Thursday Test: 2011 Yamaha YZ450F First Impression - Racetown 395 - Dirt Rider Magazine

It's officially another year (well, according to the manufacturers, anyways) and Yamaha has introduced another competitive motocross machine: The 2011 YZ450F. Although very similar to last year's revolutionary 2010, this bike has undergone a couple of revisions. The first is the YZ450F's fuel tank, which has an increased capacity of 200ccs from 6.0 to 6.2 liters. The clutch arm ratio has also been changed to decrease lever free play during long motos. The arm length has been increased by 6mm, moving it from 35mm to 41mm, and the cam shape has an increase of 0.6mm, taking it from 3.9mm to 4.5mm. Aside from performance changes, the new YZ-F has been given white lower side shrouds similar to the YZ250F.

The fact that the 2011 YZ-F didn't see many changes tells us that Yamaha has plenty of confidence in their 450 MXer, and after riding it we can see why. For starters, the power on this bike is excellent. It has plenty of torque and pulls really hard into the mid range. There is definitely no need for more bottom end because this thing pulls like a tractor. If you find a tacky section on the track, you'd better hold on and make sure you don't slide right off the back of the seat. The range of power that this motor delivers is very usable on all parts of the track, and depending on whether you like to lug the motor or ride it in the revs, this bike will suit your style.

The suspension on the YZ-F has an extremely comfortable feeling on small bumps and when you get into the harder hits, so the bike doesn't bottom out a lot. There is a high speed rolling whoop section at Racetown 395 that is easy to tackle on the YZ450F, and you can feel the shock working effortlessly over each bump. At the peaks and valleys of each roller, the shock keeps the rear wheel on the ground at all times allowing you to stay on the gas and shoot down the track. Another great feeling that the suspension offers is how nice the bike feels when you land from a jump. The suspension isn't too firm so that it makes for a harsh landing, and it isn't too soft so that it's plush and springy feeling, but when the bike comes down to earth you aren't worrying that it might be a rough one. It takes the hit smoothly without jerking around and you don't feel any strain in your body.

Many of the Dirt Rider testers felt that this bike's strong point was the chassis and its ability to flow through tight corners with ease. When entering a corner on the YZ-F, it is super easy to control the bike and this gives you confidence and pushes you to charge into the turn much harder than usual. Once you enter the corner you can lean the bike as far as you want and it follows the rut or berm without much effort. Then, getting on the gas upon exiting is when you feel the torque build up and send you quickly on your way. This bike as a whole inspires the rider to push harder and it is easy to do so because of the lightweight, nimble feel it provides on the track.

A combination of great track conditions, nice weather and a shiny new YZ450F all worked together for a fun day of riding at Racetown 395 for the bike's introduction. Since that day, we've already begun testing this bike against the other 450F MXers, and it won't be long until we've determined a winner for the 2011 450 MX Shootout. Could it be the Yamaha? You'll have to wait and see!

Opinions:

The 2011 YZ450F didn't see a lot of changes this year, but that didn't keep me from enjoying this fine machine on a perfectly groomed track out at Racetown. Last year I was content with the completely redesigned YZ450F. It didn't do anything wrong and it worked just fine, which is amazing for changing the whole bike around. As for this year, well maybe it's just me getting more comfortable on the bike or maybe it's the shiny new colors, but I was a little more impressed, instead of just content, with the YZ-F. The ruts developed nicely on the track and that's where I find this bike the most impressive. I feel the extra weight on this machine keeps the bike very planted in the ruts and the low center of gravity makes it easy to lay the bike over; both give the rider great control in rutted corners. As for the flat turns, this bike likes to track straight so I still struggled a little trying to get a nice controlled slide, but with mostly ruts and berms forming at Racetown that day I couldn't really complain. The motor for 2011 still has a lot of torque and pulls hard. You can chug it or rev it, whatever you prefer. As for the suspension, it was plush and soaked up the chop that was out there. It also took some pretty hard hits without jarring my ancestors, so two thumbs up for that. The YZ450F is a solid machine and Yamaha obviously believes in it by not making many changes - I am definitely looking forward to seeing how she competes with the other 450s in the 2011 shootout.Chris Barrett 6'1"/185/Pro

I've been riding the 2010 YZ all year and have really gotten to know the machine, not having one problem with it the whole time. It turns like no other 450, too aggressive for some, but I like it. I've dialed the power with the Power Tuner and it is like having a bunch of pipes that take five-seconds to change and you never burn your fingers. I've found it is picky about tires, I like the Pirelli Mid-Softs front and rear. Overall I would be hard pressed to point in a direction to make any non-personal (meaning changes that are great for everyone) alterations to the bike. So for 2011, I don't have any issue with Yamaha basically re-releasing the 2010 which we liked so much. It is still class leading in a lot of ways and I'm sure all of the small refinements and even the major changed the other bikes received are all pointing at taking the YZ450F down. I ride it faster than any other 450 MXer right now and I think that is what a motocross bike is all about, right?Jimmy Lewis 5'10"/185 lb/Sr. Pro