12 Hours of America 450 Sport Quad Shootout

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Image Thanks to the availability of several hot-new-modern-day sport quads throughout the country, we are pleased to offer our first annual 12 Hours of ATV America Shootout! Before we jump into vigorous comparisons, you’ll need to know how it all works. First off, you’re probably asking yourself, “who are we to tell you which quad is better?” As much as we would love to be established professional quad racers, reality steps in and puts us in check as a group of writers and photographers. That’s why for ATV Scene.com’s first shootout we wanted to do something less traditional than past print magazine shootouts, so we turned to a few professional racers, a couple avid up and comers, a legendary past champion, and a respected aftermarket owner for opinions that we feel you the reader can relate to a little better. shootoutbw

Since manufacturers are no longer afraid to admit that their sport quads are absolutely race worthy, testing them on a race course definitely seemed appropriate. We needed a track that encompassed all the terrain that the typical sport quad/racer would be riding on after buying his or her new machine. The track needed to feature plenty of motocross, hills, tight woods, and few fast sections to open up the machines. The ultimate test track was right at our fingertips in the Maxxis 12 Hours of ATV America held at Rausch Creek in Valley View, PA. The Rausch Creek five mile track had everything we needed to allow our riders to really get down and dirty with each of the test quads. But what good is the fastest and best handling machine if it breaks down on the trail or leaves with a DNF in the results? Finishing the grueling Maxxis 12 Hours of ATV America race on a fully modded machine is a victory in itself, so putting the stockers through twelve continuous hours of the very same torturous abuse would surely lend major credibility to our shootout winner.

The rules were simple. Each manufacturer was given the chance to send two machines (one for back up parts), plenty of closely available parts and a mechanic to work on the machines to ensure that any potential rider error would not impact the outcome. Our shootout quads started and ran right along with the teams competing. Lap times were scored with electronic transponders and accurate within 1000th of a second! We rewarded the machines on the best finish for the day, the fastest lap and the fastest average of laps – not counting any down time caused by rider error. Points would be deducted for issues related the machine’s lack of durability. Finally each rider would adhere to our stringent scoring system interviews throughout the 12 hour shootout.

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ImageWhile more were given the chance, at shootout time only three manufactures consider their machines to be made for the track and worthy of the kind of abuse we would be putting on their prized sportster.

Honda was unable to send support for their TRX450R due to some overlapping commitments they had but Yamaha, with its YFZ450 and Polaris, with its Predator 500, were present with factory semi truck and trailers, mechanics and head honchos.

Due to the rocky conditions at Rausch Creek, was nice enough to donate Maxxis Razr 6 ply tires for each machine to take flat tires out of the equation. For a little more protection from the rocky Rausch Creek terrain provided their XC rear swing-arm skid plates to protect the machines’ brake rotor and sprocket.

 

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:::Dustin Wimmer :::Pat Brown :::Ben Jackson
:::Dave Diver :::Tom Tokay :::Jeff Stoess
:::Aaron Meyer :::John McGhee :::Cale Clarkson


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Since we would be testing race quads in race condition who else better to test them than racers themselves? How many times have you felt that a magazine has picked one quad over another because of advertising dollars or some other alternative motive? That’s not the case here, our riders’ direct opinions, the cut and dry race-ending-results and the point-deducting damages afterwards would directly determine our shootout champ. Nine riders with a large variance in riding style and experience – with no ties or relations with ATV Scene.com – along with our meticulously pre determined scoring system will definitely give a non biased opinion. shootout

Riders consisted of current pro motocross racers Pat Brown and Dustin Wimmer. To add a couple riders who weren’t as familiar with the current machines available today, we included former pro motocross stars Ben Jackson and Dave Diver. Knowing that there are many different types of racing besides motocross, 3-time GNCC Pro Champ Tom Tokay was added, along with pro and winner of the ’04 Spartan GNCC, Jeff Stoess. Not everyone is a pro level rider so in order to round out our field and help lend a shootout that every interested reader can relate to, 18 year old and 2005 GNC motocross Production B and Four Stroke B champ, Aaron Meyer joined the group. Rounding out our panel of experts was Cale Clarkson and John McGhee. Clarkson was a front runner in the GNC MX and TT +25 Class a few years back and now battles strong in the GNCC +30 class. And extreme die-hard ATVer, John McGhee, is no stranger to the ATV scene. You might know him as Legacy ATV owner, but let it be known, Big John can certainly ride!

