Ability: B Class (Turned Desk Jockey)
Years Riding: 15
Weight: 160 lb.
Personal Rides: 2018 KTM 350 SX-F and 2015 KTM 250SX
Yamaha YZ450F: Coming into this test I have never really been a fan of Yamahas as I felt they were wide and hard to turn on… this bike changed my mind. Initially sitting on this bike was the least comfortable, the seat dips low and the shrouds come out very wide. After taking some laps to get used to the wider feel of this bike I began to very much enjoy it. It does not feel heavy and is fun to throw around. Motor wise it speaks for itself the power hits hard and keeps on coming. As for the suspension, it was my stand out favorite, it felt plush everywhere and settled into ruts great when you lay it over. I put this bike as number one, I was very surprised at how good it felt to ride. I would want one in my garage.
Husqvarna FC450: Similar to the KTM I felt right at home on this bike and with the slightly wider seat and composite subframe it removes some of the rigidity that the KTM has giving it a better feel. Power wise it is not as hard hitting as the KTM which I prefer as it is a more controllable power band. It has the same fork as the KTM so it was also good but again I was unable to find the plush feeling I wanted and the front end felt vauge at times. I ranked this bike in the same category as the Kawasaki and KTM but give it a slight edge on the two.
Kawasaki KX450: This bike is in my top tier for sure. The biggest thing that made me appreciate this KX is how well it corners. It had an extremely stable feel in ruts to where I never felt like I was fighting the bike, it never wanted to wash out and never wanted to stand itself up–all while feeling like such a stable bike. That made it a little harder to throw around when I wanted to. The motor was lacking the snap of some of the other bike but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as I never felt myself in a situation where I was needing more. The addition of the hydraulic clutch was also something I appreciated very much. Overall this was one of my top bikes as it was very comfortable and rideable.
KTM 450SX: Being a long time KTM rider, this motorcycle was the one that I immediately felt the most comfortable on. The chassis really fits my riding style well. Ergonomically this and the Husky were the most comfortable to me with the Husky taking a slight edge. The bike feels light making it very easy to throw around and switch direction quickly on. This motor hit the most aggressive for me, which is fun to have but at some times can become a little much to handle. The suspension uses the best air fork I’ve ridden, but after chasing settings it always seemed to lack the plush feeling of the Yamaha and Kawasaki. Overall I would rank this bike right with the Kawasaki but for completely different reasons.
Suzuki RM-Z450: With the bad reputation that this bike gets I was very eager to try it out and see for myself. After riding it I feel it deserves more love than what it gets. Right off the bat the bike was pretty stiff and rigid but after making it a decent bit softer (4-5 clicks) it settled into corners much better and became much more rideable. The motor was for sure lacking in the power department but riding hard packed cupped out Glen Helen at the end of the day I felt this bike easy to ride smoothly and in control. While I would rank this bike lower than the KTM and Kawasaki it is overall still a very good package if you’re willing to work to get it setup correctly.
Honda CRF450R: The Honda took me a little bit to get the hang of but once I figured it out it was fun to ride. This is not a bike you can ride lazily on, it likes to be ridden with some aggression. The fork is harsh off the top and this bike needs to be told where to go, but when you tell it where to go it goes there. This motor was similar to the Yamaha as it had lots of power that just kept coming, yet harder to ride using higher gears/lower rpms. This bike is not really my cup of tea as these days I enjoy riding something I don’t have to ride super hard. So for that reason I would rank it more near the Suzuki. If you are somebody who rides with high energy and like to push a bike to its limits, this would be a bike that better suits you.