Motorcycles: Best Motocross Bike 2nd Place—2021 Yamaha YZ450F

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The fight for the win in Dirt Rider’s 450 Motocross Shootout has been a dogfight for the past two years, and one of those main contenders is the Yamaha YZ450F. Widely regarded for its engine power, suspension comfort, and predictable handling, the bLU cRU’s flagship motocrosser is, not surprisingly, praised by our team of test riders. However, the bike still has a few idiosyncrasies, namely in the ergonomics department, that hold it back just slightly in the overall 2021 rankings. Regardless, Yamaha has done an excellent job with the YZ450F and it is certainly one of the most capable motocross bikes right off the showroom floor.

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a man riding a bike down a dirt road: “The Yamaha YZ450F is very well harmonized between the engine, suspension, and chassis to deliver a confidence-inspiring ride with unparalleled stability.” —Eric Storz © Jeff Allen “The Yamaha YZ450F is very well harmonized between the engine, suspension, and chassis to deliver a confidence-inspiring ride with unparalleled stability.” —Eric Storz

Related: 2021 Yamaha YZ450F Review First Ride

a bicycle is parked next to a blue motorcycle: With its 248-pound wet weight as measured on our automotive scales, the YZ450F is the heaviest motorcycle of the five gathered here. It is four pounds more than the other Japanese bikes in this comparison test including the Honda CRF450R and Kawasaki KX450. © Provided by Dirt Rider With its 248-pound wet weight as measured on our automotive scales, the YZ450F is the heaviest motorcycle of the five gathered here. It is four pounds more than the other Japanese bikes in this comparison test including the Honda CRF450R and Kawasaki KX450.

2021 Yamaha YZ450F Engine

Runs on our in-house dyno were in order for the YZ450F along with the other four bikes in this comparison test before we took them to the track. With a Dunlop D404 street tire mounted on its rear wheel, the YZ450F cranked out 53.1 hp at 9,700 rpm and 32.7 pound-feet of torque at 7,400 rpm. With those figures, Yamaha’s flagship motocross bike ranks fourth in peak horsepower and torque.

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chart, line chart: On the Dirt Rider dyno, the Yamaha cranks out 53.1 hp at 9,700 rpm and 32.7 pound-feet of torque at 7,400 rpm, ranking it fourth in both peak horsepower and torque. © Provided by Dirt Rider On the Dirt Rider dyno, the Yamaha cranks out 53.1 hp at 9,700 rpm and 32.7 pound-feet of torque at 7,400 rpm, ranking it fourth in both peak horsepower and torque.

The YZ450F makes the least horsepower of the five bikes from 3,000 rpm to 4,600 rpm, and then surpasses the KTM 450 SX-F from 4,800 rpm to 6,300 rpm, at which point it and the Kawasaki KX450 begin to taper off in comparison to the 450 SX-F, Husqvarna FC 450, and Honda CRF450R. The same can be said about the YZ450F’s torque curve from 3,000 rpm to 4,600 rpm, where it makes the least compared to the others, before it meets the CRF450R briefly and then passes the 450 SX-F from 4,800 rpm to 6,300 rpm, and the KX450 at 5,700 rpm. The YZ450F is overtaken by the 450 SX-F and FC 450 on the torque curve at 6,400 rpm, at which point it follows a similar curve to the KX450 until 11,000 rpm.

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a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: “The YZ450F is fast! It has lots of overall power and torque, revs very quickly, and is aggressive yet rideable. Also, the Power Tuner app allows for endless fuel delivery and ignition timing tunability.” —Tanner Basso © Provided by Dirt Rider “The YZ450F is fast! It has lots of overall power and torque, revs very quickly, and is aggressive yet rideable. Also, the Power Tuner app allows for endless fuel delivery and ignition timing tunability.” —Tanner Basso

On the track, the YZ450F engine is an absolute monster. It has the most torquey engine character of all the bikes; its midrange torque, especially, is second to none. It has a reasonably broad power and there is little need to over-rev it as it will usually accept the next gear thanks to its plethora of torque. It is best to start in second gear and then grab third as soon as possible because second can easily break the rear tire loose due to how powerful the engine is. Riding the bike a gear high makes the power delivery more manageable and user-friendly. Test riders praised the YZ450F’s ability to effortlessly carry third gear around the entire track.

