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2023 Yamaha YZ450F – Bike Test

2023 Yamaha YZ450F – Bike Test

What. A. Motorcycle. ‘Lighter, slimmer, sharper, faster’ are the four words that Yamaha has used as their marketing slogan and they aren’t lying. I can say that in confidence now having ridden the bike as much as they can.

Bike Test and Words by Jeff Perrett

The new 2023 YZ450 is the best production 4 stroke I have ever ridden. As soon as I saw the bike in the flesh, I had the feeling it was going to be a big improvement on an already solid model more than capable of winning at every level, you can tell the work and passion that has gone into it. Pretty much within the first few corners of riding it, I could tell it was significantly better than the previous YZ450, and by the end of lap two, I felt as comfortable on it as I’ve ever felt on any bike I’ve tested or raced in stock trim, no exaggeration. Right off the bat I felt confident, and at ease on it, I may not have looked it mind you, but in my mind, I felt good and wasted no time dialling in the track because I felt right at home on the bike.

They say first impressions last and count, and the new YZ450 certainly made a good one on me. There are many noticeable differences and improvements on the bike, the first of which for me was the weight. The Japanese technicians who developed the new bike were present at the press launch and ran all of us journalists and test riders through the key specs at the presentation the evening before. It was clear that the one element of the new bike that they were most proud of was the weight and the fact that they’ve managed to shave 2.3KG off it from the 2022 model. I thought at the time that they were a little too excited about it, but by the end of lap three of my session the following day, I absolutely understood their glee. It feels like a 250 in the way you can throw it around, a bloody fast 250! I definitely noticed the weight-saving gains and advantages through the corners and found it much easier than the previous model to throw into a turn. If that wasn’t enough, in the air, it felt feather light to flick around. Not that I do so much of that these days because it’s harder getting the belly back in line when attempting a whip than it is the bike, but regardless I felt like I could’ve rolled out on the SX track for the second session. I didn’t, wisely.

For anyone that diets, losing 2.3KG isn’t easy, so I’m told (as clearly shown in the pictures, I wouldn’t know) so to trim that off a motorcycle is a genuine benefit for performance. For one, it obviously makes the bike more nimble, and secondly, it means you can probably get away without going to the gym so much! So how have the Yamaha bods lost the weight? As you’d expect with modern engineering and the bikes already being so good, they’ve done it by shaving small amounts of varying components, not just huge reductions on one or two parts. The list is quite an eye-opener really, like the throttle cable for example which is now 60 grammes lighter than last year’s model. The airbox (390 gr), clutch (725 gr), fuel tank (200 gr), subframe (100 gr) and chain guide (80 gr) weight reductions all add up along with other smaller components to make a huge difference.

The icing on the lighter, tastier cake is the new ergonomics and overall feel of the bike. The ‘slimmer’ 2023 model isn’t just marginally (although on paper it is) it’s a world apart from the previous model, which let’s be fair was pretty wide at the front due to the direct feed air ducts for the top and front mounted airbox. Whereas the previous model felt a bit like swinging your leg over a rodeo bull the new model feels more like you’re gripping a credit card between your leg in comparison.

Of course, it’s not that slim, but the difference is huge. Because of that, the most noticeable difference for me was how much easier it was to get my foot nearer to the front axle and therefore track better into the turns. Previously I had to bend my lower leg inwards because of the width of the rad shrouds between my knees, but now it’s so much easier to keep your leg straight and not be so ‘bow legged’ with your riding position and really grip the bike firmer with less effort in a more natural riding position. At the base of the fuel tank, the new model is 6mm slimmer, at the centre of the rad shrouds, it’s 50mm slimmer, as I said, it doesn’t sound a lot but trust me, that’s a huge difference and that’s not just a man perspective on the measurements! Yamaha has gained the 50mm by eliminating the front air intake ducts, with the airflow now coming from the sides and rear of the bike with good effect.

