2020 Yamaha YZ450F In Depth First Ride

For 2020, Yamaha is the only manufacturer to have any significant changes done to their 450cc motocross machine. With over 15 updated engine components, over 10 chassis components, and a suspension valving makeover Yamaha wasn't resting on their 2019 450 Shootout success. If there was one 2020 450 motocross bike that I was anxious to ride, this bike right here takes the cake. I was anxious to feel the changes Yamaha made out on the track, but also nervous because quite frankly I didn't want them to screw up an already great machine. In this “11 Things” I will break down all of the “feels” that I experienced while riding the 2020 Yamaha YZ450F. If you want to know more about the exact changes Yamaha made to the YZ450F, click here: https://www.keeferinctesting.com/latest-news-1/2019/6/4/yamaha-announces-full-lineup-of-2020nbspmotocross-bikes


Engine: So what exactly are you getting with the 2020 Yamaha YZ450F engine? Compared to the 2019 you’re getting a more connected rear wheel feel out of corners and more RPM response. I don’t feel like you're necessarily getting more bottom end pulling power, but the initial crack of the throttle is improved (almost too much, but more on that in the ECU portion) right when you get ready to stab that throttle (anywhere in the RPM range). Where I felt most of the improvements were through mid range-top end pulling power. The difference in “meat” through the mid-range once out of corners is impressive. We talk about third gear a lot in these tests and how important that gear is to the rider. If third gear is not useable in corners, it’s tough to ride smooth and forces the rider to be more active on the bike, which could result in getting more tired more quickly. The Yamaha has more mid-range pulling power, which allows you to use third gear through corners even easier in 2020. Usually you will have to fan the clutch a little to get the engine to recover and get back into the upper RPM range, but with the 2020 YZ450F you can just roll on the throttle and it will start pulling you down the track immediately. Top end pulls farther in second and third gears for 2020 and will not sign off as much as the 2019 YZ450F does. Even though a 450 shouldn't be revved out, let’s be real, sometimes we are lazy and DO NOT have perfect riding technique, so it’s nice to leave it in second gear and use that gear all the way to the next corner. It happens right? This new engine character helps you do that better without sounding like Justin Barcia at Southwick. In a nutshell the 2020 engine in fact has more power with most of it being more controlled to the rear wheel. 

Engine Free Feeling: The improvements that the Yamaha made in this category warranted its own category. I mentioned to the R&D guys at Yamaha how much free-er second gear felt as the 2020 YZ450F didn't have near as much engine braking as the 2019 did. With the previous 2019 engine, the engine braking was apparent on grabby/heavy dirt, but with the 2020 engine refinements, second gear feels less tight and puts less force on the front wheel off-throttle. This helps the suspension settle coming into corners and that improvement alone helps the 2020 YZ450F corner better/more efficiently.

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Chassis: The 2020 YZ450F feels stiffer around the track. However don’t get scared off by the word “stiff”. It’s not rigid by any means, but just has a stiffer feel and not a wallowy sensation. Let’s go over this a little…The chassis is softer near the front of the machine and on the downtubes. The engine cradle tube thickness has been beefed up for increased rigidity as well as an engine mount material/shape change to help get this year’s YZ450F more planted. Now I am not going to sit here and tell you that this bike is a cornering dream and the changes that Yamaha made make this bike a class leading carver, but what it did gain is cornering stability as well as predictability through those corners. Gone is the hinged feeling near the rear of the bike when leaning under throttle through sweepers. The new Yamaha feels more planted under throttle while leaning through fast rougher corners (AKA sweepers). Straight line stability is still intact from 2019, but now has a slightly lighter initial lean in coming into tight corners. I didn't experience any added mid corner front end traction with the 2020 (maybe because of the MX33 front tire), but corner exits are improved as the 2020 YZ450F stayed leaned over easier at the end of corners. I do feel when the track gets rough the 2020 Yamaha is easier to push your limits, but just like with any performance gains you will lose a little comfort if riding around at 80% of your ability compared to the 2019. This new chassis will reward a rider that pushes harder and wants to go faster when the track gets rougher. Think GH @ 4:30.   


