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MXA’S 2013 450 FOUR-STROKE SHOOTOUT: SIX 2013 MOTOCROSS BIKES WALKED INTO MXA’S O.K. CORRAL, BUT ONLY ONE WALKED OUT (PLUS VIDEO)

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The idea behind a shootout hasn’t changed much since the Earps and Clantons met at the O.K. Corral. The plot is always the same. The antagonists come face to face to settle a grudge, and the winner is determined by who draws the fastest, shoots the straightest and doesn’t succumb to nerves. Right or might isn’t as important as the technical skills required for gunplay.

For the “2013 Motocross Action 450 Shootout,” it is not a matter of who’s the fastest as much as who hits the target. A successful gunfighter?man or metal?has to pull all the elements together when it counts.

It is important to note that even the MXA test riders don’t believe that there is a perfect bike. They often choose to race bikes they gave a low rating in the shootout because they suit their style better than the bikes they rated higher. We’ve tried to give you a healthy understanding of each bike’s good and bad attributes. After that, the choice is up to you. To find more details on each bike, just click on the bike name in the headline and it will take you to a detailed tests of that model.


  
SIXTH PLACE: KTM 350SXF

WHY SHOULD THE KTM 350SXF WIN THE SHOOTOUT?
The 2013 KTM 350SXF has great brakes, good handling, electric starting, an incredible clutch and more peak horsepower than the Honda CRF450. It is a mid-size bike for mid-size riders.

WHY SHOULD THE 350SXF LOSE THE SHOOTOUT?
The 2013 KTM 350SXF has mediocre suspension, gives up as much as 8 horsepower in the meat of the powerband and is a boutique bike best suited to Vet riders looking for a high-revving 250-ish Open bike.

HOW MUCH HORSEPOWER DOES THE 350SXF MAKE?
54.08 horsepower at 10,800 rpm.

WHAT IS THE POWER LIKE?
Don’t let that 54-horsepower number fool you into thinking the 350SXF is as fast as a 54-horsepower, 450cc motocross bike. It’s not. Need proof? From 6000 rpm to 9000 rpm, the 350SXF makes anywhere from 5 to 8 horses less than its brother, the KTM 450SXF. In fact, it only makes more horsepower after the 450SXF signs off. This is a high-rpm, flat-out bike that works best when revved to the moon. It makes its peak power at 10,800, which is 2100 rpm higher than peak power on the Suzuki RM-Z450. You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to see that this isn’t a typical Open-bike powerband.

WHAT DOES THE 350SXF WEIGH?
236 pounds. It came down 1 pound with new die-cast engine cases, but really should weigh closer to what a 250 weighs than a 450.

WHERE DID IT PLACE IN LAST YEAR’S MXA SHOOTOUT?
Sixth place. The 2012 KTM 350SXF didn’t have the oomph or suspension to be considered a good Open-class bike then?and it still doesn’t now.

HOW DOES THE 350SXF RATE IN THE MAJOR CATEGORIES?
   Power output:
Fifth
   Powerband usability:
Fifth
   Forks:
Fifth
   Shock
: Sixth
   Overall handling:
First (tie with KTM 450SXF)
   Cornering:
Third
   Brakes:
First (tie with KTM 450SXF)
   Clutch:
First (tie with KTM 450SXF)

WHAT WOULD WE CHANGE ON THE 350SXF?
If we could change anything on the 2013 KTM 350SXF, we’d move the powerband farther down into the midrange. As it sits, it is a vastly improved bike over the 2011 and 2012 models, but it could be so much better as a mid-size Open bike than an oversize 250. Since there is no official 350 class to restrict the 350SXF, KTM should consider making a 380cc version; that would give it the thrust it needs in the middle.

WHAT’S NEWSWORTHY ON THE 350SXF?
Horsepower. This bike went from 47 horsepower in 2011 to 48 horsepower in 2012 to 54 horsepower in 2013. That is the whole story.

THE FINAL WORD?
Lonesome. Not what we want or expected.

FIFTH PLACE: YAMAHA YZ450F

WHY SHOULD THE YZ450F WIN THE SHOOTOUT?
The Yamaha has two attributes that no other machine can touch. (1) Yamaha’s SSS suspension is leaps and bounds ahead of the other offerings. It has good damping, reasonable seal life and the proper spring rates. (2) The YZ450F is bulletproof. In MXA’s experience, it can take a licking and keep on ticking.

