First ride 2006 Yamaha YFZ450

More for your Money

Aug. 01, 2005 By Dean Waters
So a couple months ago we told you about the new Yamaha YFZ450 and that over 80 changes had been made for 2005. But how much of a difference is there - really? Will a rider be able to tell the difference between a 2004-2005 YFZ450 and a 2006 YFZ450?

Yea, were having fun now!

To find out, we were invited by Yamaha to come to a private track near Santa Barbara California to get our sweaty little hands on the 2006 YFZ450 for a full day of riding.

It got even better as we found out more about the privately-owned track located on the Castillo Ranch just outside of Las Alamos, CA. Note: Jim Castillo is of Innovation Sports and created the CTi knee brace being used by many professional and amateur athletes. Many big name MX riders have been known to frequent this track, but not just anybody gets to ride on it.

Our test rider was pumped to ride the new 2006 YFZ450, as he has spent many hours riding the 2004 and 2005 since they first came out. In fact, he's on that bike for the 2005 WORCS series, as well as the NW Nationals MX series. We also knew that Kory Ellis and a couple other Pros would be in attendance. So off to Santa Barbara we went.

A new lever and new seals in the front calipers greatly improves the feel.

Taking the YFZ450 for a Spin

Getting on the 2006 YFZ450 for the first time, the first thing our test rider mentioned was the feel of the front brakes. Something to the effect of "My race quad needs to feel like this!"

Examine it further and talking to the Yamaha personnel, we wanted to find out exactly what was changed. What is changed is that there is a different lever used which is slightly closer to the bars and the seals in the calipers are different, such that the pads sit closer to the rotor. So in theory, if you own an '04 or '05, you should be able to order a new lever and new seals from your Yamaha dealer and upgrade your front braking system.

Pro Pat Brown checking out the rear suspension

On to the track for more testing. For the morning session we rode the YFZ450 in stock form and our test rider just spent some time feeling it out and getting used to the track. We didn't have an 04 or 05 to do a head-to-head test with, but our rider felt that the performance of the 2006 felt much stronger and tourqier. We think this is probably mostly as a result of the newly designed head with a smaller intake port rather than the extra 10cc's which bring the YFZ450 up to the legal limit.

Of course there are other significant changes contributing like the longer stroke of the new crank, modified ignition timing, YZ style accelerator pump in the carb, and new jetting. Lots of little changes that add up to make a significant improvement.

The other thing we heard the test riders talking allot about was the rear suspension. The new linkage and longer travel rear shock were making for much smother landings than were ever possible with the stock rear suspension on the 2004 and 2005. We think this change is a significant improvement for the racers checkbook. Most serious racers have been changing the rear suspension to a long travel shock with a new linkage such as the Elka combination. This will set you back around $1,000 or more. So just think if you could keep that $1,000 and still have an incredible long travel suspension rear suspension?

Just check out how much thicker the seat is on the 2006 YFZ450

So what about thoughts from an old guy who is not really a MX racer? The 2006 YFZ450 is MUCH more comfortable than the 2004 and 2005. There are a number of things that contribute to this. A new longer steering stem, a new bend to the bars, and a much thicker seat.

I had always found the YFZ450 slightly uncomfortable to ride. The rider position on the 2006 feels much more natural.

This double-double was nice for testing

Other features - the new rear brakes. Not only do you have a completely new caliper with more than 90% larger contact area but it is lighter than the previous caliper.

Add the relocated master cylinder and the increased volume of brake fluid and you have another significant improvement that the will give you a better feel and faster lap times.

Open It Up

For even more fun, we swapped out the stock pipe for a new GYT-R pipe, removed the air box lid, changed the main jet, and put in a new needle with a different setting. (The stock 2006 needle is not adjustable due to EPA green sticker regulations.)

Yamaha has invested a lot of engineering time in their new GYTR pipes. They are quieter with better performance and they look trick too!

In just 20 minutes, we had we had a completely different bike on our hands.This is going to set you back maybe $400 but think of it this way - you saved $1,000 by not having to buy a long travel setup for the rear, so you're really still $600 to the good!

The smiles from the test riders increased greatly as they spent some time with the GYT-R-equipped 2006 YFZ450. You truly have a race ready bike now.


Hidden Improvements

Kory Ellis testing out the new YFZ450

In addition to the improvements that you can actually feel, there are other improvements that are significant but won't directly translate to faster lap times. For example, the new rear swingarm with eccentric chain adjustment, the larger dual row bearings, and the new linkage seals. Add in the new radiator with improved cooling and don't forget the electrical changes. No need for that ceramic resistor kit if you run without your lights on, so many of you have asked us about - it is now built in the 2006 model.

Is it worth $100 more? Absolutely. In fact when you really figure out how much you are going to save with the improvements you get, the 2006 YFZ450 is an incredible value for the racer. Cross off the $200 plus for a longer steering stem, $80 for a new set of flatter bars, $75 for new seat foam and cover, $1,000 for the long travel rear suspension, $300 stroker crank, $300 head work, $300-plus performance radiator, $90 CDI. Do you get the picture? We're talking major savings. You will still want to keep the new long travel a-arms and front shocks on your list and the new wider axle, but you have a much shorter list and more left in your checkbook. See you at the race track! Newsletter
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