2016 Yamaha YZ450F First Ride

MotorcycleUSA Staff | July 17, 2015

2010 feels like a century ago, but that’s the year Yamaha went with the backwards, tilted-cylinder YZ450F. This mass-centralized design created a direct line from the airbox (where a traditional gas tank would sit) to the EFI throttle body, feeding right into cylinder. This backwards thinking helped Yamaha create one of the most potent engines in the 450 MX class. Jump forward six years and the 2016 YZ450F ($8590) still uses the reverse cylinder, direct intake tract and wrap-around exhaust design. Refinements and changes for 2016 might not seem radical but they make a big difference out on the track. We’ve spent seven hours of ride time aboard the 2016 YZ450F on three very different style tracks, Competitive Edge, Zaca Station and Barona Oaks, to get our first impression of the revised YZ.


2016 YZ450F Updates
The heart of any dirt bike is the engine and for 2016 Yamaha revised both the intake and exhaust cam profiles, along with the ECU setting to enhance rideability in the low to mid power. The water pump impeller now has six holes for better pressure distribution, improving cooling. Engine mounts are revised (the top mounts to the cylinder head) and the swingarm pivot section on the aluminum frame is reshaped to improve lateral rigidity. The fork and shock both received valving revisions, with the shock spring moving down from a 58Nm to a 56Nm. The new triple clamps are now 25mm, up from 22mm. To boost braking power, the front brake rotor is now 270mm and the brake pad material is updated. The footpegs are also now 5mm lower.

A new addition to the 2016 YZ450F is the Launch Control System (LCS). When LCS is engaged, high precision ECU calculations change up the power output, providing better traction off the starting gate, especially on hard track surfaces like concrete. Revisions to the clutch boss and shift stopper arm aim to smooth clutch engagement feel and provide more precise shifting action.

Out In The Dirt
During our first day with the 2016 YZ450F at Comteditive Edge we brought along a bone stock 2015 YZ450F, because there’s no better way to feel the changes and differences than by going back to back with both bikes. The changes to the 2016 engine instantly brought a smile to our face. Without losing torque, the power delivery off idle and into the mid is smoother and tractable, driving the bike forward, even in slippery conditions. As you might have read in Issue 7 (page TK), we used the GYTR Power Tuner with last year’s 2015 YZ450F long term test bike to mellow out the power because it was very jumpy right off idle, in a way doing what Yamaha has done for 2016.

2016 Yamaha YZ450F

Don’t confuse smooth power off idle with the 2016 YZ450F being slower than the 2015 version. It’s anything but slow and still pounds its chest as one of the most powerful engines in the 450 class, it just gets into that massive pull of power smoother than ever. But big power doesn’t mean anything if you can’t harness it into forward momentum, and for 2016 Yamaha has done a great job of making a very usable powerplant.

A powerful tool in the equation is the previously mentioned GYTR Power Tuner, which makes custom tailoring engine output to your style and track very easy. The 2016 YZ450F has different mapping than the 2015 YZ450F but the tool works the same and Yamaha will have new maps available on its site. We will also be testing different maps soon and will make those available.

Initially, the 2016 YZ450F’s front end felt vague compared to the 2015 and had us hunting for precision in the corners. The hot setup was to slide the forks up in the triple clamps 5mm. That little change improved the overall feel of the bike immensely, providing more bite and feel to the front wheel. This gave us confidence to charge into corners knowing the front end would bite, lay over and let the bike carve. Raising the forks 5mm also improved the overall balance and provided a plusher feel without sacrificing stability. The smooth power delivery helps keep the YZ450F going in the direction you point it, instead of exploding and upsetting the suspension mid-corner.

Dunlop’s MX52 tires come standard on the 2016 YZ450F and work well in intermediate conditions but we struggled with front tire traction when the track was at all muddy (like the first few motos of the morning) or if the conditions were sandy. The MX52 works best when the track breaks in and the ground gets more packed down. At Zaca Station we fought a vague front end when entering the corners until the sandy/loamy terrain dried up and started offering more traction. An MX32 would help the Yamaha rail the corners better in loamy and muddy conditions.

