Words and photos by Brendan Lutes
Video by Donn Maeda
Back in 2010, Yamaha completely changed not only the look of its popular YZ450F, but the engineering of it as well, flipping the motor around, adding Electronic Fuel Injection, and updating the chassis and suspension. It was an exciting time to be a motocross fan. It had been a long time since a company stepped out of the norm and introduced a bike that for all intents and purposes had never been seen or thought of before.
Flash forward to 2013, and although it has seen a few refinements since, it's by and large the same machine that was introduced in 2010. For 2013, Yamaha decided to take the route of less is more, only giving the bike a new white rear fender, bold new graphics, and black Yamaha-branded handlebars. But if you think about it, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Throughout the course of our testing last year, we found it to be very durable, the motor very powerful, and with the right suspension adjustments, the bike handles well enough for most riders.
ON THE TRACK
As we already mentioned, except for a white rear fender and BNGs the '13 is the same bike as last year. The first thing we noticed upon firing up the bike was just how easy it starts. While there is a lot of compression, it's not as hard to kick over as other 450s in the class and we found the bike usually fires up in only one or two kicks. Out on the track, the YZF produces excellent power. Our initial day of testing took place at Glen Helen complete with its infamously steep Mt. Saint Helens hill. Going up, the bike pulled exceptionally well, producing great power down low that continuing to pull up top. Of all the 450s we've ridden this year, the YZF is one of the fastest. As was the case for the previous years, though, was the fact that the bike produces a different exhaust note when you're riding, due in large part to the airbox being in front of the rider. It's not necessarily is a bad thing, just something you need to get used to when swinging a leg over the bike for the first time.
Perhaps the best attribute about the YZ450F is the suspension. The forks and shock are very well balanced, giving the bike a very plush feel. Off jumps the suspension does an excellent job of soaking up the landing by providing good bottoming resistance but still being plush. When entering corners, the front end doesn't dive, staying up in the sweet spot of the stroke, allowing the shock to work well to complement the front end. In most instances, the chassis does a good job, however, it isn't without a few complaints. Down rough straights, the front end feels busy and hunts around, and in turns, we found that being up over the front end allowed the bike to corner much better. It's also worth mentioning that, as a whole, the bike feels very heavy. For some bigger riders that isn't a bad thing, but smaller riders might find that the YZF feels very bulky.
WHAT WE THINK
In spite of the YZ450F being unchanged for 2013, it was a solid bike last year. It produces excellent power, has good suspension, and is nearly bulletproof. For the average guy looking for a quality 450, the YZF is an exceptional choice. As always, though, we have a lot more testing to do and this is only the first impression on one track. Check out a future issue of TransWorld Motocross for a more in-depth review.