You don’t win
friends or influence
people in the com-
petitive world of
vehicles by coast-
ing. The only prod-
ucts that can afford
to go unchanged
are those at the top
of the consumer rat-
ings charts. That is not the RM-Z450. At best, it is a pleas-
ant bike—the kind of sobriquet you hear when you are
going on a blind date. “Pleasant” means that the bike (or
the girl) has a nice personality, but isn’t a beauty queen.
For 2015, Suzuki did try to make the RM-Z450 more
appealing, but the lipstick they used was just an add-on.
The big improvements? Showa SFF TAC air forks replaced
the horrid 2014 forks, and Suzuki added a complex version
of Kawasaki’s Launch Control.
The Suzuki’s sole claim to fame is its cornering ability.
It turns like nothing else on the track. You think “inside
line” and it does it. A Suzuki can go places no other bike
would dream of. Of course, there is a price to pay for the
chassis’ quickness, and that is in the lack of high-speed
Apart from the TAC forks and razor-sharp handling,
most of the components on the 2015 RM-Z450 are in serious need of updates. The clutch is pitiful. The brakes are
inadequate. The shifting is iffy. The aesthetics are archaic.
WHAT DO WE THINK?
The 2015 RM-Z450 doesn’t have class-leading horsepower,
clutch, brakes, stability, looks or ergos, but it makes up for
some of those flaws with absolutely brilliant cornering.
Here is a brain-
teaser. Two bikes
roll down the same
assembly line. They
share identical frames,
The answer lies in the only major component that they
don’t share—the subframe/airbox unit. As amazing as it
may seem to the uninitiated, Husqvarna’s unique plastic
subframe/airbox changes both the handling and power-
band of the white bike—one for the better and the other
for the worse.
With the exception of the bolt-on rear end, everything
that is good about the orange KTM 450SXF is good about
the Husqvarna FC450, with two caveats. First, every MXA
test rider prefers the way the Husqvarna feels on the
track. It is more resilient in the corners and jumps. Why?
We think the plastic subframe mellows out the stiffness of
the chassis. Second, the exact same plastic rear end mutes
the powerband and makes the FC450 feel choked up next
to its orange brethren. Why? No air can get into the
When you clone the good parts, you also clone the bad
parts. We drill holes in the airbox cover to let the engine
breathe, bend the shift lever up, take care with the nylon
preload ring, and drop the oil height in the forks by
WHAT DO WE THINK?
We think that you can turn the Husky FC450 into an
improved KTM 450SXF with a drill bit.
This bike is all
about the powerband. Every year the
MXA wrecking crew
engineers for not
paying more attention
to problem areas—
and with every new
model year they hand
us a bike with an incredible powerband and little else.
Surprisingly, the powerband is so good that the KX450F
has been winning 450 shootouts for as long as most people can remember. But, don’t be fooled, it doesn’t win
them with its handling, weight, ergos, brakes or clutch.
For 2015, Kawasaki tried to make amends by increasing
the front brake rotor to 270mm, slipping traction control
into the ECU and going high tech with the Showa SFF
TAC air forks.
We wish we could say that the SFF Triple Air Chamber
forks are big pluses, but for the majority of buyers, they
will be a constant distraction. They need tender-loving
care. On the other hand, the new front brake is finally
capable of stopping the powerful KX450F engine. We like
the idea of traction control, especially because it does its
job without fanfare. What do we like most about the 2015
KX450F? That Kawasaki went to a self-locking nut on the
rear axle and banished the irritating cotter pin to the
The KX450F feels old-school with its jumbo girth, soft
clutch, electronic gremlins, cheap chain guide and upright
WHAT DO WE THINK?
The great engine has been joined by good brakes, but
the jury is still out on the rest of the package.
MXA RODE TEST
BITE-SIZE 2015 TESTS