2022 MOTOCROSS ACTION 450 SHOOTOUT: THE TRUTH & NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH
2022 MOTOCROSS ACTION 450 SHOOTOUT: THE TRUTH & NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH
Motocross Action is a true-to-life motorcycle magazine. Just as Bonnie and Clyde robbed banks, the MXA wrecking crew tests bikes. We tested over 75 motocross bikes last season alone. It is a full-time job. The sheer number of machines we ride has taught us to take a straightforward racing approach to testing performance. And, make no mistake about it, we test by racing. We can promise you that we are going to name the one bike that deserves to win this shootout. We can also promise that our choice isn’t going to make everyone happy.
We don’t care if you love shootouts or hate them; you don’t have to rush out to buy the “2022 MXA 450 Shootout” winner. In fact, we advise against it, at least until you’ve done your due diligence. You can start by looking in a mirror and asking if the guy looking back at you really needs the bike that Ken Roczen, Dylan Ferrandis or Cooper Webb races. Or, would he be better served by the mellowest powerband? Perhaps a close look at your bank account might suggest that spending another year racing Old Betsy would make good sense. As a last resort, read this shootout. Then go to the MXA web page and read the in-depth tests of the bikes that intrigue you. Once you’ve done all of that, you will be free of guilt, potential buyer’s remorse and the fear of making a very expensive mistake—you know, like the one your granddad made when he bought that 1985 Yugo.
We think you will find your winner, because the perfect bike for you is right here in the details. It may not be the one we chose as the 2022 450 Bike of the Year, but what do we know? We only spent seven months racing these seven bikes every weekend; living with them, fixing what broke, and shaking our heads in both desperation and awe at what each bike was capable or incapable of doing.
It’s important to understand that the seven bikes in the 2022 MXA 450 Shootout are basically the same seven bikes that were in the 2021 MXA 450 Shootout. The list of changes made to the 2022 bikes is very limited, typically inconsequential, and, in some cases, steps backwards. Why? Making motorcycles in the age of COVID was a difficult task. All-new 2022 motorcycles with upgraded frames, engines, electronics and accoutrements were out of the question. Kawasaki made no performance changes to the KX450. Yamaha made no changes to its YZ450F, save for a new rear-wheel assembly. Suzuki made zero changes to the 2022 RM-Z450. KTM painted the frame orange and added an air/oil separator (AOS) system to lessen blow-by. The GasGas was totally new in 2021 and, as such, was not scheduled to get any major changes. Husqvarna made one major change for 2022—they dropped the Magura hydraulic clutch system in favor of Brembo hydraulics at the master cylinder, lever and slave unit. Honda made its mid-season 2021 ECU update permanent and added more compression damping to the fork and shock, but they became exceedingly harsh late in the stroke.
What does it all mean? First, from a test rider viewpoint, we had lots of experience with the 2022 models from riding and racing them as 2021 models, and some brands hadn’t changed since 2020 or earlier. Second, on the whole, none of the minor 2022 changes vastly improved last year’s MXA 450 Shootout bikes over this year’s; not Yamaha’s new rear spokes, not KTM’s AOS and not Honda’s already-in-use ECU mapping (and certainly not its re-valved suspension), leaving only Husqvarna’s switch from Magura to Brembo clutch mechanisms as a value-added feature worth noting. Third, when you are testing seven virtually unchanged bikes from one year ago, it is impossible for your 2022 shootout results to be different from your 2021 results. If a bike that won in 2021 is suddenly demoted to third in your 2022 shootout, that means you didn’t know what you were doing a year ago or don’t know what you are doing in 2022.
WHICH BIKES HAVE THE BEST COMPONENTS, FEATURES AND TECH?
You may not give much thought to your bike’s clutch—until it starts slipping—but a good clutch is as important as a good engine. It doesn’t matter how strong your powerband is if it isn’t transferred to the rear wheel.
