Back in the June issue we brought you a shootout using these same three quads. In that test we took them for a day of riding in the tight trails. We wanted to see if the latest Yamaha YFZ450R would perform well against its narrower competitors, the Honda and Kawasaki 450s. Surprisingly, we didn’t have any issues with the slightly wider Yamaha on the tight trails. It turned out, its suspension and handling were so much better than the other two, it was the top choice of all our test riders. In fact, we liked it much better than the YFZ450X that Yamaha made specifically for the woods a couple years back.
Now we know not all of you ride in tight woods, and some of you prefer sand or track riding. So, we thought we would do a similar shootout for you in those environments. This month we took to the sand with an added twist. Instead of bringing bone-stock 450s to the dunes, we made some simple modifications that a typical rider might do.
For the Yamaha, we only added an exhaust system and tires. In fact, all three machines were equipped with identical ITP paddle tires. That way the handling characteristics would be consistent, and with paddle tires, you can really get a sense of horsepower differences.
For horsepower on the Yamaha, we installed a $999 Yoshimura complete RS4 system, along with their PIM fuel controller at $339. Yamaha strongly recommends adding a fuel controller to your list of hop-ups if you are considering installing an exhaust system on the 450R. The EFI system is not completely self-tuning.
The other two machines received a little more affordable power performance products. We wanted to save some of the budget to make these two machines wider also. For the Honda, FMF sells a complete system, which includes a PowerBomb head pipe and the Factory 4.1 muffler for $600. It weighs only 6.7 pounds, which is less than half the weight of the stock system.
On the Kawasaki, we selected FMF’s PowerBomb header ($349) and paired it with a blue-anodized FMF Factory 4.1 muffler at ($399). Both quads ran great without any fuel modifications at the sea-level dune ride area.
SUSPENSION AND TIRES
To make sure things stayed consistent, we installed identical ITP Sand Star tires and aluminum ITP wheels front and rear on all three quads. These tires provide the ultimate in traction and precise cornering. We ended up using about 6 psi in the tires.
For dune and track riding, Honda and Kawasaki both have the same handicap of being about 3 inches narrower than the Yamaha YFZ450. So to even things out, we installed a set of Lone Star Racing’s Sport A-arms on the front of both narrow machines. The Sport A-arms are LSR’s low-cost, direct bolt-on arms. They use stocklength shocks and work well with the stock steering stem and brake lines.
For the dune test we used the stock front shocks, but we will get them re-valved or replaced when we do the track portion of the test. At that time we will install LSR axles out back to match.
The front arms are 2 inches wider and bring the spindles 1 inch forward from their stock location. They are made of mild steel and can be powdercoated in a variety of colors. The best thing about these A-arms is that the retail price is an incredibly low $599. Most extended-racing A-arm sets are well over $1000.
For the type of riding we are doing in the dunes this time around, we are matching the wider front ends with 2-inch-wider wheel spacers out back mounted on the stock wheel hubs. The aluminum wheel spacers are from Slasher and sell for around $100 per set. These bolt on as easy as a set of wheels, and you can pick them up at any MTA dealer.
ON THE SAND
In the dunes is one of those places that a 450 sport quad feels perfectly at home. It’s hard to think of any machine on the planet we would rather ride at any dune area. The power-to-weight ratio of a 450cc quad matches the drag of the sand, and the softer, the better. It’s like riding waves all day long in any direction.
Power-wise, the three machines were close. The Honda was the most mellow, but totally predictable and user-friendly. If you wanted to get the front end light, stab the throttle extra hard and you’re up. The motor runs completely smooth and doesn’t wear the rider out.
The Kawasaki was a bit more exciting to ride. It worked well, but the power didn’t come on that hard until in the higher revs of the engine. It seemed like we were riding near redline more often or shifting too much to keep the quad at full power. It also vibrated a bit at high revs, and its hard seat and the paddle tires didn’t help in the comfort department.
Power on the Yamaha was again spot-on. Like the others, it had more than enough power to climb any hill quickly and carve the high bowls at full speed. No matter where the thumb throttle was positioned, you could get more power with a slight push. Power was a little more arm-jerking than the Honda but not tiresome. However, in a drag race, pretty much all three quads were equal.
Handling-wise, the Honda was the hardest to turn. You couldn’t carve or kick the rear end around as easy as you can on the Yamaha or Kawasaki. Wider bars would help, but only a little. We did prefer the comfort on the Honda over the Kawasaki. It didn’t vibrate, and the seat felt good and so did the shocks.
To get the Kawasaki to be comfortable, we had to turn the compression clickers all the way to soft, or else in the choppy sand the quad would give you instant blisters. At full soft, it was fun to cruise up and around the dunes. Steering was almost too quick, and it’s the only quad we wish we had a steering stabilizer on.
While we liked all three quads very well, the Yamaha just stood out all around. It’s fast and light, and you can slide or carve the tops of the razorbacks with ease. Jumping felt comfortable and confidence-inspiring every time. In the whoops the Yamaha shined even more with its extra few inches of travel.
With a little more tweaking, we think we can get the Kawasaki and Honda working as well as the new Yamaha. Furthermore, we think we could do it for very little extra investment. That test will take place on the track, and we will report about it in a future issue. If you have any of these quads and want to follow along on our build efforts using these products, you won’t go wrong.