2024 450 MX SHOOTOUT

Progress isn’t always clear in the moment. There are wrong turns and misfires on the path forward, but when you look back, you can usually identify a point of no return in technological advancement. The 2024 crop of 450 motocross bikes clearly demonstrates that there’s no going back. Even though only two of the seven bikes are significantly changed this year, it’s apparent that we have crossed the threshold into a new age of electronic development. All the manufacturers now offer some electronic means of altering the personalities of their products, and that factor will only become more significant as we are drawn forward in the irresistible gravity of advancement.

This year we have two new bikes: the Kawasaki KX450 and the GasGas MC450F. The Yamaha YZ450F had a significant redesign last year, and so did the Honda CR450R, the Husqvarna FC450 and the KTM 450SX. Even the Suzuki RM-Z450 has a twist this year because our test bike is the RM Army Edition. All offer technology that wasn’t available or even possible a few years ago. Here are the strong points and weak points of each one.

You can watch the Dirt Bike Magazine 450 Shootout video here.


the gasgas sells for a little
The GasGas sells for a little less than the other Austrian bikes at $10,399.


Catching up or moving ahead?

The GasGas MC450F is a new bike this year, but it was no surprise. It now has the same frame and motor that the KTM and Husqvarna got last year. The bodywork is different, of course, and so are a number of components. GasGas has softer suspension settings than the other Austrian bikes, it has a forged triple clamp, Braktec brakes and hydraulics, Maxxis tires, and different bars and rims. It also comes without a map switch or a resonance chamber in the head pipe. An interesting twist is that the GasGas has all the same tech as the KTM and Husqvarna 450s. It has Quickshift, multiple maps and traction control, but you have to buy the optional map switch to access those features.


• Great motor. Excellent low-end and still very controllable.
• It’s the lightest bike in the whole shootout at 228 pounds without fuel.
• It turns with very little effort and has no real issues in the stability department.
• The suspension is cushy and more in line with intermediate-level riders.
• The controls are all excellent. These are the best Braktec brakes we have tested yet.


• More advanced riders will use up the suspension fairly quickly.
• The frame is very rigid.
• The Maxxis tires can be a handicap on hard terrain.
• Air fork requires attention between motos.
• You’ll need to buy the map switch for traction control, launch assist and Quickshift. That’s $135.


gasgas is deliberately positioned

GasGas is deliberately positioned at the bottom of the Austrian pecking order. But, that’s no major fault, because all have outstanding power and handling. The GasGas only gives away ground in areas that matter very little to amateurs and sportsmen.

the standard honda crf450r
The standard Honda CRF450R sells for $9,699.


Jett didn’t do it alone

Last year the Honda CRF450R was the most successful bike in the history of AMA pro racing. It is unchanged for 2024, but it got a new frame and a very different personality last year. The previous bike was a brute. It made so much power that most of the changes in 2023 were aimed at making it more controllable. Interestingly enough, you can still buy the earlier version of the Honda. It’s called the CRF450R-S and sells for considerably less. There are three maps available through a handlebar switch, as well as traction control. The suspension is Showa, and the brakes and hydraulic clutch are both Nissin.


• Exceptional low-end power. Below 7500 rpm, it positively crushes everything else.
• Throttle response is immediate and crisp.
• It also has very quick, responsive steering. The Honda handles light.
• The actual weight is 233 pounds without fuel on our scale.
• The Honda is a comfortable bike. The layout is roomy, and the controls are all good, including the map switch.


• The frame is rigid. It has the stiffest feel of all.
• Suspension balance is tricky. Light riders might not be able to take off enough spring preload in the rear to get the recommended 105mm of race sag.
• The power drops too dramatically on top, although we can’t complain that any of these bikes are lacking in power.
• The short powerband forces you to shift before you’re ready.


honda is on top of the world

Honda is on top of the world when it comes to pro racing, but the production version is a confusing mix of characteristics. Pros and amateurs alike will need to address the suspension to unleash the inner champion that we all know the CRF450R can be.

the husqvarna fc450
The Husqvarna FC450 has the highest price of any bike in the shootout at $11,199.


