Honda’s 450 engine is the mildest of the bunch, but has room for modifications. The
simplest one is to cut the green wire leading into the ignition box. The motor really
comes to life, especially if you are going to install an exhaust system.
The Kawasaki EFI-equipped engine likes to revved instead of lugged. It’s the only
powertrain in the group that features a reverse gear, giving it high marks for tight-woods trail riding.
Yamaha’s latest version of their 450 ATV engine has more power than the rest and
is completely usable from down low to the top end. The EFI system makes adding
performance products easy, but Yamaha still recommends adding a fuel tuner for
the best results.
provide the added width to match
up with the rear axles, both of them
worked with the stock shocks. We
probably would have gained some
performance with aftermarket shocks,
but we were happy with the way the
stockers worked, both in the sand and
on the track. All machines were outfitted with FMF exhaust systems for
the track testing as well. To keep all
three machines on an equal playing
field, tire-wise, we equipped each
quad with the same ITP Quadcross
MX tires. They all got 18s in the rear
and 19s up front.
The Kawasaki has a good relationship between seat height and
handlebars when sitting down and
standing up. It’s narrow between the
legs, and its hard seat feels racy. It
doesn’t have as much low-end power
as the others, but if you like to ride
high in the rpm, that’s where it makes
its power. Handling felt good, but the
steering was a bit twitchy with the
stock tires and the track meats. We
left the shocks at full soft after leaving
the dunes, and it felt good without
All three machines are good jumpers.
They are controllable in the air and land
soft. The Yamaha has by far the most
wheel travel, with 9. 8 inches up front
and a full 11 in the back.