the off-road world, the 450 business has taken a backseat lately to
small big-bore 4x4s and the ultra-hot UTV market. However, according to
Yamaha, the leader in sport ATV sales, the segment is seeing growth now
that the economy is improving. That’s a good thing, because in the sand,
on the track or even in the tight woods, there is nothing more fun than
sawing the handlebars back and forth at full throttle on a
high-performance sport quad. This month we wanted to see how Yamaha’s
new YFZ450R would compare to two of the old favorites in the class—the
Kawasaki KFX450R and the Honda TRX450R. A few years back, when we
compared Yamaha’s YFZ450X to these machines, it didn’t fair so well. A
touchy throttle and a heavy clutch were a couple of our test riders’
complaints. In that test, we also featured one Can-Am DS450 model.
Can-Am still makes three different versions of their 450, but were
unavailable to loan us a unit for this particular test.
been since 2009 when Honda last made any changes to this machine. It’s
still carbureted and features an aluminum frame—two items that are not
found on any other 450 sport quad. However, that fact doesn’t keep top
racers in XC, MX and desert from choosing the Honda as their machine of
choice. The heart of the Honda is good. It has an electric-starting,
liquid-cooled, SOHC, four-valve engine. It has a ton of power and has
proven very reliable. While most racers scrap the stock suspension for
more travel, the stock stuff is not that bad. It features dual A-arms up
front, with 8.4 inches of travel and compression and rebound
adjustments. Out back, an aluminum swingarm is also completely
adjustable and moves a bit more at 9.3 inches. Twin-piston calipers
handle the stopping chores up front, while the rear only has a
single-piston caliper grabbing the rotor.
Honda is compact. It measures 73.3 inches long and 46.3 inches wide.
Our riders all felt a little cramped on the Honda. It’s has narrow
handlebars and a stiff thumb throttle when compared to the other two
models that are equipped with EFI. The carb doesn’t hinder starting by
any means, and on the good side, it allows for the largest gas tank of
the group and 2.7 gallons. And during our test, we recorded the highest
top speed on the Honda at 73.2 mph. On the downside, the Honda used
slightly more fuel during our trail test.
On choppy trails, the
Honda is a bit bouncy. The Dunlop tires hook up well but don’t point you
exactly where you want to go. You spend more time muscling the narrow
bars around than you do with the throttle pegged. Aftermarket
handlebars, a slightly wider axle and long-travel A-arms make the Honda
machine is the only 450 of the three with reverse. It has an
all-aluminum frame and fuel injection. You can’t get much more modern
than this machine. The aluminum frame does transmit some vibration back
to the rider, though; the perfect-bend Renthal bars make it hardly
noticeable. Power delivery is ultra smooth through the DOHC,
liquid-cooled four-stroke. Suspension is handled by steel dual A-arms up
front with 8.5 inches of fully adjustable travel. Out back, an aluminum
swingarm moves an even 10 inches with complete adjustability. The
Kawasaki is also shod with Dunlop tires, but they are mounted on very
tough, rolled-edge, rim-lock-equipped (rear only), aluminum wheels. The
simple ring on the inside of the rear wheel prevents the wheels from
bending when slamming into rocks or during big flat landings.
handling is superb on the KFX. It feels like it has a longer wheelbase
than the Honda, but according to the specs, it is about a half an inch
shorter. It turns much sharper in the woods and feels stable at high
speeds. In wide-open throttle, it tops out at 71.7 mph. The Dunlop tires
hook up when you want to go forward and slide when you pitch it into a
turn. The reverse gear alone makes it worth considering, no matter what
sized trail machine you are interested in.
Yamaha sits 2 1/2 inches wider than the other two machines. So to see
if that was a problem, we took it through the tightest wood trails we
have to test it on. In several spots we did have to slow down to squeeze
between the trees. And, it was a bummer we didn’t have reverse.
However, the plush long-travel suspension more than made up for it
everywhere else. That wider stance allows the YFZ to have the most
front-wheel travel numbers of the trio at 9.8 inches. Out back, the
numbers are even more impressive at an even 11 inches. You can fell the
plushness over every bump. And if you can feel the bumps, high- and
low-speed compression adjustments can be made, as well as spring preload
and rebound. This 2014 DOHC, liquid-cooled, four-stroke 450R is much
better than the old X-model, even if it was endorsed by Bill Ballance.
Power was not as exciting as the Honda, but just as smooth as the
Kawasaki without the vibration through the handlebars. The Yamaha topped
out at 72.2 mph. To get there, clutch pull was super light and shifts
were buttery smooth. About the only thing that could make this engine
better is a reverse gear. We have ridden this quad with an exhaust
system, and it is not a mandatory upgrade to have fun in the woods.
equipped this machine with their twin-piston calipers, both front and
rear, allowing it to stop on a dime and never fade. Maxxis tires are
used on the YFZ and will probably end up on the next-generation Honda
and Kawasaki 450s.
the current crop of 450-class machines is somewhat limited these days,
there are good choices. The Honda is still proving to be a good product
for racers wanting to build a go-fast machine. The Kawasaki does it all
and doesn’t really need anything to make it better. Yamaha is the only
manufacturer that has made changes to its 450 sport quad and it shows.
Although it’s $500–$700 more than the other two, it has shocks that are
$1000 better. It’s easy to ride in the woods and can be more easily
turned into a track racer. On the good side, Kawasaki and Honda will
upgrade their 450s soon and be right back on top, banging bars with the
Yamaha YFZ450R. We can’t wait. If you can’t either, stay tuned, because
in the coming months we are going to put a few mods on all three of
these machines and run them all on the track and in the dunes to see how
WARNING: Much of the action depicted in this magazine is potentially dangerous. Virtually all of the riders seen in our photos are experienced experts or professionals. Do not attempt to duplicate any stunts that are beyond your own capabilities. Always wear the appropriate safety gear. Copyright 2008 Hi-Torque Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Console Login