Just so the riders look the part and represent our first annual pride and joy to the fullest, supplied each rider with a full set of riding gear and roost deflectors.

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ImageIf you are going to build a made-for-the-track quad the most important part of the stock machine may be the motor. We rated the motor in four different categories:
1. Bottom End
How well does the motor perform at low RPMs. Does the motor lug well and is it able to build RPMs quickly while coming out of corners.
2. Mid Range
This is the main part of the motor’s powerband. It’s used more often than any other area. We were looking to see how hard the motor pulled in this category. Once you initially came out of a corner and started to build RPMs, how hard would the motor pull until it approached the top end of its powerband?
3. Top End
This is quite possibly the least important of the motor functions, but very important to the guy wanting to drag race to see whose quad is faster.
4. Ridablity
The last thing we tested was the ridability of each motor. Here we were looking to see if the quad had too strong of a hit, or how smooth the power was across the board. While in a short race this isn’t a big issue, but a very radical motor can be very draining on your body over a long period of time. It will flat out tire you out while the competition continuous.

The changes Honda has made to the motor on the ’06 450R over the ’04/’05 really showed as the riders almost all commented on the improvements. John McGhee mentioned how the motor continued to pull hard from the bottom to the top all the way down the long straightaways. Power seemed to always be there when you needed and the motor seemed to pull hard all the way to the rev limiter. In year’s past the YFZ seemed to own this category, but was a bit too much at times and not so easy to ride. While the power is even stronger on the ’06 YFZ as it was on prior models, our riders felt that the new Yamaha (now a true 450 at 449cc, up from last year’s 439cc) felt more ridable this year. Riders reported the ability to lug the motor a bit more without stalling and the power came on smoother. With the 50cc advantage of the Polaris Predator, there is more than enough power for the average rider, but the powerplant lacks that “hit” that most racers want on the track. Of the three machines in our shootout, the power on the Predator is the easiest to ride for long periods of time – it’s just not as exciting as the others.

1st
2nd
3rd

Motor

Honda

Yamaha

Polaris

Low end

4.111

3.333

3.111

Mid range

4.333

4.222

3.556

Top end

4.555

4.444

4.111

Ridability

4.333

3.778

4.222

 

 

 

 

Total

4.333

3.944

3.75

 

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ImageAgain we broke this section down into four categories.
1. Low Speed Trails
We wanted to know if the quad was going to bounce you around when negotiating tight rough sections of the track. In the woods the riders seemed to be split on suspension favorites. The more aggressive riders still preferred the YFZ suspension, while some of the other riders liked the soft plush feel of the Polaris Predator. The Predator shocks shined in the tight wooded trails – soaking up the rock and roots with ease. There is price to pay for the softer suspension however as our motocross riders were using the Predators shocks beyond their limits, while some of our cross country field of riders felt that the shocks were still okay on the motocross track.

The Honda 450R shocks were reported somewhere between the YFZ and the Predator. According to our reports, they just didn’t seem to have a home on the MX track or in the woods. The shocks felt too stiff for the woods while too soft for the MX track.
2. High Speed Trails
This is where we were looking to test the machines to see how well they would soak up the bumps and rocks at speed. Would a small bump or ditch bottom your shocks out when tapped out in fifth gear? Click above to see how riders answered this question in their score sheets.
3. Motocross
This is where we would find out how well the machine handles jumps, kickers, whoops etc.
4. Fade Resistance
Will your choice quad bottom out its shocks after landing from some of the bigger jumps on the track? Would our riders end up getting bucked off or land smooth when the stock shocks heated up? Yamaha has been improving the YFZ shocks on each new model since its debut in 2004. The YFZ suspension was definitely a favorite of our test riders on the motocross track. In prior years the YFZ shocks have felt very stiff on slower speed bumps and in the woods. The rear linkage was the problem. It simply was too aggressive for the trails. With a new linkage and rear shock the rear end feels much better on the ’06 YFZ.

