2020 Yamaha YZ450F In Depth First Ride

For 2020, Yamaha is the only manufacturer to have any significant changes done to their 450cc motocross machine. With over 15 updated engine components, over 10 chassis components, and a suspension valving makeover Yamaha wasn't resting on their 2019 450 Shootout success. If there was one 2020 450 motocross bike that I was anxious to ride, this bike right here takes the cake. I was anxious to feel the changes Yamaha made out on the track, but also nervous because quite frankly I didn't want them to screw up an already great machine. In this “11 Things” I will break down all of the “feels” that I experienced while riding the 2020 Yamaha YZ450F. If you want to know more about the exact changes Yamaha made to the YZ450F, click here: https://www.keeferinctesting.com/latest-news-1/2019/6/4/yamaha-announces-full-lineup-of-2020nbspmotocross-bikes

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Engine: So what exactly are you getting with the 2020 Yamaha YZ450F engine? Compared to the 2019 you’re getting a more connected rear wheel feel out of corners and more RPM response. I don’t feel like you're necessarily getting more bottom end pulling power, but the initial crack of the throttle is improved (almost too much, but more on that in the ECU portion) right when you get ready to stab that throttle (anywhere in the RPM range). Where I felt most of the improvements were through mid range-top end pulling power. The difference in “meat” through the mid-range once out of corners is impressive. We talk about third gear a lot in these tests and how important that gear is to the rider. If third gear is not useable in corners, it’s tough to ride smooth and forces the rider to be more active on the bike, which could result in getting more tired more quickly. The Yamaha has more mid-range pulling power, which allows you to use third gear through corners even easier in 2020. Usually you will have to fan the clutch a little to get the engine to recover and get back into the upper RPM range, but with the 2020 YZ450F you can just roll on the throttle and it will start pulling you down the track immediately. Top end pulls farther in second and third gears for 2020 and will not sign off as much as the 2019 YZ450F does. Even though a 450 shouldn't be revved out, let’s be real, sometimes we are lazy and DO NOT have perfect riding technique, so it’s nice to leave it in second gear and use that gear all the way to the next corner. It happens right? This new engine character helps you do that better without sounding like Justin Barcia at Southwick. In a nutshell the 2020 engine in fact has more power with most of it being more controlled to the rear wheel. 

Engine Free Feeling: The improvements that the Yamaha made in this category warranted its own category. I mentioned to the R&D guys at Yamaha how much free-er second gear felt as the 2020 YZ450F didn't have near as much engine braking as the 2019 did. With the previous 2019 engine, the engine braking was apparent on grabby/heavy dirt, but with the 2020 engine refinements, second gear feels less tight and puts less force on the front wheel off-throttle. This helps the suspension settle coming into corners and that improvement alone helps the 2020 YZ450F corner better/more efficiently.

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Chassis: The 2020 YZ450F feels stiffer around the track. However don’t get scared off by the word “stiff”. It’s not rigid by any means, but just has a stiffer feel and not a wallowy sensation. Let’s go over this a little…The chassis is softer near the front of the machine and on the downtubes. The engine cradle tube thickness has been beefed up for increased rigidity as well as an engine mount material/shape change to help get this year’s YZ450F more planted. Now I am not going to sit here and tell you that this bike is a cornering dream and the changes that Yamaha made make this bike a class leading carver, but what it did gain is cornering stability as well as predictability through those corners. Gone is the hinged feeling near the rear of the bike when leaning under throttle through sweepers. The new Yamaha feels more planted under throttle while leaning through fast rougher corners (AKA sweepers). Straight line stability is still intact from 2019, but now has a slightly lighter initial lean in coming into tight corners. I didn't experience any added mid corner front end traction with the 2020 (maybe because of the MX33 front tire), but corner exits are improved as the 2020 YZ450F stayed leaned over easier at the end of corners. I do feel when the track gets rough the 2020 Yamaha is easier to push your limits, but just like with any performance gains you will lose a little comfort if riding around at 80% of your ability compared to the 2019. This new chassis will reward a rider that pushes harder and wants to go faster when the track gets rougher. Think GH @ 4:30.   

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Suspension: The stiffer setting that Yamaha went to amazingly still has more comfort than any other suspension out there for 2020. I mean I guess it shouldn't be a shock, but I am wired to think if I go stiffer, my comfort sensation on the track might go down. For 2020, the comfort that you've grown accustomed to with the KYB SSS/Yamaha suspension is still there! Even though both ends have more hold up and less pitching I still ended up going stiffer on my settings. I felt like under throttle out of corners the rear of the bike (shock) was too low and I was getting a harsh mid stroke feel. Going in one click stiffer on the low speed compression as well as in (stiffer) on the high speed compression a quarter turn will help with hold up. I also wanted to calm the rear of the bike down on braking bumps so I made a huge change to the rebound just to see how the YZ450F took it and to my surprise it really liked a slower shock setting, so don’t be scared to go as much as three clicks in (slower) on the rebound. Again, for 2020, Yamaha’s goal was to increase performance as well as comfort and they somehow weaved both seamlessly together for a no fuss suspension spec that I think will please a wide range of riders.   


