In 2010 Yamaha introduced its current YZ450F. The bike marked a new era in motocross technology due to features including a rearward-slanted engine. The design allowed for engineers to design straight intake and exhaust ports to create a direct path for air flow into the fuel-injected engine for improved performance. A tornado-style exhaust header with a resonator efficiently scavenges exhaust gasses and aids the engine to attain its low-to-mid range torque. The fuel tank is positioned beneath the seat in order to centralize mass while the air box is located up front helping to keep out dirt and dust kicked up by the rear tire away from the intake system.
The bike has seen some success since its release in the Monster Energy Supercross and Lucas Oils Outdoor Series with the Joe Gibbs Racing Team. Riders like James Stewart and Davi Milsaps have put the YZ-F on numerous podiums throughout past seasons and with Justin Brayton rejoining the JGR stable, we are expecting to see the Yamaha on the podium again once Supercross season rolls around.
Since the introduction, Yamaha has opted to keep the same bike with small refinements each year. In 2011 Yamaha added a new clutch lever and pushrod for a more consistent clutch feel during long motos. 2012 had the most additions to both the engine and chassis. Yamaha revised the fuel injection settings for a more controllable engine response in the low-to-mid
range. ECU programming was updated for optimized performance characteristics with the new longer muffler. In the chassis department, front and rear suspension settings and valving were updated to offer a better, smoother suspension package. Rubber was swapped out to Dunlop Geomax MX51 tires mounted on black rims.
2013 marks the year for the least amount of changes for the current generation YZ450F. The bike features new black Yamaha handlebars but keep the same bend as current models. A white rear fender graces the blue/white colorway while black fork guards are added to the white/red model.
Yamaha recently invited MotoUSA to Glen Helen Raceway to get reacquainted with the blue machine and as the sun rose we were ready to tear up everything the track could throw at us. The one cool day in Southern California was ours to rip up the home of the U.S.G.P. With only four bikes on track we were in heaven and going absolutely buck wild.
As the fifth-place finisher in our 2012 450 Motocross Shootout, we were hoping for something new this year to get it closer to the front in our 2013 Shootout, but it looks like we will have to wait until next year.
(Top) The YZF received new black Yamaha bars for 2013, replacing last year’s Pro Tapers. (Bottom) Some styling changes for 2013 include a white back fender, replacing the blue color from last years model.
Right out of the gate we could already feel some of our favorite production suspension at work. The Yamaha has a very good front suspension package considering it still has conventional 47mm upside-down forks. Competing manufacturers Honda and Kawasaki have gone with air forks while Suzuki has gone with a Separate Function Fork on their 450 motocross machines. One thing we aren’t too keen on is the unpredictable knifing effect when hurtling through rough, rutty sections. At times the front end turns unpredictably until it hits the stops, making it quite scary.
The shock is matched up pretty evenly with the fork as they were both updated in 2012 with new settings. The changes ultimately provided a smoother, plusher ride, and offered better performance than previous year suspension.
One of our favorite aspects of the YZ450F is its power delivery. Yamaha engineers have the rearward-slanted engine dialed in. The slightest twist of the throttle puts power to the rear wheel immediately, like flipping on a light switch. The low-to-mid power range is very strong and snappy which is a big advantage over some of the competitors. Up on top, the Yamaha lacks over-rev and when it is all wound out you better be ready to shift because hitting the rev limiter is just about equal to hitting a brick wall, especially in the deep, sandy Glen Helen dirt.
One problem the immediate power delivery does cause is rear grip issues. I found the rear wheel attempting to pass me up on corner exits a great number of times. The back wheel spins up so quickly due to large amounts of low end power it tends to get ahead of you. A steady throttle hand is your best bet.
Ergonomics are a bit tricky to get used to. The blue machine has had a bit of a different stature compared to the other three Japanese competitors. The tank and shrouds are really wide which in some senses is a good thing, but in others it can be a tad bit complicated to get used to. The bars are in good position, not too high, not too low, but just right. The flat seat and tank create a good riding position making it easy to get over the front end and help the front tire grab traction. The footpegs sit rather high, but at the end of the day I found them to be quite nice as they cleared the ground in deep ruts.
All in all, the YZ450F has been basically the same bike since 2010 and we are hoping that engineers over at Yamaha are working on something new for 2014. We have always loved the stock suspension on the YZ450F but without an upgrade to a pneumatic or SFF fork, we will have to see how it stacks up to the rest of the bikes in out upcoming 2013 450 Motocross Shootout.
- Great throttle response
- Good suspension package
- White back fender looks good
- Same generation bike since 2010
- Wide radiator shrouds