We’ve assembled the top motocross bikes in the world for Dirt Bike Magazine’s 2023 450 MX Shootout. Altogether, we tested seven bikes: the GasGas MC450F, Honda CRF450R, Husqvarna FC450, Kawasaki KX450, KTM 450SX-F, Suzuki RM-Z450 and Yamaha YZ450F. It’s a special time in the sport because of a confluence of technology, trends and current events. Last year’s winner is unchanged, but three others are completely new, and another is heavily updated. Plus, one motorcycle that had been somewhat taken for granted has suddenly been rediscovered by the motocross community because of recent events and a shift in values. In other words, we had no idea which bike would win. For this comparison, all the bikes were left stock, as delivered. That included original tires, which were a mix of Dunlop, Bridgestone and Maxxis. In some cases, we had been riding these bikes for months, and we’re quite familiar with them. Others were newer, but all were fresh for our back-to-back comparisons.

Nic Garvin on the 2023 GasGas MC450F.

The GasGas comes out of the same factory as the KTM and Husqvarna, but this year, it’s completely different from those two. It’s based on a previous generation, which means it has a frame and motor similar to that of the ’22 KTM 450SX-F. The corporate plan for the GasGas line is to offer bikes at a lower price than the others in the group. Aside from the MC450F being based on an earlier platform, it has a number of lower-priced components. These include the handlebar, rims, triple clamps and exhaust system. It comes with Maxxis tires and has no map switch, although the ECU will accept one from the ’22 KTM 450SX-F, and that will also enable traction control and launch assist. Our bike showed up with Brembo brakes, but we know that some bikes arrive at dealerships with Braktec components. The front suspension is the WP Xact air fork; both ends have softer settings than KTM suspension. The GasGas is the lightest bike in the shootout at 224 pounds without fuel. The price is $10,199.

The Honda CRF450R has moderate changes for 2023. If you recall, the bike was all new in 2021, but it was a rocky debut. That bike was handicapped by a shortened development time due to the COVID shutdown. In 2022, there were a few band-aids, but the real changes come now. The motor has a smaller throttle body, a narrower intake-port shape, a longer intake funnel and a new cam profile. Frame-material thickness has been increased in several locations to alter flex characteristics, and steel engine mounts replace the aluminum ones. The rear shock spring is stiffer, and the suspension valving has been revised at both ends. The muffler canister is also new. The bike still features a hydraulic clutch and a handlebar-mounted map switch. You have three mapping options. One flash is the standard map, two flashes is mild, and three flashes is aggressive. It also has traction control and launch assist. The Honda is the lightest of the Japanese bikes by a small margin. It weighs 233 pounds without fuel. The price is $9599.

Sean Foos on the Husqvarna FC450

The Husky got the new frame and motor updates that the Rockstar Edition got last year. Pretty much everything is different from the previous standard model aside from the air fork, and even that got new valving. The frame has different flex characteristics, and the motor is repositioned in the frame to reduce squat tendencies on acceleration. Most of Husky’s competition bikes have a lower seat height than corresponding KTM models because of different linkage and a shorter fork. That works out to almost a 1/2 inch at the lowest point of the seat. It still uses the WP Xact air fork. There are a number of other items that differentiate the Husky from the KTM—things like the ProTaper handlebar, the rims, the bodywork and the airbox. With all the changes this year, the Husqvarna did gain some weight. Without fuel, it’s 229 pounds. That is still lighter than any of the Japanese bikes. It’s also more expensive at $10,999.

The Kawasaki is one of the bikes that comes into 2023 unchanged. Last year, Kawasaki placed first and second in our expanded 450 shootout, which had all the special editions, including the KX450SR. That bike was the eventual winner, and the standard KX was second. Back in 2019, the KX450 arrived with massive changes, including a new motor with a hydraulic clutch and electric start. Since then, it has received only minor updates. One of those is the coned-disc spring for the clutch, which is a design similar to the one used by KTM. It has Showa suspension, Nissin brakes and a Renthal Fatbar. For remapping, Kawasaki uses a system of plug-in couplers; three maps come pre-programmed, and you can cook up your own if you buy Kawasaki’s FI calibration kit for $775. The Kawasaki offers two footpeg positions and four handlebar locations. The weight is 334 pounds without fuel, and the price is $9599.

Sean Lipanovich on the 2023 KTM 450SX-F

The KTM 450SX-F is technically new and completely different from the 2022 model, but as with the Husqvarna, we got a preview of the new motor and chassis in the limited-production Factory Edition last year. The new frame has many of the same key dimensions as the old one, but the construction is completely different. There were two goals: to alter the flex and to reduce the tendency to squat under acceleration. The new map switch on the left side of the bar has dedicated buttons for the aggressive and mild maps, as well as traction control and Quickshift. The shock is completely new this year, while the fork is still a WP Xact air fork with new valving. Compared to the Husqvarna, the KTM has a slightly taller seat height and longer-travel suspension. It also has a Neken handlebar and different bodywork. The weight is 229 pounds without fuel. The price is $10,899.

