Primary Use: Motocross
Main Mods: FMF Factory 4.1 RCT full exhaust system
Moment of Glory: Dragging bar in corners and feeling comfortable doing so
Forgettable Experience: Throwing up on the side of the track at Perris Raceway
Aftermath: Six air filter cleanings, three oil changes, and one oil filter
I never meshed well with Suzukis in the past. However, after riding the new 2018 RM-Z450, it dazzled me a bit. For starters, the suspension was amazing. I love the setup on the new Showa 49mm coil-spring fork and Showa BFRC shock. The suspension helps the bike track well and stay planted, both on high-speed straightaways and coming into turns. I didn’t experience any headshake or have the rear end dance around on me either. Front wheel traction is great, which helps prevent the front end from washing out. The shock was a bit soft for my liking, but a few clicks stiffer on compression definitely made it better. The overall feel of the suspension was amazing.
The engine was also impressive. It didn’t have that bottom-end hit that I can’t seem to get enough of, but the midrange and top-end both offered a smooth power delivery. It seemed to flatten out a bit on the top-end, but changing sprocket size could make a difference here. Even though the engine seems to have a slight hesitation off the bottom-end, the all-new RM-Z450 had no problems clearing any jump from the inside line. Some of the tracks I rode were very tight, so it was very noticeable. Although the engine impressed me in most situations, I still believe it needs more overall power in order to catch up to some of the competition. However, that doesn’t mean this bike is not a serious competitor right off the showroom floor.
Regarding the chassis, I was impressed with the overall handling of the bike. I noticed it sits a bit low in the rear; I prefer less sag and more of a stinkbug setup, but overall feel of the bike was good. Regarding braking, the oversize front rotor gives the bike an enormous advantage in stopping power. I like to drag the front brake through corners, so a larger rotor helps brake control tremendously. My two minor complaints with the new RM-Z450 would be the footpegs and seat, as both could use a little more grip for my liking. Also, the bike comes stock with a Renthal Fatbar, and I prefer a crossbar, but that’s more of a personal preference. As for the lack of electric start, it’s not a deal breaker for me. I was always told, “If you can’t start it, you can’t ride it.” I will say electric start is very convenient when you’re tired and you stall the bike.
My overall opinion of the new 2018 RM-Z450 is that the bike is limitless. It’s one of the best-handling 450 motocross bikes on the market and performed well in everything including the whoops, straightaways, jumps, and corners. If it had the fastest engine, it would be by far the best motocross bike for me.