Last year the Suzuki RM-Z450 finished second in the 2012 450 Motocross Shootout by just two points, and for 2013 the RM-Z got a new Separate Function Fork, engine updates and stiffer chassis for quicker side-to-side handling. Team Yellow is looking for a “W” on our 2013 Shootout, but it’s not going to be easy going up against two new bikes.
The first comment from just about every test rider in our crew about the RM-Z was how well the Suzuki turns. If you are a rider that like to take the inside line and cut under the competition look no further than the RM-Z450. It turns in quick and whips through the corner with ease.
“As always, nothing will turn under the Suzuki. This is by far the best cornering bike in the test,” says Milan. “I only wish I had been able to find comfortable suspension settings to improve the stability. Under hard braking, the fork would deflect off bumps rather than absorbing them, making for an exhausting ride.”
The 2013 Suzuki RM-Z450 can rip a turn better than any bike in this shootout, but when the speed is high it can get nervous when the track is rough.
And that seems to be the Suzuki’s downfall. In our 2013 Suzuki RM-Z450 First Ride we rode on the super smooth and perfectly prepped factory Supercross track, which was devoid of any braking or acceleration bumps. Cahuilla is the exact opposite of smooth, and the high-speed section proved to give our testers frustration with deflection and twitchiness, knocking it to second to last in the suspension category. We struggled with a setting for the second-generation Separate Function Fork that settled down the front end by the end of the day.
“I’ve liked the separate function fork on other machines, but I seemed to battle with it on the RM-Z450,” explains See. “The rear end worked well, but the front end seemed drop-in rather fast under hard braking. Then felt like it was packing-up mid-stroke and gave me a harsh feedback. With more time I feel that it could work well, but it would take more time than we have at this test.”
One area the RM-Z didn’t disappoint was the engine. A new piston, intake cam and ECU setting for 2013 were meant to give the Suzuki more mid-range where most riders tend to ride. Ranked as the second best engine in the test, the yellow racer lived up to expectations.
“The RM-Z’s motor is much better than last year’s fast revving character,” comments Associate Editor Garcia. “This one pulls stronger in the mid-range and revs out further, minimizing shifting.”
Nick Thiel also was smitten with the Suzuki’s powerplant. “Overall this was my favorite engine. It had the low- and mid-range grunt of some of the other bikes, but it had plenty of over rev, which was forgiving if you missed a shift or made a small mistake. I really fell in love with the motor.”
During our performance testing the RM-Z450 ran the 150-foot holeshot test in 4.32 seconds at 41.9 mph. That is a last place result, which is odd considering the power numbers of from our dyno of 51.88 horsepower and 33.23 lb-ft of torque. The GPS doesn’t lie and the best we can figure is that the rear end of the Suzuki is looser than some of the bikes under hard acceleration and tire spin could be the culprit. Rolling on the power in third gear, the 250-pound beast accelerated from 15 to 40 mph in 2.727 seconds in 113.1 feet, a second place showing.
In our Super Lap testing our three Pro riders turned an average flying lap of 2:29.9, putting the RM-Z in a three-way tie for third place. Our fastest rider, See, turned his second fastest lap on the Suzuki, while Golden and Thiel both turned mid-pack times.
The front brake on the Suzuki was rated mid-pack with a strong initial bite, but the feel and power was not up to par with the front-runners. At the rear those that like to use the rear brake for settling the bike and for mid-air corrections feel the stopper was spongy and lacked power.
“The Suzuki front brakes were about average,” says our uber-fast lady test rider, Vicki Golden. “I think the rear was a little spongy though.”
Clutch pull is smooth and positive with an excellent feel, and the gearbox shifted precisely and without incident even under heavy load. Gearing, however, was an issue with our crew, as the majority of the crew felt the rear sprocket could use a tooth or two to bring the gear spacing closer together and give a little more pull out of the corners.
To everyone’s surprise the 2013 Suzuki RMZ-450 dropped a few positions in our ranking after winning the test last year.
Milan wrote in his notes, ”I didn’t experience any problems with the clutch or transmission, but I felt that the gearing was a bit too high on the Suzuki. I think I would have been happier with the bottom pull after adding a tooth to the rear sprocket.”
The rider’s compartment of Big Bird scored highly in the rankings thanks to a neutral layout that felt familiar to anyone jumping on the bike. From the seat to the tank the bike does get a bit wider than the Honda and KTMs but it is not so wide that it causes any issues with getting up on the front of the bike. The one thing holding the Suzuki from sharing the top spot with the CRF and KX in the ergonomics category was the handlebar bend.
“Old yeller had a great seat shroud area, but I hated the bars,” quips See. “They have a funky sweep that feels old-school.”
In what is arguably the most shocking turn of events in this shootout, the Suzuki falls from a podium position in 2012 to fifth place for this year. The numbers don’t lie but sometimes they can’t tell the whole story. Slipping down the finishing order doesn’t mean the RM-Z is worse than last year it means some bikes go that much better. On a tighter supercross-style track, or with more time to dial in the SFF front-end, the votes may have favored the ‘Zuk, but we have to call it like we see it.