When Dirt Bike Test was done with the initial impression of the 2017 Suzuki RMX450Z, “I asked Jimmy what did he think?” He answered, “Read my story.” So, I did and I thought I liked the positive things the bike has and the things they did not like we can easily fix.
As mentioned in the DBT original test, Suzuki is selling this bike as a EPA compliant trail bike, in California this is called a “Green Sticker” bike. What that means is that the RMX450Z has a certain amount of emissions compliance and can be operated year-round in all the legal riding area’s in the state if it is stock. I decided to keep and use the RMX as a California “Red Sticker” motorcycle. So, I can trail ride it anywhere in the State October – May and then it can only be used as a competition motorcycle June – September. This is fine by me if I am going riding in the local forests during the summer I am taking my proper KTM Dual Sport bike anyway.
Before I did anything, I took the RMX for a ride just the way DBT turned the bike over to me (See Test LINK Including the front tire with a slow leak.) I liked the the power of the RMX engine with the JD 6X Tuner, this is the key to proper performance. With the JD Tuner installed, the motor is a fantastic trail bike and sportsman racer. Also, the legendary Suzuki turning is a great thing on a trail bike. The RMX is simply built and I appreciate that. I swear you can lose almost any bolt on this bike late Saturday night and get what you need at Home Depot or Lowes. However, one simple thing did let me down, more on that later.
One of the negatives is the bikes weight, ready to ride it’s in the 270-pounds range with our modifications. I did not take any action regarding weight, on one hand I feel it adds to the overall stability of the RMX. But if you drop it on the trail or are lifting it on the stand in your garage it’s heavy.With the JD Tuner in place, the RMX engine shows its good manners. This bike has bottom end torque like you daddy’s BSA (or maybe your grandfather’s BSA.) I love this kind of power–you just short shift it and sink into the seat and feel the pull on your arms as much or as little as you want. The engine’s power is very connected to your throttle hand. The RMX is fast and has good top speed for when the trail opens up. I lugged the RMX down to walking speed in second and third gears and never had a stalling issue. The one time the bike stalled on me I was in fifth gear going about 5 mph.
While DBT got the RMX running pretty good with the stock Suzuki muffler, in the quiet mode it still ran a little corked up, but if you removed the small tip (but left in the spark arrestor) then it was too loud. They had luck with a FMF system for an RMZ450 as well but I wanted something a little more familiar. So, to split the difference I called the gang at Pro-Circuit and ordered up a complete T-6 Stainless system. I like these systems, they offer good power and trail legal sound with a USFS spark arrestor for a reasonable price. As always The PC pipe is a precision piece, no spacers, no washers, no slotted holes everything bolts right up no problems. Since I went with a completes system the header comes with the PC RC-4 Resonance Chamber to help with sound output. At $779.95 it is a decent value too that drops a little weight too.Since I was on the phone with Pro-Circuit getting an exhaust system I talked to Bones Bacon about the RMX450Z suspension and asked if he worked on this model when it came out in 2010. He said he had a setting, but he asked what I wanted to change. I wanted a little more isolation from the small off road washboard bumps or tree root “spike” and braking bumps even at my weight. Bones said he could make a good setting for the RMX suspension.
The rear shock was pretty straight forward change the spring for my weight and change the shock valving. The forks were a little more extensive, springs again, valving and new cartridge pistons, compression adjusters and top out springs. The end result however was very good, the small bump / high speed bump action was massively improved so you could feel the small stuff but not have it irritate you. The Suzuki is connected to the ground but your body is not taking a rattling. The suspension can still absorb a big hits or g-outs no problem. MSRP depending on rider weight is $750 – $800 with springs being extra.
Even though this set-up really allows the rider to exploit the great turning of the Suzuki chassis and the stability of the stiff frame, it must be noted that Suzuki frames take a few miles to “break in” at least 500 miles in our experience off-road. It loosens up more than other aluminum frames but not ever in a bad way.A couple of things the RMX needed was increased fuel range and some hand guards pretty easy stuff here. IMS Products makes great tanks and with the 2017 RMX450Z making a return from the past I went over to IMS for the tank installation just to make sure nothing changed from 2010 to 2017. The IMS tank went right on, a very small portion of the stock Suzuki fuel tank shroud needed to be trimmed off, maybe a quarter of an inch in the top corner. Other than that the tank bolted right on. At 2.6 gallons you can now safely go 100 miles easy on your favorite trails. I opted for the natural color so I can see the fuel level and a regular screw cap. MSRP is $274.95.Since I was at IMS we installed a new set of IMS Enduro CORE footpegs. There is really nothing wrong with the Suzuki peg’s but I really love the comfort of the IMS peg design and the tooth design grips your boots which came in handy, especially when we did about 150 miles in the Nevada mud during one of our rides. With a lifetime warranty these are a good investment at $159.95.Some hand guards were in order so I picked up a pair of Acerbis Rally III’s in yellow and black to match the bike. A few things to like about these hand guards is that they come packaged with the X-Strong mounting kit which has a built-in hook on the main handle bar mount. It is a great place to hook your tie downs. The best thing I can say about the Rally III’s are that I never noticed them while riding but when hitting some pretty healthy bristlecone pine trees, no damage to my hands or the Suzuki’s levers.
