ATV Review: Testing Yamaha’s YFZ450R and Raptor 700R

Imagine a place where terrains and biomes blend together. The ocean meets the desert, intertwined with pine forests and tropical forests. Lakes, rivers and streams abound, but the whole place is white sand beach. No rocks, no dirt, just soft white sand under your feet, which impossibly keeps a forest ecosystem open to exploration. This utopian place does exist, and it’s located halfway up the Oregon coast in Winchester Bay. It’s also where I had the chance to test Yamaha’s new sport mountain bikes, the YFZ450R and Raptor 700R.

A unique ATV riding experience

The Oregon Dunes provided a riding experience like no other. Cody Hooper

Formed by thousands of years of wind and rain erosion, Oregon’s dunes lie in the Siuslaw National Forest. Created by the erosion of the Coast Mountain Range, heavy rains and wind patterns pack the sand into this approximately 40,000 acre stretch. It is nearly 54 miles long, providing ample space for hiking, camping, wildlife refuge, and off-road recreation. Three distinct OHV recreation areas exist along this dune ridge: Winchester Bay, Coos Bay and Florence.

The unique sand riding areas featured here are unlike any I have ever come across. Sprawling two-track trails through thick, floorless forest look breathtaking. Huge canyons carved into the sand with logs, branches and roots sticking out abound, making this place feel half real; almost as if it was built as a theme park for off-road machines. The main stretch of sand dunes has dead tree forests running through it in some areas, making it an almost infinitely variable slalom course. The main dunes and fingers can be explored with a buggy or UTV, but the best ride in the whole place is on an ATV or motorcycle. Every day, the sand re-forms into smooth, natural terrain with passing coastal winds.

All that auto-resetting sand makes an amazing playground for off-road vehicles, and access to the dunes is easy, as long as you follow the rules. To enter you will need the proper safety equipment, a $10 ATV license (good for two years), and you must be a carded member of Oregon All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Education School, which is an online course. Permit, safety equipment information and a link to the ATV Safety Card registration are all available at OregonOHV.org. This does not include accommodation.

The setup at Winchester Bay

My trip was organized by Yamaha, the reigning king of Sport ATV, or Sport Quad. Our flight to Eugene was completed with a two-hour drive through the beautiful Oregon forest to our destination, the Pointe Condominiums in Winchester Bay. These multi-story condominiums sit on the edge of the dune, allowing you to jump right on your ATV, motorcycle, buggy or UTV and head straight for the sand without towing. Large garages make up the ground floor of each condo, with plenty of space to store all of your toys. On-site paved RV sites and remote camping are also available here, so you can bring your gear if you have it.

If you don’t have the ATV to provide transportation through that sandy playground, don’t worry, there are more 10 local mountain bike rental companies who offer a first class service, hosting a variety of machines to suit your style. There is an RV park and campground called Half Moon Bay directly opposite the apartments we stayed in during our trip if you choose to pitch a tent.

The town of Winchester Bay and the nearby town of Reedsport have all the commercial amenities you could need, including a grocery store, hospital, several hotels and numerous restaurants. ATV repair and parts shops are also available locally if you need to pick up gear or spare parts. You can pre-arrange a complete vacation with arrival and route, making it an accessible location for those who are driving or flying away.

Yamaha presents a pair of sport mountain bikes

Riders testing new Yamaha mountain bikes.
A group of racers put the new Yahamas through their paces at Winchester Bay. Cody Hooper

Yamaha invited a group of writers to try its latest sport ATVs, the YFZ450R and Raptor 700R. Similar in style but miles apart in feel, these two represent the top sport mountain bikes currently on sale. In the late 2000s, the sport ATV market was booming. Major ATV manufacturers at the time included Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Can-Am, KTM and a handful of others. Today, Yamaha is the only manufacturer to still carry the torch in the 450cc and Big Bore sport ATV categories. Fortunately, Yamaha’s YFZ and Raptor were both best in class when the competition was heated, and they only got better over time with revisions to things like suspension tuning, clutches and the bodywork.

The 2022 Yamaha YFZ450R

The YFZ450R has a four-stroke engine.
The YFZ450R has a five-valve, DOHC, single-cylinder, four-stroke engine. Cody Hooper
  • Engine: 449cc DOHC 5-valve, 5-speed manual with slipper clutch
  • Lester: 405 pounds
  • Seat height : 31.9 inches
  • Suspension travel: 9.8 inches (front), 11.0 inches (rear), fully adjustable suspension
  • MSRP: $9,799-$10,199

Yamaha’s YFZ450R is the penultimate performance sport ATV. It features a motocross-inspired, five-valve, DOHC, single-cylinder, four-stroke engine that loves high-rpm running. In the sand, the YFZ likes to be wrung out and is a more involved and exhilarating experience than the Raptor. High-rpm rowing action is made easy on the YFZ thanks in part to its unique semi-slipper clutch. The pull on the clutch lever is easy and smooth as butter, providing one-finger operation.

The suspension on the YFZ is much more suited to hard cornering, jumps and ramps than the Raptor. Tuned for a mix of track, off-road and dune use, the YFZ’s fully adjustable shocks provide enough adjustability to accommodate the styles of most riders. The harder you ride, the brighter it shines, and it was the easiest ATV to ride fast in Oregon’s tight two-track dune trails. However, it lacks low-end grunt in its stock configuration, which means you can’t lug it around. Miscalculations on the equipment with which you attack a hill could force you into a second attempt.

Yamaha Sport ATVs all feature excellent ergonomics. Comfortable bar bends, smooth controls and great placement make controlling the YFZ second nature. Yamaha took the time to install its accessory GYTR nerf bars (Genuine Yamaha Team Racing), which are extended foot platforms that basically allow you a large mesh base to keep your foot off the peg and rear tire. They have the added benefit of providing a great platform to push on for cornering leverage and are an accessory we highly recommend adding to any mountain bike.

Read more : 5 of the Best Replacement Tires for Your ATV

The 2022 Yamaha Raptor 700R

The Raptor 700R delivers a clean ride.
If you prefer a more comfortable ride, the Raptor 700R is the obvious choice. Cody Hooper
  • Engine: Single overhead cam 686cc 4-valve, 5-speed manual
  • Lester: 422 pounds
  • Seat height : 32.7 inches
  • Suspension travel: 9.1 inches (front), 10.1 inches (rear), fully adjustable suspension
  • MSRP: $8,799 – $9,999

Yamaha’s Raptor 700R has long been hailed as the king of sport quads, primarily for its versatility. Its massive 686cc single-cylinder engine favors low- and mid-range power over the high-rpm punch of the YFZ450R, making it much easier to ride in most circumstances. Although it is taller than the YFZ, it is also narrower, so it lacks the insane cornering confidence that only the low-slung YFZ can handle.

That said, the Raptor is no slouch in the handling department. Confident, balanced and easy to handle, the Raptor 700R is everything a big-bore sport ATV should be. The controls are smooth, meaning taming this beast is a task easily handled by most riders of average skill. Its suspension is softer than the YFZ, filtering out chop and chatter much better while still providing enough bottoming resistance to jump, pound rolling whoops or dive hard into corners. The smooth, grumpy nature of the 700’s engine makes the climbs easy, and you can cover Oregon’s dunes almost entirely in 3rd speed, only changing in a handful of places.

If your style is more laid back or you prefer a more comfortable ride, the Raptor 700R is the obvious choice. For long days in the saddle, the Raptor will tire you less, but you won’t outrun any YFZ in the tight, twisty stuff. Thanks to Yamaha for giving us an epic riding adventure, one we’re sure to replicate for ourselves, and we can’t think of a better unit to do it with.

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