I don’t need to tell you how big of a fan I was of last year’s YZ450F do I? It had a powerful engine character, great suspension, stable chassis and had an improved cornering ability. Yes, it could feel heavy at times and doesn't turn as sharp as a Honda, but it did A LOT of things really well. For 2019 Yamaha made only small changes on paper, but sometimes small changes make big improvements when riding on the track. I have been putting the hours on this bike since I received it over two weeks ago, just so I could give you more than a “First Impression” of this machine. Here are some key things about the 2019 Yamaha YZ450F that you NEED to know about. Oh and if you want more quality information, go click on the Podcast tab right here on keeferinctesting.com to hear even more about the bLU cRU machine.
Changes To The 2019 YZ450F: The 2019 Yamaha received increased rigidity in the axle collars, the front wheel surface area increased at the collar and axle bracket, a new shape on the rear wheel collars, stiffer suspension settings with increased damping, the seat foam stiffness has increased 16%, a tab has been added to the right side number plate and a 49 tooth rear sprocket (from a 48 tooth) has been aded to the 2019 YZ450F.
Engine: The 2019 Yamaha YZ450F engine doesn't feel much different than the 2018 version did. Why? Because the engine is the same minus the shiny new blue head cover. Need a re-fresher course on how good the Yamaha YZ450F engine is? Not a problem….Let me break it down for you right here: There is a ton of bottom end excitement with the Yamaha’s engine character. It pulls hard from bottom to mid range and allows the rider to “lug” more than any other 450 motocross machine on the market. Using third gear through corners is made easier in 2019 because it comes with a 49 tooth rear sprocket (up one tooth from 2018, so thank you Jody). Going up one tooth is something most everyone did to their 2018 YZ450F machines, so it’s nice Yamaha incorporated that for the new year. Mid to top end pull is plentiful and I would only want maybe a little more over-rev from the Yamaha (if I was going to nit pick this engine). The connection to the rear wheel is not as good as a KTM 450 SX-F, but you are getting much more excitement from the YZ450F engine than the orange machine. If you do want more connection to the rear wheel and maybe a broader power the “TP Map” is something you can install from your Yamaha Power Tuner App (more on that later in this article). Every time I get back on a Yamaha YZ450F from riding other brands of 450’s, it makes me appreciate how much power this thing has. It is fast! The only other engine that comes close to the Yamaha for bottom to mid range excitement is the Honda CRF450R.
Suspension: The best suspension on a stock production motorcycle period! Yes, better than a 2019 KX450F! The new firmer suspension settings help the pitching sensation that I felt from the 2018 YZ450F. It doesn't feel harsh by any means, but at least now the bike doesn't get a wiggle or a low feel (from the front end) when you’re coming into a corner. The fork has so much comfort on braking bumps and can take some aggressive riding as well. To me it’s a very generous blend of comfort and performance that Yamaha/KYB managed to weave into this fork. For my weight and ability I would go to a stiffer spring rate, but for a production machine this KYB SSS fork is something other manufacturers need to strive for. Out back the rear shock doesn't have that “high” feel to it as much as in year’s past and is great on acceleration chop. Out west we get a lot of square edge inside of ruts and the rear of the 2019 YZ450F settles slightly better than the 2018 version did. The stiffer valving lets the shock ride a little higher in the stroke (on acceleration), which gives me more of a planted feel when on throttle. Coming into braking bumps the shock gives the rider the freedom to hop over the bumps or go all Jeff Stanton and charge through them. The shock’s action is slightly slower feeling than last year’s bike and prevents the rear end from wallowing or bucking when trying to finesse your way through bumps.
Chassis: I am fairly tired of other testing outlets saying that the YZ450F doesn't corner. Please stop, it’s getting old! This isn’t a 2013 Yamaha YZ450F we are talking about ok? Since the 2018 machine came out, the Yamaha YZ450F corners well. No, it’s not the sharpest cornering machine out there, but then again I don’t want it to be. I want a stable machine that can get me from point A to point B in a hurry and without much movement from the chassis. The 2019 YZ450F is stable and never does anything you don’t want it to do. Yes, it will take some extra work by the rider to change direction, but it WILL do it. With the updated fork lugs and wheels spacers the new Yamaha is better at hitting the rut and sticking inside of it. I can come into a corner faster on the new 2019 machine and it will give me a planted feel better than the 2018 bike did. I get added front wheel traction and a better contact patch throughout the whole corner. You don't necessarily need to bank off of something now with the 2019 like you did with the 2018. It can turn under a blown out rut better and let’s you get on the throttle sooner. This is not a huge noticeable difference, but if you're a previous Yamaha YZ450F owner, I am confident you will be able to feel these positives fairly quickly.
