Dirt Bike 09 Suzuki RM-Z450 Web Test
By Tom Webb
Virtually unchanged for 2009 (BNG: Bold New Graphics) isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the Suzuki RM-Z450. The first fuel-injected big boy on the block makes for stellar performance, versatility and ease of riding.
In my little black book the Suzuki RM-Z450 may rate as the come back machine of the decade. Why? They were the first [of the big 5] to belly up and switch to electronic fuel injection for dirt bikes and this advancement in the dirt bike world is as important as the Keihin FCR carburetor, long travel suspension and the reed valve in the 2-stroke. This may sound a little out there in loo of the fact that all of the current 4-strokes carburete and perform with a zest that is numbingly stellar, the fuel-injected RM-Z is that much better. To the versatile dirt bike rider who ventures to circuits, events and terrain that vary in consistency, elevations and weather patterns the fuel injected machine deals with issues in such a professional matter that the performance never changes.
Now, when you paint this scenario into my world, which I like to think is more robust in nature than that of the guy who goes to Glen Helen every Saturday to race REM moto, having a machine that won’t conk out when you cross a river, deals with events that climb in elevation from 5000 feet to the 9 grand point and refuses to flame out when there’s 48 pounds of mud baking the engine, tormenting the sanity of cooling and on a normally aspirated steed throws it into the ugly world of flame out- is a key to dirt bike nirvana. The bottom line is that the Suzuki RM-Z450 and its fuel injection have been a main ingredient in its success in closed course off-road and its elevation in National Motocross under the tutelage of Cody Cooper and Michael Byrne.
For 2009 they made virtually no changes to the machine. The fact is there weren’t that many of them out there last year. A late delivery, a big price tag and a problematic case [that exploded if the bike kicked back and your foot was in the way] made the machine about as palatable as a cold gravy and hair cocktail. But here’s the skinny, this machine is about as friendly as an open class motocrosser can get, and she’s got the big V, Versatility.
Mike Webb flicks the new ’09 RM-Z450 for the Wolf’s Nikon. The bike has wonderful handling traits and corners better than any bike on the market.
It’s interesting that the RM-Z actually gained weight when it acquired the fuel-injection system. The good news is that you don’t feel it.
ON THE TRACK
I got a chance to ride the 2009 RM-Z450 for a day up at Gorman’s I-5 track. Suzuki came out with the machine, I had my well-tattered 450Z with me and Brother Mike had his stealthy- full works machine along for a ride. Here’s the cud to chew on:
• Besides the advantages of the electronic FI, the Suzuki is the best cornering machine on the planet.
• The machine is slim, ergos are sound and it feels light, stiff and rigid.
• Showa handles both suspension ends and while the action is by no means plush, it’s very work-man-like and handles normal moto obstacles with no weird glitches. For the off-roader it needs to be plusher, for the hard charging moto-head it needs to be stiffer. For the middle-of-the road racer/rider it’s very good.
• The fuel tank is aluminum and houses the fuel pump, this is perfect for the motocrosser, for riders looking to get more than 35 miles out of a tank you need to get the IMS tank. It totes a full gallon more and is just as thin.
• Starting is quite easy, though ironically it is cranky when hot. I found that a “hold the hot start, and kick with no throttle will usually work and if that fails, give it just a squirt of throttle” and she’ll normally erupt to life.
• There’s a primer button (like a choke on a normal carburetor) that is also the idle adjustment located on the Keihin throttle body.
• The meat behind the Suzuki powerband is cemented firmly in a very strong bottom and mid power structure. Overall this targets everyone but Ricky Carmichael and is one of the reasons that the machine works so well in the closed-course off-road world. It’s very strong, super tractable and not overly threatening like a KX450F or the barnburner KTM450SX.
• The ergos are excellent. It’s thin, has a great saddle with a good consistency to the foam, wide pegs and Renthal Big bars. The clutch action is light, the AOF function is smooth. Too, the throttle pull is incredibly light for a big machine.
The Webb brothers were caught playing on the I-5 track. The good looking one (Tom) pilots the stock 09 while the craggy mis-shapened Mike snaps his Works suspended machine for Kobi Iseri.
I love this scoot. Besides the friendly powerband (which is totally competitive), the incredible cornering prowess (under my dated tutelage mirrors a lean back, straight arm attitude, rather than the Bubba head over the bars and wick it mode) and the versatility (which for a motocrosser rates as excellent) the RM-Z450 can paint on both sides of the fence. Other than the KX450F and the KTM450XC-F there are few machines that fit into the do-it-all category.
This big but comes in the competition. Honda has just released images of their new fuel-injected CRF450R (we get to ride in next Tuesday!) and it is completely radical. Then add the new KX450F, which is also fuel-injected and it’s apparent that the world of the 450’s is evolving at a rapid pace. Will the unchanged RM-Z450 hold its own against the new fire breathers? We’ll tell you as soon as we get our weathered cheeks on their saddles.
Over and out