The 2013 YZ450F is still a good, solid, all-around package. Photography By: Andrea Wilson
If Yamaha makes no changes to the YZ450F for the next 20 years, we’ll still probably be ogling over it. It’s that trick. With its “backwards” motor, rearward-slanted cylinder, double S-bend Bilateral Beam aluminum frame, and “tornado” exhaust system, it still wow’s us every time we look at it, even if it hasn’t seen any significant changes since its major redo in 2010. In fact, Yamaha made no changes to it at all for 2013, except for a few cosmetic updates. Heck, we were okay with the few changes it received last year (2012) and we’re still okay with even no changes this year (2013).
Although the YZ450F hasn’t won any of our 450F shootouts since its 2010 rebuild, it has always been in the hunt. Since 2010, we’ve been impressed with the YZ’s powerful motor, excellent suspension and just plain overall solid package.
Suspension has always been one of the YZ’s strongest suits and still is, especially up front. The YZ’s KYB Speed-Sensitive System (SSS) fork is considered one of the best in the business and has been the past few years, so Yamaha was reluctant to make any changes to the YZ’s front suspension for 2013, though they did think about it.
Yamaha seriously considered putting air forks on the 2013 YZ450F, like Kawasaki and Honda did with their 2013 big-bore Fs, but decided against it. Although they said they were indeed impressed with the on-track performance of their air forks in testing, they weren’t as impressed with their consistency. They felt air forks, at least for now, require too much constant fiddling to maintain stable performance from one week to the next, or from morning to afternoon, for that matter.
“Air forks [settings] will change – even just from sitting in your garage for two weeks,” said one Yamaha technician, “so you have to keep fiddling with them all the time.” As a result, Yamaha opted to stay with its simpler set-it-and-forget-it-style spring/oil forks with the ’13 YZ450F.
Four years after its redo, the YZ450F is still a head turner. Photography By: Andrea Wilson
No changes were made to the YZ’s KYB shock, and we have no problems with that, either. The back end still feels plush and planted just like it has felt the past three years. And it’s still one of the best when it comes to soaking up big G-outs, as well as smaller square edges.
The YZ continues to corner well and is still a fairly stable-handling machine. Nothing has really changed. Over the recent years, however, we have noticed that the YZ450F seems to handle best when ridden in the first half of the rpm range, not way up on top with the throttle always pinned. That’s when things seem to start getting a little weird. For whatever reason, if you over-rev the bike on rough, technical obstacles, the Yamaha starts feeling twitchy, nervous and a bit unpredictable. Things start happening real quick, your heart rate doubles and your work load intensifies – things just seem to start working against you. But hit the same bumps and the same obstacles at the same speed but at a much lower rpm, the Yamaha feels 10-times calmer, more predictable and more stable overall, resulting in a more confident ride and lower lap times. So we tend to short-shift the YZ a lot and consciously try to ride it a gear higher than you normally would. But to make that part of the job easier and more natural, we simply gear the bike up a bit by swapping out the rear sprocket for one with two less teeth (you don’t have to shorten the chain). It makes a world of difference. The YZ has plenty of power to pull the smaller sprocket out of the turns, so that’s not a concern. But, with the smaller sprocket in place, you could always fine tune the YZ’s mapping with Yamaha’s GYTR Power Tuner if you want a bit more zap when you first twist the throttle. The smaller-diameter sprocket also has an advantage in that you can run the rear axle farther rearward on the swingarm, thus lengthening wheelbase, which adds to the YZ’s stability at speed. And it does so without really compromising steering, which it already does so well.
Even since Yamaha cleaned up the YZ’s spotty on/off throttling of the 2010 YZ’s fuel-injection system, we’ve been a big fan of the YZ450F’s 449cc DOHC four-valve motor. It’s plenty powerful from top to bottom, revs freely and quickly, and is just plain fast.
Yamaha thought about air forks but stuck with its already proven KYB Speed-Sensitive System fork. Photography By: Andrea Wilson
As mentioned, you can adjust the YZ’s mapping to alter the motor’s power characteristic but to do so you need Yamaha’s Power Tuner, which is available as a GYTR accessory. The YZ doesn’t offer quick-change, pre-set couplers like the Kawasaki and Suzuki do, which is something we find is quite useful and convenient and wish the Yamaha had.
A result of its unique design and placement, the forward-mounted airbox still generates a funny intake noise that you certainly notice from the seat, but it’s one of those things you get used to it after a while.
The Yamaha’s five-speed transmission shifts smoothly and effortlessly and the cable-actuated clutch is strong and has excellent feel.
And starting the YZ can’t get much easier for a manual-kick 450F.
The YZ still generates great power from is four-valve fuel-injected motor. Photography By: Andrea Wilson
The Yamaha also has strong and effective brakes, and has one of the best ergos in the business. The seat is comfortable, as is the aluminum tapered handlebar. We also like how the handlebar clamps offer four-way adjustability.
The radiator shrouds toward the front do seem a little wide when you first climb on, but you really don’t notice it too much when you’re on the track. Otherwise, the Yamaha still fits us like a glove.
Overall, we’re still impressed with the 2013 YZ450F even if it did only get a new white rear fender, black-colored handlebars, different graphics and a different color fork guard, which is now black on the white/red model, which Yamaha still offers but now as the same price as the more traditional blue version.
They say change is good but sometimes no change is good, too, especially when you’re talking about the 2013 YZ450F.
We spotted Yamaha testing this new exhaust system for the YZ450F. The pipe attaches the rear of the cylinder like usual but wraps around the front of the cylinder and exits the rear like it used to. However, the design eliminates the previous “tornado” section in the rear. It’s also shorter, so the muffler doesn’t sit as far out in the back. The idea is to better centralize weight.
2013 Yamaha YZ450F
ENGINE TYPE: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-valve, 4-stroke, single
BORE x STROKE: 97.0 x 60.8mm
COMPRESSION RATIO: 12.5:1
FUEL DELIVERY: Yamaha Fuel-Injection (YFI), Keihin 44mm
TRANSMISSION: Constant-mesh 5-speed, wet clutch
FINAL DRIVE: Chain
FRONT SUSPENSION: KYB Speed-Sensitive System, inverted fork, fully adjustable
REAR SUSPENSION: KYB single shock, fully adjustable
FRONT WHEEL TRAVEL: 12.2 in.
REAR WHEEL TRAVEL: 12.4 in.
FRONT BRAKE: Disc, 250mm rotor
REAR BRAKE: Disc, 245mm rotor
FRONT WHEEL: 80/100-21 in.
REAR WHEEL: 120/80-19 in.
TIRES: Dunlop Geomax MX51
SEAT HEIGHT: 39.4 in.
WHEELBASE: 58.7 in.
FUEL CAPACITY: 1.6 gal.
CLAIMED WET WEIGHT: 245 lbs.
COLORS: Team Yamaha blue/white; white/red
WARRANTY: 30-Day limited factory warranty