Suspension: The stiffer setting that Yamaha went to amazingly still has more comfort than any other suspension out there for 2020. I mean I guess it shouldn't be a shock, but I am wired to think if I go stiffer, my comfort sensation on the track might go down. For 2020, the comfort that you've grown accustomed to with the KYB SSS/Yamaha suspension is still there! Even though both ends have more hold up and less pitching I still ended up going stiffer on my settings. I felt like under throttle out of corners the rear of the bike (shock) was too low and I was getting a harsh mid stroke feel. Going in one click stiffer on the low speed compression as well as in (stiffer) on the high speed compression a quarter turn will help with hold up. I also wanted to calm the rear of the bike down on braking bumps so I made a huge change to the rebound just to see how the YZ450F took it and to my surprise it really liked a slower shock setting, so don’t be scared to go as much as three clicks in (slower) on the rebound. Again, for 2020, Yamaha’s goal was to increase performance as well as comfort and they somehow weaved both seamlessly together for a no fuss suspension spec that I think will please a wide range of riders.   

Brakes: Remember the top 5 mods to the 2019 YZ450F article? One of those mods was installing a Brembo front brake system on the Yamaha. Just FYI, for 2020, I don’t think I will be going that direction. Yamaha went with a new caliper with an increased piston size, a more rigid caliper body, a larger surface area on the brake pads with a higher friction material, as well as a front disc that also has 16% more surface area. The new Nissin front brake is not as strong as a Brembo, but it’s much more powerful than the 2019 system by far. The somewhat mushy front brake lever feel is now gone and now you will be getting more power at the lever. I didn't have to pull the front brake lever in nearly as far as the 2019 lever, so make sure to prepare yourself before grabbing a finger full. On more than one occasion I grabbed too much lever and almost washed the front end out because it can be a little touchier than last year’s front brake. If you feel like it may be too touchy simply adjust it in towards the throttle and this helps tremendously. It’s nice to have a strong front brake to the Yamaha as it makes charging into corners that much easier. I also approve of the new 240mm rear disc size (from 245mm in 2019) for 2020. Kawasaki has a 250mm rear disc, but it’s so grabby that your braking points coming into corners gets all screwed up. No one needs 250mm of rear disc. Bigger is not ALWAYS better and in this case the smaller diameter rear disc is easier to modulate your braking. 

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Rider Triangle: Simply put, I don’t like the changes Yamaha made to the 2020 handlebar position. I do like the 5mm lower mounts (2017 mount height), but the 16.5mm forward position in 2020 is just too much for my 6’0 frame. Yamaha wanted to get the rider to more forward on the bike for 2020 and although they achieved that, my riding position/technique suffered. I had more leverage on the bike when I was in the 2019 position and could feel the front tire more when leaning. With the 2020 position I couldn't get enough leverage down on the front end to push the front end down when I needed to. The 2020 position bent my elbows too much when sitting and caused my arms to be less relaxed, which forced me to have the wrong grip with my hands on the bars. Putting the mounts back to the original rear hole/forward mount position let me corner better and gain more control over the Yamaha. I will say when standing the 2020 setting of the forward hole/rear facing mount was more comfortable because it put my upper body in more relaxed position. Find out what works best for you and what area of the track is most important to your technique (for you to be the most comfortable and stick with that setting). 

20mm Taller Seat: Matthes and I tried an optional 20mm taller seat and I actually liked it. I am usually not a taller seat kind of guy, but I liked that there wasn't as much of a pocket as the stock foam shape. With the 20mm taller seat you obviously sit more on top of the YZ450F instead of inside it and to me that helped with the transition from sitting to standing. I think of David Vuillemin every time I seat bounce a jump and it pisses me off. In that case I might invest in one of these suckers to try out, so he stops yelling at me inside of my head while riding. Yamaha Accessories Division will be offering this optional seat to purchase. 