Brakes: Remember the top 5 mods to the 2019 YZ450F article? One of those mods was installing a Brembo front brake system on the Yamaha. Just FYI, for 2020, I don’t think I will be going that direction. Yamaha went with a new caliper with an increased piston size, a more rigid caliper body, a larger surface area on the brake pads with a higher friction material, as well as a front disc that also has 16% more surface area. The new Nissin front brake is not as strong as a Brembo, but it’s much more powerful than the 2019 system by far. The somewhat mushy front brake lever feel is now gone and now you will be getting more power at the lever. I didn't have to pull the front brake lever in nearly as far as the 2019 lever, so make sure to prepare yourself before grabbing a finger full. On more than one occasion I grabbed too much lever and almost washed the front end out because it can be a little touchier than last year’s front brake. If you feel like it may be too touchy simply adjust it in towards the throttle and this helps tremendously. It’s nice to have a strong front brake to the Yamaha as it makes charging into corners that much easier. I also approve of the new 240mm rear disc size (from 245mm in 2019) for 2020. Kawasaki has a 250mm rear disc, but it’s so grabby that your braking points coming into corners gets all screwed up. No one needs 250mm of rear disc. Bigger is not ALWAYS better and in this case the smaller diameter rear disc is easier to modulate your braking. 

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Rider Triangle: Simply put, I don’t like the changes Yamaha made to the 2020 handlebar position. I do like the 5mm lower mounts (2017 mount height), but the 16.5mm forward position in 2020 is just too much for my 6’0 frame. Yamaha wanted to get the rider to more forward on the bike for 2020 and although they achieved that, my riding position/technique suffered. I had more leverage on the bike when I was in the 2019 position and could feel the front tire more when leaning. With the 2020 position I couldn't get enough leverage down on the front end to push the front end down when I needed to. The 2020 position bent my elbows too much when sitting and caused my arms to be less relaxed, which forced me to have the wrong grip with my hands on the bars. Putting the mounts back to the original rear hole/forward mount position let me corner better and gain more control over the Yamaha. I will say when standing the 2020 setting of the forward hole/rear facing mount was more comfortable because it put my upper body in more relaxed position. Find out what works best for you and what area of the track is most important to your technique (for you to be the most comfortable and stick with that setting). 

20mm Taller Seat: Matthes and I tried an optional 20mm taller seat and I actually liked it. I am usually not a taller seat kind of guy, but I liked that there wasn't as much of a pocket as the stock foam shape. With the 20mm taller seat you obviously sit more on top of the YZ450F instead of inside it and to me that helped with the transition from sitting to standing. I think of David Vuillemin every time I seat bounce a jump and it pisses me off. In that case I might invest in one of these suckers to try out, so he stops yelling at me inside of my head while riding. Yamaha Accessories Division will be offering this optional seat to purchase. 


ECU Settings/Engine Maps: The new on-the-fly handlebar mounted map button on the 2020 YZ450F is a welcome addition. I thought the added RPM response down low of the stock/standard map was too touchy for me through corners. I liked the “stock” map for longer/faster/softer tracks, but for everything else I used the TP 3.0 map, Keefer 1, and Exciting Power Character (all attached) maps the most. The TP 3.0 builds more RPM’s a little smoother/slower, but is super connected and the most easiest to ride. The “Keefer 1” map has a little more RPM hit initially, but still uses that smoothness of the TP 3.0 pulling out of corners. Finally, the “Exciting Power Character” uses that smooth roll on of the TP 3.0 down low, but has more RPM excitement through the mid range power. I thought the 2020 YZ450F’s chassis performed the best with the TP 3.0 as it didn't upset the YZ450F chassis as much rolling through mid corner. Try these and let us know what you think! 

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Dunlop MX33 Tires: I immediately went home and put one of my trusty Dunlop MX3S front tires on this bike to see if it improves cornering! WOW! Even thought Dunlop doesn't make this front tire now, I still feel like the 3S helps the Yamaha’s initial lean and turn in. The 3S makes the Yamaha easier to cut underneath a blown out rut and has a more comfortable carcass feel on bumps. The 33 front tire is better than the 3S later in the corner, but to me I really need that initial lean in feel to help predict my corner. If you’re a front end steering rider you may not like this front tire feel as it may feel vague/pushy, but don’t blame it on the YZ450F yet. Scour the earth for a Dunlop MX3S (there still out there somewhere) or try a Pirelli MX32 if you want some better lean in angle traction. 