1st
2nd
3rd

Suspension

Yamaha

Polaris

Honda

Low speed trails

3.333

4

3

High speed trails

4.222

4.111

3.667

Motocross (jumps)

4.444

3.111

3.667

Fade resistance

4.889

4.778

4.667

 

 

 

 

Total

4.222

4

3.75

 

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ImageThough a lot of this category can be fixed by the aftermarket, you need a good handling machine to start out with. The 2006 Yamaha YFZ 450 out handles the other quads in almost every category. The only place it doesn’t rein supreme is straight line tracking. The YFZ is still a little too twitchy in the front end on high speed straights. In the air the YFZ felt perfect. The riders felt like they had great control of it and it stayed true and straight over every jump. The other two machines felt good in the air but a few of the test riders felt the Honda 450R was still a little light in the front end while jumping. The Predator had much better jumping characteristics than the riders thought it would coming into the shootout, they did have some complaints of not feeling comfortable moving the machine around in the air, especially after a few laps on the YFZ.

The YFZ’s quick steering ability was a big asset in the woods. The machine turned with ease and the quad went where you wanted it to go with very little to no body roll. Body roll was one thing that affected both the other machines however. Several riders reported that they could feel the higher center of gravity while negotiating in the turns. You’re simply just not able to throw the 450R and the Predator around in the corners like you can with the YFZ.

1st
2nd
3rd

Handling

Yamaha

Honda

Polaris

Corning

4.333

3.667

3

Steering Precision

4

3.889

3.778

Jumping

4.667

4.111

3.667

Tracking

3.333

4.111

3.556

 

 

 

 

Total

4.083

3.944

3.5

 

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ImageHere we wanted to see how strong the brakes were and how well they would hold up. Yamaha’s changes for their ’06 YFZ model paid off once again. With a whole new rear brake set up, including a dual piston rear caliper, new front and rear pads and a new rear rotor, the stopping power of the ’06 YFZ450 is amazing. A couple test riders did feel like the brakes started to fade just a bit towards the end of the day, but the impact was minor. After 12 hours of hard racing it’s expected that the stock rubber brake lines will get hot and start to expand a bit. Not the Predator 500 however, even though the brakes on the Polaris were not the strongest of the three — they held up perfectly throughout the day. Part of the weaker brake feeling could very easily have been contributed to the added weight of the machine over the other competing quads. The braking power of the 450R is one of the things it has recently been known for, however during our 12 hours of ATV torture, the brakes faded quickly – meaning that the excellent brakes that riders enjoyed at the start of the shootout was gone a few hours later. Furthermore, at times our test riders were complaining that the rear brakes were barely working at all at times.

1st
2nd
3rd

Brakes

Yamaha

Polaris

Honda

Power

4.444

4

4.111

Fade resistance

4.889

5

4.444

 

 

 

 

Total

4.666

4.5

4.278

 

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ImageHow comfortable can a sport quad be? We wanted to see how our riders rated the relationship from the seat to the pegs to the bars. Were the levers and controls easy to access?

It wasn’t that long ago when the manufacturers’ “big changes” between previous models were “bold new graphics” or possibly different colored plastic. Those days are gone. This is especially true regarding Yamaha’s newest YFZ – over 80 changes were made from last year’s model! The YFZ’s rider comfort was not overlooked. With a taller steering stem, different handle bar bend and a softer and thicker seat our test riders felt very comfortable on the Yamaha. The ergonomics of the quad are now more fitted for a broader spectrum of rider. Yamaha did listen when people were complaining about a stiff thumb throttle on the prior year’s model and softened the spring in the carburetor to help the cause. Though this better thumb throttle unit may have helped riders, others complained of thumb fatigue from what they called an awkwardly positioned thumb throttle on the YFZ.

Riders felt that both the 450R and the Predator 500 featured excellent ease of controls, but didn’t feel as comfortable in aggressive riding situations as they did on the YFZ. Riders raved that Honda had all of the controls positioned perfect for each rider. Their biggest complaint on the R was its handlebar bend and positioning. We received complains that more than one rider felt as if he was sitting too high for aggressive racing maneuvering. Even though the Polaris Predator 500 felt a bit big for the riders, they all claimed that is was very comfortable. In fact the Predator was nicknamed the Cadillac by our riding crew. By the end of the day as the riders were getting tired this is the quad that everyone hoped they were scheduled to ride next. The Predator doesn’t have that race feel but isn’t as tiring as the other quads are, especially on a long day of riding. Test rider Jeff Stoess even said that in stock form for a long distance race like the 12 hours of ATV America – this is the quad he would chose due to how easy it is to ride. The one complaint we received from a couple of the riders on the Predator was the foot peg to break level location. Several times throughout the day they found their feet slipping off the pegs and weren’t real comfortable while braking though rough terrain at high speeds.

