2021 Vital MX 450 Shootout: FULL TEST

*As we have mentioned, the original video had some scoring discrepancies and has been amended to match all the written notes from the testers included in this full test. No grand conspiracy. Someone misspoke or hash marks where tallied for the wrong bikes. An honest mistake that caused some confusion but all of the riding impressions stay the same. No tester suddenly changed their opinion. Next time, we’ll have multiple knuckle-dragging dirt bikers check the score sheet to make sure everything is good to go… Numbers are hard.

 

Just like everything else this year, the 2021 Vital MX 450 Shootout is a little different than usual. It’s a little later and little less populated. As you may have noticed, the 2021 Suzuki RM-Z450 and 2021 GASGAS MC 450 are not included though both will be available to purchase next year. It all comes down to timing and availability. Unfortunately, the yellow and (other) red bikes are just not going to make it to the US in a reasonable amount of time and so we decided to go ahead without them. As soon as the RM-Z and MC are available, we will for sure be dropping the gate on first rides. 

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That leaves us with five bikes this year, one of which is all-new and the others with varying levels of refinements. The most anticipated machine of 2021 is undoubtedly the Honda CRF450R, with a full-bike overall. The KX450 had a few changes to motor internals and a new cone disc spring in the clutch, while the chassis and suspension stayed the same. The Husqvarna FC 450 got new fork internals and a lower overall ride height from a shorter fork (10mm). The linkage was changed on the shock to match the new fork length, but not to change the feel of the suspension. The KTM also had suspension refinements but retained the same travel front and rear. Lastly, the YZ450F had major changes from ‘19 to ‘20 so that bike is unchanged for this shootout.  

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We had two test days back to back. Day one was at State Fair MX which is tight, rutty, jumpy, and has lots of turns. It is not a high-speed track other than a few straightaways. Day two was at Glen Helen Raceway which is pretty much the opposite; high-speed, rough, sandy, hard base, with hills and sweeping turns. 

The Contenders 

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2021 Honda CRF450R
MSRP: $9,599 (up $200 from last year)
Specs
First Impression 

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2021 Husqvarna FC 450
MSRP: $10,299 (up $200 from last year)
Specs
First Impression

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2021 Kawasaki KX450
MSRP: $9,399 (up $100 from last year)
Specs
First Impression

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2021 KTM 450 SX-F
MSRP: $10,199 (up $200 from last year)
Specs
First Impression

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2021 Yamaha YZ450F
MSRP: $9,399 (no change from last year)
Specs
First Impression



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Dyno Charts


We when to Race Tech in Corona to use their dynamometer to measure the bike's horsepower and torque. 

Horsepower

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Torque

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*In order of highest HP to lowest

Honda CRF450R

Max Horsepower: 57.54 at 9,500 RPM
Max Torque: 35.8 ft-lb at 7,500 RPM


Husqvarna FC 450

Max Horsepower: 57.50 at 9,000 RPM
Max Torque: 34.6 ft-lb at 8,000 RPM


KTM 450 SX-F

Max Horsepower: 57.12 at 9,000 RPM
Max Torque: 35.0 ft-lb at 7,200 RPM


Yamaha YZ450F

Max Horsepower: 53.44 at 9,500 RPM
Max Torque: 32.2 ft-lb at 7,100 RPM


Kawasaki KX450

Max Horsepower: 52.75 at 9,300 RPM
Max Torque: 32.2 ft-lb at 7,000 PRM



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Wet Weights (in descending order)

Bike Overall Weight Front Wheel Rear Wheel
KTM 450 SX-F 234 lb 117 lb 117 lb
Husqvarna FC 450 235 lb 115 lb 120 lb
Honda CRF450R 242 lb 119 lb 123 lb
Kawasaki KX450 243 lb 119 lb 124 lb
Yamaha YZ450F 246 lb  119 lb 127 lb

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Results

Bike David Pingree Chris Siebenhaar Chad Pederson Cory Martin Justin McMurrich Daron Ralves Totall
Kawasaki 1 1 3 1 3 2 11
KTM 2 2 4 3 2 1 14
Honda 4 4 2 2 1 4 17
Yamaha 3 3 1 4 4 3 18
Husqvarna 5 5 5 5 5 5 30

