MXA RACE TEST: THE REAL TEST OF THE 2024 YAMAHA YZ450F
Q: FIRST AND FOREMOST, IS THE 2024 YZ450F BETTER THAN THE 2023 YZ450F?
A: No. In simple terms, the 2024 Yamaha YZ450F is a clone of the 2023 model. If you own a 2023 Yamaha YZ450F, you own a 2024 YZ450F—except with more hours on it than the new one on the showroom floor.
Q: WHAT ARE THE MAJOR CHANGES THAT YAMAHA MADE TO THE 2024 YZ450F?
A: With the sole exception of the all-white 2024 50th Anniversary Edition—with throwback graphics and its $200 upcharge, there is nothing new on the 2024 YZ450F. Well, we take that back; Yamaha did change the MSRP from $9,899 to $9,999 (and the 50th Anniversary Edition retails for $10,199).With its Kayaba SSS suspension, incredible dependability and amazingly broad powerband, the 2024 YZ450F may not be updated, but it’s good as it sits.
Q: HOW FAST IS THE 2024 YAMAHA YZ450F?
A: The 2024 YZ450F rips. It is hyperactive at the crack of the throttle and hooks up like it has ice racing spikes in the rear tire. It isn’t herky-jerky down low like before; instead, it is overly sensitive to the slightest rotation of the throttle tube. However, at this singular point on the power curve, the 2024 YZ450F works against the rider. At roll-on, the 2024 Yamaha YZ450F will pop out of ruts, snap the chassis slightly askew and surprise you with unexpected wheelies. One second the bike feels balanced and hooked up, and a second later the front wheel is pawing at the sky.
This is one very fast machine. It uses all its 58.95 horsepower for forward drive. Surprisingly, for how powerfully and suddenly the power comes on, it doesn’t make the most horsepower in the class (the 2024 Husqvarna FC450 is the horsepower king of 2024 with 61.18 horsepower), but the YZ450F puts what it makes directly into the ground.
The 2024 YZ450F maximized the connectivity between the throttle and the rear wheel. In one sense, that is not a positive thing, because it upsets the chassis and throws the rider off his game. Conversely, the engine’s power after the initial jolt is surprisingly linear. There are no dips, surges or valleys to the mid-and-up delivery. Yes, it is still wheelie-prone every time you roll the throttle rearward, but it no longer comes as a violent surprise.
Q: HOW DOES THE 2024 YAMAHA YZ450F HANDLE?
A: Over the last decade, Yamaha’s big-bore bikes have not been at the top of the charts when it came to handling. At their best, they were “middle of the road” handlers. That meant that they were great in a straight line, but put up a fight when it came time to dive to the inside line in a corner. They wigged. They wagged. They pushed and tucked, but they didn’t turn like a Honda or Suzuki. Yamahas were stable at speed but oddly reluctant when the bars were turned. After so many years of cranky cornering, most Yamaha riders adapted to it—or bought something else.
Suddenly, in 2023, Yamaha finally went all in on designing the new chassis they have needed for the last 13 years. Forget everything you ever knew about Yamaha handling, because the 2023, and, by proxy the 2024 YZ450F, mated aggressive turn-in with acceptable high-speed stability. Yes, that is an almost impossible balance to achieve, because you have to give to get.
What did Yamaha give to get from the YZ450F. The 2023 and 2024 Yamaha YZ450Fs finally turn with the best of the super-accurate brands; however, there is a touch of over-steer at the front wheel and, conversely, a lot more head-shake at speed. “Oversteer” and “head-shake” were not words previously in the Yamaha owner’s vocabulary, but they are now. The Yamaha went from being unerringly calm at speed to a nervous dancer that hunts and pecks for optimum traction. But, and this is a big but, the public embraced this new-generation chassis, flaws and all. It was exactly what they wanted.
Q: WHAT OTHER COMPLAINTS DID THE YAMAHA ENGINEERS ADDRESS?
A: Obviously, the eye-watering power delivery and willingness to grab the inside line were big draws for both long-term Yamaha loyalists and riders looking to switch from other brands. But one roadblock stood in the way of universal acceptance. It was, in a word, ergonomics. All of the previous YZ450F, from 2010 to 2022, had the worst ergonomics of all the 450cc motocross bikes. MXA was Yamaha’s biggest critic. We said that the YZ450F was “big, bulky, wide, tall, heavy and loud.” If Yamaha had not addressed these complaints, the 2023 YZ450F project would not have succeeded. Here is what they did.
(1) Weight. The YZ450F lost 5 pounds. It weighs 233 pounds.
(2) Width. The radiator shrouds were moved inward by 50mm, and the gas tank was molded 6mm narrower.
(3) Ergos. The seat was made flatter and raised by 5mm for easier fore/aft movement.
(4) Noise. The sucking sound of the down-draft throttle body was reduced by a new airbox that relies on undefined air that leaks in and around the airbox, but the YZ450F is still fairly loud because the noise is generated from both ends of the bike.
(5) Bulky. The all-new 2023–2024 plastic fits exceptionally tight to the frame, making the chassis 6mm narrower at the rider’s knees when standing.
(6) Tall. The rider triangle was opened by moving the footpegs down 5mm and back 5mm (and when combined with the 5mm-taller seat, the footpeg-to-seat-height measurement is increased by 10mm).
Q: HOW CAN YOU MAKE A 2023–2024 YZ450 BETTER?
If you love your 2023 Yamaha YZ450F, then you just saved $9,999 by not having to buy the identical 2024 model. A: Even though the MXA test riders were unanimous in picking the 2023 YZ450F as our 450 shootout winner, we weren’t in love with everything about it. Here is our hit list.
