As soon as we got the invite to visit Yamaha and attend their 2018 unveiling event, we started getting pretty excited. Month’s earlier we had caught glimpses of what appeared to be a new YZ450F in a trip to Japan, but Yamaha kept details of the bike under wraps, quite literally. Still, this was enough evidence to suggest that Yamaha had something big coming for the 2018 model year, and this was indeed proven true when they pulled the cover off of the 2018 YZ450F.
Often times these days, the phrase “all-new from the ground up” is liberally used to describe new machines. That is not the case with Yamaha’s YZ450F. Despite somewhat similar looks at first glance and their signature reversed engine design, every part of the new bike has been changed or upgraded. The result is a radically different frame, a smooth motor that still delivers more power than ever, slimmer bodywork, and electronic technology unlike anything seen previously.
We ought to start with the technology, as it’s the source of much of the curiosity surrounding the 2018 YZ450F. We’re not talking about the electric starter that comes standard either. Yamaha introduced their new Power Tuner app, which allows the same capabilities of the GYTR Power Tuner to be used on your smartphone. Fueling and ignition timing changes can be uploaded to the bike using the onboard WiFi system which is placed at the back end of the bike. These changes can even be saved for different track conditions, and the app also includes a place to save race results alongside different maps. Another great feature of the app is a built-in maintenance log with recorded hours.
As we mentioned earlier, electric start will be a standard feature on the 2018 YZ450F. The bike utilizes a compact starter motor and ultra-lightweight lithium battery. There are obvious benefits to electric start, including faster, easier, more consistent starting, and less fatigue. Despite this addition, the YZ actually sheds two pounds from last years wet weight. For those that still prefer to start their bike via kick, Yamaha did tell us that a kickstarter would be available as a GYTR accessory.
Yamaha also changed and updated the motor based on the 2017 YZ450F to not only achieve more power, but also make the bike easier to control and ride. An updated cylinder head, piston, cam profiles, cylinder geometry and much more were used to improve the 2018 model. The all-new cylinder head was rotated slightly more upright to create a better weight distribution at the front of the motorcycle. As for the compression ratio, it’s been bumped up to 12.8:1 over last years 12.5:1, thanks in part to the new bridge-box piston. The bridge-box design creates more strength, but reduces the total material used. Revised gears with a wider surface area, updated clutch plates and a stiffer outer pressure plate, along with a new shift lever and shift selector drum, add durability and improved feel to the machine. These changes also result in less rotating mass, which makes the bike feel lighter and smoother. Blue accents and a spark plug cap holder add to the looks and function of the motor.
The motor is fed now by a new 44mm Mikuni throttle body fed by a high pressure electric pump to ensure optimum fuel atomization. This more compact throttle body is 12 percent lighter than the previous unit and even features an easy to use cold start feature. To feed the new throttle body is a redesigned airbox and air filter. With just one Dzus fastener and two clips, owners can easily access the new air filter for maintenance. As for the exhaust, it appears relatively unchanged, but is actually 12mm longer and reduced in diameter from 41mm to 38mm.
New bodywork also graces the 2018 YZ450F. In addition to shaving weight, the new body design is more narrow than ever and gives riders better comfort and grip. Yamaha lowered the seat height as well by a difference of almost 20mm at the rear of the machine, and 8mm in the center. To allow for some of the slimmer bodywork, the radiators were positioned closer to the frame and more upright. These new radiators are also a larger capacity and capture more airflow, but are slimmer than previous models. By reducing the seat, frame, and tank of the bike, Yamaha was able to narrow the bike by 18mm in the riders cockpit. For those who spend less time on the track, the 1.6 gallon tank may need upgrading. That being said, the new motor is claimed to be more efficient and can last long enough to put in motos.
The 2018 YZ450F frame is completely new to match the rest of the machine, and is noticeably different from past YZ’s. Most of the frame tubing is now rectangular, larger, and flatter to increase rigidity and front-end feeling, and is paired with wider rear frame spars and all-new engine mounts. The engine mounts have been moved to the rear of the cylinder head and are now made from aluminum. This helps to centralize mass for increased balance overall. The subframe was slightly tweaked to match the machine as well. Overall, the changes have helped to triangulate different portions of the frame better to aid in the handling characteristics of the bike. The triple clamps have been reduced to a 22mm offset from 25mm, and the handlebar mounts were moved up 5mm.
Immediately noticeable are the blue wheels fitted to the Team Yamaha Blue machine, but beyond looks these wheels are actually lighter weight thanks to a flatter design. Despite being lighter, the wheels are also designed to be strong and durable, and obviously stand out from the usual black or silver we’re used to seeing. Mounted the wheels are Dunlop MX3S tires.
Returning for 2018 is Kayaba SSS suspension, with revised settings and parts to provide both lighter weight and improved feel to riders. Yamaha’s goal was to make the stock suspension on the YZ450F much closer to A-kit components, both in performance and quality. For 2018, the Yamaha will also feature a 270mm front brake disc, 4-position adjustable handlebar mounts with 1 1/8″ bars, 55mm wide footpegs, a quick adjust clutch perch, and embedded graphics, available in Team Yamaha Blue or White.
Engine Type | 449cc liquid-cooled DOHC 4-stroke; 4 titanium valves
Bore x Stroke | 97.0mm × 60.8mm
Compression Ratio | 12.8:1
Fuel Delivery | Keihin® fuel injection, 44mm
Ignition | TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission | Constant-mesh 5-speed; multiplate wet clutch
Final Drive | Chain
Suspension / Front | KYB® Speed-Sensitive System inverted fork; fully adjustable, 12.2-in travel
Suspension / Rear | KYB® single shock; fully adjustable, 12.5-in travel
Brakes / Front | Hydraulic disc, 270mm
Brakes / Rear | Hydraulic disc, 245mm
Tires / Front | 80/100-21 Dunlop® MX3S®
Tires / Rear | 120/80-19 Dunlop® MX3S®
LxWxH | 86.0 in x 32.5 in x 50.6 in
Seat Height | 38.6 in
Wheelbase | 58.5 in
Rake (Caster Angle) | 27.33°
Trail | 4.7 in
Ground Clearance | 13.0 in
Fuel Capacity | 1.6 gal
Wet Weight | 245 lb
Warranty | 30 Day (Limited Factory Warranty)
Color | Team Yamaha Blue; White