The new flatter seat also adds to the ride experience and surprisingly, you feel sat in the bike and part of it even though, in theory, you’re more sat on top of it, even with 10mm more distance between the top of the seat and the footpegs and the overall seat height 5mm higher. The four-position adjustable handlebar mounts offer up plenty of scope depending on your size. The bike definitely feels more compact in general, with Yamaha being bold enough to say it ‘feels like a 125’. They’re not far wrong but like I said, with it being a 4 stroke and the engine characteristics it’s closer to a very fast and nimble 250F.

The new rad shrouds and side panels have clearly been given a lot of thought and sliding your legs up and down the bike are pretty seamless, apart from one thing, arguably my biggest gripe. This might be because of the size of my legs or the boots I wear but a few times the top of my boots caught on the underside of the subframe which is slightly exposed and I was momentarily snagged down when I needed to stand up. The first time it happened, I actually hit a braking bump sat down and got in a bit of a tank slapper, and ran off track. Looking at the bike though, I think it would be something easily fixed with a quick mod or alternatively just have longer boots or legs!

Apart from that, it was plush and lush, and updated KYB suspension enhanced the ride further. The valving has been amended to match the new weight and chassis, and as a starting point for a stock model, it’s on point, or at least it was for me. Suspension is and always will be the key element to feeling confident and, therefore faster on a motocross bike and so often gets overlooked with a lot of riders feeling they need to get a bike tuned so it revs to the moon and stick a pipe on it to go faster. What’s the point of having a bike that pulls your arms out of your sockets and then handles like a top-heavy wheelbarrow through turns and twitches nervously and uncontrollably like a pill-popping raver who is all in for going the distance at an illegal gig? Both suspension units on the new YZ450 are well-balanced, smooth and progressive. The compression on the rear was a bit too hard for how I like it, but I haven’t ridden many bikes down the years that aren’t so I’m not reading too much into that. I ended the day thinking if I had the suspension valved and sprung to my weight and style my confidence would’ve probably been close to how I felt as a professional racer back in the day, even though my body and speed will never see those days again. Oh, and before I forget, a nice little touch is the ‘tool free’ compression damping adjuster.

The brakes on the YZ range have been strong and solid for pretty much as long as I can remember, and that’s still the case. I particularly liked the front brake as I like them razor sharp to the touch, I can’t stand a ‘spongy’ front brake that you have to pull halfway to the bars before it starts to bite, I want it working within a couple of mm’s of pulling the lever and ideally with one finger. The front brake was right where I wanted it from the get-go and the I particularly liked the shape and feel of the lever. Out on track, there was a really nice section where you land off a small step up and into an inside corner mound with a short table top straight after, it was my favourite part of the track mainly because the control and confidence I had on the brakes and feel with the rear brake to just lock it up a bit to quickly change my direction on the upslope of the mound on the way in, along with the lightweight feel and manoeuvrability of the bike in general.

With the chassis and ergonomics as the icing, the motor is the juicy, ripe cherry on top. Engine wise, she’s a Bobby Dazzler too in my opinion. I’ve never been much of a ’screamer’ or ‘valve bouncer’ and like to use the torque of an engine and ride taller gears on a lower RPM. Again after just a few laps I felt right at home on the new YZ450. With the weight reduction and a smooth useable grunt straight off the bottom it just felt like I could put the bike anywhere on the track and get the power on early and with confidence, it would stick. I never once felt that I had to give it little gee up with a slip of the clutch to hit that sweet spot. The guys at Yamaha had also set up a ‘tuned’ setting on the mapping switch for us to try that they felt was suited to the track. Modern technology combined with people who know how to use it can make a world of difference as much as it makes a difference to the world. Once I got completely comfortable with the ‘stock’ mapping after a couple of sessions, I flicked the switch to see if there would be a significant difference. It was subtle but enough to inspire more confidence and control. It made the power even smoother off the bottom and then more grunt at the end of the mid-range and revving onto the top. After a few laps, I started to deliberately over-revving the bike to see it would still pull on or peak out early, and I was genuinely surprised by how much it kept pulling to the top of the curve. Like I said, that’s not my style, but if that’s how you ride I think you’ll be pleased with what it’s got to offer. Seems to me it has the best of both worlds really and with the new, easier to use tuning app you’ll be able to find a setting that suits you. If you can’t then, you’re either overthinking it or a factory GP or AMA rider. There’s all a good standard or average club rider will ever need in the 2023 YZ450 engine, and more than any novice rider will certainly ever need. That’s not to say it’s too much for a novice; what I mean by that is that you wouldn’t want to start putting on the aggressive settings in an attempt to go faster, go the other way, tame it down a bit and let the bike do the work because this one will make your life easier and not take so much out of you.

