2013 Suzuki RM-Z450: FIRST RIDE

Cycle News Staff | August 10, 2012
New Showa SFF forks highlight some of the changes to the 2013 Suzuki RM-Z450.   Photography By: Jake Klingensmith Creative Works

New Showa SFF forks highlight some of the changes to the 2013 Suzuki RM-Z450.   Photography By: Jake Klingensmith/Creative Works

We will forgive you for assuming Suzuki made little changes to the 2013 Suzuki RM-Z450. You’re not the only one. Besides the new black rear fender, the 2013 RM-Z450 looks pretty much the same as it did last year’s (and the year before, and…). Changes to the RM-Z450 have been few and far between lately, though it did get a snazzy red stripe on the seat last year. But the new black fender this year isn’t just a cover up – the ’13 RM-Z450 did take on some significant changes, almost all of them internally, and Suzuki gave us a chance recently to experience all these changes in action.

Suzuki thought it would be cool to introduce the new RM-Z at its private supercross test track in Corona, California. Corona is the Mecca for factory test tracks, right next door is Honda’s SX testing grounds, and right around the corner is Yamaha’s, as well as KTM’s. And, yes, they were correct – it was cool to ride the new RM-Z at the same track that Brett Metcalfe, and Ryan Dungey used to, test at, but for us, the track was tamed down significantly and, as a result, probably wasn’t the best kind of track to test the overall capabilities of the big and powerful RM-Z450. However, it did give us a chance to taste what the new RM-Z450 might have to offer, and that taste was a pretty sweet one.

But first, we’ll quickly run through the changes. Perhaps the single most notable difference between the ’12 and the ’13 is the new Showa Separate Function Fork (SFF), where one fork leg handles damping chores while the other houses the spring. The advantages of this design over traditional dual-spring forks are significant: lighter weight, improved absorption, and reduced friction. And you can now adjust preload. Kawasaki has been using this technology with its KX250F for a few years now. The RM-Z’s forks are also larger. The diameter of the fork tubes are now 48mm instead of 47mm.

The RM-Z is still one of the best turning 450s out there.   Photography By: Jake Klingensmith Creative Works

The RM-Z is still one of the best turning 450s out there.   Photography By: Jake Klingensmith/Creative Works

In the back, Suzuki revalved the Show shock that now rides on a new link arm.

Frame geometry remains the same as ’12 but some minor rigidity-related modifications were made to accommodate the new SFF fork.

The RM-Z450 already had one of the smoothest, yet still very powerful, motors in its class, though many felt that it lacked any real hit or substance, so Suzuki gave the RM-Z more pop in the middle of the powerband by giving it a new piston, intake came and new mapping. The piston is also lighter and has less friction via what it calls Finite Element Method analysis. There’s also a new, more efficient muffler that increases power without increasing noise, and it now held together via bolts instead of rivets, making it much easier to replace packing.

Suzuki again offers replaceable map couplers (stock, lean and rich), but relocated the coupler from behind the front number place to behind the left radiator for easier access.

Finally, the five-speed transmission had a thorough overhaul. Many changes were made to achieve more precise shifting.

We’ve always been a big fan of the RM-Z450 over the years, much of which had to do with its excellent turning abilities, broad and user-friendly powerband and solid overall handling, and from what we can tell, it still has all of these plus a little more.

The Suzuki feels much like it did last year, which is a good thing, but the fork did seem like an improvement, at least for the hard hits. The front end soaked up the touch-downs quite well and did a good job resisting bottoming, which is what we noticed most about the new forks. Since this track was pretty much bump free, we’ll have to wait until we get on a faster and rougher track to determine how they’ll perform there, but for now, we can say the new SSF fork works quite well on the Suzuki, at least on a supercross-style track.

The new forks soak up the big landings quite well.   Photography By: Jake Klingensmith Creative Works

The new forks soak up the big landings quite well.   Photography By: Jake Klingensmith/Creative Works

Even on such a tight track, you could easily notice the meatier powerband. It’s not radically different over last year’s from what we could tell so far, but we did welcome what we felt was a bit more excitement from bottom to mid. But again, we look forward to getting the RM-Z on a more wide open track so we can let the RM-Z stretch its legs.

Transmission? Again, hard to tell on such a small track where second gear was pretty much all you needed, but so far all seems good. There was just one spot on the track where we could hit third gear, but from first to third, everything seemed to work just fine. If we knew we were going to spend a lot of time on this track or one just like it, however, we’d probably drop a tooth on the rear sprocket, which would probably eliminate having to shift at all.

Again, we didn’t learn a lot from riding the new RM-Z450 on this particular track other than the SFF forks do appear to be an improvement over the old forks and that the power does seem to me more lively. We’ll know more about the ’13 RM-Z450 soon, however, as we have already made arrangements to ride the bike at different, rougher and faster locations in the upcoming weeks.

But, for now, the RM-Z450 seems to have taken another step in the right direction.

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