First Impression: 2021 Yamaha YZ450F

Still The Same

Story and Photos by Trevor Hunter

The bLU cRU has had quite the success as of late with their production Yamaha YZ450F winning nearly every media shootout and receiving praise amongst the general public. With that being said, they left the YZ alone for the new year and let us have at it on a busy Thursday at Glen Helen.

First, let’s start with the changes for ‘21. There kind of are none! Yamaha switched up the color of the plastics and went with blue number plates and black fork guards. Oh yeah, they also boast some bold new graphics. Other than that, the bike is identical from 2020 to 2021. You can also get a “Monster Edition” YZ, but it is just different looking. Yamaha says they want to let you do the “Factory Edition” part picking.

The YZ has always had a very fast motor with a lot of power and this bike is no different. It has a very broad and long powerband. It has loads of bottom end and steadily lays down power as you climb the RPM’s with no big surges or drop offs. There’s enough meat to allow our riders to effectively ride a gear high through corners and short shift the bike, or get aggressive and rev the bike out. In general, the bike has more power and is more aggressive in nature compared to the 2019 version, too aggressive for some in fact where the throttle is almost too connected to the rear wheel and the motor too willing to pick up the pace. Which for one major reason isn’t too much of an issue: enter the Power Tuner App.

One of, if not, the best feature on this bike is the GYTR Power Tuner App. You can make big changes and fine tune the power delivery to just about anything you want when using the app. This allows the bike to be more suitable to a wider variety of riders, and the best part is that it’s free! We started the day on the stock map, then switched over to the TP3 map. Most of us likeded the TP3 map and at time found it being easier to ride yet still retaining really good throttle response and snappy power. However, we were still putting too much power to the ground and all three of our test riders, ranging from 160lbs to 200+lbs, couldn’t keep the front wheel on the ground. The bLU cRU started helping us with some maps and we eventually settled on a mellower map called the “Magic Map” that all three of us preferred. It tamed down the power enough to increase its rideability, yet still retain some excitement and offer good throttle response. Additionally, our lighter guys could ride a gear high, or rev it out, and still have plenty of power to get around the track in a hurry. Throughout the day, we deviated from this map to fine tune it for our liking which shows just how beneficial the Power Tuner App is. (Email us for our maps.)

We’ve been praising Yamaha suspension for years on seemingly every bike they make, and this bike isn’t much different. The suspension hasn’t changed since last year, but there really isn’t a need to change it. Similar to the engine changes, the suspension saw changes in 2020 that went in a more aggressive direction. Some felt that the previous 2019 bike wasn’t quite as good when faster riders started pushing really hard. We said the Yamaha had the most versatile suspension that anyone could ride as it was packed with a lot of comfort, but the precision for a fast rider wasn’t necessarily there. Now, the performance has been bumped up, but not to the point where the comfort is gone. They’ve found a pretty good happy-medium between the two that we feel most can still find a good setting in stock trim. 

Overall, the difference in suspension is from less pitching back and forth. For our lighter guys, we softened up both the fork and shock quite a bit. We lightened the compression 4-5 clicks on the forks, and the low speed compression 3-4 clicks on the rear shock. This helped the bike absorb the bumps a lot more, whereas the stiff nature stock settings would deflect and beat up our lightweights. Our heavier rider tried a few things and likes stock clickers for a rough Glen Helen track.

In the handling department, the YZ450F does everything well. The current chassis, with it’s more aggressive nature, is very stable and predictable while also being more precise. The older version had a soft, compliant feel that rode like a Cadillac. The “latest and greatest” is stepping away from that Cadillac feel and moving towards a Ferrari, though not so much that the average rider can’t find comfort in the bike. With the chassis and suspension changes, most feel the biggest difference is how the bike also feels lighter and more nimble. It holds up in the stroke and is more reactive to rider inputs. The bike still holds that Yamaha feel that we’ve come to know and like, but in a more assertive manner. Some still feel the bike looks wider in the front, and it can feel this way tlll you get use to it.

Turning on the Yamaha is a breeze and is where we feel the newest updates have helped the bike. The precision allows you to pick a line and commit and the bike will do the heavy lifting for you. Even with really good turning, the YZ doesn’t lack stability. It handled the choppy and rough conditions at Glen Helen with ease for all of our riders. The rider triangle was comfortable for most, but the Yamaha crew installed a tall seat at the end of the day and every rider liked it. Ranging from a stout 5’7” to 6’0+, we all favored the positioning with the tall seat. Our vet rider thought it might help the transition from sitting to standing on weaker knees, and while it didn’t hurt, it didn’t necessarily help. However, it brought you up and out of the pocket that the stock seat creates and allows you to move from forward and backward much easier when you want to. And when you get on the gas you sink in and lock into the taller seat just a bit more so it helped. It also helped “lower” the handlebars for our shorter rider. Stock, the bars felt a tad high but raising the seat position brought them down to a more neutral position. We also felt that the tall seat added an extra bit of cushion to help absorb some acceleration chop.

In conclusion, the 2021 Yamaha YZ450F is a solid bike all the way around. The motor, suspension, and chassis work in unison which delivers a good performing bike. The YZ is more aggressive and energetic in nature, and most preferred that feel. The powerful motor could easily be tamed or livened up with some simple mapping adjustments using the Power Tuner App. Additionally, the suspension is what we’ve come to know from Yamaha and we were able to get it working pretty well for all of our testers today at Glen Helen. The chassis is a workhorse that does it all effectively and one that most can get comfortable with. Stay tuned for more with this bike and the rest of the 2021 models as we have a busy schedule in the coming months!

Spin a lap around Glen Helen with Trevor Hunter aboard the 2021 YZ450F ~

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