Overall the engine has a 5% power increase and 500 more rpm’s, but it’s the way that is delivered which is key here. There’s a longer, broader power band, and the response is ‘sharper’ just as they say, which is some improvement considering they got rid of the direct air intake ducts on the rad scoops. Before I even got out on the track I notice a different tone, like I could hear the air being sucked into the bike. British championship rider Tom Grimshaw also made the observation, he said it sounds like a ‘spaceship’. I’m not sure if Tom’s ever seen and heard a spaceship or maybe even been on one, but I understood the context of what he meant. Like the weight saving the engine is improved by the sum of it’s parts, small refinements that all add up to make a big difference. The intake port has a 9% volume increase and the valve diameter has gone from 37mm to 39mm. The exhaust port has a more efficient flow, and there’s a new piston head shape. The crankshaft has a large outer diameter (+5%) but maintains the same weight, which helps deliver that smooth, linear power and that coupled with the centralised single-weight balancer layout and plain bearing conrod reduces vibration.

I had no issues with the gearbox all day, and every shift up and down felt smooth, which is always a positive, even more so when it’s a newly designed clutch. As I mentioned before, it’s lighter and 8.5mm narrower, with disc spring replacing the 6 coil springs. In the transmission, there’s a new gear arrangement and larger gear diameters. The traction control was great and having the choice of different RPM mappings enhanced the experience, again, there’s so much scope for the average rider to improve their standard on this bike right off the gate to out on track, in fact, I’d go as far to say for a regional expert racer.

For me, that pretty much sums it all up really. I could sit here and write all the refinements and changes in more detail, but actually, all you need to know is how it compares to the previous model and what it’s like to ride. The short answer to that is the new YZ450 is exceptionally good (in my opinion), and a significant improvement on the 2022 model, and that wasn’t too shabby was it?! Judging by the amount of time testing and play riding that Seewer, Coldenhoff, Renaux and Paulin spent on the new model I reckon they’d say the same regardless of the fact they’re paid too. I felt at home, I felt comfortable and most importantly confident and at one with the bike, and for me that has, and always will be, the most important thing I get out of riding a dirt bike. If good results are a bi product of that then great, but right from my very first ride on a motocross bike in our garden back in 1981 it was always going to be about how it made me feel that mattered to me, and it still does. This bike is good, and it made me feel great, and I’m sure it will make many other like-minded dirt bike souls feel the same, for a moment there I forgot I was nearly 50. As great as the bike is, my body reminded me two days later though…. but I ain’t bitching about that, it was definitely worth it, and the pleasure far outweighed the pain that followed. Mojo a go go.

Technical Highlights
• All-new lighter, slimmer and more compact 450cc engine
• Increased linear power at all engine speeds, and 500rpm higher rev limit
• Increased air intake capacity with 39mm intake valves
• Revised 5-speed transmission and new lightweight clutch
• New dry sump lubrication system
• 2,3 kg overall bike weight reduction to 109 kg wet with full tank of fuel
• Redesigned bilateral aluminium beam frame with revised rigidity balance
• Updated front fork and rear shock internal valving
• New hand adjustable front fork compression damping adjuster
• Slimmer and more compact bodywork for increased rider agility
• Flatter and narrower seat for greater freedom of movement
• New 3-mode adjustable Traction Control System
• Updated Launch Control System
• New more intuitive Power Tuner app with Quick Tuning
• New lap timer feature and more
• FAQ-style suspension set up guidance

Availability and colour options 

The new YZ450F will be available from November 2022 and will be offered in 2 colour options:

Icon Blue and Monster Black. The YZ450F Monster Energy Yamaha Racing Edition features black bodywork with blue highlights and Monster Energy graphics, inspired by the look of the factory race bikes.