We raced a stock 2024 Yamaha YZ450F to see how it stacks up against the competition in a race to give us a real world test.
We headed to the Memorial Weekend at Lake Macquarie Motorcycle Club a two day event run to honour fallen riders from the Newcastle/Hunter region and to race a stock 2024 Yamaha YZ450F to see how it goes. This event has been running for more than twenty years originally called the Daniel Mason Memorial. These days the event unfortunately has had several names added to the list that includes Cameron Menil, Matthew Sclosa, Tyrone Gilks, Mitch Hoad and Chad Reed’s own father Mark Reed.
It’s not just your average motocross event, it is all about honouring and remembering our fallen which creates an atmosphere unlike any other race I’ve been to in thirty years.
The track was groomed well with plenty of sand and water so it started off soft and boggy on day one. Practice started with a slow lap under yellow flags followed by two laps to set a time for qualifying. Not the typical qualifying session I am used to, luckily I know the track well and was able to put a lap together that qualified me for second pick on the start grid for the first race.
Race one went off with a bit of pushing and shoving and a big crash in the first turn with a red flag and a restart. Luckily I wasn’t involved and pulled the holeshot on the restart. What I had not anticipated was my two main competitors were Newcastle royalty, Craig “Ando” Anderson and Danny “Digs” Anderson, two brothers that were born to race motorcycles. Ando is one of the most decorated motocross races our country with thirteen national titles and Digs had a very successful junior career which followed across to racing for many major teams in Australia including the now defunct JDR race team.
Both are very talented and much respected riders and they brought an intensity to the race that I was not anticipating. They both passed me quickly and after a few back and forward passes with Ando I managed to drive my marbles into the seat when I tried to jump out wide and make a pass back up the hill. The line I chose was soft and the bike came to a sudden stop and my jewels hit the front of the seat so hard it popped the front section out and left it on the track. I spent the next few laps trying to decide if I wanted to pass out or throw up in my helmet.
The second race I pulled another holeshot and now knowing the intensity the Anderson’s were going to bring I tried to drop the hammer from the first lap. Unable to shake them but doing enough to keep them behind me I stayed in front all the way until another red flag. Unfortunately on the restart I ran too wide and got bogged down in the mud which left the door wide open for Digs to pass me up the inside. Then when trying to counter a pass on the inside I tucked the front wheel and went down leaving myself to fight back through the pack to end day one.
Day two started out for me with another holeshot with a wire to wire win. Lucky for me Ando and Digs got into passing each other back and forward behind me which gave me enough of a buffer to run all the way to the finish for the win. Race two was another holeshot but this time the two Anderson’s had realised with them both being on 250’s they weren’t going to outrun me down the start straight. Instead they lined it up so they were on the inside going into turn two with me on the outside and left me no room but to concede to them as they both snuck up my inside.
Ando led this one all the way with Digs giving me a free pass when he went down on an over watered berm right in front of me. Ando was just too far in front and was doing just enough so I wouldn’t catch him. Digs was hanging it out on his YZ250 two-stroke but just ran out of laps to catch me before the finish.
What Did We Learn?
Initially when I rode the 24 YZ450F I knew it was fast and easy to get traction on but it’s not until I got it on the race track that I could really tell how well it hooked up and put that power to the ground. In all honesty, it feels unfair to everybody else. All I had to do was twist the throttle and the bike did everything else. Out of the gate I just gripped on and turned the throttle.
Even if I didn’t get the best jump I could just turn the throttle and the bike would drive and track perfectly all the way to the first corner bike lengths ahead of everyone else. Yamaha have put a lot of effort into the mapping to tame the power of the engine and make it easy to get traction. Not once all weekend did I feel I needed to change the mapping. It’s smooth and predictable and very easy to use which actually feels odd to write about a Yamaha because in the past they have been anything but easy to control.
Suspension wise the only thing I did before the race was set the sag to 105mm. Throughout the day though I did end up five clicks harder on the compression both front and rear. In testing I never felt the need to adjust the suspension. On the race track when it got rough I wanted it to hold up better and felt it needed to be stiffer so it didn’t travel so much through the stroke and wallow in the rear. This is something I never had any issue with in testing but in racing it was clear when the track got rough I needed to go stiffer.
The steering of the YZ450F is perfection. I never had drama getting into any tight lines or ruts at all. It tips into ruts very well which again has not been something we have said about the YZ450F in the past. Overall the 24 YZ450F is an excellent package and is a very easy bike to race. Nothing needs to be done with the engine. If anything you might need to fine tune the suspension or change springs if you are a lightweight.
I find it hard to complain about this bike at all to be honest, especially after I have already labelled it as the best production bike I have ever ridden but there were a few things that popped up over the weekend. The stock chain stretched every moto and needed to be readjusted. The gold chain looks good but I’m not sure it has a long life in it.
The clutch needs to be hydraulic. The action works very well and it’s not too heavy but it does get excessive play in it doing race starts. I would need to adjust it on the start line so that when it got hot there wasn’t excessive play and I could still operate the clutch correctly on the track. While I only lost the front section of the seat once and I did happen to drive my berries into it at full speed to knock it loose I think we might see race teams using a bolt to secure this part of the seat rather than the dzus clip that currently holds it in place. It would just be a safety precaution as it’s quite uncomfortable to sit on once you lose that front part of the seat.
Lastly, the grips. I did happen to change them to a set of lock on grips before the race as the stock ones are made from Dunlop tyres and would have given me blisters .I’m a mechanic with calloused hands so you office workers might want to change them sooner rather than later or your delicate hands will get ripped to shreds.