2016 Yamaha YZ450F Review | Incremental Improvements

2016 Yamaha YZ450F Review | Incremental Improvements
2016 Yamaha YZ450F

2016 Yamaha YZ450F Review

2016 Yamaha YZ450F Review | Incremental Improvements
2016 Yamaha YZ450F

Since a thorough overall of the YZ450F in 2014, Yamaha engineers have made small but effective improvements of its premier Motocross machine. And the 2016 Yamaha YZ450F proves to be no different.

The changes made to the 2016 Yamaha YZ450F include new intake and exhaust camshafts; a Launch Control System (LCS); a new water pump; a new shift stop lever design with a spring load increase; thicker top motor mounts; an increase in width of the frame at the swingarm pivot forging; updated settings on the front fork and rear shock; a different fork clamp offset; a lower footpeg position; and a 270mm front rotor.

The 450cc DOHC engine has a four-valve head and rearward slanted top end, and easily fires to life with a firm, yet thorough, kick. The engine is incredibly fast, yet the powerband is noticeably more linear and easier to ride than the previous year model due to the new intake and exhaust camshafts.

The revised cams provide a different torque character, especially in the bottom end to mid-range power. Power is noticeably increased in these areas of the 2016 Yamaha YZ450F, which makes the bike’s power feel even more linear than it’s predecessor. In addition to the increased performance, the new cams are designed to improve combustion efficiency. The YZ450F’s bottom end, mid-range, and top end are all strong making it one of the easiest powerplants to adjust to quickly and ride with confidence.

Because of these attributes of the powerband, cornering is made that much easier whether you are hugging the inside or railing the outside line. I found it best to utilize first or second gear on tight inside lines, and either second or third gear for the outside. Nearly any obstacle is possible regardless of the conditions as a twist of the wrist gets the 2016 Yamaha YZ450F moving in a hurry.

The stock pipe has a nice bark to it, and helps the engine breath easily. For those looking to tinker with the Yamaha’s power curve, the accessory GYTR Power Tuner does the trick. You can’t use it to get more overall power than stock, but you can adjust the power curve to your liking.

2016 Yamaha YZ450F Review | Incremental Improvements roostIn the bottom of the engine, Yamaha implemented a new shift stop lever design with a spring load increase. Engineers did this in order to provide a more precise feeling when shifting under power, and make it more difficult to catch neutral between first and second gearshifts. I had not experienced any issues with shifting the YZ in the past, but a transmission can always be improved. This change will certainly help those who do not let off and/or use the clutch when shifting under a load. The gears of the YZ450F are spaced out very well, which makes for less overall shifting needed. Aside from that, shifting through the cogs is simple and straightforward. I did not miss a shift during my time spinning laps on the Yamaha YZ450F.

A new feature found on the 2016 Yamaha YZ450F is the Launch Control System. The LCS has a specific ECU setting that optimizes engine output when the gate drops. In other words, the ECU retards the ignition to minimize wheel spin off the gate when conditions are slick, primarily on concrete starts.

Activating the LCS involves pushing the LCS button located next to the kill switch. The LCS only functions in first and second gear, and is automatically deactivated when the riders shifts into third. While practicing several concrete and dirt starts with and without the LCS activated, I could not believe how noticeable the LCS is. Starting on concrete with the LCS activated is a no brainer as the bike hooks up much better than with the stock powerband, especially when launching at a higher RPM. I am incredibly pleased with Yamaha’s new Launch Control System, and see it as a huge advantage when starting on concrete or any other slick surface.

The Kayaba Speed-Sensitive System (SSS) forks on the 2016 Yamaha YZ450F are the best in the class. The forks work incredibly well in the corners and are unbelievably plush on big jump landings. They are very forgiving if you manage to come up short on a jump as well. The forks feel extremely plush and get progressively stiffer throughout the stroke. Conveniently, there is no need to check fork air pressures before a moto. In an era where air forks are becoming the norm, Yamaha’s decision to stay with standard coil springs forks is proving to be a smart one.

The Kayaba rear shock works wonderfully in unison with the SSS forks. The shock is plush on the big landings, yet tractable in the tightest of corners. Yamaha decreased the spring rate for 2016 from 58Nm to 56Nm. Seeing as I am lighter than the average rider weighing in at only 130 pounds; I really benefit from this. Preload and clicker adjustments are easily accessed via the left side of the YZ450F thanks to the reversed cylinder head.

