FIRST RIDE, 2019 YAMAHA YZ450FX: THE WRAP

Yamaha released all its 2019 off-road competition bikes last week in Union, South Carolina. The three models were the YZ250X two-stroke, the YZ250FX four-stroke and the all-new YZ450FX. All three of these bikes are imported as closed-course competition bikes as far as the government is concerned. They’re closely related to motocross models and don’t have any concessions to noise or emissions. They are, however, aimed at off-road riders with different power deliveries and gearbox ratios. The two 250s are unchanged, but the 450 has big changes. This bike had been basically an older version of the motocross 450 with an electric starter more or less grafted on. Now it’s based on the current YZ450F motocross bike, which was electric start already.

RIDING THE 2019 YAMAHA YZ450FX

Pete Murray came with us to South Carolina to test the 2019 Yamaha YZ450FX.

The YZ450FX also got the new, more rigid frame and a new motor without a provision for a kickstarter. It’s all integrated much better, so the bike is said to be about 7 pounds lighter. That puts it somewhere around 245 pounds without fuel. One of the drawbacks to Yamaha’s new motocross bike is less fuel capacity. They went from 2.0 gallons to 1.6. That meant the off-road bikes cannot share the same fuel tank anymore, so Yamaha broke out the checkbook and made a tank specifically for the new 450FX. At 2.2 gallons, it’s still not huge, but we’ll take it.

The new FX also got some changes in the same year that the MX version got them, like the more rigidly mounted front wheel.  Here are the features that set the FX apart from the 2019 motocross bike:

2.16 gallon tank
18-inch rear wheel
O-Ring chain
Skid plate
Sidestand
Wide ratio gearbox (lower first, second, third; taller fourth and fifth)
Different clutch
Different mapping
Handlebar-mounted map switch with aggressive and mild settings

That last feature is a big deal because you can tune the ECU with the Yamaha Power Tuner Smartphone App. The YZ450F motocross bike also has compatibility with the Smartphone app, but it has no on-the-fly map switch. The same button is a launch control on that model. The FX’s standard settings are very different from those of the MX bike, too.

The 2019 YZ450FX got the same treatment that the YZ450F motocrosser got in 2018.

From the first ride, it’s clear that the new YZ450FX is a big improvement. Frankly, I didn’t like the old one that much. It was a motocross bike with weird gear ratios. There was too much power hitting too hard and nothing really “off-road” about it.  Even though the gear ratios were widely spaced, first gear was a throw-away because it was too low. It would just spin or wheely. Now that you have the capability to manage the power output, it changes everything. Yes, first gear is still too low to use in most circumstances, but in the milder power output setting, it at least isn’t counter productive. We can’t wait to get involved with different maps through the Power Tuner App.

Click on the image above for the video of the 2019 Yamaha YZ450F.

The bike also feels like less of a beast. This goes beyond the modest weight loss. The bike is lower and narrower. But it does have the odd ergos that we complained about on the YZ450F motocross bike. The seat is lower, making the footpegs seem high and cramped for tall riders. The bars are also tall, so it’s hard to get over the front end. All these things can be dealt with when the owner personalize his own bike with a different seat and bars. In truth, this bike is a massive improvement over the model it replaces. It sells for $500 more, at $9499.

TWO-STROKE VS. FOUR-STROKE, YAMAHA-STYLE

While we were in South Carolina, we got to do a fun back-to-back comparison on the YZ250X Two-stroke and the YZ250FX four-stroke. In most off-road racing venues, these two bikes compete directly against one another. Out west in the Big-6 series, it seems like the tide has turned back toward two-strokes in the 250 class, while in GNCC racing, it seems to be half and half.

The YZ250X is just like the YZ250 two-stroke motocrosser with a handful of changes. The gearbox has wider ratios (but it’s still a five-speed), it has a different cylinder and a different power delivery, softer suspension, an easier clutch pull, the pipe is more tucked in and it has a kickstand and an 18-inch wheel

The YZ250FX is like the 2018 YZ250 motocross bike (not the brand-new 2019 one), but it has electric start, a six-speed gearbox, a different power delivery, softer suspension, an easier clutch pull and the 18-inch wheel and kickstand.

The two stroke has two big advantages. It makes way more peak power and it weighs about 20 pounds less. That’s a lot in an age where KTM’s two-strokes and four-strokes are about the same weight. Of course, the electric starters accounts for most of this. It was grafted on as an afterthought, not designed that way from the start. The four-stroke has its strong points, too. It’s easier to ride, gets better traction and has better suspension. That last point is something we have never understood because the bikes have nearly the same suspension components. Four-strokes just seem to make their suspension work better. The video that Travis Fant and I made in South Carolina pretty much sums it up. Just click on the image above. I’ve already done this comparison for my own class in the Big-6 Magnum class, and settled on the two-stroke. Even though the 250FX has a six-speed, the gearbox ratios are too spread apart in the upper gears. It often won’t pull the shift to fifth or sixth in fast GP racing conditions. Next year, the FX might get back into the game with a new model built on the current MX bike.

RIDING THE HONDA CRF450L DUAL-SPORT

Immediately after getting off the plane from South Carolina, I flew up north to Packwood, Washington, which is dual-sport Mecca. Honda introduced the 2019 CRF450L there, and it was a hoot. A full review will be up at the beginning of next week, but here’s a little helmet-cam view of the ride.

I always sign my best work in blood. Photo by Jimmy L.

SWM DUAL-SPORTS

As we reported earlier in the week, the first shipment of SWM dual-sport bikes has cleared customs. My friend Pete Vetrano is the importer, and he has spent three years on this project. Getting a bike to pass all the U.S. noise and emissions tests is hard, slow and expensive. It should pay off for him. At a price of $7795 these bikes should sell well. If they look familiar it’s because they are based on Italian Husqvarnas of about 10 years ago. Check out the photo of the 2008 Husky TXC510 and you see the resemblance.

 

2008 Husqvarna TXC510

SWMs are being built with the same tooling at the same factory by many of the same workers. If you remember, the Italian Huskys were really good bikes and now the SWMs are fully street legal without restrictors or throttle stops.There have been a lot of internal changes as well as new components. SWMs have KYB suspension and Brembo brakes.To learn more, you can contact Motoman Distributing (760-949-0941) or you can visit SWM’s Italian website.

That’s all for now!

Ron Lawson

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