ATV Review: Throwing A Leg Over Yamaha's SE Quads!
Open It Up – Riding Two Yamaha SE Quads!
Ditch the steering wheel, ditch the seatbelt, and come along for a ride… It’s time to strap on your boots, a Moto helmet, and leathers (okay, maybe I’m dating myself with that last one…) to hop aboard two Yamaha special edition quads that truly epitomize what sport quads should be in the market today!
I don’t know about you guys, but quads are near and dear to my heart. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that the UTV market has seen massive growth in the last 10 years, but I secretly want the quad market to rebound to the glory days that occurred in the early 2000’s when there were more than seven 450-class race quads on the market, a big bore segment with many different options and chassis set-ups, and a rider base that loved the freedom that a quad brings to the table.
Luckily for all of us, Yamaha is the sole manufacturer who has continued their tradition of making top-notch sport quads. In fact, the tuning fork brand believes in the sport quad market so much that they are keeping virtually all of their models in the lineup (except for a couple, including the much loved Raptor 250 - please bring that quad back, Yamaha!). They deserve huge accolades for keeping this segment alive and well, literally by themselves. And, as Yamaha is happy to say, they are extremely happy with their sport quad sales, so obviously someone is buying them.
That someone could very well be me…
I recently had the opportunity to join Yamaha in the Glamis sand dunes to swing a leg over both their YFZ450R SE and Raptor 700R SE to see how the latest special edition sport quads perform in this all encompassing environment. The sand is a true test or horsepower, handling finesse, all-day comfort (ergonomics), and reliability. You’ve all see the specs on these machines by now, and if you haven't, then you can go to the back of this article for exact numbers. We’re going to focus on the ride of these sport quads, because that is the element that truly Revs Your Heart.
The nitty gritty goes like this – the YFZ450R is for the young or the young at heart! With a powerband that rewards at the higher rpm’s, at least in stock form, and a balanced chassis that is sublime for many terrains, the YFZ is a quad that begs you to ride it hard and fast.
Does that mean that the YFZ is only good at high speeds? No, that isn’t the entire truth. The thing to remember about the YFZ is that it gets better the harder you ride it. It’s a bit rough at slower speeds because of the stiffly sprung suspension that is specifically designed to handle the bigger G-outs and big jumps on motocross tracks. The suspension is also setup to where it excels at high speeds with consistent bump absorption and bottom out resistance, giving you amazing handling traits when the chassis is pushed. I pushed it hard in the dunes and didn’t get any suspension fatigue, meaning the piggyback reservoirs kept the oil cool and the shock internals worked properly. Whether I was riding through the whoops or wheeling through the dunes, the suspension is consistent, precise, and always does what you expect it to do.
The Yamaha team found a sandy worm track that enabled us to test out the suspension and motor characteristics on a motocross-style of track. This single cylinder, EFI-controlled engine really likes to be revved in all situations and excels at the high rpm. It just keeps pulling and pulling all the way to redline, and the midrange is also strong in these areas, too. There were a couple of extremely tight 180 bowl turns on this track and I was impressed with the low end torque of this motor as well. I was able to lug it into these slick corners to decrease my wheel speed in an effort to increase traction, and the technique really worked in this situation. The rev-happy engine built up power immediately too, allowing me to grab gears and gain speed quickly. Obviously this is great for motocross tracks, but it also transfers over to dune riding because many of the areas are tight dunes that allow you to utilize the bottom end. To be fair, the bottom end of the YFZ could use some more grunt, but there are aftermarket exhausts that really enable this quad to gain power down low.
The engine would be nothing without a well engineered chassis and comfortable rider ergonomics, and this is the final place the YFZ really excels. As I stated earlier, the YFZ’s chassis handling characteristics are sublime in every way, giving the rider ample feedback regardless of speed. Precise turn-in and flickability are other standout features of this chassis – it is just extremely well balanced and so much fun to ride. For taller riders, the overall ergonomics can be a bit cramped, as you would tend to expect on a motocross quad. I noticed this with my 6’3” frame and long arms. If it were my quad, I’d want to install a taller steering stem or taller risers to bring the bars up a bit. Either way, these simple additions would help open up the ergos a bit. Otherwise, the footpegs are the best out there with a wide footprint and grip for days. Never once did I feel like sliding the machine or throwing it into an awkward situation would result in my feet coming off the pegs. Again, the chassis just responds so well to rider adjustments whether you are planted on the ground at high speeds or launching through the air.