ECU Settings/Engine Maps: The new on-the-fly handlebar mounted map button on the 2020 YZ450F is a welcome addition. I thought the added RPM response down low of the stock/standard map was too touchy for me through corners. I liked the “stock” map for longer/faster/softer tracks, but for everything else I used the TP 3.0 map, Keefer 1, and Exciting Power Character (all attached) maps the most. The TP 3.0 builds more RPM’s a little smoother/slower, but is super connected and the most easiest to ride. The “Keefer 1” map has a little more RPM hit initially, but still uses that smoothness of the TP 3.0 pulling out of corners. Finally, the “Exciting Power Character” uses that smooth roll on of the TP 3.0 down low, but has more RPM excitement through the mid range power. I thought the 2020 YZ450F’s chassis performed the best with the TP 3.0 as it didn't upset the YZ450F chassis as much rolling through mid corner. Try these and let us know what you think! 


Dunlop MX33 Tires: I immediately went home and put one of my trusty Dunlop MX3S front tires on this bike to see if it improves cornering! WOW! Even thought Dunlop doesn't make this front tire now, I still feel like the 3S helps the Yamaha’s initial lean and turn in. The 3S makes the Yamaha easier to cut underneath a blown out rut and has a more comfortable carcass feel on bumps. The 33 front tire is better than the 3S later in the corner, but to me I really need that initial lean in feel to help predict my corner. If you’re a front end steering rider you may not like this front tire feel as it may feel vague/pushy, but don’t blame it on the YZ450F yet. Scour the earth for a Dunlop MX3S (there still out there somewhere) or try a Pirelli MX32 if you want some better lean in angle traction. 

Setting Up In The Air While Starting A Lean Angle: I found that one area that the YZ450F is weak is when you’re setting up in the air, to get on the throttle to start a lean, the YZ450F feels heavy/vague once the suspension loads/unloads. Unlike a KTM or Husqvarna where they feel planted when landing off a jump while leaning, under that lean angle the Yamaha takes longer to regain a full traction/planted feel. I am able to continue my lean angle that I started in the air, land that way, and get on the gas immediately with the KTM/Husqvarna. This is something that may not be felt by most of you without riding other bikes back to back, but it’s something that I noticed almost immediately when riding the same track with a few different bikes. 

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2019 VS. 2020: I feel that going from a 2019 to a 2020 YZ450F is a more noticeable difference for the better than going from a 2017-2018 YZ450F. Most of the changes that Yamaha made to the 2020 YZ450F are for the better and will help a wide range of riders become faster as well as give the rider a more predictable feel around the track. I always get the question “Is it worth it for me to get a 2020 over a 2019”? My answer to you is “yes, it’s worth it this year”. If the difference is a couple grand and you’re able to get the wife to sign off on it, then go with the 2020 because there is a lot of noticeable positive differences that will increase your fun factor when moto'ing. 

To get more settings info and more in depth talk about the 2020 Yamaha YZ450F listen to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast and/or Pulp MX’s podcast with Ryan Lockhart. 

Top 5 Mods For The 2019 Yamaha YZ450F

Not everyone wants to “add” parts to their new dirt bikes, which is fine, but for those that must tinker, we put together a “Top 5” must haves that we would recommend. We will be doing these “Top 5” articles with all of the new 450F/250F machines and will be splitting the information up between pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com. These mods are recommended, by us, through countless hours of testing. If you don’t find a specific aftermarket company that you prefer in this article, don't fret, email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com and we can talk it out like adults should. Again, we will not push something on you unless we know it works. These mods that are in this article simply work for this specific machine. 