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Test Rider Notes


David Pingree


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Age: 45
Height: 5’ 7”
Weight: 172 lb
Class: Vet Expert

  1. Kawasaki KX450
  2. KTM 450 SX-F
  3. Yamaha YZ450F
  4. Honda CRF450R
  5. Husqvarna FC 450


1) Kawasaki KX450

This was the winner for me. The power is very user-friendly, but potent. Suspension is excellent, though the forks are soft for anybody over 190 lb. The chassis is comfortable and, most importantly, incredibly stable and predictable. I often say that you won’t be any faster on one brand or another, you’ll just be more comfortable going your speed on the right bike. Well, this was that bike for me. At the end of day two, when Glen Helen was a disaster, I felt the most comfortable on this bike by a long shot.

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2) KTM 450 SX-F

This bike has the best engine in the class. It handles well and the suspension works with the chassis to provide a plush, stable ride. I still dislike air forks, but to their credit they made these work well. You do need to check the air pressure every time you go out, which is a pain, but they work great when set up properly. The map/TC cluster is the best setup in the group as well. Not much to complain about with this one.

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3) Yamaha YZ450F

The Yamaha had a handling trait on both tracks that was tough to nail down. It makes a ton of power, has great suspension, great brakes, and many other class-leading features. However, it has some handling inconsistencies that make it difficult to trust. Some called it a top-heavy feeling, I felt like it had too much front end bias. I’ve ridden this bike at places like Milestone and Fox Raceway with good traction and I’ve loved it; so these results were strange for me. Bringing the bars back further definitely helped, so I’d recommend that.

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4) Honda CRF450R

This bike has potential, they just missed the mark with suspension settings and the fuel mapping at low RPM. The engine makes good power, the chassis is stable and it turns very well. But handling is all-important in the 450 class and they have some work to do there.

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5) Husqvarna FC 450

I was shocked how different this bike felt from the KTM; you’d never guess they share so many parts. The Husky is 10mm lower, which I liked. However, the suspension felt like it was harsh very early in the stroke and made it sketchy when it got rough. It almost felt like a supercross setting. The motor is softer than the KTM, and the difference in suspension makes the handling a little less comfortable.



Chris Siebenhaar

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Age: 35
Height: 5’ 10”
Weight: 178 lb
Class: Intermediate/Expert 

  1. Kawasaki KX450
  2. KTM 450 SX-F
  3. Yamaha YZ450F
  4. Honda CRF450R
  5. Husqvarna FC 450


1) Kawasaki KX450

For me the KX450 was the complete package. It had an excellent motor that was both strong and smooth, although it’s easy to tell that it’s not the most powerful engine in the test, it’s an extremely usable powerplant that allowed me to take advantage of the entire range. The suspension on the bike was among my favorites in the test. The “A-Kit” style fork has great adjustability where small changes can make a bike difference, the shock tracked extremely well from corner entry to corner exit. The biggest thing that I liked about the suspension was the control of the fork and shock speed under braking and acceleration. The chassis is also very balanced and neutral feeling, we ran slightly more sag than recommended and got the rear to bite a little more without sacrificing turn-in or front-end feel. With that setup I was able to get on the gas early in corners and rely on the added grip in the rear to finish the corner under power. The new Hydraulic clutch is probably my most favorite hydraulic clutch to date, it has a very linear engagement to it with excellent feel when feeding and fanning the clutch. 

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My only complaints with this bike are two obscure details. First was the brake lever. Because I brake with my index finger, where my finger pulled in was at a very narrow part of the lever which also had a square edge to it, after my allotted time on the bike there was a slight soreness on my finger, but could potentially be worse if I were logging hours on the bike. 

Second, was the map selector, or lack thereof. This is the only bike that does not have an on-the-fly map adjuster and uses old school couplers that are a bit outdated in 2021. The fact that these were my only grumbles about this bike, was the overall deciding factor for making it my number one pick. 


