Fukaya? It caught me off guard, which put a
big grin on my face. Why? Because it is what
a factory engine should feel like. Suzuki has
a package that is better than it needs to be.
Thankfully, it’s easy to detune something that
is too fast for the general public. The engine
had a very responsive and very light throttle
off the bottom. The midrange hit was smooth
yet aggressive. There was never a need, unless
I found myself in the wrong gear, to use the
clutch out of the corners. This made turning
smooth and effortless. It was actually hard
to get out of the habit of using the clutch as
much as I have been used to. Once I adapted
to the powerband, it saved time and energy.
The works RM-Z450WS had a nice pull to the
top but didn’t have much over-rev, which was
fine, as the power never fell on its face in any
part of the powerband and the weight was
kept to the rear at all times. If you didn’t want
to shift, no problem; the bike kept straight and
squatted in the rear.
The transmission was a factory-tailored four-speed unit (the 2018 Suzuki RM-Z450 production bike is a five-speed). The big power
of the engine had no problems pulling the
smooth, long gear ratios. When I rode the 2017
RM-Z450 back to back with the factory bike, I
struggled to find the right gear and abused the
clutch to find the meat of the power.
My favorite part of the bike was the updated
chassis. It felt narrow between my legs, which
made for better control. The new chassis had
the best of both worlds. It still had the turn-at-all-costs signature characteristic of Suzukis but
with an uncharacteristic stability and a planted
rear end. I heard most riders talk about how
grippy the dirt was on the track. I thought
they were crazy, because just by looking at
the track you could see it was slick and dry
in some spots. But, when I got on the bike, I
understood what they were really feeling. The
rear end stuck like glue to the hard-packed
ground. The amount of bite the rear had was
The Kayaba factory shock was perfect on
every part of the track. The forks, however,
were set up for a fast Pro. The faster I went,
the plusher the forks got, but I could only hold
the pace for a few laps before the bike started
to ride me.
I wasn’t in love with the hydraulic Magura
clutch. It had a good pull but had too much
free play for my liking. I couldn’t squeeze much
technical info about the bike from the technicians, but they did let us know how much
it weighed. The factory RM-Z450 came in at
230 pounds. But, the question is, was that 230
pounds with or without fuel, with or without
titanium and with or without one extra gear?
They wouldn’t tell me. At least we have hope
that the production RM-Z450 will come in way
below last year’s porcine 240 pounds.
Overall, this Suzuki was a breath of fresh air.
It looked better, handled better and felt lighter
than any RM-Z450 that I have ever swung a leg
over. With the production 2018 RM-Z450 getting many of the same updates as the factory
model, I hope that the factory attributes were
passed on to the production models.