With Suzuki building an all-new RM-Z450 last year, the 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 receives new suspension settings this year.We haven’t tested an RM-Z450 since 2012, so we were long overdue. From then until 2017 Suzuki made only incremental updates to the RM-Z450, and it had fallen behind the pack in many areas.
Last year, Suzuki gave the RM-Z450 an all-new chassis with new suspension. Although it didn’t get a new motor, the existing powerplant was heavily updated. The feature the RM-Z450 didn’t get that we wish it had was electric starting.Looking over the 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450, we have to say it is an awesome-looking motocross motorcycle—arguably the best looking 450 out there. The modern bodywork and yellow/blue color scheme give it that classic Suzuki look.Sitting on the RM-Z450, you can fill how nice and slim the current chassis is. The Renthal Fatbar’s is mounted a little on the low side, but the bar has a nice comfortable bend. The stock half-waffle grips have a nice feel, that hopefully won’t need to be changed out as Suzuki vulcanizes the grips on so they literally have to be ground off. The rest of the seating position and peg location are a little tight for us at six feet tall, yet still comfortable and should be excellent for shorter riders.Once out on the track, the first thing that becomes apparent is that even with the updates, this is still a Suzuki—meaning it turns great! 450s, in general, with all their inertia and power, can be hard to get laid over at turn entry and hit the rut or berm perfectly. With the 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450, the motorcycle feels like it wants to lean its self into the turn and rail its self around without wanting to climb the out of the rut or berm.With that excellent turning ability, it is not surprising the RM-Z450 isn’t the most stable bike on the motocross track. This is felt most prominently on downhills with a little chop. It just didn’t give us the confidence to push it when under heavy braking.We lowered the forks in the clamps to raise the front end and added a little more rear end sag to help fight the nervous feeling. These simple mods help the stability a little, and didn’t harm the excellent turning characteristics.Suzuki is going with a standard coil-spring Showa fork, and it has a definite harsh feel at the initial part of the stroke and tends to deflect in the small bumps. To combat that, we backed out the compression damping out six clicks and increased the rebound damping by four clicks to keep the forks from staying too low in the stroke and packing. That helped the RM-Z450 track better once we dropped the forks all the way down in the clamps.The Showa BFRC (Balance Free Rear Cushion) shock also has a stiff, almost harsh, feel. To combat that, that we ran 108mm of sag and reduced the compression damping. We left the high- and low-speed compression damping alone.With the adjustments to the front and rear suspension, we got the 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 well balanced, and to a point, it was comfortable to push. However, it still wasn’t as plush and comfortable as we would like. It will take a professional suspension re-valving to get it completely to our liking.When it comes to the motor, the Suzuki is a little more old-school in its power curve. It comes on strong on the bottom end and likes to be short shifted. Revving the engine to the rev limiter isn’t the best way to ride the Suzuki, as it just flattens out.The RM-Z450 comes with three couplers that change the power curve. They are mild/rich, stock, and aggressive/lean. On a 450, which usually has more power than we can use, we tend to like milder settings. That’s not the case with the 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450—we like aggressive coupler best. The motor has a more of a free-revving feel, giving the RM-Z450 a lighter feel and making it easier to ride.Shifting is nice and smooth, as is the clutch action. We only experienced a little fade during heavy abuse. Gear ratios in the five-speed transmission are spot-on with no odd gaps and didn’t feel the need to change gearing at all.As we mentioned earlier in the test, the biggest thing we miss in the motor is electric start. While the Suzuki isn’t a hard bike to start, it is something you really need when you crash in a moto and especially when every other bike in its class has it.By omitting electric start, Suzuki keeps the price of the RM-Z450 below $9000. The 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 is $350 less than the other Japanese brands, and over $1000 less than a Husqvarna FC 450.This test was our first time using Bridgestone Battlecross X30 tires, and we were pleasantly surprised. Grip was excellent at every track we road, and even better was the way they held up during the test. The Bridgestones till had a lot of rubber left when we were done with the test. We gotta say we like the Bridgestones over the Dunlops that are standard on all the other motocrossers for the Southern California tracks we race on.Throughout our test, we never had any reliability issues with the RM-Z450. The primary wear item is the chain, which stretched significantly during the test.The 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 has a solid chassis that can make for a very good race bike. Two-time Supercross Champion Chad Reed, who is riding the JGRMX/Yoshimura/Factory Racing RM-Z450 this year, has said many times how much he loves the chassis as a foundation for a motocross racing motorcycle.The 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 is the most affordable racer in its class, and it’s a great bike for guys who struggle in corners, aren’t afraid of a little suspension work, and don’t mind kicking it to start it.Photography by Brandon KrauseRiding Style
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.