Two weeks ago the Yamaha 2019 YZ450F arrived and we already have devoted considerable time riding it. Yamaha asked us not to print any of our test results until all the various websites and publications had their own time with the bike.

Pete Murray was the first man on the 2019 YZ450F.

Last year this was a completely new bike, although it had the same overall layout it has had since 2010. That was when the reverse head arrived with the goal of centralizing the bike’s mass. Since then, there has been a sharp division when it comes to reviews of the bike’s overall handling. Even among Dirt Bike’s staff of test riders, there are those who love the YZ and those who don’t care for it. It boils down to riding technique. Pete Murray is among those who love it. Even though he’s no youngster, his cornering technique is still phenomenal and outrageously precise. He routinely shows the kids how it’s done.

The 2019 Yamaha YZ450F returns with minimal change.

Last year, the YZ was redesigned around a new electric-start motor. The frame was narrowed, the radiators were lowered and the rider position was changed. The 2019 model has only six changes.


  1. The contact surface between the front wheel spacers and the lower fork was increased.
  2. The fork is stiffer (damping only).
  3. The shock is stiffer (damping only).
  4. The seat foam is stiffer in the center.
  5. The right number plate was altered.
  6. One tooth was added to the rear sprocket (to 49 teeth).

The most significant  aspect of the YZ450F remains the fact that you can tune the motor without touching it. The bike broadcasts a wifi signal that syncs with any smartphone. That allows you to change the fuel mapping and the spark advance within certain parameters. This isn’t a sales gimmick. You can really change the way the bike runs for the better or worse. Last year, one of the first maps we tried turned out to be our favorite. We called it the Travis Preston map, although we since have been corrected. Travis had a lot of help in developing it.

Travis Preston’s YZ450 map

After riding the new model we still feel the same way about it. Most of our riders love it. The YZ is crazy fast, but still very controllable. The power quality and quantity are still incredible. And there’s no debate whatsoever about the suspension. Everyone agrees that Yamaha still has the best overall suspensinin the game. Our lighter riders, weren’t especially thrilled with the stiffer settings. They already felt the bike was aimed at bigger faster riders. But it’s nothing more than a couple of compression damping clicks away from the previous settings.

The YZ450F is still a big, fast motorcycle.

The bike’s biggest shortcoming is its weight. Regardless of the various means that Yamaha has taken to minimize this, the bike weighs 239 pounds (without fuel) on our scale. That’s unchanged. It isn’t the heaviest bike in the class. The Honda and the Suzuki both weight 240 on the same scale, and the Suzuki doesn’t have electric start. Still, the Kawasaki, KTM and Husky do, and they’re much lighter than the Yamaha. The bike feels heavy when you ride it, and the fact that it’s so powerful only adds to the sensation.

As far as cornering is concerned, we still have the same division among test riders. When you’re on the gas, all riders agree that the bike is very stable. Riders who don’t bring the rear end around with throttle still complain that the Yamaha has a moment of instability in turns. As usual, there’s no right and no wrong here. We’ll have more thorough testing in the September, 2018 print edition of Dirt Bike.


Gavin Trippe. Photo: American Motorcyclist Association.

Gavin Trippe passed away this week at the age of 78. He’s one of the primary reasons that motocross is a respected, professional sport in the U.S. today. Trippe came to the U.S from England in the ‘60s and founded Motorcycle Weekly, a newspaper modeled after the U.K.’s Motorcycle News. He got into race promotion in the early ‘70s, putting together the Trans AMA series. It all went big time in 1973 when he and partner Bruce Cox brought the first FIM USGP to Carlsbad, California. The event was televised by ABC and sponsored by Hang Ten, probably the sport’s first major outside sponsor. Bruce Brown was the producer of that first broadcast on “The Wide World of Sports.” It had excellent ratings.

Carlsbad, 1981. Photo by Ron Lawson

Trippe also promoted racing at Ascot, put together several of the early AMA road races and was the creators of the Superbikers. This was another race at Carlsbad that was created for ABC Television. In 1979, Trippe dreamed up the format which combined elements of motocross, dirt track and road racing. The idea was to attract champions from all three disciplines and determine the best overall rider. It was a hit, and the concept eventually migrated back to Europe, where it was the basis for the FIM Supermotoard championship.

One of the things about Trippe that made him stand out among promoters was the fact that he treated the riders like stars. He often invited them to lavish parties and would strive for big purses. Gavin’s contribution to the combined sports of motorcycle racing will be felt for generations to come.


The Klim Nac Pak has long been one of our favorite pieces of adventure/dual-sport gear. It’s been redesigned, and it still is surprisingly affordable, at just under $100.


See you next week,

–Ron Lawson




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