The KTM 450SXF clutch (shared by Husqvarna and GasGas) is the best clutch in motocross. Thanks to its billet steel clutch basket (with the primary gear machined in as one solid piece), Belleville washer spring and flawless Brembo hydraulic actuation, no clutch can touch KTM’s on power transfer. The plates will last two to three times longer than any “Big Four” clutch, including the Honda and Kawasaki hydraulic clutches.
It is often said that “you can only go as fast as you can stop.” Not true. If your brakes don’t work at the end of a long straight, you’ll be going a lot faster than you ever dreamed. Good brakes equate to a longer lifespan, but also to more control in off-camber turns, the ability to go in deeper and a better chance at maintaining overall chassis control. The KTM 450SXF has had the best brakes for years; now they are shared by Husqvarna and GasGas. Brembo’s 260mm front rotor used to be the biggest rotor, but Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki one-upped KTM with 270mm rotors. Guess what? The bigger rotors do make their brakes more powerful, but at the expense of modulation.
Weight matters. Don’t believe the “world is flat” advocates who claim that weight doesn’t matter. When a 238-pound YZ450F lands from a jump, the tires, rims, spokes, fork springs and frame know how much a bike really weighs. The GasGas MC 450F weighs 222 pounds. The KTM 450SXF weighs 223 pounds, and the Husqvarna FC450 weighs 224 pounds. The next closest bike on the scales of truth is the CRF450 at 233 pounds, followed by the Kawasaki KX450 at 234 pounds, Yamaha YZ450F at 238 pounds and Suzuki RM-Z450 at 241 pounds. That is a 19-pound difference from lightest to heaviest. We think you can feel that.
WHICH ONE MAKES THE MOST POWER?
A lot of people have raced a slow bike to a better finish than they achieved on a fast bike. It’s not how much peak power an engine makes but how you use the power that really matters; however, horsepower is what makes the wheels go around. It’s not the end-all, be-all, but it helps the end result. The Yamaha YZ450F makes the most peak power at 58.5 horsepower, but it is only 0.07 horsepower stronger than the Husky, 0.2 horsepower better than the KTM 450SXF and 0.21 horsepower better than the Honda. At 8000 rpm, however, the Yamaha YZ450F gives up over 2 horsepower to the GasGas, Honda, Husky, Kawasaki and KTM. Even the lowly Suzuki beats it by 0.4 horsepower. When it comes to horsepower, you have to pick your poison. More top or more mid.
WHICH BIKE HANDLES BEST?
Not all bikes handle the same. There are bad-handling bikes, one-trick ponies, middle-of-the-roaders and brilliant designs. You might skip the great-handling bikes if you want the razor-sharp turn-in of the Honda and Suzuki or feel more comfortable with a bike that doesn’t do anything great but also doesn’t do anything wrong (like the Yamaha and Kawasaki). The brilliant handlers only come from one source but in three flavors. The GasGas, KTM and Husqvarna share the same frame, but they don’t share suspension setups, powerbands or design purposes. Thus, each one has its own unique feel. Every MXA test rider believes that the Husqvarna FC450 handles the best. Obviously, the choice over KTM and GasGas isn’t based on frame geometry but rather on the FC450’s lowered chassis, super manageable powerband and more forgiving overall feel.
WHO HAS THE BEST SUSPENSION?
The fact that Yamaha’s SSS suspension, front and rear, is the best setup of 2022 is no surprise. Yamaha has won this category since 2006. But, the second, third and fourth best suspensions might be, because that honor goes to Husqvarna, KTM and GasGas in that order. It is true that the three Austrian bikes only achieve greatness in the hands of a rider who understands the properties of air pressure and is willing to do his homework to find his personal best numbers and stay on top of them. The KTM forks are best in the hands of a fast Pro. The Husqvarna forks are good all-arounders, and the softer GasGas forks are focused on lighter, less aggressive riders.