Throttle control is required with the stock map settings because of how easily the bike can light up the rear tire. Thankfully, Yamaha offers the best in-class tunability by far with its Power Tuner app. The iOS- and Android-based smartphone application is free and connects to the bike via Wi-Fi, which puts Yamaha at the forefront of engine tuning capability since it was first introduced on the 2018 YZ450F. The Power Tuner app’s ease of use is remarkable; Yamaha has several preconfigured maps in the app and on its website that are available for download, and you can also create them on your own with the app. Test riders appreciated the “Magic (Controlled Acceleration) Map” that Yamaha had uploaded to the map 2 (light on) setting as it gave the blue machine a smoother power delivery throughout the rpm range and made it more manageable.

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a bicycle is parked next to a blue motorcycle: With its 248-pound wet weight as measured on our automotive scales, the YZ450F is the heaviest motorcycle of the five gathered here. It is four pounds more than the other Japanese bikes in this comparison test including the Honda CRF450R and Kawasaki KX450. © Jeff Allen With its 248-pound wet weight as measured on our automotive scales, the YZ450F is the heaviest motorcycle of the five gathered here. It is four pounds more than the other Japanese bikes in this comparison test including the Honda CRF450R and Kawasaki KX450.

The YZ450F has some noticeable engine-braking, but it is controllable and helps slow the bike down when entering corners. The clutch has an easy pull and minimal fade, but it is the only machine in this comparison test to still come with a cable clutch; a few test riders noted they would like to see it come with a hydraulically actuated unit like the other four bikes gathered here. Due to its exhaust and airbox noise, the Yamaha is one of the louder 450 motocross bikes on the market, but not to the point where it is obnoxious; it just takes a little time to get used to if you’ve never ridden a Yamaha before.

2021 Yamaha YZ450F Suspension

a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: “Having what is easily the plushest suspension in the class, I get the sensation that I want to stiffen or raise the Yamaha’s stance, but I am careful when doing so in order to not lose the suspension’s remarkable comfort. The spring rates are good for my weight of 175 pounds and the KYB components’ bump absorption on acceleration is excellent.” —Allan Brown © Provided by Dirt Rider “Having what is easily the plushest suspension in the class, I get the sensation that I want to stiffen or raise the Yamaha’s stance, but I am careful when doing so in order to not lose the suspension’s remarkable comfort. The spring rates are good for my weight of 175 pounds and the KYB components’ bump absorption on acceleration is excellent.” —Allan Brown

The YZ450F has the best suspension in the class with the most comfort and the plushest feel. The KYB Speed Sensitive System (SSS) fork and KYB shock are very predictable, easy to adjust, and work great for a surprisingly broad range of rider abilities and weights. Each of our test riders, from 125 pounds to 195 pounds and novice to pro in skill level, set the sag and didn’t adjust much, if anything, since the base settings are excellent. The YZ450F suspension’s bump absorption on braking bumps and acceleration chop is phenomenal. The KYB components are confidence inspiring everywhere on the track, especially when it gets rough, and allow the rider to push the bike harder than most of the others as a result.

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a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: “The Yamaha’s frame is fairly compliant for aluminum and the suspension hides many of its flaws like the wide shrouds, least comfortable ergonomics, thin and uncomfortable seat, least settled back end, and short rear brake pedal.” —Casey Casper © Provided by Dirt Rider “The Yamaha’s frame is fairly compliant for aluminum and the suspension hides many of its flaws like the wide shrouds, least comfortable ergonomics, thin and uncomfortable seat, least settled back end, and short rear brake pedal.” —Casey Casper

2021 Yamaha YZ450F Chassis/Handling

a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: “The YZ450F’s stable handling encourages outside lines and higher speeds. I felt very comfortable and confident on the steep downhills and uphills while riding the blue bike; it goes exactly where you point it.” —Eric Storz © Provided by Dirt Rider “The YZ450F’s stable handling encourages outside lines and higher speeds. I felt very comfortable and confident on the steep downhills and uphills while riding the blue bike; it goes exactly where you point it.” —Eric Storz

After receiving a number of calculated changes to the chassis last year, namely the frame, the YZ450F handles better than ever with its latest updates. The frame is fairly compliant and offers a decent amount of flex, but not as much as the KX450, which puts the YZ450F in the runner-up spot in terms of chassis comfort. Although it’s not the nimblest or quickest-handling bike in this comparison test, the YZ450F makes up for it with its class-leading stability and excellent comfort. It doesn’t lean into corners quite as easily as the other bikes either, but does so in a completely acceptable manner.

