After overhauling the YZ250F last year, Yamaha turned its sights to the YZ450F for 2020, giving the 450-class motocross racer a redesigned engine and a revised frame. The YZ450F did receive a small update a year ago, but the last major revisions came back in 2016, so it was due for some attention.
Yamaha tantalized the American dirtbike press with the unveiling of its all-new, electric-start, WiFi-equipped 2018 Yamaha YZ450F about a month ago, and we haven’t stopped drooling over the photos and technical specifications of the bike since then. So, when Yamaha offered us the chance to sample the YZ for ourselves to see if we thought it had a chance at regaining the top spot in the 450cc motocross class, we jumped at the chance, which came on an oven-like day at the world-famous Glen Helen Raceway in Southern California.
The 2018 Yamaha YZ450F promises to advance technology in the sport of motocross by becoming the world’s first Wi-Fi-equipped production dirtbike, capable of allowing the user to tune the engine’s ECU with the use of an Apple or Android smartphone. Yamaha’s all-new Yamaha Power Tuner iOS and Android app connects to a WI-Fi communication control unit on the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F to allow for instant fuel and ignition mapping changes trackside when the engine is not running.
Honda CRF450R Vs. Husqvarna FC450 Vs. Kawasaki KX450F Vs. KTM 450 SX-F Vs. Suzuki RM-Z450 Vs. Yamaha YZ450F
The race to deliver the best 450cc motocross bike on the planet grabbed another gear in 2017 when Honda released its all-new 2017 CRF450R to challenge the recent dominance of Yamaha’s YZ450F and the never-ending onslaught from the aggressive European companies, namely the KTM 450 SX-F and its fully revived sister, the Husqvarna FC 450.
Yamaha’s reverse incline-motored YZ450F is kind of like the legendary rock band Kiss. Just like it took hard rock’s masked marauders five years and four albums to become overnight sensations, the YZ450F finally came Alive! in 2015 by hitting upon the right combination of engine performance, chassis rigidity and suspension compliance to make it a winner.
Yamaha has enjoyed championship-winning success with its YZ250F and a real turnabout in the fortunes of its YZ450F in major product shootouts while at the same time reaping success by introducing new and exciting off-road competition models and championing a full two-stroke motocross line, the only one of the Japanese manufacturers to do so.
Yamaha attempted to defy conventional wisdom in the 450cc class when it introduced an entirely different YZ450F in 2010. The all-new YZ’s rearward-slanted cylinder and reversed cylinder head engine architecture, while not completely original, was a radical departure from the contemporary crop of 450cc contenders.
Yamaha’s radical, reverse cylinder head YZ450F set the world on its ear when it debuted in 2010. Sure, the ill-fated Cannondale MX400 of 1999 had already introduced the concept to the motocross world, but the difference was that the Cannondale suffered from fuel-injection issues and a lack of power whereas the Yamaha worked well right out of the box. Today, the YZs are the only Japanese motocrossers to use this major mass-centralizing design feature.