We’ve assembled the highest motocross bikes on the earth for Filth Bike Journal’s 2023 450 MX Shootout. Altogether, we examined seven bikes: the GasGas MC450F, Honda CRF450R, Husqvarna FC450, Kawasaki KX450, KTM 450SX-F, Suzuki RM-Z450 and Yamaha YZ450F. It’s a particular time within the sport due to a confluence of know-how, tendencies and present occasions. Final yr’s winner is unchanged, however three others are fully new, and one other is closely up to date. Plus, one bike that had been considerably taken with no consideration has abruptly been rediscovered by the motocross group due to latest occasions and a shift in values. In different phrases, we had no thought which bike would win. For this comparability, all of the bikes have been left inventory, as delivered. That included unique tires, which have been a mixture of Dunlop, Bridgestone and Maxxis. In some instances, we had been driving these bikes for months, and we’re fairly accustomed to them. Others have been newer, however all have been recent for our back-to-back comparisons.
The GasGas comes out of the identical manufacturing unit because the KTM and Husqvarna, however this yr, it’s fully totally different from these two. It’s based mostly on a earlier era, which suggests it has a body and motor just like that of the ’22 KTM 450SX-F. The company plan for the GasGas line is to supply bikes at a lower cost than the others within the group. Other than the MC450F being based mostly on an earlier platform, it has quite a few lower-priced elements. These embody the handlebar, rims, triple clamps and exhaust system. It comes with Maxxis tires and has no map change, though the ECU will settle for one from the ’22 KTM 450SX-F, and that may also allow traction management and launch help. Our bike confirmed up with Brembo brakes, however we all know that some bikes arrive at dealerships with Braktec elements. The entrance suspension is the WP Xact air fork; each ends have softer settings than KTM suspension. The GasGas is the lightest bike within the shootout at 224 kilos with out gasoline. The worth is $10,199.
The Honda CRF450R has average modifications for 2023. In the event you recall, the bike was all new in 2021, but it surely was a rocky debut. That bike was handicapped by a shortened growth time because of the COVID shutdown. In 2022, there have been a couple of band-aids, however the actual modifications come now. The motor has a smaller throttle physique, a narrower intake-port form, an extended consumption funnel and a brand new cam profile. Body-material thickness has been elevated in a number of areas to change flex traits, and metal engine mounts change the aluminum ones. The rear shock spring is stiffer, and the suspension valving has been revised at each ends. The muffler canister can be new. The bike nonetheless includes a hydraulic clutch and a handlebar-mounted map change. You could have three mapping choices. One flash is the usual map, two flashes is delicate, and three flashes is aggressive. It additionally has traction management and launch help. The Honda is the lightest of the Japanese bikes by a small margin. It weighs 233 kilos with out gasoline. The worth is $9599.
The Husky acquired the brand new body and motor updates that the Rockstar Version acquired final yr. Just about the whole lot is totally different from the earlier normal mannequin apart from the air fork, and even that acquired new valving. The body has totally different flex traits, and the motor is repositioned within the body to cut back squat tendencies on acceleration. Most of Husky’s competitors bikes have a decrease seat peak than corresponding KTM fashions due to totally different linkage and a shorter fork. That works out to nearly a 1/2 inch on the lowest level of the seat. It nonetheless makes use of the WP Xact air fork. There are a variety of different gadgets that differentiate the Husky from the KTM—issues just like the ProTaper handlebar, the edges, the bodywork and the airbox. With all of the modifications this yr, the Husqvarna did achieve some weight. With out gasoline, it’s 229 kilos. That’s nonetheless lighter than any of the Japanese bikes. It’s additionally dearer at $10,999.
The Kawasaki is likely one of the bikes that comes into 2023 unchanged. Final yr, Kawasaki positioned first and second in our expanded 450 shootout, which had all of the particular editions, together with the KX450SR. That bike was the eventual winner, and the usual KX was second. Again in 2019, the KX450 arrived with large modifications, together with a brand new motor with a hydraulic clutch and electrical begin. Since then, it has acquired solely minor updates. A type of is the coned-disc spring for the clutch, which is a design just like the one utilized by KTM. It has Showa suspension, Nissin brakes and a Renthal Fatbar. For remapping, Kawasaki makes use of a system of plug-in couplers; three maps come pre-programmed, and you may cook dinner up your individual in case you purchase Kawasaki’s FI calibration equipment for $775. The Kawasaki affords two footpeg positions and 4 handlebar areas. The load is 334 kilos with out gasoline, and the worth is $9599.
The KTM 450SX-F is technically new and fully totally different from the 2022 mannequin, however as with the Husqvarna, we acquired a preview of the brand new motor and chassis within the limited-production Manufacturing facility Version final yr. The brand new body has most of the similar key dimensions because the previous one, however the building is totally totally different. There have been two objectives: to change the flex and to cut back the tendency to squat below acceleration. The brand new map change on the left aspect of the bar has devoted buttons for the aggressive and delicate maps, in addition to traction management and Quickshift. The shock is totally new this yr, whereas the fork remains to be a WP Xact air fork with new valving. In comparison with the Husqvarna, the KTM has a barely taller seat peak and longer-travel suspension. It additionally has a Neken handlebar and totally different bodywork. The load is 229 kilos with out gasoline. The worth is $10,899.