Mark Tilley on the 2023 Suzuki RM-Z450

Even though the Suzuki RM-Z450 has gone unchanged for a long time, it’s as viable as ever, and we wouldn’t dream of leaving it out. Ken Roczen apparently agrees, and his decision to ride one in 2023 has drawn renewed attention to the RM-Z. Some of the technology is a step behind. The obvious sore point is that the RMZ450 has no electric start. It has a cablepull clutch and lacks traction control. On the other hand, the Suzuki comes with a GET programmable ignition, so only the Yamaha has a more sophisticated mapping system. At $8999, it’s the most affordable 450 in this group and has a weight of 239 pounds without fuel.

There’s no denying that the Yamaha is the star of the show this year. It’s completely new and a big question mark for 2023. Only the design concepts and core principles are unchanged. Yamaha is committed to the reverse-cylinder concept that it introduced back in 2010. On the digital front, Yamaha continues to go down the path of user customization with further development of the Yamaha Power Tuner smartphone app. In terms of mechanical parts, though, the 2023 YZ450F is the most radically redesigned bike in a year that has been defined by redesigned bikes. Interestingly enough, Yamaha’s engineers chose to stick with a cable-pull clutch, although a Nissin hydraulic clutch upgrade kit is offered through Yamaha’s accessory division. The YZ lost a little weight, gained traction control, and got skinnier and roomier. In real numbers, the weight loss is 7 pounds, so the YZ is now 232 pounds without fuel. The price is $9799.


2023 Yamaha YZ450F

As the last bike to arrive, the Yamaha became the focus of some intense testing as soon as possible. A clear picture of how the bikes stack up really came into focus once we could ride them all back to back on the same tracks. As we suspected, the Yamaha was the winner in the power department. There’s a delicate balance between peak output and power usability, and Yamaha nailed it. In a straight line with good traction, the Yamaha is tough to beat. It has excellent peak power, but beyond that, it ramps up smoothly and controllably. Then, on top, it revs out and never really falls flat. It’s just about the perfect package for an experienced rider. The great thing about starting off with so much power is that it’s always easy to detune a bike if it’s too much of a handful. On the Yamaha, that’s especially easy with the Power Tuner app.

2023 KTM 450SX-F

Next, we like both the KTM and the Husqvarna. They both gained power this year and are still perfectly controllable. Even though we know they have identical motors, they feel slightly different. The KTM hits a little harder and sharper, whereas the Husky seems a little smoother. Both have a noticeable difference between maps one and two. It’s not just that one is aggressive and the other is mild; they have different characteristics and ramp up at different revs.

2023 Husqvarna FC450

The Kawasaki, GasGas and Suzuki are all sweethearts. They all have controllable power that gives you a feeling of, “Okay, I got this.” The GasGas actually makes the most power of those three. It’s easy to manage but can come across as a little raspy. It pops and backfires, and you get the feeling that it might stall. The Kawasaki has the most usable power of all, just not that much of it. We gotta be frank—all the 450s make a ton of power, and very few people need more. Even though the Kawasaki’s peak output is 2 or 3 horsepower less than some of the others, no one in his right mind would say it’s a handicap. The KX motor generated nothing but praise.

2023 Kawasaki KX450

The Suzuki has the lowest peak output of them all but with manners similar to the Kawasaki’s. Everyone likes it, and, in the end, having a little less power makes most people ride better. The Suzuki’s only real shortcoming is that it doesn’t rev quite as high as the others, forcing you to shift a little earlier.

2023 GasGas MC450F

Honda clearly made the biggest improvement since last year. Before, every rider got off the bike, saying it was the fastest but just too hard to manage. As it turned out, it wasn’t the most powerful according to the dyno, but it felt that way because it had the steepest curve, especially around 7000 rpm. Now, the power increase is more gradual. In fact, the 2023 Honda has the most bottom-end torque, but then flattens out. The three maps are useful, because some riders want more and others want less. No one felt strongly that any of the three maps was a decisive advantage or disadvantage.

2023 Honda CRF450R

Likewise, riders really don’t have strong feelings about traction control. Five of the seven bikes offer it. Test riders don’t always notice when it’s engaged. To be fair, most of the tracks we rode already had good traction. It might be a different story in the worst conditions.

