Year in and year out the 450 motocross class machines get improved, tweaked and redesigned in the never-ending race for track superiority. This translates to shootout and race wins, which in-turn sells bikes. In motorcross there is the quick and the dead. If a manufacturer sits still for too long, it’s bound to be left behind in a hailstorm of roost and dust.
For 2013 it’s no different with just about every brand making a significant revision to their big-bore racer and there are even two all-new bikes. It’s going to be a battle as usual, and we aim to give readers the most comprehensive shootout available to know which bike deserves their hard earned cash.
Two all-new bikes are on the card for this year’s shootout, the first being the $8440 2013 Honda CRF450R. While not exactly a blank-sheet design, there are only a few parts the new model shares with the 2012 machine. Last year the Big Red Racer was bumped from it’s perch as the winningest bike in the history of MotoUSA Shootouts. Armed with a Kayaba air fork, new chassis and twin exhaust pipes the Honda is looking to get back up on top.
The second all-new machine is, realistically, sort-of-all new.
Early this year KTM released the small-batch 450 SX-F Factory Edition to meet the AMA homologation requirements. And now we have the 2013 450 SX-F ($8999) which is basically that very same bike, minus a few cosmetic differences. KTM is aiming high with the new 450 and we expected it to be the best placing KTM 450 SX-F yet in our shootout.
Last year we folded the KTM 350 SX-F ($8599) in the 450 mix, and we did the same for the 2013 shootout. While not as heavily redesigned as the 450, a slew of updates and fuel injection should up the ante for the smaller and lighter mid-sized Katoom. Last year it was knocked for it’s lack of beans when pitted against the rest of the group, but after the 2013 KTM 350 SX-F First Ride we think that may not be the case this year.
The least changed for 2013 is the $8490 Yamaha YZ450F. After an onslaught of changes to the 2012 model, the Tuning Fork company took a breather, adorning the current model year with a new colored rear fender and a black handlebars. That’s it. Last year the YZ finished the test in fifth place, perhaps the change in venue to Cahuilla Creek Motocross would change its fortune.
Suzuki tweaked on the 2013 RM-Z450 ($8699) stiffening the chassis with new engine mounts, honing the power delivery with revised engine specs and parts, and adding a second-generation Showa Separate Function Fork. In our 2012 450 Motocross Shootout, Big Bird missed the overall by just two points bolstered by its agility in the corners, and we fully expect it to be contender yet again.
One year ago the 2012 Kawasaki KX450F took the crown in our
shootout thanks to copious amount of power and its stable, predictable mannerisms. Not resting on its laurels Kawasaki outfitted the Green Machine with a Kayaba air fork and a stiffer swingarm to up the KX’s game in the handling and suspension department. Would that be enough to hold on to the top spot? We were hesitant to call it either way now that the Honda and KTM are all new and the Suzuki has also been reworked.
We rounded up all the bikes, out fitted them all with Dirt Digits numberplate backgrounds and headed east past the Inland Empire to Cahuilla Creek MX for two days of putting the bikes through the wringer on the loamy and notoriously rough natural-style circuit. Cahuilla is fast and breaks in quickly with ruts and bumps that would be more demanding on the bikes and riders than some of the other tracks in Southern California.
As for our riders we enlisted some of the usual characters along with some new blood. Our Pro levels riders for this test would be Chris See, Nick Thiel and two-time X Games Women’s Moto X Gold Medal winner Vicki Golden. Our Associate Editor Frankie Garcia would handle Intermediate duties while Shoei’s Bret Milan would be our Vet class shedder. I would be the washed-up old guy, and to bring some comedy and brutal honesty into the mix we enlisted former pro skateboarder and SiruisXM radio superstar Jason Ellis.
Our testing protocol put the crew through the toughest days they’ve had in some time with 15 minute motos on each bike followed by 15 minutes to jot down notes while catching their breath. This would ensure each rider got equal amount of time on each bike and no one could play favorites and hog a particular MX’er. We also further tweaked our Super Lap time performance testing having See, Thiel and Golden each
complete one flying lap on each bike. All three times would be averaged to balance track inconsistences from lap to lap to find which bike was the fastest on the track when pushed at race pace. Additionally holeshot times and speeds we recorded via GPS along with third-gear roll on times and distances.
Back at MotoUSA headquarters we dyno’ed, weighed and sound tested each bike to round out our performance testing to rank our objective categories. Manufacturer MSRP is also considered in the objective field, and a subjective section compiled from the rider’s rankings and comments is the second half of our standard scoresheet. Scoring is based on a Forumla One scale with first place getting 10 points, 8 for second, 7 for third and so on.
Now that the stage is set for a serious slugfest, let’s find out which bike is the best 450 for 2012.