Setting Up In The Air While Starting A Lean Angle: I found that one area that the YZ450F is weak is when you’re setting up in the air, to get on the throttle to start a lean, the YZ450F feels heavy/vague once the suspension loads/unloads. Unlike a KTM or Husqvarna where they feel planted when landing off a jump while leaning, under that lean angle the Yamaha takes longer to regain a full traction/planted feel. I am able to continue my lean angle that I started in the air, land that way, and get on the gas immediately with the KTM/Husqvarna. This is something that may not be felt by most of you without riding other bikes back to back, but it’s something that I noticed almost immediately when riding the same track with a few different bikes. 

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2019 VS. 2020: I feel that going from a 2019 to a 2020 YZ450F is a more noticeable difference for the better than going from a 2017-2018 YZ450F. Most of the changes that Yamaha made to the 2020 YZ450F are for the better and will help a wide range of riders become faster as well as give the rider a more predictable feel around the track. I always get the question “Is it worth it for me to get a 2020 over a 2019”? My answer to you is “yes, it’s worth it this year”. If the difference is a couple grand and you’re able to get the wife to sign off on it, then go with the 2020 because there is a lot of noticeable positive differences that will increase your fun factor when moto'ing. 

To get more settings info and more in depth talk about the 2020 Yamaha YZ450F listen to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast and/or Pulp MX’s podcast with Ryan Lockhart. 




























2020 Honda CRF250R First Impression

Honda won the 250 East Coast Supercross Championship with Chase Sexton aboard the CRF250, but to us normal everyday riders that really doesn't translate into a CRF250R that the average blue collar consumer can go purchase. The GEICO Honda is such a different machine than the one sitting on the showroom floor that it would be foolish to base your purchasing decision on that title alone. What we do know is that the 2019 Honda CR250R was a good bike that liked to be ridden at the upper ranges of higher rpms because it lacked torque down low. For 2020 Honda wanted to address those issues and went to work on refining not only the engine, but the chassis, and suspension as well. We spent a full day out at Fox Raceway in Pala, California with the Honda crew and came away with some first impressions that we feel you should take into consideration before purchasing a red machine. If you want to see exactly what Honda changed for 2020 please click this link :https://www.keeferinctesting.com/latest-news-1/2019/5/7/4xwgxuriezuyxlgyxyb2rgo6h1iaz0 or simply go to https://powersports.honda.com.

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Engine Feel: The 2020 CRF250R’s engine delivery is a much healthier version of the 2019 engine character. You’re able to feel the increased low end power right away once stepping off of the 2019 version. The 2019 version takes a lot of clutch work and massaging to get it into the meat of the power. The 2020 has more torque feeling out of corners and can be shifted into third gear sooner than the 2019. Now I will not sit here and tell you that it’s now a torque monster and can smoke a YZ250F on bottom end, but Honda did a good job at getting some extra low end power delivery. At 0-15% throttle opening there is more RPM response over the 2019 and the 2020 Honda now feels less hollow at lower RPM. If you're wondering what the hell “hollow" means, it’s basically another way of saying it felt slow (AKA hollow, empty). Mid range on the 2020 also has more pulling power to it especially in third gear, but top end pulling power feels as good as the 2019 version, which we do not mind because it was good. There is more bottom-mid range recovery time with the 2020 and that just makes for an easier to ride CRF250R. Even Phoenix Honda’s Jace Owen commented on how much better the low end felt compared to his 2019 stock machine back home. And yes, we were away from the Honda tent so it wasn’t near the Honda execs. It was a legit comment! 

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Suspension: Much like the 2020 CRF450R the CRF250R’s suspension holds up higher in the stroke for 2020 and gives the rider decent comfort on the small chop, but don't expect it to be better than the SSS KYB suspension that comes on the Yamaha YZ250F. All three riders that tested this bike (155, 165, 175 pounds) went stiffer on the fork to help the Honda from diving under heavy braking. Even with the fork changes Showa made for 2020, we still wanted some more hold up. Our older vet racer that tested the CRF250R thought the fork had enough comfort and hold up, but when pushing the bike hard by faster riders the fork needed some added performance at the end of the stroke. Once going a little stiffer (compression) the front end felt calmer and allowed for a more aggressive riding style. The shock/rear of bike has a ton of comfort/traction coming out of rough/choppy corners, but on heavy g-outs or steep jump faces the end of the stroke is empty (soft) feeling. Going stiffer on high speed compression an eighth of a turn will help hold up and prevent you from bottoming too hard on sharp jump faces and landings. We ended up going with a 102mm of sag as that pleased all three riders and left them with the best balance, on and off throttle. Note: This sag reading is different than in years past so make sure you start at 102mm to help balance of bike. If you feel like the rear is too high, try dropping the fork down in the clamp 2mm (from 5mm to 3mm) as this will help the CRF250R from stink bugging on de-cel.   

