Yamaha are continuing their path of being the leaders of innovation with their YZ-F range. But is a fancy smartphone app enough to keep the bLU cRU ahead of the competition? We sent Mitch to Aussie to find out.
Words: Mitch Pics: iKapture
Just looking at the fleet of 2018 YZ450Fs parked in a line next to the track at Coolum, you could see as well as feel that this is an important model for the boys in blue. With a decent amount of changes working their way through to the MX1 machine for 2018, it shows that Yamaha means business. But with all the limelight being stolen by the smartphone app which allows you to tune the engine, I was a bit more interested in what else has gone on underneath the white and blue shrouds.
For 2018, big blue has had a makeover and a few new techy upgrades to satisfy the bLU cRU fans out there. The factory fitted electric start isn’t the first we’ve seen on a four-stroke machine, but a moto first is the Smart Phone Power Tuner App, but more on that later. An electric start was probably more important back in the days when you could give yourself a hernia trying to start a hot YZ400, but with the technology in the modern machines it’s much less of a hassle. But, when you’ve crashed in first place of your local motocross race and you’ve got the second-place man bearing down on you with a victorious grin on his face, ready to roost you into oblivion, being able to hit the button and get going is suddenly going to be high on your list of priorities. The system is compact and utilises an ultra-lightweight lithium battery which incredibly sees the 2018 machine tipping the scales at a kilo less than last year.
Updates to the reverse-cylinder powerplant – another moto first for Yamaha – see changes made to make the power delivery more linear while also improving handling. Updates include changes to the cylinder head, piston, cam profiles and engine cases to accept the electric start, while the cylinder itself is more upright by two degrees and has a higher compression ratio. The idea of this is to improve weight distribution, with the increased weight at the front of the YZ-F giving more front-end grip and feel in turns.
Fuel is fed to the motor via a new 44mm Mikuni throttle body which replaces the Keihin item from last year. With the Yamaha having an aggressive feel to the power delivery in previous versions, the switch to the Mikuni throttle body combined with the rest of the changes to the powerplant has given the YZ450F a more linear delivery when opening the taps and unleashing the 62-horsepower that is rumoured to be produced.
In order to deal with all that power being developed by the Yamaha, the gearbox and clutch has also seen updates, with the ratios remaining the same in the ’box, just with beefier cogs (2nd, 3rd, 4th) inserted. The clutch has received improved plates along with a stiffer outer plate to reduce any fading issues from hard clutch use, while the shift lever and selector drum have also seen some changes to improve feel and allow for a shorter and more direct stroke.
Mass centralisation has long been a mantra for Yamaha, and was one of the main reasons for their move to the reverse cylinder format (combined with a more direct air and exhaust flow), and the 2018 YZ450F has been improved further still with the exhaust can now moved closer to the centre of the bike. The change in the look of the YZ-F due to this and combined with the new shrouds, graphics and blue wheels make for a dramatic difference from the 2017 model and there’s no doubting people will know you’re on the 2018 machine.
And There’s More
And it’s not just the motor that has seen changes in the new model, with the suspension, frame and overall feel of the YZ450F all featuring updates. While not exactly all-new, the KYB spring-type AOS forks are excellent and have received updated internal valving for more controlled damping. They’re renowned for being one of the best forks on the market, which are joined by a new and just as impressive KYB rear shock.
The YZ450F has always felt like a reasonably big bike, not heavy, but just a bit big from the cockpit. Changes to the chassis have been made to address this, with the completely new aluminium bilateral beam frame not only looking less complex than the outgoing hydroformed “S” pipe, but is also narrower by 16mm in the tank area and 18mm in the seat. While the handlebars have been raised 5mm, the seat is 8mm lower in the middle, increasing to 19mm lower at the rear. Rigidity has also been increased in order to further improve handling and feel in the turns.
Final changes have seen the fuel tank capacity drop to 6.2-litres from 7.5-litres which isn’t exactly going to make it a favourite with the dual purpose crew, but it’s obviously been done to lessen the bulky feel in the cockpit which has plagued the YZ450F before. The saddle has also been altered to improve movement for the rider, while the shrouds have also been redesigned, making the new model much easier for the rider to move around on.
Now all these changes sound flashy – but how did it go? Well, after getting chauffeured about in the mighty Rental Rav with Captain Alan from Yamaha NZ, I got to check out what’s what with this new beast at the release in Coolum, AuzStraya.
The Coolum track offered some soft loamy conditions which always makes it tough when judging the true potential of a bike, with the power-sapping sand not allowing us to sample the real potential of the powerplant or the finer aspects of the suspension. But as I cut some lines through the morning, the bike began to feel more and more comfortable.
The most obvious improvement is the re-designed chassis, with the trimmed-up frame making the 2018 YZ450F feel a lot smaller than the models that have come before it. With the higher ’bars and lower, narrower saddle, the feel of the 2018 YZ-F is majorly different to the outgoing bike and it’s incredible how nimble the Yamaha is on the track and in the air. The increased rigidity of the chassis offers a more stable platform to work with when making minor adjustments to the clickers, too, although it was encouraging to feel that Yamaha has done a good job of getting the suspension to a comfortable starting point for most punters straight out of the box. With the KYB AOS forks responding with changes in feel despite only small adjustments to the clickers, it’s easy to see that if you’re in the ball park with this bike and don’t need heavier or lighter springs, you could get to a pretty good setup straightaway.
The YZ450F has never been short on power, with a delivery which isn’t what you’d call subtle. With the changes to the engine and the switch to Mikuni for the throttle body, getting on the gas and making the most of the big numbers being produced by the Yamaha powerplant is now much easier, especially with the changes you’re able to make with the new tuning app. With the stonking torque produced from this powerplant combined with the smoother delivery, the YZ-F is now a prospect for the less confident rider who might normally have been intimidated by the hit from the previous version. Instead, the Yamaha now produces power that progresses through the rev range, meaning all you need to do is try and keep up with shifting gears. Thankfully, the updated gear selector with its shorter throw and more direct feel meant that missed gears were never an issue.
Getting forward on the YZ-F is also much improved with the new model, with the smaller, narrower profile at the front making transitioning to the front much less of a stretch. Whether the 6.2-litre tank is going to become an issue is yet to be seen, but with most YZ-Fs heading to the motocross track, it’s going to be more than enough to handle a moto and some. And if you want to go trail riding, go and get the YZ450FX which we’ve tested later in this magazine.
But now for the best bit, the tuning App. For 2018, Yamaha has produced a world first with the release of their Smart Phone Power Tuner App which allows you to monitor your bike’s condition, set maintenance schedules, create a race log for each event or ride you do, and best of all, tune the power delivery of your bike. Yep, Yamaha have integrated their existing Power Tuner tech into the app so you can send/receive maps, create your own and even share them with your mates, all using the on-board Wi-Fi system. How cool is that!
Now being fortunate enough to be part of the crew here at DRD and getting to test all the best that the manufacturers have to offer, it’s hard to pick a best bike as it’s all down to personal preference or who your favourite dealer or brand is. Yamaha have done a great job and it’s going to be incredible to see how the other 2018 models compare as they arrive. But one thing is for certain, if you’re a Tru Blu fan, then this is the next bike on your wish list. And after riding the new YZ450F for a day at Coolum, I can safely predict that Yamaha have done enough to place their new Blue Beast at the pointy end when we’re start finding out which 2018 MX1 bike is the best of the best.
2018 YZ450F specifications
Price (inc GST) $14,399
Engine type Single cylinder, liquid cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4-valve