450 SML Shootout In-Depth | 2022 Yamaha YZ450F
SECOND PLACE | YAMAHA YZ450F
Rider Scores: 4-2-3-1-1-3
The Yamaha YZ450F is – as always – a solid package, and the blue machine enjoys some refinements for 2022 that made it an even closer contender for the SML Bike of the Year honors. The newest YZ450F has firmer settings in its KYB suspension components, as well as a new rear wheel with a triple-cross spoke pattern that is said to yield a softer, more compliant ride out back.
Is the new 2022 YZ450F better than the 2021 model it replaces? Yes! The firmer suspension allows the bike to ride higher in the stroke, yielding a plusher feel under braking and over acceleration chop. The bike has good hold-up throughout, and bottoming resistance is superb. All told, the YZ may have the best suspension package in the group.
Power-wise, no one could fault the Yamaha’s engine as it delivers a wide spread of power with an unbelievable amount of low-end torque. Adjusting the bike’s style of power delivery is as easy as sending a text message thanks to the Yamaha Power Tuner smartphone app; that said, we have found it tough to beat the performance of the stock exhaust system. So versatile is the Yamaha’s powerband, in fact, that it is tough to write about its engine character since it all depends on the settings.
With the stock map installed, the Yamaha produces ample power everywhere, with an exciting delivery that is so linear that it feels electric. Throttle response is instant, and the engine revs quickly and freely, giving the bike a lighter feel on the track than one might assume when sitting on it in the pits. Transmission gear spacing is ideal, and the clutch – the only cable-actuated system in our five-bike comparison – has a light pull with a great feel and modulation. One characteristic of the YZ450F that all of our testers agree upon is the bike’s ability to enjoy excellent rear-wheel traction; we suspect it has to do with the rearward-facing cylinder engine design…
Is there a fault in the Yamaha YZ450F? For years, testers have noted the bike’s wide feel at the radiators, and that is again a big complaint with this most recent generation of YZF bodywork. Sure, it’s a distinctively different feel that takes some getting used to, but once you get familiar with the unique feel, the blue machine is all comfort.
TEST RIDER FEEDBACK
“The Yamaha is the fastest and most powerful bike in the field. The engine hits hard right away and pulls all the way through. You can lug the bike at low roms and always be okay because of all the power it has.” – Connor Ericsson
“This is the best all-around suspension package of any of the bikes. It has great feel and hold up all the way through the stroke. The rider triangle takes some getting used to because it is larger up front. I think they definitely need to get rid of the cable clutch for ’23.” – Connor Ericsson
“The YZ has strong power. It is manageable but it has so much torque that it is super fun to ride in any map setting. I actually preferred a smoother map setting because the bike has so much power…I could ride it with more confidence when the power came on a little tamer.” – Kordel Caro
“The bike is predictable and very stable, but it feels a bit heavy on the track because it is harder to manhandle. It feels a little uncomfortable between my knees at the widest point, and it is so powerful it is hard to hang onto.” – Kordel Caro
“The Yamaha is a rocket ship from the crack of the throttle. The massive torque allowed me to carry a taller gear everywhere on the track. The adjustability of the powerband thanks to the Power Tuner app is amazing, and it would be easy to customize your engine at every track.” – Rene Garcia
“The suspension is plush and has great holdup, but I struggle on the Yamaha to keep the bike leaned over. The YZ is a bike that I feel cramped on. It feels wide in the radiator shroud area and the seat-to-peg ratio is a little tight for me.” – Rene Garcia
“There are no weak points in the Yamaha’s powerband, and it actually has so much low-end throttle response that it makes it easy to make up for rider error. Mess up the corner before a jump? No problem: the Yamaha will still bark right over any obstacle!” – Donn Maeda
“I felt more comfortable on the YZ450F this year than I ever have. I was very impressed with the bike’s suspension package as it was plush, controlled, and had the best bottoming resistance. And believe me: I overjumped a lot of stuff in my first laps because the bike has so much power.” – Donn Maeda
“What a fantastic engine! The Yamaha makes plenty of power down low and rev very freely all the way through with no vibration, which I really like. The power character gives the bike a very light feel and this is the fastest of all the bikes.” – Kyle Puerner
“This is the best suspension package in the group. The bike has excellent balance and the fork and shock are plush with great hold up. The bike handles great at speed, and corners well in all track conditions. Overall, this bike is amazing.” – Kyle Puerner
“The Yamaha feels like a jet, it has so much power! The engine is almost too powerful for a vet rider like me. I am glad that the bike can be mapped easily because I preferred a smoother setting that didn’t hit as hard. I like the map button that allows you to program two maps in for use without the phone.” – Brian Smith
“The bike corners well, but I felt a little shaky at high speeds because the bike was so fast. I got out of control a few times because the power caught me off guard. I could race this bike stock, but I would just need to learn how to ride it with greater control.” – Brian Smith