You can't uncover all of the 2008 factory secrets just by looking at the uncovered eye candy. And the truth is only partially revealed through the coy words of mechanics, team managers, manufacturer representatives, rogue journalists, test riders and, finally, PR guys. Even then lot of speculation comes into play to determine whether we are looking at a model-year 2008 or '09-or even venturing into never-never land for the average Joe motorcycle consumer. Just because we caught photographic evidence of something via belt-buckle cameras or 600mm lenses from poison oak-shaded hills, despite the mirrored and tented team trucks, does not mean even we are 100 percent sure the following information is correct. (Besides, we also had to work through harsh language barriers.) With this in mind, read Dirt Rider's Spy Guy report.Suzuki
The big-news bike for '08 will be the RM-Z450. Although a full-on works bike was paraded around for cameras, behind the tent rested a preproduction bike that later took to the track. The 450 basically consists of the current engine (no doubt retuned) surrounded by an all-new frame and bodywork. Much like the super-successful RM-Z250, with its smaller-frame spars, the big RM-Z looks leaner and meaner, complemented by sleeker and slimmer plastics and seat. Not so hidden was a very production-looking fuel injection system, which shouldn't surprise anyone since Suzuki was the first to the FI game in the ATV business. Expect a further decrease in fuel-tank capacity with the switch to injection; the bike will gain efficiency and lose very little, if any, gas (as the spill tubes on carburetors do). If our sources are correct, an all-new 450 engine is in the works and will see light in '09 in this new chassis.A yellow 250F was nowhere to be found, and little information could be gathered about it. Since the bike was brand-new in '07, we think it will receive few big changes but rather a host of upgrades. And there is the promise of something yellow on the playbike front. We don't know if it will be a 50cc or a midsize bike, but since those markets are hot, with kid and adult buyers alike, it is a smart line-filling move either way.Honda
Keep in mind that while other magazines may have printed what they thought was the truth, it wasn't the whole truth. Fuel injection will come on bikes produced in '08, meaning '09 models. But don't expect Big Red to jump into the FI arena first. Evidently, the company has its 450F working just fine and is getting closer every day with its 250F. Most evident is the 450's all-new and very production-looking ignition sidecover, with a beefier generator hiding behind an updated dual oil-view-hole-equipped unit. Don't say you heard it here, but some rumors persist that the entire engine to the right of this cover will be all-new in '09 as well. The 250F looks to be very production on the engine front, but the FI equipment is still very prototype, and some of the exterior parts (like the idle adjust) are in the duct-tape stages. No news on the Honda chassis or suspension, but we know the company is always looking to improve performance, which isn't just about making a bike feel lighter-it has to have balance.Yamaha
The blue bikes looked very familiar except for the European works Rinaldi cylinders and cases that even the Japanese bikes were sporting. The FI has been seen before on both 250 and 450 machines, but we're guessing Yamaha is happy to follow rather than lead this charge for cost and public perception reasons. Since we've spotted Yamaha testing bikes publicly here in the United States, we don't expect huge changes-just a lot of internal refinement and the usual handling and suspension tweaks, as the last-minute arrival of this '08 YZ450F photo confirms. Our trained eyes spot the new coloring of the clutch and oil filter cover easily, but we also notice a new fork with revised clamping, a shorter muffler (rumors persist that Yamaha engineers have developed a new sound-damping system) and a switch to the Dunlop D742FA front tire. We expect two-stroke YZs to be available for at least another year-even if they are only slightly upgraded (they don't need much).