The Yamaha YFZ 450

Some propaganda from the Yamaha web site......


$6,899* Available from June 2003

Type 439cc, 4-Stroke Single, Liquid Cooled w/ Fan, Titanium 5-Valve DOHC
Bore x Stroke 95mm x 62mm
Compression Ratio 11.9:1
Carburetion Keihin 39mm FCR w/ Throttle Position Sensor
Ignition DC - CDI
Starting System Electric
Transmission 5-Speed Manual Clutch
Drive Train 2WD; Sealed O-Ring Chain
Suspension/Front Independent Double Wishbone, 9.1” w/ Rebound, Compression and Threaded Preload Adjustment
Suspension/Rear Aluminum Swing Arm, 10.1” w/ Rebound, Compression and Threaded Preload Adjustment
Brakes/Front Dual Hydraulic Disc, Twin Piston
Brakes/Rear Hydraulic Disc
Tires/Front AT21 x 7-10 Radial
Tires/Rear AT20 x 10-9 Radial
L x W x H 72.4” x 46.1” x 42.9”
Seat Height 31.5”
Wheelbase 50.4”
Ground Clearance 4.4”
Fuel Capacity 2.6 Gallons
Dry Weight 350 Lbs.
Lighting Dual 30W Krypton Multi-reflector Headlights & 21/5W Brake light
Colors Team Yamaha Blue/White; White/Red
Warranty 6 Month (Limited Factory Warranty)

Well, the theiving whores stole my Raptor. Understand me clearly here, I will pay dollars for the whores that stole my Raptor - keep the bike - get it?

Nevertheless, ATV's come and go, and with the Raptor gone I had some decisions to make. Of course I considered simply replacing the Raptor, but if you read my reviews, you'll see I put a lot of effort and dollars into making my Raptor reliable and fast. I was having a real hard time considering doing it all over again. In trying to make lemonade out of lemons, I actually was faced with an interesting oportunity here. There's quite a few more ATV's to choose from in the all out sport class then there was when I bought my Raptor. I did NOT consider the DS 650, the Predator, the Honda 450 or  the 700 Kaw. Why? The DS is mentioned in my other reviews, the predator (in my humble opinion) still needs refinement and ther 700 Kaw, is, well, a cow - automatic, V-tonne - I'm thinkin, uh, nope.

I did consider the Banshee, the Z-400, and finally the YFZ 450. The Banshee is, and always will be remembered as, the ATV to which all in the dunes are compared. However, we don't just ride dunes. And in the year 2004 I aint kick starting an ATV (like the 450R) and I ain't mixin fuel. - I'm having enough trouble considering an ATV without reverse let alone losing the amenities mentioned.

The Z-400, again in my humble opinion, and based on the fact that Jo owns one and I get to ride it - is still the best all around ATV made, and was inevitably my second choice. The one area that needs to be improved is all out power. I wouldn't have said that before the 450R/YFZ 450, but they're here, and in a competition hill drag race, the Z is left behind. This is the one and only area where the Suzuki falls short. It holds it's own, or leads in all other areas. Plus, my wife owns one, so when I want to ride one I can (grin).

The YFZ 450 won my ATV shoot out and purchase for two main reasons. 1) The advantage in power over the Z and 2) Because I don't want to build up another Raptor.

I researched high and low on the net and everywhere else I could to ensure, or at least hedge my bets that I wouldn't be buying another Yamaha "prototype" like the Raptor - knowing full well that I would get zero support from Yamaha Canada if there was a problem and frankly not willing to re-engineer another poorly designed ATV from Yamaha, but everywhere I looked, there were no faults to be found. No broken transmissions, no blown clutches, no carburators falling off - it became obvious that Yamaha Corporate (at least) learned something from my (and many others) expense and released a machine that was ready for public consumption.

So I rolled the dice (and won't my year in review be interesting) and bought the 450.

The very first thing I did with my new 450 was blow all the Yamaha decals off with my power washer in a vain attempt to secure myself in denial that I had indeed not sent several thousand more of my dollars to a corporation that desperately does not deserve them. I replaced the factory decals with the 25HP GYT-R flame kit cuz it looks kewl and doesn't display the word "Yamaha" so profoundly. The name kinda makes me want to gag.

Hoping upon hope that Yamaha (a.k.a. Those Bastards or TB for short) would earn some of my respect back with this new machine, I threw a leg on over and went for my first ride. (Bush ride).

Immediatly one notices that there is less low end hit then the Raptor. The 660 is real good at kicking you in the but right off idle. Not so with the 450. However, just when you are about to open up that long forgotten can of sardines for a little bed time snack, the mid range kicks in with a vengance and delivers you directly into the mouth of the top end.