2) KTM 450 SX-F

The KTM was always vying for my top spot right out of the gate. I found the bike to be very comfortable the instant I sat on it with almost no adjustment time and had instant confidence on the bike as soon as I got on the track. The motor has the classic KTM traits to it; extremely smooth and powerful, which at times makes it deceivingly fast. The steel frame definitely has a different feel than the other bikes, it has a “give” to it that allows it to take on some of the workload when powering through rutted straightaways of charging into rough sections. The frame mutes or dulls some of the kick back that the stiffer aluminum frame bikes can transmit to the rider. The MAP/TC switch on the KTM (and Husky) is definitely my favorite since it is very intuitive and easy to read. Additionally, you can change the maps while riding, be it rolling off going into a corner or if you have enough time on a jump, you can change maps or TC settings without ever having to stop. Although the KTM (and Husky) are the only ones still using air forks, I really like the fork on the 2021, by far the best production airfork that’s ever been offered by any brand. The fork for the most part has great control and the fact that you can “change springs” (add air) is a plus. It allowed me to run a higher pressure/spring and focus on finding the right valving. Both ends still have a plush and pillowy feel to it, especially under acceleration which is very enjoyable as the tracks got rough. 

My gripes about this bike were minimal. The clutch on the KTM is a bit on/off and doesn’t have the modulation or engagement feel that the Kawasaki has. Because of this, I found the transition of having the clutch engaged to feeding the power back into the bike to be a bit abrupt. Not as noticeable in faster sections of the track, but in tight ruts it occasionally made for some inconsistency in my turning. Finally, I would like to have a little more control in the suspension by having there be a little more progression of stiffness through the stroke. But this is only for the more extreme areas of the track like a high-speed section into hard braking bumps or into the face of “speed check” single. I found right at the transition of the face of the singles is where the fork seemed to get a little low and harsh for me. Also, you still have the downside of the airfork in having to check it before you ride and at least once or twice throughout the day. 


3) Yamaha YZ450F

While I struggled a bit on day one with the Yamaha, day two I felt much better. Why? Simple. Different track with more line choices. State Fair had been overwatered in some areas and never dried out throughout the day. Because of that, the track had one or two lines that everyone was riding and I struggled to get the bike settled and feel confident enough to push myself on the bike. At Glen Helen I started to notice the same thing, until I was asked to hit an outside line for a photo. Once in the deep loam off the main line, the motor of the bike really shined. The suspension, which has great hold up yet also an incredible amount of comfort in its valving, worked flawlessly keeping the bike from diving into the soft sand. It was from this moment on that I started having a lot of fun on the bike. The suspension is phenomenal just as it has been for years, it’s a bike that I felt very connected to the ground with. Still, the only thing better than the suspension, was the motor. Its very tractor like just chugging along, with little that can slow it down. While I still haven't seen the dyno numbers at the time of writing this, I would have to guess the Yamaha makes the most torque. Out of corners (especially in the deep sand) this bike ate up track by the yard and also the sand calmed down a bit of the punch that’s delivered down low. 

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The thing that held the YZ450F back for me was some severe head shake while riding around Glen Helen. We got rid of some of it, but not all. Ultimately, this caused me to search for alternate lines and just ride the bike differently. While this did make the bike very fun to ride and kept a big smile on my face, it was the fact the bikes placed ahead of the Yamaha I could ride any line and be more comfortable. Next was the clutch, Yamaha is the only brand that is still using a cable clutch. Although I LOVE the feeling of a cable clutch, occasionally later in the day it can start to feel a little heavy, and since the motor is so strong, being able to accurately feed the power to the ground is very important. Last, was chassis/cockpit feel. The YZ-F feels very different from the other bikes, some of it has to do with the width at the shrouds (though this seems much slimmer than previous generations YZ-Fs) and some of it has to do with the front fender. I hate saying this, but it’s a distracting shape. However, to Yamaha’s credit the feel of the bike and the fender are very distinct from any other brand, and sometimes it’s good to pave your own path. 


