Before we start, we have a small announcement to make. Our illustrious 12-Hour event actually fell a little short of the full 12 hours ... it was more like a 1011/42-Hour event. Heavy rains and foggy conditions (to say nothing of flattened rims and tires) cut short our riding just shy of the 11-hour mark. But we had fun, and that's what it's all about, isn't it? Actually, no, that's not what it was all about. Let's rewind
Last year when we did our big 2004 sport machine shootout (April '04), we took all the sport quads to North Carolina, where we enlisted the services of Bill Ballance and Jeremiah Jones to help with our testing. We thoroughly thrashed the machines on a closed woods course and later at an MX track to see which quad was best. That machine ended up being the Yamaha YFZ450. This year we had a much-different plan of action. We wanted to see how the machines would fare during an extended endurance test on a more-typical trail-riding type of terrain (with a little MX mixed in). We decided to follow a format similar to the 24-hour test our sister publication, Dirt Rider, has been doing for almost a decade now. This being our first time, we opted to go small and try for only 12 hours of testing.
We needed an epic venue, so we called up our buddy Quinn Lickman of Rausch Creek Motorsports Park in Tremont, Pennsylvania. He gladly offered the park as the proving ground. Its crew worked feverishly for weeks to prep for the event, and they put together a torturous trail loop for us.
Instead of inviting only two pro riders as we did last year, we invited a whole host of them; and the ones who put in a full four hours (one hour per machine) would get to vote for the winner.
Our format was to run the machines over a 13-hour period (with an hour break for routine maintenance). If a quad went down due to mechanical failure, we would make note of it and factor that in at the end of the test. Most of our problems were flat tires (and flattened rims)-and we had plenty of them. Rausch Creek has an abundance of rocks, and we estimate we hit them all.
The pro riders on our panel (in addition to our staff riders) would take each machine for a timed hour-long ride, and once the hour was up they would move on to the next quad.
The course was based loosely on the 6 Hours of ATV America event held previously at Rausch Creek. The riders began on a relatively mellow MX course (about 1 mile long) and made their way 4 miles deep into the challenging woods. It was definitely a brutal course, and it tested each stock machine to its limit. The woods course had an excellent mix of features; it was mostly fast and rocky, with some smoother sections, tight GNCC-style stuff and a few challenging hills and off-cambers. When night (and the rain) came, it all turned to mud and rocks-great fun but slow going.
A test in this format stresses not only the machines but also the riders. It's easy to say the YFZ is the best high-performance mount on the planet, but would you want to ride it for an hour on a rough course? The big question in our minds was: Would the YFZ reclaim the title, or would the different testing parameters offer up a new winner? Let's see.
#4 Yamaha YFZ450
Yamaha came in as the defending champ, but unfortunately, it went out on its shield. The potent YFZ shines in actual competition-just not in ours. More pro racers ride YFZs than any other model by a wide margin. There's a good reason, too: The YFZ, when modified, is a killer, and it can be easily tailored for all kinds of aggressive riding. GNCC pro Bill Ballance used a YFZ to capture his fifth title, and Keith Little recently wrapped up the ATVA GNC TT championship aboard his Yamaha. However, when it comes to everyday trail riding, the YFZ is uncomfortable and somewhat unforgiving.