Take-off: Yamaha’s launch control button is borrowed, but
their take on how launch control works is unique.
On the binders: Yamaha has stepped out of the Fred
Flintstone era of front brakes with a 270mm rotor.
A: You bet. Compared to the forks on the Kawasaki,
Honda, KTM, Suzuki and Husqvarna, the box-stock
Kayaba SSS forks are “works” forks. They are so much
better than the new breed of air forks that it’s no contest.
But air forks have two major advantages over Kayaba SSS
forks: (1) Air forks cost the manufacturers a lot less to
purchase. Why are they cheaper? They don’t have expensive coil springs. They only have parts-intensive valving in
one leg instead of two. And, they are easier to assemble
at the factory. Unfortunately, while they may be cheaper
to produce and install at the factory, the consumer price
does not reflect the cost savings. ( 2) Air forks are lighter
than Kayaba SSS forks. How much lighter? Two pounds
(based on the fact that there are no coil springs and one
fork leg is effectively an empty tube filled with air).
How long can Yamaha’s R&D department ignore the
weight and dollar savings just to spec the best forks on
the track? We hope they turn a blind eye to air forks for
a long time.
Q: HOW DOES THE 2016 YZ450F HANDLE?
A: At first we didn’t notice any major improvements
in the way the Yamaha cornered. It was still vague at tip-in and tended to push on flat corners. But, we had faith
that the changes that the Yamaha engineers made would
pay dividends. We decided that we couldn’t rely on our
previous setup information and decided to take a different approach to the 2016 YZ450F. So, we started from
scratch and worked our way through the possibilities.
In the end we slid the forks up in the clamps to
steepen the head angle and to put more weight on the
front wheel. We swapped the stock Dunlop MX52 for
an MX32—a good front tire that civilizes the YZ450F at
tip-in. We changed the rear sag from 100mm to 103mm.
We turned the high-speed compression out a half turn
to help the rear settle a little more under load. We went
to a longer shock linkage to lower the rear of the bike
even more. And, we added a tooth to get us to third gear
sooner, which helped calm the chassis compared to rattle
canning it into every corner in second gear. These fixes
helped make the YZ450F do what we wanted it to.
We don’t blame any rider who has issues with the way
the YZ feels on the entrance to flat or sweeping turns. It
can be awkward-feeling, and we have been critical of the
front-end response of the YZ450F since 2007. Any rider
with a handful of tools and an afternoon of riding time
can nibble away at the loose feeling with incremental
adjustments, but there are concerns. In stock trim, it feels
too tall in the rear. It gives the false impression that it’s
overly wide at the radiators, probably because it flares
out from very thin to its widest point in a short distance.
It isn’t flat enough for our tastes. And given the new
direction set by the KTM 450SXF, it is too heavy at 238
pounds without gas (that is 11 pounds more than the
227-pound KTM and 5 pounds more than the CRF450).
Q: WHAT DID WE HATE
A: The hate list:
(1) Yama-thumb. When the stock market settles
down, invest in a company that makes grip donuts.
( 2) Dzus fasteners. We expected the annoying Dzus
fasteners to be gone this year. They are a good idea
gone bad. The two fasteners on the sides of the gas
tank fall out—or rip your pants and then fall out. The
quick fix is to put tape over them, but we remove the
D-rings—and use a screwdriver to remove the bolts
when we need to get into the airbox.
( 3) Gearing. Experiment with a 49 for your local track.
Power shift: New cams give the YZ450F better throttle
response from low-to-mid, but peak power is the same.