is an impressive first effort by Suzuki. Our test crew thought it was nearly a clone of the CRF450R
All three bikes performed admirably in the muddy conditions, but one bike stood out above the rest. The CRF chassis and suspension was routinely praised by our test group for their impressive agility on the track and in the trails. The 47mm inverted Showa cartridge fork soaked up big hits and braking bumps with ease, and ultimately gave our riders plenty of confidence on the track.
"The CRF feels the best," said Horban. "It's plush but it never bottoms, which is exactly what happened on the RM-Z - it was nice and plush but I blew through the travel on more than one occasion."
Honda received even more praise for its Pro-Link suspension system out back. Our test crew found the suspension soaking up ruts and bumps while still able to put power to the ground.
When it came to railing tight sections on RVMX and navigating tight and twisty trails in the woods, the CRF was the big winner because of its quick turning capabilities. The motocross specialists in our group also claim Honda's motocrosser is the most stable at high speeds, but not all in our group agreed.
"I thought the CRF was the quickest steering," said Brian Chamberlain. "But when I was charging on fast sections the front end also felt the most nervous. The 48mm Kayaba fork on the YZ450F was probably the most stable at high speeds, but it offered the slowest turn-in capabilities. The RM-Z's Showa cartridge fork was somewhere in the middle with respect to both turn-in quickness and high-speed stability."
While the Honda and RM-Z battled it out for the top position in the suspension category, the YZ450F finished just a fraction behind the competition. For 2005 Yamaha's thumper received a brand new Kayaba suspension package which includes the new Air Oil Separate System (AOSS). Compared to the suspension offered on the '04 model, the new Kayaba fork is a dream and works well in most situations.
With the exception of a poorly place hot-start button, Suzuki's RM-Z is a very good bike on the track and a pretty solid machine in the woods as well.
"The YZ450F was a little firm compared to the other two," said Harrison. "It wasn't as plush as the RM-Z or the CRF. It did a pretty good job of soaking up bumps, and I found the end of the travel only on a couple of occasions. With the RM-Z and YZ they were both good, but it felt like the CRF offered the best of both worlds."
Part of going fast on any machine is predicated on comfort, and there was collective agreement that Honda and Suzuki
both offer up comfortable and confidence-inspiring riding positions. The YZ450F's riding position was universally panned by our group for positioning the rider directly on top of the bike, which contrasts with the RM-Z and the CRF, both of which position the rider down and in the bike. Many of our riders felt like they had trouble getting up over the front of the bike.