Back On Blue
Story by Ryan Nitzen, Photos by Trevor Hunter and Scott Hoffman
The 2019 Yamaha YZ450F heads to the starting gate with minor yet some very noticeable and noteworthy changes from its predecessor. The 2018 model boasted a complete redesign with an all-new frame, engine, and body work. The compact, bilateral beam aluminum frame, electric start, and Power Tuner App were apparent changes from 18, but we were curious just how much the bLU cRU could improve their flagship machine.
Here’s a breakdown of the new changes for the 2019 YZ450F:
- Updated stiffer suspension settings for improved overall feel and improve traction
- Redesigned front fork lugs/axle brackets for improved rigidity and front-end feel
- Redesigned front and rear wheel collars for improved feeling of traction
- Updated starter system to reduce drag and horsepower loss
- Increased seat foam density
- Blue valvetrain cover
- Yamaha added one tooth to the rear sprocket
The Yamaha YZ450F might be one of the most unique rides in its class. This year’s machine carries over the rearward slanted cylinder design, wrap-around exhaust, and forward mounted intake system. And Yamaha still holds the crown for the best and only bike/engine management App in the business, this alone holds a $200-$400 value compared to the competition.
The Yamaha suspension is some of the best right out of the box. We rode this bike at Cahuilla Creek Mx, a fast and sandy track with natural elevation gains and some fairly large jumps. The KYB SSS Coil Spring Forks paired nicely with the KYB Rear Shock and offered a plush yet planted feel everywhere on the track. The YZ450F seemed to slice its way around on the long downhill jumps, fast sweeping turns, and even the tight inside ruts.
On the track this bike had a unique balance, where steering with the rear end was nearly as easy as steering with the front end. In the loamy outsides we could ride the rear of the bike and let the raw power do the work, but the bike still felt nimble enough to carve its way through the tight insides. We ran 105mm of sag and for our 180lb 450B rider, the only clicker change we made was softening up the compression in the forks one click to make the front end a little more plush in the smaller chop. Even after the change, it was still stiff enough to handle the large jumps and even over jumping a few of the big jumps.
On the downhills, the suspension ate up the braking bumps and allowed our riders to attack the track in areas that would normally cause fatigue. The compact frame and updated suspension settings gelled seamlessly with the redesigned fork lugs and axle brackets, a noticeable change from the previous model. These small updates made big confidence gains in every area of the track.
The power of the Yamaha is strong yet smooth and seemed to have usable pull in every RPM range. The engine offers a blend of low end torque with plenty of hit to pull riders out of the corner with a longer feeling top end compared to previous years. The bike comes standard with a 49 tooth rear sprocket and allows the power to spool up quicker and come out of the hole with more aggression. None of our riders felt like they were overshifting the new YZF as the gears felt evenly spaced and able to rev throughout the RPM range. This bike has the top end speed for those long fast straights, but still packs a punch when coming out of the tight insides.
The cockpit on the 2019 is comfortable and easily adaptable right out of the box. The Taper style oversized bar complement the rider triangle nicely with the popular Yamaha OEM footpegs, some of our favorite in the class. Yamaha also offers four-way adjustable bar positions via the clamps and bar mounts
Clutch pull was effortless and didn’t cause any noticeable fatigue or arm pump during our motos and shifting through the gearbox on the new Yamaha is smooth and simple, just as you’d want from a heavyweight 450 contender. The 270mm front brake rotor provided plenty of stopping power on the steep hills of Cahuilla made a nice pairing with the waved rear disc.
The overall power and the variety of maps that are offered from the YZ450F are very user friendly and seemed to be a rider favorite for our moto, off-road, and vet riders. The three engine maps offer unique power curves for loamy / aggressive, hard packed / smooth, and standard riding conditions. In addition, with last year’s introduction of the Yamaha Power Tuner App that connects directly to the bike, making mapping changes is easier than ever.
We were able to switch back and forth between a few different maps with ease and were even able to make finite adjustments to the fuel injection and ignition timing. As the day grew on and the track changed, our riders were able to dial in their unique setup to accommodate for the different track conditions and personal preferences.
After starting the day on the standard and loamy maps, we switched to the hard packed / smooth map as the track began to wear out. We were pleasantly surprised at the usability of the power in this map and how easily we were able to feel comfortable on some the roughest conditions of the day.
Our smaller 155lb test rider preferred the hard packed / smooth map as it tamed down the initial hit and made the power more linear resulting in an easier to manage and controllable motor package. Our 450 rider also ran the bike in the smooth map for much of the day as he found it easier to control the power, making for a fast yet enjoyable ride.
While a change in seat foam density may not seem like a hot topic, it was one of the more noticed changes by all of our riders. Yamaha claims the seat is 16% denser than the ‘18 model, but on the track it feels like 50%. After riding the ‘18 and ‘19 bikes back to back our riders noticed the 2018 seat created a feeling of sitting “in” the bike where as the 2019 seat created a feeling of sitting “on” the bike. With the softer, trail bike esque seat of the 2018 YZF, the seat body can be felt in bumpy corners, or when trying to lean the bike over. The updated version allows easier cornering and makes the bike’s handling feel sharper all around. This is one of the major touchpoints between rider and machine and we think it was one of the most recognizable changes for the 2019 YZ450F.
One thing to note about Yamaha is their commitment to racing and supporting their bLU cRU riders. At all the major AMA Amatuer Motocross races, Yamaha offers factory level services to the average racer, helping with parts and mechanical services to keep the YZ’s on the track and headed to the victorYZone. Additionally, joining the bLU cRU results in contingency eligibility at quite a few races ranging from Supercross to Loretta Lynn’s to Big6 and everything in between.
Yamaha’s flagship model is available for $9,299 in both the Team Yamaha Blue and also the White/Cyan and the bike is hitting showroom floors as we type.