2020 SUZUKI RM-Z450: FULL TEST

 Suzuki has a reputation for finding a platform it likes and keeping it relatively unchanged for several years. The 2020 RM-Z450 model is a perfect case in point. Literally, the only change Suzuki made to the machine was cosmetic color changes to the graphics. But, you have to remember that in 2018 Suzuki made huge changes to its flagship RM-Z450 model, touching just about every aspect of the machine. These changes rewarded Suzuki with glimpses of brilliance at the professional level, courtesy of the factory-support JGR squad.

 


Suzuki’s 2020 RM-Z450 model returns with most of the setup that was first introduced on the 2018 model, such as the aluminum alloy twin-spar main frame that has combined cast and extruded sections designed to achieve balanced weight distribution. This is about a 1/2-pound lighter than the previous generation. The swingarm has thinner material thickness than the previous generation, saving even more weight while changing the flex characteristics to match the new subframe and main-frame flex points. Suzuki has moved the subframe rails inward, slimming the bodywork to try to make the bike feel smaller overall. A larger air cleaner features an all-new shape for increased surface area and provides some additional weight savings. Just like in 2019, the 2020 model has Showa suspension components. Up front, the new-generation Showa coil-spring fork has larger inner tubes and rod pipes. With springs now in both legs, Showa incorporated the use of larger adjustable damping cylinders to improve handling. The RM-Z450 is now equipped with a Showa Balance Free Rear Cushion (BFRC) rear shock. The BFRC uses a separate, external damping circuit designed to improve the responsiveness in all types of terrain and soil conditions. Braking power is still handled by a 270mm rotor up front with Nissin components at both ends. Suzuki is the only manufacturer in the 450cc motocross class whose bikes are coming off the assembly line with Bridgestone Battlecross X30 tires. The rest of the manufacturers utilize some form of Dunlop rubber.

Test rider RJ Wageman putting the RM-Z450 power to the ground.
Test rider RJ Wageman putting the RM-Z450 power to the ground.

 

As we mentioned previously, styling on the 2020 RM-Z450 has changed slightly with different colors in the graphic scheme. The fuel tank is still blue and plastic, holding about 1.7 gallons. Black accented pieces adorn the machine everywhere, including rims, triple clamps, handlebar mounts, lower fork guards, the rear caliper guard, rear rotor guard and engine case guards.  

Suzuki is the only manufacturer in the 450cc class without an electric start.
Suzuki is the only manufacturer in the 450cc class without an electric start.
 The RM-Z450 makes more than enough usable power for the average rider.
The RM-Z450 makes more than enough usable power for the average rider.

Back in 2018 when the current engine configuration was first introduced, it received very targeted changes—nothing crazy that would make us use terms like “all new” or “new from the ground up.” Suzuki changed the intake cam, giving it a higher lift, and changed the cylinder intake port shape to help mix the air and fuel more efficiently for cleaner, more thorough combustion. Piston casting was also changed at that time, strengthening ribs near the wrist-pin bosses for durability. Suzuki upgraded the entire intake system. The air cleaner opening is 30-percent larger, and the intake boot features a more direct design for increased air flow into the throttle body. The 2020 RM-Z450 returns with a unique throttle body design used only by Suzuki that has a fuel injector located on the bottom, with fuel being sprayed directly at the butterfly valve to improve atomization of air and fuel for increased performance throughout the power curve.

Suzuki’s Holeshot Assist Control (S-HAC), commonly referred to as “launch control,” returns on the 450 motocross model. S-HAC is similar to other manufacturers’ launch control systems in Mode-A where it alters ignition timing to reduce wheel spin for a smoother delivery. Where S-HAC differs is Mode-B, which delivers more aggressive power for a stronger acceleration, turning off automatically after 4.5 seconds or when the rider shifts into fourth gear. 

The 2020 RM-Z450 is great for beginner/novice riders right off the assembly line and can be modified to fit the intermediate- and pro-level riders’ needs.
The 2020 RM-Z450 is great for beginner/novice riders right off the assembly line and can be modified to fit the intermediate- and pro-level riders’ needs.

WHAT WE REALLY THINK
The Suzuki is a bike for the masses. It has a smooth, linear power delivery that makes it easy to ride for beginners and pros alike. The system that allows you to switch color-coded electric couplers to alter the power delivery is still in use and easy for just about anyone on the planet to figure out. Most test riders preferred the white or aggressive coupler to liven up the power delivery, even if it was just slightly. The RM-Z450 is a proven commodity. It has always been considered the standard in handling in the 450cc class, and that hasn’t changed for 2020. Handling-wise, the Suzuki is still a very stable, predictable bike overall that never dances or does anything completely out of left field. It turns very well once you have the suspension set up properly for your weight. The chassis and suspension combination are good at dealing with braking bumps and hard landings for a wide variety of riders. In general, the rougher the track, the more the Suzuki’s handling is appreciated.

Coil spring forks are back in style and we couldn’t be happier.
Coil spring forks are back in style and we couldn’t be happier.

A big downfall of the 2020 Suzuki is it doesn’t do any one thing exceptionally well. Even though we talk about how well it corners, it’s not the best in the 450 class anymore. Engine performance is strong, but not the best in its class, either. And the same can be said for stopping power. Then add in the fact that at 240 pounds it’s the heaviest in the class and doesn’t have an electric start, and some people won’t even give it a second look. We still think the 2020 RM-Z is a solid all-around machine in the 450 class right off the assembly line and has great hop-up potential.

HIGHS
• Aggressive styling
• Spring fork
• Easy-to-use power
• Good cornering characteristics

MISSES
• Heaviest in 450 class
• No electric start
• Lack of overall adjustability

  • Engine type: 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, single cylinder, DOHC
  • Displacement: 449cc,
  • Bore & stroke: 96.0mm x 62.1mm
  • Fuel delivery: EFI
  • Fuel tank capacity: 1.7 gal
  • Lighting coil: No
  • Spark arrester :No
  • EPA legal: No
  • Running weight, no fuel: 240 lb.
  • Wheelbase: 1480mm (58.3”)
  • Ground clearance: 325 mm (12.8”)
  • Seat height: 955 mm (37.6”)
  • Front tire: 80/100-21 X30 Bridgestone
  • Rear tire: 110/90-19 X30 Bridgestone
  • Fork: Showa inverted telescopic, coil spring, oil damped
  • Shock: Link type, coil spring, oil-damped
  • Country of origin: Japan
  • Suggested retail price: $8,999

Manufacturer www.suzukicycles.com

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