Yamaha threw it all at the new 2018 YZF450 and it has an electric start, a new straight-section frame, new suspension settings, clutch springs and new clutch plates which help with the fade, new throttle body and a new smart phone app which allows you to tune your bike trackside from an App on your smartphone. Plus new bodywork, of course, and blue rims.
What Yamaha has kept is the laid-back engine which uses a reduction in gyroscopic forces, plus moving the weight towards the centre of the bike, to make the bike feel and handle like it’s much lighter. Some of the biggest forces on a bike are from the rotating mass in the engine. That’s why a 250F may not weight much less than a 450, but feels loads more nimble to flick around. It’s due to the gyroscopic forces created by the bigger piston and crank.
By changing the engine geometry and using the laid-back cylinder, these are reduced and the bike feels more nimble. And by effectively turning the cylinder head around, it means cool air is fed in from the front, and hot exhausts go out of the back. Although the pipes do snake their way around the cylinder as they need to be the right length. I know the Yamaha is the heaviest bike out there but it doesn’t feel that way when you’re riding.
On the track, the new YZF feels mega and I’m happy to say the hard work which the development team have put in has paid off. You really can notice the difference between the ‘17 and ‘18 models.
The kickstart has been replaced with an electric start button which is a must these days, especially on a 450. And I’m happy to report it works great in all situations hot, cold and in gear!
The power delivery is more linear than on the old bike the ‘17 which has had its sharp hit tamed down slightly. It’s not slower, just smoother. And the drive you get coming out of the turns is insane. Yamaha have changed the throttle body and EFI mapping which helps smooth out the power curve and gives you a better feeling of a direct connection to the drive when cracking on the throttle.
The motor revs on and the torque is so useable, too. You barely notice you’re using the gearbox as shifting is easy. In fact I used the gears less than on other bikes as the power curve felt so long.
Yamaha has focused on offering a delivery which will suit the masses as some riders found the hit to much. There’s now a good balance between the two. I didn’t mind the hit if I’m honest, and I was scared they’d lose the engine characteristics I like from the motor. I like to hook up into third early and let the engine roll. When you do that, you need a bike to have a sharp response to pull the taller gear. I’m happy to say the 2018 bike hasn’t lost its ability to do it. It’s even more usable and the noise still sounds awesome when cracking on the throttle.
The dyno graph shows how long the power curve is and it also shows a strong mid-range. This is where Yamaha polished out the hit by adding more to the bottom and mid-range to make the curve smoother. It’s also one of the only Japanese bikes which revs out like the KTM.
The YZF450 is just awesome out on track thanks to the power, but you need to get the chassis balance right by setting the rider sag. It’s crucial, and perhaps one of the reasons that some riders haven’t got on with the turning on the older Yamahas.
The new chassis feels a lot slimmer between your legs. It rails the turns perfectly and it is really flickable in the air. The mass centralisation is really noticeable on the 450 as everything is situated between your legs which offers a good, solid feel and you feel at one with the bike.
Scrubbing jump faces is becoming the norm these days and this bike definitely encourages you to do so. The front also feels much more planted then previous years, once I got the balance to my liking of course.
And the KYB spring forks and shock may be old-school technology but they work incredibly well. No air to mess around with, just get it out of the van and ride it. It’s an incredible bike.