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2019 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS West Coast Desert Review

2019 Yamaha YXZ1000R

By Jon Crowley

Photos by Adam Campbell

A few weeks back, we had a chance to test the 2019 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS on the east coast. The high level overview of our test was that the updates made for 2019 make the YXZ1000R more trail worthy and comfortable (see 2019 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS East Coast Trail Review for full details).

2019 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS

2019 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS

Last week, Yamaha headed out west to test the same vehicles in the desert at Johnson Valley, CA. Once again, we got the call to join them for the test. In case you haven’t seen the updates Yamaha has made to the 2019 YXZ1000R SS, here is a quick reminder.

 2019 Yamaha YXZ1000R updates:

  • New 29-inch 8 Ply Bighorn Tires
  • Recalibrated Gearing (much lower 1st gear)
  • Rear Mounted Radiator W/Twin Fans
  • Advanced Engineered Cargo Bed
  • All New FOX Racing Suspension Settings and Spring Options
  • All-New Sport Shift v2.0 MCU Logic – Smoother at slow speeds
  • New ROPS cage design
  • New Styling

 On the surface, it really doesn’t look that much different, but from my perspective, these updates have made a huge difference to how the YXZ1000R performs.

Tire Size and Transmission Gearing

Yamaha has finally realized that larger tires for UTVs are here to stay.  There are many advantages to a larger tire, but what I like the most is ground clearance.  Whatever terrain you are in, getting that skid plate off the ground makes the ride more comfortable and the vehicle more capable. But just bumping up the tire size doesn’t take into account how the larger tires affect performance, durability and stopping power. So Yamaha bumped up the wheel bolt pattern to a popular 4/156 size (up from 4/110) for more durability. They also increased the size of the brake calipers and rotors so stopping power did not degrade.

Then they adjusted the transmission gearing to account for the difference, plus some.  Gears 2-5 were dropped by 7% which basically ends up with the same ratio to the ground after considering the tire size increase from 27-inch to 29-inch. First gear was lowered by 24% from 2018 model. This is 7% for the tire size increase, and another 17% just to make the YXZ1000R perform better for slow speeds.

Low speed gearing is one of my biggest complaints for the YXZ1000R and this is a big improvement.  Whether for trail riding or in the dunes, 1st gear is much improved. But Yamaha did more than just lower first gear.  They also changed the way the Sport Shift MCU handles very slow speed situations.

Now you may be wondering how the GYTR Torque Assist Gearing (TAG) is affected by the changes for 2019. Basically, the TAG gear ratios will remain unchanged for 2019.  What does change is how the MCU programming handles slow speed “half clutch” type situations. I am very interested to see how the new programming works with the TAG kit, because when we tested a YXZ1000R SS with TAG kit and 30-inch tires, the half clutch situation was our biggest gripe (see YXZ1000R SS Rock Crawling Review).

The tires are a special 8-ply 29-inch Maxxis Bighorn designed specifically for the YXZ1000R. We beat these tires up all over Johnson Valley over some nasty terrain and no one got a flat.  I was very impressed with the performance and durability over the 27-inch tire for 2018 and earlier models.


The next big improvement in my opinion is the shock package.  Yamaha worked with FOX to not only refine the shock tune, but also offer dual rate springs with cross-over adjustment on some of their packages.  The model we tested was the RC2 with dual rate springs and cross-over adjustment.

While I felt the front shocks were too stiff in the factory settings, the shock package for handling whoops was greatly iomproved.  We bombed through some pretty large whoops at 50 MPH to 60 MPH without getting out of shape. This is much improved in my opinion and the FOX X2 shocks should be even better.

Radiator Relocation

The next big change in my opinion is the radiator relocation. For 2019, Yamaha has relocated the radiator to the rear and this has made two nice improvements. First off, the hot air from the fan no longer blows through the tunnel so cab heat is no longer impacted by the radiator.

2019 Yamaha YXZ1000R

2019 Yamaha YXZ1000R Radiator

Secondly, the radiator is no longer affected by mud and debris. This is a huge improvement for recreational riders and racers.

Yamaha worked hard to not impact bed space by covering the radiator and designing the intake with three separate paths. While the bed is still on the small size for my liking, Yamaha has designed in 4 very nice tie down points that are very sturdy.

2019 Yamaha YXZ1000R Radiator

2019 Yamaha YXZ1000R Radiator

Yamaha does also have an accessory box that adds nice protected storage. Plus they have a tire carrier that is very sturdy and works with the box.  This is a great setup for desert rides.


I was thoroughly impressed with the capability of the new 2019 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS. Johnson Valley California was the perfect desert location for us to test the changes for 2019. We ran the new YXZ1000R through big whoops, steep rocky hills, sand washes and sand dunes and I could really tell how much better the vehicle handled it all.

I am looking forward to doing more testing and I hope to get my hands on a 2019 YXZ1000R SS with TAG gears so I can test it in the big rocks at Johnson Valley. Stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed for me!

More YXZ1000R News and Reviews:

2019 Yamaha YXZ1000R East Coast Trail Review

2019 Yamaha YXZ1000R – Most Versatile Pure Sport Side-by-Side

GYTR Turbo Kit for Yamaha YXZ1000R/SS

Yamaha YXZ1000R Claims Three of Top Ten Positions at King of the Hammers


Yamaha YXZ1000R SS Rock Crawling Review

Yamaha YXZ1000R SS SE with GYTR Torque Assist Gear Review

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