Yamaha At The Dunes

2014 Special Edition press event

Published in the July 2014 Issue July 2014 Powersport News

While there are ATVs and manufacturers to suit every taste and riding skill, there is a certain brand that stands out to anyone who frequents many of the popular sand dune recreation areas available here in the United States, the most well known of which is Glamis, CA.

Known by most as the largest “sandbox” in the country, Glamis attracts every type of off-road enthusiast throughout its winter dune season—from quads to buggies to UTVs and even those oh-so-brave dirt-bike riders. The huge dunes at Glamis hold an unnatural power and draw to powersports enthusiasts everywhere.

It can be argued that the best and baddest quads out there these days are made by the same manufacturer who brought us the legendary two-stroke, 350cc Banshee more than 20 years ago and who continues to bring us dune dominant machines such as the torquey, hard-to-mistake Raptor 660/700, the race-bred YFZ450 and the even racier YFZ450R. For every Honda or Suzuki ATV you will see at the dunes, you will see four or more Yamahas, and perhaps that is the reason Yamaha Motor Corporation holds their annual SE press event at Glamis every year—or perhaps it’s just because it’s so easy to get us off-road editors to attend this event. Dunes? Who, Me? You bet!

This girl just happens to be one of the lucky ones invited to go spend a couple of days testing the 2014 SE (Special Edition) Yamaha Raptor 700R, as well as the 2014 SE YFZ450R.  Having spent some time on just about every quad there is to ride, I have to admit, these are two of my favorites for a number of reasons.

Torque. The Raptor 700R is a beast, with its 686ccs of liquid-cooled, fuel-injected power—but, it’s a controllable one and surprisingly easy to ride. Don’t let the power fool you and don’t be intimidated by its aggressive stance. This quad is comfortable and smooth and will pull the sand hills at Glamis in just about any gear you decide to put it in. The ergonomics of the Raptor make aggressive riding fun and instinctual, but it can double as a laid-back cruiser machine as well. It truly is a performance chameleon, depending on your riding style, and the Raptor was a media favorite throughout our several-day adventure.

Ergonomics. There are some brands that feel naturally more comfortable to some people than others and I have always found Yamaha’s ergonomics to feel like they were custom made just for me. When it comes to the motocross ready, 5-valve 449cc YFZ450R, as well as the Raptor, the ergonomics are spot-on. Whether you prefer to ride sitting or standing, even the factory settings are quite natural feeling and comfortable. With adjustable handlebars and fully adjustable suspension on both models, it’s easy to find a custom setting for any rider’s height or riding style. The fit and finish of the plastics on both models is also excellent, with nothing sticking out to hang up on your riding boots or to make sliding back and forth as you cruise the dunes a hassle. The factory foot pegs on both models are large and substantial enough to make even the most aggressive rider feel totally planted. 

Handling. While the Raptor 700 handles very well for its size and power, this is where the YFZ450R shines in all of its race-bred glory. With its low and wide stance, and factory long-travel suspension, along with its custom-designed tire tread and rev-happy motor, this is the quad that really gets your heartbeat racing and satisfies the racer inside all of us.

Even bone stock, the YFZ450R can tackle any hill or obstacle that the enormous dunes at Glamis can throw at it—and it will feel like a high-performance machine while doing it. The seat design almost begs you to use body English in every twist and turn and the ergonomics are set well for anyone who prefers to ride in a more aggressive standing position. Transitions from sitting to standing are effortless and this allows you to ride as long as you have fuel in your tank without wearing yourself out.

Looks. Let’s face it, no one wants to ride or drive anything that doesn’t look awesome, especially at the dunes and especially when you are with all of your friends and your friend’s friends, where everyone is sizing everyone else up and comparing machines. The Yamaha Raptor has always looked sinister and ready to handle business and these new SE editions are no different. Midnight Blue and black plastics with the Special Edition graphics separate these models from the mainstream and give any owner something to be proud of. And if black isn’t your thing, the Metallic Grey and white model might be just the ticket.

While it doesn’t look quite as ferocious as the Raptor, the 2014 YFZ450R SE looks fast just sitting still. With its ultra low profile and sleek bodylines, it always demands a second look and the SE Edition brings that look a bit quicker with its unique color-way and graphics for 2014. This model features a unique Crimson Red and black color scheme and with its all-black aluminum wheels and black frame, it will definitely stand out in a crowd.

These are just a few of the reasons I personally enjoy any time spent on a Yamaha sport quad, but I have found that other duners and sport riders also tend to agree that these things are important to them when picking out a new machine.

Yamaha has set the industry standard with these models, and while we don’t see much to improve on, they do manage to eek out a few slight upgrades every year, such as the ’14 YFZ450R’s new “assist and slipper” clutch, which results in a lighter clutch pull and less engine braking while downshifting, and an all-new, lighter suspension package.

If you were mulling over your next quad purchase and hadn’t quite made a choice yet, it’s also definitely worth noting that these quads are now assembled in the good ol’ USA at Yamaha’s production facility in Newnan, GA. While other companies are looking outside of the country for cheaper production options, Yamaha is bringing its assembly right here, creating jobs and ensuring hands-on quality control and easier implementation of any necessary changes.

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