"Customers wanted an aggressive...
"Customers wanted an aggressive trail machine with all the performance of a pro-level racer."
In the suspension department, there is no mistaking that the engineers at Yamaha spent countless hours figuring out what worked the best. The end result is a front and rear end that is nearly 50 inches wide and provides 9.8 inches of travel in the front and 11 inches in the rear. The front A-arms are a total of 17.29 inches long each, which is an increase of 2.65 inches over the old YFZ, and the new frame features a narrower upper and lower rail so the pivot mounts are closer together for increased travel. The wide arc design of the arms also increases ground clearance for when you travel through treacherous terrain.
The front shocks are brand-new KYB units that are fully adjustable, and when put next to the old YFZ shocks makes them look like miniatures. The new shocks are 63.5mm longer and have an 18mm longer stroke, 8mm larger diameter body, a 1.5mm larger shaft and hold 157cc more shock oil than the previous YFZ. What all of these numbers mean is that these are some insane shocks compared to anything else on the market. Additional features of the new shocks are the Kashima coating for smoother action and the full adjustability, which include high- and low-speed compression damping.
At the rear end of the quad, there have been some upgrades as well. Like the front shocks, the rear is a KYB unit that has all of the same features as the fronts and offers great handling to match. The rear swingarm is cast aluminum like previous years but has been lengthened by 15mm for improved handling and acceleration characteristics. All of these numbers equal a very tunable suspension for every type of rider from moto to trail. To help put the power to the ground, 21-inch front and 20-inch rear Dunlop tires were mounted and give adequate ground clearance for trail riders. These features make for a very versatile machine.
In the ergonomics department, Yamaha engineers wanted riders to feel comfortable as well. This starts at the steering stem where the rider has the option of four bar positions. Along with the adjustability of the bar, the levers feature adjustability in the way of an on-the-fly adjustable clutch perch and adjustable front brake lever. The footpegs on the new machine are 65mm wide and feature a kick-up at the ends for improved traction and increased maneuverability. And last but not least for the final creature comforts, the seat has a new design that's narrow in the front for the rider to comfortably move around while possessing a wide back for cushion in rough corners. The seat combined with padded sidepanels decreases the amount of abuse riders go through when aggressively riding.
All of these numbers sound impressive and truly do mean a lot when talking about the technical aspects of the quad, but nothing really expresses how well this machine works without a little time in the saddle. Yamaha shuttled us to two areas to discover just how well the YFZ450R performed on both trails and the track. Our first day consisted of the fast fire roads, sand washes and twisty hardpack trails of the Hungry Valley OHV area in Gorman, California. Day two would have us making the trek to Los Angeles County Raceway's motocross complex where we had a beautifully groomed MX track that consisted of whoops, huge ski jumps, elevation changes and fast sweeping turns. Every element you could want to test a machine in was at our disposal, and we took full advantage of it.