2024 Yamaha YZ450FX Off-Road Racer: First Impression

2024 Yamaha YZ450FX Off-Road Racer: First Impression
Photos: Scott Hoffman and CycleNews.com/Ryan Nitzen

New for 2024 is the Yamaha YZ450FX, and although its roots lay heavily on the latest-generation YZ450F, ample testing and R&D went into developing the final product. The FX is a closed-course GNCC/Grand Prix/Cross Country race bike and Yamaha did a lot more than simply slap on an 18-inch rear wheel, kickstand, and one tooth up on the rear sprocket.

There was real effort put into this machine and although it looks just like an YZ-F, there is a lot of X added into the sauce. Yamaha started out deep in the tranny by altering the gear ratios. First is super low, second is slightly lower, and fifth is higher compared to the motocross model. From there they tuned the ECU to optimize the power delivery for off-road. (But this can be further tuned using the Yamaha phone App, including traction control). Two maps are available on the fly, and when the handlebar switch is illuminated, it means this is always a more-mellow map compared to the map when the light is off, yet both are adjustable. The exhaust has also been updated to provide smoother power delivery with further baffles inside the muffler. The clutch engagement has also been optimized for a smoother feel for off-road.

The chassis also received several changes compared to the motocross “F” model. The seat height is 10mm lower (similar seat height as the previous 450FX) and this was achieved by internally lowering the suspension. (Note the overall stroke of the suspension is 10mm less than the “F” model). Lighter spring rates and valving were also altered for off-road racing. The lower engine mounts have been updated and are actually more rigid to help offset the softer suspension settings.

From there the YZ-FX received a larger 2.1-gallon fuel tank, O-ring chain, kickstand, and, of course, the 18-inch rear wheel with Dunlop MX33 tires. Other cool features include a skid plate and a low-fuel light illuminated on the handlebar switch.

We were eager to spend some time on the new FX and for a real-world test, Yamaha had the media out in South Carolina to Randy Hawkins Am-Pro testing grounds. When you talk about East Coast off-road, this place could be on a postcard it’s so nice. Tight woods, clay base, tree roots, water crossings, and ruts. The rain hit just days before our arrival, and it made for some slippery and slightly muddy terrain in places for us California folk.

If you enjoy the latest genYZ450F, you will like the new YZ450FX, they are very similar. The power is still very robust for tight, muddy off-road and we had the mellow map illuminated most of the day. We even de-tuned both maps even further and added traction control. For standard conditions with faster and wider trails, we could see the stock maps working a lot better. Yet this is what is so nice about the Yamaha tuner, you can make fast changes depending on the conditions. To this test rider, the stock map with the light off does not feel much different than the “F” model. This bike rips if you want it to. We got a chance to ride the 450FX on day two as conditions started to dry out and gained an added appreciation of the bike overall. In challenging conditions or very tight, the stock maps might be a little much for trail riders or those with less experience.

For this 200-lb rider, the suspension felt balanced with 104mm of sag, but we did chase some fork settings before finding a comfort zone. The softer settings might be slightly a little under-sprung for my weight and if you add the mud on the bike from day one, it can make a difference. Slowing down the rebound slightly helped calm the fork down. The shock had very good action and it was only the fork that we felt needed further tuning for my weight. At times the fork felt soft but also slightly harsh probably because of its position in the stroke and speed of this rider (vet). The overall action is good but the above is worth mentioning for some riders. We would like to get a chance to ride the FX in faster Western-state conditions for a more in-depth opinion.

Compared to the previous version FX, the new chassis is really appreciated, it feels a lot slimmer and more nimble on the trail and the suspension keeps the bike in the pocket and it does not feel top-heavy or sluggish, even in the tight trees. But don’t be fooled, when the East Coast conditions get sloppy, wet, slick, and you are in the trees riding through ruts and roots, any 450 can be a handful. The new FX took it like a champ but when conditions started to dry out on day two, you really started to appreciate what the new bike is capable of. The newer chassis did feel lighter and easier to change direction, even in the tight slop.

The chassis has a nice feel and good ergonomics. Yet just like the “F” model, my 6’1” frame likes a slightly taller seat with a rounder profile, especially for longer races. (This is often very much rider preference). The larger fuel tank did not change the profile or make the bike feel any wider compared to the YZ-F model.

On their motocross/grand prix sections the FX still has a motocross feel and for some riders that split their riding between moto and off-road. This bike for most can fill both gaps.

We only got to touch the surface of the new 2024 Yamaha YZ450FX, yet the sloppy conditions did help give us a real-world impression of the new bike in real East Coast conditions. The FX on the new “F” platform is very well received. The overall bike feels similar to the motocross version with the appeal of an off-road racer. The power can be tuned for any condition, the chassis can take on the tightest trails. The gearbox can chug along in the slowest and tightest conditions if needed but also charge the faster grand prix/motocross sections like its sibling “F” model. The build quality is that of the standard “F” model so all of the performance is there with regard to stuff like braking power, wheel durability, handlebar, grips, graphics. One of the few complaints, a slightly easier clutch pull would be nice, yet be aware Yamaha does offer several GYTR accessories including a hydraulic clutch.

The 2023-2024 YZ450F has already proven itself and the 2024 FX version of this bike is a step forward compared to the older model, even though that was/is still a solid machine. The new 450FX is a welcomed addition to the bLU cRU and we hope to get a chance to ride this bike in the West very soon.

Special Thanks:
FXR Racing: fxrracing.com
Alpinestars: alpinestars.com/
X Brand Goggles:eksbrand.com

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