2014 Yamaha YFZ450R SE First Ride 0

14_yamahaYFZ450R_se_headerSport ATVs and sand dunes go to together like peanut butter and jelly. Actually, no, that’s not epic enough. It’s more like Rock and Roll. Yamaha knows this well and holds its annual pilgrimage to the Imperial Sand Dune Recreation Area, better known as Glamis, where the media gets an opportunity to sample the new Special Edition sport ATV models all in one place. As a desert rat and hardcore dune goon myself, I pointed the 4WheelDirt rig eastbound towards the dunes with the loud pedal mashed to the floor and the volume cranked to 11 to get my sand fix on a 2014 Yamaha YFZ450R SE.

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In the 2014 Yamaha YFZ450R First Ride we testing the standard model at a motocross track and were left impressed. Yamaha has totally reworked the YFZ for 2014 with more power, better handing, a slipper clutch and new bodywork. It still is a familiar machine when behind the bars, but it is much improved. I won’t go as deep into the technical details as we did in the First Ride Article this time. Rather, we’ll concentrate on how it performs where many YZF450Rs see duty.

Yamaha offers two color schemes and graphics for the 2014 SE models. The Crimson Red model is available right now, while the black model will hit dealership floors this spring. Both models come fitted with a GYTR grab bar as well. Buyers will have to dish out $200 more for these special edition models; a minor upcharge considering a front grab bar alone will set you back in the neighborhood of $125 or so depending on the model.

Glamis can be a fickle place. After a good windstorm it can be smooth as silk without a single indication anyone has touched its surface before, or after a big holiday weekend it can be as rough and chewed-up as a desert racecourse. Unfortunately, our time at the dunes was the latter. Usually this results in blisters, sore backs, and an all-round uncomfortable ride on a sport ATV. My biggest gripe with sport ATVs is that small bump compression settings are often too stiff, and when we headed out for the first ride of the day I once again was unimpressed with how the SE handled the chop. The faster you went the smoother the ride, but anytime the speeds dropped the beating would resume from the stock suspension settings.

Fixing the rough ride took a flat-blade screwdriver and less than a minute. We took five clicks of low-speed compression damping out of the fully adjustable front and rear shocks. The difference was significant with just that small change and still allowed for big jumps and banging through whoops. Even at slower speed the YFZ450R dealt well with cross-ruts and bumps, making it a more controlled and less harsh ride. No changes were need to the rebound or high-speed compression settings.

The 2014 Yamaha YZF450R SE rips around bowls like it is on rails.

The 2014 Yamaha YZF450R SE rips around bowls like it is on rails.

Power is important when riding in the dunes; the sand saps torque and horsepower much more than on firm surfaces. On the track, the power was excellent and it is no different when ripping through the bowls and up slip-faces. The YFZ’s motor has a stout mid-range that rockets it out of turns and gives plenty of pop off jump faces. On-top the engine screams and never seems to run out of power until just before the rev-limiter. Right off the bottom the engine is lacking slightly in the sand, and we actually stalled quite a few times when letting out the clutch on takeoff. We soon learned to spin the motor off the line rather than lug it for trouble-free starts. Other than that little issue the engine is a ripper thanks to the boost from Yamaha, despite conforming to stricter emission standards for 2014.

Handling in the dunes is a slot-car-like experience. The low and flat chassis of the YFZ lets you rail around bowls as fast as you dare and sticks flat corners like Velcro. With the new for 2014 Maxxis knobby tires, slides are predicable and not snappy or abrupt. Steering effort is spot-on and without twitchiness when encountering ruts or deep buggy tracks. The seat and rear fender transition makes it easy to throw your weight around and set up for turns, further improving the handling.

Comfort is a factor to consider when you are out riding all-day and there are some trade-offs riding a MX focused sport ATV such as the YFZ. The handlebars are low and the seat-to-footpeg distance is compact to keep the center of gravity low as possible. This does make for a more aggressive seating position, but it also provides the platform for aggressive handling. The bars can be moved forward for extra space, but if I were to use a YFZ450R exclusively in the dunes, a taller steering stem and seat would be a great upgrade. As is, the rider area is a solid mix of comfort and sport.

The suspension on the 2014 Yamaha YFZ450R SE can be adjusted to be plush in small chop but still handle big jumps.

The suspension on the 2014 Yamaha YFZ450R SE can be adjusted to be plush in small chop but still handle big jumps.

After two days in the dunes, I was left completely impressed with the performance of the 2014 Yamaha YFZ450R SE. The power is enough to handle the biggest dune, the suspension can be tailored to fit any condition and the handling is unbeatable. It’s easy to see why the majority of sport ATVS you’ll see at the sand dunes are YFZ450Rs – they deliver one of the best overall experiences in the sand you can get.

A second SE color - Black and Crimson - was just announced for the 2014 Yamaha YFZ450R.

A second SE color – Black and Crimson – was just announced for the 2014 Yamaha YFZ450R.

2014 Yamaha YFZ450R SE Specs:
Engine: 449cc, liquid-cooled w/fan 4-stroke, DOHC titanium 5-valve
Bore & Stroke: 95.0 x 63.4mm
Compression: 11.8:1
Fuel Delivery: Yamaha Fuel Injection (YFI), 42mm
Ignition: TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission: 5-speed manual clutch
Drive Train: 2wd; seald O-ring chain
Front Suspension: Independent double wishbone w/Kashima coated piggyback shocks, High/Low speed compression, rebound and threaded preload adjustment, 9.8 inches travel
Rear Suspension: Cast aluminum swingarm w/piggyback High/Low speed compression; rebound and threaded preload adjustment, 11.0 inches travel
Front Brake: Dual ventilated hydraulic disc, twin piston
Rear Brake: Wave-style ventilated hydraulic disc, twin piston
Front Tire: AT21x7-10 Maxxis
Rear Tire: AT20x10-9 Maxxis
Length: 70.7 inches
Width: 48.8 inches
Height: 41.9 inches
Seat Height: 31.9 inches
Wheelbase: 50.0 inches
Ground Clearance: 9.6 inches
Fuel Capacity: 5.3 gallons
Weight: 405 pounds (wet)
MSRP: $8,999

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