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Alex Ray Rides The 2018 Yamaha YZ450F
I invited privateer rider Alex Ray out to test the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F last month with me at Glen Helen Raceway. When I bring a test rider out with me, I expect a lot of notes out of him or her. I want them to be very transparent on what they feel on the track (good or bad). I thought posting his notes up for you all would make an interesting piece to read. Putting pen to paper on what you feel on the track (and making it relatable) takes some time to learn and is not always easy. I wanted him to write his opinions on what the biggest differences (that he could feel) were between the 2017 YZ450F and the 2018 (since he currently rides a Yamaha YZ450F, I thought this would be a good idea). I don’t know Alex extremely well, but from what I can tell the Tennessee native is a genuinely honest, polite, nice kid that really wanted to try his hand at doing some testing. Being that I am a sucker for polite privateers, I gave him his shot with Keefer Inc. Testing. Here is A-Ray’s mostly un-edited opinions from the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F/Glen Helen introduction. -KK
This is it ! There’s no turning back now as I am blood into Keefer Inc.
Testing . I’d like to first off thank Kris and Yamaha for having me
out at Glen Helen today for the all new 2018 YZ450F. This is a
completely new bike and a lot of people, including myself have been
very anxious to hop on one of these bad boys and take it for a spin .
I’ve been riding the 2017 model YZ-F for some time now so I have a pretty
good feel for the “Yamadog” . Here is my take on the new bike in
comparison to the old bike.
Bike – 2017 YZ450F
Class – professional
Weight – 185 lbs.
On the 2017 bike the first thing I noticed was how big and wide the
bike was in the shroud/seat cockpit. It took a lot of getting used to
but over time I got a feel for it . Although the bike being big, it
handled really well and was very stable. I did not ride the 2017 with
stock suspension, but I still got a little deflection on acceleration
out of the turns at times. The bike feels a little heavy, but it’s
stuck to the ground with good traction. I personally lose the front
coming into turns at times on the current model.
This new bike seems like it’s totally redone from top to bottom and
for the most part it is! With the new slimness of the bike you can
really get a feel for it right away .
Another thing Yamaha did was lower the rear end of the bike a bit and
with that they pushed the front end of the bike out 6mm. They also went back
to a 22mm offset on the triple clamps . Me personally , I think the
22mm triple champs are too much. The bike corners really well but I
think you lose a bit of stability on the high speed sections of the
track to where you get that twitchy feeling back . Also I noticed if I
charged hard into a turn, I felt like the tires weren’t sticking very
well in the small chop . It didn’t want to settle and the bike wanted
to dance a bit with a stiffer more rigid feel . We did make a few clicker
adjustments to make the bike handle a bit better in these parts of the
track. I want to say we went 2 clicks stiffer on compression and 2 clicks slower on the rebound of the fork. On the shock, we did an eighth of a turn in on the high speed and
one click slower on the rebound. The slower 180 degree turns the bike
performed very well with no over steer or popping the front tire out
of the rut .
The current bike’s engine is very strong with good bottom end power .
It also has its negatives because the bike signs off super early forcing
me to shift more. Riding the Yamaha had a feeling like no other bike . With the air
box in the front of the motor it feels like your riding an airplane
because of the sound of the air sucking into the engine. With that,
I think the way the engine is designed gives it that torquey bottom
end power feel . One of the down falls to the engine was it had more
engine braking than other bikes I have ridden.
I personally jelled really well with the new engine feel . The
standard mapping was a very usable power with a lot of bottom or as
Keefer would say “EXCITEMENT” . For how much bottom the new Yamaha has
it is super smooth and easy to ride .
Riding this bike at Glen Helen I noticed right off the bat that second
gear feels like it pulls forever, but it doesn’t end there. When I shifted to third gear I was blown away at how well the bike just kept going and going. Yamaha made a lot of changes to the engine
with a new cylinder head, piston and also changed the angle a bit.
In my opinion all of these changes are for the better in my book .
Some clutch updates were made with the springs, plates and the
pressure plate. Doing this gives it a smoother pull and more grab out of the corners .
Didn’t ride stock suspension.
I thought the fork and shock were balanced and comfortable. I did feel like it was a little soft for me, especially landing off of jumps. On small choppy stuff the suspension was plush and allowed me to have good traction. For stock suspension I felt like it was one of the best sets of stock stuff I have ridden. Although I weigh in at 185 pounds I could still get pretty aggressive riding at Glen Helen.
2017 Electric Start:
2018 Electric Start:
I’m just going to start of by saying electric start is the bees knees!
Its an easier faster way to start your bike and not only that , we all
make mistakes with little tip overs every now and again. The new
electric start allows you to get up and going as fast as possible .
One thing that stood out to me about the electric start was that you
could start your bike in gear. I caughtmyself numerous times
reaching for the kick starter but that’s ok , I can do without that.
– Overall strong feeling of the engine.. And it’s stock!
-Electric start is bitchen
– Less engine braking than 2017
– Clutch action/feel
– Skinnier cockpit
– Slight twitchier front end
– When I weighted my outside peg and got my butt on the edge of the
seat , I could feel the gas tank on my butt bone.
– Side number plates will pop out for more aggressive riders.
– Front fender look