On Wednesday the 19th of July we made the trip to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland for the Australian media launch of the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F, followed by a day of riding at the Coolum Pines MX track the following day.
We knew a little about Yamaha’s third generation bike utilising the reverse slanted Cylinder motor heading into the event, but it was not until Yamaha Australia’s communications manager, Sean Goldhawk started to run through the complete list of changes to the latest edition of the YZ450F, that it became clear this was not just a few small updates in order to make the bike feel slimmer with an electric start thrown into the mix, but pretty much a all new bike from ground up.
From a completely new chassis, swing arm, electric start, new motor position, angle and mounts, and a completely updated Yamaha Power Tuner that is now in App form and controlled by your phone. Even the wheels and handlebars had been changed along with all new plastics, with the aim of reducing the overall weight of the bike.
While there are a lot of changes to run through, we have done our best below to cover them off and give our thoughts of the new bike from the perspective of your average clubman and Vet racer that races mainly motocross with a little Enduro/Off-Road thrown in.
New Chassis, Plastics and Ergo’s
You only have to glance over at the new upper weld work and lines on the all new chassis on the 2018 YZ450F to realise that a lot has changed.
The chassis has a new sharper look with Yamaha moving away from the Hydro-formed “s” pipe that made up the tank rails and replaced it with a straighter top tube and have increased triangulation to help provide increased rigidity of the frame.
A completely new engine mounting system has been designed; to once again help with mass centralisation and also accommodate the new angle of Yamaha’s reward slanted engine design with the entire packaged designed to help distribute more weight over the front end of the bike.
Surrounding the frame a new radiator and radiator shrouds offer a much thinner look and more importantly feel to the 2018 YZ450F, while the combination of the new frame, sub frame and new seat design means the rider now sits 9mm closer to the ground at the tallest point on the new bike, while the flatter designed seat means the seat sits 20mm lower towards the back of the seat.
The new model also runs a new top triple clamp which changes the offset from 25mm to 22mm - which in turn increases the trail by 3mm to 121mm for increased front end stability. At the other end the swingarm is newly designed to be 350g lighter and 5mm shorter for nimble handling.
Every piece of plastic on the bike has been re-designed with a new front mud guard designed to push more air through to the radiators, while the handle bars are a new bend, sitting 5mm higher with a new construction making them thinner and lighter, but maintaining their overall strength.
Another change that has helped with the overall size and feel of the bike up front is the move from a 7.5L fuel tank to a much smaller 6.2L tank, with the tank itself now being 10mm smaller, with the addition of the radiators being moved 6mm closer to the frame making the bike a total of 16mm narrower across the front section of the tank.
The Motor, Estart and The NEW Yamaha Power Tuner App
Ever since the Yamaha YZ450F moved to the reward-slanted motor design for myself it has always been a highlight and nothing has changed for 2018 with Yamaha making some minor changes to smooth the power out a little more.
For 2018 Yamaha have lightened the cylinder head and slightly changed the slant to make the cylinder sit a little more upright.
A 44mm Mikuni Throttle body has been utilised while a new box bridge piston design with a DLC coated pin has been incorporated.
The bike now comes with electric start to fire the engine into life at the push of the button, while a new push button choke design that disengages with a flick of the throttle makes starting hot or cold a simple as possible.
The transmission and clutch have been overhauled for a more direct connection as well as enhanced durability. Revised gears with a wider surface area, updated clutch plates and a stiffer outer pressure plate combine to boost durability.
As with previous years, the Yamaha Power Tuner is back in, but in a all new form for 2018, with there no longer being the need to purchase the tuner itself, but instead simply download the Yamaha Power Tuner App, which contains all the features of the old Tuner with a host of new features that not only give you even more control the power of the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F, but also track any changes and share information and engine maps with the push of a couple of buttons.
Yamaha continues to run the tried and tested KYB Suspension components front and rear, with revised setting for the front forks, while the rear of the bike receives a all new light weight spring that weighs in at 350g lighter than the previous spring, but maintains the same spring ratio by utilising new materials.
While Yamaha have moved to an electric start set up for 2018, by utilising a ultra-lightweight lithium-ion battery (which is 1386g lighter than the battery used in the YZ450X model) along with a host of weight saving designs, the bike itself weighs in at 1kg less then the 2017 model.
Between the smaller fuel tank, lighter rear shock, lightweight DID Rims, that save 70g each, 90g lighter handlebars, a move to Aluminium engine mounts, a total weight saving of 100g with newly designed plastics, a 350g lighter swing arm and the new throttle body that has a total weight saving of 12%, Yamaha engineers have gone to great length to save weight were ever possible.
SO WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?
Normally I would not go all in depth and list all the changes to a new bike, most of those details form year to year are already well published before we get a chance to ride a bike, however as I said at the top, the list of changes to the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F have for some reason gone a little under the radar this year, but a lot has certainly changed.
Even then there is so much going on with changes it is hard to go into depth with all of them! Check out the couple of video's above from Yamaha for a little more info and insight on both the changes to the bike and the new Power Tuner App.
There is no doubt just looking at this years bike it looks not only thinner but smaller all round visually.
Sitting on the bike for the first time you instantly notice the ‘Diet’ Yamaha have put this bike on. Since 2010 the first thing you would notice when sitting on a YZ450F, was the width between your knees; for 2018 that feeling that has been there for the past 7 years is gone.
The other thing I also quickly noticed was I could touch the ground nearly flat footed. At 178cm tall I have struggled to touch the ground on most in recent years, not that is a major concern, but did highlight that Yamaha have reduced the overall seat height on this years model and there is something comforting about being able to touch the ground on a bike.