4) Honda CRF450R

Having just come off of a 2020 CRF450R, I have immediate and fresh knowledge of the changes that Honda made for 2021. First is that the chassis is significantly more nimble than the previous generation. I found that I all but had to think of leaning the bike into a corner and it would dive right in; the agility of the new chassis is superb. The motor, while having a softer power deliver off the bottom, feels like there is a lot more up top. In fact, this motor feels very much like the KTM 450 SX-F this year. Both very smooth, and both very fast. From the seat the bike feels extremely narrow and the rider triangle/cockpit has a comfort that seems to be trademarked by Honda. The hydraulic clutch on the Honda was much closer in feel to the Kawasaki with excellent modulation and ability to feed the power into the bike. The map selector side, while beautifully tied together, is a bit busy with Map/TC/Kill button all in one unit. Not terrible, but not as clear and concise as the KTM unit. 

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My troubles started from day one with overheating the front brake every time I went out and within only a few laps. This is not something that just falls on this new bike, as the 2020 CRF450 has the same issue. What makes it tough is that I’m very sensitive (picky) about my brake lever position, not too far out or in, and it’s very critical to me. I would start with the lever slightly far for my liking, and within a few laps, it would be pulling in almost to my fingers. Next was the suspension, I feel that if the CRF had this area ironed out, the bike would be a top contender. In the tight ruts of State Fair, the Honda pushes through both ends of the suspension with ease, and the rear would blow right through the shock travel and feel as if it would hit bottom and rebound me off line or just throw off my rhythm in a rut. At Glen Helen I found that the rear would blow through the shock stroke when accelerating hard up the hill or out of corners that had exit chop. Last for big red was the mapping, I found that I couldn’t lug this bike like some of the others or else there would be a low-mid range sputter or gurgle that needed a second to clear up and get through. 


5) Husqvarna FC 450

Being in 5th place sounds bad but it’s not. The Husky does some things that are different than the other brands (even it’s orange brother) that, compiled together set it back to fifth. Starting with the good. The Husqvarna, like KTM, has amazing brakes. There is so much power and control with not only lever feel but also feedback, that it does inspire confidence. Handling of the bike is ok as well, but again I think the chassis is good, but suspension handcuffs it a bit. 

I know the list of pros is short, but a lot revolves around the suspension for me. For 2021 Husqvarna models came with a lower suspension with the idea of reducing fore-and-aft pitching into corners. While that may have helped, this left me riding in a really stiff part of the suspension. Even off a slight little jump with minimal speed, it felt as though the bike instantly compressed through the plush part of the suspension and was riding low and firm into the shock. Because of this feeling, a lot of comfort was taken out of the bike, additionally some of the compliance or rideability was taken out as well when trying to drive through exit chop. Even mid corner the bike felt like it bounced around more than it wanted to settle. The motor on the Husqvarna is also extremely tame by any standard in this test. So much so that this was the only bike that I absolutely had to ride in the aggressive map just to keep my flow going or get some pull out of deep corners. 

So, what’s the Husqvarna take-away here? I have no issue with a mellower motor. In fact, with 450s they’re often easier to ride hard and when tracks get rough, or you get tired, you reduce mistakes that could cost you time or an injury. The achilleas heel for me was the suspension. I felt that if the Husqvarna had the KTM suspension I would have been able to wail on the bike and ride it almost like a race-spec 350. Which would have been REALLY fun. I could have drove harder into corners, gotten the bike to track through mid-corner bumps and absorb anything on the exit.


Corey Martin

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Age: 33
Height: 5’ 11”
Weight: 172 lbs.
Class: Vet Int. 

  1. Kawasaki KX450
  2. Honda CRF450R
  3. KTM 450 SX-F
  4. Yamaha YZ450F
  5. Husqvarna FC 450

1) Kawasaki KX450

I immediately felt at home on the Kawasaki, from the ergonomics at a standstill, l while seated in the pits, to the way the bike handled on both tracks, this was the most comfortable bike for me. The chassis was stable and predictable in all conditions. The braking was strong throughout both front and rear. The Showa fork needed to be stiffened up, but once that was done the combo between fork and shock were plush at the top of the stroke and handled chop well at the bottom of the stroke. The new clutch had an exceptionally smooth pull and a broad engagement point. The only downfall was having to physically change ignition couplers to change mapping. 

