The 2016 Yamaha YZ450F has undergone a host of changes from its 2015 predecessor, designed to continue to build on Yamaha’s class leading performance in the big-bore motocross category.
Essentially an all-new machine, the 60th anniversary YZ450F has seen improvements to the chassis, engine, suspension and braking departments, which as a whole, have left me with a lasting positive impression of the bike.
When riding last year’s 2015 YZ450F there were a few areas of concern shared by riders which focussed on a lack of balance and front end feel, slightly excessive bottom end power, and a limited braking capacity at the front wheel. For 2016, all of these characteristics and numerous others have been addressed; revised and improved to provide the best ‘out of the box’ motorcycle I have ever ridden.
For 2016 Yamaha have improved the 450’s frame rigidity balance by increasing the width of the lower frame around the swing arm pivot (ankle area) by 12mm, and thickening the upper engine mounts by 2mm. These changes have increased the strength and foot feel around the swing arm pivot, but still allow sufficient flex in the mid to upper part of the frame for cornering traction.
Partnering the improved frame strength is the 5mm lowering of the foot pegs. This might not sound like much of a drop, but when considering a rider’s weight and the amount of downward force they apply while riding, this movement is quite noticeable in dropping the overall centre of gravity. By lowering this centre of gravity through the pegs, a more stable and controlled feel is created, leading to an increased sense of confidence in the bike’s handling.
For 2016, adding to the revolutionary rearward slanted cylinders (which provide unparalleled mass centralisation) is the introduction of new cam profiles and valve springs, for increased torque and engine controllability.
If the previous model was to receive any engine criticism it was that it’s potent bottom end power made the bike difficult to control. This has been addressed for 2016, with a much smoother power curve throughout the entire rev range.
In varying my gear selections, I found that it was quite easy to run a gear or two higher than normal and not experience any major bogging from the bike. Then when running lower gears, I was pleased to find that the overall acceleration didn’t die off all too greatly in the really high RPM’s. Usually, motorcycles either have a really strong bottom or top end power but not both, so Yamaha have definitely found a quality engine package useable for all riders in 2016 – I’m a big fan.
For 2016 two major alterations have been made to improve the overall balance of the bike; shifting the fork offset from 22mm to 25mm trail, and lowering the rear end ride height.
The 2015 Yamaha had an unbalanced feel, limiting one’s trust in the front end of the bike while braking and entering turns. With the continued use of the KYB speed sensitive spring forks (SSF) and linked rear shock I thought this issue may arise again in 2016, but I quickly found that this was no longer an issue. The new YZ450F has a very predictable front end feel under all angles and my concern of washing or tucking the front wheel was no longer apparent, even when trying to force the issue in off cambered turns.
This is a huge step forward for Yamaha and it seems the revised fork offset and damping setting paired with the new rear end ride height are perfect straight out of the box for a 75kg rider.
Another notable improvement for the 2016 YZ450F is that of an enhanced gear change feel, brought about by rounded precision cut shifting components, and a stronger clutch with a flatter contact plane. These updates eliminate any of the discussion surrounding the gearbox seen in years past, and allow for easier shifting whilst riding the bike under load.
Another welcomed addition to the 2016 YZ450F is that of an enlarged 270mm front braking disc, up 20mm from 2015. Partnered with new, stronger pad materials, the increased disc size provides a very positive and obvious stopping power, as well as great control over the front end of the bike – a huge must have for all motorcycles.
A new and huge talking point surrounding the 2016 YZ450F is the introduction of a launch control system. This system works by providing a smoother, gentler ECU launch mode in first and second gears for starts, which controls rear wheel spin and front end lift. To engage the launch control system riders must start the engine, then whilst in neutral hold the launch control button for more than one second, until the small LED indicator flashes. This signifies that the ECU has been switched to launch mode and the system will remain in effect until the bike is shifted into third gear.
In using the launch control system, its activation is both physically and audibly noticeable. There is less rear wheel spin, less front wheel lift, and you can clearly hear the engine being controlled to suit the terrain it is situated on. Overall, the use of this system will be optimal for all levels of riders on both hard packed and concrete surface starts, but would generally not be advised on tacky or loamy terrain.
As seen in years past, the GYTR Power Tuner is available for purchase as an optional extra with the YZ450F. The tuner allows riders to adjust their bikes air to fuel mixture and ignition timing maps to suit the track conditions with the touch of a button. It also provides the opportunity to monitor engine diagnostics, which in my eyes is a huge plus for all riders!
The aesthetics for the 2016 machine have remained very much the same as last year, with only a small variation in the tank and air box graphic as expected. The bold, yellow 60th anniversary graphic featured throughout this article will also be an available colour way if you want to change things up from the standard blue design.
The 2016 YZ450F has the most competitive and useable 450 engine package I’ve ridden. Add to this its greatly improved stability and braking power, and you have a bike that is not only suitable for riders of all skill levels, but a class leading package for 2016.
The 2016 Yamaha YZ450F will be available in dealers from the third week in August from $11,999, with the 60th Anniversary machine in yellow commanding a $200 premium.
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.