2022 Vital MX 450 Shootout 8

2022 Honda CRF450R vs Kawasaki KX450 vs. Yamaha YZ450F vs. Suzuki RM-Z450 vs. Husqvarna FC 450 vs. KTM 450 SX-F vs. GasGas MC450F

2022 Vital MX 450 Shootout

Welcome to the 2022 Vital MX 450 Motocross Shootout. This is Vital's largest 450 shootout to date with a total of seven machines in contention! Pretty cool, and before all you grumps start rolling your eyes because three of the bikes are owned by the same company, as you'll see and hear from all of our testers, they are very different motorcycles. 

Because of disruptions in production and R&D schedules over the last two years, there are no major changes to any of the premier class racers for 2022, but that doesn't mean that they are all the same bikes. Starting with the BNG bikes (bold new graphics) the Suzuki RM-Z450, Kawasaki KX450, KTM 450 SX-F, Husqvarna FC 450 and GASGAS MC 450F all return without any significant changes. Honda has updated the ECU mapping and valving on the CRF450R and Yamaha slimmed down the rear wheel and drive train aimed at reducing unsprung weight, with suspension changes to match.

We had two full days of testing, the first being at the iconic Glen Helen Raceway. Elevation changes and long, fast sections are great for testing the power character of each motor while, at the end of the day, the roughness, braking bumps, acceleration chop, and square-edge holes put suspension through it's paces. Next, because of tracks being closed for rain, we headed to a sandy hill-track (AKA Viney Ranch) that ended up being perfectly watered. Here we had a tighter layout with more turns, still some elevation change, and plenty of rollers (both on the straights and some sweeping turns) to keep us on our toes. 

As you'll see as you get past the dyno and weight charts, we have a wide variety of testers with everything from vet C speed to current pro. We also have light-and-small to big-and-tall. We'd suggest to read through everyone's comments because different things are more important to different riders and the 'winning bike' or the 'last place' bike might/might not be the bike for you. 

Contenders

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2022 GASGAS MC 450F

MSRP: $9,599 (up $200 from last year)

Specs

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2022 Honda CRF450R

MSRP: $9,599 (no change from last year)

Specs

First Impression 

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2022 Husqvarna FC 450

MSRP: $10,399 (up $100 from last year)

Specs

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2022 Kawasaki KX450

MSRP: $9,799 (up $400 from last year)

Specs

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2022 KTM 450 SX-F

MSRP: $10,299 (up $100 from last year)

Specs

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2022 Suzuki RM-Z450

MSRP: $8,999 (no change from last year)

Specs

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2022 Yamaha YZ450F

MSRP: $9,599 (up $200 from last year)

Specs

First Impression



Dyno Charts

Horsepower

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Torque

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HP and Torque rankings

Bike

HP

Torque (ft-lb)

1. 

Honda CRF450R 55.67 @9350 RPM 34.8 @8200 RPM

2. 

Yamaha YZ450F 55.49 @9650 RPM 33.9 @7450 RPM

3. 

KTM 450 SX-F 55.19 @9050 RPM 33.8 @7500 RPM

4. 

Kawasaki KX450 54.90 @9550 RPM 34.0 @8000 RPM

5. 

GASGAS MC 450F 54.74 @9500 RPM 33.2 @7700 RPM

6. 

Husqvarna FC 450  54.11 @9000 RPM 33.2 @7900 RPM

7. 

Suzuki RM-Z450 49.71 @8750 RPM 32.6 @7700 RPM

Weights (Tank Full) In Descending Order

Bike Overall Weight Front Bias Rear Bias
1.  KTM 450 SX-F 234 lb 113 lb 121 lb
2. GAGAS MC 450F 234 lb 114 lb  120 lb
3. Husqvarna FC 450  235 lb 114 lb 121 lb
4. Honda CRF450R 241 lb 118 lb 123 lb
5. Kawasaki KX450 244 lb 119 lb 125 lb
6. Yamaha YZ450F 246 lb 119 lb 127 lb
7. Suzuki RM-Z450 251 lb 121 lb 130 lb

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Results

Bike Total Michael Lindsay Jacob Hayes Derek Caskey Sean Klinger Shelby Paget Matix Soto
1.  Yamaha 10 1 3 1 1 3 1
2.  GASGAS 13 2 1 5 2 1 2
3. KTM 18 3 2 3 4 2 4
4. Honda 27 5 4 4 3 5 6
5. Kawasaki 28 4 5 2 6 6 5
6. Husqvarna 30 6 6 6 5 4 3
7. Suzuki 42 7 7 7 7 7 7


Video Edition

For those that like it short and sweet, check out this video for the results and quick overview. If you want the nitty-gritty from all of our test riders, keep scrolling for all their notes below.

 

Test Rider Notes

Michael Lindsay

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Age: 29
Height: 5’ 8”
Weight: 185 lb
Class: 25+ Expert

1. Yamaha YZ450F
2. GASGAS MC 450F
3. KTM 450 SX-F
4. Kawasaki KX450
5. Honda CRF450R
6. Husqvarna FC450
7. Suzuki RM-Z450

1) Yamaha YZ450F

Over the past seven or eight years I've done shootouts, the Yamaha has been up and down the ranks for me. But, as of late, it's so hard to deny that this bike shines for me in all conditions. And what that really comes down to is the fact that three of the main components of this motorcycle just work for me. 

Number one is of course that thing that's turned around backwards on this bike, the engine! (Okay, it's only the head and cylinder that's turned around, but you know what I mean) It just has grunt everywhere, low...mid...top...it has it all for me. And on top of that, the power tuner gives me the ability to nearly transform this thing from a fire breathing monster that I'll loop out on, to a mellow, hard-pack-loving machine. It's a tractor down low and it puts the power to the ground in such an impressive manor, I'm generally surprised sometimes at how quickly I've reached the next corner. In stock trim, I will admit, I don't find myself going above 80% throttle opening very often unless it's truly deep or loamy, as I can't find the "cajones" to let it rip. Yamaha's "Magic" map had just enough of a calmer character to increase my aggressiveness from section to section, while keeping the great off-throttle roll character of the base map. 

Suspension wise, I really barely touched anything. I mean, honestly, I didn't change a fork clicker at either track we tested on. I tried some balance related stuff front and rear, but no clicker changes on the forks. I couldn't find a reason to even touch them. Shock-wise, I tried a little softer high speed and a little stiffer, but for the most part it was to accommodate track-to-track conditions. In stock trim, meaning stock fork height and 102-ish sag, the bike was a tick tall under braking and a little nervous in some areas. We raised the fork 2mm in the clamps but also dropped the sag around 5mm and I was impressed. The front end was planted but not nervous anymore, and the rear was right where I wanted it to be under acceleration and deceleration. 

Finally, the third item of the amazing combo...the chassis. No, it doesn't have the sharp turn in character of the KTM, or the super planted front feel of the Honda or Suzuki, but it's balanced. It's easy to rear steer with that amazing engine, but it also has just enough front grip to confidently get where I need it to go. But most of all, this thing has such a wide window of operation, or track toughness, it's just solid wherever we take it. The chassis has the right amount of comfort but rigidity to keep it feeling consistent track-to-track, and I never find myself needing to change the setup to adapt it to the track.

