Yamaha wins the race to the showroom, but how’s the 2009 YZ450 at the track?Small changes highlight the 2009 Yamaha if you compare it to the upcoming Kawasaki KX450F and what we expect to be an all-new Honda CRF450R, but getting on the showroom floor first has its benefits, too.The biggest change to the bike is in the swingarm, and its advantage is said to be in traction. We had a tough time feeling this directly, but what we did feel was that the suspension is still great. Heavier riders (ones around 185 pounds) found the bike to be right where it needed to be and didn’t have to fiddle much with the clickers. Lighter riders (in the 160-pound range) liked a slower rebound setting and less compression all around. As it has been our experience in the past, the bike is very sensitive to ride height. If it isn’t turning how you like, try switching up the setting by as little as one turn of the shock spring (typically between 2-3mm of ride height). We’ve found a happy place for most of our riders in the 102-105mm range. Yes, you complainer about the turning, check your sag and we’d bet you’re not in the correct range!And onto one of the best features of the YZ which carried over from last year-its quiet yet funny-sounding muffler. This is good for the sport, and you’d better get used to it with impending sound regulations. It muffles a very solid and long-pulling motor that has plenty of torque, light on the snap. Once you get over what you think you’re feeling-confusing the sound with power and actually feel the bike pulling-you understand that the bike is fast. It may not have the snap of an open muffler, but if you need more gusto out of the powerplant, try twisting the throttle farther before you toss the muffler. Even our faster pro riders were amazed with how the bike pulled (even a gear high), yet it didn’t sound fast. It just moved quickly and sounded slow. Add in the way the bike utilizes the upper rpm and makes it hard to hit the rev-limiter, and you have a bike that makes the most of each gear. It can be screamed like a 250F, but for most of our riders it was fastest to ride a gear high and slip the clutch a little.Some generic Yamaha traits are the solid durability and a very clean-and-easy-to-work-on layout. Typically, YZs have needed help with a cramped rider cockpit, but the bar mounts will change that. The clutch perch furthers this works-bike-level adjustability. And though there was no change to the radiator shroud, we didn’t catch our boots on it. Maybe the new seat cover is holding us on the bike better so the shrouds don’t have to. The gold chain is a nice touch as well.Just like last year, the YZ450 is a solid player and made friends with every rider who got on the bike. And once set up, the bike typically takes very little track-to-track fiddling. This may be one of the last carbureted 450s as well, so some of you who fear the electronics revolution might think long and hard about grabbing a bike with brass tuning. And if having a good lap time bike is your goal, we know this Yamaha shines in that department.Modifications We’d Like To Try:
Exhaust systems in conjunction with modified ignition boxes.
Altered frame mounts or mount spacing.
Honda-style steering damper to hold the bike in turns better.Dirt Rider Specs
MSRP: $7399; $7499 white
Claimed wet weight: 238 lb
Actual weight (ready to ride, no fuel): 228 lb
Actual weight (ready to ride, tank full): 240 lb
Seat height: 37.1 in.
Seat-to-footpeg distance: 20.7 in.
Footpeg height: 16.4 in.
Seeing as the 2009 YZ450 didn’t receive any major motor or suspension changes this year, it’s no surprise that new blue is essentially a slightly tweaked version of last year’s model. And what stood out on that bike? Ridability, among other things, was the 2008 Yamaha’s prominent characteristic, and the new model is no stranger to this same ease-of-use. Thanks to a hearty but well-mannered motor, the YZ-F is less “get up and go” and more “I’m here if you need me.” In other words, the mellow nature of the bike’s delivery doesn’t wear you out, doesn’t knock your socks off and doesn’t feel very fast. On the stopwatch, though, the benefits of a usable 450cc power spread can be a bit surprising. As far as the chassis goes, the Yamaha again exhibits a nimble and easy-handling feel that can be in part attributed to the narrow seat and shroud setup. With stock settings, the suspension was a little stiff for my weight and riding style, but even still it took hard hits and chop like a champ. The stock ProTaper bar is killer, and the overall fit and finish of the YZ-F is also solid. But can this bike win our shootout? It’s too early to tell, but if the stopwatch is any indication of its potential, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Yamaha on top this year.
-Chris Denison/5’10″/155 lb/IntermediateI’m not really too much of a 450 rider; I only race one once a year for Mammoth. So I was a little on the timid side about the power of this big 450. After doing a few laps, I realized that I was having no problems controlling the bike at all. With such a smooth powerband, it made me think that the YZ450F was a little slow and lacked power. But by the end of the day, I realized that what made this whole bike was a great motor. It was pretty close to identical to last year’s bike. Suspension, handling and just about everything else on this bike worked together perfectly. I was able to get on the bike and just ride without making any adjustments. Even coming straight off a 250F, there was no challenge in the transition to a bigger bike.
-Tyler Ruiz/5’10″/180 lb/IntermediateThe motor on the 2009 YZ450F was the first thing that caught my attention. A lot like the 2008, it had plenty of power, but was still deceptive due to the smooth power delivery. At first I found myself wanting to downshift because the motor sounded like it was bogging down. Well, maybe it sounded like that (but it definitely wasn’t slowing down), and after a couple of turns I was one happy rider. It was pulling strong and putting traction to the ground. Most of the power was in the bottom to midrange, so the YZ liked to be short-shifted. Well, what do you know-a four-stroke that’s made to be ridden like a four-stroke! I’ve never understood why people like to ride four-strokes on the rev-limiter. After all, that’s not where the power is, and who wants to replace valves more often than their oil?The suspension on the Yamaha was very plush and worked great all around. I only had a couple issues that could easily be remedied with some minor suspension work. With the back end kicking coming into hard-braking corners, I felt that the bike could use a little more hold up in the front. This would also help with those unexpected pothole landings and make the bike a little more stable at high speeds. I’m sure that would affect the cornering a little, but that shouldn’t be a problem because this thing turns on a dime. Can you say, “corners like a Suzuki”? Yes, I said it. And yes, it does. As long as you’re fully committed, you can throw this bike into any tight, rutted turn and come out smiling.If I had to pick out something that I didn’t like about the YZ, all I can come up with is the skinny feel. At 6 feet 1 inch, I’m more comfortable on the wider bikes like the Kawasaki and Honda which are the bikes I’m used to riding. That’s just rider preference, though.
-Chris Barrett/6’1″/185 lb/Pro