You may think that we are badmouthing the Showa A-kit forks on the Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki—and we are. A-kit technology is a decade old and was only adopted as a bailout after the failed Kayaba PS-F and Showa TAC air forks were deemed unmitigated disasters by consumers. The 2022 Kawasaki forks are too soft. The Honda forks, which got a re-valve for 2022, are incredibly harsh in the last 4 inches of their stroke. And while the Suzuki forks are the best of the Showa A-kit clones, their rear BFRC shock eliminates any goodwill the forks could ever engender.
WHICH BIKE IS THE CHEAPEST?
The cheapest 450 motocross bike is easy to discern based on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), but it gets more complicated once you step into a motorcycle shop. The price of a motorcycle at a dealership is very similar to the line at Disneyland to ride Space Mountain. It looks short and has you thinking you will be zooming around on the roller coaster in a couple minutes; but, once past the visible part of the line, you realize you will be navigating tight corners and long hallways for at least an hour and 45 minutes. The MSRP doesn’t tell the whole story. Shipping charges can be around $400. There are setup charges to pay a kid in the back to take the bike out of the crate and put the handlebars back on (yes, we know that good dealers do a lot more than that, but bad dealers don’t), and the setup fee varies from reasonable to outlandish. There are dealers who will negotiate and dealers who won’t, but the state, county and federal tax bureaucrats will never negotiate on their share.
Here is a list of the MSRPs of the bikes in this test. Given that four of the models cost the same (Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and GasGas), we will use their price as an average to delineate the most expensive from the cheapest. The Husqvarna is the most expensive production 450 of 2022. It costs $800 more than the average priced bike. The Suzuki is the least expensive bike, and it costs $600 less than average.
2022 MSRP 450 PRICES
FIRST PLACE: 2021 HUSQVARNA FC450
WHY SHOULD THE FC450 WIN THIS SHOOTOUT?
Husqvarna deserves kudos for three award-winning changes to the 2021–2022 FC450. First, the power delivery on the 2021 FC450 is a “no-drama mama.” Husqvarna’s engineers were able to build a kinder, gentler powerband that was so well-modulated that there are no burps, surges or abrupt hits anywhere on the curve. Best of all, they didn’t give up any peak horsepower to make it happen. It ranks second in most peak power. Second, tired of the bad rap against its air forks, Husky implemented massive internal modifications to the 2021–2022 WP XACT forks that made the stroke more fluid, reduced pressure spikes, bled off excess oil pressure and reduced the effects of the air fork’s hyper-progressive spring rate at the end of the stroke. Great forks. Third, for 2021-2022, Husqvarna stopped the insanity by lowering the chassis by almost 1 inch. The reward was a true-to-life lower center of gravity, not that often-confusing “centralization of mass” mumbo jumbo. The result was incredible handling. Fourth, when you combine these three big pluses with the amazing Brembo clutch, Brembo brakes, 224-pound weight, Pankl transmission, optional throttle cams, no-tools airbox and braided steel hoses, you have an unbeatable combination.
WHY SHOULD THE FC450 LOSE THIS SHOOTOUT?
Apart from the run-of-the-mill gripes about tightening the spokes, checking the bolts and venting the airbox, there is little to complain about on the 2021 Husqvarna and a lot to crow about, not the least of which is that our feet could touch the ground. It goes very fast without any drama, and it turns better than any bike on the track.
WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK OF THE FC450?
What Husqvarna did in 2021–2022 is no less than mind-boggling. First, Husky lowered the FC450, which resulted in class-leading, awe-inspiring and super-accurate handling. Second, it shared the KTM 450SXF engine package but made it feel kinder, gentler and so well-modulated that a baby could go fast on it. Third, forget about that kinder, gentler powerband; the FC450 makes tons of power. In fact, it just missed being the “The King of 450 Horsepower” by .07 horsepower. Fourth, for everyone who said that air forks would never work, the Husqvarna FC450’s WP XACT forks prove them wrong. Fifth, if you are of Vet age, this is the bike you should own.