Rider Triangle: I am pretty sure I was the first guy to tell Yamaha that they had a problem with their 2018 YZ450F seat foam. It was soft and you could feel the fuel tank on your butt when you dove into corners aggressively. The firmer foam feels much better and I have had zero problems with hitting the fuel tank. The firmer foam also gives me the sensation of a less wallowy feel coming out of corners. The firmer seat foam alone makes the Yamaha feel slightly lighter on the track and less clapped out. When coming off of a 2018.5 KTM/Husqvarna I can see how some people might think the Yamaha feels wide. Visually it does look that way, but once you spend a day on the Yamaha that all goes away. I don't feel like the YZ450F is wide in corners and the shrouds never catch on my legs when lifting them up through corners. The handlebar, seat to footpeg area feels good to my 6’0 frame, but I needed to go back to 2017 bar mounts to lower the bar height a little. The 2018 bar mounts are 5mm taller and I just DO NOT like that feeling of a high handlebar, especially in corners. For those of you above 6’0 you may want to keep the stock 2019 bar mounts intact.
Yamaha Power Tuner App: The easiest way to get more or less power out of your 2018 or 2019 Yamaha YZ450F is the Yamaha Power Tuner App. Simply download the app to your phone and you are able to change the fuel and ignition timing to your new blue machine. It is super easy to use and doesn't require a pilot’s license to navigate your way through. When the track gets a little slick or rough I am all about the “TP Map” that Travis Preston and his colleagues created. I have attached this map here, but you can also go to https://www.yamahamotorsports.com/motocross/pages/yamaha-power-tuner-smart-phone-app and let Yamaha guide you through everything step by step. To me Yamaha makes it’s much easier to change your bike’s power character than any other manufacturer. I personally watched all the videos on Yamaha’s website and can change my mapping at the track with zero issue.
Settings: Here are some settings that I liked on the 2019 Yamaha YZ450F. Try these out for a baseline setting for yourself:
Height: 4-5mm (5mm is standard in 2019)
Compression: Two clicks stiffer than stock
Rebound: One click slower than stock
Low Speed Compression: Stock
High Speed Compression: Stock
Rebound: Two clicks slower than stock
13 PSI front and back
TP Map (As Shown)
I went and purchased a set of Pro Taper EVO SX Race bend’s (same bend as stock, but with more damping character than stock)
Stock Muffler: You want to keep the great low end engine feel on the Yamaha 2019 YZ450F? Then don’t go slapping on an aftermarket muffler on it just yet. The stock muffler gives you that excitement and throaty engine character. Trust me when I say that I tested several mufflers and almost all of them take bottom end away from the YZ450F. Yes, most increase the mid-top end, but I really don’t need any more of that. You can do a lot with the Yamaha Power Tuner App so before you go dumping money into an aftermarket muffler, play with the app a little, don’t be lazy!
Grips: Although I like the stock grips myself most others would disagree with me. They can feel fat in your hands and most would like to go to a smaller grip feel. However as far as stock OEM grips go, the Yamaha grips are the most blister friendly compound grips out there. If Yamaha could make the grip slightly smaller they would sell more OEM grips. Does anyone even purchase stock OEM grips from their dealer? Probably not. Continue on…..
Is The 2019 Yamaha YZ450F Better Than The 2018: Small refinements make the 2019 YZ450F a better handing machine. The engine is a 2018 version, but the handing of the 2019 Yamaha makes it a 3.25 on my test rating scale (compared to a baseline 3, which is the 2018 YZ450F). Going up a quarter point on a testing sheet is considered a fairly noticeable change in the production testing world. So to me, if it was a matter of only saving a few hundred bucks between the 2018 and 2019 versions, I would gladly pay the extra few hundred on the 2019 Yamaha YZ450F.