Bikes 21 Jul 2017

Review: 2018 Yamaha YZ450F

MotoOnline.com.au tests the all-new 2018 Yamaha YZ450F.

Since Yamaha released official information last month regarding the all-new 2018 Yamaha YZ450F, this model has been of high interest to both us here at MotoOnline.com.au and for much of the motocross community. There are multiple reasons for the amount of hype surrounding this new flagship motocross model and we couldn’t wait to swing our leg over it at Coolum’s official Australian launch in Queensland.

As the reigning MX Nationals MX1 championship-winning machine at the hands of Dean Ferris, the previous generation YZ450F was already a proven model in its own right locally. We’ve seen Ferris put together some amazing rides aboard that bike, so would the completely-revised YZ450F be able to offer the number one rider an even bigger edge on the competition?

Would the updates to the bike truly silence certain critics of the previous model? Just how well would the innovative Power Tuner App work? Would it be a glitch-filled gimmick or a truly fine-tuned piece of technology? These questions are just some of many that have now been answered after a great day aboard the bike at Coolum, the site of the season-finale MX Nationals event.

The 2018 Yamaha YZ450F is completely new, everything has been revised on this bike to bring a completely new machine to the table for the new year. At first glance the updated bodywork looks super-clean and it’s definitely a seamless design from the front of the bike to the rear.

Image: Greg Smith (iKapture).

With all-new bodywork and fresh graphics embedded into the plastics, Yamaha matched up with those with new blue rims for 2018. It’s a bold move from Yamaha steering away from the regular black rim offering, but it actually turned out quite nice and the bike looks impressive standing still.

Now obviously the biggest change to any model is a frame update and for 2018 the YZ450F frame is completely new! Providing a completely different feel to the new model, Yamaha went with larger upper frame bracing to improve rigidity and durability. Wider rear frame spars and new engine mounts also help to centralise the mass for the best possible balance of bump absorption, stiffness and grip.

To match this new chassis design, Yamaha continued to run with the proven and consistent KYB coil spring-type fork. It’s a fork that we’re very familiar with and it was definitely a great choice to continue in that direction. Using updated internal valving for more controlled damping characteristics and matched with a KYB shock, the suspension and chassis set-up performed quite well right out of the box.

All it took for me personally to find comfort on the Coolum circuit was a slight change to the front-end. Relaying to Ferris’ own CDR Yamaha mechanic Aidan Meltzer that I was searching for added front-end feel, he quickly pushed the forks 2.5mm up through the triple clamps and I was immediately comfortable. That’s all it took! As an 83 kilogram rider I was quickly at one with the stock settings on the demanding, sandy circuit.

Having ridden the previous model for some time as a long-term bike in 2016, I was aware of the need for increased feel up front. Luckily Yamaha engineers focused heavily on improving that front-end feel by doing multiple things including a new top triple clam that now uses a 22mm offset in comparison to the previous 25mm, this increases trail by 3mm to 121mm for increased front-end stability. The swing-arm has also been shorted by 5mm for more nimble handling whilst achieving a weight saving of 350 grams.

Image: Greg Smith (iKapture).

I know by now you’re probably itching to know about the engine on the latest Yamaha YZ450F and I’m getting to that shortly, but it has to be said that this new chassis and suspension combination is truly a huge step forward and I was personally blown away by just how different the bike felt in comparison to the previous model.

The rearward-slanted cylinder design engine on the Yamaha YZ450F never lacked power – that was not an issue at any time since its release in 2010. In saying that, it was always quite an aggressive engine and for someone like me who doesn’t race as such, it was a handful at times. Even using the previous GYTR Power Tuner I wasn’t able to get the smooth characteristics I was looking for out of the engine.

For 2018 though, Yamaha has come through with the goods in this department and the engine is buttery smooth in standard form. Featuring a new cylinder-head that has been angled slightly forward to optimise front-end weight distribution, a longer and straighter intake tract, new cam profiles, a new crankshaft and more, this engine is really quite a treat.

With ample pulling power and a new smooth and progressive style of power delivery, the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F engine is going to be a major hit when the public get their hands on them. Using a new Mikuni 44mm throttle body and a high-pressure electric pump, this thing is super-crisp, responsive and so easy to ride.