Just as it was designed to do, the YFZ450R goes through the dunes fast! And it is a thrill ride at that. Could it get any more fun?!
Raptor 700R SE
With all of this talk about going fast and ravaging through the bumps as hard as possible, let’s slow it down and enjoy a while. After all, the Raptor 700R is the perfect quad to just take it slow and enjoy the surroundings (or fast if you’d rather, but slow it just fine, too).
With a single cylinder engine mated a widely spaced 5-speed transmission (with reverse), the Raptor is tuned for low end torque. In fact, this engine excels down low, especially in the power-eating dunes where you want to maximize traction to put the power to the ground. That’s exactly what the Raptor does, and it was just missing a set of paddle tires during my time on the quad. Not that it was bad without paddles, but a set of these tires just puts the power to the ground better.
When you hop onto the Raptor, the first thing you notice is that the ergonomics are higher and more spaced out than the YFZ. This is perfect for a wider range of riders, tall or small. This open setup and significantly more comfortable seat (compared to the YFZ) gives you the ability to enjoy longer rides and the tendency to cruise more than other quads. This isn’t to say that the Raptor can’t hustle, because it definitely can! Just know that the chassis isn’t built with a low-slung, racer-ish profile like the YFZ. You ride the Raptor to get up the hills fast, cruise through the dunes in comfort, and enjoy a much more plush suspension setup.
Speaking of suspension, the SE-model actually has highly adjustable front and rear shocks that allow you to tune it to your own liking. I, personally, didn’t change it at all from stock, but I also didn’t have the quad for years in my garage. My personal 450 quad has a bunch of stuff done to it, but, honestly, the Raptor didn’t need any work done to it. It has a nice firm quality to the suspension that made it rideable through the big g-outs and whoop sections, but it also didn’t suffer in slow speed ride quality. It was soft and plush in the aforementioned areas.
The Raptor’s chassis is also very flickable with great turning radius and a stable platform. If you really push it hard, you’ll notice that it is a bit less stable in hard corners compared to the YFZ, but in no way is it tippy. Overall, the chassis provides accurate turn in to corners and allows you to “get with it” more than other big bore sport quads have allowed in the past. The solid rear axle really helps provide consistent turning dynamics and cycling of the travel when pushing it hard, too.
Overall, the Raptor is the quad that is easier to ride for a long period of time, and I really think it is the ultimate duning quad in Yamaha’s lineup. Yes, the YFZ is extremely fun and beats the Raptor for all-out fast duning, but the Raptor is the better all-around machine with its torquey engine, open cockpit for a wider range of riders, great handling chassis, and awesome suspension.
Which quad is for you?
It might seem like a copout for this article, but I truly mean it when I say that, “you can’t go wrong with either of these quads.” Despite that being the truth, allow me to make this easier for you… The Raptor is the ultimate dune machine with big torque output for any hillclimb, comfortable ergonomics for all-day riding, and a great handling chassis/suspension combo to make riding fun and enjoyable for any type of rider.
If you want the ultimate sport quad to always be on the gas ripping around the dunes – aka you like to go fast – then it doesn’t get any better than a YFZ450R. Put a set of GYTR nerf bars on this quad, an aftermarket exhaust to wake it up a bit, and possibly a fuel controller to dial everything in. Those simple modifications will give you one heck of a fast and fun machine to ride!
You can bet we’ll be swinging more legs over the YFZ and Raptor in the future. Yamaha makes a great set of sport quads that satisfy all types of dune riders out there. Get yours today at your local Yamaha dealer, gear up, and go have some great fun!
Photo Credit: Adam Campbell Photography