2015 Suzuki RMX450Z
If you’ve been in the market for a high-performance enduro weapon then Suzuki wouldn’t have been on your shopping radar. Until now. The 2015 RMX450Z isn’t just worth a look, it’s hard to pass.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Suzuki off-roaders, probably because my first bike was an RM50. In recent years, though, there hasn’t been a model in Suzuki’s off-road range I would have considered for serious bush use.
The RM-Z 250cc and 450cc motocross models are great race bikes, but without compliance with Australia’s stringent design rules they could only be ridden on private property.
Suzuki Australia released the long-awaited RMX450Z in 2010. At first it looked an ideal enduro machine: an RM-Z450 with electric start, lights and a sidestand. This was fine if you lived in Victoria or Tasmania and had the option of recreational registration, but was not much use for the rest of the country. At the time Suzuki did hint that an ADR-approved version was in the wings. So what took so long?
Suzuki Australia national marketing manager Lewis Croft explained that the process for ADR approval was lengthy because almost 50 components had to be researched, developed, tested and then put into production.
Who’d have thought getting ADR compliance for a chook chaser would be so expensive?
I naively thought that simply bolting on a few cheap aftermarket parts would see the job done, but much more is needed than most of us would realise. Take the headlight, for example. To comply with Australian Design Rules, the unit had to be designed from scratch. A mould had to be produced and a minimum quantity ordered for a production run. Alarmingly, ADR compliance adds as much as $2000 to the cost of a bike, according to Croft. Only Australian regulations could make a simple job so complex.
Released in 1989, the original two-stroke RMX was closely based on the RM250 motocrosser, and powered by the same 250cc engine as well as having the same chassis and suspension. This model proved popular for thousands of weekend warriors. So popular in fact that more than 2000 RMX250s were sold between 1998 and 2001. Since then, however, 450cc four-bangers have become the new mid-size bush basher, eclipsing the previously popular two-strokers, and Yamaha’s excellent but ageing WR450F rules the roost.
Why are 450cc four-stroke singles the weapon of choice for Aussie off-roaders? Our wide brown land has a broad range of conditions and 450s suit many of them. They’re light enough to manage technical trails and boast enough snot to tear through open forest roads or even sandy desert. If you think you need more cubes to tackle the Outback then take a good look at the machines in the Dakar Rally where engines are limited to 450cc.
There are several bikes that compete in the 450cc segment, but you can see why Yamaha still holds the crown. On the competition-oriented side you have the European offerings from KTM, Husqvarna, Beta, Gas Gas and soon Sherco all boasting exotic features and price tags to match. The Japanese line up comprises the Kawasaki KLX450R and Honda CRF450X, which are great trail bikes, but lost their edginess with the ADR compliance.
Yamaha strikes an ideal balance between performance, comfort and reliability. Then there’s Suzuki’s good ol’ DR-Z400E which, despite its relatively modest spec, continues to be Suzuki’s top-selling off-roader thanks to its alluring $7990 price tag (plus on-road costs). More than 18,200 examples of the DR-Z400E have found Aussie homes since the bike’s release 16 years ago. That’s a lot of motorcycles. Clearly then, many buyers are driven by price, not performance.
Suzuki knew it had a gap in its off-road line-up, and it knew it had to get the balance right for the rigours of enduro riding. This RMX had to offer performance on par with a motocross bike while being fun and user-friendly for a broad ability of riders.
Suzuki used its race-winning RM-Z450 as a base and tweaked it to suit tracks and trails instead of its original brief of berms and jumps. Being based on the winner of Australian supercross and motocross crowns, you know the RMX comes from good stock.
The chassis, bodywork and 6.2 litre tank remained the same, as did the fuel-injection system, but the rear wheel came down a size to 18 inches to provide a broad choice of enduro tyres.
The RMX also has its 2010 motocross sibling’s fully adjustable suspension suspension hardware, including a Showa rear shock and 47mm USD fork tailored for enduro. Its spring rate and internal valving have been tweaked for a plusher ride.
Delving deeper reveals a slighter lower compression ratio, different piston and a milder camshaft which, in combination with a heavier flywheel, have been used to move the power lower in the rev range.
Electrical tweaks comprise the lightweight, ADR-approved lighting system, including inobtrusive indicators, and a horn. As for the instrumentation, a cable-driven digital dash offers Sport and Standard modes, which each display specific info such as tripmeter, timer and average speed for Sport and current speed, time and information of two trip lengths for Standard.
You can also reset the built-in tyre calculator to keep the speedo accurate after changing front rubber.
In isolation, each of the RMX’s 50-odd ADR changes are minor, but in combination they’ve made it a much more user-friendly trail riding or enduro mount.