My only real drawback with the Yamaha is the ergos. Even though I'm medium height with shorter legs, the footpegs are a bit too close to the seat. Along with that, the bars in the front triple clamp hole, which is the stock setting, is horrendous for my short T-Rex arms. It takes a little fiddling to get it where I want it in terms of rider triangle and I'd love to try a lower set of pegs one of these days. She's not the tiniest feeling between the legs, but she isn't the pig she once was. Keep it up, Yamaha… keep it up.

2) GASGAS MC 450F

This bike was honestly the shocker of the shootout for me. Being out of media testing for around a year and half or so, I missed the intro on this machine and wasn't sure what to totally expect. I hadn't watched a single video or review on it, trying to keep myself completely fresh for when I got my opportunity. And yes, it did impress.

As many of you know, this bike is the Austrian group's fun and cheaper option. It's cheaper due to the rims, clamps, tire, etc...etc.. (you've probably heard this enough) and all these cheaper options actually turned out to be my favorite part of the bike. It took the racey/aggressive character of the KTM, and mellowed it out just enough to add a bit more enjoyment to my motos. The overall ergos of the bike are aggressive and the suspension loves to be pushed harder and harder. The engine however is so linear and broad. Nothing special at any point, but just enough everywhere to keep things entertaining. Honestly, I'd almost label it as an overpowered 350. It was lacking a little overall output when it came to the big hills and straight aways of Glen Helen, and the deeper sand corners of Viney Ranch, but it was just enough everywhere else.

The chassis had the same sharp response as it's orange brethren, but due to those cheaper changes mentioned above, it added a bit of comfort I was looking for. Especially up front, where the KTM or Husky just have a harsh/rigid character that never seems to quite go away, no matter how many fork changes I make.

3) KTM 450 SX-F

The original Austrian machine was quite enjoyable for me this year. The tag-line “Ready to Race” really nails a few qualities of the machine for me, most notably the chassis and suspension setup. In this regard, I felt like this bike was the most rewarding of the group to charge on, be aggressive, brake deep, and throw it into obstacles. It wasn’t the most comfortable at times, but it held it’s composure and had the most control on the steep downhills, big roller sections or G-out holes at the end of the day. 

The suspension had great hold up and overall consistent/predictable action that gave me the confidence to try things first on the KTM that I wasn’t on other bikes. However, no matter what I did to the suspension, it just didn’t have the comfort of the Yamaha or Kawasaki. I feel like what I was missing was just a little give in the chassis, mostly the front-end of the bike. As I mentioned on the GASGAS, it had what this bike didn't have in that regard. I think the stock KTM triple clamps are just a wee bit too rigid and a little more give from this area really helps that comfort for me. Changes-wise, I ended up 0.2 bar higher in fork pressure and played with the compression clickers a little depending on the track. As for the shock, I was fairly happy, just going a little slower on rebound to settle it in certain places.

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The KTM engine, as with all the Austrian machines, is linear and broad. Albeit, the most reactive of the three with a little quicker RPM pickup when needed. I would say the GASGAS has a little smoother transition from low-to-mid range, where the KTM transfers between the two a little too harshly. The first map lasted longer across the RPM range, where map two was more a bit more pickup initially, more linear in the low-to-mid transition, but revved out quicker than map one.

Overall, the KTM has a very aggressive ergo package, chassis and suspension combo but an engine that’s fairly mellow in comparison. It makes for a package that’s rewarding to push yourself on, but overall lack of comfort in a few places and lack of connection in the engine at times dragged it down the rankings for me just a bit.

4) Kawasaki KX450

Well, being about 30 pounds heavier than the last time I did this test really took its toll on the stock Kawasaki KX450. In my prior, lighter trim, the stock forks weren't all that bad. Yes, they weren't very speed sensitive but I could make enough balance changes to get weight off the front and get it working the way I'd like. In current times, the front just doesn't have enough hold up at speed to keep the control over the bike I'd like. By going stiffer, things improved but I felt like I needed more recovery from the fork between large hits. If I went faster on rebound, things like Glen Helen's downhill and fast braking sections got better. In low-speed sections however, it lost comfort and didn't feel as planted. Out back, I ran 107mm of sag after starting at 105mm. Going to 107-108 feels a tick low, but the Kawi's natural rear steer nature supports it well. On top of that, the shock is noticeably stiffer then the forks, so it handles the extra pressure. With this balance I was happy with the overall handling characteristics of the bike. It's not the fastest on corner turn in but rolls and carry's its momentum well through the middle of the corner, helping my riding style the most.

I love the Kawasaki's engine, it feels very free and has a great initial connection, snap. Not too much, but it just feels so connected to my wrist, like the bike reacts to every bit of throttle input I give it. This makes it easy to ride at all RPMs, as the bike always picks up and moves. And on deceleration, it has excellent roll character as well. However, on the big hills and in the sand, it becomes a bit obvious that the Kawasaki is just a little down on output when compared to the competition. I could enact some of the largest throttle openings on the Kawi without getting into trouble, but I also found myself near or at wide open more often that almost any bike in the test.

This bike gave me the most positive connection from my feet and lower legs, giving me the best grip when standing no matter where I was on the bike. I LOVE standing through corners and feeling that connection. In prior years, I didn't like the sitting position on the Kawasaki due to the stock, taller bars. But the more recent Fatbar they swapped to, is just a tick lower and puts me in a more race position when sitting in corners. Really balancing out the rider triangle for my size.

Controls? The front brake on the Kawasaki is powerful but just a tick off the range of usability of the Brembos or the Honda's caliper but the pure braking strength is there. However, I still can't stand the 250mm rear rotor, as I had to be careful to not drag it even in the slightest as it gets hot in a flash or just locks easily. As for the hydraulic clutch on the Kawasaki? It's my favorite hydro in the class, it just has the most cable like engagement and throw for me. 

I really struggled to put the Kawi fourth, third was on my mind but I had to be honest with myself. There are things I like about the Kawi more than any bike in the test, but its got some drawbacks out of the box that are harder to live with. The biggest compliment I can give this bike though, is that for me, the track toughness on this machine is on par if not better than the Yamaha. I feel like the chassis is so comfortable and once I find the right setup on this bike, it works almost anywhere.

5) Honda CRF450R

This was another tough decision for me, as I honestly believe Honda’s latest generation chassis and design direction is overall better than the last gen, at least for me. However, it just doesn’t quite feel dialed in yet, out of the box. Starting off with the good, Honda maintains possibly the most perfect rider triangle. You hear people say it, a Honda just feels comfortable when you get on it. The newest gen chassis maintains the playful and nimble character found on the past few CRFs, giving you a little extra confidence or nudge to throw it around and be aggressive. Lastly, I love the CRF’s front brake (when bled properly), as their production Nissin caliper matches a design character of the works billet caliper by having two different piston sizes. Giving better modulation and overall strong braking power.

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The engine is overall stout from mid-to-top, but a lot more mellow off the bottom than the prior generation. Almost too mellow at times, as it goes from a soft feeling down low, then ramps up quickly as the mid range comes on. The “dirty” feeling stock mapping doesn't help this transition much. Don’t get me wrong, the mapping is better than last year, but it’s still not fantastic. I’d love for it to be a bit better connected down low, and just a tick more grunt to pull more evenly into the mid range. Mapping wise, I found myself mostly in map two, the mellow one, and riding the bike aggressively as I liked how it pulled mid-to-top in this map and it worked well coming off the bottom in second gear. In this map, however, it wouldn’t pull third through corners without a decent amount of clutch input. Map three would allow me to pull third in corners with less difficulty, but the bike became quite raspy sounding and went through the power too quickly for my taste in this map.