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2) Honda CRF450R

I wasn’t a huge fan of the 2020 Honda so I was eager to get my hands on the new bike. Right off the bat, I noticed that the bike was slender in the saddle and felt like a trimmed-down version of last year’s bike. On the track, the chassis felt rigid and took some suspension changes to get the bike to settle. Once that was achieved, I was more comfortable on the bike and able to push it. The suspension complemented the motor very well and the motor had a very smooth power curve which made it very manageable and fun to ride. 

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3) KTM 450 SX-F

The KTM for 2021 surprised me, I expected a much more unfamiliar feeling as the KTM’s have historically had the “Euro” feel to them and took some effort to set up. That was not the case for me this year. The steel frame gave the bike a very plush feel throughout the track and allowed the bike to flex with the unforgiving chop at Glen Helen but also remained rigid enough when the bike needed to be. The power was meaty from top to bottom and never left me wanting more. Changing maps was easy and I found myself mostly using map 2. The KTM could lug third gear all day and still have power and bottom-end consistency for a full lap. Overall, the bike was predictable, stable and had a very user-friendly powerplant. 

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4) Yamaha YZ450F

When I initially threw a leg over the Yamaha it felt taller, longer, and wider in the tank area then the other bikes. My first few laps were spent riding the front end of the bike which was uncomfortable for me. I also had a difficult time managing the explosive power the Yamaha had. I rode the bike again with softer fork and shock settings as well as moved the bars back and felt much better in the saddle. After the changes, I still feel the bike felt top-heavy throughout the rutted corners and took a lot of effort to lay it over. The Yamaha boasts power that is great to have, but at times was too much for me. The tuner app did make it much easier to change mapping and log your motor’s usage which is great. 

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5) Husqvarna FC 450

The first thing I felt when seated in the Husky was how low it sat, which is how I tend to like in my bike set up. The bike rolled through corner entry, mid-corner, and corner-exit very easily due to the lower chassis yet was unpredictable and jumped around through high-speed chop and deceleration. The powerplant was slightly underwhelming and seemed to flatten out in the top quicker than its competitors. The bike also had a noticeable engine vibration which was evident in the pits but not a problem on the track. The reason I put the Husquvarna lower on the list was not that it is a bad bike, but because it just didn’t feel as competitive on a racetrack than the others. 

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Justin McMurrich

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Age: 46
Height: 5’ 10”
Weight: 210 lb
Class: Vet-Pro

  1. Honda CRF450R
  2. KTM 450 SX-F
  3. Kawasaki KX450
  4. Yamaha YZ450F
  5. Husqvarna FC 450


1) Honda CRF450R

For starters, I really liked Honda’s new, lean chassis. The new ergonomics allowed for smooth movements in any track scenario. Once the suspension was reasonably set, it allowed me to jump and corner the bike with ease. As for the engine, the motor has a broad powerful power band. The hydraulic clutch felt good and did not fade one bit. One thing I noticed was the Honda busy feel at speed. All in all, the 2021 CRF 450 is a lean, powerful bike with a long motor and is fun to ride.

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2) KTM 450 SX-F

Second on my list was the KTM 450. This bike has the complete package. It has a very comfortable riding compartment, which is extremely easy to ride. The suspension is very balanced, enabling it to be highly tractable. In regards to the engine, the KTM has a long, useable, and predictable powerband. With the addition of brand new forks, it may take some time to adjust them.

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3) Kawasaki KX450

Next on the list is Kawasaki’s KX450F with a new clutch and fatty handlebars. The package from 2020 was so polished, only a  few fine refinements were needed. One of those adjustments being a new hydraulic clutch. The abuse this clutch can take is surprising. Kawasaki put the correct components in this clutch basket, enabling it to work to perfection. As usual, the KX450F is very stable at speed and it corners as well. While riding the bike this week, I did have issues with the rear brake fading. Overall, a very powerful, rider-friendly package.

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4) Yamaha YZ450F

To begin with, the rider compartment may seem a little odd. The seat and tank are wide and made me feel as if I was doing the splits. This results in an unusual riding compartment. Keeping that in mind, the Yamaha YZ450F has the most balanced, well-sprung suspension of 2021. In terms of the engine, it has an explosively powerful mid-range. As a result, the top end is sacrificed. In the proper riding conditions, this bike will feel unbeatable.