Maps. We tried to stick with the stock map (blue light not lit), but the YZ450F’s powerband was a handful. We tested four different maps on the YZ450F, each one mellower than the other, and went with the mellowest.
Head-shake. The simplest way to fight the YZ450F tendency to head-shake at speed is to not go so fast. Barring that, we slid the forks as far down into the triple clamps as possible. This made the head angle slacker and calmed down the oscillation of the front end over rough ground.
Steering stem. We utilized the “poor man’s steering damper” in a pinch. By tightening the steering stem nut, you can cut down on the loose feeling of the YZ450F front end. Do not tighten it too much.
Oversteer. The front wheel would want to tuck if it got too much steering input on corner entrance. Sliding the forks down to lessen head-shake did double duty by calming down the oversteer in turns.
Triple clamps. Luxon’s Gen3 Pro clamps offer adjustable offsets of 21mm, 22mm (stock), 23mm and 24mm. Every MXA test rider felt that the 23mm offset calmed down the steering and kept the front end tracking straight.
Seat. The seat’s narrow pyramid shape is very irritating. We switched to a Guts Racing seat that had a more traditional shape.
Footpeg brackets. Works Connection offers footpeg brackets in titanium and aluminum that lower the footpegs 4mm more than the stock brackets; however, they don’t work with the 2024 Yamaha footpegs. You need 2022 pegs or aftermarket footpegs.
Holeshot device. We positioned our Works Connection Pro Launch starting device at 130mm down, but when we started on a metal grid starting grate, we went to 160mm.
Exhaust.Since we weren’t looking for more power out of the YZ450 engine, we wanted an aftermarket pipe that smoothed out the linear hit. We tried FMF, Pro Circuit, Yoshimura and HGS. The test riders were split between FMF and Pro Circuit.
Airbox. We tested a Twin Air Powerflow kit in place of the stock YZ450 air filter. The upsides were a faster rev, more pull through the middle and a smoothed out powerband across the board. The downside was that it didn’t use a backfire screen. If dirt fell in, we used a shop vac to suck the dirt out of the throttle body.
Q: WHAT DID WE HATE?
A: The hate list:
Make sure to watch for dirt falling into the throttle body when you remove the air filter.
(1) Airbox. The airbox has a higher capacity cover and sits 15mm lower on the frame. Plus, the previous flat-piece-of-toast air filter has been replaced by a domed air filter that has 56 percent more surface area. All of this is very good, but dirt can migrate under the filter cage. Plus, the backfire screen is now integral to the air filter cage, which means that when you remove the air filter, nothing stops dirt from falling directly into the throttle body.
(2) Footpeg brackets. Every test rider complained about accidentally standing on the all-new aluminum footpeg brackets. They are very large.
(3) Map switch/kill button. Be careful when using the small kill button, which is located above the larger map button. It is easy to change maps accidentally while killing the engine.
(4) Gearing. Yamaha raised second and third gears. This made second gear much more prominent and third gear a little lazy. We geared the YZ450F up by going from the stock 49-tooth sprocket to a 48. This made second gear taller, which enabled it to be used as a replacement for both second and third gears and took the burden off third to be the prime drive gear.
(5) Crossbar pad. We finally got GasGas to drop its Munchkin-size crossbar pad for 2024, only to have Yamaha adopt it. It is one-fourth the size of a regular bar pad.
(6) Right-side panel. Some test riders, depending on the brand of boots they wore, had the top of their boot snag on the right-side body panel.
(7) Seat. Although the new seat helps flatten out the riding position, its abbreviated pyramid shape means that it is an uncomfortable 5 inches wide where you sit.
(8) Noise. The 2024 YZ450F is a little quieter than it was back in 2022, but it is still fairly irritating and several MXA test riders reverted to ear plugs.
(9) Clutch. Yamaha’s new clutch is a direct copy of KTM’s Damped Diaphragm clutch, right down to the steel clutch basket with the primary gear CNC machined in. Most MXA test riders felt that Yamaha’s Belleville washer’s spring rate was not stiff enough for the load placed on it.
(10) Seat height. It is very tall. Shorter riders, under 5’9″ will have trouble touching the ground on the starting line.
Q: WHAT DID WE LIKE?
A: The like list:
(1) Oil tank. Yamaha returned to its old-style, dry-sump lubrication system, and the oil tank is hidden in the front portion of the ignition cover. Clean and simple.
(2) Fork guards. The 2023 fork guards wrap around the fork legs, similar to both Honda and KTM fork guards. This cuts down on rock dings that cause fork seal leaks.
(3) EFI Power Tuner. Yamaha’s smartphone app GYTR Power Tuner is a self-contained Wi-Fi device that allows engine settings to be changed via a slide bar. It also handles Launch Control, Traction Control, lap timing, maintenance records and engine run-time. If you take the time to learn how to use it, it can do impressive things.
(4) Clutch cover. Yamaha cast an unpainted, dimpled clutch cover to keep the rider’s boot from scratching the paint off the cover.
(5) Maps. Every MXA test rider had the mapping changed to a mellower map—much mellower. It was easy to do with Yamaha’s updated Wi-Fi Power Tuner.
(6) Dependability. The YZ450F engine has a reputation for running forever.
Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?
A: The 2023–2024 Yamaha YZ450F is the answer to every Yamaha racer’s prayers. Not just because it is faster than a scalded cat, but because Yamaha’s engineers ignored half of the complaints about the YZ450F from 2010 until 2022. Then, they saw the light.