The YZ450F has a slightly heavier-feeling chassis, some of which can be attributed to it being extremely planted and having very plush suspension. Another contributor to its weight feel is that the Yamaha is indeed the heaviest bike in this comparison test at 248 pounds, which is 4 pounds more than the KX450 and CRF450R, 12 pounds over the FC 450, and 14 pounds more than the 450 SX-F. With the handlebar positioned in the forward holes of the top triple clamp as it comes stock, the Yamaha’s cockpit is especially roomy. However, test riders preferred having the bar mounted in the rearward holes as it improved steering, reduced headshake, yet didn’t make the cockpit feel crammed as far as the seat to handlebar length.

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chart, line chart: On the Dirt Rider dyno, the Yamaha cranks out 53.1 hp at 9,700 rpm and 32.7 pound-feet of torque at 7,400 rpm, ranking it fourth in both peak horsepower and torque. © Robert Martin On the Dirt Rider dyno, the Yamaha cranks out 53.1 hp at 9,700 rpm and 32.7 pound-feet of torque at 7,400 rpm, ranking it fourth in both peak horsepower and torque.

As far as the rest of the ergonomics and the rider triangle, they are a bit off. The radiator shroud area and midsection are slightly wider than the other bikes. Also, the seat itself is thin, a bit uncomfortable, and has a noticeable dip, making it harder to get forward while sitting when cornering. The seating position is also too low, making it more difficult to go from sitting to standing. We would be happier campers if the YZ450F, and the other YZ-F models for that matter, came standard with Yamaha’s Tall Seat as it can dramatically improve the bike’s rider triangle.

Why the 2021 Yamaha YZ450F Should Have Won

a man riding a bike down a dirt road: “The Yamaha YZ450F is very well harmonized between the engine, suspension, and chassis to deliver a confidence-inspiring ride with unparalleled stability.” —Eric Storz © Provided by Dirt Rider “The Yamaha YZ450F is very well harmonized between the engine, suspension, and chassis to deliver a confidence-inspiring ride with unparalleled stability.” —Eric Storz

Yamaha’s flagship motocrosser has an incredible engine that is both powerful and torquey, the best-in-class EFI tunability at no cost to the user, the best suspension, and unparalleled stability.

Why the 2021 Yamaha YZ450F Didn’t Win

a bicycle is parked next to a motorcycle: After receiving a plethora of engine, chassis, and suspension updates last year, the Yamaha YZ450F returns for 2021 with appearance changes in the form of blue number plates, black fork guards, and new radiator shroud graphics. © Provided by Dirt Rider After receiving a plethora of engine, chassis, and suspension updates last year, the Yamaha YZ450F returns for 2021 with appearance changes in the form of blue number plates, black fork guards, and new radiator shroud graphics.

Peculiar ergonomics, a disproportionate rider triangle, and feeling a bit larger and heavier than the other bikes hold the YZ450F back from taking the win in this year’s 450 Motocross Shootout.

Gearbox

Helmet: Arai VX-Pro4

Goggle: Scott Prospect

a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: “The YZ450F is fast! It has lots of overall power and torque, revs very quickly, and is aggressive yet rideable. Also, the Power Tuner app allows for endless fuel delivery and ignition timing tunability.” —Tanner Basso © Jeff Allen “The YZ450F is fast! It has lots of overall power and torque, revs very quickly, and is aggressive yet rideable. Also, the Power Tuner app allows for endless fuel delivery and ignition timing tunability.” —Tanner Basso

Jersey: FXR Racing Revo

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Gloves: FXR Racing Clutch Strap

Pant: FXR Racing Revo

Boots: Sidi Atojo SRS

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