Setup-wise, the bike is more balanced than last year but it’s lacking a bit of comfort. I ended up a little low on sag, around 106mm area with the forks flush to finish getting the last bit of balance I needed, but then I had to tackle the fork. I went stiffer to eliminate the initial dive it had, which kept putting me into a harsh spot of the travel, and it helped my control of the bike but it still lacked comfort in the choppier parts of the tracks. As for the rear, it was a bit busy in stock trim, so I ended up going a bit softer on high-speed compression and just a little slow on rebound. So technically, I went with the ole Carmichael additage “low and slow, low and slow!” There was still decent comfort on this end of the bike but it was so much more settled like this.

Ultimately, the CRF has some serious positives but it’s one of the most sensitive motorcycles I’ve ever tried to dial in. When you nail it, it’s so rewarding, but sometimes the chase just isn’t worth it.

6) Husqvarna FC 450

The Husqvarna has won a shootout or two for me in the past due to it’s usually easy-to-ride nature. And I understand that the latest round of changes is to keep going in that direction but for me personally, it was the opposite. I struggled with the lower suspension on the Husky. Most of my changes were related to going stiffer, pushing forks farther out, going taller, just trying to get the bike up higher in the stroke. In stock trim, it felt low and cushy when cruising around, but as soon as I pushed my pace it got even lower and the comfort went away. 

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With the changes I made, it felt closer to the KTM or GASGAS, but just wasn’t the same and my confidence wasn’t quite the same with it as the other bikes. The ergos were a bit odd on this bike, the low bar is almost too low when in conjunction with the already low feeling bike. The connection from my legs to the side of the bike isn’t as good as it is on the red and orange machine either. Something about the plastic design on this one leads to my legs slipping more. 

As for the engine, the Husky is insanely broad and every gear feels like it lasts forever! On the downside, the gears last FOREVER. It’s smooth power but it revs a bit slowly. This could be a positive for some as the power is extremely easy to use and tractable, but when I needed it to pick up quickly and build some RPMs in sand corners or on the hills of Glen Helen, I just couldn’t figure it out. The Husky has positives, but it frustrated me more than any other machine in this year’s shootout.

7) Suzuki RM-Z450

Ahh the Suzuki… Well, let's get started. The engine has received minor updates over the years, so it's not too shabby. It's fairly stout off the bottom and has good mid range, it just doesn't like high RPM. The RM-Z does have a smooth transmission, making it easy to short shift and keep it in the meat of the torque. However, it just doesn't make as much up top as the other machines in the test and when you do get it zinging up there, it has a heavier inertia feel than the others. On small, tight tracks and medium sized tracks, I don't mind the power overall, but open tracks are where it shows its age. Once you're trying to ring out third gear and load it for a long period of time in fourth, I felt where it really missed compared to the competition.

The RM-Z's ergos are comfortable and easy to adapt to. Over the years, Suzuki hasn't gone crazy with geometry, so the bike doesn't feel weird to sit on or adjust to. For me, keeping the RM-Z in a higher gear when coming into corners made a huge difference in control and wear on the body. On this generation, I find 108mm of sag or so is preferred for me and adjusting the fork height track-to-track to get the balance I needed. Running the sag on the lower side helped keep the rear more compliant and not as active feeling, along with slowing down the turn-in response on the bike. The Suzuki is so planted and has enough front-end traction that for my style on the bike, I find myself constantly oversteering or turning down too abruptly in corners. Even struggling with the bike climbing out of turns early, thus my lower rear stance with this machine.

Suspension-wise, the bike isn't the most comfortable out of the box. After getting the balance more in the range I was looking for, my go-to on the Suzuki is typically speeding up the forks a little and going a little stiffer to keep it from diving/hitting that harsh point in the stroke too quickly. Once the suspension action is up to par, the bike lacks a little comfort compared to the rest of the class due to the overall rigid character of the machine.

So where does the Suzuki sit as a choice? It's at the bottom of my list but there are still good things here. I think the number one is the time this bike has been around in terms of parts, there's a lot available out there and plenty of things to upgrade it with/play with. Overall though, Suzukis best point is the planted front feel and loaded turn in, it's just not something that I need as much as other qualities. For me, I sit far enough forward on a bike in a corner I can get nearly anything to pivot and plant when needed. I look more for a bike that can follow the ground comfortably through fast/open corners as that's my personal fault. As you can see by changes above, I'm constantly trying to calm down how a Suzuki reacts thus meaning it's probably not the ideal bike for me.


Sean Klinger

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Age: 35
Height: 5’ 7”
Weight: 180 lb
Class: Vet Expert

1. Yamaha YZ450F
2. GASGAS MC 450F
3. KTM 450 SX-F
4. Kawasaki KX450
5. Honda CRF450R
6. Husqvarna FC450
7. Suzuki RM-Z450

1) Yamaha YZ450F

One word to describe the YZ450F? Versatility. Starting with the power, the engine in the ‘stock’ mapping is insanely responsive and crisp. It's the most free-revving and lively motor of all the bikes, along with having what seemed to be a little less engine-braking as well. There's a torque feeling that's hard to beat and the throttle response is as good as it gets. If it feels like it's a little too much or revs out too fast for a particular track or your riding style, all you have to do is pull out your phone and you can change the power characteristic dramatically. Sometimes, it's honestly like having five engines in one.  

The suspension has also been a highlight for the YZ-F for years and this year is no different. There were minor suspension changes for the 2022 bike and I feel that it is a little more lively than last year’s setting. Like I get a little more of an active feel making it super intuitive to pop over braking bumps or connect rollers or things like that. However, at the end of the day at GH when it was rough AF, I wanted to calm everything down. The Yamaha guys suggested not only slowing down the suspension but lowering the whole bike. They raised the fork 2mm and went to 108mm sag (dropped 3mm) which really changed the whole ride feel. It was much more relaxed and perhaps not as nimble feeling, but handled better in the rougher conditions. 

The only con I have for the Yamaha is that most of the other bikes feel a tiny bit slimmer and lighter. Not that the YZ-F feels big or heavy, just that the other machines, especially the Honda, went on diet. 

2) GASGAS MC 450F

Even though this bike is almost the complete opposite of the Yamaha I love it as well, just for different reasons. While the YZ-F could be changed in a bunch of ways to suit any preference or track style, the GG works great at any track without any changes needed. The one word I’d use for the whole MC 450F package is comfort. Top to bottom, the bike is so smooth and comfortable to ride that you just ride it confidently and fast. 

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The GG makes power like all the Austrian bikes (chill bottom end, strong mid, revs to the moon) but with the different exhaust and non-vented airbox, the output is mellowed out in a good way. I could be so much more lazy and imprecise with the throttle and not pay for my lack of control. Just like all the pro mechanics saying “It’s not about making more power on a 450, it’s about making controllable power” and that is just what the MC has. And, don’t interpret this as slow, because it isn’t. It still has good throttle response and revs pretty quick. 

