WE RIDE RIDE ENGINEERING’S 2010 YAMAHA YZ450F:
Just like the star quarterback in high school, the 2010 YZ450F is the BMOC this year. Everyone wants to touch it, be near it and, if possible, get a date with it. There is little doubt that this year’s Big Man On Campus caught the attention of the public with its reverse exhaust, tilted cylinder, offset cranks, downdraft EFI and cab-forward airbox. Not since the heady days of 1973 when word leaked that Honda would make a two-stroke has a bike been so eagerly anticipated (even the leaked tech info fed into the hysteria).
The MXA wrecking crew received its blue bomber well before it was released to the public. We cycled through all of our test riders in the ensuing weeks, to the point where the only time that the 2010 YZ450F sat on a stand was at night or when we were making changes. We rode the tires off the rims?and then slapped on new rubber and twisted the throttle some more.
We left no stone unturned in our effort to give the public as clear a view as possible of what the 2010 YZ450F was really like. We tested aftermarket exhaust systems, tinkered with the electronic fuel injection mapping, swapped out sprockets and played with the suspension clickers until the cows came home. When the dust finally settled, we determined that the YZ450F worked fairly well across the board, but?and there is always a but?it was a bike with several quirks (airbox limitations, gear ratios, wiggle at turn-in, flat top-end, etc.). In the end, every MXA test rider felt that the all-new Yamaha didn’t have enough steam to claim the top step of the podium in the MXA 450 Shootout, but it finished an admirable second place.
Click here to read the complete 2010 Yamaha YZ450F test www.motocrossactionmag.com/Main/News/REAL-TESTS-2010-MXA-RACE-TEST-OF-THE-YAMAHA-YZ450F-2348.aspx
For a first-year effort, the 2010 Yamaha YZ450F exceeded our expectations (and perhaps the public’s unrealistic belief that this bike would change motocross as we know it was beyond the pale). History has proven time and again that completely revamped 450 four-strokes suffer from tremendous growing pains. Need examples? The 2009 Honda CRF450 finished fourth in our shootout, and the 2008 Suzuki RM-Z450 finished last.
Click here to read the complete 2010 MXA 450 Shootout www.motocrossactionmag.com/Main/News/REAL-TESTS-2010-MXA-450-SHOOTOUT–5419.aspx
Ride Engineering not only changed the offset of the YZ450F triple clamps from 22mm to 20mm, but they made a new shock linkage to allow for a wider variety of chassis choices.
Adrian Ciomo is the owner of Ride Engineering. He’s a man of many hats, with titles such as president, R&D specialist, public relations manager, marketing supervisor and test rider. Ciomo is responsible for turning the lights on in his Costa Mesa, California, shop in the morning and locking the doors at night.
Ride Engineering specializes in aftermarket triple clamps, shock linkages, holeshot devices, wheel spacers, brake lines, axle blocks and various other accessories. Adrian’s livelihood is dependent on creating products that improve the performance of motocross bikes, so when the all-new YZ450F was introduced, Ciomo knew he was staring at a cash cow. Adrian went to work developing products that every potential Yamaha owner would want…nay, need.
Once his products were polished and ready for the consumer, Adrian called the MXA wrecking crew and asked us to be the ultimate judge of his workmanship?which was showcased in the purpose-built Ride Engineering YZ450F test bike.
SHOP TALK: WHAT’S UNDER THE PLASTIC?
History has proven time and again that completely revamped 450 four-strokes suffer from tremendous growing pains.
Ride Engineering’s YZ450F was equipped with Ride Engineering’s proprietary 20mm offset triple clamps (stock is 22mm), oversized bar mounts, plastic brake line guide, front and rear master cylinder covers, wheel spacers, axle blocks, holeshot device, brake lines, banjo bolt kit, brake line clamp, oil plug, ignition/timing plug kit, lowering link arm, billet engine kill switch, valve caps, rim lock spacer kit and steering stabilizer bracket. Of all the Ride Engineering products, the 20mm offset triple clamps, lowering link and steering stabilizer bracket caught our attention.
In stock trim, the 2010 Yamaha YZ450F comes with 22mm offset triple clamps. For years, we have griped about the irritating push in the front-end of the 2009 and earlier YZ450Fs. For 2010, Yamaha went back to the drawing board and steepened the head angle by 0.1 degrees, reduced fork offset by 3mm and changed the weight bias to 47/53 (from 49/51). The result was an agile-handling bike that didn’t have the irritating push from center-out that its predecessors exhibited. The only glitch in the new frame geometry’s giddy-up was that the front end evidenced a loose castering feel at the entrance to turns.
Adrian felt that he could solve the caster issue by reducing the triple clamp offset by 2mm (in effect increasing trail and benefitting from the self-righting side effects). There is one caveat. Ciomo recommends using his longer shock linkage in conjunction with his triple clamps to lower the rear of the bike. Hence, the triple clamps and link arm are designed to go together like peas and carrots.
