The Blue Option–A Different Answer To The Same Ever Expanding Question
After spending some time on the 2017 Honda CRF450RX and the 2017 KTM 450 XC-F, DBT wanted to revisit the Yamaha YZ450FX for this year. There were very few changes on this bike for the current year, not saying that’s a bad thing. The suspension settings as well as the fork oil seals were updated, the seals were altered for durability under harsher conditions. Like the MX YZ, the clips on the air box were refined to avoid getting snagged while riding and now the FX gets the low fuel indicator that was already on the WR model. Then it lost the kickstarter, something we never used anyways.
So what is the Yamaha YZ450FX again? It’s not a moto bike and it’s not a trail bike, consider the FX as close course off-road/cross country racer. In a nutshell, a motocrosser with an 18-rear wheel, larger tank, kickstand,wide ratio tranny, electric start and tuned ignition/fuel injection for GNCC, Cross Country and Grand Prix style tracks. The suspension is also tuned for off-road but firmer than say enduro settings. Yamaha’s take on this segment is just a little bit different than the path KTM and Honda chose especially since you get a wider-ratio transmission. The big parts, the engine and chassis are straight from the YZ motocrosser with the rest of the bike tuned for it’s task.
On the scale the YZ450FX is not light for a race bike at just under 261 pounds with fuel. It dropped about 4 pounds since we last tested it. And note, the FX 2-gallon fuel tank is small for an off-road bike. Yet on the trial it does not feel as heavy as it is on the scales. In fact, some testers noted it felt lighter in tighter trails than the 240-pound KTM 450 XC-F.
After spending a few days riding tight trials, open desert and even a day at the motocross track, the FX is still one of my favorite all-around do-everything machines. This may change when more and more MX models come standard with electric start but for now, this it is a solid mount for this type of riding. I can get away with standard motocross suspension for off-road use since I’m heavier but I know this can be a deal breaker for lighter riders. Yet I miss the 18″-rear wheel for sure, more on this later. The Yamaha does an awesome job in the platform it was designed for, grand prix and faster meandering trials. We rode some pretty tight single-track, almost extreme enduro trials as well. The more gnarly trials are doable but there were a few times I wish I was aboard a two-stroke or a smaller bore machine. You do feel the weight and the effects of a spinning 450 when popping over logs and rock-filled steep single-track 180-degree switchback trails, for example. In the 450 off-road sector, the YZFX does better than most in these conditions in my opinion.
When the trails start to open up and flow and a rider is able to utilizing second-fourth gear, the FX is very much at home. The suspension is supple enough for the trails but can still take on harder hits, most G-outs, drop offs and some airtime. The engine is very much alive in stock trim. Throttle response is aggressive and responsive making the YZFX feel explosive to some. For riders who rely in the first half of the throttle, they will feel the Yamaha is the most powerful of the 450cc machines while those that use revs and large throttle openings will notice otherwise. We did some minor tuning with Yamaha’s GYTR Tuner to make the delivery as smooth as possible when we rode the FX. The Yamaha Power Tuner is used to add fuel in spots and retard the ignition on the bottom end for a smoother bottom end a d a longer pull up top. This is what some of us call a “Jimmy Map” We also added on an FMF slip-on muffler with a spark arrestor so we could ride in certain areas. This muffler doesn’t hurt power anywhere and some even feel it makes the top end pull last longer.
The FX is very light feeling on the trial yet the front wheel is still very much planted. With the peppy motor is makes it easy to help the bike with the throttle getting it light when needed and using engine braking to settle the bike in the turns. I wish we would have tested a few different tires since the conditions were a little loose and dried out times. The stock Dunlop AT81 tires are very durable and work well in most conditions but don’t really excel in any one area. And we know from experience the front tire choice on this bike can have benefits.
Overall I kept gravitating back to the YZ450FX on our ride as one of my favorites if 450s were the Bikes Du Jour.
A week later I took the FX to Cahuilla Creek MX track to shake it down even further. Cahuilla is a very outdoor style track and perfect for the FX. The suspension is a little soft for my current 200-plus girth. I ended up setting the shock spring as stiff as I could go for my weight (need a firmer spring in a perfect world) and ended up going in on the clickers three clicks back and front and slowed the rebound by two clicks front a rear. Those minor changes totally changed the bike and from that point the FX felt plenty comfortable on the vet MX track. I could have probably ridden the main track without any issues but there were places the suspension would blow through the stroke a tad too fast on jump faces and landings for my liking so I stuck to the smaller jumps on the vet track, which is still very fun.
One thing we did start to notice while riding the FX or any off-road bike on moto tracks is how different an 18″ VS 19″ rear wheel can be. We want them (18) when hitting rocks roots and square edge hits but on the MX track you can feel the difference on slightly canted jump faces, off-caber turns and a little bit everywhere. It’s not a total deal breaker but a sensation that is noticeable if you don’t ride moto on 18-inch rear wheels often. We have felt the sensation before as being a little loose or wallow a little out back.
Yes I want three, strike that, four different motorcycles. OK, one bike for every type of riding. I know that is not going to happen so the Yamaha YZ450FX is a very solid do-a-lot motorcycle. It can take on tight trials if you have some skills, it excels on Grand Prix, Cross Country tracks and loves meandering flowing single-track. Then if you need a crossover moto bike the FX does do a very good job on most tracks as long as they are not steep-faced big-air moto tracks. Overall the FX excels at what Yamaha designed it to do, it feels like an off-road bike with some moto roots on the trails and a moto bike with off-road roots on the moto track. If you can’t afford a fleet of motorcycles, the FX can fill in a lot of gaps for a variety of riders and abilities. We were just happy we got to use the YZ450FX to refresh our memory how well it works. We are also working on a comparison between the three 450cc XC bikes so stay tuned to see where the Yamaha fits in the mix