Though the Suzuki RM-Z450 has gone unchanged for a very long time, it’s as viable as ever, and we wouldn’t dream of leaving it out. Ken Roczen apparently agrees, and his determination to trip one in 2023 has drawn renewed consideration to the RM-Z. A few of the know-how is a step behind. The apparent sore level is that the RMZ450 has no electrical begin. It has a cablepull clutch and lacks traction management. Alternatively, the Suzuki comes with a GET programmable ignition, so solely the Yamaha has a extra subtle mapping system. At $8999, it’s essentially the most inexpensive 450 on this group and has a weight of 239 kilos with out gasoline.
There’s no denying that the Yamaha is the star of the present this yr. It’s fully new and a giant query mark for 2023. Solely the design ideas and core rules are unchanged. Yamaha is dedicated to the reverse-cylinder idea that it launched again in 2010. On the digital entrance, Yamaha continues to go down the trail of consumer customization with additional growth of the Yamaha Energy Tuner smartphone app. By way of mechanical elements, although, the 2023 YZ450F is essentially the most radically redesigned bike in a yr that has been outlined by redesigned bikes. Curiously sufficient, Yamaha’s engineers selected to stay with a cable-pull clutch, though a Nissin hydraulic clutch improve equipment is obtainable via Yamaha’s accent division. The YZ misplaced a bit of weight, gained traction management, and acquired skinnier and roomier. In actual numbers, the load loss is 7 kilos, so the YZ is now 232 kilos with out gasoline. The worth is $9799.
MOTOR RANTS AND RANKS
Because the final bike to reach, the Yamaha grew to become the main focus of some intense testing as quickly as potential. A transparent image of how the bikes stack up actually got here into focus as soon as we may trip all of them again to again on the identical tracks. As we suspected, the Yamaha was the winner within the energy division. There’s a fragile steadiness between peak output and energy usability, and Yamaha nailed it. In a straight line with good traction, the Yamaha is hard to beat. It has wonderful peak energy, however past that, it ramps up easily and controllably. Then, on high, it revs out and by no means actually falls flat. It’s simply concerning the excellent package deal for an skilled rider. The wonderful thing about beginning off with a lot energy is that it’s all the time simple to detune a motorcycle if it’s an excessive amount of of a handful. On the Yamaha, that’s particularly simple with the Energy Tuner app.
Subsequent, we like each the KTM and the Husqvarna. They each gained energy this yr and are nonetheless completely controllable. Though we all know they’ve an identical motors, they really feel barely totally different. The KTM hits a bit of more durable and sharper, whereas the Husky appears a bit of smoother. Each have a noticeable distinction between maps one and two. It’s not simply that one is aggressive and the opposite is delicate; they’ve totally different traits and ramp up at totally different revs.
The Kawasaki, GasGas and Suzuki are all sweethearts. All of them have controllable energy that provides you a sense of, “Okay, I acquired this.” The GasGas really makes essentially the most energy of these three. It’s simple to handle however can come throughout as a bit of raspy. It pops and backfires, and also you get the sensation that it would stall. The Kawasaki has essentially the most usable energy of all, simply not that a lot of it. We gotta be frank—all of the 450s make a ton of energy, and only a few individuals want extra. Though the Kawasaki’s peak output is 2 or 3 horsepower lower than among the others, nobody in his proper thoughts would say it’s a handicap. The KX motor generated nothing however reward.
The Suzuki has the bottom peak output of all of them however with manners just like the Kawasaki’s. Everybody likes it, and, in the long run, having rather less energy makes most individuals trip higher. The Suzuki’s solely actual shortcoming is that it doesn’t rev fairly as excessive because the others, forcing you to shift a bit of earlier.
Honda clearly made the most important enchancment since final yr. Earlier than, each rider acquired off the bike, saying it was the quickest however simply too exhausting to handle. Because it turned out, it wasn’t essentially the most highly effective in keeping with the dyno, but it surely felt that means as a result of it had the steepest curve, particularly round 7000 rpm. Now, the facility enhance is extra gradual. The truth is, the 2023 Honda has essentially the most bottom-end torque, however then flattens out. The three maps are helpful, as a result of some riders need extra and others need much less. Nobody felt strongly that any of the three maps was a decisive benefit or drawback.
Likewise, riders actually don’t have sturdy emotions about traction management. 5 of the seven bikes supply it. Check riders don’t all the time discover when it’s engaged. To be truthful, many of the tracks we rode already had good traction. It is perhaps a distinct story within the worst circumstances.
