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Track Tested | 2020 SML 450 MX Shootout


2020 SML 450 MX Shootout

Honda CRF450R vs. Husqvarna FC 450 vs. Kawasaki KX450 vs. KTM 450 SX-F vs. Suzuki RM-Z450 vs. Yamaha YZ450F

Presented by Escondido Cycle Center

It’s hard to believe that it is barely September and we already have all of the 2020 450 MX bikes in our race shop, and it seems like new machinery shows up earlier and earlier every year. And while shootout comparisons are nothing new for us, this is our first ever as Swapmoto Live, the newest and coolest source of online motocross media content.

We first started to take delivery of new machines all the way back in June, and we had plenty of hours logged on all of the new 450s, save for the Suzuki RM-Z450 which we took delivery of only a couple weeks ago. Since the ‘Zook is completely unchanged for 2020, however, we can confidently say that the principles in our testing staff – Donn Maeda, Pat Foster, and Mike Sleeter – already had a good idea of how the six machines stacked up against each other, thanks to the hours we have logged on the bikes at various tracks, starting in July.

Everyone loves a head-to-head shootout, though, and for one official day of testing with representatives from the six manufacturers – Honda, Husqvarna, Kawasaki, KTM, Suzuki, and Yamaha – we assembled a panel of six riders of different ages and varying heights, weights, and abilities and converged on Cahuilla Creek MX Park in Anza, California. Laid out on reservation land of the Cahuilla Native American tribe and meticulously maintained by the Minter family, Cahuilla Creek is a natural-terrain course that winds up and down multiple hills and valleys, with several challenging jumps thrown in for good measure. The track surface is like chocolate cake in the mornings and develops into a pleasantly rough, high-speed circuit as the day wears on.

Throughout the day test riders were instructed to spend time on each machine and work with the factory technicians on hand to find each bike’s ideal setup. Of course, the technology of modern-day motocross bikes makes comparison testing an even more involved affair these days, as most machines now come with different EFI maps, traction control settings, and other adjustable features like bar clamp and footpeg positioning, as well as vented and non-vented airbox covers.

To ensure consistent tire performance among the bikes, we outfitted all of the machines with Dunlop MX33 soft terrain tires, which work perfectly on Cahuilla Creek’s soft surface, and all six of the machines came to rest atop our favorite Works Connection Factory Stands.

After our official day at Cahuilla, we spent two more days on the bikes at Milestone MX and Perris Raceway to iron out our final opinions. All told, testers spun hundreds of laps, logged dozens of hours, and burned lots of gasoline at more than five different tracks to finalize Swapmoto Live’s final picks for the 2020 450 MX Shootout. Without further ado, here we go!

**Please note that each bike enjoys its own page.**


Donn Maeda

Donn Maeda is a 30-year veteran in moto-journalism, having worked at Cycle News and Dirt Rider before launching MXracer Magazine and TransWorld Motocross Magazine. Maeda is the Editor-In-Chief at Swapmoto Live and you can catch him on a dirt bike or in the saddle of a mountain bike on most days.

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  1. Isaiah September 9, 2019

    I’d like to see someone really short ride these bikes and leave a camparison. Someone like 5’5″

    1. Pop Tarts September 16, 2019

      or 5’4″… either one. either one is good.

  2. Shane B September 9, 2019

    I have a few different set up points I would love to know . For example , I would love to know some torque specs for my bikes handling and feel . I own the 2020 kx450f , I always play with my triple clamp bolt torques and axle lug bolts . Different nm for different tracks but an overall nm for better feel would help on a guide for testing .
    Recently when I visited America , being from Australia , I noticed the USA Kawasaki 450f standard motor and exhaust was a lot different from my Australian model . Any idea what that could be why ?

    Thanks 👊🏻
    Blinksell 27

    P.s – Ac helmet would look good in the pool room !

  3. Bill M September 10, 2019


  4. Evan Nystrom September 13, 2019

    Love the shoot outs. I’ve always read and followed the sugesstions the testers give.