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Bench Racing Ammo: YZ450F

Something happened this year in our sport that hasn’t happened since way back in 1993. When Chad Reed took the checkered flag and the AMA Supercross Championship in Las Vegas, it marked the first time since the 1992-’93 season that the same bike won back-to-back championships with different riders—Grant Langston (MX) and Chad Reed (SX). Back then it was the Honda CR250R that guided Jeff Stanton to the 1992 250cc AMA Motocross championship, followed by the ’93 250cc AMA Supercross title with a young Jeremy McGrath.

2008 YZ450F

For the Yamaha YZ450F to accomplish this feat really shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, it is the bike that started the four-stroke revolution back in the late ‘90s with Doug Henry, who is in the AMA history book for becoming the first rider to win an AMA Supercross main event as well as an AMA Motocross Championship on a four-stroke.

But what really stands out is that both Grant Langston’s and Chad Reed’s championships came on the same bike—the 2008 YZ450F. If you remember, midway through the 2007 motocross season, Langston was struggling with handling issues, so Yamaha hurriedly got the 2008 models into the country and homologated so that Grant could use it. The first race with the ’08 at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado, didn’t go so well, but soon thereafter GL would win his first outdoor motocross moto (and almost the overall) at Washougal, put in an inspired ride at the X Games to score a silver medal behind Ricky Carmichael, and then back that up with a solid 2-2 moto at Millville (again, behind Carmichael), putting himself in contention for the national championship.

Grant Langston

Steve Matthes, a former tuner for Team Yamaha, says, “I first noticed something up with GL’s frame around Southwick. He told me that he’d been struggling with the bike earlier in the year so it was an interesting thing to watch play out. Anyways, at Southwick I was looking at his bike before practice and noticed that the area around the bottom of the footpegs looked a lot thinner than the stock frame. I just chalked it up to some in house experiments at Yamaha.

“Then, when GL really got on his roll later that summer and told us how it was due to the new bike, I was really interested in how they changed it to work so much better. The 2008 YZ450 has some significant changes in the frame. Yes, they narrowed the frame down by the footpegs and they changed the down tube thickness as well. The biggest change however was a whole whack of material taken out of the area where the top of the shock bolts in. That’s a massive structural part of the bike, and all these changes were made so that the frame flexed more. Think that’s not a big deal? When I was at Yamaha we changed headstays and front engine mounts sometimes as little as 2mm and the riders all felt it! At the level that these guys ride at, the smallest things do make a difference, and you don’t have to look any further than GL’s drastic results change after he got the ’08 to see that.”

Check out that frame!

The bike flexes more, and Langston and the other Yamaha guys are able to “put” the bike into whatever line they want in the turns. The added flex also makes the suspension more compliant. In Yamaha’s terms, “Subtle modifications to the aluminum frame and suspension mean light, precise, confident handling at any speed.”

To learn more about the Yamaha YZ450F, click here or go to the official Yamaha website: www.yamaha-motor.com.


 

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