Yamaha and Honda 450 Quads - Banshees Beware - Off-Road Alternatives
The Coming Of The Four-Stroke
Some say "Bring it" when it comes to competition. Well, guess what? Four-stroke technology is bringing it. The DMV is implementing new laws that will label all new two-stroke ATVs "red sticker" bikes. This means that if you spend the money on a new two-stroke dirt bike, the law will decide when and which parks you'll be allowed to ride in. Enter the coming of a new era: the four-stroke. Most four-stroke bikes are "green sticker," which basically means riding isn't as limited. When you've bought a $50,000 truck, a $20,000 trailer, and spent God knows how much on an ATV, the new laws hardly justify buying a bike or quad that has a limited ride time throughout the year. This is not the case in all states, but with pollution on the rise, rest assured that smog laws are coming.
This doesn't mean, however, that fast bikes are coming to an end. Four-strokes have come a long way in the past few years and are rapidly becoming the choice of many consumers. Both Yamaha and Honda have released 450cc four-stroke race quads. The Yamaha FYZ 450 and Honda's TRX 450R are both impressive machines and plenty capable. We spent a weekend whippin' it up on some two-stroke butt, with two test models we borrowed from Yamaha and Honda. Although the stock units couldn't keep up with the moderately to highly modified monsters that rip through the dunes on a regular basis, they sure enough held their own.
These 450 quads come with ample guts and suspension. Honda mounted its shocks with the reservoirs facing the rear of the bike for protection, while Yamaha boldly pushed out the reservoirs to help cool the shock. The YFZ has more suspension travel, and the Honda is more than an inch shorter in wheelbase. At 439 cc's of engine displacement, the YFZ is slightly smaller than the 450cc TRX. The Yamaha offers a kick- or electric-start option, but the Honda is a kick-start bike. For our own preference, we hope to see Honda follow Yamaha on the starter option.
We put these two fighters to work in the Imperial sand dunes known as Glamis. We contacted ITP for some help with the traction variable we were going to have in the sand. ITP sent out a set of its new line of paddle tires. We bolted on the new Sand Star paddles, which were mounted to ITP alloy rims, and proceeded to pin the throttles down.
We spend some time off-road, and it's true, we too are two-stroke owners and have been disturbed at the sights that have been set on our high-revving Banshees. As two-stroke fans, we have resisted the four-stroke revolution. With these new laws jamming the four-stroke down our throats, it's even harder to swallow. Our mindset was that we were going to show these quads a thing or two about being trashed on. We threw on our riding gear and fired up the 450s for the first barrage of punishment.
We ripped through the dunes and up some steep sandwalls until we ran across a gathering of quads. The smell of burning race fuel mixed with lube instantly made us wish we were on our Banshees. We rode over to meet the crowd and started talking before the inevitable test began. We found ourselves making excuses for riding the four-stokes. We jumped right on the bandwagon with "We're just testing them" and "We didn't buy them." It wasn't long before the sound of "dang-da-dang" filled our ears, and the discussion was over. We fired up the four-strokes and slowly motivated to the base of a large grade known as Oldsmobile Hill.
We hit the throttle, and just as they had done before, the four-strokes leaped off the line. The suspensions on both bikes are excellent, so the whoop section was no problem. The four-strokes get on the pipe pretty fast, and we hit Second just before the whoops started. Both bikes sucked up the rolling mounds with little effort. Coming out of the whoop section, we found ourselves in Fourth gear, and the four-stroke powerband was still pulling the quad up the grade hard. We didn't hit Fifth before the top of the hill came upon us. At the top, two modified Banshees pulled us by an easy 10 feet. All the others were behind us.
The rest of that weekend was spent with a greater respect for the four-stroke bad boys. Both bikes are very easy to ride and can easily add to your riding-skill level. The suspensions are awesome, and combined with the engine power, you won't realize how fast you're going. You better be ready to shift, though. Both quads come up on the Rs pretty fast, then it's onto the next gear. Agility, fast , and lightness make the new generation of sport quads a ton of fun, easy to ride, low maintenance, reliable, and a threat to the two-stroke. Actually, the Yamaha never rested. That push-button had everyone in camp fighting for the next ride.