Four-Wheelin’ Is A Good Feelin’

The Staff of TransWorld Motocross Does It on All Fours

If you’ve paid any attention at all to past issues of TransWorld Motocross, you’ll know that I had a not-so-spectacular start in off-road riding on not two, but three wheels. Yes, boys and girls, my first motorized vehicle was not a motocross bike; it was a three-wheeler. My older brother Ross affectionately called my trike a “chair,” since it didn’t require a stand and could be used as furniture when not being ridden. I raced my trusty three wheelers for several years before the CPSC killed them with their high-danger reports, and elected to follow in my brother’s steps and ride a motocross bike instead.

That said, I never really got to ride the next big craze: four wheelers! Quads were lame, in my opinion. When they first came out and race promoters combined the three- and four-wheelers in the same race classes, I was aghast. Only a goon would ride a quad! What, they couldn’t do it on three wheels, so they needed four? My opinion of quads wasn’t helped much when I got beat by a girl quad racer at Ascot Park one Friday night.

Yeah, that’s right, a girl named Shannon Smith waxed me on her Suzuki Quad Racer, and all I could do was watch helplessly as she and her spectacular-looking rear end disappeared into the distance on her number 13 Suzuki. A few months later, I watched Shannon finish second in a half-time Quad Racer exhibition race at the Los Angeles Coliseum Supercross, beating all but one of the sport’s pro heroes. I didn’t feel so bad after seeing that, but years later when I actually became friends with Shannon, she sure liked to rub in the fact that she had left me and my pathetic three-wheeler in the dust back in the day…

But that was then, and this is now! A few days ago, Yamaha’s PR guru Terry Beal left me an interesting voice mail. “Donny! Beal here. June 11th, LACR, Quad Wars! Don’t laugh, just come!” he said. In spite of his instructions, I did laugh. Surely he had me mistaken with an editor of Third and Fourth Grade Action Magazine. Lo and behold, however, Beal did want TWMX to attend a press launch of the Yamaha YFZ450, the first high-performance production race quad offered by a Japanese manufacturer since Suzuki stopped production of the Quad Racer 250 in 1987.

[IMAGE 1]

Now, I’m no expert on the subject of ATV racing, but from what I understand, racing a quad in the years since the LT250’s demise in ’87 required you to either, A: continually rebuild and restore an old production Suzuki Quad Racer or Honda TRX250, or B: build a custom quad by utilizing a motocross bike engine and slapping it into a totally custom chassis. While both options sound pricey, the latter can run upwards of $15,000!

Sure, our reaction to the 2004 Yamaha YFZ450’s arrival is lukewarm, but you can bet your pants that there are quad lovers everywhere jumping for joy! For comparison’s sake, Yamaha expects to sell over 15,000 of these babies at $6,799 a pop, while the Yamaha YZ250F motocross bike (the best selling YZ motocrosser) will account for only 6,200 unit sales. Wow: double the wheels, and double the sales!

The power plant of the YFZ450 is the same one that Tim Ferry, Did Vuillemin and Heath Voss race on motocross tracks across the country. Well, I understand that it has been sleeved down to just under 440cc, because that is the size designation in some of the more popular quad racing classes…

The engine is where the similarities end. Knowing well that Garth and I would be complete goons on the high-performance quads, we invited former three- and four-wheel racing legend Donnie Luce to tag along. Nowadays, Luce is a big wig at White Brothers and we didn’t really expect him to sneak out of the office to spend a day tooling around on quads with us, but he accepted our invitation like a kid on Christmas morning and showed up eager and ready to ride. Donnie looked spectacular on the YFZ, and came away with lots of good things to say about the quad. He tried to offer feedback to Garth and I at the track, but his descriptions of how the quad’s independent front suspension worked and the chassis’ ability to slide through corners flew over our heads like complex calculus equations. That said, we asked the Quad God to put pen to paper and compose a 200-word summarization of his day, for use in this very web report. The following is what Mr. Luce submitted:

How do you turn down an opportunity to get out of the office and ride the most highly anticipated model of the year—maybe the decade—before it’s released? You simply don’t! I arrived at LACR for my 8:30 test session to an ATV enthusiast’s “Field of Dreams.” It is clear that Yamaha had the mentality of “build it and they will come,” because it is very evident that they where shooting for a much higher level with this new model.

[IMAGE 2]

The heart of the new vehicle is a very powerful four-stroke powerplant that is very easy to ride. The YFZ450 has a very forgiving powerband that allows you to either rev it or short shift it. This in itself makes the quad easily adaptable to your particular riding style or lack thereof. In addition to the stock vehicle, we had an opportunity to try a high-performance version that had an aftermarket GYT-R exhaust system bolted on, the air box lid removed and the carburetor rejetted for maximum performance. This combination yielded an even broader and more forgiving powerband over stock without sacrificing performance anywhere.

