-- 2014 Yamaha YZ450F Tested
-- By Darren Smart
Season 2014 is very important for Yamaha and their all new YZ450F. After several years of few changes and plenty of criticism the 2014 YZ450F now shares the chassis of the new YZ250F, has more power, improved suspension and a plethora of changes to get more weight to the centre of the machine to improve the overall handling.
Motor wise it is only the clutch cover, water pump cover and cylinder that is carried over from the 2013 model so with so many changes what is it that Yamaha had in mind? Well thankfully Yamaha’s goal is in line with what every manufacturer is trying to do, produce more power while still keeping the bike controllable for the every-day punter, yet have the potential to turn the bike into a winning rig at the Pro level.
So to achieve this Yamaha changed the ignition timing and fuel injection mapping then matched that up to an all-new new cylinder head (maintaining the straight port down draft design) with a new piston, camshaft, intake and exhaust valves that feed a redesigned wrap-around exhaust system that helps to move the mass of the motor to the centre of the bike.
Backing up the top end changes the 2014 model has new transmission ratios, new shift mechanism, a stronger clutch system, a new gear positioning sensor, a new water pump impellor and now runs a wet sump without an external oil tank to save weight.
The airbox now has more direct intake ducts and houses a much larger capacity air filter that not only brings in more air but also help to reduce that annoying intake noise from previous models. The petrol tank has been moved further back while the petrol cap is housed underneath a clip-out portion of the front part of the seat.
All of this means that the shrouds are now 14mm thinner than the ’13 model and the new bodywork, airbox and 250F based chassis are all part of the engineering team’s desire to move weight to the centre of the machine.
The Kayaba conventional spring forks are basically the same as 2012/2013 but they are held in place by a more rigid triple clamp that features rubber mounted handlebar mounts and a 22mm front axle. The forks themselves received a few refinements like increasing the rigidity of the outer tubes by three percent with a new polishing process to the inner tubes.
The Kayaba shock reservoir has been moved from the right to the left side to accommodate the new exhaust and fuel tank while the spring spec and settings are changed to match the new chassis and swing arm.
The new 2014 YZ250F and YZ450F share the same frame, swingarm, subframe, suspension (with different settings), triple clamps, wheels, brakes and bodywork.
OK, with all of that information in place it is now time to have a crack at Yamaha’s latest offering but before we go any further I will give you a bit of history lesson on the ol’ Smarty and Yamaha.
My first ‘race’ bike was a Yamaha GTMX 80 way back in the early 70s after which I rode the YZ80B, YZ80D and YZ125E in anger over many seasons. I returned to the Yamaha fold to race the 1987 YZ250 in several supercross events before racing the 1995, 1996 and 1997 YZ250s, 1998 and 1999 YZ400F, 1999 and 2000 YZ426 then a few YZ450s in the early 2000s.
Venue wise, Queensland Moto Park was perfect for me, I have been riding several different 2013 250F and 450F motocross machines on a regular basis at QMP since last November so I have the tracks completely dialled in.
So after so many years with a tuning fork between by legs I was as keen as mustard to see how the new model would perform on tracks that I was very comfortable on and my first impression was pretty cool.
The bike is definitely slimmer than previous models, the motor was smooth and ultra-fast once the revs built, while the cable clutch was better than I expected. The forks and shock gave a good feel overall and I can’t complain about the brakes or gearbox, everything felt like it should on a modern motocross machine.
Once the track got a few more lines I started upping the pace a little and straight up I found the first stumbling block. The front end felt twitchy and/or nervous going into corners. Once settled into a rut or berm I was really enjoying the 2014 YZ450F but it was just that transition from hard acceleration to hard braking while leaning towards a corner that was giving me a bit of an uneasy feeling.
The Yamaha crew took my comments on board and dropped the forks through the triple clamps a few millimetres then gave me a few more clicks of increased compression in the forks and sent me back out. I had also moved the bars just a little forward as well.
The changes definitely gave me a better feel but I still couldn’t hit the lines I was capable of on other machinery so I analysed the situation and decided to start sitting down a little earlier in the turns to see what that would do and all of a sudden I had more confidence in the machine and could click off laps that inspired my confidence in the 2014 YZ450F.
Perhaps that is the way of the world these days but my years of riding and racing has me naturally standing up under brakes and not sitting down until I am about to drop into a rut, berm or the apex of a corner.
The idea of standing up until the death then dropping onto the seat is to give the front end traction at that critical portion of the turn but when the bike feels unsettled during the braking and turn in stage of a corner it definitely takes away some confidence but once I started sitting down a little earlier things started clicking for me and the YZ.
So with that issue sorted I was able to enjoy the virtues of the new model and I can say that it is one of the nicest bikes I have ever ridden when hitting jumps, I mean, this thing is really cool in the air and the suspension handled flat landings or down ramp landings perfectly. The front forks also soaked up squared edged brake in bumps really well.
As I mentioned before the YZ450F settles into a corner nicely once you get into a berm or rut and once you pull the throttle around the YZ doesn’t want to run you wide like some 450s do, it stays on line allowing me to aim up the next corner perfectly.
The claimed 55hp motor is an absolute ripper, like most fuel injected bikes these days it is smooth off the bottom but when the revs build it takes a fair amount of riding skill, clutch control and bravery to keep that right wrist all of the way to the stoppers for more than a few seconds and thankfully the brakes work great too or I would have missed quite a few corners on the day. This thing generates serious speed very quickly.
All up, I really enjoyed my time on the all new YZ450F, the work put into the bike has paid dividends and I am sure Yamaha fans, especially those that persisted with the old models, will absolutely love this motorcycle. If you are not a Yamaha rider now, my advice is to get a ride on one of these beasts.
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