SUSPENSION AND HANDLING
Historically, the Yamaha YZ450 has finished nicely within the suspension division—and it nonetheless does. For driving exhausting on the roughest tracks, the YZ is the bike to have after getting it arrange. However, that isn’t essentially true on reasonably tough tracks or ones with simply mild chop. There, the softer Kawasaki is extra snug. Plus, the Kawasaki is simpler to dial in. When you have it proper for a good, twisty monitor, it’s going to be good for a quick, sweeping monitor, too. The Yamaha is hard to get proper—though that is much less about suspension compliance than about total dealing with. Initially, we had the rear suspension sag set at 96mm, which was good in tighter stuff however a bit of nervous at pace. Then, we went to a extra relaxed 103mm however struggled with frontwheel traction. We additionally tried various fork heights. Every rider discovered a favourite recipe, however no two have been precisely alike.
The Husky and KTM have a goodnews/bad-news story within the total dealing with division. The excellent news for each is that they flip like magic. They all the time did, however the brand new chassis is extra secure when you’re established within the flip. You don’t understand that suspension squat below acceleration is such a adverse issue till it’s gone, or at the very least diminished. The dangerous information is that the brand new chassis makes the suspension really feel harsh on each bikes. The air fork, specifically, appears to have gone backwards. It’s nonetheless infinitely adjustable, in fact, however you by no means get the consolation degree that you simply had with the previous body. We do know that as the brand new chassis will get extra time, it will get extra compliant. The GasGas has the previous body, but it surely’s paired with a lot softer suspension settings. Most riders really feel it’s a bit of too gentle for aggressive driving. Once you combine the gentle suspension with the flexier body and the softer energy supply, it’s obvious that the GasGas is designed extra for novices and novices than intermediates and execs.
The Honda feels prefer it was designed for Supercross. It has a fast-handling chassis that turns sharp and steers simply. It’s so responsive that some riders even say it’s a bit of nervous. The rear suspension is far improved this yr, so it’s extra secure than it was as soon as it’s located in a flip. Total, in truth, the suspension on the Honda is nice—maybe not as comfortable as on the Kawasaki, however undoubtedly extra compliant than the Yamaha. You continue to should deliver your A sport to get essentially the most out of the Honda. It’s a racer, not a cruiser.
It’s attention-grabbing that the Suzuki was as soon as thought of a fast-handling bike. It clearly influenced the opposite bikes within the class; they’re all extra Suzuki-like than ever. So right this moment, the RM-Z450 is extra center of the highway. It nonetheless turns nicely, though it’s not the cut-and-thrust bike it as soon as was, at the very least not by comparability. It really is likely one of the extra secure bikes at pace. The one shortcoming within the dealing with division is suspension that’s too stiff for the common rider.
THE GRAND VIEW
So, the place does that go away us? We hate to sound like we’re caught on repeat, however as soon as once more the Kawasaki KX450 got here out on high. It isn’t the quickest, lightest or finest turning, however it’s the most confidence-inspiring bike within the group. On this case, going unchanged in all probability performed to its benefit, too. The others are nonetheless figuring out setup and particulars, whereas the KX450 is previous all that.
Second is the brand new Yamaha YZ450F. There’s little question that this bike is a greater machine than final yr’s. It’s sooner, lighter and extra snug. The adjustability that the Yamaha Energy Tuner brings to the desk makes it a tricky bike to beat. At this level, we nonetheless should work out steadiness and setup points. It’s oh-so shut.
Subsequent, we have now the Husqvarna FC450. Sure, we all know that it’s nearly the identical bike because the KTM, but it surely will get the nod as a result of there have been sufficient riders who felt the decrease seat peak was a bonus, and most preferred the smoother energy supply. Some additionally stated the Husky was extra snug due to the ProTaper handlebar.
The KTM formally will get fourth, however extra aggressive riders would possibly like its sharper energy supply and longer suspension journey. Let’s be actual, although. The KTM is so shut in efficiency to the Husky that it actually comes right down to which bike you assume appears higher.
That brings us to the GasGas, which many individuals say is the best-looking motocross bike in the marketplace. We love the truth that the GasGas is really totally different from the KTM and Husky this yr. Loads of riders just like the previous chassis higher, and there’s little question that the GasGas is a extra applicable bike for the informal fanatic.
The Honda is a bit of irritating, as a result of it actually ought to do higher than sixth place. Each sore level has been addressed. It’s quick and aggressive, and the suspension is genuinely good. In fact, its solely actual fault is that it’s nonetheless quite a lot of bike for the common rider regardless of the a lot improved energy supply.
Does the Suzuki actually belong in final place? Ken Roczen did his personal shootout within the low season, and the RM-Z received. In inventory kind, it’s a aggressive, inexpensive bike for newbie racing. Clearly, it may be aggressive on the highest ranges as nicely. It’s additional proof that every one the bikes within the 2023 450 class are able to profitable. Some simply make it simpler.
For extra particulars on the Pro Circuit 2023 450 MX dyno test, click here.