Words, photos, and video by Brendan Lutes
Here at TransWorld Motocross, we've become fans of the Suzuki RM-Z450. It's fast, handles very well, and on top of that, it looks cool. It's also a bike that since 2008--the year that Suzuki first launched Electronic Fuel Injection--has only seen minor refinements to get to the current 2013 model.
For our initial impression, Suzuki invited us up to the Yoshimura Suzuki factory Supercross test track in Corona, California. It was so tight, though, that for the most part, our ability to fully put the bike through its paces was limited. With that being said, we will be taking delivery of the machine next week and will then begin testing it at more familiar tracks around Southern California. But for now, take a look at the new changes and find out what our initial thoughts were.
Since the first introduction of EFI on the '08 RM-Z450, the bike has seen suspension, motor, and chassis refinements throughout the years, and for 2013 it's much of the same again. Rather than completely start from scratch with a brand new machine, Suzuki has decided to go for focused, calculated changes to the new '13 RM-Z. For this year, the biggest change is the new Showa Separate Function Fork. SFF forks have been on other manufacturer's bikes for the past couple of years, however, Suzuki has decided to wait to outfit its bikes with it. The latest generation SFF fork is bigger than the first generation--47mm to 48mm--and is said to provide better rider feedback and less flex than the previous generation SFF. The forks on the RM-Z450 are tuned specifically for the machine and the shock and linkage also received updates to work harmoniously with the new forks. The chassis on the RM-Z450 also got some changes in the frame and seat rails to help optimize chassis rigidity and improve handling. As for the motor, Suzuki actually made quite a few refinements to it to help improve mid-range hit and power. Highlighting the changes are a new 13-percent lighter piston, modified intake cam timing, and a new muffler design that not only adds power, but also helps alleviate noise.
ON THE TRACK:
Out on the track, the new RM-Z450 initially feels much like last year's bike; it's very comfortable, fast, and handles remarkable well. The new motor updates, however, have added to the mid-range torque, allowing the bike to get up to speed out of corners and hit jumps immediately after with ease. Carrying over from the past few years, the 2013 machine also has different ignition coupler choices available that are easy to swap out to change the power characteristics of the bike. While the track was too tight to really get a feel for the top-end pull of the machine, we can say that it did feel fast. And down the longest straight on the track, the bike never signed off.
The biggest change on the bike--and the one that we were most anxious about--was the SFF fork. After only a few laps, it quickly became evident that Suzuki had done its homework with this fork. Not only does it perform well, but it also doesn't feel different that a tradition fork. On the jump-filled track we tested on, even our professional level tester commented that the entire suspension package was much stiffer than he had anticipated. But while stiff, it didn't react poorly off jumps or small chop, as it soaked up hits with a progressive feel that was initially soft but led into a stiffer bottoming-resistant feel.
We can't go through this test without commenting on the fit and finish of the RM-Z450. As it has for the past few years, the bike again comes equipped with Renthal Fatbars, Excel rims, and is basically race-ready right off the showroom floor. On the tight Supercross-style track, we also noticed that the brakes worked really well, and the clutch never faded--as if we really needed it much, though.
WHAT WE THINK:
While we have only put a very limited amount of time on the RM-Z450 on a track that was difficult to truly see how the bike performed, we can say that the new machine seems to be right on par with last year's bike if not better. And with the improvements done to the motor, suspension, and chassis, there is no doubt in our minds that the RM-Z450 will be a frontrunner in the annual TransWorld Motocross 450cc Four-stroke Shootout this year. The bike is fast, handles well, and is reliable. Don't forget to check out an upcoming issue of TransWorld Motocross, though, for a more in-depth review on the new bike. We have a lot more testing to do.