Today’s motocross bikes are technical marvels. The amount of horsepower and torque produced from these small 450cc engines is phenomenal. Match that power with high tech chassis and top of the line suspension and you have seven dirt bikes that are light years ahead of what was available only a decade ago. No two humans are alike and not one motocross bikes suits all riders. Performance is an obvious consideration when choosing a bike, but so is price, aesthetics and bang for your buck. Every bike in this shootout was a top choice amongst test riders, depending on the track and the track conditions.
It might seem like we hate and are against air forks. We aren’t, we just find that they don’t work as well as conventional spring forks and are difficult for the consumer to properly set-up. Moving forward, suspension companies will undoubtedly improve the performance and find ways to make air forks less hassle to dial in, but until then it’s a big task to expect air forks to perform as well as the KYB SSS fork featured on the Yamaha.
While all of the 2016’s are incredible motorcycles, Husqvarna’s FC 450 stood out as the bike that best suited my riding style and ability. Although the FC 450 looks almost identical to KTM on paper, they are certainly two different beasts. The Husqvarna provides smooth, usable power throughout the rpm range and seemed to be more manageable when attacking the massive hills of Glen Helen Raceway. The most notable difference between the Husky and the competition was the way bike handled. Line changes were almost effortless, and the bike maintained a light, nimble feel, even in the most technical sections of the track. In the suspension department, WP’s 4CS fork and updated shock are very supple and sensitive, but also maintain enough support for larger impacts. And, of course, I will take a little red button over a kick-starter any day. From a strong motor package, to incredible handling and suspension, the Husqvarna FC450 was the clear winner in my book. KTM was a close second in an almost dead tie with the KTM 350 SX-F, followed by the CRF450R for fourth, the KX450F for fifth, RM-Z450 for sixth and the Yamaha YZ450F in seventh.
I was torn between the 350 SX-F and the 450 SX-F, and still am. I love the light feel of the 350 and when ridden aggressively it can hang with 450s, but the 450 SX-F is so easy to ride! The 450 chassis and ergos feel much like the 350 SX-F, just a tad heavier. The 450 SX-F offers up a lot more torque, allowing the engine to be in a lower rpm, helping the chassis to stay settled. The new KTM/Husky chassis and suspension settings make these bikes corner just as well as a Suzuki RM-Z with the bonus of better overall stability. The KTM/Husky offers up way more comfort than the RM-Z, especially when the track is hammered. I love the attention to detail from the KTM/Huskys, like hydraulic clutch, billet hubs, electric start and the fact they are the lightest bikes in the shootout.
The Yamaha still rules the suspension war, nothing matches the KYB SSS fork on the Yamaha YZ450F. I like the Yamaha and the power delivery is improved for 2016. I just don’t like how bulky and heavy it feels, especially after getting off a KTM/Husky or the Honda CRF450R. I really liked the cornering and easy to manage power of the Suzuki RM-Z450 when the track was smooth but as soon as it gets rough I never found a good setting for the Showa TAC air fork. My personal order is KTM 450 SX-F/Husky 450 SX-F first, KTM 350 SX-F second, Yamaha YZ450F third, Honda CRF450R fourth, Kawasaki KX450F fifth and Suzuki RM-Z450 sixth.
For my weight and size the KTM 350 SX-F was perfect the power and was not far off from the 450s. I’m pretty light so that helps a lot when riding the 350, for some tracks you don’t need all the power from a 450. The 350 SX-F motor was amazingly strong, controllable off the bottom end and the long pulling top end never ends. I feel that the 350 would be better in longer motos and not make me as tired at the end, which helps in a 30 minute moto. The KTM 350 SX-F corners sharp, upping confidence when entering corners at speed. What’s better then electric start for when you’re lazy or tired? Just a push of a button and you’re on your way. With some aftermarket upgrades this bike would do serious damage! My final order for tight tracks is KTM 350 SX-F, YZ450F, KTM 450 SX-F, KX450F, CRF450R, Husky FC 450 and then Suzuki. For wide open fast tracks my order is YZ450F first, 450 SX-F second, 350 SX-F third, KX450F fourth, CRF450R fifth, FC 450 sixth and RM-Z450 seventh.