In saying that, once you continue to roll on that throttle, the all-new Yamaha YZ450F really comes to life and continues to pull for what seems like years. There’s just so much torque and horsepower on offer throughout the rev range on this bike – more than enough for the regular weekend rider. So for all of you guys out there wondering, yes, this thing is still an animal.

Image: Greg Smith (iKapture).

All of the updates to this model are impressive, but one of the most impressive on the list has to be the new Power Tuner App. Using a Wi-Fi connection, you can now download the free app to your iOS or Android device and adjust air/fuel mixture and ignition timing maps. Have a think about that for a second – we can now tune our bike using our phones? This is just awesome.

Having gone through the process of using the App with Yamaha technicians, I was amazed at how simple the process is and how well the App works. Within minutes you can completely change the engine characteristics of your 2018 YZ450F free of charge from the convenience of that phone you always have right there with you at all times.

Initially riding the bike using the standard mapping, I switched to an even smoother and progressive map for the later stages of the day. I personally felt that I preferred the standard map in the sandy conditions, but I’m sure that smoother map would have been ideal on a harder surface. Being able to fine-tune the power with such ease is pretty amazing and it’s great to see Yamaha release this world-first technology.

I feel like I continue to talk about great features, but here’s another one. We’re finally seeing electric start standard on the Yamaha YZ450F! Although not a revolutionary update, it’s something that we’re glad to see on the model and using an ultra-lightweight lithium-ion battery the system does not add weight to the motorcycle with the kick-start assembly deleted. Yamaha were actually able to shave one kilogram off the model for 2018 even with the addition of the magic button!

All of these updates are significant and the engine package combined with the new chassis and KYB suspension all work nicely, but that’s almost useless in a way if the cockpit of the bike isn’t comfortable. It may seem so simple, but as soon as you sit on the new model you will instantly feel a slimmer and more streamline YZ450F between your legs.

Image: Greg Smith (iKapture).

Using the updated chassis design and bodywork combination, the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F is 18mm slimmer between your legs and the seat width has been reduced by 9mm. A flatter seat profile has also been created to sit the rear of the seat 20mm lower than the previous model. What exactly does this achieve? It achieves a whole lot of comfort!

With a new smaller 6.2 litre fuel-tank, a redesigned top-mounted air-box and concave radiator shrouds, the new model feels much slimmer and smaller on-track. It was one of the things I was hoping for in 2018 and Yamaha definitely delivered. The bike is very easy to move around on and not at any stage did I find my boots being caught on any of the bodywork.

Returning for the 2018 model, Yamaha’s Launch Control System (LCS) has also been integrated into the YZ450F for optimised engine output that results in a quicker, smoother race start. Boosting controllability out of the gate and ensuring the rider has the best chance to get the holeshot and lead the competition into the first turn is a feature Yamaha continue to provide right off the showroom floor.

My only change I would make personally is to go with a lower bend of handlebar, but that’s just personal preference as I like a very low bend. You do sit slightly lower on the 2018 YZ450F, so for you guys that liked the previous model’s seat-to-bar ratio, you may find yourself looking for a lower bar as well. That might just be me though, so swing your leg over the bike first and make your decision from there.

Overall the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F is a huge improvement on the previous model and it’s clear that a lot of research and development has gone into this bike. I’m certain that our viewers will appreciate this updated bike and it’s going to be a hit worldwide, that is for sure. If you’re searching for a fast, smooth and comfortable 450cc motocross bike, be sure to take a look at the all-new Yamaha YZ450F for 2018.

The 2018 Yamaha YZ450F will be available nationwide this August at a recommended retail price of $12,399. Two colour options will be offered with the regular Team Yamaha Blue option along with a limited number (100 units total) of the special edition White models.

Vital specifications

Engine type: Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, one-cylinder
Capacity: 449cc
Bore/stroke: 97 x 60.8mm
Transmission: Five-speed
Seat height: 980mm
Ground clearance: 330mm
Weight: 111kg (wet)
Fuel capacity: 6.2L
Price: $12,399
More details: www.yamaha-motor.com.au

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