Overall the suspension on the 2016 Yamaha is great and virtually maintenance free, especially when compared to an air fork. We love the Kayaba spring fork! Suspension action is ultra smooth over any sized bump and works well for a wide variety of riders, no matter what weight and skill level. Beginners get along with the balance and feel of the Yamaha YZ450F and fast riders can push the blue beast to the limits with confidence. The YZ450F really shines in the rougher and more beat up track. Straight line stability is improved over the 2015 YZ450F, especially under acceleration. The back end never wants to step out, making jumps out of corners much easier.

Last year the sweet spot on sag was 105mm but now with a softer spring and revised valving the 2016 Yamaha YZ450F likes to live right around 100mm. Because the shock spring is softer and the bike rides slightly lower Yamaha went from 22mm offset clamps to 25mm offset triple clamps, which reduced the trail, since a lower rear end effectively increases rake and trail.

We played with the easy to use Launch Control System and found it works great off concrete but in loamy dirt we launched better without it. True race conditions might prove different.

Bottom Line
The 2016 YZ450F has a lot going for it. It produces very strong but usable power, the suspension works well for a wide variety of riders (still uses springs in the fork, not air) and overall the bike is easy to get along with. The 2016 YZ450F reacts to fork height changes so don’t be afraid to play with that depending on the track and the way the bike turns. Also, buy a GYTR Power Tuner, it is easy to use and radically changes the power delivery and character of the engine, but you may find, like we have, that the stock setting is pretty darn good.

Second Impression

by Adam Waheed (MotoUSA Road Test Editor)

Once again Yamaha proves to have fine-tuned the overall dynamic of its latest YZ450F. No doubt the ’15 version was a monster: crazy fast, with stiff, but controlled suspension action and pleasing handling. But the ’16 version tames things down a degree with its mellower bottom-end power delivery. For the most part this is huge, as it helps the rear knobby hook-up better off turns and just plain makes the bike friendlier to ride – especially in the slow stuff. And if it doesn’t leap off the corner as quickly as you’d like, simply twist the right grip a little harder, or use Yamaha’s simple and easy GYTR Power Tuner ($291.95) to tweak any part of the powerband.

Yamaha’s coil spring suspension is the best in the business. And the fitment of a lighter shock spring again makes the blue bike more compliant by helping the shock operate in the middle of its stroke instead of getting topped-out more frequently. It tracks well through the rough stuff, squats nicely on the gas, yet doesn’t comprise low-speed steering manners. In fact, it’s impressive just how ‘neutral’ the YZ feels during turn-in, rewarding smooth riders who don’t move overly forward in a corner, as they might on other brands of 450s. For riders seeking a fluid, comfy and fairly un-intimidating 450 to pound out motos, the YZ450F is hard to beat.

YZ450F Suspension Settings
Compression: 8 (Turns out)
Rebound: 11
Sag: 100mm
Low-Speed Compression: 10
High-Speed Compression: 1.25
Rebound: 14

• Excellent suspension balance and action
• Neutral and predicable handling
• Engine has improved rideablity
• Not as easy to start as the 2015
• Wide-feeling midsection and forward shrouds

2016 Yamaha YZ450F

2016 Yamaha YZ450F Specifications:
Engine: Four-stroke Single
Displacement: 449cc
Bore x Stroke: 97.0 x 60.8mm
Compression Ratio: 12.5:1
Transmission: 5-speed
Fuel System: Keihin EFI, 44mm Throttle Body
Final Drive: 13:48
Cooling: Liquid-cooling
Clutch: Wet Multi-Disc
Front Suspension: KYB Speed-Sensitive System, 12.2 inch travel
Rear Suspension: KYB monoshock; fully adjustable, 12.4 inch travel
Front/Rear Brakes: Disc Brake 270mm/245mm
Front/Rear Rims: 1.60x 21, 2.15 x 19 Excel
Front/Rear Tires: 80/100-21; 120/90-19 Dunlop MX52
Silencer: Aluminum
Triple Clamp Offset: 25mm
Wheelbase: 58.3 inch
Ground Clearance: 13 inch
Seat Height: 38 inch
Tank Capacity: 2.0 gallon
Weight (with fuel), Approx: 247 pounds

4 Photos

MotorcycleUSA Staff