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2023 Monster Energy Yamaha Racing Edition YZ450F Review

Jul 08, 2023Jul 08, 2023

Without an initial deep dive into the technical specs of the all-new 2023 Yamaha YZ450F, I walked up to the bike for the first time with great anticipation and excitement to see what this new platform has to offer. We met Yamaha at Glen Helen Raceway, and they surprised us with the very sharp-looking 2023 Monster Energy Yamaha Racing Edition YZ450F—the basis of the bike Eli Tomac has been regularly taking to the top step of the 2023 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship Series podiums. In motocross, as you very well know, it is always important to look good and feel good. Yamaha certainly succeeded in the looks department, so let's find out how it feels on the track.

The Yamaha YZ450F is all new for 2023, from the bodywork to highly notable changes to the engine package. The previous YZ450F models have been known for being wide and heavy. However, this year Yamaha shaved off over five pounds from the overall weight and dramatically slimmed down the bodywork. Compared to last year's model, the body is 50mm narrower at the shrouds and 6mm narrower at the fuel tank. It is easy to see the difference with your eyes—no spec sheet needed.

Immediately, I am wondering how the new bodywork and updates to the rider triangle will affect the feel in the cockpit. The footpegs have dropped 5mm down and 5mm back, while the seat is 15mm flatter and 5mm taller to support easier rider movement. These changes combined make for a more open cockpit. I am your average 5 foot 9 inch rider, and the seat height is fine for me, even being on the shorter side. I can tell you that I like these updates—overall, they feel comfortable for me. These changes will definitely complement taller 450 riders.

So, I throw my leg over the YZ450F, looking all fly in my Fluo Green Alpinestars kit that contrasts well with the Monster Energy Yamaha Racing Edition plastic and graphics. Yamaha walks me through the controls and map switch settings before setting my sag at the standard 102mm.

I push the electric start button to engage the all-new e-start system, and the 450cc motor fires right up. In the past, Yamaha motocross models struggled to start up quickly after stalling. During my test ride, I had a few tip-overs, yet the YZ450F always started back up without issues.

The 2023 Yamaha YZ450F comes with an easy map switch on the left side of the handlebars with Map 1(light off) and Map 2 (light on). Map 1 is the more aggressive setting, while Map 2 is the more linear, smooth setting. It takes just a quick push of the button to change maps while riding—no need to stop. For most of the day, I kept it in Map 2 to suit my riding style and track conditions. The linear setting delivers plenty of power with smooth throttle response and rider-friendly power delivery.

I roll onto the expansive Glen Helen start straight, and crack open the throttle in 1st gear, then 2nd gear—then, I’m still in 2nd as I approach Talladega—the iconic first corner! Both 1st and 2nd gears pull much longer than expected. Second gear took me all the way around Talladega at practice speeds without the need to upshift.

After a small tabletop jump into a left-hand turn up Mount St. Helens, I am still in 2nd gear. Nearly pinned on my way up the long, steep Mount St. Helens climb, 2nd gear just kept pulling me up.

Even at higher speeds and throughout the day, I kept the transmission in 2nd gear, occasionally shifting up to 3rd gear when going down the start straight or the longer sections in the back.

First gear is impressively usable in tight technical corners. Glen Helen is tilled deep and the dirt is damp in the morning, making for deep ruts and soft corners. First gear worked wonders for me and pulled me out of some corners before needing to shift up. However, I will say that 2nd gear still delivered enough torque to lug around at slower corner speeds without the motor bogging down.

Yamaha introduced many engine changes to create the longer pull in each gear. Starting with the air intake system, the air filter is now a dome for increased size and surface area of 56 percent, which increases airflow. Additionally, the air intake valves have been machined larger—from 37 to 39mm—for a nine percent airflow increase, according to Yamaha. Other internal engine updates include a more efficient cylinder head design, increased combustion chamber volume, lighter crankshaft, larger gear diameters, revised ECU settings, and more. We went into great detail on the updates when the 2023 Yamaha YZ450F was introduced.

These engine updates have combined to create stronger and longer pulling power that translates to improved on-track performance and weight savings.

Throughout the entire 2023 YZ450F platform, Yamaha focused on weight savings—the subframe, footpeg brackets, airbox, chain guide, throttle cables, handlebar switches, and fuel pump all went on a diet. Wet weight this year is 240 pounds. With the lighter weight, the YZ450F tracks well through the corners. I have control of the bike, regardless of the dirt conditions in the corners.

However, during my first few laps on the YZ450F, I felt the rear end get a little loose on me. It danced around a little in the braking bumps and the acceleration bumps in the corners. Also, I was getting some wheel spin on acceleration while exiting the corners.

I returned to the pits to explain the problem to the Yamaha techs. They suggested softening the KYB shock's compression damping to keep the rear wheel planted. After that minor adjustment, I felt a big difference, and it worked well. I didn't need to adjust the fork clickers, as the front end felt pretty good for the most part. At high speeds, however, the KYB Speed-Sensitive System fork felt slightly on the stiff side when plowing through the rough, choppy bumps.

The 2023 Yamaha YZ450F is balanced, on the ground and in the air—a critical design feature for a motocross motorcycle. It is a fun bike on the jumps, tracking through the corners to help me set up for airtime. On the jump faces, the YZ450F tracks confidently, even when the lips get pitted later in the day.

In the air, the YZ450F feels super-light and nimble, allowing me to adjust when needed. Perhaps the mass-centralizing rearward-slanted cylinder, with front intake and rear exhaust, contributes to the impressive balance. On the landings, even with the stiffer fork setting, the bike maintains control in rough terrain, just as it does coming into a corner.

It was a great day testing the all-new 2023 Monster Energy Yamaha Racing Edition YZ450F, though I’ll have to spend more time on it to really dial in the settings for my riding style. Regardless, I can tell you that this bike is highly rider-friendly off the showroom floor, with plenty of power and linear delivery, especially in Map 2. All the new updates to the body and engine package make for an incredibly comfortable and fun 450cc motocross bike.

Photography by Don Williams


2023 Yamaha YZ450F Specs




2023 Yamaha YZ450F Price: $9899 MSRP 2023 Monster Energy Yamaha Racing Edition YZ450F: $10,099

RIDING STYLE 2023 Yamaha YZ450F Specs ENGINE CHASSIS DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES 2023 Yamaha YZ450F Price: $9899 MSRP 2023 Monster Energy Yamaha Racing Edition YZ450F: $10,099