2017 TM EN 300 Fi vs. 2017 Yamaha YZ450FX
The 2017 TM EN 300 Fi is an all-new model for the Italian company. The closest model from the year prior would be the same model in a 250cc engine, but we didn’t test that, so this was a completely new bike for us.
The 2017 Yamaha YZ450FX was revised in a few minor ways including the removal of the kickstarter, new fuel and engine warning indicator lights hidden behind the front number plate, and revised suspension settings.
Why these two machines? Well, technically they would be racing in the same class since they are both four-strokes over 250cc. And while the FX would be considered more a cross-country bike, the EN is raced all over the world in all kinds of off-road conditions. We took these two bikes to a private riding area with plenty of granite rocks, hills, and endless amounts of single-track. There were some wide-open, high-speed areas, but we tested these bikes on tighter, more technical trails for the most part. Here’s what our two test riders thought after a full day of riding the bikes back to back.
The engines on these two bikes are dramatically different both in the amount of power they deliver and the way it is delivered. The engine on the TM feels a bit slow right off idle and the bottom-end power isn’t as snappy as I’d like. The midrange provides a little more excitement and the bike seems to be at its best when ridden in the top-end of the powerband. With a bit more bottom-end, I feel like I could lug the bike more comfortably and maintain traction better on tight trails.
The handling is probably the biggest difference between the two bikes aside from the engine size and character. The TM has a very lightweight and flickable feeling making it an ideal machine for tight single-track. I felt like I could put the TM anywhere I wanted to and the bike responded quickly with minimal input. At the same time, it was fairly stable at high speeds but not quite as planted as the Yamaha. The Yamaha has excellent straight-line stability but had a heavy feel in comparison to the TM, especially the front end. I had to work a bit harder to put the Yamaha where I wanted it, and I feel that this is due not only to the different chassis setup but also the increased inertia from the larger engine size.
Each bike excels in different types of off-road riding. For more wide-open, motocross-style off-road courses, I’d say the Yamaha is the better bike because it feels more like a motocross bike than an off-road bike overall. For tight and technical single-track trails, I felt more comfortable on the TM because of how light it feels and how easy it was to put where I wanted it. I think with a softer fork setup, this would be an excellent trailbike for me. Overall, I would choose the TM for tight and technical trail riding and the Yamaha for more wide-open, high-speed courses.
From the first moment you swing a leg over these bikes, you can immediately feel the difference in ergonomics and what each bike was built for. The TM EN 300 Fi almost mimics the feeling of a trials bike, with a short seat height and a very thin feeling between the knees. On the complete other end of the spectrum, there is the Yamaha YZ450FX. The super-lightweight feeling the TM had was absent while aboard the big-bore Yamaha. With a very open-feeling cockpit, the YZ450FX seemed a lot larger than it actually was, which gave a feeling of stability at high speed. Without a doubt, it feels just like your typical motocross bike: strong through the corners and a great bike to attack any fire roads with ease.
In the engine department, these are two different beasts. The TM made very linear power and felt much more like a trials bike to me. The motor emphasized this feeling with consistent, torquey power. Yamaha did a very good job with the YZ450FX's motor with lots of power in the bottom-end, midrange, and top-end—sometimes more than wanted. This made the bike feel quite light under acceleration but the weight quickly came back to you as you returned the throttle to the stop.
Suspension settings I felt were very key to make the TM rideable. Having to max out the preload on the shock to maintain proper sag, the Italian machine still felt too soft in the rear end for me. The fork was surprisingly comfortable, staying in the stroke as long as the speeds stayed low. The Yamaha has a very plush feeling that only gets better as speeds increase. The fork on the YZ can tend to deflect quite easily at low speeds though. As for the shock, I have nothing but good things to say about it. It performed very well at speed and didn't wallow around. Under hard acceleration it felt very planted too.
Braking was mostly one in the same with these two machines. I was expecting the Brembos on the TM to far outshine those on the Yamaha, but I really couldn't tell a difference. The front brake on the Yamaha was very strong and could settle the front end down for a corner very quickly. All in all, both of the braking systems are excellent and stop these bikes on a dime.
Overall, the Yamaha feels more like a race-ready package with a sportier trim than the TM. I feel like I could take the Yamaha to a GP at Glen Helen or Cahuilla and race it comfortably bone stock. The Dunlop AT81 tires hooked up great and I never felt like they spun or slid more than they should have. The TM, on the other hand, feels like a trail-only machine. With the enduro-spec tires, I felt like I was losing traction any time I tried to go fast. With a new set of Dunlop tires, this bike would be a single-track killer. If I were to pick one of these two bikes after this one day test, I would pick the Yamaha YZ450FX due to its stronger engine, better suspension, and better handling characteristics.