The suspension was soft for even my vet C moto speed, but not by much. I stiffened the fork and shock compression and also slowed the rebound down front and rear for a little more hold up and control. But the best part of this bike is that I could get more control without losing comfort, which can happen on the other machines. Handling wise, the lightweight feel and forgiving chassis makes the GG so easy to throw around and fun to ride in any conditions. I had confidence in corners and it was super predictable with or without a lot of traction. The Maxxis front tire isn’t great but it was consistent so you can get used to it easily. Overall, a bike that I just wanted to keep riding. 

3) Honda CRF450R

I was injured last shootout so this is the first time I’m riding this generation of the CRF450R. In that respect, I’m comparing it to the previous generation Honda, not the 2021 model. The reason this bike is so high in the rankings for me is how much more fun it is to ride compared to the 2020 bike. That comes down to a really slim, nimble, agile, light-feeling chassis, good handling characteristics, and quick, snappy power that isn’t too much. 

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I didn’t notice any ‘dirty’ feeling with the mapping that some testers said was still there. I think the motor has a playful snap that isn’t a torque monster and doesn’t rev as far as the Austrian bikes, but is completely fine for my riding. Plus, the rev response is better than the Austrian bikes. For example, when hitting the finish line jump at GH, the day we were there it had a little step right at the bottom of the face of the jump so you had to sort of float over that then get on the gas hard just on the second half of the jump face. On the KTM/GG/Husky, I had a harder time clearing while on the Honda (and Yamaha and Kawi) I could get more of a mid-range snap. 

The fork was a little confusing but I got it working pretty good. At first the initial part of the stroke seemed way too soft and I would drop immediately into the midstroke. We firmed up the compression and slowed down the rebound as well. This helped and I got the performance I was after, but this fork didn’t have the comfort as the GG or Yamaha. At the sand track, I really like the way the bike handled with the fork flush with the clamps (lowered 5mm) and I stiffened the rear HS and opened up the rebound on the shock. This gave be a good balance of stability and cornering. Overall, the light weight-feel of the bike really improved the handling for me.

4) KTM 450 SX-F

It was hard for me to decide whether to put the KTM or Honda in 3rd place. To be honest, the new Honda feels a little bit like a Japanese KTM if that makes sense. You might be wondering why the GG would be above the KTM and the main reason is comfort. Not that the SX-F isn’t comfortable, but the GG is just more so. 

Powerwise the SX-F has more of a hit than the other two Austrian bikes but it still makes more power in the mid-to-top than the bottom end, and when I’m riding a 450, I want the option to go full vet spode-mode and leave it third the entire track. You still can on the KTM, but it is more fun to ride that way on the Japanese bikes. 

I went the other way with the fork than I did with the GG by softening the compression two clicks to get a little more dive and bite from the front end. I also went stiffer in the rear to get more hold up and balance the bike out. The main thing about the KTM is that I love the ergos (flat neutral seat, thin/light feel, open rider triangle) but they are the same on the GG and Husky and I was much more comfortable right off the bat on the GASGAS so I just have a hard time finding a reason to want to pick this bike over that one. Plus, though this bike has the map switch and traction control, which on paper gives it more adjustability and extras, the GASGAS doesn’t and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. 

5) Husqvarna FC 450

The 10mm shorter suspension is something that looks good on paper and makes sense from a marketing standpoint, to differentiate the FC from the MC and SX-F but in reality, it hurts the performance of the bike.  It seems to me that power-wise, the FC is somewhere between the SX-F and GG, which is totally fine. It's still a 450 making a ton of power, and if you like to ring your bike out, this bike would make you happy. Personally, I don’t like to ride 450s that way, so I tend to want something more like the Yamaha in terms of power. 

The lowered suspension did help me turn the bike. This is something that makes sense and for those riders looking at which Austrian bike to buy, and they need help in the cornering department, this FC can do that. I felt a higher degree of confidence in corners and through corner exits than on the KTM, and similar to the GG. But that confidence drops off when going in a straight line hitting bumps and edges. The less suspension travel makes it feel as though you are already in a harsher part of the stroke and I didn’t feel as much comfort as I wanted. 

But, you still get the light feeling, the slim, neutral ergos, the nice clutch and brakes, the tool-less airbox access, and the map/tc switch. 

6) Kawasaki KX450

The main reason this bike is so low for me is an unbalanced feeling. When a bike is unbalanced, I lack confidence and comfort and without those things, it is hard to ride the bike how I want to. The main culprit was the fork as other testers have discussed. 

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The KX’s motor is strong and barky with good throttle response and a linear delivery. But it is less exciting than the Yamaha and about the same as the Honda for me. Plus, after the mid-range it sort of falls flat and just makes more noise than power. 

The stance of the bike is sort of stink bug, which I normally like but the fork is on the soft side yet has a harsh feel. This all is confusing to me. The shock feels like it is overpowering the fork and when I stiffened the fork, it loses what comfort it did have. On the second day, I did get the shock dialed in by stiffening the HS and opening up the rebound. This gave the rear a more dead feel and helped it track better and not exaggerate side-to-side movements like it was doing before. 

Overall, even in 6th place this is still a good bike, just not necessarily perfect for me. The coupler system is a little dated but you also have two footpeg positions and two bar mount positions making for a lot of options in the cockpit.

7) Suzuki RM-Z450

Not wanting to be a yellow hate-fest, on a relatively smooth, tight, jumpy track like Perris, or the Fox Vet track, the RM-Z450 is pretty fun to ride. But when it comes to any kind of roughness or bumps, the rigid chassis and lack of comfort from the suspension makes the bike hard to ride fast. 

After you remember how to kickstart a bike, you find that the RM-Zs power characteristic is pretty old school. Not bad, just more of a chuggy, ‘thumper’ style motor rather than quick-revving and snappy. To be honest, it is a great power characteristic for a first time 450 owner that doesn’t want to whiskey off the track as he/she gets used to more power. Again a coupler system is outdated and even though you can get the tuning module that is a bit of a joke. It is super clunky to use (plugging in a battery, then the module) and even when you do have it, the adjustments don’t seem to change the power very much on the track. 

The chassis is rigid and gives the bike an overall harsh feeling. In the past, we’ve messed with the torque specs on the engine mounts which did help get a little more flex. The ergos are actually pretty good and the bike is slim and agile feeling, but it is also heavy which negates some of that agility. As for the extras category, well, there really isn’t any. 

I’d like to leave the Suzook with a positive comment and that is I think it is till one of the best looking bikes of the bunch. 


Jacob Hayes

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Age: 27
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 170 lb
Class: Pro

1. GASGAS MC 450F
2. KTM 450 SX-F
3. Yamaha YZ450F
4. Honda CRF450R
5. Kawasaki KX450
6. Husqvarna FC450
7. Suzuki RM-Z450

1) GASGAS MC 450F

For the GASGAS, the delivery off-the-bottom actually really surprised me. It wasn't arm yanking but it pulled solidly, and continued all the way through the RPM range. This made it really usable all the way around the track, just snappy enough and very rideable.

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The suspension felt really stable all the way around the track. I did make a small change to the rebound on the shock by going two clicks slower, which really helped the overall feel while exiting the corners for me. As for the brakes, great stopping power front and rear. Love the clutch on the bike, great adjustability on the lever, plus it’s simple and easy to get too.

2) KTM 450 SX-F

With the KTM, I tried the stock map first and within a lap I pulled in to change it. In base trim, it felt like it signed off really fast and just didn’t like the way it made the bike feel overall. I swapped to map two, which is the aggressive map, and it made a BIG difference in how the bike reacted all the way around the track. It really woke the bike up when coming off-the-bottom and helped it not sign off as quickly.