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Chassis: Now that the 2020 CRF250R shares the same frame as the CRF450R you think it would feel slightly rigid like the 450R does, but that is simply not the case. The 2020 CRF250R frame and chassis has good bump absorption on square edge and feels more compliant than the 450R. Straight line stability is improved from last year’s model and the CRF250R feels more connected to the ground while on throttle. The CRF250R’s cornering character remains as good as the 2019 on initial lean, but mid corner we noticed that the 2020 chassis was harder to keep leaned into the rut. It almost felt like it had a heavier feel in this area of the corner. The 2019 didn't want to stand up as much as the 2020, so cornering the 2020 takes a little more effort. I would gladly take a slower turning Honda for increased stability and that is exactly what we got for 2020 it seems. Don’t freak out and think the Honda can’t corner now, just know that it just takes a little more effort mid corner, but it’s still one of the better cornering machines. Yes, better than the YZ250F still. 

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Engine Maps: Each engine map has a distinct feel on the track and can be very useful in different types or for different types riders. Here is what I felt from each map:

Map One: Pulling power is good out of corners and has a broad mid-top end feel. Good for most tracks unless you're riding deep sand.  

Map Two: Smoother roll on power with less bottom to mid rpm response. Good for younger riders or tracks that are hard pack and loose. 

Map Three: Hardest hitting bottom-mid range with less pulling power on top/over-rev. Good for aggressive riders who want more out of corners or who like to shift early. 


Transmission: The 2020 Honda CRF250R’s second gear spacing is improved and that lets the rider pull that gear longer in order to use third gear more efficiently. Last year I would sometimes bypass third gear and go straight to fourth as third didn't have enough spacing from second, so it felt super short. Fourth gear felt like third gear on last year’s bike, but Honda managed to get it much better for 2020. For 2020 third gear is much more usable and makes the Honda easier to ride.


Cooling: Even with the enlarged left side radiator for 2020 the Honda can still run hot at times. While moving and riding the CRF250R doesn't get as hot, but if you find yourself idling off the side of the track while waiting for a homie, do yourself a favor and turn off the engine. Check your coolant level after every day of riding to ensure you do not get it too far down past the coils. 


Footpegs: Honda has newly shaped footpegs that are 20% lighter, but to me that didn't shed mud more easily like they claimed they would. If you own a Honda then you know how big a pain in the butt mud can be with the footpegs. They DO NOT self clean well. This hasn't changed for 2020. Buy yourself a pair of Acerbis rubber footpeg covers. Thank me later. 


Clutch Springs: Stiffer clutch springs are used in the 2020 CRF250R’s clutch and this is a great thing. The 2019 clutch felt like it was slipping all the time under throttle, but the 2020 clutch has more grab and bite, especially when under the throttle hard out of corners. This doesn't mean that the clutch is more durable in the long run (we will have to test that theory in the coming weeks), but at least the new clutch springs help get the power to the rear wheel better in 2020. 

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Is The 2020 Honda CRF250R Better Than The 2019 Version: A resounding YES! Unlike the 450R where I would tell you to save a couple grand and purchase a 2019, the 2020 CRF250R is much better than last year’s model. If you’re a Honda guy and are coming off of a 2019 CRF250R then you will be very please with what Honda did on the new bike. More power, better chassis feel, and suspension that has more hold up as well as comfort is reason enough for me to spend the extra cake on the new model. 


Brakes: The front brake is powerful! Honda seems to be back with great brakes along with a good feeling at the lever/pedal. The rear brake pedal is a little low stock so make sure to try and raise it up some when you pick yours up. If you feel like the front brake is too touchy, you can bring the lever closer into the grip which will help you modulate it better coming into corners. 


Steering Head: If you happen to feel a little twitchiness in the front end at times, I noticed that the front steering head feels loose. Simply tighten the steering up a little so that the handlebars DO NOT flop down to the stops. A good rule a thumb is that you should have to tap the bars twice for them to drop down to the stops.  

We will be riding the CRF250R more in the coming weeks so stay tuned for more information and a base suspension setting that will work for a wide range of riders. Any questions please email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com.







