HONDA 450R VS. YFZ450R
HOW ARE THEY ON THE WALLET?
For 2013, the carburetor-fed Honda TRX450R is $7799, and the EFI-fed, race-width YFZ450R lists for $8599 whether you opt for Yamaha Blue or white with your choice of graphics package. The Kawasaki KFX450R with reverse and EFI is $8299, while the base EFI Can-Am DS 450 is $7799. Can-Am’s DS 450 X xc is $8999, and the DS 450X mx is $9699, some $1100 more than the YFZ-R.
WHAT’S NEW FOR 2013?
As for radical 2013 model updates, not so much has changed. Both the YFZ450R and the TRX450R have seen nothing but graphic and color option changes for the past couple of years. The Honda is $800 cheaper, but you get fuel injection and the wider, MX-ready stance with the Yamaha.
WHICH HAS GOT THE MOTOR?
They both have really great powerplants. The Honda has proven itself a favorite with racers and engine builders alike. Its high-revving, uni-cam, four valve engine is capable of making huge power. The newer, fuel-injected Yamaha motor, on the other hand, is really quick right out of the box. The YFZ450R can be A-level competitive on a MX track, with nothing more than exhaust and a fuel programmer, whereas the Honda needs a cam installed to be at that same range of power. While the Yamaha has a little more motor, our test riders have continually expressed their preference for the third-gear roll-on power of the Honda. While in stock form it’s not a rocket ship, the TRX puts down great mid-to-top pull, especially when laying into it in third gear while hitting the bigger jumps on the track.
HOW ABOUT THE CLUTCH AND GEARBOX?
The clutches on both machines have a really good, solid feel, and a great reputation for durability follows both of them. We have been racing endurance and desert races on the Honda for nine years now and never had a clutch failure; in fact, the clutches are still in tolerance and working well after the Baja 1000 every year. We have not tested the Yamaha to that extent, but we’ve never had to put a clutch in any of our loaners since its inception in ’09. As for the clutch lever, the Yamaha is the hands down winner, most definitely the nicest stock clutch lever we’ve ever seen on an ATV. The flip-style parking brake lever unbolts from the perch, leaving you a clean-looking, smooth- functioning, race-worthy perch and lever.
Shifting on both machines is pretty good, maybe even excellent on the Yamaha. Occasionally the Honda exhibits a bit of a false neutral between gears; it is very rare but still worth mentioning, as no one mentioned it on the Yamaha. Another thing worth mentioning is that while our media loaners have never had transmission failures, the later-model Hondas (2006- plus) do have a reputation for tearing up second and third gears in heavily raced or highly abused situations, whereas the Yamaha transmission has a pretty solid reputation.
WHO HAS THE BETTER SUSPENSION?
The Yamaha comes track-ready at 49 inches wide coupled with high-end KYB shock absorbers. The YFZ450R suspension is really good, and the shocks have plenty of adjustment for fine-tuning to each rider’s preference. The shocks are fully adjustable and work pretty well on the TRX as well. Bump absorption is excellent on both machines, but, in stock form, the Yamaha feels like a more highly tuned, capable package in most situations.
WHICH HANDLES TRACKS BETTER?
In stock form, the Yamaha is the king of the track. Without aftermarket suspension, the taller, standard-width TRX is no match for the YFZ-R in the corners. The YFZ-R is stable and corners really well. Both the Honda and Yamaha are excellent jumpers, but the lower, wider Yamaha is easier to maneuver through the rest of most any off-road or MX course. While comparing stock for stock, the Yamaha dominates the track scene, but the Honda has proven itself a winner at the top of every form of ATV racing over the years. With a good set of A-arms, race shocks and an axle, the Honda becomes a whole new animal. The Honda does have a lower retail price, but you will be hard- pressed to properly set it up for track with the $800 you save off the dealer floor.
WHAT ABOUT DUNES AND TRAILS?
Both bikes are excellent duners— great power, electric start and plush suspension are a recipe for success in the sand. While both bikes are excellent, the Yamaha edges out the Honda once again with its wider, more- stable platform and fuel-injected motor. Trail riding is a blast on both machines as well. If the trails start to get tighter, the Honda will prevail. Both platforms are comfortable to trail ride, but the narrower TRX450R is more comfortable in the trees. While MX and desert racers don’t want the extra weight of a reverse gear, trail riders and cross-country racers would really appreciate the option on either ATV.
HOW ABOUT ERGONOMICS AND COMFORT?
The Yamaha has the best seat and plastic in the industry. The slight T-shape of the seat is perfect for transferring weight from side to side in corners. The removable plastic side panels on the YFZ-R work excellent while using your knees to readjust the machine in the air. These plastic panels are removable to easily access vital maintenance items, and they are actually made from a special softer plastic to keep from destroying the inside of your legs and knees. The ProTaper bars found stock on the YFZ-R are also a welcome luxury in comparison to the stock steel handlebars on the Honda. The YFZ-R steering stem even features a four-way, adjustable bar mount allowing different- size riders to place the bars exactly where they want. The tried-and-true, nine-year-old Honda chassis design lacks a lot of the cooler, more-updated features found on the Yamaha, but it is still very comfortable. The seat-to-footpeg ratio is unbeatable on the Honda. Transferring from sitting to standing is almost effortless on the TRX in comparison to any other 450. Taller riders will feel right at home on the Honda, but they might really appreciate lower pegs and a taller stem on the YFZ-R. Another standout item on the Honda is the thumb throttle. Honda throttles are just plain good; racers and enthusiasts have been converting Honda thumb throttles onto other brand machines since the 250Rs in the late ’80s. For quite a while, it was almost a necessity, but the other manufacturers have taken note, improving theirs to be more Honda-like. Even with the lack of fuel injection, the Honda throttle still feels slightly superior.
WHO HAS STRONGER BRAKES?
Both bikes come with dual-piston brakes and great stopping power. The lever feel is excellent, and they even come with trick adjustable-reach levers that can adjust to fit any-size hand. We have no complaints about any part of either braking system and would be hard-pressed to pick a winner in this department.
WHAT’S OUR FINAL ANSWER?
These two machines are both really impressive in many ways. They’re great all-around sport quads that are a ton of fun to ride. We have to applaud Yamaha on the YFZ450R’s race readiness out of the box. Dirt bike guys have been able to purchase a race-ready bike at the dealership for decades. ATV racers have been left with having to rely on the aftermarket if they want race-ready. This not only raises the bill for anyone interested in entering the sport, it also adds the necessity of mechanical skills that could very well scare off potential interest. The YFZ-R brings the race-ready element to the public. They can buy a YFZ-R, slap a set of nerf bars and a steering damper on it, and go be competitive. Both machines are great. The Honda is and has been the privateer’s race bike of choice for years, but for $800 more, the fuel-injected, race-width Yamaha is going to appeal to a lot of riders, both new and old.