1. Fire Power Battery: The stock Yamaha YZ450F battery is a problem. It doesn't like to start in gear and if you do try to start it in gear for too long the battery will drain quickly. I have had countless emails sent to me about Yamaha batteries and the only thing I can tell you guys is go with an aftermarket lithium ion battery. I have been using Fire Power batteries in my Yamaha’s and they all have been great. Not to mention that they are lighter than stock, so losing some weight doesn't hurt. For around $125.00, it’s a fairly inexpensive way to prevent you from being stranded at the moto track with a dead battery. 


2. GUTS RACING Stiff Seat Foam And Gripper Seat Cover: Yes, we know Yamaha made some stiffer changes to the foam for 2019, but once the foam breaks down a little we are back in 2018 all over again and hitting the fuel tank when slamming into ruts. Going to a GUTS stiffer foam does wonders from smacking your butt bone into the fuel cell that lies underneath you. Does be scared off by the word “stiff” as the GUTS foam is stiffer, but not so bad where you will be getting monkey butt. I go with the standard stiff foam and not the phantom foam as I like the feel of the standard stiff foam more. While you’re at it go with a gripper seat cover and prevent your rear end from sliding under acceleration. The stock Yamaha seat is slippery after about 20 hours and will not hold you in place from that explosive Yamaha 450 power.  


3. Heavy Duty Chain: Like most stock chains the Yamaha chain will stretch and be smoked before the 8 hour mark, so get a good high quality heavy duty D.I.D. 520 ERT2 Gold chain. If you don’t mind the weight and the drag of an o-ring chain that is also a great choice. 


4. FMF 4.1 Full Muffler System: I am not going to sit here and tell you that you NEED an aftermarket muffler for the 2019 YZ450F, because you don’t. The stock muffler is so good on this bike that it’s not something you will need right away. However, I know most of you have A.D.D. when it comes to putting shit on your bike, so I will recommend a muffler that I had some help in testing recently. I helped George at FMF come up with a different setting inside the muffler (or core) of this system to create some more back pressure, in order to keep the bottom end that the stock system has. The FMF 4.1 system knocks off almost two full pounds of weight, retains the stock bottom end power, increases the mid range and top end, and will only lose minimal over-rev. I have tried a ton of aftermarket mufflers for the YZ450F and all of them lose bottom end. Not this one…  



5. Front Brake: The Yamaha front brake is not the best of the bunch when it comes to stopping power, but there is a modification you can do to make it insanely good (besides just throwing an oversize rotor on). If you want increased stopping power without the grabby feel, purchase an older Yamaha caliper (that used a bigger piston/part number shown) and an older KTM Brembo master cylinder (part number shown) while using your current 2019 YZ450F brake line and feel the magic coming into corners. You will be able to brake later and modulate the front brake better in shallow ruts than you can with the current front brake. This set up is also much more linear and less grabby than just throwing on an oversize front rotor as well. Just make sure to purchase the stock KTM banjo bolts and use your current 2019 YZ450F front brake carrier along with the current brake pad clip..  

2019 Yamaha YZ450F Review


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. 


Updated wheel spacers for 2019. 

Updated wheel spacers for 2019. 

Updated wheel spacers for 2019. 

Updated wheel spacers for 2019. 


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



Sag: 105mm

Low Speed Compression: Stock

High Speed Compression: Stock

Rebound: Two clicks slower than stock


Tire Pressure:

13 PSI front and back


ECU Setting: 

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.  







2018 Yamaha YZ450F First Ride Impression


2018 Yamaha YZ450F First Ride Impression 

The long awaited 2018 Yamaha YZ450F media introduction was at Glen Helen Raceway Wednesday and I got to burn A LOT of laps around the facility (so I could give you all some initial feedback). Yamaha introduced this 2018 beauty to us a couple months ago and the bike is completely new (but you can use your existing 2017 wheels if you want). The MSRP has increased $500.00 ($9,199.00) for 2018, but you’re getting more with the new bike than you were with the 2017 version. If you want to hear more about the 2018 YZ450F you can listen to the “Keefer Tested” podcast that is up now on pulpmx.com, iTunes, keeferinctesting.com and Stitcher. After I get back from Loretta’s look for more testing info on the 2018 YZ450F. In the meantime below is what the 2018 feels like in contrast to the 2017 machine.



