My Long Haul: 2016 Yamaha YZ450F

2016 YZ450F: Big Boy Long Haul

Photos: Jana Bond

When it was all said and done I did the lion’s share of my fun track riding aboard the 2016 YZ450F. This was following our initial full test and when we were not riding other test bikes. I pretty much left the bike completely stock except for personal changes and specific setup options. The stock YZ is so tunable so I wanted to see how leaving it alone with nothing more than setup changes would fly for the year. The plan was to put a load of hours aboard this steed to test durability, but a tweaked knee several months back has hampered seat time. The long haul is more of just an average Joe haul, which kind of adds up to riding the bike every two weeks during the year.


First off be aware I am not a petite 5’9″ rider. I am more of a 6’1″ thick brute that averages around 215 pounds without gear. Yes, out of the standard bike range, story of my life. Take that back, there was a time my weight was in the range but, ahhhh, yeah, that was then and this is now. I am a vet rider and I have a terminal disease called hand-to-mouth uncontrollable reflex affliction, aka, I like to eat.

Back to riding. I look big on a bike—always have, always will. My femur bones are long and my knees are bad so my butt sticks back too far and I have to set my bike up to accommodate this.


When I first rode the 2016 it felt odd to me. I didn’t like the shift spacing, power delivery, or the stock tires (tyres for you UK and Euro readers). The shock spring was so far out of range for my weight I didn’t even ride it during the first intro. Because Yamaha changed the triple clamp from 2015 to 2016, they also installed a lighter spring to control the rear and help maintain the proper trail up front. My simple fix was to swap the 2016 5.6 N/m for the 2015 5.8 N/m. The change put me in range but in a perfect world I probably could have gone a tad firmer.

From there I was able to tune the suspension to my liking, well, close I should say. There was a small bump spike I was not able to tune out and a push in some conditions. After several days on the bike I tried swapping out the stock MX52 tires for the newer MX3s. The tire alone smoothed out the small spike and offered more grip in turns both rutted and flat. And guess what tires come stock on the 2017 models? Yes, the same tires I ended up going with on the 2016. I pretty much stuck to those black meats all year.


Right off the bat I felt the YZ had a big space between 2nd and 3rd gear. At some jump tracks I would have to rev the snot out of the engine in second as it started to go flat on top, but if I shifted to third it would not pull up the face and I would come up short. At first I kept making fuel and timing adjustments with the GYTR tuner. Now this little handheld tuner is one of the first investments I would recommend to any YZ owner. Before you buy an exhaust, graphics, fancy grips, race team jacket, or foot pegs, get the tuner. It’s easy to use and if you can text on your smartphone you can figure this thing out. No, it does not play video games, SnapChat, or Facebook but riding motocross is way more fun anyway.


With the tuner I was able to get the engine to hit harder in the mid and rev further up top. This had to be done to lug my lardass up hills and up long, steep jump faces. The changes helped but the second to third gap was still there. Be aware that if you weigh under 200 pounds the above issues might not be a problem. At this point I had to pull a card from the MXA playbook by adding one tooth to the rear sprocket. Shazam, it really helped going from a 48- to a 49-tooth rear cog. Now I could rev it until its eyes started bleeding, or shift to third earlier to make nearly every jump. The gear changes also helped in corners because I could utilize third more often in some corners, second in others, and never ever deal with first.


Once I had the suspension dialed in, tires I liked, gearing, and a hard-hitting free-revving engine, I was like a pig in a fresh slop bin. I did very little to the bike except for minor clicker adjustments (depending on the track) and normal maintenance from that point on.

When it comes to the bike’s durability, it has held together very well. Yes the rims do have a few dings and flat spots and there are a few frozen spoke nipples. We rode once in the dunes and I recommend that when you are done you spray some penetrating oil on each spoke nipple or they can freeze up. The clutch is holding up pretty well, although when cold or abused hard you can feel a slight judder during engagement. It is probably due for a clutch in the near future. The air filter is easy to service and although Yamaha changed the filter cover fastener depth for 2017, I never had an issue catching my gear or boots on the ’16 fittings. We are even running the stock chain and sprockets but they are getting a little long in the tooth.


Overall I was able to tune the YZ to my liking, even though I was not a huge fan the first time I jumped onboard. It just goes to show how tunable modern motocross bikes can be. If you put in the testing time, it is possible to tune pretty much any current machine to one’s liking. Yes there is a time that custom suspension tuning or some performance exhaust or components might get you what you can’t achieve with the stocker, but I would only go down that road after you have put in the proper testing time with the stock motorcycle first.


The good news is that the 2017 YZ450F is almost the same bike as the 2016. Some of this data might apply to current 2016 owners or those that plan on picking up a 2017. I know there are not a load of riders that fit my height/weight and ability, but you know who you are. The YZ450F is not the most powerful or the lightest bike on the market, yet it is stable, handles well, and is plenty fast for most amateurs and some pros that ride. I would have no complaints riding the YZ for another season.

Ability: Vet MX/Off-Road
Height: 6’1
Weight (no gear): 215

Suspension Settings

Compression: 8-10 out
Rebound: 9-11 out
Fork Height: 1mm of fork leg exposed above clamp

Compression: 8-10 out
Rebound: 8-9 out
HSC: 1.75-2.0 turns out
Preload: 104-107mm
Shock Spring: 5.8 N/mm from the STD 5.6 N/mm

GYTR Tuner Favorite Settings

Fuel Injection

+2 +2 +2
0 +1 +1
0 0 0

Ignition settings

+2 +2 +3
+1 +3 +3
+2 +2 +2