 



















 

























2020 Honda CRF450R First Impression

Going with the theme of “refinements” like a lot of manufactures are doing for 2020, Honda introduced the new CR450R at Fox Raceway in Pala, California last week. Minimal changes were made to Honda’s flagship motorcycle, but we had a chance to put those refinements to the test over the course of a few days and here is what are initial impressions were of the latest CR450R. We will be getting you guys some recommended base settings along with more tips and tricks in a couple weeks as we put more time on the red machine. If you want to learn more about the 2020 Honda CRF450R, listen to the RMATVMC Keefer Tested Podcast and actually hear my thoughts, instead of just reading them. 

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New For 2020: 


The battery position is lowered by 28mm to move the center of gravity downward in order to try and improve chassis balance/handing. 


All new Honda Selectable Torque Control with three levels of intervention; three mode HSTV monitors rpm spikes and responds by temporarily reducing torque to aid rear traction; a separate switch accesses revised mapping for riding modes for simple tuning depending on rider preference or course conditions. 


Revised internal fork and shock settings to help with chassis balance while trying to combat pitching (off-throttle). 


New rear brake pad material for improved performance, increased durability; elimination of lower rear brake rotor guard improves heat dissipation reducing unsprung weight. 

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On Track Feeling:

The engine on the 2020 CRF450R rolls on slightly smoother than the 2019 in map one, but still has plenty of excitement coming out of corners. The 2020 still could use a more linear pull down low for novice type riders though. If you lack technique through corners, do yourself a favor and ride the Honda CRF450R in map 2. Trust me, you will be much happier. You will find a noticeable difference in the CRF450R’s mid to top end power pulling power (with the 2020 mapping). It is slightly longer than 2019 and can let you become a little lazier with your shifts. The 2020 CRF450R can be left in second and third gears longer than the 2019, but just know that second gear is strong and can tire you out quicker. The benefit of having all that bottom end power is you’ll be able to ride the CRF450R in third gear through corners, which can lighten up the workload a little in longer motos. If you’re a heavier or gnarly dude head on over to map 3 and enjoy the harder hit than you had in map 1. Last year’s engine character was snappy and fun, but lacked some control down low, but for 2020 the red bike has a little more control which helps the chassis balance. Don’t worry, on paper, it’s the fastest bike (peak horsepower) in class.  

The 2019 CRF450R chassis still needed some help because of its aggressive and stiff nature. The 2020 ECU mapping has calmed down the CRF450R’s chassis slightly, which is great thing for you future buyers! You can have the fastest engine in the world, but it isn’t going to mean anything if the bike or rider can’t handle it right? The rigidity balance on the track hasn't changed much for 2020, but the slightly smoother engine character doesn't bind up the chassis as much under heavy throttle. The 2019 felt harsh when the track got hard packed and choppy, but the 2020 frame feels like it flexes slightly better because the engine delivery is chilled down a bit. With these ECU changes Honda made in 2020 the chassis feels like it sticks to the ground a little better on throttle while accelerating down the straights. 28mm doesn't seem like a lot, but with the battery box lower this does translate on the track while entering corners. All three riders that we had testing the 2020 bike against the 2019 noticed the “tip in” was easier on the 2020. Your initial lean doesn't feel as heavy on the new Honda and the bike falls into corners even better than the 2019 did. The CRF450R is already one of the best cornering bikes and with this change for 2020, it helps this even more. 

The CRF450R’s suspension holds up higher in the stroke for 2020 and gives the rider decent comfort on the small chop, but don't expect it to be better than the KYB suspension that comes on the Yamaha. All three riders that tested this bike (165, 170, 175 pounds) went stiffer on the fork to help the Honda from diving under heavy braking. Even with the fork changes Showa made for 2020 we still wanted some more hold up. If we rode the CRF450R around at 80%, the fork had enough comfort and hold up, but when pushing the bike hard the fork needed some added performance. Once going a little stiffer (compression) and slower (rebound) the front end felt calmer and allowed for a more aggressive riding style. The shock has a ton of comfort initially, especially coming out of rough/choppy corners, but on heavy g-outs or steep jump faces the end of the stroke is empty (soft) feeling. Going stiffer on high speed compression a quarter turn will help hold up and prevent you from going to the chiropractor later that afternoon. We ended up going with a 105mm of sag as that pleased all three riders and left them with the best balance on and off throttle.  

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Does The Honda Selectable Torque Control Work? Yes, that’s right you have another three modes to play with on the Renthal Fatbars now! These three modes actually can come in handy in slippery conditions and can even further customize the engine delivery for less experienced riders. Mode one is for track conditions that still have some moisture and traction, but can get slippery on exits of corners, mode two is for conditions that are slippery in most areas of the track, and mode three is for a track that is hard packed or very slippery in all areas. We messed around with all three modes and a couple of our riders came away pleasantly surprised. The track we were riding wasn't extremely slick at the end of the day, but having the ECU in map one along with the HSTC on in mode one; the CRF450R felt more stable and planted to the ground than it did at the beginning of the day, when the track was semi fresh. Two out of the three test riders thought it was an advantage and our fast pro moto guy (Colton Aeck) didn't think it did much for him. This is something that we will test more and will get back to you with in a future RMATVMC Keefer Tested Podcast. 