Air forks, if not set up the right way, can feel quite harsh. But, you've got to give them a chance, it’s honestly a great fork with some little tweaks. I made a small rebound change by going three clicks slower and it helped with the overall comfort coming into corners and also over high speed bumps. I initially ran the sag at 104mm and I thought it would feel low in the rear based on my past KTM experience. But in stock trim, it was actually much more held up than I expected. I actually made a change by opening the high speed compression half of a turn, which really helped the bike drive forward coming out of the corners and down high-speed straightaways. Allowed it to track more from section-to-section and improve my flow.

3) Yamaha YZ450F

Man, the Yamaha just has the grunt and hit you need, at any point and any time. No matter what gear you're in, when you just barely crack the throttle, it's there and ready to rip. During the test, I tried three different maps and that’s one of the great things about the Yamaha, the ability to change things on the fly is just really cool. Especially as these changes are so much larger and more noticeable than the map switches found on other brands.

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Out of the box, the forks are just incredible, with great overall feel and really smooth action throughout the stroke. They left me without any complaints. As for the shock, I rode it with the sag at 104mm and pulled in pretty quickly to make a high speed compression change, as I went a quarter turn out on high speed compression. I did this just to get it to sit a bit lower in the rear down the long straightaways and coming into the corners under braking. This change really helped with stability, and I followed it by going a couple clicks faster on rebound as well, helping soak up the acceleration chop exiting the corners. With the brakes, I wish I had just a bit more front brake power, to match all the power that the bike lays down, but overall feel is great. As for the ole cable clutch, it had great engagement and a really smooth pull. 

4) Honda CRF450R

Starting with the engine, my first thought was "wow it's really very smooth" but it didn't have much hit on the bottom-end. Like, right out of the corner...I wanted more right when I cracked the throttle. I played around with the maps a bit and map three really felt best for me. The engine seemed to pull through the gears the strongest and fullest in this mode.

As for the suspension, the forks felt quite harsh as I came into corners, as the top part of the stroke was so plush that it would blow right through at my pace. In the turn, I always felt like I was riding in the mid-part of the stroke and it just wasn’t working freely. I made a compression change, going a bit stiffer, which would get it to hold up a bit more in the stroke and also made a rebound change at the same time, by going one click faster. Overall, I definitely think it helped but it still felt harsh, missing just a bit of comfort. I'd say the harsh feeling wasn’t from it being too stiff with these changes but rather still being too soft.

Initially the shock was riding really high, even with the sag at 105mm. I wanted to open up high speed compression a half turn but with the Honda being fairly sensitive, I only went with a quarter turn. This was enough to make a BIG difference to me. I really like how it brought the rear-end down and settled the bike going down high-speed straight aways and on corner entry. It even assisted on acceleration balance a bit. Control-wise, I felt like the brakes had great stopping power, both front and rear. However, I wasn’t a fan of the pull on the hydraulic clutch. Like, right when I sat on the bike I just didn't like the feel of it on my finger and where it was engaging.

5) Kawasaki KX450

With the Kawasaki, I rode the bike with the standard coupler and I was just looking for a bit more power. It wasn’t great on the top-end power but it felt really good in the mid-range. Like when rolling it on through a sweeper, where it was very responsive and connected. As for the suspension, the forks were soft and no matter how many changes I made, I never really could get the comfort I wanted out of them. However, I really liked the shock as it felt glued to the ground. I ran the sag at 104mm and made a couple small changes after riding it, which helped with how it reacted around the track. I went half a turn out on high speed compression, just to help with the high speed chop and entry into the corner, which assisted with that connection to the ground

As for the ergos, I'm quite used to Kawasakis after growing up on them, so all that was positive. As for the controls, the brakes had great stopping ability and I actually quite enjoyed the hydro clutch on this model. It's the first time I had ridden a Kawasaki with the all new clutch and it was a great addition to the bike..

6) Husqvarna FC 450

On the Husky, I didn’t dislike the power but I was really hoping for a bit more hit right off the bottom-end. It was extremely smooth and rideable, but it could definitely use more grunt or pull in many situations. The biggest surprise with the bike is that it's 10mm lower overall from the factory, with 10mm less suspension travel. As soon as I swung a leg over the bike, I could definitely tell there was something up. After my warm up, I just found myself trying to get it stiffer and riding up higher in the stroke. I put the forks at flush in the triple clamps and ran the sag as high as 98mm, which really helped with overall comfort for me. But, even with doing that, I could never get that comfort I was looking for out of the shock or fork. It was always just settling into the stroke too much and hitting that harsh point that took away confidence.

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The brakes were smooth, yet very touchy feeling. I overall enjoyed the great stopping power. As for the clutch, I loved the engagement of this hydro and the overall feel of the lever as you initially pull it in.

7) Suzuki RM-Z450

The power for me, on the Suzuki, just felt fairly flat. Like something was holding it back...just a slow rever. It never really felt like it was signing off but the overall power wasn't there for my liking. The suspension was initially stiff front and rear, feeling like it would never track or stick to the ground. Along with that, it also felt unstable coming into the corners and while exiting them.

Brakes...weren’t great, as I never really felt like I had good stopping ability front or rear. But a fair part of this comes from instability in the bike. Overall, I didn't find anything on the Suzuki I was really giving it a great ranking for, thus its position on my list.


Shelby Paget

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Age: 34
Height: 5’ 10”
Weight: 155 lb
Class: 30+ Intermediate

1. GASGAS MC 450F
2. KTM 450 SX-F
3. Yamaha YZ450F
4. Husqvarna FC 450
5. Honda CRF450R
6. Kawasaki KX450
7. Suzuki RM-Z450

1) GASGAS MC 450F

The GASGAS was by far the most surprising bike of the shootout for me. Aside from being curious how similar or unique the Austrian bikes would be from one another, I was especially interested in how the GASGAS felt off the floor being the least costly of the siblings. Initial laps at Glen Helen on the GASGAS had me enjoying the lively and quick roll-on off the bottom with a usable bark that built into a strong mid that allowed for a bit of over-rev before topping off. A nice robust engine characteristic that wasn’t mellow and wasn’t abrupt or overly aggressive at any point. Very playful and usable. This is honestly the first time that I jumped on an air sprung setup and was thoroughly impressed as I felt that the bike had incredible supple feel on the chop that built in to both tracks by the end of the day while still giving me great confidence on sections that I would backside or come down harshly on the front end of the bike. It would allow for minimal harsh feedback to reach my hands regardless of the section. It wasn’t as forgiving as the YZ-F but it wasn’t far off either. I’d suggest the front end feel for me was somewhere between the precise front end of the KTM and the looser feeling (not in a bad way) supple front end of the Yamaha. 

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The cast clamps and different tires/rims seemed to be the contributing factor to the feedback I experienced. I also ran the fork at 10.4 bar vs stock at 10.7. The bike reminds me of a more fun, playful version of its Austrian siblings. The brakes were strong, the ergonomics were comfortable right off the bat, similar to how Honda’s used to feel years back. Even though the front end was a bit looser than the KTM I still felt extremely confident entering into tight ruts and corners with more speed than on some of the other bikes. There were sections on the tracks that I’d have to somewhat roll off the throttle to maintain comfort, but this was not the case on the GASGAS as I could continue rolling it on through sections that were otherwise uncomfortable for me. Simply put, this bike was the most fun for me and allowed me to ride more laps with less work. Not having the maps on the bike off the showroom floor wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me personally. 

