Let’s just cut right to the chase: The Kawasaki won the Racer X Tested 2014 450 Shootout. Tedesco and Bowyer both chose the KXF as the winner while Rahlves liked the Honda and Blose liked the Suzuki. But even Chris and Daron agreed that the KXF was a solid second in their collective opinions. So, overall, the Kawasaki was the most well-liked machine of the group this year. The common responses about the Kawasaki were that it was incredibly fast, super-stable, predictable and a very well-rounded machine. Some of the criticisms were that it was too loud and that the front end pushed occasionally [Blose] and the rear end bucked in the entrance to corners [Rahlves].
The Kawasaki won the Racer X Tested 2014 450 Shootout.
The Suzuki was also a popular pick.
Gene Crucean photos
The Suzuki and the KTM 350 both garnered a lot of praise from our test riders this year and would be a dead-heat for second and third in the shootout. Blose liked the Suzuki best and Ivan chose it second while Rahlves put it all the way in last place. The discrepancy is interesting and proves that different riders will gel best with different bikes. The Suzuki is similar to the Kawasaki in that it is very well-rounded. It turns better than the Kawasaki and has a quicker, more nimble feel than the KXF, which can feel twitchy or unstable to some riders. The only issue mentioned about the Suzuki was the feel in the front end, namely the forks. Still, overall, it is an excellent package. The KTM 350 got great reviews also. Riders loved the lighter, quicker feel of the bike and felt like you could ride it harder, longer and feel like you were in control of the bike at all times. The more you weigh the more you notice the lack of displacement, obviously. Something that was brought up by all test riders was the vibration in both KTM models. None of KTMs offerings have rubber mounted handlebars and the subsequent vibration is noticeable and annoying. KTM could completely change the feel of their bikes by making this simple change.
The KTM 450 was well-liked by all the riders but there were a few common themes in the comments. First, it has arguably the best engine in the class. The power comes on smooth and strong and pulls until your vision goes blurry. The brakes are class-leading and the fit and finish is excellent on the KTM models. However, the bike has a bigger, heavier feel than the others and for small-to-medium sized riders it is more difficult to control. For those riders the 350 is a better choice.
Both the KTM 350 and 450 ranked highly.
The Honda was a mid-pack pick by most, but Daron Rahlves voted it most popular.
Gene Crucean photos
The Honda was picked as the winner by Daron Rahlves but placed mid-pack by the other riders. The one and only complaint from each of them was a vague, unstable feeling in the front end. None of the riders knew exactly what to do to correct the problem; they just knew it wasn’t quite right. Aside from that the CRF is an incredible machine. It is significantly lighter than any of the other brands and the weight is noticeable on the track. Each rider commented about how light and maneuverable the bike felt and how that made it a lot of fun to ride. Bowyer and Rahlves both felt like they could ride the Honda longer because of the light feeling and because of the friendly, efficient delivery of power from the Honda engine. If Honda can figure out the bug in the front of this bike it is back in the hunt for bike of the year.
The Yamaha was improved over last year but not enough for any of our riders to select it as their favorite. It still has a bigger, heavier feel and the front end feels like it bears much of the weight. Riders noted that they never felt comfortable pushing the bike because they did not have confidence that the front end would stay under them. The engine is phenomenal and offers all the power you’ll ever need. Yamaha still has some work to do so riders can fully apply that power to the ground.
The Yamaha was not picked as a favorite by any of the test riders.
Gene Crucean photo
All of the 2014 bikes are incredible and you really can’t go wrong buying anything made in Japan or Austria. As always, consider which dealer will best support you and shop for the best deal. My recommendation is for smaller riders [5’9” and shorter] to have a look at the Suzuki and Honda and anyone over that mark to start with KTM and Yamaha. The Kawasaki seemed to fit all heights well this year but it is also generally built for a taller rider. I hope this helps give some of you some insight into the 2014 motocross offerings. Happy bike shopping!