NOVEMBER 2014 / DIRT BIKE 43
The transmission is okay. Shifting is a bit notchy, and the
shifter feels short (for a size- 47 boot). The ratios are excellent, though, and will help the bike’s versatility.
The new Triple Air fork is a monumental improvement
over the badly valved SFF unit from last year. The Showa
unit mirrors the factory triples in that there are three chambers that let you set pressure and balance. The right fork
leg carries the Triple Air Chamber. There are two air valves
on top that charge the inner and outer chambers of the
fork. The outside chamber is low pressure (standard setting 0– 19 psi). The inner chamber looks like a normal fork
cartridge and typically has a range of 90–190 psi. The inner
cartridge handles most the fork’s total spring force. On the
bottom there’s a piggyback chamber that is tagged the balance chamber. It pushes against the two air chambers on
top to help get the fork in motion, creating negative pressure. Basically, it helps to make the unit plusher. Almost
everyone we talked to is horrified over the continuous
need to set pressure, but, to be honest, we set it and rode.
Made an air change and rode. Went back, made a damping change and rode. Don’t overthink the design and use
it to your advantage. On the less than thrilled side, the fork
tends to ride high in the stroke and is in ‘no way’ plush.
Out back, the shock remains a strength of the RM-Z.
It’s sprung right for a 165- to 185-pound rider and does an
excellent job of tracking, biting and absorbing all kinds of
track hits without much ado. Our best numbers came when
we set the sag at 105mm. Over preload, the Z and the rear
kicks and totally jacks with the front end’s cornering teeth.
Too much sag and the cornering goes vague.
The Suzuki’s handling is magic. This machine feels 25
pounds lighter than last year, is more flickable in the air,
and corners like a lizard getting chased by a bobcat. Every
single test rider came back mouth agape at the ease of
turning, holding a line, getting to the inside line and berm-less sweepers. Kudos to the new frame, powerplant blend
and fork design. They all play a role.
The header pipe is longer, and the entire kick-start design
has been updated to a longer kick lever, new kick-gear efficiency and a redesigned decompression system.
The new Zed 450 starts very easily and has a stunning
new powerband that is smooth, strong and builds very low
before flowing into a super-competitive middle with a nice
hit on top. Overall, it’s a great motor.
Looks the same, but a new cam design, head work, exhaust
system and mapping have done wonders for the power
structure on the 450. Shifting is a bit notchy while the clutch
feel and pull are good.