mid-stroke. The more I twisted the throttle, the more
I realized how slow the engine felt. It had no hit. But,
after overshooting a few corners, I realized the smooth,
linear powerband was deceiving. I was going faster than
I thought I was. This kind of power was incredibly easy
to ride. It almost felt like it had traction control. For a
few laps I cased or over-jumped every jump on the track.
I admit to doing a few of the unfamiliar jumps with my
eyes closed and fingers crossed. When the 48mm Kayaba
factory air forks hit the mid-stroke, the damping ramped
up enough for me not to bottom out, ever. I was shocked.
The forks were the best of both worlds—soft when I
wanted it and stiff when I needed it. The rear shock
worked in harmony with the forks. It held up well in its
stroke without much movement, and the ride height had
a stinkbug feel, even though I weigh more than Romain.
It didn’t shimmy at speed, and it turned on a dime, so I
felt it was a win-win, even though it felt weird.
WHEN I WAS DONE TESTING
ROMAIN FEBVRE’S WORKS
YAMAHA, I REALIZED THAT THIS
BIKE WAS NOTHING LIKE ANY
FACTORY 450 I HAD EVER RIDDEN
BEFORE. IT WAS ALSO UNLIKE ANY
YZ450F I HAD TESTED.
Once I got used to the seat hump, which was way
forward on the bike, and the sweptback bars, I realized
my turn-in was much better into corners. The bike went
where I wanted to go with ease. I started to ride the
track as if the kickers and bumps weren’t there. The bike
did all the work underneath me. I even forgot about the
massive amount of play in the throttle. It might have
actually helped me avoid whiskey throttle, as the pull
was incredibly easy.
When I was done testing Romain Febvre’s works
Yamaha, I realized that this bike was nothing like any
factory 450 I had ever ridden before. It was also unlike
any YZ450F I had tested. The bike still had the wide feel
at the tank, but everything else felt much different from
a standard YZ450F. It was a bike that virtually anyone
could ride—maybe not as fast as Romain, but faster than
an American team’s YZ450F or a production bike.
Maybe if I had been born in France my Pro career
would have gone on without the financial hardships and
injuries. I might have been more willing to break the
mold of how a bike should be set up. Romain Febvre’s
setup was everything people want in a bike, even though
it felt strange at first. Are American Pro riders heading
in the wrong direction? Are America’s steep jump faces
and longer flights more demanding? Is there a better way
to set up a bike than what we have fallen into? I understand that bike setup is a matter of personal preference,
but Romain Febvre’s YZ450FM is the best factory 450
I have ever ridden hands down. Could a guy like Ryan
Dungey win on Romain’s bike? Of course. Ryan could win