Testing motorcycles takes time. Sure, a day at the track can give you an idea of a bike’s performance, but a long-term shakedown shows you a machine’s durability, reliability, and oftentimes allows you to fine-tune specific settings and components. We’ve now had our 2016 Yamaha YZ450F since last August and have logged numerous hours aboard it at various tracks around Southern California. We’ve even raced it a few times. And through our time aboard the bike, we’ve discovered some settings and components we really like.
For the most part, we’ve kept the motor remarkably stock. For the first few months, we rode the bike with the stock exhaust system installed with nothing changed aside from the mapping. At the initial intro, we tested a few different pre-programmed ignition-mapping profiles, and ultimately settled on a more aggressive map that maintains a good bottom-end hit and consistently produces power into the top-end. In stock trim, the YZ-F already has a very user-friendly power curve, but the added oomph of the more aggressive map makes the bike more fun to ride.
An affordable FMF Aluminum Factory 4.1 RCT system was installed to boost the power characteristics of the YZF. The complete system perfectly complements the more aggressive ignition mapping that we also installed via the GYTR Power Tuner.
To give the bike even more power, we installed an affordable FMF Aluminum Factory 4.1 RCT system ($699.99) and immediately noticed an overall improvement in power. The FMF pipe broadens the power without taking away from any portion of the powerband. The bottom-end hit is also noticeably better than stock and the top-end pull is impressive, allowing the rider to pull each gear further. It’s worth noting that we kept the ignition mapping set at the more aggressive map, and the bike still retained a user-friendly power characteristic. One thing we didn’t like about the exhaust system, though, was the installation process. The unique design of the wrap-around exhaust header on the reversed Yamaha cylinder makes changing the system a chore. We had to remove the gas tank and shock in order to get enough clearance to properly install the full system. Suffice it to say, don’t expect to do it at the track with ease. Give yourself more time and tools at your garage or shop.
The suspension on the YZ450F is largely regarded as the best in class. One of the last remaining machines with a conventional spring fork, the YZF easily outperforms most bikes in the handling department. Since taking delivery of the bike, we have only played with the clickers on both the Kayaba fork and shock, going stiffer on the compression and slower on the rebound on both the front and rear. The stock settings on the bike are slightly soft for faster or heavier riders; however, when the track gets rough—as it did during our time racing at Day In The Dirt—the fork and shock perform exceptionally well. Both ends of the bike are balanced and when the sag is set properly, turning isn’t an issue.
We installed lower Renthal FatBars, which help to give the cockpit a more compact feel and make for sliding up on the tank much easier. The crossbar-less bars also help to absorb harsh bumps and landing.
Changing controls on any bike is a matter of preference, but we went for the Carmichael Low bar bend—it’s available in some form from just about every bar manufacturer. We installed Renthal FatBars ($89.95) for not only the lower-than-stock bar bend, but also for the flex of the bars. The lower bar bend makes it easier to slide up on the seat for corners and provides an overall more connected feel with the bike. The crossbar-less design of the Fatbars absorbs bumps and helps to smooth out the overall ride. In addition to the bars, we also slapped on a Works Connection clutch perch ($155.85). The new perch gives the clutch a buttery-smooth feel, which in turn reduces rider arm pump and fatigue.
Naturally, logging time on any bike means new tires are a must, and we chose to install Dunlop’s MX32 GeoMax tire on the front and rear ($277.00). The MX32 is Dunlop’s soft/intermediate terrain tire, making it perfect for most conditions found at our local tracks in SoCal. The YZF comes stock with Dunlop’s intermediate/hard terrain MX52 GeoMax tires, but the MX32 provides more traction in just about every circumstance. The MX52 will last longer, however, we prefer the MX32 for its performance.
In our time aboard the YZ450F this year, one thing has become abundantly clear—this bike is incredible. Racing this bike in stock trim—or nearly stock—is something that is easily achievable. For most riders, the suspension is very good, and for just about anyone who swings a leg over the bike, the motor is plenty powerful and only amplified by the endless tuning capabilities offered by the accessory GYTR Power Tuner ($290). Lastly, the durability and reliability of the YZF is second to none, and as the year continues, we’ll likely put even more time on the tried and true package.
– Maintain a regular oil change schedule. Missing oil changes can cause the bike to shift harshly
– Our primary test rider is a brake dragger, however, the stock brake pads have held up to hours of abuse
– The Yamaha Power Tuner allows you to change the ignition mapping very easily. Yamaha even posts maps online at www.shopyamaha.com/product/details-gytr-power-tuner
– Removing the metal tab from the Dzus fasteners on the gas tank helps stop them from catching your knee braces, while still making it possible to use the flathead screw driver slot to remove the fasteners