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5) Husqvarna’s FC 450

In my opinion, the Husqvarna should no longer be referred to as a white KTM. The similarities between the two are few and far between. First, the Husky sits quite a bit lower, the wheelbase is shorter, and the handlebars are narrower. Due to these changes, I felt as if I was sitting in the bike, instead of on it. I had problems trying to keep the suspension balanced, especially in the corners. Husqvarna’s FC 450 has very useable power, unfortunately, there was noticeable engine vibration through the pegs, and it is not the fastest 450 of 2021. In closing, all of these bikes have the ability to be competitive. Some may need more attention than others, but the same results are attainable on each. 

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Daron Rahlves

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Age: 47
Height: 5' 9"
Weigh: 173 lb
Class: Expert/A

  1. KTM 450 SX-F
  2. Kawasaki KX450
  3. Yamaha YZ450F
  4. Honda CRF450R
  5. Husqvarna FC 450

1) KTM 450 SX-F

The KTM 450 had an all around package of power, handling and suspension. It's smooth power delivery out of turns made it easy to hook up and accelerate out. It tracks well at high speed in wavy chop. Up the hills of Glen Helen it pulled strong in 3rd shifting to 4th and kept eating up elevation. I liked the map two with traction control for the loose-top/hard-base sweepers. The chassis and ergonomics made for a comfortable rider position and balanced with a nimble feeling in all terrain. I could attack with more speed into turns and it would stick in rut lines at State Fair MX track. The roll through in corners when the bike was laid over felt awesome. The suspension soaked up little chop and big jump landings with ease and the shock kept the rear wheel hooking up. So plush! Oh, and the braking power is smooth and strong with a predictable feel. KTM nailed it with the full package. This bike is awesome.

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2) Kawasaki KX450

The Kawi was a very close second to the KTM. It felt so good and comfortable right away.  All around power, handling and suspension was easy to ride.  This bike has great power in all the right places, but just a little behind the KTM out of corners heading up the hills of Glen Helen. I liked the aggressive map white coupler and the standard green.  Didn't feel any major difference between the two.  It goes into and exits the turn in rut lines really easy and responds to throttle input right when you give it. Great braking power too. I liked the thin feel of the front brake lever.  That allowed for more control and finesse. I stood the rear wheel up braking hard on the font into a tight turn and it held the straight line like I needed it. The chassis gives great feel and is user friendly, but I had a recurring head shake each lap at high speed going into Glen Helen's first turn through wavy chop at top speed. This was the only issue. Otherwise it's a really fun bike to ride and it soaks up braking and accelerating bumps with ease.

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3) Yamaha YZ450F

The YZ450F is a powerful beast in both how it feels and sounds. It chugs hard hooks up! The torque and power is insane! It pulls hard and makes for clearing jumps with low corner speed a breeze. It was a blast to ride, but I put the Yamaha in third because it was hard to

handle with that much power. It wore me down a little quicker than the KTM and KX. It feels firm and slim between the legs standing up and moves well underneath. The suspension was plush; great through all the little to big hits on both tracks.  When the track was smooth earlier in the day this bike performed better for me. When it got rough in GH I couldn't put it exactly where I wanted and it was a little struggle for me keeping the bike laid over in the ruts, exiting where I wanted and driving through the rough track on the gas.

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4) Honda CRF450R

The CRF450R has a lot of changes and looks killer. Unfortunately I just didn't connect with it on handling. I kept getting popped upright through the turns even with multiple suspension changes of stiffening the shock and reducing sag. I could knife out of the turns with an early exit, but after wavering around through the turn, probably due to the slower speed coming out of the turn. I liked the feeling of map three, traction two as it delivered a good mix of power and control. It pulled out of corners and uphill competitively, but down a smidge compared to the top three.  Overall I didn't have a comfortable feeling on the Honda to get aggressive and enter corners at my top speed.

