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By: Jason Giacchino

Yamaha Motorsports

2009 Yamaha YFZ450R Yamaha Ups the Ante in the 450 Class

Continued from page 1...



The Trails

Trail conditions were dry and slightly loose with the requisite rolling dust clouds forming in tight corners and hard acceleration efforts. The YFZ fired up with a tap of the e-start button with a steady exhaust note fairly reminiscent to a stock Suzuki LTR450. Fuel injection seemed spot on from idle to the very upper-most reaches of the power band. Clutch pull was light and lively with only a smooth mechanical clunk indicating that the shifter had been stepped down into first gear.

Acceleration was actually a bit surprising to our testers who expected a rather violent “explosion” off the line. Instead, the YFZ450R launches with an authoritative torquey low-end until about ¼ throttle. The revs build quickly from there on in--so much so that it’s possible to break the rear tires free even when approaching the top end of each gear. However, steady throttle application proved both efficient and rewarding.

Ergonomically, the YFZ450R feels much more track-oriented than the model it replaces. Seating position is “on top of” rather than “inside-of” the machine with a bar reach that encourages an elbows-out attack stance. The saddle is motorcycle-thin where it joins with the fuel tank and contributes to a sense that the entire front section of the ATV is narrow. Aside from the front tires, which are regulation 50 inches in width, the nose-section (including frame) contributes a definite sense of compactness to the rider. View of the terrain ahead is very uninhibited thanks to that upright riding position mentioned and a thin front section.

Considering Yamaha’s race-ready approach with the YFZ-R, it does deliver a pretty stiff ride on the trails out of the box. Our lighter test rider (155-lbs.) felt comfortable going five clicks out (from full stiff) on the rebound, five clicks out on the high-speed compression, and five clicks out on the low-speed. The factory preload felt correct for the trail conditions and wasn’t tampered with during our test period.



Comparing the suspension to that of the standard YFZ450 immediately reveals much beefier components physically. The R equipment looks massive in person; a trait that is only further confirmed when bouncing on the seat reveals absolutely no movement of the shocks.

Blitzing across the hilly trails of Gorman revealed a machine that tracked a very clean line even when off-cambers did their best to unbalance it. It didn’t matter whether we encountered a slightly uneven section of trail or knee-deep square-faced whoops, the YFZ450R couldn’t be swayed from its line. In fact the machine seemed actually to behave better the harder we pushed it! Credited for the tighter feel (and lack of slack in the handling department) is Yamaha’s all new weld-less frame which makes use of fasteners equipped to deal with massive stress loads at the key junctions where welding is known to weaken aluminum.

Handling is typical MX setup, which means that cornering, lightening the front, and scrubbing speed are all accomplished with the rear wheels. Power delivery is snappy and instantaneous enough to make small throttle blips more than enough to power through a whoop section or unweight the front end to clear a fallen branch or unexpected rain washout.

About the biggest complaint we could muster on the trails is that with an overall width of 49 inches, the YFZ450R is too wide to be a legitimate cross-country machine (a shame considering how smooth and effective the motor proved to be). Perhaps Yamaha will follow in the footsteps of KTM and Can-Am by releasing the model in race-specific trim options.

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