Something about hopping on a Honda and feeling comfortable right away is almost always unanimous with every rider that gets on one. I even overheard other media outlet testers saying that the Honda has the best cockpit (rider triangle) out of any other bike available today. Honda did a great job with the seat to peg to handlebar measurements. Other manufacturers take note please. 

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As usual I will be completely honest… I didn't notice any performance enhancements in rear braking or the “unsprung weight” Honda tells us they saved weight with the removal of the rear plastic disc cover. Plastic cover be damned! We no longer need you! Boom! Marketing team unite! Unsprung weight!  


I get a lot of emails asking these two questions so I will save myself a few of them by answering them right here… -KK


Is it worth getting a 2020 Honda CRF450R (compared to a 2019)? If it is a matter of saving you a couple thousand dollars? No, get yourself a fresh 2019 and use that money you saved to get your ECU re-mapped or better yet get a Vortex ignition done up by Chad at XPR Motorsports and thank me later. If it’s a matter of a thousand dollars or less than get the 2020 because the mapping alone is worth that much.  

Keefer…Is the 2020 CRF450RWE worth the extra money compared to the 2020 CRF450R? I don’t know yet… Give me another month, so I can ride the “WE”. Chill down… 

Come on back to keeferinctesting.com and pulpmx.com in a few weeks for a full breakdown of settings, tips, and tricks to make this 2020 Honda CRF450R even better. 

2020 KTM 250 SX-F First Impression

Coming off the heels of our Husqvarna test last week, KTM came in this week and delivered our  2020 250 SX-F for us to shake down at the infamous Glen Helen Raceway. Glen Helen is one of the most used motocross facilities in California for most manufacturers to test their production machines before they arrive to dealerships. I managed to gather up 10 important things about the 2020 KTM 250 SX-F that I feel would benefit a possible future consumer and here they are. 

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Engine Feeling: The KTM 250 SX-F is fast! It doesn't feel fast on low rpm, but is it’s so easy to roll on the throttle early in corners that it makes you a better rider without you even realizing. The 2020 KTM 250 SX-F has more bottom end power than the FC250, but both bikes are similar from mid to top end. The 250 SX-F top end is so impressive because it can rev out incredibly well in third gear and will surprise you on how far you can let this machine eat. The controlled engine character of the KTM 250 SX-F doesn't have the excitement of the YZ250F, but to me I can appreciate this controlled character as the rear of the KTM feels more connected than the YZ250F under throttle. You will not be able to use third gear in corners on the KTM like you can with the YZ250F, but having a second gear as long as the 250 SX-F doesn't make me really want to use third gear because second gear is so useable. If you are a third gear type of rider through corners the KTM does have a decent amount of recovery time, but going to a 14/52 gearing ratio (14/51 is stock) will help your cause even more. 

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Suspension: The new 2020 WP XACT settings are firmer than the Husqvarna, but to me that is a good thing. The standard air pressure on the AER fork is 10.3 bars, but we ended up with a 10.6 bar base setting for both riders (170 and 185 pounds). The added air helped the fork hold up on de-cel yet still had a decent amount of comfort on the bigger braking bumps that Glen Helen provided. The WP KTM 250 SX-F shock has more damping feel than that of the FC250 on the end of its stroke, but doesn't have the comfort on acceleration bumps like the FC250 does. We stiffened up the low speed compression a couple clicks and that helped prevent the KTM from squatting too much under a heavy throttle hand. If you still feel like it’s soft at the end of the stroke on jump landings or g-outs try going in a quarter turn in on the high speed compression. Overall, I don’t think the 2020 WP suspension spec is that much better than the 2019 setting, but it was comfortable enough for me to push it hard around Glen Helen when the track got rough in the afternoon. Basically I wasn't dreading my time there in the afternoon and that to me is a win.   

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Chassis: The KTM 250 SX-F feels light through corners and lacks a little front end traction once you add some air to the fork. The positivity of the front tire on lean angle will decrease when going up in air pressure on the AER fork, but this is only felt on corner exit. Initial lean and mid corner the KTM gives the rider a lot of confidence and doesn't require a lot of input by the rider to make an inside line. Straight line stability is also predictable as the KTM will react the same way every lap when hitting bumps at speed. The steel frame has a very connected/positive feel around the track. 

