to the top end.

“The RM-Z450 had an awesome powerband,” comments our new kid on the block Jamie Beckett. “It was just a little off of the Kawasaki. The power hit aggressively on the bottom and pulled hard all the way through to the top-end.”

The Suzuki RM-Z450 was well mannered when flying across the desert at breakneck speeds.
The Suzuki performed just as well in the desert as it did in the sand dunes.

Although the suspension didn’t get the highest marks during track testing, the slightly softer spring rates work like a charm in out in Glamis and Ocotillo Wells. In just about any situation, be that big jumps and G-outs at the dunes or rocks and whoops in the desert, the RM-Z450 was composed and controlled at any speed. There may have been the best bike at either location, but not at both.

“I put the Suzuki first here because it performed well in both the dunes and the hills, added Beckett. “It wasn’t the best at either, but it was stiff enough to absorb big hits in the dunes and it was plush enough to float right over the little chatter out at the hills.”

Backing its top performance in the suspension category the RM-Z450 also pulled the full ten points for its handling prowess as well. Handling is crisp and quick in the corners but still stable when bombing the desert in higher gears. Front-end feel was excellent no matter the surface or speed. With zero fiddling with set-up the Suzuki worked well for just about every rider in this test.

The virtually unchanged 2012 Suzuki RM-Z450 is an agile and spirited handler on the ground and in the air.
The Suzuki RM-Z450’s peformance in this test makes us wonder what it would have placed with some updating.

“The standout area of the RMZ is its ability to give front-end feedback to the rider. For me, the front-end feel far surpasses any rear end antics,” quips madman Steeves. “Confidence is the name of the game for mere mortals such as ourselves, and it is game the Suzuki plays well.”

Surprisingly the not a single rider in the group chose the Suzuki as a personal favorite despite all the positive attributes, and that might be where Suzuki’s choice of not refining RM-Z for 2012 has its downfall. If it’s not new, it’s not as exciting and lacks of buyer’s lust.

However, Suzuki has proven even without any major changes a great bike can continue to perform at the front of the pack year after year, but it leaves us to wonder where the RM-Z would have placed with a little more power or a few tweaks to the looks. It may have been enough for the win, but instead the Suzuki RM-Z is runner up for the second time in 2012.

MotorcycleUSA Staff