The 2019 450 MX Shootout has officially taken the checkered flag. After three days of testing, over 100 pages of testing notes, 16 test riders, countless engine hours racked up, and over seven hours of testing information sent to your ears (via podcast) we finally have a winner. The results changed dramatically from last year’s shootout and for 2019 the top five were all miserably close for each test rider. The tracks we chose to test at were also chosen by four out of the six manufacturers to evaluate their production machines before we got our hands on them. These tracks provided deep, loamy soil conditions in the morning that turned hard pack and slick towards the end of the afternoon. We feel these were the best tracks (combined with the prep that was performed) brought out each machines strengths and weaknesses. In doing this we feel the information gathered was the most accurate we could offer (from the west coast) from an evaluation standpoint. Below are the final rankings and a brief evaluation summary that were tallied up by using an olympic style scoring. If you want to hear more about each bike and get a much broader breakdown of each machine, click on the podcast tab to listen to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast Presented By Fly Racing And Race Tech right now!
First Place: Yamaha YZ450F
The Yamaha YZ450F won because it provided the riders with the most comfortable suspension, an easy to ride engine character, and a new found planted cornering ability. The small changes that Yamaha made did make a big difference out on the track. It’s also one of only a couple bikes that can use third gear through corners an get you out in a hurry. “Recovery Time” on this engine is impeccable and forgives riders when they make mistakes when shifting too early. Testers agreed that the YZ450F is much more confidence inspiring than that of the 2018 version through corners (cornering stability). It split wins/days with the Kawasaki, but the Yamaha had nine “individual test rider opinion wins” throughout the shootout that tipped the scales in its favor. Small changes on paper equals big changes out on the track for 2019. Congratulations Yamaha!
Second Place: Kawasaki KX450
The most improved machine in the 2019 450 MX Shootout belongs to Team Green. The KX450 won the first day of the shootout and was a favorite of most testers throughout the week. The chassis is well behaved and can be pushed hard by the rider without it doing anything out of the ordinary. The lightweight feeling of the KX450 is noticed immediately around the track and the free-feeling engine character makes it a very fun/playful bike to ride. With four “individual test rider opinion wins” it was the only other bike in the shootout to keep the Yamaha honest. Kudos to Kawasaki for making a great first year/generation KX450. That is not easy to do!
Third Place: Husqvarna FC450
The Husqvarna FC450 is one of the most connected throttle to rear wheel bikes in this year’s shootout. There is so much traction that it is deceiving to some testers to figure out how much throttle to give, to clear obstacles immediately out of corners. It doesn’t feel or sound like the Husqvarna is really hauling ass down the track, but you end up over jumping certain jumps at times because the FC450 is hooking up so well. All of the riders preferred the black throttle cam on the Husqvarna/KTM for more a snappier/quicker RPM response. The WP suspension isn’t holding this bike back as much as it did in year’s past and leaning it over in corners is made easy with its lightweight feel. The Husqvarna fell down the ranking because riders did want a little more throttle response in deeper conditions (even with the black throttle cam installed). The FC450 was one of only three machines to score more than one “individual test rider win”.
Fourth Place: KTM 450SX-F
The KTM 450SX-F has more bottom end and RPM response than the Husqvarna, but lacked some compliance/comfort when the track got choppy and rough. The KTM still feels lightweight through corners and gives riders, that lack cornering technique, more confidence through ruts. The Neken handlebar is a little more rigid than that of the Pro Taper bar that is on the Husqvarna and that doesn’t help on slap down landings. The engine character is smooth and linear thus helping/forcing riders carry more speed through corners. The WP/AER front fork lacks some small bump absorption, but once you break through that initial part of the travel, it is quite nice. The KTM 450 SX-F is one of my favorite bikes to ride with some minimal modifications done to it. The is how close all of these bikes really are! A little massaging here and there can make a fourth place bike a first place machine.
Fifth place: Honda CRF450R
Ride Red. No Wing No Prayer. The Honda CRF450R has the fastest feeling engine character in the shootout. If you’re looking to get from point A to point B in a hurry, the Honda’s engine will oblige. As fast as the CRF450R is, it still feels connected to the rear wheel without much loss of traction, but the rigidity balance is what hurt it the most. When the track gets hard packed and rougher, the Honda suffers from lack of stability. The front end gets a little twitchy and can be difficult to ride fast when track conditions get worse. The suspension has a lot of comfort, but that comfort needs to come from the frame more, in order to be a shootout winner. Riders did like the on-the-fly handlebar mounted map switch and its three modes. Each mode has a completely unique feel to it unlike other machines where switching maps didn’t make a “huge” difference.
Sixth place: Suzuki RM-Z450
The Suzuki RM-Z450 is the best looking bike out of the bunch. However, looks alone couldn’t get the Suzuki up the charts in 2019, but the zook has improved slightly since last year. The BFRC shock still unloads (kicks) off throttle, which causes the rider to have a lot of pitching coming into corners. Most riders didn’t mind the engine’s delivery, but just wanted more from the powerplant (especially on deep tilled tracks). The white coupler was almost unanimously used by all riders which helps “wake up” the bottom to mid range, but the Suzuki still signs off too quickly up top. The cornering of the RM-Z450 is still great, but other machines are as good, if not better than the Suzuki for 2019. This bike would be great for a rider who wants to spend less money and still have a good bike to go race/ride on the weekends. Small modifications can really help the Suzuki become a better machine. In fact, we will be doing a project 2019 RM-Z450 this year, so stay tuned!
If you have any questions about the shootout please feel free to email me at kris @keeferinctesting.com. As usual we have an open door policy over here and love to bullshit about dirt bikes. If you see me at the track, come over and say hey!