WHY SHOULD THE YZ450F LOSE THE SHOOTOUT?
The powerband on the Yamaha YZ450F is not integrated. It bursts off the bottom, sags through the middle and runs again on top. The ergos are the worst thanks to super-wide radiator wings and a cacophonous airbox that blares into the rider’s face. And, the handling at turn-in is flawed.

HOW MUCH HORSEPOWER DOES THE YZ450F MAKE?
55.24 horsepower at 9100 rpm.

WHAT IS THE POWER LIKE?
It’s not the amount of horsepower that the YZ450F makes, it is the kind of power that it makes. It is barky and abrupt down low, then weak in the middle and ready to go again on top. That describes the engine, but not the desires of the rider. Most MXA test riders add a flywheel weight, reprogram the map for less bark and gear it to get to third gear sooner. In short, we mellow out the powerband instead of hopping it up.

WHAT DOES THE YZ450F WEIGH?
238 pounds. If you don’t change anything between model years, you weigh the same.

WHERE DID IT PLACE IN LAST YEAR’S MXA SHOOTOUT?
Fourth. The YZ450F lost a spot from its 2012 finish, but that is to be expected when the Yamaha engineers don’t make any improvements and their competitors do.

HOW DOES THE YZ450F RATE IN THE MAJOR CATEGORIES?
   Power output:
Third
   Powerband usability:
Sixth
   Forks:
First
   Shock:
First
   Overall handling:
Sixth
   Cornering:
Sixth
   Brakes:
Third
   Clutch:
Second

WHAT WOULD WE CHANGE ON THE YZ450F?
If we could change anything on the 2013 Yamaha YZ450F, we’d unify the powerband into one broad, torquey and usable spread of power. As it sits now, it is a confusing mix of disjointed highlights that don’t add up to a cohesive whole. The plastic parts need to be totally redesigned. There are too many pieces and they are too clumsy. The radiator wings are too wide, and the airbox is way too complicated to work with.

WHAT’S NEWSWORTHY ON THE YZ450F?
Nothing. This was a flawed bike when it was introduced in 2010, and since it is still the same basic bike four years later, the big news is no news.

THE FINAL WORD?
Clunky. It can be fixed, but not by benign neglect.

FOURTH PLACE: HONDA CRF450

WHY SHOULD THE CRF450 WIN THE SHOOTOUT?
The 2013 Honda CRF450 should win the 2013 MXA shootout because it is the most improved bike in the class. Honda fixed the atrocious handling of the 2009?2012 models and returned to the vastly better six-spring clutch. It is still the lightest bike in the class?although the weight gap has been narrowed because four of the six bikes in this shootout lost weight, one stayed the same and the CRF450 gained 3 pounds.

WHY SHOULD THE CRF450 LOSE THE SHOOTOUT?
It is possible for a bike that doesn’t make the most horsepower to win a shootout by virtue of its other attributes, but not when it gives a 5-horsepower advantage to its competition. The 2013 CRF450 doesn’t even make as much horsepower as the KTM 350SXF.

HOW MUCH HORSEPOWER DOES THE CRF450 MAKE?
51.55 horsepower at 8900 rpm.

WHAT IS THE POWER LIKE?
You would expect that bigger exhaust valves, more compression and new cam timing would pump up the ponies. Wrong. The 2013 only makes more power than the 2012 CRF450 engine from 4500 rpm to 5800 rpm. After that, it makes less all the way to sign-off. And, sign-off is misleading on the CRF450 engine, because even though it will rev to 11,000 rpm, it goes flat at 8200 rpm. That means that you can rev it all you want after 8200, but it will not go any faster. All that said, this is a super-easy bike to ride. Why wouldn’t it be? It is mellow, pleasant and laid back?just what you’re looking for in a nanny, but not necessarily in a high-end race bike.

WHAT DOES THE CRF450 WEIGH?
234 pounds. Last year the Honda weighed 231 pounds, but a beefier transmission and twin mufflers added 3 pounds even though the Kayaba PSF air forks saved almost 2 pounds. Without the air forks, the Honda would have been 236 pounds.

WHERE DID IT PLACE IN LAST YEAR’S MXA SHOOTOUT?
Fifth place. The 2009 through 2012 Hondas were slow, ill-handling and had a clutch that couldn’t do the job. For 2013, the bike is still slow, but the handling, clutch and forks are a step up, so it leapfrogged over the YZ450F.

