Like a sculptor chipping away at a stone, Yamaha has been tweaking and mastering the YZ450F since its bold move in 2010 to spin the top half of the engine 180 degrees and tilt the cylinder reward. The unconventional design boosted power and response, creating a very potent YZ450F engine.
In 2016 we’d swear the YZ450F makes the most horsepower out on the track, except our dyno numbers prove otherwise. The 2016 engine is actually a little mellower than the 2015 YZ450, increasing the rideablity, especially down low off idle. It is still very responsive and strong, but much easy to manage, helping to improve the chassis performance and rider confidence. The Yamaha engine always feels ready to offer more if the rider needs it. A bonus to the Yamaha YZ450F is that power is easily and quickly changed via the GYTR Power Tuner ($291.95). You can make it hit harder, roll on even smoother than stock and move around the meat of the power to different rpms with the simple hand held tool.
Yamaha has not strayed from its proven KYB SSS spring fork, and that is one of the major reasons they sit in the top spot in the 2016 MotoUSA shootout. No matter the weight or skill level, every test rider felt the Yamaha has the best suspension. Why? Because the KYB SSS fork is simply the best fork on any 450. Riding the Yamaha towards the end of the day, after riding all the other bikes clearly demonstrates how amazingly the Yamaha suspension and chassis work. It also exemplifies the short comings of air forks, which save some weight over a conventional spring fork, but don’t perform as well.
The top three finishers in this shootout use spring forks, and we don’t think that is coincidence. If you currently ride a bike with air forks, please don’t take offense, we just suggest not riding the KYB SSS fork, as it’s best not to know what you are missing. If all the bikes in this shootout had forks that work as well as the Yamaha’s choosing a winner would be nearly impossible.
The only grumble and gripe from testers was the Yamaha lacks the cornering confidence of some of the other bikes in the shootout. It lays over better and holds a line more consistently than the 2015 YZ450F thanks to suspension revisions, a new offset triple clamp and engine mount changes, but is still far from holding the title as the best cornering bike. Depending on track conditions, performance in the corners can be improved by sliding the forks up in the triple clamps a few millimeters and swapping out the front tire.
The Yamaha doesn’t win every category in the shootout, but the overall package, highlighted by the best stock suspension makes the 2016 Yamaha YZ450F the bike most test riders want to take home, ride and race. The excellent suspension, great handling and user friendly engine more than make up for any cornering short comings from the 2016 YZ450F, making it the 2016 MotoUSA shootout winner.
• 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
Yamaha YZ450F Suspension Settings
Low-Speed Compression: 10
High-Speed Compression: 1.25 out
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2016 450 Motocross Shootout
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 450 Motocross Shootout Conclusion