The Yamaha YZ450F returns with repeat performance. And, we’re okay with that.
Photography by Kit Palmer
We’ll get right to the point: If you liked the 2020 Yamaha YZ450F (like we did), then you will like the 2021 YZ450F because it’s the exact same motorcycle. When you think about it, it’s not much different from the 2019 model, either. You have to go all the way back to 2018 when the YZ450F last received a significant overhaul, and, if you recall, it was a biggy.
2021 Yamaha YZ450F Review | Time Flies
Hard to believe, but it’s already been more than three years since the YZ450F arrived on the scene as an all-new motorcycle. At that time, it featured an all-new motor with electric starting, a totally revamped frame, and updated, well, just about everything. But what really got our attention that year was its new power-tuning tool, which is essentially something you already own—your smartphone.
Yamaha broke new ground when it offered a free app for your phone that did everything the previous plug-into-the-engine GYTR Yamaha Power Tuner did, but better and a lot cheaper (more than $200 cheaper, in fact). You just download the free Yamaha Power Tuner App, connect it to your bike wirelessly (via the bike’s onboard WiFi system), and started tuning away. With the app, you can design your own personal ignition and fueling maps for each track you ride, trade maps with friends and—you probably didn’t even know this—also download, from Yamaha’s website, the same mapping that was used by Justin Barcia to win the Anaheim 1 Supercross earlier this year! How cool is that?
All of this still holds true for the latest YZ450F, but Yamaha has taken things one step further—your YZ can now look like Barcia’s, too. As usual, Yamaha offers the YZ450F in two color schemes, traditional Yamaha Racing Blue and, instead of the usual white/red trim, now in Monster Energy Yamaha Team colors. Yamaha calls this version its “Racing Edition” model but has no technical advantages over the standard blue model, unlike KTM’s Factory Edition, Husqvarna’s Rockstar Edition, or Honda’s Works Edition models do over their standard counterparts. With Yamaha’s Race Edition, it’s all about the graphics, but you’ll pay $200 more for them over the standard blue YZ. The Racing Edition graphics are, like the standard’s graphics, embedded into the plastic, so they won’t shred after just a few rides. They’re there for the long haul.
2021 Yamaha YZ450F Review | Deja Vu
On the track, however, there is no difference between the 2020 YZ450F and the ’21. The ’21 is still plenty fast with tons of bottom-end and amazing high-revving speed right out of the box. With the Yamaha Power App, however, you can easily alter the character of the YZ’s power delivery almost any way you want, but it will always deliver a ton of power no matter how you adjust it.
Surprisingly, Yamaha tells us that YZ owners are still slowly warming up to the app idea despite it being free and beneficial in so many ways, not just engine tuning. You can also use the app as an engine/maintenance logbook and run engine diagnostics. Yamaha tells us some people are worried about damaging the motor and are afraid to use it, but Yamaha says the app has been programmed not to let that happen. Also, some are, Yamaha says, afraid they’ll get lost in the act of programming and ruin their bike, but again, it’s easy to reset and start over. They say some just like to ride their bike and don’t want to take the time to press buttons. Like anything electronics these days, the app does take a little time getting used to, but it’s certainly figure-out-able. Here is a **Yamaha Power Tuner App how-to video** that Yamaha made to speed up the learning process.
Yamaha Power Tuner Smartphone App Tutorial
Suspension/handling has been a YZ strongpoint for quite some time now and still is. Again, nothing has changed in this department. The YZ’s KYB SSS coil-spring fork is still one of the best in the business, and the back end is just as good. The YZ is super stable at speed over rough ground and is a solid-turning motorcycle, maybe not the sharpest on the track but pretty darn good.
If the YZ has any “weak” spots, one of them would have to be ergos; over the recent years, our test riders have liked the way the YZ feels between their legs while others have not. Some also feel the YZ is still too wide. Brakes aren’t the strongest out there, but they’re strong enough, and the YZ isn’t the lightest 450 around, either. Of the big five 450s, only the Honda CRF450R and Suzuki RM-Z450 are heavier. However, we’re willing to bet that Honda’s all-new ’21 CRF450R will be lighter, but we won’t know for sure until we get our hands on one. Okay, so the YZ might be a little on the heavy side, but at least it has a reputation for being bulletproof. Yamaha has told us before that when it comes to its dirt bikes at least, it’s not willing to sacrifice reliability just to be the lightest bike on the track or trail. Luckily, the YZ is exceptionally well balanced and doesn’t feel extraordinarily heavy on the track. In fact, quite the opposite. At least one of our testers said in our 2019 450cc shootout (which the Yamaha won) that the Yamaha felt the lightest.
2021 Yamaha YZ450F Review | Still The King?
It will be interesting if the 2021 YZ450F will continue its reign when it comes to shootout time, now that the Kawasaki got a new clutch and the Honda a major re-do. Or will the suspension updates to the Husqvarna and KTM put one of them on top?
Regardless if the YZ450F wins or not, the one thing we already know is that it’s still a darn good motorcycle. CN
2021 Yamaha YZ450F Specifications
||$9399/$9599 Race Edition
||Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-stroke, single
|Bore x stroke:
||97.0 x 60.9mm
||Mikuni fuel injection, 44mm; adj. fuel mapping, handlebar map switch w/ available (free) tuning app
||5-speed; multiplate wet clutch
||Bilateral beam, aluminum
||KYB Speed-Sensitive System (SSS), coil-spring, fully adjustable
||KYB single shock fully adjustable
||Nissin, single 270mm disc, 2-piston caliper
||Nissin, single 240mm disc, 1-piston caliper
||80/100-21 in. Dunlop MX33
|Weight (claimed, wet):