Holy $hit came to mind the first time I cracked the 450. With eyes widening into saucers, I started through the gearing only to find that TB forgot to put 6th gear in the YFZ. It could easily pull another cog, however TB chose to stay with a more race standard five speed - leaving the Raptor as the king of top end. However, it doesn't matter much, because you'll be so far ahead of a Raptor by the time your buddy hit's 6th that you can finish opening the sardines and serve up a fresh Ritz to him when he crosses the finish line.

This thing is fast. Dirt bike fast - not top end so much as "get there" fast. It bangs gears like a two stroke - evidenced by the fact that it wastes stock Banshees in a drag race - and has the suspension to deal with any issues that may come up during the run.

TB musta fired the quality control guy that worked in the Raptor department and hired a guy from Honda because the fit and finish on the 450 are very good indeed. With the possible exception of the ridiculous "skid plate" on the rear end. I made the silly mistake of driving the 450 farther then my truck in the paved parking lot and punched a whole through the bearing carrier case from a loving nudge on the absolute first rock on the trail. This, at least, reminded me I was still riding a Yamaha. Maybe the skid plate was a Raptor prototype??

The YFZ starts easily, unless you happen to hit a compression stroke off the decompressor in which case the started simply stops and you have to let go of the button and let the motor unwind for a quarter second and hit it again. This just lets the 450 pilot know he's not riding an 8:1 compression machine, and as of yet has been nothing more then a minor irritant. As on all ATV's from all manufacturer's, the stock handle bars are simply for "display only" and are there to hold the controls in their appropriate places pending the installation of a "real live" set of handle bars from a reputable manufacturer, like say Renthal - I use CR bend.

I went for the GYT-R pipe and can as well as the GYT-R jet kit with a 172 main on the 3rd clip. Good move. The 450 was already quick, but this move took the collar off and let the beast run wild. I of course complimented it's ability to discharge spent gasses with a K&N so it could breathe as well. The boyz down south in the dunes are telling me a 180 (!!) main on the 4th clip, but I haven't tried that yet.

I was actually able to get a trip to the dunes in before this review and in a word, the YFZ 450 is outstanding in the sand! I went head to head on comp hill with everything there and easily beat stock and mild Banshees, Raptors, EX's DS's you name it - only a lighter rider on another YFZ 450 gave me any grief. Away from comp hill, I found the steepest hill that Winchester had to offer and parked Jo's Z400 at the bottom and did a dead stop hill climb. The Z climbed the hill easy enough in first wound out. I tired the identical climb with the 450 and found that I could actually shift into second and "play" with the hill doing wheelies at will on the way up. In fact, I probably could have accelerated through second and grabbed third.

A note of caution here, the 450 pulls strong enough that my timing was affected and off somewhat and almost caused me to "Seth" off a particularly sharp dune. Make sure you leave lots of room for this baby to stop once you've got it wound up.

The suspension is race ready, and therefore hard, I'm going to lighten up the rear end a bit for trial riding. The seat is cardboard thin, and will remind you of how much (or how little) ass padding you have. I do have two major complaints with the 450 tho, the thumb throttle is hard. Very hard. Hard enough that it becomes a problem for any of our riders if forced to ride in partial throttle conditions. Looking at the schematic of the carb, I'm thinkin that I can probably fix it and will report, but as of this writing I've not been able to find a kit with a softer return spring. The last bitch I have is that the path TB chose for the header pipe is plain stupid. The pipe goes out, around the coolant hose and dangerously close to the rider's leg. It get so hot that the radiant heat makes the rider's right leg (even through gear) very uncomfortable. I have taken the GYT-R header pipe and got it ceramic coated to combat this problem. The ceramic guy says they can lose up to 300 degrees (F) in radiated heat - I'm installing it this weekend and I'll let ya know how I make out.

Really, I am extremely impressed with the YFZ 450. TB may actually gain some respect back from previously thwarted consumers with this ATV. That is, if it holds together. The days of the Banshee are nearing an end, friends and neghbours. With technology like that present on the mid sized Yamaha, and power in the 50hp range easily attainable, and weighing in at 350ish pounds, the YFZ 450 is simply the biggest bang for the ATVer's buck.

It will be very interesting to see how the other manufacturers respond to this ATV. We've seen Honda's attempt, and I'm a big Honda fan, but frankly after waiting YEARS while Honda held onto it's 400EX as the sport entry machine and YEARS even to get there from the 300EX, introducing an ATV with no electric start, no reverse and more the second place machine in speed and power, somehow falls short of what I think big red is capable of.  And Now, in 2005, Honda responds with a 400EX with reverse! - Where was this machine 10 years ago? Sorry guys, but re-releasing the same old machine with different plastic and features that it should have had when it was originally brought to market insures that ol blue is going to continue getting business for some years to come. Well, at least from me (gag).