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What’s new on the 2018 Suzuki RMZ450?

You may have seen photos of the all-new bike that the factory Suzuki team wheeled out at the Hawsktone Park International, officially a 2018 model with all the factory bits on it. But what’s really new on the bike?

What is most obvious is that the bike may be new, but still retains the same basic layout as the previous bikes. There seem to be no major obvious technical innovations – no reverse-mounted engine, twin exhausts or radical new suspension or frame types. It seems Suzuki may have built an all-new bike but it keeps the wining formula of the old one with a twin-spar aluminium beam frame, bolt-on aluminium subframe and 499cc dual overhead-cam, four-valve motor.

Factory insiders say Suzuki just doesn’t have huge amounts of funds to splurge on radical new developments for its motocross range.

The frame is all new, though, which is obvious to see when you compare it side by side with the old one. It looks like the main upright frame spars are slightly thinner than before, but the headstock area and cross-bracing near the shock mount are heavily beefed up. This is likely to be to reduce weight in areas where it’s not needed, and increase material in places where it is to ensure the right frame flex characteristics. A new frame casting is a major expense for a manufacturer so expect to see this chassis around for a while.

The new subframe bolts on much higher than on the old bike, too. And it’s believed the position of the engine has been moved to alter the handling of the machine.

The whole rear end is new, with a totally different airbox that seems to allow a straighter draft of air to the motor to boost throttle response. The swingarm is also totally new and more tapered towards the back end. And although the linkage uses the same basic configuration as the old bike, the ratios are new to match the new chassis. The KYB rear shock is also a new design, with the adjusters in line with the reservoir rather than next to it like on the old bike.

Suzuki has long made the heaviest production bike, so weight saving will be a priority. However, the biggest lump of weight is in the engine and it’s clear to see the motor has not had a major revamp. It’s still a twin-cam design with none of the main components moved. There is no electric start and no hydraulic clutch, though. It doesn’t seem likely an electric start could make an appearance on the production bike as there doesn’t seem to be any cast-in bosses for it to mount to. It’s not impossible there will be an electric start version, as the RMZ450X enduro bike uses the same basic engine design and that has electric start

The official spec says the bike has a four-speed gearbox, as the previous factory bike did. This may hint that the gearbox has stayed the same, allowing the factory team to fit the current-spec four-speed gearbox in. Or it could be redesigned and Suzuki already have a four-speed factory gearbox ready. Either way, it’s likely the stock bike will come with a five-speed box as it makes the bike more flexible for fast off-road racing, for example.

The bodywork is totally new, of course, with more pointed radiator scoops and a different shaped from mudguard being the most noticeable changes. And the aluminium fuel tank is replaced with a more conventional plastic tank which should be lighter.

Want to read our full feature on the new RMZ450? It’s in the latest issue of MotoHead magazine, out now FREE as an App for smartphones and tablets.

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