Long Haul Update: 2016 Yamaha YZ450FX

Yamaha’s newest off-road four-stroke gets Dirt Rider’s long-term testing treatment.

As soon as our first test was completed of the 2016 Yamaha YZ450FX, the Long Haul evaluation was, as they say, on and crackin’. With a one-year loan in place from Yamaha, our test bike immediately began a structured, closely measured routine of normal riding that will allow us to test the bike’s performance and durability over the long haul (hence the name!). Longtime DR readers will already know that the essence of these tests is in treating these machines like we would if we owned them. That means routine maintenance, selective modifications, and also riding them as they were meant to be ridden—hard and often!

Yamaha YZ450FX Wheelie
Dirt Rider test rider Tod Sciacqua (pronounced "Sciacqua") wheelies the YZ450FX through a wash on a beautiful winter riding day in Southern California.Photo by Pete Peterson

As you may recall, we came away from the first test of the bike extremely impressed with the engine and suspension performance. The revised gearing of the 450FX allows the bike to chug down VERY low, and yet there is still plenty of engine performance up top. We were able to achieve a mind-blowing top speed of 101 mph with this bike, proving that a sixth speed is not a necessity for a good off-road machine. On the suspension, the non-air design of the fork continues to impress us with its simplicity and performance, and aside from a little additional diving caused by different settings, the off-road version is essentially just as capable as the MXer, with a great shock that helps round out the balance of the bike.

In its first month with us, the YZ450FX saw a wide variety of terrain types. The first signs of weakness from this bike appeared at a jumpy motocross track where the 450FX’s fork felt too soft on jump faces, and the overall bike revealed itself as slightly weighty mid-turn through corners. However, the bike was much more at home on a less supercross-oriented vet MX track, where the great-pulling engine provided more than enough power in every section of the track. When riding moto, you still have to shift this machine a lot, but this becomes second nature after just 20 minutes on the bike.

Related: See the Yamaha YZ450FX first test at http://www.dirtrider.com/2016-yamaha-yz450fx-first-test

Yamaha YZ450FX Gap - Left Side
The broad power of the YZ450FX helps it to blast over ravine gaps and other off-road obstacles, while the great suspension brings it back down to earth with minimal discomfort!Photo by Pete Peterson

Following a few moto track days, we took the bike on a series of long off-road rides. In the wide-open desert, we confirmed our opinion that the bike is super stable on fast sections, providing the rider with tons of confidence to really twist the throttle when the terrain opens up. One thing we did was to conduct a test to see what kind of mileage we could get out of the Yamaha. To do this, I strapped a gas container to our my back and then simply hit the trail until the bike ran out of gas. The fuel went dry at 53.1 miles, and I can tell you this: when the YZ450FX runs out of gas, there is no warning—it is O-U-T at that moment!

Related Video: Watch the Yamaha YZ450FX in action at http://www.dirtrider.com/video-2016-yamaha-yz450fx-first-ride.

Yamaha YZ450FX Gap Jump
The stock kickstand is incredibly handy on the YZ450FX. We've left it on the bike at all times, including when we ride the MX track.Photo by Pete Peterson
Yamaha YZ450FX Log Crossing
The stock performance of the YZ450FX continues to impress us. For as much as this bike is influenced by the MX-specific YZ450F, the X sure does rip off-road!Photo by Pete Peterson

A few great rainstorms provided us with some much-needed wet Southern California dirt, of which we took full advantage over the next few weeks. On tight trails, the low first gear of the Yamaha proved to be a blessing in that it really saves the clutch from excessive abuse. Sure, the bike feels a little weighty on tight trails still, but for the most part this blue machine eats up nasty terrain, even though the overall design is so heavily inspired by a full motocross unit.

We’ll cover maintenance and modifications in our next update, but we can tell you that the Yamaha is very easy to work on, with a simple air filter and oil change protocol that can be done in under 10 minutes with zero problems. We’ve since installed a large capacity 3.0 gallon IMS tank, a Seat Concepts gripper seat, some much-needed handguards, and replacement Dunlop AT81 tires. There’s currently an FMF Q Stealth exhaust and a GYTR skid plate sitting next to the bike in the Dirt Rider shop, so we already have the next few items to test lined up. However, it’s clear that our next big goal with this bike will be to drop some weight, as the mods can add up to what is already a heavy machine.

Stay tuned to dirtrider.com for additional updates, and drop us a comment if there’s anything specific you’d like to know about the 2016 Yamaha YZ450FX Long Haul bike!