Engine: The 2018 YZ450F’s engine is tilted more forward in 2018 and has a host of changes internally for increased power output (you can go to https://www.keeferinctesting.com/motocross-testing/2017/6/11/first-look-at-the-2018-yamaha-yz450f to see what those changes are. The engine character has a more of a free feeling (less engine braking) than the 2017 version. The 2017’s engine braking was heavier, but the 2018’s engine has less off that drag on de-cel. Which in return gives the bike a better ride attitude coming into corners. The bottom end is snappy and comes on strong (yet smoother than the 2017) and chugs into a very meaty mid range that pulls farther than the 2017. If you’re not careful the mid range pull can get away from you (while in third gear) accelerating out of corners, because that's how hooked up the 2018 gets! Top end is lengthened (farther pull) and has slightly more over-rev than the 2017. It is not as smooth on low end as the 2017.5 KTM 450 SX-F, but not as snappy as the 2018 CRF450R. It is somewhere in the middle. I feel like Yamaha did a great job of improving the engine to an already impressive character. When doing this they made it easier for me to ride aggressively. 


With the changes Yamaha made it's easier to maneuver when the track gets hammered. 

With the changes Yamaha made it's easier to maneuver when the track gets hammered. 

Suspension: The suspension feels much like the 2017 and moves in the stroke a lot. However this movement doesn't have as near the amount of pitching like the older YZ450F does. The fork still has good comfort over braking bumps, but has slightly more deflection on small acceleration chop (which is more of a chassis feel, but more on that later). I stiffened the fork up two clicks and slowed the rebound down one click and this helped calm the fork down on light bump absorption. When accelerating out of corners the fork can deflect when high in the stroke, but this setting change helped this feeling. The fork height is set flush from the factory and I didn't feel the need to move the fork from that setting at Glen Helen. The shock needs to have a sag setting between 100-102mm similar to the 2017 setting. However the rear of the 2018 does not have that stink bug feel to it like the 2017. Coming into corners the rear of the Yamaha has a better ride attitude (lower feeling on de-cel) and will not push (or overpower) the front end near as much as the older bike. The shock is a little soft like the fork (at the end of the stroke), but still has remained comfortable on acceleration chop. I did go 1/8 of a turn stiffer on high speed compression to help keep the rear end up on jump landings and steep faces. I feel like the suspension has a wider range of adjustability to maximize the comfort for a wide range of riders. I had Alex Ray testing with me and while he's a good 20 pounds heavier than me, he found a comfortable setting to go fast on. 


No this is NOT Travis Preston! But...... We did put his number on our test bike, so he could see what his bike would look like with a rider who could actually scrub. 

No this is NOT Travis Preston! But...... We did put his number on our test bike, so he could see what his bike would look like with a rider who could actually scrub. 

Chassis/Handling: The 2018 chassis feeling is much different than the 2017. The 2018 YZ450F corners much easier and feels lighter on “tip in” (entrance of corners). Mid corner push that last year’s bike had is not as apparent with the new frame. The front end sticks through corners and will not give the rider as much vague feeling. The Yamaha doesn't want to stand up on you mid corner and will give you confidence charging into corners like Travis Preston (you're welcome TP for the compliment). The downside to the new chassis is the stiffer feel it can bring on straight line stability. The front head tube area has a little stiffer feel on acceleration (hence the fork deflection) and gives the rider less of a tire contact patch (only on acceleration). It feels like the front end is not firmly planted when on throttle and dancesaround a little more than the 2017. Off throttle the front tire has good grip and doesn't deflect as much. This stiffer 2018 feeling is exactly the opposite of the 2017 Yamaha YZ450F. I would say with a little more suspension set up I could get rid of most of that feeling, so I will tinker. We complained about cornering with the Yamaha for years right? Well…. They listened and now we might have to adapt to a slightly less stable straight line chassis feel to get that cornering feel that we wanted.  


