Best Motocross Bike 2nd Place—2020 Yamaha YZ450F

Andrew Oldar

Best Motocross Bike 2nd Place—2020 Yamaha YZ450F, by Andrew Oldar

Of all six 450 motocross bikes, the Yamaha YZ450F received the most changes for 2020. While a majority of the bike may look similar to the prior year model on the outside, the bLU cRU’s flagship motocrosser features a multitude of engine updates, suspension revisions, and chassis changes. The YZ450F was highly praised for its torquey power delivery, tunability, class-leading suspension, planted feel, and being an overall improvement over the prior year model, which netted it a one-position improvement over where it finished in the 2019 450 Motocross Shootout.

Related: Best 2019 450 Off-Road Dirt Bike Winner 2019 Yamaha YZ450FX

2020 Yamaha YZ450F Engine

"The new and improved engine on the Yamaha made a big difference to me. It still has an insane amount of power like the 2018 and 2019 model, but it is now more controlled. You can crack the throttle out of a turn and it just pulls so hard, but not so much that it is difficult to keep the front end down." —<em>Tanner Basso</em> (Jeff Allen/)
Before we hit the track to find out what the best motocross bike is, we mounted a Dunlop D404 street tire on the rear wheel and ran the YZ450F on our in-house Dynojet dynamometer, where it produced 48.9 hp at 9,700 rpm and 29.3 pound-feet of torque at 7,100 rpm. The Yamaha ranks sixth in both horsepower and torque. We then mounted a fresh set of Dunlop MX33 soft-to-intermediate-terrain tires to ensure consistency in traction among the six competitors through the duration of the test.

Related: 2019 Yamaha WR450F First Ride Review

Yamaha’s flagship motocrosser has a fantastic engine with a power delivery that is very easy to control. It offers a smooth yet plentiful roll-on from zero to one-third throttle opening, followed by a strong torque increase through half throttle as it builds rpm. The meat of the power is in the midrange and it can come on a little strong; if you are not careful, it can ramp up quickly and break rear wheel traction. Due to the blue machine’s excellent low to mid engine performance, it’s the easiest bike to ride a gear high and lug around the track. While its top-end and over-rev are good, it doesn’t pull as hard or as long as the Honda, KTM, or Husqvarna in the higher rpm.

The YZ450F makes 48.9 hp at 9,700 rpm and 29.3 pound-feet of torque at 7,100 rpm. (Robert Martin/)
The YZ450F’s throttle response is crisp but very controllable, and it features the best in class tunability with its Power Tuner app along with the new handlebar-mounted dual map switch. The gear ratios are well spaced, and the clutch lever feel is light and easy to modulate. The muffler and intake noise are both a bit loud, which can take some time to get used to.

2020 Yamaha YZ450F Suspension

"The YZ450F's suspension was head and shoulders above the rest in my book. The comfort in the initial part of the stroke was incredible, while the stiffer valving for 2020 provided more support through the mid-stroke and helped prevent pitching." —<em>Eric Storz</em> (Jeff Allen/)
The Yamaha YZ450F has the plushest suspension in the class with its KYB Speed Sensitive System (SSS) fork and KYB shock. The components have a phenomenal amount of comfort in the initial part of the stroke, excellent progressivity, and great bottoming resistance. Both ends ride a little low in the stroke, so stiffening the fork and shock slightly actually improves comfort even more. Regardless of the impact, whether it be braking bumps, acceleration chop, or a hard jump landing, the KYB units offer the most comfort and predictability of all six bikes. The YZ450F’s suspension feels softer than that of the Kawasaki and KTM, but not as soft as the Husqvarna. It has an average amount of pitching that can be controlled fairly well with setting changes.

2020 Yamaha YZ450F Chassis/Handling

"The Yamaha has a more nimble feel and corners better than the 2018 and 2019 model, but the overall chassis comfort and performance falls short of the Kawasaki." —<em>Andrew Oldar</em> (Jeff Allen/)
The YZ450F’s chassis is certainly improved for 2020 with a lighter and nimbler feel compared to the 2019 model; however, it’s still a slightly heavier-feeling bike, which is due in part to it being extremely planted and having very plush suspension. It feels heavier than the Kawasaki, Honda, KTM, and Husqvarna. It also feels wider in the radiator shroud area and midsection than the Kawasaki, KTM, Husqvarna, and Suzuki. Overall, the Yamaha works best at 104mm of sag. Raising it to approximately 100mm is a give and take; it helps make the bike feel lighter and nimbler but reduces rear wheel traction. The stance feels slightly low in the rear, but not to the point where it could be considered choppered out.

"The Yamaha still feels a little wider than the Kawasaki, KTM, Husqvarna, and Suzuki, and the rider triangle is off because of its low seating position." —<em>Allan Brown</em> (Jeff Allen/)
In stock trim, the rider triangle is the furthest off of all six bikes. The handlebar is too far forward, which makes the steering a little twitchy and results in some head shake. This can be corrected by repositioning the bar in the rear holes of the triple clamp with the mounts facing forward. It has a sitting in the bike feeling, thin seat padding, and the seating position a bit low, which makes it more difficult to go from sitting to standing. Also, the significant dip in the seat makes it hard to stay forward enough to maximize the bike’s cornering ability.

Why The 2020 Yamaha YZ450F Should Have Won

<strong>Left:</strong> While it may look similar to the 2019 model on the outside, the YZ450F enjoys several updates to the engine, suspension, and chassis for 2020. <strong>Right:</strong> The Yamaha weighs 247 pounds, which makes it the third-heaviest bike in the class. (Jeff Allen/)
It has a great engine with excellent low-end and midrange power, and is the most tunable powerplant in the class. It also has the plushest suspension and very good straight-line stability.

Why The 2020 Yamaha YZ450F Didn't Win

The Yamaha YZ450F received the most changes of all six 450 motocross bikes in 2020. (Jeff Allen/)
In comparison to the other bikes, it is slightly heavy feeling, lacks some cornering ability, and has the furthest off rider triangle.


"The YZ450F feels heavy and is difficult to get slowed down or initiate turns." —<em>Casey Casper</em> (Jeff Allen/)
Helmet: Arai VX-Pro4
Goggle: EKS Brand EKS-S
Jersey: Thor Prime Pro
Gloves: Thor Rebound
Pant: Thor Prime Pro
Boots: Sidi Crossfire 3 SRS

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