2017 Suzuki RMX450Z First Ride Test |
Plenty of Potential
1. Our first ride test of the 2017 Suzuki RMX450Z was a tricky one. When you read our Fast Facts, you’ll get the initial impression that we don’t like the bike, but we will have to insist that you keep reading to the end. There is much more to the Suzuki RMX450Z than the stock offering.
2. The 2017 Suzuki RMX450Z is something like the US version of the Honda RC213V-S. With an engine choked into a nearly unconscious state to satisfy the tailpipe sniffers, it’s difficult to fully assess the RMX450Z’s capabilities with it in stock configuration. However, we wanted to establish a baseline before modifying the RMX, and we were interested in how it worked right out of the box.
3. The stock RMX450Z is not all-new. Based on the short-lived 2010 RMX450Z, the 2017 version is essentially the same motorcycle. The big difference is that the EPA and CARB are now satisfied—Suzuki would rather forget the 2010 debacle—and the 2017 RMX is a Green Sticker legal machine due to reduced sound and emissions, plus only a single power mode.
4. Our single-track test was challenging for us, and the RMX450Z. In the ultra-tight and technical trails in the private area we selected for the first test of the stock RMX450Z, we were constantly stalling the bike—thank you, Suzuki, for electric start. Even with an emissions strangled engine, we expected a decent boost off the bottom due to the torque-focused cam timing. Unfortunately, it’s just not there.
5. Mid-speed trails are what the RMX450Z craves. If you can find a trail that is open enough to keep the revs in the midrange, the RMX is a reasonably fun bike to ride. The power is enough to get up to speed, though not even vaguely overwhelming. At that speed, the chassis allows you to make the most of the power.
6. Forget about any top-end power on the stock RMX450Z. While it has a 41mm Keihin throttle body, the throttle plate rotates open less than 33 degrees. The result is no top-end power, so timely shifting of the precise gearbox is crucial.
7. It’s difficult to even pull 4th and 5th gear. Suzuki widened the five-speed tranny’s ratios, compared to the RM450Z motocrosser. 1st and 2nd are lower and useful, while 4th and 5th are higher and hard on the motor. With the weak bottom end, we were constantly looking for a lower-than-1st gear on the technical trails, even with the shorter gearing on the bottom.
8. The good news is that the chassis is excellent. While 2010 might seem like eons ago in some facets of motorcycling, it isn’t ancient history for trail bikes. Remember, the only Green Sticker competition for the RMX is the aging carbureted Honda CRF450X and the very fresh new Yamaha WR450F.
9. At the speeds we were riding, we liked the cush Showa suspension. Both fully adjustable, the soft damping and spring action of the 47mm forks and linkage-assisted shock were pleasant. The RMX450Z has no problem finding traction, and doesn’t get deflected easily. Travel is 12.2 inches at both ends, which is certainly enough for the motor as-is. We can’t wait to see how it works when we dial more power into the engine.
10. It’s fortunate that the suspension is excellent, because lifting the front end is no easy feat. With a curb weight of 272 pounds—almost identical to the WR450F and CRF450X—the suffocated motor has zero interest in throttle blips to loft the front end over obstacles. You have to choose your lines wisely. On the upside, superb steering habits make that possible, and the bike feels great on downhills where power is less of an issue.
11. Suzuki could have done better than the Dunlop Sports tires. The traction on test day was perfect, and a nearly bald knobby would have done fine, so we don’t have any specific complaints. Regardless, we’d have liked to see Suzuki upgrade to Dunlop Geomax rubber when bringing back the RMX450Z.
12. If you don’t do any mods to the RMX450Z, it’s hard to imagine you will be a contented customer. In fully stock trim, the RMX450Z can be a difficult ride. Without low- or top-end power, the strangled engine is not satisfying.
13. This test is only part one of our 2017 Suzuki RMX450Z evaluation. We got one of the first RMX450Z’s off the boat from Japan, and tested it the same day we snagged it. However, when we got home and consulted with our team of engineers, it looks like there are some easily doable (and cost-free) modifications that can triple the peak horsepower of the 450 motor. This will bring it up to GNCC-competitive engine performance. Suzuki is even offering contingency money in that series, though no one will be collecting it on a stocker.
14. The mods we expect to execute will invalidate the RMX450Z’s Green Sticker compliance. We don’t buy into California’s fraudulent Green Sticker program, as the “science” behind it is politically motivated. How you deal with that issue is up to you, your lawyer, and your conscience. As Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” reads, “Give me…your huddled masses yearning to breath free.” Watch for our full test of a free-breathing 2017 Suzuki RMX450Z very soon, and let freedom ring.
Action photography by Jess McKinley
- Helmet: Fly Racing F2 Carbon MIPS Retrospect
- Goggles: Fly Racing Zone Adult
- Jersey + pants: Fly Racing Evolution 2.0 Racewear
- Gloves: Fly Racing Evolution
- Body armor: Forcefield Armor Pro Shirt X-V
- Knee braces: Alpinestars Fluid Tech Carbon
- Socks: Fly Racing Knee Brace Moto
- Boots: Fly Racing Sector
2017 Suzuki RMX450Z Specs
- Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC single
- Bore x stroke: 96.0 x 62.1mm
- Displacement: 449cc
- Compression ratio: 11.6:1
- Fueling: EFI
- Lubrication: Semi-dry sump; two oil systems
- Starting: Electric and kick
- Transmission: 5-speed constant mesh
- Clutch: Web multi-plate
- Final drive: DID 520 MXV4 chain
- Frame: Twin-spar aluminum
- Front suspension: Fully adjustable 47mm inverted forks; 12.2 inches of travel
- Rear suspension: Fully adjustable, linkage-assisted shock; 12.2 inches of travel
- Front tire: 80/100 x 21; Dunlop Sports D742F
- Rear tire: 110/100-18; Dunlop Sports D756
- Front brake: Disc w/ Nissin four-piston caliper
- Rear brake: Disc w/ Nissan two-piston caliper
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- L x W x H: 86.0 x 33.1 x 49.8 inches
- Wheelbase: 58.5 inches
- Rake: 28.1 degrees
- Trail: 4.8 inches
- Seat height: 37.4 inches
- Ground clearance: 12.6 inches
- Fuel tank: 1.6 gallons; aluminum
- Curb weight: 272 pounds
- Color: Champion Yellow/Solid Black
- Warranty: 6-month limited
2017 Suzuki RMX450Z Price: $8999 MSRP