In a nutshell, the 2022 FC450 is a crazy science experiment that delivers on all counts.
SECOND PLACE: 2022 KTM 450SXF
WHY SHOULD THE 450SXF WIN THIS SHOOTOUT?
The 2021–’22 KTM 450SXF is the standard by which the six other bikes measure themselves. It has won eight MXA 450 Shootouts in the last 11 years. How has it achieved such a record? Easily. It is the most technologically advanced motocross bike ever made. Need proof? KTM pioneered the modern trend of broad, linear powerbands. It has the strongest brakes, most robust hydraulic clutch (with a CNC-machined steel basket) and best shifting. KTM’s chromoly steel frame delivers a forgiving and agile feel compared to the Big Four’s rigid aluminum frames. The air filter requires no tools. It has an optional quick-turn throttle cam, braided steel clutch and brake hoses and quick-release fuel lines. It is 10 pounds lighter than the lightest Japanese 450, and every MXA test rider loved the new WP air forks.
WHY SHOULD THE 450SXF LOSE THIS SHOOTOUT?
Two reasons: (1) Previous iterations of the controversial WP air fork hurt its reputation. It will take time for the vastly improved 2021–2022 XACT forks to overcome public perception. (2) The KTM faces tough competition, not from Japan but from its brothers in arms (Husky and GasGas). It still maintains superiority over the white and red Austrian mounts in power delivery, snappy throttle response and acceleration, but the restraints of corporate platform sharing mean that it has to hand over all of its technological advantages to its stablemates. (3) The KTM 450SXF has advanced the whole breed of 450 motocross bikes, regardless of country of origin.
WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK OF THE 450SXF?
What we’re going to tell you will come as a shock. Every MXA test rider felt that the 2021 KTM 450SXF was faster, more responsive and hit harder than its Husqvarna or GasGas stablemates. Its forks rode higher in their stroke. The suspension felt firmer at speed, and the KTM 450SXF’s accoutrements are the most advanced in the motocross world. This is as close to a works bike as you can get, because KTM cuts no corners on the brakes, powerband, clutch, starting, layout and handling. It is a better bike for a Pro than either the Husky or GasGas.
If the KTM 450SXF has an Achilles heel, it is that it has to share most of its technical prowess with GasGas and Husqvarna—and, in MXA’s opinion, Husky took what was offered to them from Big Brother and put the pieces of the puzzle together better.
THIRD PLACE (TIE):2022 GASGAS MC450F
WHY SHOULD THE MC450F WIN THIS SHOOTOUT?
The GasGas is a motocross hot rod. It sells for the same price as a Honda CRF450, Yamaha YZ450F and Kawasaki KX450, which rings the cash register at $800 less than a KTM 450SXF. But, don’t think of the MC450F as an entry-level motocross bike. You may not get KTM’s map switch, free-flow muffler, hour meter or billet triple clamps, but you do get a Brembo hydraulic clutch, steel clutch basket, Pankl transmission, 260mm Brembo front brake, braided-steel brake hoses, 222-pound weight, chromoly steel frame and KTM’s industry-leading engine technology. In essence, the 2021 GasGas is a sleeper, which means that under its hood are all of the serious Austrian pluses.
One caveat: it isn’t in competition with KTM and Husqvarna; it is built to steal customers away from the “Big Four” with a price that matches them dollar for dollar.
WHY SHOULD THE MC450F LOSE THIS SHOOTOUT?
KTM’s management didn’t want the GasGas MC450F to beat the KTM or Husky. How do we know? Because they detuned the powerplant in three ways: (1) The airbox is almost completely closed off. We cut the winglet off the inside of the airbox cover to let air in. (2) The muffler has the infamous ice-cream-cone-shaped restrictors in it—not one but two. These enduro-focused restrictors don’t come on the 2022 KTM or Husqvarna. They hurt throttle response and lessen over-rev. (3) The KTM and Husqvarna ECUs have two maps, launch control and traction control wired in, but the MC450F doesn’t have a map switch to access anything more than Map 1. Plus, the 42 N/mm shock spring is too soft for riders over 180 pounds, unlike the KTM’s and Husqvarna’s 45 N/mm springs.
WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK OF THE MC450F?
The 2022 GasGas MC450F has lots of things going for it. First, it sells for the same price as a CRF450 or YZ450F. Second, it has access to all of KTM’s goodies (such as the steel clutch basket, bulletproof hydraulic clutch, Brembo brakes, no tool’s airbox, braided-steel hoses, chromoly steel frame and Pankl transmission). Third, it is the lightest 450 bike made (19 pounds lighter than the RM-Z450 and 11 pounds lighter than the CRF450). Fourth, it shares the KTM 450SXF’s suspension components (only with plusher valving).
However, it has one big thing going against it: KTM doesn’t want its bargain-priced bike to beat its high-priced spread, so, they detune it with a different exhaust system, closed-off airbox and no map switch. Under the hood is a true-to-life KTM powerplant, but it’s up to you to find it.
THIRD PLACE (TIE): 2022 KAWASAKI KX450
WHY SHOULD THE KX450 WIN THIS SHOOTOUT?
Overall, the 2022 KX450 is the most pleasant of the four built-in-Japan machines. The power delivery is brisk, clean and quick-revving. Even though it ranks sixth out of seven on peak horsepower, the 2022 KX450 has a very lively feel. The chassis delivers a light touch at turn-in and is stable in a straight line. The upsized Belleville washer clutch and a switch to oversized FatBars solved two of the most common complaints about the late-model KX450s. It is also the second lightest Japanese-made 450 at 234 pounds (4 pounds lighter than the Yamaha YZ450F but 11 pounds heavier than the KTM 450SXF). It is a nice, enjoyable and fun bike to race, but maybe Kawasaki should start thinking about fixing a few obvious flaws.
WHY SHOULD THE KX450 LOSE THIS SHOOTOUT?
The MXA test riders like racing the 2021 KX450, but we had to chase issues every race. Here is a quick list: (1) This is the same KX450 from 2019, save for the new clutch and handlebars. It wasn’t winning shootouts in 2019, and the bars and clutch basket don’t change that. (2) The brake pedal can be adjusted up but not down. (3) The fork springs are too soft, or the rear suspension is too stiff—one or the other. (4) It’s not the slowest 450 on the track, but it’s the second slowest. (5) The jumbo-sized 250mm rear rotor is overly touchy. (6) The engine overheats easily. (7) The plastic in the fork guards, front number plate and radiator shrouds crack. (8) The airbox cover requires two different size wrenches, and the airbox itself is very small. Worse yet, the 8mm bolt strips out of the subframe. (9) The chain roller/guide wears out fast. (10) The clutch and brake levers feel like they came off different bikes. (11) The green plastic loses its sheen on day one.
WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK OF THE KX450?
Make no mistake about it, the 2022 Kawasaki KX450 is all about how it delivers its power. Even though the KX450 ranks sixth in peak horsepower, the delivery is brisk, clean and quick-revving. It has a very light throttle response that works in unison with the chassis to produce a light touch at turn-in. It is a nice, enjoyable and fun bike to race. It is an MXA test rider favorite or, more accurately, their third or fourth favorite.
What’s holding the KX450 out of the top spot? You can’t move a four-year-old bike to the head of the class with nothing more than a new clutch and handlebars. We’d prefer stiffer fork springs, better rear brake, redesigned airbox, and a couple more horses.
FIFTH PLACE: 2022 YAMAHA YZ450F
WHY SHOULD THE YZ450F WIN THIS SHOOTOUT?
