As of right now, the Yamaha
YFZ450R is the best new sport 450 you
can buy. While other manufacturers have migrated away from sport
quads, Yamaha has remained committed to the sport. The YZF450 continues to evolve and change, getting
more refined every year. There isn’t
just one Yamaha 450; there are several very different versions that have
been sold since 2004. All of them have
the five-valve, DOHC, liquid-cooled,
motocross-bred motor, but in different
packages. The original YFZ450 had a
steel frame and a carburetor and was
only available in a 46-inch width.
The YFZ450R and YFZ450X followed
and were more specialized. The X
was aimed at cross-country, and the
R was 49 inches wide for track riding
and racing. In 2008 Yamaha came
out with a new chassis that had both
aluminum and steel members, as
well as Mikuni fuel injection. Two
years ago, Yamaha brought back
the steel-frame model and priced it
to compete with the 400s from Suzuki
and Honda. That model isn’t in the
line for 2014, but dealers are said to
have them still.
WHY IT’S SO GOOD
When Yamaha came out with the
2004 YFZ, it changed everything. It
was the first sport ATV with a real
racing engine since the old days of
two-strokes. In performance, it surpassed everything on the market, and
it had such luxuries as an electric
starter. Every year since then it has
received attention—some years more
than others. That’s why it currently
wears the crown of the best 450 sport
quad in 2014.
HOW TO MAKE IT BETTER
There’s nothing that the Yamaha
needs before it can be ridden hard
and fast. But, depending on the ver-
sion, it can reach higher levels yet. The
carbureted versions benefited greatly
from being unplugged. An aftermarket
exhaust is number one on the wish
list. If you do that, then some other
easy modifications will bring out more
power. A 170 main jet and a 48 pilot
with the airbox lid removed would
allow more fuel in. Depending on the
year and the state where it was orig-
inally sold, the Keihin carb can have
several needles. On the later-model
fixed needles, you can move the wash-
er below the clip to allow more fuel.
For the R fuel-injected model, there
are several piggyback EFI modifiers
available. Most are made by the same
company (Dobeck Performance) but
sold under different names with proprietary programming. We’ve had
very good luck with Trinity, JD Jetting
and Wiseco. They sell for around $230.
Yoshimura and Dynojet make their
own fuel modifiers.
At the most elite racing levels, some
riders modify the Yamaha’s steering
geometry with front spindles transplanted from the Suzuki LTR450.
Another common competition accessory is the Hinson BTL (slipper) clutch,
which limits engine braking.
You can still buy the Yamaha new,
which, oddly enough, raises the value
of the machine on the used market.
A brand new one sells for $8799. An
Internet search in the Phoenix area
came up with three carbureted versions in the $3000 range and one 2013
R model for $7699.
Today, the Yamaha YFZ450 is the
king of the sport 450s. Yamaha keeps
refining it year after year.
We’ll probably look back on this as
sort of a frosty period. Economic conditions have slowed the development
of new quads. The good news is that
there are still truly great sport ATVs
readily available, both new and used.
The tremendous development of the
2000s gave us some great machines
that will stand tall for a very long time.
Here we’ve gathered the 10 machines
that stand the tallest of all.
SPORT QUAD ALMANAC