Transmission: We did have an odd feeling when shifting from second to third, under load, on the KTM. When coming out of a corner, under throttle, it was very hard to find third gear. I had to  let off the throttle and pull the clutch all the way in to make the shift. This was odd because our FC250 had zero trouble with shifting when we tested it last week. The Pankl transmissions are usually the best in the business, so having this issue could be just do to not having enough break in time on a new bike. Our KTM 250 SX-F test bike had under two engine hours on it, so maybe it wasn’t fully broken in, but we wanted to mention this. We will get back to you once we get over the 5-6 hour mark to see if this improves.  


Engine Braking: We mentioned in our FC250 test that the Husqvarna had a lot of second gear engine braking. With the KTM 250 SX-F this wasn't as apparent, which makes this transmission talk even more interesting. The KTM has a very free feeling engine character in both maps and this makes the whole bike feel very playful. 


Engine Maps: On the KTM 250 SX-F, Map 2 was a great all around map for both testers we used. Map 2 pulls strong through the mid range and gave us more “meat” feeling up the hills. Map 2 didn’t come on stronger than map 1, but gave the KTM more rpm response and mid range recovery time, while pulling harder up top. Map 1 was a little stronger off bottom end, but was too short for our testers taste. The TC button simply doesn't get enough play with test riders, but the TC button does work well for conditions that are slick, hard pack, and/or slippery. Find the preferred map you like to ride in and use the “TC” button when the track turns for the worse. I tried Map 2 with the TC in the afternoon and it does actually help the rear of the bike stay straighter upon accelerating. 

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Rider Triangle: Gone are the days where the KTM feels foreign or weird when coning off Japanese machines. The cockpit fits a wide range of riders and never feels too cramped even with the low bar bend (unless you’re 6’2 and up). I do however despise the stiff natured stock Neken handlebar on slap down landings or on square edge. To get less vibration and more flex, get yourself a Pro Taper handlebar ASAP. If you like the stock bend, order yourself a Husqvarna stock bend and you will be in the spec range of the stock Neken handlebar. The KTM seat is also much friendlier than the Husqvarna seat! Thank god! 

Airbox Cover: For 2020 KTM gives the consumer an extra left side cover (upon purchase of vehicle) with holes to help the 250 SX-F breathe better. We tested both covers (with holes and without) and while the cover with holes installed made the KTM pull better up on top end, the cover without holes gave the 250 SX-F better bottom to mid range rpm response. If you’re riding wet conditions, it’s nice to know that you have a cover that will not allow water inside your airbox. 

Dunlop MX3S Tires: Thank you KTM for not falling for the Dunlop MX33 front tire trap just yet. The MX3S tires come standard for 2020 again on the KTM and we hope Dunlop allows manufacturers to run the 3S tires for 2021. Orrrrr. Design another soft to intermediate tire that is as good on lean angle as the 3S is. 

Husqvarna Or KTM?: I get this question a lot! If it was me I would prefer the KTM 250 SX-F because of the free feeling engine and the stiffer suspension spec. I do like Husqvarna’s rear end compliancy and handlebars more, but the engine rules the roost in the 250F class and to me the KTM engine is a little better. Yes, I am splitting hairs, but I try not to waffle on your questions! 

If you have any questions about this test or any others, you already know that we are here for you. We try to make your purchase the correct purchase. Email Kris@keeferinctesting.com for any burning q’s.









































2020 Husqvarna FC250/350 First Impression

Husqvarna brought us their 2020 FC250 and FC350 to us this week, so in standard Keefer Inc. fashion we wanted to break down the ten most important aspects of both bikes to you. For 2020 minimal changes were made to the FC250/350 and those changes Husqvarna made were to the suspension valving, airbox/side panel (drilled holes), gearing change (FC350 got a 14/51 ratio), and of course BNG’s. We will be riding both of these machines more throughout the weeks so stay glued to pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com for settings info. 

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Engine Feel: Does the FC 350 have the torque of a 450? Does the FC250 have the torque of a Yamaha YZ250F? No, they don’t! They are smoother than those other bikes off the bottom end and have a more linear roll on power delivery. Is this a bad thing? No, it isn’t. It just means you’re getting a more controlled engine character with a wide power curve. 350cc’s of power is usually plenty of power for most consumers, but if you’re looking for more torque and want to be lazy, the 450 will be better. The FC250 and FC350 both have a similar engine character where they are sneaky fast. Sneaky because they build rpm’s calculated and smooth then all of a sudden you find yourself over jumping a certain section of jumps. This takes a few laps to dial in, but once you do, you will be able to appreciate how much easier this type of engine character is to ride. Both engines make a lot of rear wheel traction so don’t expect a ton of hit anywhere through the powerband on these models, so the “Tony Alessi Water Truck Lane Test” may not be the best guide on how good these engines really are on the track. Both machines have tons of over-rev, so if you’re into short shifting, these bikes may not be the best for you. They both liked to be revved! The Husqvarna’s are not torque monsters like the Yamaha’s, but if you want to let each gear eat, both machines will allow you to ride that way. You would think without tons of torque feel, the FC250/350 wouldn't have a lot of recovery when in the wrong gear through corners. To my surprise both engines have superb recovery time and will get you back down on the track, in the meat of the power, in no time. 

