2012 Yamaha YZ450F – Riding Impression
Minimal Changes: Get Use To It!
Photos By Jimmy Lewis and Scott Hoffman
Times are tight and the thought of getting an all-new bike every year are about as ripe as expecting a manufacturer to make an all-new bike every year. But you have to look at the bright side of things here, sometimes the bikes are already really good and some small tweaks can go a long ways. That is the case for a lot of 2012 machinery and also the YZ450.
The list is short, upgrades from the 2011 model include an altered ignition and fuel mapping, a quietier muffler and some internal revisions to the suspension valving. All YZs come with black rims and gold chains now so there is no price difference between getting a blue one or a black/white YZ. Did it need much more?
That is a good question because the current “reversed” YZ seems to have a bit of a love it or hate it relationship with riders, with a few points to be made about that. Generally it takes some time to get use to the bike. Being different isn’t bad, unless a rider will not take the time to gel and see if the differences are better for him or her. The standouts, for most riders are the smaller cockpit feeling, the visual impression that the front of the bike is wide and the shorter wheelbase feeling of this 450. It also has an intake growl you will not find on any other Japanese machines and the center of gravity seems to be a little more in the center of the bike, compared to the norm.
2012 changes were aimed at toning down the snappy or ferocious power deliver off idle and right at the bottom of the power curve and getting the bike to ride more level with less pitching, up and down in braking and acceleration. These were both good targets to aim for and Yamaha succeeded in fixing these issues. Especially in what I’d call the pit riding range, the YZ’s bark is toned down but it still has all the snap most will ever need on the track. Get the throttle open just a bit and it means business with a lot less of the herk and jerk that we spent a lot of time taming with the GYTR Power Tuner. In fact on the 2012 we were actually using the tuner to boost the mid and top performance to match the bottom end feel and let it pull longer, harder and smoother.
The suspension is functionally stiffer and slower moving which would typically provide a more harsh or aggressive ride, but even at a choppy and rutted Glen Helen it was as plush as any other 450. But the bike did act lower in the rear and with less yaw and pitch, just like promised. It has a plushness that is middle of the road and the bottoming resistance is just about where it needs to be for most riders. Ride height, like on any bike is important but it is best to tune it to a feel rather than a number as the chassis seems to react to where you are riding on the bike more than other machines.
Yamaha didn’t change much, but they went in a direction that everyone who rode the bike agreed it was an improvement. We like this bike better than when it was first introduced in 2010 and for some riders it is leading the charge in a more aggressive handling direction for the 450 class. Some like it and others are resisting but we feel this is the direction everyone is aiming for, yet the YZ is already there.
Sometimes small changes can have a big impact on how a bike feels. The 2012 YZ450 is a great example of this. The few changes the 450 received gave it a new personality. The quieter muffler and different mapping livened this bike up. Last years motor had more of a slow revving torquey power that made the bike feel heavy. The 2012 motor, although smoother, now revs quicker and is a lot more controllable. This new power delivery still has plenty of torque, but with the quicker revving, it actually makes the bike feel lighter. Since the weight is the same it still has a very solid planted feel, but thanks to the motor it is now easier to toss around and maneuver around the track. It used less energy and made the bike a lot more fun to ride. The suspension still has that Yamaha plushness which is great at soaking up the small chop, but it now has more hold up and gives you a little more to play with as far as set up goes. I like the direction Yamaha went for 2012, I would still like to see the bike go on a diet, but with the new power and suspension, they got that lighter feel without shaving the weight. I’m curious to see how this YZ will compare to the other 2012 450s. -Chris Barrett 6’2″/190lb/Pro
Not a huge amount of changes for the 2012 model but I do notice a little more dampening in the fork compared to last year. Seems like the front end holds up a little better coming into corners than previous year’s model. We did change the mapping on the bike for this hot day to make it pull better from down low to the middle part of the power. Second to third gear pull is where I could feel the difference. The motor still signs off a little early for me and I was wishing it still had more pulling power in 3rd gear. The YZ still handles well and is a good straight line stability bike. Cornering still feels a little heavier compared to some to other 450′s that I have rode this year. Overall had a great time on this bike and it was good last year so hopefully it will still stack up to the updated machines of 2012. -Kris Keefer 6’1″/ 160lb/Pro
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