2009 Yamaha YFZ450R Review

Big Blue gives the YFZ a major overhaul

Story by Jeff M. Vanasdal, Photography by Corry Weller, Dec. 08, 2008

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As a business owner myself, I have learned it pays to listen to the consumer. After all, that’s who is buying your product, right? Well, Yamaha listened to what its four-wheeled fanatics and racers had to say about the highly competitive YFZ450 and answered back by redesigning the machine from the ground up. Not that the original YFZ450 was bad (I actually own two myself), but Yamaha felt like it was time for a change.

“The Yamaha YFZ450 would be the first in its class to be completely redesigned to be ridden longer, faster and harder with less fatigue” says Travis Hollins, Yamaha product planning manager.

We were recently invited by Yamaha to test ride the highly anticipated 2009 YFZ450R for two days in Southern California to see what our thoughts were on the redesigned sport quad before it hit dealerships.

The first day we rode ‘trails’ at a place called Gorman OHV Area. To many of you that live out East or the Midwest like I do, you probably think of trails winding through a highly wooded area. Being that this trip would only be my second time to the West Coast I wasn’t expecting the trails to be so desolate and treeless! Needless to say it was an interesting change of pace.

The desert trails had a good mix of sandy, whooped out sections, long straights and steep, uphill climbs. The power that the new YFZ450R produces is much different than I was used to on my 05’ and 08’ YFZ450s. The power was much smoother, not the same peppy power band as the original YFZ. Top end power was plentiful, which came in handy with the wide-open trails.

Though the engine has a lot of muscle to offer, we feel like the bottom end, especially first gear, was a bit tall, making it hard to lift the front end. This may have been due to the fact that the swing arm is 15mm longer and the suspension is much better than its predecessor. A cheap and simple fix would be to change the gearing by adding a tooth or two on the rear sprocket to get more bottom end power or buy adding an exhaust.

The YFZ450R easily powers over the doubles on the motocross track. Getting the front wheel up is tougher with the taller first gear.

The handling on the YFZ450R is awesome! There was little to no bump steer, which the original YFZ suffered from. It felt like I was running a steering stabilizer like on my older YFZs. I could really notice a difference at top end. You could literally pin the throttle and the YFZ450R would skim right over the off-camber whoops.

If you compare the handling from the original YFZ to the YFZ450R the difference is like night and day. The shocks are much beefier now and at the beginning of the day I rode with the stock settings. Many of the editors, including myself, found the stock settings were a little stiff, resulting in the rear end kicking a little. Although there was a little too much rebound in the rear, it was not enough to swap the ATV out of control. The YFZ450R actually stayed relatively stable, but it was clear that a change was in order. After doing a little tweaking with the rebound and compression the kicking was no longer present.

By the end of the day riding at Gorman, I found myself a little too comfortable aboard the YFZ450R because I swore to myself that I was lost. I was in the zone and all that I could see was an endless, surreal landscape of rigorous foothills and trails! After finding my way back to the campsite, which was on the opposite hillside I was riding on and seemed like an eternity away, it was time to get ready for the next day of our testing.

After gearing up the next day we headed out to Palmdale, Calif. to LACR Motocross Park. I have been anxious to ride the YFZ450R on a motocross track ever since I first heard about it. I have raced the original YFZ in both motocross and GNCC formats, but I’ve always felt more at home racing motocross. At the beginning of the day I left my shocks the way I set them up the day before on the trails and this setup seemed to work pretty well.

The handling of the YFZ450R was impressive.  The shocks are much improved and it felt like it had a steering stabilizer.

The frame design is much different than what is found on the original YFZ. It features an 11-degree rake instead of the 8 degrees found on the older model. This increase in rake allows the frame to be narrower up front and help soak up some of the braking bumps when railing into a corner.

The YFZ450R features an all-aluminum frame with a bottom steel rail that is bolted together for increased strength. I’ve had problems before with the sub frames on my YFZs cracking, but I felt like Yamaha did a good job addressing this problem with its new reinforced sub frame. The YFZ450R comes with a 3-inch wider wheelbase than the original YFZ450, making cornering on the stock machine a breeze.

