-- 2013 RMZ-450 Launch Test
Suzuki’s 2013 RMZ-450 has arrived on our shores and features a swag of changes, improving what was already an extremely well-balanced and proven motorcycle.
Suzuki has had lots of success with the RMZ-450 in the past, both here and abroad. In 2012, James Stewart jumped ship from Yamaha to race for the factory Yoshimura Suzuki team in the AMA nationals where he was leading the championship, until an unfortunate crash put paid to his championship assault.
After a day getting to know the new RMZ-450 at the Maitland district motorcycle club, I am sure that we will see more championships coming Suzuki’s way. This is without any doubt the best RMZ-450 I have ridden.
Overall, Suzuki has made a lot of small changes to the new model which add up to a far superior motorcycle than its predecessor. The engine is still a fuel-injected 449cc, 4-stroke, 4-valve DOHC donk, but has had an overhaul aiming to produce an engine with increased acceleration, faster throttle response and broader mid-range power and torque. This goal has been achieved by an all-new piston that is13 per cent lighter and a piston pin that has a Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) surface treatment, which increases durability and lowers friction.
A new intake camshaft and updated electronics have been fitted to harmonise with the new engine internals. There is an all-new ECM and - like the Kawasaki KX450-F, - map changes are made easier with three different couplers supplying a soft, standard and advanced map. These are easy and quick to change. To help keep this engine quiet, the new RMZ-450 features a 50mm longer exhaust with redesigned internal muffler parts improving low-to-mid range power and torque.
The gearbox has also come in for some tweaks with redesigned gears and a new shift cam delivering even more shifting precision and a smooth-shift feel.
On the chassis side of things, the RMZ-450’s all-new frame is 91 grams lighter with changes to the frame head, rails and down tube and a refined seat rail for rigidity and balance, contributing to increased stability and better handling.
Suspension is again supplied by Showa but features the all-new 48mm Showa Separate Function Fork (SFF) containing the spring on the right leg, and valving in the left. The rear suspension has been updated and the linkage ratio has also been changed to help with stability and drive.
From the moment I rolled out of the pits at the Maitland District Motorcycle club I felt at home and comfortable on the new RMZ-450. The track had been ripped and watered so although there were some quite wet spots the soil was deep enough to start forming some good ruts. One of the immediate things that I noticed was the way the new RMZ-450 turned and tracked over the rough stuff. The front end gave me a great feel and I was comfortable in railing into some of the newly formed muddy ruts. The engine was smooth and responsive and the rear end hooked up well without trying to wind itself up over acceleration bumps. After a good couple of sessions getting comfortable with the bike and track I felt it was time to start playing with a few of the options available.
First on my hit list was to play around with the new Showa SFF fork set up. I think that it’s fantastic that we now have spring preload on dirt bikes. This makes it easy to adjust the front ride height of the bike in an instant, as well as change the way the forks behave. I experimented by going both ways with the preload in order to get a feel for how the bike responded to the different stiffness in spring preload. I ended up with a slightly softer spring preload setting that helped the bike absorb the smaller sharp edge bumps as well as lower the front end a little in the middle of the corner, which helped the bike turn.
With the help of Jay Foreman and the mechanics of Suzuki’s factory motocross race team we then played around with the compression and rebound adjusters to help find a great set up that complemented the slightly softer spring setting. By firming both compression and rebound we were able to keep good control in the forks. The rear suspension was not touched all day other than to get the sag set for my weight. I didn’t need to change it. The bike hooked up impressively and tracked well over the braking bumps.
Next was to try all three mapping couplers back to back, to see how much they affected the engine. The soft map was first up and this definitely tamed the engine down making it easier to get on the throttle. In wet or slippery conditions this map would make it a lot easier to be smooth and find traction. The standard coupler was next and this was by far my favourite. It has a great spread of power and pulls strongly right through the rev range. The advanced coupler gave the engine more bottom and mid range kick but seemed to sign off a bit too soon up top. Maybe a good Supercross setting……
The brakes now feature wave rotors as standard and these are a definite improvement over last year’s brakes. They offer good initial bite and don’t seem to fade much as the moto progresses. The gearbox was nice and clutch response was great. I did quite a few starts and found this bike easy to get off the line. It would be helpful if the Japanese manufacturers eventually follow the Europeans’ lead with a button start. Although the RMZ-450 was easy enough to fire into life once you had the knack, I found the position of the kick starter a little tricky.
Suzuki has done a great job with the new RMZ-450. They have improved from what was already a proven motorcycle and I felt at one with this bike right from the first session. The adjustability in suspension with the coupler system for ignition makes this a bike that can be adapted to most levels of riders with relative ease.
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