HOW DOES THE CRF450 RATE IN THE MAJOR CATEGORIES?
    Power output:
Sixth
    Powerband usability:
First
    Forks:
Second (tie with KX450F)
    Shock:
Fourth
    Overall handling:
Third
    Cornering:
Second
    Brakes:
Fourth (tie with RM-Z and KX-F)
    Clutch:
Fourth (tie with KX450F)

WHAT WOULD WE CHANGE ON THE CRF450?
That’s easy. This bike is slow. Yes, it does have a nice powerband and is easy to use, but those are polite phrases that are always bandied about to describe “slow” bikes. We know that CRF450 engines can be made to produce more power than a feeble 51.55 horsepower. That is 5.4 horses less than what the KTM 450SXF makes, and the KTM has a nice powerband and is easy to use also. Before Honda wastes time and R&D dollars adding dual pipes, which don’t make more power or pass the two-meter-max sound test, they need to address the core issue.

WHAT’S NEWSWORTHY ON THE CRF450?
The big news for the CRF450 is that the four years of mediocrity are finally over. The 2013 CRF450 isn’t just a better CRF, but a bike that is capable of competing for the top spot (if only it had competitive power). The lack of horsepower isn’t new, it’s old news.

THE FINAL WORD?
Close. Close, but no cigar?because it doesn’t generate any heat.

THIRD PLACE: SUZUKI RM-Z450

WHY SHOULD THE RM-Z450 WIN THE SHOOTOUT?
The 2013 Suzuki RM-Z450 blends a solid powerband with the absolute best cornering of any bike made.

WHY SHOULD THE RM-Z450 LOSE THE SHOOTOUT?
Suzuki’s switch to Showa SFF single-spring forks for 2013 was not a good trade. Suzuki’s SFF fork setup is confused and harsh. The bike is the heaviest bike in this shootout and has a spotty reliability record in MXA’s hands. Although great in the corners, the RM-Z450 is very busy at speed, with a front end that flicks left and right when you least expect it.

HOW MUCH HORSEPOWER DOES THE RM-Z450 MAKE?
54.10 horsepower at 8700 rpm.

WHAT IS THE POWER LIKE?
Although Suzuki’s hop-up program for 2013 lost horsepower over the 2012 model, they actually came out ahead. Not because the 2013 RM-Z450 is faster on top, but because it has more torque and more thrust down low. This makes it much more tractable, gives it more hit out of corners and makes it more manageable. It is, however, at a slight disadvantage in straight-line, rpm-to-rpm showdowns with the big power-meisters in this shootout.

WHAT DOES THE RM-Z450 WEIGH?
242 pounds. The big weight saver for 2013 was the Showa SFF fork. Since the SFF forks only have one fork spring, they save about a pound.

WHERE DID IT PLACE IN LAST YEAR’S MXA SHOOTOUT?
Third. It had a strong overall finish in 2012, and with better forks and a little more top end, it might have moved up a spot in this shootout.

HOW DOES THE RM-Z450 RATE IN THE MAJOR CATEGORIES?
    Power output:
Fourth
    Powerband usability:
Third
    Forks:
Sixth
    Shock:
Third
    Overall handling:
Second
    Cornering:
First
    Brakes:
Fourth (tied with CRF & KX-F)
    Clutch:
Sixth

WHAT WOULD WE CHANGE ON THE RM-Z450?
Where should we start? This bike is an acceptable race bike when it comes to fit, feel, power and cornering, but it can’t win shootouts with feeble brakes, a weak clutch, inadequate cooling, bad forks and more tonnage than any other bike in the class. If we were Suzuki, we’d fix the basics first, because the handling, power and ergos are okay. How hard is it to offer contemporary radiators, brakes, clutches and fork settings?

WHAT’S NEWSWORTHY ON THE RM-Z450?
Suzuki gave it the old college try for 2013. Instead of sitting back and letting the world pass them by, Suzuki changed the forks, lightened the piston, added lift to the cam and redesigned the muffler. The news story is about the effort they put in, not the results.

THE FINAL WORD?
Singular. This bike loves corners?that’s its reason for being.

SECOND PLACE: KTM 450SXF

WHY SHOULD THE 450SXF WIN THE SHOOTOUT?
The 2013 KTM 450SXF makes the most horsepower across the broadest range with the easiest to use, low-to-mid transition. It has the best brakes, clutch, stability, shifting, starting, gearbox and overall handling. And, even though it has electric starting and a battery, it isn’t the heaviest bike in the class.

WHY SHOULD THE 450SXF LOSE THE SHOOTOUT?
One reason and one reason alone: the stock WP fork and shock are less than stellar.

HOW MUCH HORSEPOWER DOES THE 450SXF MAKE?
56.95 horsepower at 9400 rpm.

