If you go to ride a bike that isn’t so hyped up, all new or radically changed, does it matter that much? Well I’m just back from two days riding the ’05 YZ450 and it doesn’t really make a difference. Especially when the bike receives all the changes you’d hoped for.I have not been the biggest fan of Yamaha MX’ers in the past, especially the big four-stroke since it was a 400. When it got big, it got mean in the power department. Good for some, but not my style. And the suspension was hampered by a fork that just wasn’t set up to my liking. I thought it was initially stiff and then too soft the rest of the stroke. Bottoming went from horrible to bearable over the years. And what started out as a bit top-heavy (initially without any competition) was refined into a competitive feel.When the new Yamaha’s info leaked out, I thought they finally listened to me. Every area I’d ever complained about seemed to be addressed. Especially the fork and the motor. And riding the Yamaha two-strokes showed me that the tuning fork company was on the right track with the suspension. Right off the bat, the YZ450F was everything they promised and more than I expected. In fact, the first thing I noticed was the bike had a lighter feel. Not something that the one-pound claimed weight drop would indicate. Evidently the motor’s new character gives the bike a lighter impression.And speaking of the motor, it too was everything promised – smoother on the bottom and still having all that YZ prowess through the mid and on to the top. In softer conditions you won’t even notice the smooth low end, but in hard packed or muddy slippery dirt you will. And if you miss the hit, just turn the throttle farther ’cause you can have all you desire. There is less compression braking now. Also, you won’t have issues pulling the gearing through the four-speed tranny. But it is more gearing sensitive than a five-seed and I’d suggest an YZ owner have some options available.The chassis isn’t changed much but the same can’t be said for the suspension. The same KYB units that received so much praise on the two-strokes do wonders for the four-stroke as well. Plush and compliant with a newfound progression through the stroke makes the bike turn better, dance less and improves hook up. Bottoming isn’t gone but you won’t even care when it happens.Does this bike have what it takes to fight it out with the Honda CRF
? Can it roost its aluminum framed 250cc two-stroke brother in the face? Shootouts will tell, but for now the YZ450F can claim improvements as significant as any other bike we’ve ridden this year. And from a guy who shied away from YZ’s in the past, I won’t any longer.Look for the full test of the 2005 Yamaha YZ450F in the December issue of Dirt Rider Magazine.