Firing the bike into life is now as simple as pushing a button. The move to an electric start has been a long time coming for the Japanese manufactures on their motocross bikes, and Yamaha look to have got it nailed as the bike shot into life all day long with one simple push of the button.
Rolling out on the sand based Coolum motocross track for the first time it was instantly noticeable that the 2018 edition of Yamaha’s YZ450F had a different feel about it, well for the most part.
While the bike certainly felt different, the engine had the usual familiar strong feel from the outset. For myself the motor on the Yamaha has been a highlight for a number of years now, pulling strong from the bottom, with a smooth progressive feel.
For myself the engine felt very much the same for 2018 as it has for a few years now, though it was hard to really compare, due to the nature of the track. The previous few times I have ridden the YZ450F, it has been on harder pack, firmer tracks at Cessnock in NSW and Queensland motor park.
The sandier based Coolum track certainly allowed us to wind the throttle on early and harder without the fear of the rear end stepping to far out of line as it drifted effortlessly through ground beneath.
There is no doubt the YZ450F power plant has more than enough power for a rider like myself, infact unless you are planning on taking Daymon Stokie’s Finke crown from him next year, the YZ450F has more than enough power most mortals.
When you then factor in the increased ability to move power around with the new Power Tuner App, the delivery of power can easily be designed to meet your own preferences.
For myself I did not personally change the mapping during the day’s riding, I was more than happy with the stock mapping and was more focused on enjoying the new ride characteristics of the bike.
As mentioned above, the new Yamaha really does feel a lot thinner, not only through the front tank section of the bike but a smaller feel all round and has a completely different feel up front compared to the previous model, and while I did quite like the feel of the old bike, the new bike certainly is an improvement and helps inspire confidence from the get go.
All the changes to the chassis, the smaller tank, shorter swing arm, new triple clamps off-set have certainly livened up the front end of the bike, in a positive way.
While Coolum is a sand based track, it still has quite a firm base and formed up some great inside ruts in over the course of the day.
I found the bike tipped into inside ruts as well as any bike I have ridden and held its line perfectly as you wound on the gas, at the same I felt completely comfortable railing the outside of turn one on the very fast outside line in loose drier sand, or running high on the whooped out sand berms that formed latter in the day. I could not get enough of the way the bike felt through turns, and spent the entire day either cutting laps, or just hitting a few of the sweet ruts that had formed up.
In a straight line on the flat or one of the many sections of rollers on the Coolum track the bike felt just as stable underneath me. The rear end gave plenty of feed back and felt well connected to the ground, while the front end, while being a little more active than previous models never felt like it was out of control, or that I was about to be sent into a crazy tank slapper at speed.
I have been a huge fan of the KYB Suspension found on Yamaha machinery over many years and for 2018 nothing has changed in that regard.
While most companies have experimented with air forks over the past few years, Yamaha have stuck by their tried and tested KYB set up and you can’t blame them.
Even at 105kg at the moment, the stock suspension front and back worked perfectly, handling everything on the day with ease. The track offered up a great range of small braking bumps, along with higher speed rollers and I could not fault the suspension at all.
At some point in time it would be great to see how it feels on a harder pack track, with small sharp acceleration bumps, or some big nasty braking bumps, but from what we have learned over the years with the KYB set up, it is going to work well pretty much everywhere.
Now the Power Tuner App I only had a small paly with on the day, lets face it while I am into my technology, when it came to the choice of playing around with a app or spending what might be my only chance to ride the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F for the day, I was always going to spend the majority of the day cutting as many laps as possible and the more I enjoyed the bike the more laps I turned. out, meaning less time to play around with the App!
I did not complete ignore it though, and there is no doubt it will come in more than handy for anyone who purchases the new YZ450F.
For myself apart form downloading and looking through the App and seeing all the different information that could be recored, stored or shared with friends, the only time I spent utilising it on the day was along side Todd Jarret from MC News, as he helped walk me through how to change the map back to the stock setting before I hit the track after lunch.
The App itself is easy to use, with the bike connecting directly to your phone via a direct Wifi link.
The bike will need to be powered up to initially connect with the app, with each bike having its own unique wifi link and password to ensure no one else can tamper with your settings.
While the bike will need to have power to make any changes to the mapping, no changes can be made while the motor is actually running. A wise move on Yamaha's part as the last thing you would want is your mechanic or a so called mate making some mapping changes while you were out racing or riding!
Heading into the launch I was excited to ride Yamaha's new YZ450F, every year there are always a couple of bikes that you want to really get your hands on to see what they are really like.
This year the Yamaha YZ450F was one of those bikes for myself, while I have only had limited chances to ride the blue 450 over the past few years, I have always enjoyed spending time on them.
While already excited to ride, after seeing all the changes to the bike on Wednesday evening, I was even more keen to spend a day cutting laps around the Coolum circuit despite trying to fight through a nasty cold that left me voiceless by Thursday afternoon.
From the moment I cut the first few laps around Coolum I knew Yamaha were on to a good thing and by the end of the day I did not want to stop riding! The more I rode the new YZ450F, the more I enjoyed it.
From the ease of tipping the bike into a turn, to feeling comfortable laying the bike over mid turn as low as I could and powering out of turns, the bike left me wanting to ride more and more, so that is what I did.
The power in stock form was great, the suspension smooth and predictable and the new overall front end feel inspired confidence.
Sure it was only a single day riding on a nice sandy surface, but I left the day not wanting to hand the bike back, which is surely a good sign in my eyes.
The all new YZ450F comes in two colours – Team Yamaha Blue and a limited number – 100 units total - of Special Edition White models will be available for sale in AUS
Both standard and limited edition models will cost $12,399 RRP inc GST and will be available from late August 2017