Yamaha’s motocross width YFZ450R represents the cutting edge in current production race quad technology. If you can’t win races with this machine, it’s not the ATV’s fault. The SE version comes with all the trick high performance hardware the standard model has, plus quick release bodywork, special metallic black and yellow colors, a black swingarm and a black GYTR front grab bar. We snagged the 2012 version of Yamaha’s top of the line race quad for a full test to see how well all that technology really works.
IS THE PRICE COMPETITIVE?
At $8949, the Special Edition YFZ450R isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s a great buy when you consider it costs roughly $3000 to widen a normal, woods width 450 to motocross width. The Yamaha comes right from the dealer with wide A-arms and a wide axle, and suspension tuned for this set up. The standard YFZ450R gets the same chassis and suspension for $8599. Can-Am’s motocross ready DS450 X MX costs $9199, but it comes with bead lock rear wheels and nerf bars, two useful racing items you have to add to the Yamaha. KTM’s impressive 450 SX goes for $11398, but it’s fully race ready and a stellar performer, right out of the crate. Woods width 450s like Honda’s 450R go for $7999. Kawasaki’s woods width KFX450 is $8099.
WHAT’S NEW FOR 2012?
The SE’s new metallic black and yellow colors are the most noticeable change, but the YFZ450R is rolling on new tires, too. They’re still Dunlop Radials, but Yamaha worked with Dunlop to develop the new KT356 fronts to lighten the steering. The new KT356 rears feature a new tread pattern designed to allow more side slip with better straight line traction.
IS THE ENGINE SPECIAL?
The YFZ450R SE’s engine is the same as the YFZ450R’s, but the engines in the R models are more advanced and more highly tuned than the engine in the YFZ450. All YFZ450s are powered by liquid cooled, double overhead cam, five valve engines, but the R models use fuel injection with a 42mm throttle body rather than a carburetor, more radical cams and higher compression for stronger, harder hitting power.
HOW POWERFUL IS IT?
For a stock 450, it’s a monster. The only stock 450 that can match the Yamaha’s strong, quick building power is the KTM. For a quiet, off road legal machine, the YFZ450R SE is amazingly fast. Its power is ideal for the motocross conditions it was tuned for. It’s fast to the first turn and has a solid, easily accessible hit that’s perfect for blasting out of corners and gaining instant drive to clear jumps. It’s a ton of fun to ride and it works on the track, so it not only feels fast, it also makes turning quick laps easy.
DOES THE POWER WORK OFF THE TRACK?
It’s great for duning and more open high speed trail conditions where you can unleash the motor, but the power is more abrupt than most riders will want for technical trails. It’s fine for highly skilled riders and woods racing, but the YFZ450R is intended for motocross, so it feels and responds like a race quad, not a trail machine. Even so, lots of riders who never go near a motocross track love the YFZ450R because they can murder their friends more docile machines any time there’s an opportunity to pull the trigger on the Yamaha’s explosive acceleration.
HOW SOPHISTICATED IS THE SUSPENSION?
Stock suspension doesn’t get much better. The YFZ450R SE and the YFZ450R come with huge piggyback reservoir shocks front and rear, and the front shocks have low friction Kashima coating to make them more compliant. The oil capacity and shock shaft sizes are massive and the shocks have adjustable high and low speed compression damping, adjustable rebound damping and spring preload adjustment.
HOW WELL DOES THE SUSPENSION WORK?
It’s perfect for motocross. The YFZ450R SE is set up firm to handle bumpy tracks, brutal whoop sections and big jumps at an aggressive pace. Even on rough tracks, the YFZR can tolerate incredible hits without getting out of shape or bottoming hard. When it does bottom, it’s nicely controlled, and you can always dial in more compression damping to add bottoming resistance if your weight or riding style requires it. Most riders under 160 pounds will probably want to back out the high and low speed compression one or two clicks. As firm as it is, the ride isn’t harsh as long as you’re on the gas. This Yamaha’s suspension isn’t made for cruising, so it’s going to feel stiff unless you’re riding aggressively.
HOW DOES IT CORNER?
It’s precise and nearly foolproof. The Yamaha has a composed, balanced feel that invites you to push your cornering limits. There’s no excess body roll or front end push, and the steering is light but not nervous. Thanks to the crisp, solid power and glued-to-the-ground stability, the YFZ450R is equally comfortable with squaring off or sliding through turns.
HOW DOES IT JUMP?
The Yamaha will give you air superiority over most stock 450s. The 450’s right-now power delivery and wide power spread makes setting up for jumps easier than on machines with narrower power bands and less hit. The YFZR’s light feel makes it controllable in the air and the capable suspension can handle nearly any landing, including the poorly planned ones.
HOW ARE THE BRAKES?
The best in the business. The Yamaha’s brakes are awesomely powerful, but also allow the precise control that lets you feel out how much stopping power is available from the track and the tires.
The front brake lever reach is also adjustable and the flip lever parking brake is simple to use and simple to remove for racing.
HOW ARE THE ERGONOMICS?
The YFZ450R isn’t quite as roomy as a Can-Am DS450, but the bodywork provides a slim, unrestricted rider’s position and the body panels and frame give the rider a good grip on the machine. The handlebar mount offers four positions, so you can customize the fit of the machine somewhat.
HOW ARE THE DETAILS?
Hard to fault. The YFZ450R comes with quality touches like ProTaper handlebars and a quick adjust clutch lever. The tires are fine for motocross, but are a bit taller than some to allow extra clearance in ruts and when riding off the track. The Yamaha YFZ450R is one of the easiest 450s to work on, and the quick release bodywork with quarter turn fasteners makes the SE even easier to service. You can convert the standard YFZ450R to the quick release bodywork.
WHAT IS OUR FINAL ANSWER?
The YFZ450R SE is ready to win races, but the standard YFZ450R is just as ready, and less expensive. No matter what version you prefer, no other showroom ready motocross quad can match the Yamaha’s speed, handling, balance and affordability.
-Massive power and instant, solid throttle response
-Huge hop-up potential
-Abrupt power can be too much for very slick track conditions or technical trails
-Suspension is too firm for most trail riders, but this thing was made for motocross
2012 YAMAHA YFZ450SE SPECS ENGINE/TRANSMISSION
Engine type…Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 5-valve, 4-stroke
Bore x stroke…95mm x 63.4mm
Lubrication system…Dry sump
Fuel metering…42mm EFI
Starting procedure…In any gear
Air filter…Washable oiled foam
Access…Unlatch seat, unlatch 6 thumb clips, remove lid and filter
Transmission…Manual shift, manual clutch five speed
Fuel capacity…2.6 gal.
Wet weight…405 lb.
Front…Double A-arms with high & low compression & rebound-adjustable piggyback reservoir shocks, 9.8″
Rear…Swingarm with high & low compression & rebound-adjustable piggyback reservoir shock, 11″
Front…Hydraulic discs/right hand lever
Rear…Hydraulic disc/, right foot
Parking brake…Rear brake lever lock
Lighting… Front…30W/30W headlights, LED Taillight/brakelight
DETAILS…Neutral and temp indicators
Suggested retail price…$8949