1st
2nd
3rd

Fit and Finish

Yamaha

Polaris

Honda

Ergonomics

4.556

3.667

3.444

Control ease

3.778

4.444

4.333

Lack of vibration

3.667

3.667

3.778

Overall comfort

4.222

4

3.556

 

 

 

 

Total

4.056

3.945

3.778

 

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ImageWe almost could have asked this question exclusively to each of the riders and came away with the same overall result for the shootout. Here we simply asked the test riders to rate each machine on a scale of 1 to 5. Almost all riders liked the ’06 Yamaha YFZ450 the best, while the riders were split on the Honda 450R and the Polaris Predator 500. For true race applications and especially motocross racing, the riders liked the Honda over the Polaris. For trial riding and long distance endurance type of racing the Predator was the machine of choice. In stock setting our riders felt the YFZ was the ultimate motocross machine. As for cross country racing it was a close call between the Yamaha and the Honda. The riders with more of an aggressive riding-style preferred the Yamaha while those with a more methodical and consistent style preferred the Honda for the woods. The biggest surprise of the whole shootout was the Polaris Predator 500. Coming into the test most of the riders had not had the chance to spend much time on this machine, but all walked away with a new respect for it. While they thought the machine was just a bit too big and heavy for the motocross track, they were amazed with how well it did as the day progressed.

1st
2nd
3rd

Personal Ranking

Yamaha

Honda

Polaris

Total

 4.333

3.778

3.778

 

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ImageIn the end, the fastest best handling quad is not so fast and not so great at handling the track if it breaks down or you have to spend hundreds of dollars after every race to get it back up to race quality. In keeping with our point’s system we have to determine a winner in this category as well. We felt it was only fair to deduct points for a machine’s lack of durability. Each test quad received a one point deduction for any minor failure during the shootout, while it would receive a five point deduction for any major failure. As you can imagine, 12 hours of continuous racing is hard on a machine. You would be lucky to find one race-ready machine – equipped with many aftermarket components in the 12 Hours of ATV America race that didn’t encounter some sort of mechanical failure during the event.

The Polaris Predator 500 survived 12 grueling hours without the need of a mechanic at all. This truly says a lot about this ATV. Amazing as that is, another machine made it through the entire event with no penalties as well. The only time Yamaha’s YFZ was touched during the entire shootout was when it was necessary to reinstall the PRM swingarm skid plate that we had Yamaha install on the machine prior to the race. Apparently Yamaha did not Lock-Tite the bolts. They eventually backed out and slightly wallowed out the holes that the bolts screw into in the stock swing arm. After re threading the holes in the swingarm and losing a lap to the Polaris, the YFZ was once again on the track.

The Honda 450R wasn’t as fortunate. It received two, one-point deductions for malfunction during the test. Not only did the Honda lose points but also lost valuable time on the track. The first problem happened roughly four hours into the event when one of our riders came limping the quad back in. One of the bolts had came loose that connects the top part of the subframe to the main frame. With only one bolt holding it in place it became weak and eventual broke, allowing the subframe to rotate back and down on the axle, which caused the carburetor and exhaust to come loose — thus bending the head pipe. With American Honda having a prior commitment and not being able to attend, there were no spare parts to fix the machine. Several good samaritans helped out and did the best they could to get the machine going again only to see it come limping back in again with overheating problems. The temperature gauge that controls when the fan comes on had come loose.

There was still more points at stake even after the checkered flag. A post-shootout inspection was next. We counted every part that was visually worn out and needed replaced. The machine with the least number of deductions would lose zero points while the next would lose one. The machine with the most parts needing to be replaced would lose two points. Also any pricey worn out part found that would set the ATV owner back would cost that machine a point. Amazingly every nut and bolt on the Yamaha YFZ450 was tight and nothing could be found that was even slightly bent.

The Honda had a few small boo boos that were directly caused by the subframe problem. Since we already deducted points for this problem the Honda did not lose additional post-shootout points for the related damages. However one of the tie rods was found to be bent and another tie rod end was loose. Also there was play found in the front left wheel bearings.

The Polaris Predator did a great job of making it through the event without a single problem and won the race portion of the shootout. But it was easy to see that at the end of the long grueling day the machine was worn out. Three of the tie rod ends were worn along with both front wheels bearings, along with both top ball joints. The Predator also received a one point deduction for having a blown rear shock at the end of the day. The blown shock was not a big issue, as none of the test riders complained about it.