WHAT DOES THE 450SXF WEIGH?
240 pounds. The KTM lost 3 pounds thanks to its new die-cast engine cases and single-overhead-cam engine, although it gained some weight back with fuel injection.

WHERE DID IT PLACE IN LAST YEAR’S MXA SHOOTOUT?
Second. It was first in 2010 and 2011 and second in 2012. Now, it is second for 2013, even though it has seen major upgrades to its horsepower output. Most MXA test riders believe that this is the best all-around bike for the average racer.

HOW DOES THE 450SXF RATE IN THE MAJOR CATEGORIES?
    Power output:
First
    Powerband usability:
Second (tie with KX450F)
    Forks:
Fifth
    Shock:
Fifth
    Overall handling:
First (tie with 350SXF)
    Cornering:
Third (tie with 350SXF)
    Brakes:
First (tie with 350SXF)
    Clutch:
First (tie with 350SXF)

WHAT WOULD WE CHANGE ON THE KTM 450SXF?
For the last three seasons, MXA has taken the WP forks and shock off our full-race KTMs and mounted Showa A-kit works suspension. That solved our major KTM complaint, but at $8000, that is only a viable solution for factory stars and spoiled MXA test riders. Our wish list is simple: (1) Better suspension components. (2) More low-to-mid power to get the bike into the meat of the powerband sooner. (3) A true-to-life shock preload ring.

WHAT’S NEWSWORTHY ON THE 450SXF?
Virtually everything on the 2013 KTM 450SXF is new?and all the new stuff was developed by Roger DeCoster and Ryan Dungey. Based on Dungey’s AMA 450 National Championship bike, the 2013 KTM 450SXF is a really sweet ride. However, the newsworthy stuff on the 2013 KTM 450SXF is the stuff that didn’t get changed?the suspension hasn’t improved enough.

THE FINAL WORD?
Everyman. This is the best bike for the masses?the masses that know a suspension tuner.

FIRST PLACE: KAWASAKI KX450F

WHY SHOULD THE KX450F WIN THE SHOOTOUT?
The 2013 Kawasaki KX450F is all about the powerband. It makes “top three” horsepower, but it is the way that power is delivered that is so special.

WHY SHOULD THE KX450F LOSE THE SHOOTOUT?
Apart from the phenomenal engine, the rest of the KX450F is just average. It is a big bike with quirky handling, weak brakes, an obnoxiously loud muffler, an iffy clutch and confused ergos.

HOW MUCH HORSEPOWER DOES THE KX450F MAKE?
55.05 horsepower at 9000 rpm.

WHAT DOES THE KX450F WEIGH?
239 pounds. The Kawasaki KX450F lost almost 2 pounds with the addition of Kayaba PSF air forks.

WHERE DID IT PLACE IN LAST YEAR’S MXA SHOOTOUT?
First. In fact, this is the third time in the last five years that the KX450F has won the “450 Shootout.” It did the deed in 2009, 2012 and 2013.

HOW DOES THE KX450F RATE IN THE MAJOR CATEGORIES?
    Power output:
Second
    Powerband usability:
Second (tie with 450SXF)
    Forks:
Second (tie with CRF450)
    Shock:
Second
    Overall handling:
Fourth
    Cornering:
Fourth
    Brakes:
Fourth (tie with RM-Z & CRF)
    Clutch:
Fourth (tie with RM-Z & CRF)

WHAT WOULD WE CHANGE ON THE KX450F?
If we could change anything on the 2013 Kawasaki KX450F, it would be the overall bulk of the machine. The KX450F would be so much better if it were lighter, lower and sleeker. The engine carries the day for the KX450F because the rest of the package is midpack. Kawasaki has managed to win shootouts despite having subpar brakes, a weak clutch, average handling, fragile chain guide and being too loud. But, since most Japanese bikes have subpar brakes and clutches when compared to KTMs, the penalty for being mediocre isn’t as severe as it would be if the RM-Z, CRF or YZ-F were better.

WHAT’S NEWSWORTHY ON THE KX450F?
Kawasaki has a bag of tricks that set them apart from the competition in unique ways: Launch Control, 10mm-wider grips, adjustable footpegs, Bridgestone 403/404 tires, air forks (shared with the CRF450) and three plug-in maps (shared with the RM-Z450). But, what’s newsworthy about the KX450F is its luscious powerband. They know where to put the ponies.

THE FINAL WORD?
Winner. Sometimes you win because you do one thing well and six things okay?that’s better than doing six things well and one thing horribly.

MXA 450 SHOOTOUT VIDEO


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