Racing the 2024 Yamaha YZ450FX | Big Buck GNCC 7

Vital MX was recently at the 2024 press launch for the Yamaha YZ450FX in South Carolina. We then raced the bike at the Big Buck GNCC.

Vital MX was recently invited to South Carolina for Yamaha’s press introduction ride for the all-new 2024 YZ450FX, their flagship cross-country motorcycle. 2024 marks the 50th anniversary of the iconic YZ machines, and the new YZ450FX has been redesigned to continue that tradition. 

You can hear more about the '24 Yamaha YZ450FX in our First Impressions YouTube video here.

The riding portion of the intro was held at AmPro Yamaha owner and off-road legend Randy Hawkins’ training facility, where some of the top GNCC riders, such as 2023 XC2 champion Liam Draper, Ricky Russell, and Jordan Jarvis, train. In short, it is a perfect environment to introduce their bikes. We were also allowed to race the opening round of the ’24 GNCC series at Big Buck in Union, South Carolina. Yamaha was not shying away from us putting the bikes to the test.

Randy’s facility has a moto-style track and a tighter GNCC enduro course for us to ride, so we could see how the bikes performed in various conditions. They had rain come a few days before, so it was muddy on day one and progressively dried up over the two days. The moto track had quite a bit of elevation, multiple jumps, open and tight corners, and higher speeds. The enduro course took us through tight trees and was mixed with roots, rocks, hill climbs, and almost every obstacle you can think of. Randy also took us on a ride off the main courses that had us dropping into a riverbed loaded with rocks, water up to the fenders, hopping over downed trees, a big hill climb that challenged a few of us lesser-skilled riders, and so many challenges to test the 450FX. The true test would come a couple of days later at Big Buck.

Dylan Kelley

The ’24 YZ450FX comes with quite a few changes from the previous models, including a completely revised chassis for the FX model. Yamaha released an all-new chassis on the YZ450F in 2023, implemented with the FX models. It also has revised ECU settings, a five-speed wide ratio transmission, updated KYB suspension, a composite skid plate, an ‘O’ ring chain, hand guards, and a kickstand.

Dylan Kelley Photos

Since I have been riding the ’24 YZ450F for the last few months, I wanted to see how the two bikes compared. I was instantly comfortable with the FX model. It feels light and nimble on course, and I felt in control in all the conditions we rode in. I could not wait to race this bike at Big Buck. The YZ450FX was a lot of fun to ride at the intro and impressed me in many areas while testing it, but racing it was going to be the true test. There is a difference between riding a few laps at the training facility and running through sections to see how the bike reacts versus two hours of racing against other machines. Especially as an average rider who doesn’t do a lot of off-road racing. Feeling good for the introduction was one thing, but the 450 is a powerful machine. I was concerned the 450 would wear me out when racing in the woods for two hours, but was excited to find out for sure.

James Lissimore Photos

Big Buck was hard-packed with many roots, rocks, hills, ruts, and other obstacles to test the bike’s performance. The course was also made up of some open fast sections and tight trees to wind in and out of, which allowed the wide ratio transmission to shine. I could lug the bike in third for most of the riding conditions, and the bike had no problem accelerating out of the tight corners or up the hills. When out in the open, I could shift to fourth and get all the top-end speed I needed for the day. The gearing of the bike was really useful and impressive, allowing me to easily wheelie over something or pull up a hill with no struggles. I didn’t have any moments where I felt the gearing was inadequate.

GNCC courses get very rough after thousands of bikes and quads run through it for two days, so you hope for a bike with adequate suspension that can absorb the many types of terrain you’ll face. Thankfully, the KYB spring fork and shock, which have been redesigned to perform with the new chassis on the new model, worked incredibly well. About halfway into the first lap, I made a quick clicker change, which was made easy thanks to the hand-operated clicker compression adjusters. After that, I left it alone and just rode. The suspension is a bit softer than what comes on my YZ450F, but that is needed in off-road conditions. The bike handled surprisingly well and didn’t make me excessively worn out. Riding it was much easier and less taxing than I'd expected. The suspension was nice and not harsh, whether I was jumping some rollers, riding through a rough, rutty corner, or crossing the small creek. It built confidence in myself, and I could push harder as I got more and more comfortable. 

James Lissimore Photos

I finished on a single tank of fuel in just over an hour and 53 minutes, thanks to the 2.1-gallon fuel tank that comes standard on the 450FX. It also has a low fuel indicator light, which is incredibly helpful when riding off-road. As in the days previous, the power delivery of the 450FX made the bike easy to manage and incredibly fun to ride. It was nimble enough to work in and out of the tight trees, and the power was there when I needed it. Simply put, I had a blast riding the 450FX for the intro and the race. Although I am not especially skilled, the 450 was not too powerful and worked well for me. I can’t wait to race it again at an upcoming GNCC or another off-road race.

If you are looking for a bike to ride primarily off-road and maybe some light motocross, the Yamaha YZ450FX is a machine you should look at. You won’t be lacking in the power department; the KYB suspension works nicely and is a comfortable, agile bike. I would have no qualms about riding and racing this bike in any condition. The FX retails for $10,199, which is $200 more than the F model, but you get the kickstand, hand guards, ‘O’ ring chain, skid plate, and oversized tank. Those extras more than make up for the price increase. I believe it’s a great machine that checks all the boxes of what an off-road machine should be.

I want to give photo credit for the thumbnail photo to GNCC Photos on Facebook. Go give that page a follow for tons of photos from each GNCC event.

View 2024 Yamaha bikes' key specs, compare them side by side, and review your bike in the Vital MX Product section.


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