Honda, Kawasaki and Can-Am still sell new 450s, but they are basically unchanged over the previous few years. Yamaha’s YFZ450R is the only high-performance sport quad that has seen any significant changes lately. It has improvements to the motor, clutch, suspension, tires and bodywork. Just by throwing a leg over the YFZ, we can easily tell the machine is almost race-ready and much better than before.
To prove it to ourselves, we wanted to compare the new ride to an example of what a typical novice racer might own. The perfect example of that is our project Suzuki LT-R450 we feature in Dirt Wheels from time to time. Over the years it’s been upgraded with mods we feel it needs to stay competitive. Another reason we did this particular comparison is that we find tons of almost-new, hardly ridden LT-R450s on the used market for $3000–$4000. So like us, you might wonder if spending $8800 on a new machine like the Yamaha YFZ50R is worth it.
Over the years we have modified this Suzuki slightly with simple bolt-on mods. In the power department, it has an FMF exhaust and Yoshimura Cherry Bomb ignition modifier. This combination of products retails for about $650. Our project machine also has a set of nerf bars and larger, more aggressive footpegs from Pro Armor. This combo adds a ton of stability over the stock setup and sells for $429. For upper control, we replaced the stock steel handlebars with a set of aluminum X Bars from Trail Tech. The 1 1⁄8-inch bars along with the bar adapter add about $130 to the value of the Suzuki.
The single most important modification we have made to this machine is the shock upgrade. Since day one we have said that the stock Suzuki shocks were the weak point of the machine. On our test unit we installed a top-of-the-line set of Elka Stage 5 shocks on the stock A-arms up front and to the stock swingarm out back. Like the stock shocks on the Yamaha, these $3100 shocks have high-/low-speed compression and rebound-damping adjustments, along with threaded spring preload.
Other add-ons include a Quad Tech seat cover and a full set of ITP tires and wheels. With all these improvements, we put the value of this Suzuki LT-R450 Quad Racer at $8000. Keep in mind that figure is if we paid $3000–$4000 for a used Suzuki. Suzuki stopped making the LT-R450 in 2010, so a used machine is all you would be able to find.
To keep things constant with the Suzuki, we also added an aftermarket exhaust system on the YFZ450R. On the Yamaha, we went with the GYTR slip-on system for $300. This muffler is built by FMF and is available as a full system as well. Yamaha recommends that you install a fuel programmer, which we will do in the future. For now, we ran the slip-on pipe with the airbox lid removed. At our test track, sitting at 2500 feet of elevation, the engine ran spot-on. Also, in a future issue, we will be building this machine up with nerf bars and a few more track-ready items. For the lap-time comparison of this test, we also equipped the YFZ450R with a Quad Tech seat cover and ITP tires and wheels on all four corners.
These are two of the most fun 450cc machines we have ever ridden around our track. The great thing is, they are both very neutral-feeling and run consistent lap after lap. What sets them apart is the way they jump and the way they enter and exit the corners. In this trim, the Suzuki pulls slightly harder out of the corners. The full exhaust system and stock gearing seem to build up speed a tad quicker than on the Yamaha. Over the jumps, we felt the Suzuki jumps with the front end slightly higher than the nose of the Yamaha.
The YFZ feels a little more balanced when it goes off the jumps and sails very straight. Even though we put smaller, 18-inch tires on the Yamaha versus the stock 20-inchers, we left the gearing the same. For our test track, it doesn’t seem to run out of gear or bog in the corners. We will play with the gearing on this machine in the future.
Where we feel the Yamaha takes a big advantage is entering the corners. You can stay on the throttle harder, downshift a couple of gears, let out the clutch and get back on the gas. The engine never over-revs or locks up the rear. This allows you to set up perfectly for the turn and drive hard through it. On the Suzuki, we found ourselves slamming the corners and losing momentum on many occasions.
Down the straights, both machines are blindingly fast. In whoops, you could keep them pinned without drama or having to let off. It’s hard to say which suspension system we liked better. The Elkas on the Suzuki make this machine night-and-day better than with the stock shocks.
Our laps times were so close, it was tough to call a clear-cut winner based on just the times. We managed about half-a-second-better lap time on the Yamaha. But, it was easy to see that if we had a slightly better motor hit out of the corners via a fuel programmer by adding a head pipe or with a gearing change, we could stretch that advantage another full second.
If you can find a killer $3000 deal on a Suzuki LT-R450, it will still take a big investment to make it competitive with the latest Yamaha YFZ450R. However, if that’s all you can afford, we say snatch it up and upgrade later. If you can afford the $8800 investment now, go with the brand-new Yamaha YFZ450R right now for the track; it’s possibly the best that money can buy.