2020 Suzuki RM-Z450: Riding Impression, Revisited
Photos: Donnie Bales (TheWhiskyThrottleShow), Scott Hoffman
Test Riders: Dustin Hoffman, Scott Hoffman
Knowing the 2020 RM-Z450 had not changed, we wanted to spend more time on the 450 which some often place on the bottom of their list. DBT has always said this is not a bad motorcycle by any means, especially if you look at what they sell for in most states. In totally stock form it might not be the best compared to the competition but it’s plenty capable and powerful for 90 percent of riders and racers. DBT test riders had no real major issues with the bike other than some setup and the chassis felt a little firm. When the bike is ridden by itself for a few days, most riders find a comfort zone on the RMZ pretty quick and like the bike for the most part.
The Suzuki has great ergonomics and handles and turns amazing. It does feel a little heavier compared to the Orange and White brands but when you get the setup dialed, the chassis is very stable. Some agree that setup is what often differentiates brand-to-brand as well as personal preferences. Some of us believe if Suzuki did a little more R&D and refined several small components for example (triple clamps, possibly axles, motor mounts, linkage, suspension valving and higher compression piston), they could be right there in the hunt or at least closer. Just look at what Yamaha has done with their chassis the last few years with small items such as axle spacers, axle wall thickness, upper triple clamps, and motor mounts. The good thing is most of these components can easily be attained via the aftermarket industry and most core riders or racers make a slew of changes on even the best bikes. If this were an off-road bike, I would say not having electric start is a real Achilles heel, however for moto, a few kicks a day is not a total deal breaker.
In stock form the RMZ rides too high in the rear and requires sag numbers in the 110mm range and maybe more depending on the rider. The shock works ok but needs more rebound control in some situations. The fork is a little soft but when you turn in the compression it gets too firm on small bumps. Even with this feedback, it’s still plenty capable with no major issues. As we found last year while building a small project RM-Z450 (Click on the LINK), we made big strides raising the fork oil level by 10cc and running a Ride Engineering lowering link. From there we had the suspension valved by Race Tech and added a DRD Exhaust. We rode this bike for most of the year and had a blast. Reliability was on point and except for chain and sprocket, oil changes, and filter service, that is all we did all year. And tires.
The engine on the RM-Z450 is easy to ride and has a pretty solid bottom-to-mid-range power. The engine revs but does not make as much top and you have to shift a little early. However, the easy-to-ride power is an energy saver and means less fatigue when on the bike for a moto session that’s more than a few laps. If you are not in tip-top shape or are a vet rider, the RMZ is easy to ride. Some might take those words as meaning it’s slow, it’s not slow, just not as broad and lacks a little peak HP compared to the field. For some it could use a little more oomph going into the top end or a longer power curve, but a higher-compression piston does help this issue.
And even on the 2020, we realized tires do make a difference. One of the first things we did on the new bike was change out the stock tires to the new Dunlop MX53 tires during Dunlop’s new tire launch. Believe it or not, just tires made slight improvements in the way the bike felt and how it soaked up small bumps. The MX53 is an amazing tire and blows away its predecessor.
We plan on digging deeper into the RMZ this year and testing small components that address a few of the issues some test riders talk about. We even started testing some basic setup tricks like slightly altering the torque settings on motor mounts and engine mounts. We will talk more about what worked in our full test on this bike. We have components like FCP motor mounts to see if they alter the way the bike reacts to bumps and landings.
We still stand our ground to say the RM-Z450 is plenty capable and can be personalize for most riders if you want to take this approach. We were able to solidly dial in the bike last year and hope to keep going as this year progresses. So far there is no word on whether Suzuki is planning on making any real changes for the 2021 model year but if they did small upgrades they could really improve on a machine that handles really well. It is the heaviest bike but only by a few pounds.
If you want to ride a Suzuki and save a few bucks, it’s great. Don’t worry about what others say, just dial it in and have fun.
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