Old-world heritage and cutting-edge technology

The Husqvarna FC450 uses the same motor and frame as the KTM and GasGas, but there are a number of differences that give it a separate identity, starting with less seat height. That’s because the suspension travel is slightly reduced on the FC450. There are also some differences in components, bodywork and hydraulics. The Husky uses Brembo brakes and hydraulics, it has D.I.D DirtStar rims, a ProTaper handlebar, and a composite airbox/subframe structure.


• Incredible motor. It’s very, very fast and still controllable.
• Smoother mid-range than the other Austrian bikes.
• Quickshift is useful for most riders. For the others, it can be turned off.
• The reduced seat height is popular with everyone.
• Overall handling is excellent. It turns well and remains level on acceleration.
• It’s very light at 229 pounds.
• We love the clutch, we love the brakes. We love the grips, We love the bars.


• The chassis is very Supercross-oriented. That means it’s stiff and puts too much burden on perfect suspension setup.
• The WP suspension can’t be called a weak point, but it can’t adequately compensate for the chassis rigidity.
• You can get it right, but be prepared to do a lot of testing.
• Air fork requires attention between motos.


It’s easy to point out the differences between the Husqvarna and the KTM, but difficult to assign a value to those differences. The slight reduction in seat height takes on a disproportionately greater meaning in separating the two, but both remain comparable on the track and lead the field in power, light weight and cornering.

kawasaki kx450
The price for the Kawasaki KX450 is now $10,399.


Last year’s champion, this year’s question mark

There’s a lot to talk about with the new Kawasaki KX450, so you’ll want to check out our separate test of that bike in this issue. Everything is new, but to go over some of the major details briefly, the motor has a center-port exhaust, the front brake is a Brembo and the rear brake caliper is a redesigned Nissin. Kawasaki paid a great deal of attention to the electronics package. It has a handlebar switch with mild and aggressive maps available on the fly, plus traction control. Kawasaki now offers the Rideology smartphone app for engine tuning, very much like Yamaha’s Power Tuner.


• Kawasaki didn’t mess anything up.
• Still very controllable.
• The chassis is very compliant. Kawasaki doesn’t beat you up.
• Overall suspension is excellent.
• It’s a comfortable bike at any speed.
• The steering is faster and more responsive.
• Still, the KX is the most stable bike at speed.
• The brakes are strong.
• The clutch pull is easy and the controls are excellent, even the new ODI grips.
• You can still adjust the footpeg position.


• Soft motor output. The Kawasaki still gives up horsepower to the Yamaha and all the Austrian bikes.
• You can get a little more snap with the Rideology app, but not enough to out-drag those other bikes in a straight line.
• The KX450 gained weight this year. At 239 pounds without fuel, it’s over 10 pounds heavier than the lightest bike in the shootout.


The KX450 is completely different but somehow the same. It remains the friendliest 450 for the average rider without giving up pro-level potential. The addition of a more sophisticated electronics package is the biggest improvement for 2024.

the price for the ktm
The price for the KTM 450SX-F is $11,099.


Austrian flagship

KTM is the big brother to GasGas and Husqvarna, so it’s easy to think they’re all the same, but the differences are worth talking about. The KTM has a different airbox and that gives the motor a different feel. The suspension setup is different and so is the handlebar, the bodywork and the rims. Still, the most important parts are the motor and frame, so many of the KTM strengths and weaknesses will sound familiar.


• Like the GasGas and Husky, the motor is fantastic.
• On the dyno, the KTM produces the highest peak power.
• Less rigid subframe.
• Cornering is another strong point that the KTM shares with the Husky and GasGas.
• The KTM is the same weight as the Husky at 229 pounds without fuel.
• Best overall suspension of the Austrian bikes.


• Frame is very rigid.
• Harsh overall feel.
• Some motor vibration.
• Air fork requires attention between motos.


