Now going on its third year with the engine facing the wrong direction (or right depending on if you work for Yamaha or not) the 2012 YZ450F has been continually refined in a bid to prove to the world that going backwards is the way forward. And Yamaha has made a valid argument; the YZ450F is an excellent motocrosser. Would its unique design make it an even better off-roader?
Weighing in at 250 pounds fully fueled the 2012 Yamaha YZ450F is not exactly light when compared to the Honda CRF450R’s 241 pounds. But with that extra mass comes a extra fuel. It’s not much at just fourteen hundredths of a gallon, but we never ran short of fuel on the blue bomber. This most likely also had to do with better fuel economy, but more gasoline never hurts when you are in the Great Wide Open.
Jumping behind the controls on the Yamaha you realize how different it really is before you even kick the engine to life. The seating area is flatter than the plains of Iowa and the tank and shroud area is as wide as a barn. Although the font of the rider compartment is chunky, the layout is compact at the same time. This takes some getting used to and for some of us we never came to grips with the ergonomics.
“The Yamaha felt good in the middle when you were over the pegs standing,” remarks One Industries’ Jamie Beckett. “However, as you slid forward to sit and corner, it was really wide.”
In the handling department the Yamaha tied with the Honda in the scores from our band of dirt brothers, but it was ranked the same on the score sheet for being too stable. Where the Honda was too twitchy, the YZ was a rock, an immovable object at times. When speeds were cranked up to full tilt, the Yamaha performed admirably, with one of the most sure-footed feel of the group. However when it came time to get on the binders and
The faster you go on the 2012 Yamaha YZ450F the better it gets out in the desert. Tight and technical trails are more work.
slam some tight turns, Big Blue was reluctant to flick side to side with the ease of the rest of its MX brethren.
“What the YZF didn’t do as seamlessly as the others, was going from full lean angle to full opposite lean angle as quick. When playing follow the leader in the small dunes out by the washes at Glamis, the YZ took more effort to turn and flick over. And only became evident once bike swapping was done,” comments Steeves. “In the moment the bike handles great in the unpredictable open desert. But once on the KX or RM, I would say to myself, wow the YZ doesn’t do it like these do.”
In the harder packed desert the front end also had a tendency to push, just like it did on the race track during our 2012 450 Motocross Shootout. If you are adept at sliding and steering with the rear, you can still make the YZ450F hustle through the corners and sight single track, but it just takes more effort than it should.
On the gas the Yamaha is a tractor. It flat out hooks up, but it does feel like it is down on power in comparison to the monster mills of the Kawasaki and Suzuki. In certain circumstances that can be a positive, especially when on slick hardpacked trails. However when it’s time to really put the power down, the Yamaha is just a half-step behind. It’s not a massive difference where you would say the YZ is a dog, but it is noticeable.
“The Yamaha engine feels great until you ride it back to back and realize that it’s underpowered. I did struggle on some big climbs at Ocotillo on the Yamaha, and I never had much trouble with any other bikes in the same terrain,” explains Hutch. “Something about the power delivery didn’t jive with my riding style, which is a bummer because I love the WR450 so I was
The 2012 Yamaha YZ450F is a excellent dune machine, but it could use a bit more horsepower to be more competive.
hoping I would dig the YZF just the same.”
The suspension rated high with the majority of our test riders, just losing out to the RM-Z. Stiff enough for the G-outs in the dunes and plush enough to handle the rough stuff in Ocotillo, the KYB suspension was just about as good as it got without major adjustments for our wide range of sizes and styles.
Adding up the points the 2012 Yamaha YZ450F jumped up a notch from its finish in our motocross shootout with a fourth place result. Funky ergonomics and slightly muted power output kept the Tuning Fork machine just off the box, however, if a super-stable desert sled if what you are after the YZ450F is worth taking a look at.
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