2) KTM 450 SX-F

The top three bikes were all VERY good, but VERY different and I like each of them for some exceptional standout features over the others. Despite the GASGAS making me feel most comfortable across the board, I felt that the KTM’s top feature for me was the precision like front end feel. On the track, it was a favorite feature of mine on the KTM and I really enjoyed being able to set the front wheel into a line and know it was going to stick to that line through the exit. This was especially fun as some tight inside ruts developed throughout the day on the tracks. 

The suspension felt similar to the GASGAS but I ran the KTM at a 10.5 bar vs 10.4 on the GASGAS. I’d suspect the front-end feel that is felt through my hands is a bit looser on the GASGAS due to the cast clamps vs the CNC clamps on the KTM. The precision in the traction and the front-end feel may also contribute in the opposite effect to the tires, wheels, clamps providing a more exact, planted feel, from what I experienced. The power on the KTM felt a little more robust than on the GASGAS and I felt this most in the upper and over-rev of the range, but again, it was marginal and I don’t feel that it contributed to any additional comfort or speed. The brakes of course were great, clutch feel was nice as usual and I felt that KTM makes a very comfortable and easy to ride 450 for 2022 but it just wasn’t enough when averaging both days on different tracks to take the top spot from the GASGAS. 

3) Yamaha YZ450F

This is where things really start to get interesting for me. The top bike was clear for me after both days of riding but what is unusual is that the Yamaha actually was a contender for the top spot for me throughout day one at Glen Helen. I’ll begin with the aspects that I loved most and then describe where and why it slowly fell from the throne position. The  YZ-F has a very desirable power delivery that seems to really just put the power down with no delay. It was by far the easiest bike for me to take an inside line, fumble the corner, hammer down and still clear whichever jump was out of the corner. I couldn’t do this on all the other bikes nearly as easily. Though it has a lot of usable power, it’s not overwhelming or aggressive in a way that would make you tired or timid, it’s very manageable and predictable. 

It goes without saying that the KYB setup on the Yamaha is stellar and absolutely the most forgiving suspension in the lineup. Brakes are an improvement over previous generations of  YZ-F but not yet as good as the Austrian bikes of course. I tried the bike a bit lowered down a few mm over stock and that was an improvement in feel, too. The YZ-F also has by far the most on the fly tune-ability from maps, to bars/pegs, to ECU and if you're a tech geek this might be a clear winner for you. For day one the YZ-F felt exceptional and if I had a complaint it likely would revolve around the ergos and the funky look still, which is likely more in my head than in track feel but it does still take a half a lap or so to adjust to the bike ergos in contrast to some of the other more traditional setups in my opinion. On the second day of riding we rode a slightly different style track and this had less solidified lines and more just loamy, sandy berms and rollers. The power still felt great and traction was good but I began to lose confidence in the front end and couldn’t quite get it back. We played a bit with compression and the rear end as well to help get the bike into the right portion of the stroke but I still felt quite a bit of pushing through the corners which ultimately disrupted my comfort on the bike overall. After taking into account both days and both tracks the GASGAS and KTM just edged out the  YZ-F for me based on my personal ability and comfort but nonetheless the top three bikes in this shootout are all exceptional options, and it’s like splitting hairs to place one over the other.

4) Husqvarna FC 450

I had quite a love-hate relationship with the Husky this year but ultimately found some great settings to make myself most comfortable on it and let it’s best attributes shine. A big takeaway to note on this chassis over its' Austrian counterparts is that the Husky is about 10mm shorter across the board in its stance over the other two bikes. In my head, 10mm is a lot, and it’s definitely felt in the chassis. There are some really cool aspects of this stance that helps the bike have a very low center of gravity that is noticeable as you're in corners or ruts trying to lay the bike over with as little effort as possible. This makes inside deeper ruts that much easier for me. I’m not sure if the chassis changes caused the areas I struggled with but the Husky had a harshness to the front end that took quite a few adjustments to minimize. We ended up playing quite a bit with decreasing compression and speeding up rebound on the front and rear of the bike and after about three or four tech stops, I felt like we got the bike well balanced and removed the majority of the harshness that my hands were feeling earlier. The rear end had a bit of a harshness upon exiting square edged corner chop while under power but with some adjustments we were also able to minimize this. 

The bike is noticeably down on power over some of the more aggressive bikes in the class but I did truly feel that the power was very usable and though the bike is quiet, it puts the power down well and allowed me to ride smoothly since there was no abruptness in the delivery. For some reason, the Husky feels a bit wide up front and off the back in contrast to some of the other bikes and I randomly had some issues with my feet coming off the pegs a handful of times which didn’t occur on the other bikes, not quite sure why this happened but I don’t believe I was the only one to struggle with this. Overall, I’d suggest the Husky may be a great fit for a modest rider or possibly a shorter vet rider who wants a very tunable, nicely kitted 450 that won’t rip your arms off. 

5) Honda CRF450R

Let me start off by saying the Honda is one rad looking bike. This bike captures my heart and I’ve always loved the legacy branding of the red bikes. That being said, there’s quite a mixed bag of feelings after spending time on the new CRF450R. Initially I noticed that the power hits hard and pulls fairly strong throughout the delivery. It’s got a brute force punch off the bottom that the other 450’s doesn’t have. This punch wakes you up but doesn’t necessarily continue all the way through the top which leaves you somewhat questioning where did the power go? It almost teases you off the bottom or tires you if you’ve been on the track for a while and then continues with lesser excitement through the power. I primarily ran the CRF on their “smooth” map and this type of delivery was still noticeable in contrast to the other bikes. The Honda’s front end handles nicely and loves to pick and ride a line through a corner and with some adjustments to the Showa front end, we were able to make the bike fairly comfortable and remove some of the harshness. I felt that the bike would either stay too high in the stroke and feel a bit chattery and harsh or it would fall through the stroke a bit to swiftly with compression turned down and abruptly become harsh at the end of the stroke so it was a bit difficult to get the bike to stay right in the meat of the travel. 

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The ergonomics on the Honda felt good, I’ve always liked the Honda chassis typically, and though this generation isn’t my favorite, it still felt good. A couple odd things with the CRF for me was that the seat felt a bit thin as I felt the subframe rails a few times off a couple of jumps and the kill switch is in an odd spot for me to click off without having to look over and place my finger properly. I think in time as Honda fine tunes the rigidity and suspension on this bike they can drastically improve the overall feel for riders like myself. That along with much improved, smoother and more usable power maps would help move the red bike up in ranks for me! 

6) Kawasaki KX450

The Kawasaki would have likely won the shootout for me a few years back but I feel that as the other bikes have continued to progress and include more changes to enhance the bikes, that Kawasaki has remained relatively the same in more ways than the others ahead of it. The best way for me to describe the green machine is stable and solid. This bike isn’t bad at all, it’s very smooth, manageable and the power delivery is one of the most linear in the bunch. 

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The suspension has some of the similar issues as the Honda and I feel that it’s just sprung a bit light for most folks which creates a difficult path to good function and feel through rough sections and a broken-in track. Overall the suspension was a bit harsh for me and the balance between the front and rear was the most difficult to tackle. The bike has a bit taller or bigger feel to it when you’re sitting on it and the power is smooth but has a slight hesitation off the bottom that takes a moment to engage when getting on the throttle. Though this bike would have been a frontrunner in 2019, the other bikes have just improved that much more to edge out the Kawasaki leaving it towards the back of the pack for me.

