Since its arrival in South Africa in early February this year, everyone has been dreaming of getting their muddy boots onto the brand-new YZ450F. Big Blue has gone back to the designing table and for the first time in something like five years, the Yamaha YZ450F has been given a complete revamp. Due to the ground-up build and the hype created across waters, this YZF has been in global demand. So, we were surprised to find out that Yamaha South Africa managed to sneak in a few bikes for 25 lucky clients earlier this year.
One of the lucky clients to experience the lighter, slimmer, sharper and faster YZF was Justin Boniface (CRM manager at Linex Yamaha Lynnwood and national MX racer). With just three heat cycles in and not a spot of dirt on his bike, Justin invited us to experience the YZF at the private SJS Compound in Cullinan. Joining us was the man who keeps the track in tip-top shape St.John, also a very capable MX rider.
An early morning’s sun shone right onto Big Blue, with a track disappearing in the background and so too teasing the YZF for a rip. The sun helped illuminate so many differences for ‘23’ and off the cuff, it has to be the new exotic plastic design—slimmer and cleaner lines. We then see ergonomic changes with a taller and flatter seat, wider footpegs, a narrower fuel tank, increased legroom between the seat and footpegs and revised handlebar positioning. Oh yes, and much fewer buttons on the bars!
Justin Boniface: “The first thing that I noticed about the bike from both a visual and geometry perspective is how much smaller the bike is, especially around the radiator shrouds compared to the 22. Initially, on my 2022 YZ450F, it took me a long time just to get used to how wide the bike was and jumping on the new YZF takes me back home to my YZ250 2-stroke days. I really like the nimbleness of the bike and that’s all in the feeling that it is so small. Another characteristic that I like, is how you sit more upright on the bike thanks to its taller and flatter seat.”
We also see Yamaha taking their electronics package and attention to detail to the next level with a stunning design on the engine covers, aluminium bilateral beam frame, slimmer intake, updated power tuner app, hand-adjustable KYB suspension and new motor—you can just tell that Yamaha is ready to take on all championships this year. What is most clear this year is that Yamaha is listening to their rider’s feedback and in turn has taken this latest YZF to the next level.
The redesigned engine sees a 500 rpm higher rev limit, new exhaust and intake port shapes, larger diameter titanium intake valves, new piston, cylinder, crankshaft and balancer assembly, and a switch from the wet sump to dry sump lubrication. In summary, this means the MY23 YZ450F offers more power across the entire rev range in a lighter and more compact engine.
Justin touched on the new electronics and how riders can now adjust the new traction control and the updated launch control setting through the Yamaha Power Tuner App as well as record lap times. Yes, riders can now select between three levels of TC, high, low or off and launch control now features an rpm limiting setting, which can be adjusted in 500 rpm increments between 6,000 rpm and 11,000 rpm. If you don’t get the holeshot after all this, then you’re doing something wrong.
Justin Boniface: “When riding the bike I could feel that the footpegs are more rear set than last year’s model, which I found very interesting as it makes the rider stand on the balls of their feet in the attack position. This is really good as you are supposed to be riding like this and on the 23 you don’t even have to think about it.
“I really like the way that they’ve changed all the buttons on the handlebars to just one little switch on the left-hand sidebar. On/off, riding maps and launch control all built into that little switch really take all the distractions away when riding the bike. I also ride with Renthal 999 bars, which was always a hassle to fit with all the 22s switches.
“Riding the bike was another experience! Riding the YZ450F just amazed me, not just because of how different it was but because of how straight it tracks into and out of corners. You just point the front end into the turn and go, it doesn’t want to jump out of the rut or anything like that and even over braking jumps it stays composed.”
Justin was also kind enough to let “ST” have a rip on his YZF. ST bleeds orange and currently rides a 2023 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition, but although in love with all that’s orange he was drooling over the 23 YZ450F. Justin and I were betting that it would take him a few laps before he started to clear some jumps and get used to the bike. Yeah…no! ST was ripping out of the third corner with full control and confidence, almost as if he has been riding the YZF for a full racing season.
St. John Von Willich: “I felt the YZF to be very nimble when compared to my KTM, with a heavier front end feel and very light rear end. When coming out of corners, especially where there are ruts or bumps, I felt it absorb those cases better than my KTM and keep straight without any unexpected kicking out. For a stock setup, I think the rear suspension worked really well. Overall, the bike feels very light, nimble and easy to manoeuvre in and out of corners. It is just a dream to ride!”
We think Yamaha has a very competitive alternative with the 2023 YZ450F to what rolls out of the European factory line. I personally think riders will be getting a lot of value out of the Yamaha as it rides up there with the best and comes standard with loads of tech, anodised goodies and hardware. The latest YZ450F will set riders back a compelling R159,950 (R15,000 more than last year’s model), that’s if you get in line before the next shipment is all sold out.
Yamaha YZ450F 2023
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