The 20-inch tires hooked up very well in the loamy sand as well as rocky sections on the trails. The extra height of the 20-inch tires helped increase the top end through long straights. Although the 20-inch tires were good for speeding through the straight sections, if I was racing strictly motocross on a tight or technical track 18-inch tires would be a better choice - depending on the track conditions and weather. For the average weekend warrior, however, the 20-inch stock tires will do just fine. As for the braking I never experienced any fading of the brakes. I felt they were just as good, or better, than any other sport quad on the market.

It's very easy to move around the comfortable T-shaped seat.

Yamaha designed the YFZ450R to be ergonomically superior to any sport ATV available. I was surprised how much room there was to move around throughout the corners and in the air. The T-shaped seat helped cushion rutted out corners while leaning to one side or the other. Although a good idea, I really couldn’t feel much difference with the cushioned side panels. I imagine Yamaha will continue to develop the cushioned plastic and possibly use an even softer compound in future models.

Power on the YFZ450R was just as present on the motocross track as it was on the trails. The smooth-as-silk power was always there with a push of the throttle. One problem I had with the original YFZ was the stiff thumb throttle. I actually prefer to run a twist throttle on the older YFZs because of this problem, but I didn’t feel my thumb get sore at all during the two long days of riding the new model.

Whether I was ripping through a corner or blazing up one of LACR’s many uphill sections, there was always constant power from the YFZ450R. Yamaha built the engine right alongside its own GYTR division. We got a chance to throw a leg over a modified YFZ450R with numerous GYTR products, including the CNC ported cylinder head, high performance piston kit, and full GYTR exhaust with air filter, just to name a few. I have to be honest…the modified GYTR YFZ450R was probably one of the nicest handling ATVs I’ve ever ridden. The power increase is amazing; it felt like I was riding a pro-level ATV. With the added power the front end now wanted to lift a lot more, making it easier to wheelie over whoops and other obstacles.

All-in-all, the new Yamaha YFZ450R might be the best stock quad I’ve ever ridden. I feel like even racing it stock, it would be hanging right there with many of the built up ATVs in its class.

If you're in the market for a new sport quad, you've got to take the YFZ450R for a test run.

Whether you want to be competitive racing motocross or woods or just want to power past your buddies on the weekend, you’d be foolish not to give the YFZ450R a serious look.

2009 Yamaha YFZ450R Specs
Engine Type: 449cc, liquid-cooled w/fan, 4-stroke; DOHC titanium 5-valve
Bore x Stroke: 95mm x 63.4mm
Compression Ratio: 11.6:1
Fuel Delivery: Yamaha Fuel Injection (YFI) , 42mm
Ignition: TCI (Digital)
Starting System: Electric
Transmission: 5-speed manual clutch
Drive Train: 2WD; sealed O-ring chain, eccentric adjustment
Front Suspension: Independent double wishbone, w/ Kashima coated piggy back shocks, High/Low speed compression, rebound and threaded preload adjustment, 9.8-in travel
Rear Suspension: Cast aluminum swingarm w/ piggyback High/Low speed compression, rebound and threaded preload adjustment, 11.0-in travel
Front Brakes: Dual ventilated hydraulic disc, twin piston
Rear Brake: Wave-style ventilated hydraulic disc,twin piston
Front Tires: AT21x7-10 Radial
Rear Tires: AT20x10-9 Radial
Length/Width/Height: 70.7 x 48.8 x 41.9 in
Seat Height: 31.9 in
Wheelbase: 50.0 in
Ground Clearance: 4.5 in
Fuel Capacity: 2.6 gal
Curb Weight: 405 lb
Lighting: Dual 30W Krypton Multi-reflector Headlights and 3.9/0.5W LED Brake light
Colors: Team Yamaha Blue/White; Red/White
MSRP: $7,999

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2009 Yamaha YFZ450R Preview

 
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