If we were going to give point deductions for reliability then we best hand out point rewards to each machine with regards to how they finished on the race portion of the shootout. This was done to help involve the mechanics and give them some motivation to keep their machine going in a timely manor. Not to mention, everyone likes a good ole’ fashioned race, right? We rewarded the machines on the best finish for the day, the fastest lap and the fastest average of laps (not counting down time). Amazingly just before the six hour intermission in the 12 Hours of America race (which our shootout quads didn’t take – we ran 12 continuous hours) all three of the machines were in the top 15 overall! That is saying a lot for the only bone stock machines of the 70 competing.

At the end of the day it was the Polaris Predator 500 that took the top race honors in the shootout class receiving five bonus points while the Yamaha YFZ450 finished just a half lap behind and received four bonus points. The Honda 450R finished and received three points. The Yamaha scored five points for logging the fastest lap, while the next fastest was the Honda 450R, receiving four points. The Predator scored four points for its third fastest lap. The fastest average lap worked out the exact same way with Yamaha leading the way, followed by the Honda and then the Polaris. Since the Polaris won the race portion of the shootout – it goes to show that the fastest machine out there doesn’t always win the race.

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ImageWith our thought-out point system well in hand and a variety educated riders we tried to come up with the fairest shootout possible. We feel we succeeded. With that being said it is very apparent that Yamaha has done their homework and really improved on an already great quad. Hands down this is the best quad for the track. It won almost every category and scored a total of 39.304 points for the day.

While Honda made huge improvement to their ’06 450R’s motor the quad still lacks the handling an aggressive rider is looking for. It ended the day with a score of 31.861 points.

The biggest surprise in most riders’ minds was the Polaris Predator 500. “The Cadillac” proved that it is indeed a reliable race-worthy machine and ended the day with a 31.473 score — very close to our runner-up, the mighty Honda 450R.

1st

2nd

3rd

 

Yamaha

Honda

Polaris

Total Points

39.304

31.861

31.473

 

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Engine

 

 

 

Engine Type

4-stroke DOHC

4-stroke, SOHC

4-Stroke, Single

Displacement, cc

499

450

449

Carburetion

Mikuni 42 mm BSR

Keihin 42mm w/TPS

Keihin 39mm w/ TPS

Cooling

Liquid

Liquid

Liquid

Starting

Electric

Electric or Forward kick

Electric

 

Drive Train

 

 

 

Final Drive

520 O-ring Chain

Sealed O-ring chain

Sealed O-ring chain

Transmission

5 speed w/reverse

5 speed, forward only

5 speed, forward only

Drive System

Manual clutch/manual shift

Manual clutch/manual shift

Manual clutch/manual shift

 

Suspension

 

 

 

Front Suspension

Dual A-arm/10″

Ind. Double-wishbone/8.4″

Ind. Double Wishbone/9.1″

Rear Suspension

Non-Link high strength swingarm/11″

Aluminum swingarm/9.3″

Aluminum swing arm/10.6″

 

Brakes

 

 

 

Front/Rear Brakes

Front: Dual Hydraulic Disc (Hand)  Rear: Hydraulic Disc (Foot)

Front: Dual Hydraulic Disc (Hand)  Rear: Hydraulic Disc (Foot)

Front: Dual Hydraulic Disc (Hand)  Rear: Hydraulic Disc (Foot)

 

Tires

 

 

 

Front Tires

Maxxis   21×7-10

Radial 22×7-10

 Radial 21×7-10

Rear Tires

Maxxis  20×11-10

Radial 20×10-9

Radial 20×10-9

 

Dimensions/Capacities

 

 

 

Wheelbase, (inches)

50.5

50.2

50.4

Dry Weight (lbs)

415

363-Electric Start/357-Kick Start

350

Length/Width/Height, (inches)

71.5/47.5/45

73.3/46.3/43.3

72.4/46.1/42.9

Seat Height, (inches)

32

32.8

31.9

Fuel Capacity, (US gallons)

3.25

3.1

2.6

Ground Clearance, (inches)

4.5

4.4

4.4

 

Instrumentation/Features

 

 

 

Gear Indicator

Neutral/Reverse

Neutral

Neutral

Warning Lights

High Temp

High Temp

High Temp

 

Colors

Red, White-Troy Lee

Black, Red

Blue, White/Silver

 

MSRP

$6,199

$6,649

$6,999

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