Still strong years after the big tilt
Mass centralization was the battle cry when Yamaha
gave the motocross world a different slant back in 2010,
and the company has been refining the concept ever since
then. That was when the top end of the YZ450F was tilted
rearward and the head turned around to place the exhaust
in the rear and the intake in front. All the heaviest parts
of the motor were shifted towards the center to make the
bike more manageable. Since then, the bike’s extremely
unconventional layout has more or less become wallpaper in a class where big changes come frequently. There
was a big redesign for the YZ back in 2014, but for 2017,
the bike returns with a few somewhat invisible changes—things like different tires, a new countershaft oil seal,
recessed Dzus fasteners and so forth.
STRONG POINTS: The Yamaha has horsepower oozing
out of every pore. When you ride the bike, that fact hits
you first and hits you hard. On the dyno, it still doesn’t out-
perform the KTM or Husky, but you would never know that
from the instrumentation in your throttle hand. The power
down low is merely average, but in the upper reaches of
the rpm scale the Yamaha really takes off. When the other
bikes have peaked and start tapering off, the Yamaha
keeps going and going. Another area where the Yamaha
stands out is in suspension. The KYB SSS coil-spring fork
has become the official king of motocross suspension.
It’s the one that all the air forks use as a benchmark to
emulate. The rear suspension might also be the best in
the bunch. Yamaha has a reputation for having the most
reliable motor in the class, and we’ve even noticed that the
air filter takes longer to get dirty.
WEAK POINTS: All that power can be intimidating to
some. When you hear people say that modern 450s are
too powerful, the YZ450F is the one they are thinking of.
That’s because the motor doesn’t really stand out until you
get in the upper half of the powerband. The aggressive
power combines with an overall feel that’s big and bulky
to make the bike demanding to ride. The YZ is no feather
at 238 pounds. Despite all that talk of mass centralization,
the bike feels heavy and wide. Some riders also complain
that the front wheel doesn’t feel planted. It usually finds
traction once you open the throttle, but that takes faith.
BOTTOM LINE: Some aspects of the Yamaha are very
pro-oriented. The power and suspension are what champions are made of. For the average man, though, the YZ is
a bear. It’s a motorcycle that demands that you try harder
and doesn’t tolerate weakness.