Yamaha’s powerband strategy was the road not taken by other brands. It hits hard momentarily off idle and then goes soft in the low-to-mid transition. How soft? It makes almost 4 horses less than the CRF450 at 7000 rpm, but from 9000 rpm on up, it builds beaucoup power. It peaks at 58.5 horsepower, the most in the 450 class. The muted low-to-mid power, followed very late by romping stomping horsepower on top, is quite unique. The engine is especially good on fast straights and long starts. We credit the engine’s soft bottom, expanding midrange and ultra-strong top-end for the YZ450F handling so much better than earlier YZ450Fs. The best things about the 2022 YZ450F are its Kayaba SSS suspension, incredible dependability and smooth 58.5-horsepower engine that peaks at a very high 9700 rpm. Even though the new rear wheel didn’t change its ranking, we love the cross-three spoke layout.
WHY SHOULD THE YZ450F LOSE THIS SHOOTOUT?
We love the suspension, admire the top-end powerband and bless the reliability of the YZ450F, but we can’t help but wonder how great it could be if it weren’t so big, bulky, wide, tall, loud and heavy. The ergonomics are an acquired taste, not helped by a seat that feels like you are sitting in a bucket. Without a doubt, the YZ450F has the worst airbox and filter combination on the track, but it is an unfortunate byproduct of Yamaha’s 12-year-old backwards-engine concept. The combination of the exhaust pipe wrapping almost 360 degrees around the cylinder and the forward-mounted airbox makes the YZ450F assault your hearing. This is not a new bike. The 2022 YZ450F is a 2021 bike with a new rear wheel.
WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK OF THE YZ450F?
The Yamaha has three attributes that no other machine can touch. (1) Yamaha’s SSS suspension is leaps and bounds above anyone else’s. It has good damping, seal life and spring rates. (2) The YZ450F engine is bulletproof; it takes a licking and keeps on ticking. (3) The powerband starts out nice and pleasant and builds power as the rpm climb. By the time it hits 9000 rpm, it is a romping, stomping powermonger. (4) Those are the good things, but what about the bad? The ergos are horrible. It is big, bulky, wide, tall and heavy. The combination of the front air box and rear muffler make cacophonous noises.
Without a doubt, the YZ450F has the worst airbox and filter combination on the track. It lacks the necessary volume it needs to fill-in the low-to-mid powerband.—which would blend the powerband together. It is a fast, dependable and well-suspended machine that most MXA test riders don’t want to race.
SIXTH PLACE: 2021 HONDA CRF450
WHY SHOULD THE CRF450 WIN THIS SHOOTOUT?
The layout of the seat, bars and pegs is the best in the class (save for the tall seat height), and the dry weight was reduced by 5 pounds to 233 pounds. The frame is 20 percent less rigid laterally. Best of all, Honda stepped away from the last couple years of overly aggressive 60-horse powerbands for broader and mellower power. What the CRF450 gives up in peak power it makes up in breadth. Although Honda claims a new ECU map for 2022, it is really just the updated ECU map that Honda dealers put in the 2021 CRF450s in the middle of last year. It does pump out 58.1 horsepower, and the power is spread out more effectively throughout the powerband. The engine alone is worth the price of admission.
WHY SHOULD THE CRF450 LOSE THIS SHOOTOUT?
The powerband may be a big improvement, but there are seven flaws on the 2022 CRF450: (1) Last year the forks were way too soft and lacked adequate compression damping. This year the compression damping in the last 4 inches of travel is way too stiff. (2) The shock is sprung for a 150-pound rider, but most 450 riders are in the 180-pound range. (3) It overheats in long, hard motos and sometimes on the starting line. (4) It has 11 different maps, launch control and traction control options. It makes you dizzy trying to remember them. (5) The handling is very Honda-like, meaning that it head-shakes at speed and can be twitchy beyond reason. (6) Finding the proper fore/aft balance on the 2022 CRF450 is a full-time job. (7) Last year, we were critical of how much pre-pro R&D went into the 2021 CRF450, and Honda’s two 2022 Band-Aid fixes (mapping and firmer suspension) weren’t very well thought out either.
WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK OF THE CRF450?
We appreciate that Honda finally listened to 12 years of riders’ complaints about rigid frames, under-powered (or overpowered) engines, useless twin-exhaust systems, excess girth in the waistline, weak clutches, questionable suspension setups and a hefty, 238-pound dry weight. Thankfully, the 2021–2022 Honda CRF450 got a single-sided exhaust, 20-percent less-rigid frame, eight-plate clutch, 70mm-narrower midline and the dry weight reduced from 238 to 233 pounds. Best of all, the previous fire-breathing CRF450 was given a broader, mellower and more usable power delivery.
So, why isn’t it in the top spot? Because of overly rigid front forks, soft shock spring and tempermental cooling issues, but, most of all, because of the frame geometry’s schizophrenic handling at speed over rough ground. Money can fix most of the flaws, but finding balance in the chassis is the issue.
SEVENTH PLACE: 2022 SUZUKI RM-Z450
WHY SHOULD THE RM-Z450 WIN THIS SHOOTOUT?
It’s not news that the RM-Z450 isn’t going to win the 2022 MXA 450 Shootout, but that doesn’t disqualify it as a viable race bike for riders and tracks that suit it. For the average racer, the existing RM-Z450’s power is in the perfect place to get the job done. The power profile follows a bell-shaped curve. It starts soft off the bottom, builds quickly to its 8800-rpm peak and then falls off quickly. There is no reason to rev the engine out; it will just go slower after 8800. The power is at its best from 5000 rpm to its 54.4-horsepower peak. The RM-Z450 isn’t about speed; it’s about agility. The handling is focused on tight turns, short straights and Supercross-style jumps. Instead of going with a new frame and suspension back in 2018, MXA wishes that Suzuki had kept the old frame and suspension and put a new engine, if there was one, in it for 2022.
WHY SHOULD THE RM-Z450 LOSE THIS SHOOTOUT?
The 2022 Suzuki RM-Z450 is a five-year-old design built without electric starting around a relatively new chassis and old engine. We would have preferred the older chassis with a new engine. The chassis is out of balance. The stinkbug layout transfers too much weight to the front wheel, which creates oversteer. Oversteer wasn’t a problem on the old frame, but the new aluminum frame is too stiff, too tall and too steep. We think the 2022 Suzuki forks have potential, but they can’t do their best work with the Suzuki-spec’d Showa BFRC rear shock. Did we mention that the 2022 RM-Z450 weighs 241 pounds (without gas in the tank)? Suzuki is tired of losing our 450 Shootout. How do we know? We never heard from them about our shootout schedule, and they didn’t give the motocross media any 2022 bikes to test until the shootouts were done—but that didn’t stop us from testing the RM-Z450.
WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK OF THE RM-Z450?
The 2022 Suzuki RM-Z450’s powerband is well-placed, easy to use and is the RM-Z450’s sole claim to fame. The power delivery, albeit a weak sister, is effective in the midrange. The rest of the bike is so-so. Overall, the 2022 Suzuki RM-Z450 has a weak clutch, inadequate cooling, average forks, an out-of-balance chassis, less-than-stellar rear shock, too much tonnage, no electric starting and makes 4 horsepower less than its competition. Its trademark cornering ability is best used in tight turns, short straights and Supercross-style jumps. On rough outdoor tracks, the RM-Z450 is scary loose at speed.
We wish that when Suzuki rushed to judgment about designing an all-new RM-Z450—a better strategy would have been to keep the old frame and suspension and put a new engine in it.
THE SPECS: DYNO, WEIGHT, TORQUE & BEST VET, BEST BARGAIN, BEST PRO AND BEST WORKING CLASS BIKE
Blue boxes are the best in that category, light blue boxes are the worst.
