2016 Yamaha YZ450FX – Yamaha’s 450cc Off-Road Racer
The new for 2016 Yamaha YZ450FX marks the entry for Yamaha into the 450cc four-stroke off-road race bike market. Based closely on the YZ450F motocross racer, the YZ450FX is designed to be a ready-to-roll GNCC and hare scramble winner.
In moving from the track to off-road, the Yamaha YZ450FX sees a large number of subtle but significant changes compared to the YZ450F. The rear wheel changes from a 19-inch rim on the MX bike to an 18-inch hoop. The wheels are shod with Dunlop Geomax AT81 rubber, a well regarded off-road competition tire that works well in conditions from mud to rock.
The forks are more softly sprung, and the suspension valving has been changed. Still a five-speed, the Yamaha YZ450FX transmission has wider ratios, plus modifications to the clutch to provide more consistent functioning under hard use, as well as lightens the lever pressure.
There is a higher output alternator for an optional (or aftermarket) lighting kit, larger radiators for lower speeds, and a sidestand. The YZ450FX lacks an electric fan, but has wiring and brackets for quickly installing the Yamaha WR450F’s fan, if desired.
The 2016 Yamaha YZ450FX is intended for off-road use only, is a Red Sticker bike in California, and comes standard without a spark arrestor, unlike the ride anywhere/anytime Green Sticker-legal WR450F. This means that the YZ450FX’s standard fueling has been optimized solely for performance, rather than meeting any emissions standard.
Yamaha’s characteristic reverse cylinder motor, now in its sixth year, is carried over unchanged from the YZ450F, even down to the cylinder head, valves, and compression ratio. The claimed benefits of the reverse design are a straight downdraft inlet tract by positioning the large airbox where the front of the fuel tank normally sits, as well as superior mass centralization that comes from tilting the cylinder backwards and by repositioning the fuel more centrally on the motorcycle.
The GYTR (Genuine Yamaha Technology Racing, the wordy name for Yamaha’s hop up parts range) tuning system is carried over from the YZ450F. This allows the owner to connect GYTR’s $300 portable Power Tuner to the ECU to customize the ignition and fuel injection map between wide limits, a feature absent from the WR450F.
Unlike the kickstart-only motocrosser, the 450FX comes with an electric starter, along with the reassurance of a kickstart as backup. The YZ450FX starts instantly with the button hot or cold, but takes a strong kick to start. The kickstart is a welcome feature, but riders who are willing to go without can install a kickstarter-removal kit from Yamaha and save two pounds.
The YZ450FX’s claimed wet weight of 262 pounds, with the modest two-gallon fuel tank full, is 15 pounds heavier than the YZ450F motocrosser, due primarily to the electric starter and battery. However, the YZ450FX is nine pounds lighter than the WR450F.
On test, the fuelling of the 2016 Yamaha YZ450FX in standard trim is excellent, with a clean pickup from very low revs and, despite a light flywheel, good reluctance to stalling. Being a 450 with motocross heritage, it pulls very strongly in the higher rpm range.
The YZ450FX’s motor is fitted with a balancer shaft and, combined with a different balance factor from the YZ motocrosser and rubber mounted handlebars, there is a complete lack of vibration at all speeds.
The stability of the FX is a standout feature. The bike tracks straight through rutted sections at speed and inspires confidence, and it feels controllable, even with no steering stabilizer. The long narrow seat, which covers the fuel tank cap, allows the rider to get far forward on the bike and pin the front tire into turns.
The excellent damping of the KYB fork with speed-sensitive damping was a big factor and the spring rates felt perfect for me at 160 pounds. Both ends of the bike feel balanced and the suspension is compliant at both high and low speeds.
The test circuit was set up to mimic a tight woods, East Coast-type GNCC course, and the FX was easy to steer through turns, with light accurate steering. The course didn’t include any whoops or high-speed rough sections so a full evaluation of the suspension will have to wait until more miles have been put on the Yamaha in other locations.
In common with other models in Yamaha’s off road range, the 450FX is approachable and easy to ride, even for a less experienced rider, the mark of a really well sorted dirt bike. Some motorcycles only work well when ridden really fast, but the YZ450FX also works at a slower pace, without sacrificing anything in outright performance for experienced riders. While the YZ450FX has a light feel to it, the seat height is tall at 38-inches, and the center of gravity feels high.
The cable-operated clutch works well and has a light pull, though will take regular maintenance compared to a hydraulically actuated system.
The Yamaaha transmission shifts nicely and the ratios are well chosen, with even gaps between gears and a low enough first gear for control in slow-speed rock sections and technical climbs. The omission of a sixth gear is not really an issue for anyone other than desert racers.
The YZ450FX’s 270mm front disc is larger than on the 450F, and it provides good stopping power and sharp bite with one finger on the lever.
The lack of a lighting kit makes sense on the YZ450FX. If put to its intended use as an off-road short-course racer, then lights are not required. For owners who wish to ride at night, the standard enduro-spec lighting as found on the WR model would be inadequate. A skidplate is stock, but the handguards in the photos are a GYTR option.
The Yamaha YZ450FX’s list price of $8890 offers a $100 saving over the WR450F enduro model, but the weight saving and power advantage of the FX is significant. Not only does it hit the mark perfectly as a mixed terrain, off-road competition bike, but the more linear power delivery, with no sacrifice of top end, more forgiving suspension and the electric start would make the 450FX a better MX bike for beginner and intermediate riders than the regular YZ450F. With its powerful motor, impressive suspension, and high-speed stability, it will also make a great desert bike for the serious racer or fast weekend warrior.
The YZ450FX makes Yamaha’s impressive range of off-road competition machines complete and blue plastic is certainly going to be a common site at off road racing of all disciplines. The 2016 Yamaha YZ450FX is available in showrooms across the U.S. now, and could well turn out to be Yamaha’s most popular 450 dirt bike.
Action photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: Arai VX-4 Pro Nutech
- Goggles: Ariete Adrenaline Primis
- Jersey: Alpinestars Techstar Venom
- Gloves: Alpinestars Techstar Venom
- Pants: Alpinestars Techstar Venom
- Boots: Alpinestars Tech 7
2016 Yamaha YZ450FX Specs:
- Engine: Liquid-cooled DOHC 4-stroke; 4 titanium valves
- Bore x stroke 97.0 x 60.8mm
- Displacement: 449cc
- Compression ratio 12.5:1
- Fuel delivery: Yamaha Fuel Injection; Keihin 44mm throttle body
- Ignition: Transistor Controlled Ignition
- Transmission: Wide-ratio constant-mesh 5-speed
- Clutch: Multiplate wet
- Final drive: O-ring chain
- Front suspension: Fully adjustable KYB spring-type fork with speed-sensitive damping; 12.2 inches of travel
- Rear suspension: Linkage-assisted fully adjustable KYB shock; 12.5 inches of travel
- Front brake: 270mm disc w/ 4-piston caliper
- Rear brae: 245mm disc w/ 2-piston caliper
- Front tire: Dunlop AT81F, 90/90-21
- Rear tire: Dunlop AT81, 120/90-18
- L x W x H: 85.2 x 32.5 x 50.4 inches
- Seat height 38.0 inches
- Wheelbase 57.7 inches
- Ground Clearance 12.8 inches
- Fuel Capacity 2.0 gallons
- Wet weight: 262 pounds
- Warranty: 30 days (Limited Factory Warranty)
- Color: Team Yamaha Blue/White
- 2016 Yamaha YZ450FX Price: $8890