The new rear tires do an excellent job of putting the power to the ground, while the suspension gives you the confidence to push the limits of your ability. Just ask Donn or Garth, as they where even seen doing a few of the doubles. Overall, I would say that this is an incredible production vehicle that is going to help another generation of riders take it to the next level at a more economical price. They have clearly got you in the ballpark and the rest is up to you.

The bar has clearly been raised.

Donnie Luce

So there you have it, and opinion of a qualified quad rider. Garth and I, meanwhile, had a blast trying to ride the things, but we looked like goons as we struggled to negotiate the LACR motocross course on the four-wheelers. Let me say that manhandling a YZ450F motocross bike is one thing, but having that much power on a quad, being controlled by a thumb throttle no less, is horrifying! Though Garth and I did succeed at clearing some of the double jumps on the track, neither of us looked at home on the YFZ. In fact, Garth cased the crap out of one of the doubles when he twisted the stationary right ride grip at the last minute instead of stabbing the thumb throttle lever.

There were some sections of the track where I actually found myself feeling at home on the YFZ and tried to step it up while staying within my personal comfort level, but as soon as my arch rival Terry Beal pulled onto the course, all that went out the window. See, World Famous Terry Beal and I have a long history of battling with one another at new bike press introductions. Though he is far less stylish and skilled than I on a motorcycle, he sometimes does amazing things on a YZ and has given me a run for my money on a few occasions.

For years now, Beal has taunted me, inviting me to attend various ATV or snowmobile press junkets, knowing well that he is more skilled on the different machines than I. “Come snowmobiling,” he once said. “Let’s kick some ice!”

But back to the Quad Wars at hand. The temptation of feeding Terry a sand spray sandwich of epic proportions on my YFZ was too good to pass up, and I tossed my better judgement aside and gave chase. Surprisingly, Beal looked just as goofy on a quad, but something was different: he was fast! I could barely believe it as Beal covered my helmet, goggles, face and upper body with quad spray from the rear tires of his YFZ. My neck began to hurt as I looked skyward to catch a glimpse of him launching the four wheeler into the air, and the stone-cold reality quickly set in: Beal had me completely covered — both literally and figuratively. I was a muddy mess as I retreated into the Yamaha semi, defeated and deflated. Quickly, I rummaged though the stack of snacks they had in the hospitality area, anxious to find something sweet to eat, hoping to rid myself of the bitter taste of defeat that penetrated my very soul.

I spent that night scouring eBay for a “Four Wheelin’ is a Good Feelin'” T-shirt to present to Beal the next time I see him, but I had no luck. Maybe I’ll just head down to the local iron-on stand at the mall and have a custom shirt made: “Beal + YFZ450 = victory. Twice the wheels, twice the speed.”

Oh, I almost forgot! Click the link of the right for some video footage of not one, but two motocross heroes in action on the Yamaha YFZ450: gazillion-time Vet and Four-Stroke World Champion Doug Dubach, and Yamaha R&D rider Dustin Nelson.

rld Famous Terry Beal and I have a long history of battling with one another at new bike press introductions. Though he is far less stylish and skilled than I on a motorcycle, he sometimes does amazing things on a YZ and has given me a run for my money on a few occasions.

For years now, Beal has taunted me, inviting me to attend various ATV or snowmobile press junkets, knowing well that he is more skilled on the different machines than I. “Come snowmobiling,” he once said. “Let’s kick some ice!”

But back to the Quad Wars at hand. The temptation of feeding Terry a sand spray sandwich of epic proportions on my YFZ was too good to pass up, and I tossed my better judgement aside and gave chase. Surprisingly, Beal looked just as goofy on a quad, but something was different: he was fast! I could barely believe it as Beal covered my helmet, goggles, face and upper body with quad spray from the rear tires of his YFZ. My neck began to hurt as I looked skyward to catch a glimpse of him launching the four wheeler into the air, and the stone-cold reality quickly set in: Beal had me completely covered — both literally and figuratively. I was a muddy mess as I retreated into the Yamaha semi, defeated and deflated. Quickly, I rummaged though the stack of snacks they had in the hospitality area, anxious to find something sweet to eat, hoping to rid myself of the bitter taste of defeat that penetrated my very soul.

I spent that night scouring eBay for a “Four Wheelin’ is a Good Feelin'” T-shirt to present to Beal the next time I see him, but I had no luck. Maybe I’ll just head down to the local iron-on stand at the mall and have a custom shirt made: “Beal + YFZ450 = victory. Twice the wheels, twice the speed.”

Oh, I almost forgot! Click the link of the right for some video footage of not one, but two motocross heroes in action on the Yamaha YFZ450: gazillion-time Vet and Four-Stroke World Champion Doug Dubach, and Yamaha R&D rider Dustin Nelson.