2019 450cc Motocross Comparison Opinions: Trevor Hunter

Trevor Hunter

Age: 19

Ability: Off-Road Expert/Pro

Years Riding: 15

Height: 5’7″

Weight: 155 lb.

Personal Rides: 2011 Yamaha YZ250, 2019 KTM 250XC

Just to preface my opinions, I’m not much of a 450 rider. I’m on the smaller side and I currently ride/race 250cc two-strokes as I don’t feel the need to have all the power that modern day 450cc MXer puts out. However, after spending two full days riding every 450 on two completely opposite tracks, Milestone MX and Glen Helen Raceway, I’ve become accustomed to the characteristics and the power these 450’s have and I’ve come to the conclusion, like many others, that any of these motorcycles are more than capable of fulfilling my needs. Some may be closer than others, but I still feel that I can ride any of these bikes comfortably with more time to setup and possibly some minor upgrades.

The bLU cRU, along with the other OEM’s, were a big help in expediting the setup process as we had to quickly jump from bike-to-bike.

While I can’t say that I have an official “winner,” my top two bikes are the Yamaha YZ450F and Husqvarna FC450. Additionally, in a very, very close third was Kawasaki’s all new KX450. The KTM was a relatively close fourth place while the Honda and Suzuki together brought up the rear in my ranking. However, as I said before, I feel all of these bikes are capable of being winners with just a little more seat time and fine tuning to really dial these bikes in.

 

Yamaha YZ450F: I’ve practically grown up on blue since the time I hopped on an 85cc minicycle all the way to my jump to a YZ250; however, I’ve never been a fan of the bLU cRU’s flagship model – the YZ450F. In the past, it has always felt big and heavy with way too strong of a motor for my taste. For 2019, the YZ jumps right to the top of my list alongside the Husky. In stock trim, the KYB suspension feels just about perfect – nice and plush on top with a good, progressive dampening throughout the stroke. I’m not too aggressive when I jump on a 450 so having the comfort is important to me. Another big bonus with the YZF is having the Power Tuner App. After I installed a mellower map, I instantly felt comfortable with the fast yet controllable motor which moved the YZF from a close second to a tie for first. The ergo’s are familiar to me and I didn’t have any issues with anything in that department. Additionally, its scale weight certainly doesn’t translate to how it feels on the track. Stable yet still agile, the Yamaha does everything very well.

 

GH | Milestone (Stock)

Fork:

C: 10 | 11 (9)

R: 13 | 13 (13)

Fork Height: STK

Shock:

Race Sag: 104mm

R: 13 | 13 (13)

C: 10 | 11 (10)

HSC 1 ½ | 1 ½ (1 ¼ )

 

Husqvarna FC450: The Husky is right up with the Yamaha for some of the same reasons. The suspension/chassis is very comforting and feels plush for a 450. Additionally, the motor is very strong, yet I always felt in control. I preferred riding in Map 2 with the Traction Control on as it mellowed out the initial hit while coming alive in the mid-top to not completely drag down the motor. Similar to the Yamaha, Husqvarna’s overall package just feels comforting rather than aggressive and harsh – something faster and bigger riders might be looking for. Additionally, the FC turns pretty good (top 3) and feels light and agile.

 

GH | Milestone (Stock)

Fork:

C: 15 | 16 (15)

R: 15 | 15 (15)

Fork Height: STK

Air Pressure: STK (10.5 Bar)

Shock:

Race Sag: 104mm

R: 15| 18 (15)

C: 16 | 15 (15)

HSC 2 ¼ | 2 ¼ (2)

The ALL NEW KX was this close to making it a three way tie for the win in my picks.

Kawasaki KX450: In a very close third is Kawi’s new KX450. The KX450 motor has a strong, linear pull all the way through the rev range. While it may not be the most exciting engine in the class, it has a lot of useable power that’s easy to control and easy to ride fast. Additionally, the bike turns very well while still keeping stability at high speeds. What kept the KX from lining up with the top two bikes is the suspension and its on-track weight. While it doesn’t feel too heavy, it doesn’t feel quite as light as the Husky and YZ and I wasn’t able to get the suspension feeling quite as good as the YZ. The fork had some blow through on a rough Glen Helen afternoon and I couldn’t get it to work great without feeling some harshness. While it still worked good, it wasn’t great like the YZ suspension.