The 450SX-F’s position as the leader of the European counterattack is well established, and all the others look to KTM first before introducing advancements of their own. The fact that it has two siblings from the same factory make the situation a little less clear, but make no mistake that KTM is a major driving force in the market and on the track for 2024.

the suzuki rm z450
The Suzuki RM-Z450 is the most affordable bike in the comparison at $9,199.


The great rediscovery of 2024

Ken Roczen single-handedly gave renewed life to the Suzuki RM-Z450. He found out what we have known for a long time: the Suzuki has a lot of great points and is a worthwhile consideration despite being a product of an earlier time. Our test bike is the RM Army Edition, which is still available through some dealers. It has a Pro Circuit exhaust and specialedition graphics. The 2024 RM-Z450 now comes with an EFI tuning tool manufactured by GET/Athena.


• Turns easily without being nervous or hyper.
• Very stable.
• We know from experience that the Suzuki chassis is very compliant.
• The RM-Z450 is a very comfortable bike. The ergos are spread out, and virtually everyone feels at home immediately.


• Stiff rear suspension.
• No electric start (we had to say it).
• Tied as the heaviest 239 pounds without fuel.
• The RM has a cable clutch that fades quickly.


We feel vindicated that the motocross world has rediscovered the Suzuki RM-Z450. We’ve loved it for years. The fact that it’s frozen in time is still undeniable, and the rear suspension is the primary sore point. We know how to fix it, but so does Suzuki. We just wish they would do it.

the yamaha yz450f
The Yamaha YZ450F 50th Anniversary Edition sells for $10,199, which is $200 more than the standard version.


The golden bike of last year still shines

The Yamaha YZ450F was last year’s wonder bike, and it still impresses us as much as ever. Everything was new: frame, motor, bodywork—everything. Now, the 2024 model is unchanged, but we are always discovering new personalities because of the Yamaha Power Tuner smartphone App, which allows you to cook up your own power delivery. The YZ450F you see in this video is the 50th Anniversary Edition.


• The YZ feels like it has the most power, and that makes for a very thrilling ride.
• It’s easy to modify with the Yamaha Power Tuner.
• Excellent pro-level suspension. The rougher the track and the faster the pace, the better the YZ450 works.
• The Yamaha is now spread out and comfortable.
• Much lighter and more agile than the YZs of the old days. The 2024 version is the lightest of the Japanese 450s at 231 pounds


• In stock configuration, the power climbs very steeply in the middle of the powerband and can be a handful.
• It’s actually hard to keep the front end down.
• Very responsive steering.
• Tallest seat height.
• Loud intake noise.


The buzz that the YZ450F generated last year still hasn’t died down and is well deserved. The Yamaha is fast, light and technologically unrivaled. The power, suspension and handling are all very pro-oriented, and if that’s you, it is probably the best choice.


The choice never gets any easier

When we back off and look at the big picture, we have much the same choice as last year. It’s a Kawasaki-versus-Yamaha showdown.

The Yamaha has power and suspension, while the Kawasaki has manageability and handling. Last year we chose the Kawasaki by the slimmest of margins because we feel it’s aimed at the average rider. That criteria hasn’t changed. With that in mind, the new KX would actually have to be a step backward if it were to lose against the unchanged Yamaha. In no uncertain terms, the new KX is not a step backwards. In sheer performance, it might be a lateral move—no better, no worse. But, in technology and potential, it’s a big step forward. As far as the others go, we once again see the Husqvarna and KTM taking the next two positions, followed by GasGas, Honda and Suzuki. It’s a very tightly grouped bunch of motorcycles—again.

first place
First place: Kawasaki KX450.
second place
Second place: Yamaha YZ450F
third place
Third place: Husqvarna FC450
fourth place
Fourth place: KTM 450SX-F
fifth place
Fifth place: GasGas MC450F
sixth place
Sixth place: Honda CRF450R
seventh place
Seventh place: Suzuki RM-Z450


Comments are closed.