It wasn’t an easy choice. All of the bikes had good characteristics that stood out, but at the end of the day my money is on the Yamaha. It’s the bike that had the best overall package. I put a lot of laps in on every bike out, especially at the brutal Glen Helen Raceway. The Yamaha was the clear standout from the rest. It is the bike that you jump on and everything just clicks! With its smooth power delivery I felt as if I could ride all day and not get tired. Also the reliability of a Yamaha is something you can always depend on. My final ranking is as follows: Yamaha, Husky, KTM 450 SX-F, Kawasaki, KTM 350, Honda and Suzuki.
After countless days testing all the 2016 450s, it’s safe to say that the Yamaha YZ450F was my favorite bike. First thing I noticed was how fast it is and how well the brakes work. The bike handles excellent, and the suspension is amazing for being stock. It doesn’t turn as well as I would have liked it, but the bike is very comfortable and easy to ride. I put the KTM 350 SX-F in second ahead of the KTM 450 SX-F followed by the Husky, then Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki in the final spot.
The Husqvarna FC 450 is also an outstanding bike. Obviously, the first thing you notice when you ride this bike is the electric start, which makes it easy for just about anyone to ride. This bike is very sleek, and lightweight. It pulls really hard down straightaways, and corners amazing. The suspension isn’t great, but it’s something that can be changed. I really like this bike, and it’s easy to pick up off the showroom floor and go ride. The Kawasaki 450 is also a great bike. It’s very fun to ride and easier to turn for 2016. I really like how the power delivery and how smooth the bike is all around. The suspension isn’t as nice as I would like, but again, it is something that can be changed and adjusted. I like the overall comfort of the Kawasaki KX450F.
The Yamaha YZ450F is my choice for the best motocross bike of 2016. Its powerful engine was easy to ride and suspension was by far the best in class. Despite being the largest and heaviest bike, I found myself able to ride the blue machine longer and faster than all the others. Husky and KTM deserve mention for being close runner-ups with their light weight and low center of gravity. Finally, as a professional mechanic and suspension tuner, I hope the OEM’s take note that the single biggest factor that stood out in this shootout was that the bikes with spring forks handled a lot better than the bikes with air forks.
The Suzuki was pretty good, I had a hard time setting it up but once we got it to a point where it was decent, I was happy with it. With the Husqvarna I was very impressed, I felt right at home on it from the get go. We had a good setup on it, the suspension was great, and the motor was really good, especially at Glen Helen. It has a lot of top end power, which I was very happy with. It was so close for me between the Honda and Yamaha for the win. I have to applaud Yamaha this year on their Yamaha YZ450F, it’s absolutely amazing right out of the box. If you go to the dealership and buy a 2016 Yamaha YZ450F you won’t be disappointed. The suspension is amazing, the chassis is amazing, and the motor is amazing. My biggest thing is I couldn’t stand how wide the shrouds are, making the bike feel a little wide. I like it to feel a little more on the front end and I was planted too much in the middle. The biggest complaint is that it is just too fat.
I chose the Honda as the winner in the shootout because I love the fork change for this year. They also did a linkage change, which made the bike sit and feel much more stable and gives it that nice turning feel the Honda always has. It’s very skinny, slender and agile out on the track, I felt right at home as soon as I got on the bike. It is a little slow but throw a pipe on there and it is good. My ranking is Honda first, Yamaha second, Husky third, Kawasaki fourth, Suzuki fifth, KTM 450 SX-F sixth and KTM 350 SX-F last. If you are looking for a rad big bore 250F, the 350 SX-F is it!
Test riders scored each bike (using a 1-10 ranking, 10 being the best) on a number of performance categories like engine power, cornering, stability, suspension, handling, and more. Points were assessed, giving us a final ranking. MotoUSA’s goal is to provide readers the most comprehensive shootout available. The winning bike might not be the best choice for your size and style, so use the info to help you decide what bike is be best for you.
2016 450 Motocross Shootout Intro
2016 Suzuki RM-Z450 Comparison
2016 Honda CRF450R Comparison
2016 KTM 350 SX-F Comparison
2016 Kawasaki KX450F Comparison
2016 Husqvarna FC 450 Comparison
2016 KTM 450 SX-F Comparison
2016 Yamaha YZ450F Comparison
2016 Motocross Shootout Conclusion