KTM Motorcycle tests
Even though the Suzuki RM-Z450 is the heaviest bike in the 450 class...it feels like the lightest...actually the second lightest to the CRF450.
Over the past few years Suzuki entered what could best be described as “the cone of silence.” With no public relations men, no magazine test department and almost zero communications, Suzuki drifted off MXA’s map. Oh, don’t get us wrong. We still tested Suzuki’s and for the most part we liked them, but the only time we heard from Suzuki during the test period was on the day we got the new bike and the day we returned it...about 12 months of silence.
THE NEW LEAF
The black-out rear half is the clearest give-away that this Suzuki is the 2013 model.
That was the old Suzuki. Well, in truth, that was the Suzuki of about three months ago. Now, there is a new spirit at Suzuki, a revised interest in getting their message out. Best of all, there are reliable and knowledgeable people for us to interact with. It’s as though someone at Suzuki turned the lights back on.
The first evidence of new blood at Suzuki came when MXA was invited out to the Suzuki Supercross track to take a spin on the 2013 RM-Z450. The invitation wasn’t all that strange, but the level of involvement and know-how was all-new. This time Suzuki had all the info that MXA needed. They wrote down any questions that they didn’t know the answers to and promised to get a reply from the factory.
It’s no secret that MXA has been critical of Suzuki’s approach to MXA, and to magazines in general, in the past, but they have stepped up their game for 2013. And, while a progressive approach goes a long way–it doesn’t change MXA’s final opinion of the bikes we test, but it provides us with enough information and technical support to fully understand what Suzuki was trying to achieve with their modifications and updates. We think that is in the best interest of MXA, Suzuki and the consumer. Kudos to Suzuki
DISSECTING THE 2013 RM-Z450
Thanks to a thorough technical briefing (with slide shows and cutaway parts) the night before, the MXA wrecking crew arrived at the Suzuki test track with a good understanding of what Suzuki had done to make the 2013 better. MXA sent Dennis Stapleton, Daryl Ecklund, John Basher, John Minert and Jody Weisel up to the hills of Corona, California, where all the factory test tracks are located.
To most casual viewers the 2013 Suzuki looks unchanged – save for the black rear fender, but nothing could be further from the truth. While Suzuki didn’t make a lot of cosmetic changes, they did focus on the major complaints of test riders, consumers and racers...and most of the mods they made were internal.
WHAT ARE THE BIG CHANGES FOR 2013
Thanks to a new intake cam, lighter piston and new mapping the power has been beefed up in the midrange for 2013.
Engine: The piston, piston pin and connecting rod are developed with use of Finite Element Method (FEM) analysis. The piston is 13% lighter (without compromising the strength and rigidity). The piston pin has Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) surface treatment, for less friction and increased durability. The crankcase reed valve is made thinner for more efficient lubrication and the oil strainer has a stronger magnet to catch more sludge in engine oil. The Intake cam has more lift to improve midrange.
Transmission: The transmission has been redesigned with a reshaped shift cam, stopper spring and drive shaft that should results in more solid shifter feel. There are new gears in 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th.
Muffler: With redesigned muffler internal parts, the bottom-to-midrange power is improved, plus the muffler body uses conventional bolts, instead of rivets to simplify the replacement of the glass wool packing. The 2013 RM-Z450 meets two-meter-max
Fork: The 2013 RM-Z450 uses Showa Separate Function forks (SFF) with separate spring and damping tasks. The right leg contains the spring, while the left leg incorporates the cartridge assembly to manage damping. It results in reduced friction, increased absorption performance and a weight savings. The fork tube diameter is increased from 47mm to 48mm and the spring preload is adjustable.
WHAT SUZUKI WAS AIMING FOR
Three dog night.
You could spend all day reading Suzuki’s 2013 literature, but if you want to know the cold hard facts about the bike, read below:
Power: Suzuki wanted more midrange hit. The previous engines had been broad and smooth–with decent top, but they didn’t necessarily float anyone’s boat. By putting in a high-lift intake cam, Suzuki’s engineers wanted more bark.
Shifting: Most MXA test riders complained about two things on Suzuki’s previous transmissions: (1) Balky shifting from second to third under a full load. (2) Phantom shifting–where the bikes shifts itself in or out of gear with no actual intent on the rider’s part. Suzuki’s new setup, which includes three-dog gears instead of four dogs and much more rigid shifter mechanism should eliminate those problems.
With more burst in the lower half of the powerband the RM-Z450 gets better drive out of turns and on short run-ups to steep jumps.
Suspension: The SFF forks have been OEM on the Kawasaki KX250F for a year or so and have proven to be a good fork that is a little lighter than dual-spring forks. Additionally, the Showa shock has new valving and a totally new link arm.
Frame: The geometry remains the same, with just a few spec changes related to the new SFF forks. Suzuki’s engineer focused their attention not on the frame’s specs, but on its rigidity
Aesthetics: Looking for something new? Keep looking. Apart from the slightly odd black rear fender, it is hard to tell a 2013 RM-Z450 from a 2012–especially if the rear fender was replaced.
FIRST RIDE: RM-Z450 IMPRESSION
There are many little improvements that you can't see at first glance. The map couplers aren't behind the front number plate anymore, but are more accessible behind the left radiator. The countershaft sprocket is held on by a bolt instead of a clip for 2013. The front brake clamp has a metal spacers inside the bolt holes to keep the plastic from crushing. The muffler meets two-meter-max sound testing (115dB wide open).
This is not a full-blown MXA test...it is just a one-day ride (and on a toned-down Supercross track at that). MXA will begin the testing process next week and it will continue until we are satisfied that we can tell you all there is to know about the 2013 Suzuki RM-Z450. We would estimate that the actual magazine test will be out in late September.
As for now, this is what we can tell you.
Too much fun.
The new forks and shock linkage give the RM-Z450 a slightly different feel than last year, but the chassis is essentially the same. The feel doesn’t do anything detrimental to the Suzuki’s best trait–cornering.
The new Showa SFF fork was an improvement over the previous RM-Z450 fork. It works well and has more tunability for different skill level riders. MXA took three different skill and age level riders to the Suzuki Supercross track and there were no major complaints of bottoming or harsh feelings.
The RM-Z450 engine can be tuned with three different map couplers (stock, rich and lean). All three MXA test riders preferred the lean coupler for its more aggressive feel off the bottom and into the middle. For 2013 Suzuki changed the intake cam to one with more lift–this gives the powerband more punch down low. In the past the RM-Z450 powerband was very broad, very easy to ride and very usable–but it didn’t have much personality. The 2013 engine is defined by its significant gain in thrust in the transition from low-to-mid. Although Suzuki told us that it lost some top-end power with the new mapping and cam profile–no MXA test riders thought this was much of an issue.
As for the overall performance the 2013 RM-Z450 is a better bike. How so? The forks are better for a wider range of riders. The powerband is better because it has a more pronounced personality. The handling was as good as ever, and maybe a little better because of the improved suspension setup, stiffer motor mounts and enhanced torque.
Overlooking the 15 Freeway.
Let’s not get too misty because this was just a one-day ride around a 46-second Supercross track. It didn’t offer much in the way of high-speed stability, rough ground handling or different types of soil. As with all bikes, the MXA wrecking crew has some squawks, but they will have to wait until we get enough time in the saddle to iron out the wrinkles.
As for now, we appreciate Suzuki’s efforts to address some of the areas of concern. Stay tuned for the full-blown magazine test.