Ride Engineering’s steering stabilizer bracket was another attempt to cut down on the wiggle at turn-in. When Honda introduced its HPSD steering damper in 2008, the MXA wrecking crew removed it from our race bikes (and swapped from the then-new 22mm clamps to the older 24mm clamps), but after Honda drastically steepened the head angle on the CRF450 and CRF250, we changed our tune. When Ride Engineering learned that Yamaha followed in Honda’s footsteps by pulling in the head angle, a lightbulb went off in Adrian Ciomo’s cranium. If a CRF450 benefited from a steering stabilizer, then why not try the same Showa HPSD (Honda Progressive Steering Damper) on the 2010 YZ450F? After creating a bracket for the head tube and designing a built-in bracket on the Ride Engineering bottom triple clamp, he installed an HPSD on his YZ450F. It was an excellent idea (and one that MXA has spotted Yamaha’s R&D department testing in the field).
Several other companies came to the aid of Ride Engineering for the bike build. Enzo took a unique approach to the Kayaba suspension by installing stiffer fork springs and a softer shock spring. They also revalved the units and used a works bottoming bumper kit on the shock. Enzo dialed in the suspension for a 175-pound Intermediate. FMF supplied a titanium Factory 4.1 MegaBomb exhaust system. Easton’s beefy 1-3/8-inch oversized bars and half-waffle grips were used, along with Dunlop MX51 sneakers. Rounding out the aftermarket parts were ARC folding levers, Sunstar sprockets (in a 13/48 gearing combination) and, of course, a Showa HPSD steering stabilizer. 180 Decals created a custom look that made the Ride Engineering YZ450F stand out like Kate Beckinsale in a crowd.
TEST RIDE: TAKING A SPIN
Ride Engineering’s HPSD damper was the piece de resistance on the YZ450F.
As a rule, the MXA wrecking crew wants the bike’s builder to complete the project before he hands the bike over for testing. We want to test the company’s vision, not use our services as a test department to work through any kinks in the concept. That said, Adrian Ciomo showed up at the track with a box full of parts?and asked us to test a wide variety of setups. In the spirit of learning more about the YZ450F, we agreed to test the good and the bad. In the end, we tested different offsets, rising rate linkages, ignitions and a variety of revalved HPSD dampers. Although it kept us busy for a longer time and at a wider variety of test tracks, it was a valuable learning experience to go through the plethora of options. Here is what we learned.
Handling: Around the track, the Ride Engineering YZ450F no longer oversteered at turn-in. Instead, it exhibited a slight understeer, which we at first blamed on the 20mm offset clamps. But we were wrong! The real culprit was the Enzo-tuned suspension setup?more specifically, the mismatched front and rear suspension. Enzo elected to swap out the stock 5.7 kg/mm shock spring for a softer 5.5 kg/mm spring, while putting stiffer fork springs in the Kayaba SSS forks. The soft rear and firm front made the chassis squat. Without weight on the front end (thanks in part to the stiff fork springs) the front end was invited to push.
To what extent Enzo is to blame is undetermined, because Ride Engineering installed their rear-end-lowering shock linkage after the suspension had been massaged (without Enzo’s knowledge). When we returned to the stock shock linkage, the push went away. In reality, we liked the effect that the shock linkage had on the chassis, but not when mated to softer rear suspension. We would prefer to return to the 5.7 kg/mm shock spring with the Ride Engineering linkage, because the Enzo 5.5 shock spring was too soft for all but our very lightest test riders.
Although the 2010 YZ450F does not suffer from any head shake issues, we were interested in the HPSD steering stabilizer as a way to calm down the loose feeling at turn-in (which is exactly what we use it for on the Honda CRFs?we solve Honda’s head shake with stiffer fork springs). To feel the full effects of the stabilizer, we cranked the adjustment dial all the way in. Yikes! The stiffer setting made the steering input draggy and delivered an uncomfortable and heavy feeling over jumps. As we turned the HPSD damper out, the benefits began to outweigh the disadvantages (one of which is that the black box has to be relocated to make room for the bracket). Eventually, we ran the lightest possible setting on the HPSD clicker that would tamp down the wiggle.
Engine: Since Ride Engineering didn’t touch the engine, there were only two variables to worry about?the FMF exhaust and the EFI program.
Ignition map: Initially, w e tested the YZ450F with the stock ignition map settings. Having extensive experience with Yamaha’s EFI tool (which, by the way, is the best in the business), we quickly settled on the “Less Hit”
map. This map cuts down the barky off-idle burst by increasing fuel and decreasing ignition timing at 3/8th throttle and below 4000 rpm (go to the February 2010 issue of MXA for a complete list of YZ450F maps).
Pipe: The revised ignition mapping and FMF Factory 4.1 exhaust system produced a broader powerband, more horsepower and easier-to-ride delivery. There was some pull beyond the YZ450F’s stock flat spot. The combo made the bike easier to ride for longer periods of time and resulted in faster lap times (although there were test riders who missed the fun factor of the low-end blast of the stock map).
VERDICT: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?
Technologically, the 2010 Yamaha YZ450F is something to marvel at. It boasts a host of forward-thinking ideas. But, forward-thinking ideas must be judged by their performance on the track, not on the drafting table. The YZ450F has areas that need some help, and Ride Engineering has discovered a few good solutions to the chinks in the YZ450F’s armor.
For more information, contact Ride Engineering at (800) 805-1516) or visit www.ride-engineering.com.