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5) Husqvarna FC 450

The FC 450 I assumed would be very similar to the KTM, but it felt completely unrelated. Rider position felt cramped and it had a twitchy front end. Adjustments were made with the suspension, but it didn't solve my issue of the front wheel nervous feeling and climbing out of the rut. In a straight line the rear end tracked well in rollers. The power felt lowest compared to all the others and especially the bottom-end. Lugging it then twisting the throttle there was a slight lag. That made for more effort in clearing jumps with short in runs. 

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Chad Pederson 

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Age: 49
Height: 5’ 7”
Weight: 180 lb
Class: Vet Expert

  1. Yamaha YZ450F
  2. Honda CRF450R
  3. Kawasaki KX450
  4. KTM 450 SX-F
  5. Husqvarna FC 450


1) Yamaha YZ450F

Feels a little bit wider than the other bikes, but I still feel very comfortable on it. The motor on the Yamaha has a little bit more hit than the others. Cornering on the Yamaha seemed a little more top-heavy but it was not a problem for me and tracked good coming out of the corners. I ran the rear sag at 105 mm. I tried the stock map and the aggressive map loaded on the bike. But I liked the Magic Map that Yamaha had made that you could download online. The phone app is really nice to have also. The clutch and brakes worked very good. At Glen Helen we change the Yamaha a little bit with the bar mounts. We moved the bar mounts to the back holes which made it more comfortable for me because I’m a smaller rider. At the start, the bike set up was the same from State fair, and we made a few adjustments to the clickers. I felt the most comfortable on the Yamaha, overall.               

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2) Honda CRF450R                 

I really like the feel of the Honda, it fits me the best of all the bikes. The motor on the Honda seems a little soft on power. I ran the second map and the rear sag at 107 mm. Coming in and out of the tight corners was amazing for me. The clutch and brakes felt good. At Glen Helen, I left the bike the same from State Fair. After going out for a couple laps, I put the sag back to 105mm. It seemed at Glen Helen where the bumps were a little bit bigger the bike felt a little harsh.

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3) Kawasaki KX450             

It was the first bike that I rode at State Fair. I thought the bike was very comfortable. The motor was strong and very rideable. The new clutch seemed very strong and smooth and I kept the green coupler on the Kawasaki. The suspension on the Kawasaki was really good. The fork was very solid coming into the corners and the rear was very stable under acceleration coming out of the corners. And the brakes worked very good on getting that Kawasaki slow down. Had a hard time turning the Kawasaki in tight corners. But running the outside sweepers was good. At Glen Helen I kept everything the same. The bike was super fun to ride on a big outdoor track.             

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4) KTM 450 SX-F

Felt very comfortable on the bike. Motor was very strong and you could rev it or run a gear higher. I preferred map two with traction control on. I really like the components on the KTM and Husky. Had some problems coming in and out of the corners. The first initial part of the stroke on both ends seemed too soft for me. On acceleration coming out of the corner, through the bumps, the KTM’s chassis was solid.               

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5) Husqvarna FC 450

Bike was really comfortable, the bike is a little lower than the KTM. I felt that when I first got on the bike. The motor on the Husky what’s a little slower than the KTM. But still very usable power. Also ran the Husky on map two. The on-the-fly map switch is nice to have. Suspension was a little harsher than the others. I think the Husky is 10 mm lower than the KTM, which makes it ride a little rougher. Cornering was good coming in and coming out under acceleration it was a little skittish. I kept the bike the same from track to track. I made a few adjustments with the clickers. Seemed like I could ride the bike fast, just felt stiffer than the others.    

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CONCLUSION

As we have said in the video and pretty much every shootout since the beginning of shootouts, the primary value of this kind of head-to-head match up is the feedback and notes from the testers and finding patterns and similarities in how bikes are described, rather than focusing on the rankings, the dyno charts or weights of the bikes. Sure, those are hard facts that help make a decision, but every rider said that the Yamaha felt like it had the most torque and most overall power, yet the dyno chart proves that wrong. On the flip side of that same coin, the dyno numbers for the Husky look pretty great (second highest HP, even ahead of the KTM) but that didn’t translate to better feeling bike on the track. 

At the end of the day, all of the 2021 450 machines are more than capable of being a stellar motocross weapon. It just comes down to matching a bike’s characteristics with your riding style and preferences. 

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