Ergonomics: The 2018 is much slimmer when riding and easier to get farther forward on. I can move farther up on the seat and not have the shroud area hinder my leg movements in corners. The fat feeling shroud area is minimized and will not freak previous Honda or Kawasaki owners out there when deciding to move to this Yamaha for 2018. The middle part of the YZ450F (frame) is narrower and you are able to feel that when whipping the bike over jumps. The word “Flickable” is used a lot in the testing world and the Yamaha has more of it in 2018. The taller bar mounts take a little time to get used to, but the handlebar is the same bend/shape, so if you're a shorter rider (5’9 or below) just roll your bars back a little to compensate for the bar mount height if it bothers you. 


The Yamaha is slimmer in the shroud area for 2018. . 

The Yamaha is slimmer in the shroud area for 2018. . 

Other Tidbits: When I can get an e-start without making the bike feel like a hog on the track I am all in! The 2018 Yamaha’s e-start battery only weighs 1.5 pounds and doesn't require the rider to pull in the clutch. It cranks over fairly easy and makes stopping to talk to your homies in the pits much easier in the summer time. You can download the Yamaha Power Tuner app to your phone and make your 2018 Yamaha YZ450F’s engine character tailored made for you. There are three pre-programmed maps already on the app, but you are able to fine tune your fuel and ignition parameters to your liking. Having someone hack into your machine should not be a problem because its a password set account just like your home’s wi-fi connection. It’s also cool that you are able to share/text your personal map to your buddies, so they can try what you came up with as well. I went with a stronger bottom to mid map (shown in this article) and this helped me carry third gear more through corners. I felt like I was in between gears on some tighter corners, so I wanted more grunt on low to mid range. By adding some fuel and advancing the ignition a little I was able to use third gear around 75% of the track at Glen Helen, which made the bike even easier to ride. Work smarter not harder. 


Try this map for increased bottom to mid range. 

Try this map for increased bottom to mid range. 

The flat blue color the rims are good looking and lighter than last year’s design. If you don’t like them than you can always go with the white/cyan colored Yamaha with BLACK rims! They are reported to be stronger than last year’s stockers, so I will be testing this in the upcoming weeks! 

So when do they arrive in dealers? I spoke with two Yamaha employees and both told me they didn't have a firm date yet, but most likely dealers will see them in 2-3 weeks time. The MSRP is $9,199.00. That is $500.00 more than the 2017. If there is one thing I strongly didn't like about the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F it is the seat. The seat foam is soft and I can feel the seat base when I am leaning through a corner hard. The corner of the seat’s foam is soft and the seat base and gas tank area (near seat) hit my butt bone and is uncomfortable during a long moto. I am going to try a firmer foam ASAP. The airbox cover is so easy to take off. There is one dzus fastener that holds it on and then it pops off. The air filter is held on by two clips that makes removal ten times easier. The airbox/intake noise is similar to last year’s, so for those that are used to it will not know any change in sound. 


The flat blue rims grow on you and look so much better in person.

The flat blue rims grow on you and look so much better in person.


Wrapping it Up: So what’s the verdict? I have only had one day on the 2018 Yamaha, but from what it feels like it’s a better YZ450F. The chassis feels stiffer, but that makes for a better cornering blue bike that we haven't seen in….Well……Ever Right?….. I am going to be playing around and tinkering in the coming weeks so stay tuned for continual updates on keeferinctesting.com and pulpmx.com



If you have any questions about this test you can email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com. Don’t freak out if I don’t get back to you right away, I have a wife that requires quality time and I must give that to her so I don't end up divorced! Cheers! -KK