Suzuki gave us a day near Mt Buller in the Victorian High Country to test the RMX against the Aussie elements, and I didn’t leave disappointed. Straight up, the RMX feels light and fast; it’s a thoroughbred, and it makes the DR-Z400E feel like a tired old nag. Apart from the headlight and small digital dash in your forward view, you’d think you were riding an RM-Z motocrosser.
Its seat and fuel tank are flat and narrow to work with you as you shift your body around. This isn’t a seat designed for sitting on for hours on end and it doesn’t need to be – you’ll be too busy standing on the ’pegs to see the next obstacle ahead. For this job the RMX is ideal, with its wide and grippy ’pegs helping to keep your muddy boots planted while you grip the braceless hock-absorbing alloy Renthal handlebar.
Our ride with Dave and the Mt Buller Motorcycle Adventures team lead us straight into some dusty singletrack.
I could flick the RMX from left to right with minimal effort through the twisty tree-lined course, but it didn’t take long to snag my exposed front brake lever on a passing branch and have a big ‘nearly’ moment. A set of plastic handguards – or better yet – alloy Barkbusters is a must.
I was in second gear for most of the tricky stuff as the bike’s grunty engine rarely requires first. Log crossings didn’t have to be avoided – just drop it back to first and a throttle blip would see the front wheel clear it, followed by the bashplate absorbing the blow before the rear wheel clawed its way after the front.
As easy as the RMX is to pilot, this was tough going and I was soon dripping with sweat. On more open fire trails I could finally use a few more gears.
With around 47hp at the rear tyre, you’d either be very brave or a pro rider to be looking for more ponies. After riding the RM-Z recently I could feel that the power of the RMX was in a more user-friendly rev range. Bottom end and mid-range grunt is its strength.
Even when in third or fourth with the engine just ticking along, if you stumbled across a rut or washout the engine just needs a flick of the throttle to clear it.
Crossing erosion mounds at pace will launch you as high as you are brave, but the long-travel Showa suspension easily controls those heavy landings.
After some time on medium-speed rocky trail I felt the front was a tad harsh. Out with the flatblade screwdriver and backing off four clicks on the compression damping had the desired effect. This demonstrated how well a quality suspension unit responds to adjustment. That was the only adjustment I made to the bike all day – it needed nothing else for me to ride to my limit.
As its name suggests, flat landscape is rare around Mt Buller and our ride leader certainly tested us on a few steep climbs to sort the men from the boys. If the pilot was willing, the bike was able. No matter how steep or snotty, the RMX will never run out of puff or bog down, and its engine is a stump-puller. Impressive stuff.
By days end we’d climbed and traversed mountain ranges, mud, rock, dust and clay. The bikes no longer looked new, but neither did the riders. A cold beer is always an ideal way to recover from a fun day in the dirt.
Apart from the lack of handguards and limited fuel range (expect around 70-90km depending on how enthusiastic you are), the RMX450Z is hard to fault.
A free battery charger and decent service intervals are icing on the cake to what is a comprehensively considered motorcycle.
Priced from $12,490 (plus on-road costs), the RMX represents great value, at some $500 more than RM-Z450 motocrosser, $500 less than the Yamaha WR450F and more than a $1000 less than the Euro enduro offerings. Fit handguards and a bigger tank from IMS, Acerbis or Clarke and you’re still ahead.
Sure, Suzuki took a while to get it to us but it hasn’t cut corners in the process. This ADR-compliant RMX is sure to be stretching arms and filling in mates with roost for plenty of happy new weekend warriors!
– Handguards not standard
– Fuel range
Type: Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, single-cylinder with DOHC
Bore x stroke: 96 x 62.1mm
Compression ratio: 11:6.1
Fuel system: Keihin EFI
Final drive: Chain
CHASSIS & RUNNING GEAR:
Frame: Aluminium twin-spar
Front suspension: 47mm Showa inverted fork, fully adjustable
Rear suspension: Showa monoshock, fully adjustable
Front brakes: 250mm wave disc with Nissin twin-piston caliper
Rear brake: 240mm wave disc with Nissin twin-piston caliper
DIMENSIONS & CAPACITIES:
Wet weight: 124kg
Seat height: 955mm
Fuel capacity: 6.2L
WHEELS & TYRES:
Front: 80/100-21 Dunlop D742
Rear: 110/100-18 Dunlop D756
Power: 47.67 rear wheel horsepower at 8100rpm
Torque: 42.66Nm (31.5ft-lb) at 6600rpm
Price: From $12,490 (plus on-road costs)
Colours: Champion Yellow No. 2, Solid black
Warranty: Six months
Bike supplied by: Suzuki Australia
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