 

GH | Milestone (Stock)

Fork:

C: 11 | 14 (14)

R: 12 | 12 (12)

Fork Height: STK | 5mm Exposed

Shock

Race Sag: 105mm

R: STK

C: STK

HSC: 1 ½  | 1 ¼ ( 1 ¼)

While I slotted the Husky into my top two, the KTM lacked a little comfort for my small frame.

The Lone Soldier – KTM 450 SX-F: The KTM was a surprise for me. I had big expectations for it coming in and was looking forward to swinging a leg over it. However, I struggled to find comfort with this bike. On day one at Milestone MX, the bike felt very harsh whereas the Husky provided more comfort. We messed with the clickers and while it helped with the harshness, it never completely went away. On day two at Glen Helen, most of that harshness went away but there was still some lingering in the chassis. Additionally, the motor is a bit too aggressive for me. I also ran this bike in Map 2 with Traction Control on to mellow out the bottom end; however, it was still too much motor for me. Although the bike turns well, the snappy and powerful engine makes it hard to control at times and can upset the bike for me. Overall, the KTM felt the lightest and the thinnest by far but is a little too aggressive of a package for my liking.

 

GH | Milestone (Stock)

Fork:

C: 16 | 18 (15)

R: 15 | 15 (15)

Fork Height: STK

Air Pressure: STK (10.5 Bar)

Shock:

Race Sag: 105mm

R: 15 | 17 (15)

C: 14 | 14 (13)

HSC 2 ¼ | 2 ¼ (2)

 

Suzuki RM-Z450: While the Suzuki may not be at the top of my list, it’s still a good bike that does most everything well. Nothing is glaringly great or bad on the RM-Z. The motor is definitely the slowest in the class, but I actually enjoyed it quite a bit as it was very easy to ride and allowed me to ride the  much more aggressive. The suspension may be the weakest link, it was very stiff initially and overall just felt harsh and unforgiving. To me, it’s the ultimate Vet track bike. I initially rode it on the Milestone vet track in between watering sessions and I had a blast. Where the suspension isn’t critical and you don’t need an aggressive engine package, the Suzuki is a winner. On top of that, the Suzuki turns very well making cornering much more enjoyable for those of us who can’t corner. Also, did the E-Start get lost in shipping?

 

GH | Milestone (Stock)

Fork:

C: 12 | 13

R: 12  | 11 (11)

Fork Height: STK

Shock:

Race Sag: 108mm

R: 1 | 1 ¼ (1)

C: 2 | 2 (1 ½)

HSC: N/A  

The Honda was on the aggressive side on all accounts and didn’t fulfill my wants unlike some of the other testers.

Honda CRF450R: The Honda was very hard to get along with for me. If I had to describe it in one word, I would have to say that it’s aggressive. The engine has more than enough power at all times and was a bit hard to ride, even in the mellow map. The throttle response is good and the engine feels lively, but I struggled to hang on.. Additionally, the suspension was a bit stiff and harsh for me as well. Similarly, the ergonomics of the bike just felt like they were off and only added to the uncomfortability – although I did try to look past it as a set of handlebars are an easy and inexpensive swap.  

 

GH | Milestone (Stock)

Fork:

C: 11 | 14 (11)

R: 12 | 12 (12)

Fork Height: STK

Shock:

Race Sag: 105mm

R: 7 | 10 (7)

C: 11 | 12 (10)

HSC 3 ½ | 3 ½ (3 ⅜)

 

Overall, any of these bikes are capable of being a well tuned machine with either more seat time to get a proper setup or just a little money for some customization.There isn’t one bike in this test that I believe isn’t capable of being a comfortable fit for my riding style and preferences which goes to show how good all of the 2019 450cc motocrossers are.