I really grew to like this motorcycle. I like the great low end power of the engine, Suzuki turning and the simple design. There is no funky air filter in the gas tank, I don’t have to find a 13mm wrench. Most of the bolts you will touch in everyday maintenance are 8mm heads 6/mm threads. Very simple. Heck the oil drain bolt is just an 8mm bolt with a copper washer, you can get this stuff anywhere. Because the RMX is based on the RMZ450 lots of replacement parts and aftermarket parts are already available. We cracked a case in a crash on a rock and also severely twisted a radiator which began to leak. We fixed both of these issues with JB Kwik and kept riding. Maybe better protection would haved helped but we were very surprised with the ability to repair the RMX without replacement parts. The radiator actually bent back and hit the engine.
One of the missions at Dirt Bike Test is to give our readers information they can’t easily get themselves. Recently while we were out on a photoshoot I was able to ride the 2017 RMX450Z, along with the 2017 KTM350EXC, 2017 Honda CRF450RX and a 2017 Beta 300 Race Replica. Its amazing how different the characteristics of these bikes are back-to-back.The RMX and the KTMs offer roomy rider ergonomics and smooth, tractable power bands. The Honda is the racer, lots of engine power all across the spread. The Honda’s riding position is a little tighter and more cramped if you are a larger person. The Beta is really small, or light and thin to be more exact. More agile but certainly not planted feeling like the Suzuki. The point of all of this is when you are going to spend 8k -12k on a new bike, you really need to think about what kind of rider you are and what kind of motorcycle characteristics you like. Then get the bike that will make you happy. Dont just buy a bike because your buddies all have the popular choice or outright power or less weight is touted as the end all decision maker. Of all these bikes I would choose the Suzuki.
But there is a small cloud in all of this, I had a failure during my testing and could not complete a trail ride I was on. I had to be rescued via pickup truck. During a super muddy trail ride, I had just come out of a tight single track section in the trees and pulled onto a dirt road while shifting in to 5th gear it seemed like I missed a shift, pull up on the shift lever still nothing, look down and I see the chain had come off. This was happening to alot of bikes this day on the muddy trail, so I thought no problem I’ll just put the chain on and be on my way. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the countershaft sprocket was gone! This is where the simple Suzuki let me down since the RMX is based on the earlier RM450, the counter shaft is held on by a circlip and the extreme mud conditions caused the clip to come off and the loss of the countershaft sprocket. Late model RMZ now use a bolt to hold on the countershaft sprocket. I had not used the old trick of protecting the clip with a covering of silicone, but lesson learned.
One other constant issue is the power on/off switch. It turns the headlight on and will drain the battery if left on for too long with the bike off. We found out the hard way more than a few times. And the bike does not really kick start with a drained battery. Options are to get in the habit of killing the bike with the switch or to disconnect the headlight unless you need it.So where does this leave the Suzuki RMX450Z? I am happy when riding this bike, it puts a smile on my face. When you think about all the parts that have not been touched, all controls are stock, even the grips. The fenders and all the body work survived a super mud run with no failures and a few crashes at the hands of riders more or less talented than me. It comes with an O-ring chain, Dunlop Tires, Headlight and Taillight, not a bad deal really. Aside from the early-on setup hassles, which we took the time to diagnose and fix, so now it is easier for you. Just copy us. This is a non-issue now, unless you believe most of the other media outlets who got confused because it wasn’t a ready to race KTM. I look at it this way, I would get the RMX for the engine character and the chassis’s wonderful turning. Many of the moto monthly and weekly rode the Suzuki RMX stock threw up their hands and parked it in the back of the test garage. I didn’t want to race. Maybe a GP every other month and this bike delivers there.
So if you don’t want to be one of the many, while attending the recent Nevada 200 trail ride there were about 130 – 140 motorcycles, there was only one Suzuki. You can go yellow. I felt there was something in the RMX worth chasing, it’s a nice bike and should considered. But you have to ask yourself if the things the Suzuki does well are worth the effort to get to. Also, you have to do the math, what would a KTM /Husqvarna or Beta cost versus what you can buy a Suzuki from your local dealer for plus the modifications you feel you need.
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