7) Suzuki RM-Z450

I’m still waiting for the press release where Suzuki announces a totally revamped motocross bike that will rock the industry. This bike is by far the slowest bike in the pack and honestly felt like a pumped up 250F in comparison to the other 450’s in the class. This may not be a bad thing for someone my speed and ability, but when you mix that with a rigid feeling chassis, hand numbing feedback delivered through the front end and a bike that has not acknowledged that there is a function called E-start it makes it very difficult to find any redeeming factors for this bike when it’s compared directly to the rest of the bikes in the class. 

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The Suzuki always has a nice handling chassis making it likely one of the easiest bikes to ride on a rut track but other than that I find it difficult to enjoy riding this bike and even finding a reason to purchase and ride it in stock trim when comparing it to what else is on the floor today. If you’re looking for a budget cost bike in the 450 class and have some connections or extra money to spend on suspension and accessories then maybe the Suzuki could make sense for you but if it were my money I’d head on down the road to the GASGAS dealership personally.


Matix Soto

Age: 18
Height: 5’ 9”
Weight: 150 lb
Class: B class/Intermediate

1. Yamaha YZ450F
2. GASGAS MC 450F
3. Husqvarna FC450
4. KTM 450 SX-F
5. Kawasaki KX450
6. Honda CRF450R
7. Suzuki RM-Z450

1) Yamaha YZ450F

The Yamaha was so good out of the box, I literally didn't change a single clicker on the Yamaha either day. Regardless of which track or what time of day it was, I just felt instantly comfortable and confident on the YZ450F. The engine was extremely strong throughout the range and never really left me wanting. Also, what was really impressive to me is even though the power itself was a lot at times, is how well the the bike put the power to the ground and would drive forward. My only real negative for this bike was I wish it was a bit slimmer throughout.

2) GASGAS MC 450F

The GASGAS was just straight up comfortable and easy to ride. Starting with the engine, it's linear but has just the right amount of pull, nice and even across the whole RPM range. It doesn't rev too slow but not too quickly. Out of the box, it was more comfortable than the KTM or Husky, and with just a couple little tweaks I was dialed-in at both tracks we tested at. The lack of extras, like the handlebar switch is at first a bummer but once you ride it...it's not really a big deal as what the bike has works well. Overall, it was great but I did want a bit more power in some situations.

3) Husqvarna FC 450

Overall, I found the Husky to be fairly comfortable, I just had to go stiffer to match more of the handling characteristics of the other two bikes. The lower bars were perfect for my style and the overall ergos on point. Compared to the KTM or GASGAS however, the engine revved slowly. It had decent power everywhere, it just felt like a tractor at times that was hard to wake up. So I was definitely using the clutch a bit more than I would normally. It did make it fairly easy to just "hang-it-out" on though as it was tough to get whiskey or out of control on.

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4) KTM 450 SX-F

I loved the slim and aggressive nature of the KTM. Of the three look-a-likes, it felt the most aggressive in stock trim but at the same time it was the least comfortable. No matter what I did to the forks and shock, it just felt harsh and would wear my hands and shoulders quicker than the others in this test. The engine was enjoyable, linear like the other two but quicker revving and more responsive. If it had the comfort of the GASGAS, it would be overall more to my liking.

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5) Kawasaki KX450

The Kawasaki was responsive and playful from the low-to-mid RPM but not as strong up top compared to some of the longer pulling bikes in the test. The ergos were great and it was easy to move around on, but the bike felt heavy in a sense. Mostly due to the forks being so soft, the KX pitched a lot under braking and coming off of braking. This made for a lot more work on my end to hang onto the bike and made it a bit heavier feeling than the bike actually is. When the fork would get deep in the stroke, the bike of course would lose its balance and feel a bit twitchy at times. Overall a fun bike to ride, but one that was hard for me to push my pace on.

6) Honda CRF450R

I currently ride Hondas and love the light, flickable feel of this bike. It feels very slim in all the right places and the engine had the mid-to-top pull that I liked but was still fairly mellow down low. Overall it has a lot of positives, but it's also fairly rigid feeling and the suspension was harder to dial-in than most bikes in the class. At my weight, the CRF felt too stiff overall, especially on the front forks.

7) Suzuki RM-Z450

To be fairly quick about it, the Suzuki is the heaviest bike physically and it feels like it when on track as well. It probably is the best turning bike in class when it comes to tight ruts and quick turn in, but it's hampered by an old feeling power character that doesn't stand out for me. The clutch pull was a little heavy and I still wish it had electric start. The overall chassis a bit rigid and harsh feeling as the day goes on but I actually quite liked the forks in most situations. I don't know what else to say, I hate to be harsh on the bike, I'd just like to see more from Suzuki.

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Derrick Caskey

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Age: 50
Height: 6’ 2”
Weight: 190 lb
Class: 50+ Intermediate

1. Yamaha YZ450F
2. GASGAS MC 450F
3. KTM 450 SX-F
4. Kawasaki KX450
5. Honda CRF450R
6. Husqvarna FC450
7. Suzuki RM-Z450

1) Yamaha YZ450F

The 2022 Yamaha for me was the best 450 out of the box this year. Both tracks we rode for the testing were rough outdoor motocross style sand tracks with lots of whoops and choppy sections. The Yamaha feels the most comfortable on these types of tracks. It is very confidence inspiring because the rougher the tracks got the more the suspension and chassis shined. The Suspension had a plush feel, and even with stock spring rates for my weight, the bike still held itself up well and handled the rough conditions better than all the other 450’s tested. We ended up setting the sag around 105mm, went in one click on the compression on the shock, and went in two clicks on compression on the forks. Yamaha favored the outside lines, but had no problem diving into an inside rut with the best of them. 

Yamaha has one of the best all-around 450 motors. It has a very broad power band, and makes plenty of power from the bottom all the way to the top. The adjustability of the mapping with the phone app and a two-option mode button on the handlebar makes it very simple to change for varying track conditions. The YZ450F is an awesome bike, and I think my only constructive criticism would be a little more distance between the top of the seat and the foot pegs. Being a taller rider, it feels a little cramped. I would also like the bike a little narrower, and I would pick a straighter handlebar bend.

2) Kawasaki KX450

The choice for second through fourth was the toughest for me this year and I think it had a lot to do with the similarity between the two test tracks. Glen Helen and the private sand whoop track were both rough outdoor style motocross tracks which made the bikes with the best handling and suspension combinations the leaders. The 2022 Kawasaki 450 is my second pick. The bike immediately feels very comfortable, and the suspension, chassis, Motor, clutch, brakes, all make a complete package. I started off the day completely stock, and had to stiffen the compression two clicks up front and rear, and ran 105mm sag. I found with the rear it worked better for me about one quarter turn out on the high speed compression. The Kawasaki took second spot for me over both the KTM and Honda, because I was able to find suspension settings quickly that I could be comfortable with. 