There are eight categories that cover horsepower by brand at 6000 rpm, 7000 rpm, 8000 rpm, 9000 rpm, 10,000 rpm, 11,000 rpm, peak horsepower and torque. The blue boxes signify the bikes that are the best in that 1000-rpm range. The light blue boxes show the bikes that are the worst in each rpm category. Surprisingly, all of the light blue boxes are limited to the Suzuki RM-Z450 and the Yamaha YZ450F.
Peak horsepower is the least important number, but, paradoxically peak horsepower and where it is on the rpm curve, gives you a clue as to where the apex of a bike’s powerband lies.
BEST BARGAIN 450: SUZUKI RM-Z450
The 2022 Suzuki RM-Z450 is not fast, but it is pleasant. It’s not well-suspended, but if you’re in the market for the least expensive 450, you probably have a budget that is already stretched to its limit. The RM-Z450 has a weak clutch, a dry weight that sends the needle off the scale, average brakes, doesn’t have electric starting and has a resale value that barely leaves enough money to buy a 10-year-old Craigslist two-stroke. It is not the best bike in any category other than the bargain basket; however, most MXA test riders like the 2022 Suzuki RM-Z450 powerband because when short-shifted, kept in the meat of the powerband and used properly, it has a very effective 450cc power delivery.
For anyone on a budget or looking to get into the sport without spending $10,000 on a race bike, the RM-Z450 is custom-made for you. It is the least expensive 2021 450cc motocross bike, and it’s no secret that Suzuki dealers are willing to wheel-and-deal down to a price that would be unimaginable for a KTM or Honda. For the average racer, the existing RM-Z450 power is in the perfect place to get the job done.
BEST VET-CLASS 450: HUSQVARNA FC450
The Husqvarna FC450 is the best Vet bike. It combines improved suspension, usable power delivery, light weight, an indestructible clutch, pucker-power brakes and the best components of any bike in the field. Thanks to its perfectly metered power, the FC450 is so easy to ride, you’d think you were riding a 350 instead of a 450, but it’s not slow. In fact, it makes the second most power in the 2022 450 four-stroke class.
There are many factors that make the Husky FC450 such a good Vet bike, but none carry as much buzz as its lower seat height. By shortening the forks and changing the rising-rate rear shock linkage, Husqvarna was able to bring the chassis, center of gravity and tipping point down to levels that make it handle likes it’s on rails.
BEST PRO-CLASS 450: HONDA CRF450
The 2022 Honda CRF450 is perfect for Pro racers—and nobody else. We know that sounds weird, but it’s true. Pros don’t care about the stock suspension, because they have a suspension guru on speed dial. They don’t care about stock mapping, because Vortex has their credit card number on file. Pros don’t care about the exhaust system or horsepower, because they know a guy, who knows a guy, who can get 67 horsepower out of a CRF450.
Additionally, Pros don’t care about the CRF450’s skittish and often scary handling, because they can ride anything with two wheels. Pros don’t worry about the powerband, because they are going to spend $5000 on the engine to make the bike even more skittish.
BEST WORKING-CLASS 450: YAMAHA YZ450F
The 2022 Yamaha YZ450F is absolutely bulletproof. MXA rarely breaks anything on a YZ450F. We never have to adjust the valve train, because we know that Yamaha’s test department has done its homework. The YZ450F is built like a tank, which may be why it is big, bulky and heavy like a tank. Additionally, the YZ450F’s Kayaba SSS suspension is the best on the track and has been since 2006—more kudos to Yamaha’s in-house American test department. Yamaha has fought back against its competitors without breaking the bank.
Thanks to superiority in suspension and reliability, Yamaha has built a more-than-competitive machine that will save the budget-conscience, working-class stiffs money in the long run.
Thanks for taking the time to read MXA’s long-form 450 shootout, when most people just watch the “First Ride” video and call it a day. Also, your first-grade teacher, Miss Appleblum, wants to thank you for keep your reading skills up. And for those who don’t like to read, here is the MXA 450 Shootout video.