2023 Suzuki RM-Z 450


Traditionally, the Yamaha YZ450 has done well in the suspension department—and it still does. For riding hard on the roughest tracks, the YZ is the bike to have once you have it set up. But, that isn’t necessarily true on moderately rough tracks or ones with just light chop. There, the softer Kawasaki is more comfortable. Plus, the Kawasaki is easier to dial in. If you have it right for a tight, twisty track, it’s going to be good for a fast, sweeping track, too. The Yamaha is tricky to get right—although this is less about suspension compliance than about overall handling. Initially, we had the rear suspension sag set at 96mm, which was good in tighter stuff but a little nervous at speed. Then, we went to a more relaxed 103mm but struggled with frontwheel traction. We also tried varying fork heights. Each rider found a favorite recipe, but no two were exactly alike.

The Husky and KTM have a goodnews/bad-news story in the overall handling department. The good news for both is that they turn like magic. They always did, but the new chassis is more stable once you’re established in the turn. You don’t realize that suspension squat under acceleration is such a negative factor until it’s gone, or at least reduced. The bad news is that the new chassis makes the suspension feel harsh on both bikes. The air fork, in particular, seems to have gone backwards. It’s still infinitely adjustable, of course, but you never get the comfort level that you had with the old frame. We do know that as the new chassis gets more time, it gets more compliant. The GasGas has the old frame, but it’s paired with much softer suspension settings. Most riders feel it’s a little too soft for aggressive riding. When you mix the soft suspension with the flexier frame and the softer power delivery, it’s apparent that the GasGas is designed more for novices and beginners than intermediates and pros.

The Honda feels like it was designed for Supercross. It has a fast-handling chassis that turns sharp and steers easily. It’s so responsive that some riders even say it’s a little nervous. The rear suspension is much improved this year, so it’s more stable than it was once it’s situated in a turn. Overall, in fact, the suspension on the Honda is good—perhaps not as cushy as on the Kawasaki, but definitely more compliant than the Yamaha. You still have to bring your A game to get the most out of the Honda. It’s a racer, not a cruiser.

It’s interesting that the Suzuki was once considered a fast-handling bike. It clearly influenced the other bikes in the class; they’re all more Suzuki-like than ever. So today, the RM-Z450 is more middle of the road. It still turns well, although it’s not the cut-and-thrust bike it once was, at least not by comparison. It actually is one of the more stable bikes at speed. The one shortcoming in the handling department is suspension that’s too stiff for the average rider.


First place: Kawasaki KX450

So, where does that leave us? We hate to sound like we’re stuck on repeat, but once again the Kawasaki KX450 came out on top. It isn’t the fastest, lightest or best turning, but it is the most confidence-inspiring bike in the group. In this case, going unchanged probably played to its advantage, too. The others are still working out setup and details, whereas the KX450 is past all that.

Second place: Yamaha YZ450F

Second is the new Yamaha YZ450F. There’s no doubt that this bike is a better machine than last year’s. It’s faster, lighter and more comfortable. The adjustability that the Yamaha Power Tuner brings to the table makes it a tough bike to beat. At this point, we still have to work out balance and setup issues. It’s oh-so close.

Third place: Husqvarna FC450

Next, we have the Husqvarna FC450. Yes, we know that it’s almost the same bike as the KTM, but it gets the nod because there were enough riders who felt the lower seat height was an advantage, and most liked the smoother power delivery. Some also said the Husky was more comfortable because of the ProTaper handlebar.

Fourth place: KTM 450SX-F

The KTM officially gets fourth, but more aggressive riders might like its sharper power delivery and longer suspension travel. Let’s be real, though. The KTM is so close in performance to the Husky that it really comes down to which bike you think looks better.

Fifth place: GasGas MC450F

That brings us to the GasGas, which many people say is the best-looking motocross bike on the market. We love the fact that the GasGas is truly different from the KTM and Husky this year. Plenty of riders like the old chassis better, and there’s no doubt that the GasGas is a more appropriate bike for the casual enthusiast.

Sixth place: Honda CRF450R

The Honda is a little frustrating, because it really should do better than sixth place. Every sore point has been addressed. It’s fast and aggressive, and the suspension is genuinely good. In truth, its only real fault is that it’s still a lot of motorcycle for the average rider despite the much improved power delivery.

Seventh place: Suzuki RM-Z450

Does the Suzuki really belong in last place? Ken Roczen did his own shootout in the off-season, and the RM-Z won. In stock form, it’s a competitive, affordable bike for amateur racing. Clearly, it can be competitive at the highest levels as well. It’s further proof that all the bikes in the 2023 450 class are capable of winning. Some just make it easier.

For more details on the Pro Circuit 2023 450 MX dyno test, click here.

For the 2023 450 MX shootout video, click here.

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