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The motor has a very strong pull from bottom to top, and didn’t seem to lack anywhere. I felt the Green (stock map) coupler worked the best for the track conditions. The ergonomics are great, the cockpit has plenty of room to move around comfortably. One of the coolest things about the Kawasaki is that there are many adjustment options from foot peg height, to handlebar mount positions. The hydraulic clutch has a very good cable like feel and the brakes had very good stopping power. My suggestion for the Kawasaki would be, a little firmer fork valving, a more on the fly adjustment for changing maps rather than couplers, and a straighter bar bend. 

3) KTM 450 SX-F

The KTM is a great bike right off of the showroom floor. I personally really like the more slender/ nimble feel of both the KTM and the Honda. The KTM barely squeaked ahead of the Honda out of the box, but did so mainly due to the air fork and its added adjustability to tune the forks. I'm a fan of the AER fork; we went up to 10.9 bar on the air pressure and went in two clicks on compression. This gave the forks good hold up in jump faces and landings while still allowing them to absorb the smaller braking and acceleration bumps. In the rear, we set the sag at 105mm and it worked ok with one click in on compression and 1/8 turn out on high speed compression. The power was strong but linear, right off the bottom and carried consistently through the top-end. I tried both maps at the push of a button, and even on the fly (which is cool)). Map one was the standard map which didn’t have the stronger hit that I preferred with Map two. The traction control is a nice feature when the track is muddy, but I rarely used it if it wasn’t. The KTM also comes with amazing brakes, a hydraulic clutch, and lots of adjustability.

4) Honda CRF450R

Rating the Honda fourth is very difficult for me as I am a diehard Honda guy. The 2022 Honda addressed the ECU issue and soft suspension which plagued last year's model, which I own (and love). Here is where it gets tricky as I am typically a rider that prefers smooth tracks and big jumps. I usually get to the track early and leave before it gets super rough. The two tracks we tested at are the exact opposite. The Honda out of the box, in my opinion, takes more time to dial in than the Yamaha and Kawasaki, and falls behind KTM because the KTM has more adjustability. The New Honda chassis is better, but still is very rigid. This makes the suspension and handling a lot more sensitive, and difficult to adjust. 

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The Honda scores low in the track toughness category as it requires more set up for varying conditions. The Honda motor is in my opinion the best power plant of all the 450’s in 2022. The power is very strong and smooth from bottom to top with over rev. The Honda has the best ergonomics and rider triangle as well. With my tall stature it is plenty roomy and feels instantly comfortable. The maps choices give you a good range of different feels map one (standard), map two (smooth), and map three (aggressive). I preferred map one and map three with torque control one or two with it.

5) GASGAS MC 450F

The 2022 GASGAS 450 was brand new to me this year as I never got to try the 2021. I was excited to try out the other red steed. It amazes me that the GASGAS, the Husky, and the KTM, can be so similar, yet feel so different. The GASGAS has a light nimble feel, and handled very well. I felt the front end was the most forgiving on the GASGAS as compared to either the Husky

or the KTM. I felt it was less harsh on the braking and acceleration bumps, but had great hold up. I ran 10.9 bar on the forks and two clicks in on compression. The shock we ran at 107mm and seemed to work well. The GASGAS motor felt the least powerful of the three European bikes, and struggled with it at Glen Helen, but felt it was easier to ride at the sand track. I think this was because there weren't the hills and jumps at the sand track that made me feel I needed the extra power. I think it isn’t as powerful feeling as the other European bikes because it only has one standard map, the airbox is pretty closed up along with a head pipe without any resonance chamber. I feel like this would be an ideal bike for someone a little nervous of a 450 but not wanting a 250 or even a 350. The European Brakes are amazing, the hydraulic clutch had a great feel, and the bar bend was the best of the three. 

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6) Husqvarna FC450

The Husqvarna motor comes on softer than the KTM, but more aggressive than the GasGas, and has a good linear powerband all the way to the top. I preferred the more aggressive map two at both locations. The biggest thing I noticed about the Husqvarna is it's shorter in height than I believe all the other 450’s. This seemed to help in entering corners, as it had a lower center of gravity feel but kind of gave the suspension a little harsher feel. This could be adjusted better with more time, but it was felt at both tracks. The best setup I came up with on the forks was setting the air pressure at 10.9 Bar, adjusting the compression two clicks in, and sliding the forks down flush with the triple clamps. In the rear we set the sag at 105mm and went in a couple clicks on low-speed. The Husky comes with all the bells and whistles, the AER fork, a hydraulic clutch, awesome brakes, and traction control (at the push of a button). Bottom line is, this could be adjusted to your personal riding style, and you can't make a bad choice.

7) Suzuki RM-Z450

This year, the bikes are all so good that you try to factor everything in, except you can’t really factor in cost. That being said, the most expensive bike isn’t necessarily the best, but the more bells and whistles, typically the higher the cost. The first thing you notice about the Suzuki when you throw your leg over it, is that it is the only bike now without electric start. A couple years ago when only the European bikes had it, It didn’t seem to be that important. Now a couple years later, when all brands have it but one, it all of a sudden seems to stand out. I know there are a lot of riders that still don’t care about electric start, but when you have to rate them it is difficult not to take it into account. 

The RM-Z450 motor is smooth and easy to ride, It has a very linear feel from bottom to top. I definitely preferred the white coupler for more bottom. The Suzuki still corners amazing. The overall balance and ergonomics are comfortable and very confidence inspiring, it is very easy to move around on. I found that the chassis worked better for me, running a little more sag in the rear, up to 108mm. This helped the initial oversteer feeling when cornering and overall balance of the bike. The Suzuki is the least expensive option of all the 450’s and for how easy it is to ride, and how well it corners, this might be the right bike. 


Conclusion

Another year, another winner. Yamaha continues a trend of great results across most Shootouts by producing a well-rounded and easy to setup machine, with a wide range of tune-ability. Most impressive of all, it didn't finish off the podium with a single test rider! The newcomer, the Austrian's fun brand, GasGas came in a surprising but well deserved second place by offering a comfortable, simple, yet satisfying package. And, it almost matched the Yamaha with all but one rider placing it on the podium on their list. It's race-ready brethren in Orange, the KTM, took home third with podium-to-fourth place finishes with all the testers. It was good! Just not quite everyone's best bike out of the box. The most updated bike in the test, the Honda CRF450R, is better than last year and crowd favorite at times. Ultimately though, it's just still too finicky and not well enough rounded off the showroom floor to get into the podium mix. Fifth was a surprise with the Kawasaki dropping down the ranks, due to a soft fork and overall power output not feeling on par with the others, it just didn't garnish the wants of this year's testing group. Then there's the Husqvarna, the odd-ball in this year's shootout. It had its moments but for the most part, every test rider struggled with the same thing, the 10mm lowered suspension and the way it worked. It has its place in the market place, but it didn't suite our needs. Lastly, the poor Suzuki. We don't like giving it last and it's honestly a good motorcycle. Just a tick behind the times but still a lot of fun to ride.

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Hopefully we've given you the insight and feedback you're looking for one the 2021 450s. If you're looking at purchasing one of these bikes for yourself, we hope you now have the tools to make the right call and get the machine to fit your needs. We'll be back next year give you all of our test rider's thoughts and opinions on the 2023 450 motocross models. Now do you have any thoughts or a suggestion on the format? Or maybe a question about the actual results of this test? Drop us a note in the comment section below or you can get in on our discussion in the forum for a special QNA dedicated to the Shootout and its results. (Forum QNA - 2022 Vital MX 450 Shootout)



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