The 2016 Yamaha YZ450F handles very well and is improved upon from last year due to a multitude of changes to the chassis. The new fork clamp offset has been changed from 22mm to 25mm, and is designed to match the changes made to the rear shock settings while improving cornering ability.

To increase rider comfort and lower the center of gravity, Yamaha’s engineers moved the footpeg position down 5mm as well. Rigidity balance and front-end feel have also been improved upon as a result of using thicker material and implementing a revised shape for the top motor mounts. In addition , Yamaha increased the width of the frame at the swingarm pivot forging by 12mm.

2016 Yamaha YZ450F Review | Incremental ImprovementsIn the braking department, Yamaha responded to the improvement that I yearned for last year. They upgraded front rotor from 250mm to 270mm. This is a welcomed change, as a bike with such a strong engine should have a great front brake. The rear brake works like any good rear brake should, and did not fade during a moto.

The clutch pull on the YZ450F is smooth, and refuses it to slip or need adjustment. The clutch lever has a gradual curve and lacks a defined place to pull in. Luckily, levers are an easy replacement if the rider finds himself searching for a definitive, consistent place to pull the clutch in.

The front brake lever has a much more defined bend and feels much easier to modulate with the index finger. The bars have an agreeable bend that most riders will feel comfortable with. The grips are a little harder of a compound for my liking, but that too is easily and inexpensively changed.

The 2016 Yamaha YZ450F comes stock with Dunlop Geomax MX52 tires. The rubbers hooked up well at all of the tracks during testing, which included multiple types of terrain ranging from soft and loamy to a more intermediate, harder-packed track. Both the front and rear tires held up well and maintained a sharp edge after many rides.

Maintaining the YZ450F is slightly different than other bikes due to the airbox being located up near the front of the bike. Access the air filter involves unscrewing three Dzus fasteners, which allow the top of the airbox to be removed. The Dzus fasteners make swapping an air filter a quick and easy task that does not require any tools. Also, because the air filter is located up high and near the front of the bike, it does not get dirty as quickly as other bikes that have the airbox located at the rear of the bike.

Changing the oil involves unscrewing the 12mm drain bolt located on the bottom of the engine. Changing the oil filter requires the removal of two 8mm bolts located on the right side of the engine. Refilling the engine with oil is done so by removing the oil filler cap on the left side of the engine on the crankcase cover.

Beginner and novice riders will feel comfortable racing the Yamaha YZ450F due to its linear powerband and balanced suspension. Intermediate and Pro riders will love the YZ450F due to its incredibly powerful engine and plush front forks and rear shock.

2016 Yamaha YZ450F Review | Left ProfileThe 2016 Yamaha YZ450F’s incremental improvements proved to be worthwhile after the incremental changes it received last year in 2015 and the complete overhaul in 2014. Each of the changes prove to be effective on the racetrack, making the rider feel more comfortable and confident in order to push the bike to its limits. With an engine that makes loads of power and class-leading suspension that can be appreciated by all levels of riders, the 2016 Yamaha YZ450F is a great choice for anyone looking for a fast, well-suspended bike that is designed to go the distance.

Photography by Don Williams at Pala Raceway

Andrew Oldar is sponsored by Moose Racing.

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2016 Yamaha YZ450F Specs

  • Engine: 449.7cc liquid-cooled DOHC 4-stroke w/ 4 titanium valves
  • Bore x stroke: 97.0 x 60.8mm
  • Compression ratio: 12.5:1
  • Fueling: Yamaha Fuel Injection, Keihin 44mm TCI
  • Ignition: TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
  • Transmission: Constant-mesh 5-speed; multiplate wet clutch
  • Front Suspension: KYB Speed-Sensitive System, inverted fork, fully adjustable, with 12.2″ travel
  • Rear Suspension: KYB fully adjustable single shock w/ 12.4″ travel
  • Brakes Front: Hydraulic single disc brake, 270mm
  • Brakes Rear: Hydraulic single disc brake, 245mm
  • Front tire: Dunlop Geomax MX52, 80/100-21
  • Rear tire: Dunlop Geomax MX52, 120/80-19
  • Seat height: 38.0 inches
  • Wheelbase: 58.3 inches
  • Ground clearance: 13.0 inches
  • Fuel capacity: 2.0 gallons
  • Wet weight: 247 pounds
  • Colors: Team Yamaha Blue/White; 60th Anniversary Yellow
  • 2016 Yamaha YZ450F MSRP: $8590


2016 Yamaha YZ450F Test Photo Gallery