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Weight Feeling (Chassis): The 2020 Husqvarna FC250 weighs in at 218 pounds and FC350 weighs 219 pounds dry. That is only one pound! The 250/350 feels lighter in corners than they do in the air, which is very odd to me. However the good news is that you are able to cut down from blown out berms or ruts very easily on either bike. The FC250 feels more like 5 -7 pounds lighter than the FC350 on the track, do to it’s more free-feeling engine character. The FC250 has a very free feeling engine (in each gear) and the inertia of the FC250’s engine is much less, so that makes it feel more than a pound lighter on the track. Compared to a FC450, the FC350 feels slightly lighter through corners and on sudden direction changes, but to me there is more of a weight feeling gap between the 250/350.  

Straight Line Stability: As light as both machines feel on the track the FC250/350 stay pretty damn straight (on-throttle). When accelerating out of long sweepers the rear end stays more connected to the ground than previous year models and track straight. The stiffer frame helps this rear wheel contact and is very noticeable under heavy load. There is nothing unexpected that happens when pushing the limits on these machine. If you hit the same bump 20 times, both machines will react the same each of those 20 times. 


Suspension: Both sets of 2020 WP suspension on the FC250/350 are on the soft side. All three test riders (165, 170, and 185 pounds) thought the fork on each model needed more air. On the FC250 we went up to 10.7 (10.6 stock) bars and on the FC350 we went up to 10.8 bars (10.4 stock) and that helped both bikes from diving on de-cel. Both shocks are empty (soft) on the end stroke (g-outs, jump faces) so adding some high sped compression (1/8-1/4 turn) helps hold up the rear end in those areas of the track. After changing the fork and shock, both bikes will ride higher in the stroke and actually have more comfort on de-cel. All riders thought the suspension (after this change) was more balanced and all riders could push harder into bumps with more aggression. We will be getting you specific clicker settings in a future article coming in a couple weeks right here on pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com


Engine Braking (FC350): I noticed that in second gear the FC350 had quite a bit of engine braking, but in third gear the engine braking was significantly less. Usually with other bikes there isn't the much engine braking change from second to third gear, so to combat this I tried to downshift late into corners, so that off-throttle pitching sensation wasn't as apparent. I will be testing some gearing on the FC350 to see if I can help this sensation very soon. The FC250 didn't have nearly as much engine braking as the 350 and had more of a free feeling second gear de-cel (freewheel) coming into corners. 

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Engine Maps: On the FC250, Map 2 was a great all around map for all three testers we used. Map 2 didn't come on stronger than map 1, but gave the Husqvarna more rpm response and mid range recovery time, while pulling harder up top. Map 1 was a little stronger off bottom end, but was too short for our testers taste. The FC350 had slightly less engine braking in map 1, but just didn't have that excitement that map 2 had through the mid range so we chose to ride in map 2 and deal with the engine braking in second gear. In map 2 we could shift to third gear sooner than in map 1, so that was also a positive for the track we tested at. The TC button simply doesn't get enough play with test riders, but the TC button does work well for conditions that are slick, hard pack, and/or slippery. Find the preferred map you like to ride in and use the “TC” button when the track turns for the worse.   

Seat: Do yourself a favor and get a GUTS seat cover and take the violent stock seat off ASAP. If you plan on doing longer motos, save your butt and get a friendlier gripper seat. 

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Rider Triangle: I like the Pro Taper EVO bars the come on the Husqvarna, but when standing they are a little low in height for me. Going to a Pro Taper “SX RACE” bend keeps me from being hunched over when standing around corners. If you do like the low/flat profile of the stock bar, try cutting it down to 803mm for better corner entry as the stock length is a little too long. 



Which Bike Is More Fun To Ride: I get this question a lot so I might as well answer it. I really like riding the FC250 a little more than the FC350. Why? To me it has to do with how the bike handles. To me the FC250 is much more playful in the corners and feels lighter around the track. You have to ride both bikes aggressively and unlike a 450, you just can’t lug either bike around or be lazy, so I prefer a bike that will be lighter feeling around the track. Now don’t get me wrong… The FC350 is fun to ride, but for me I would take a 450 over a 350 because they both feel similar in weight around the track, so why not have more power at my throttle hand. The FC450 is also very linear off the bottom end and not intimating like some other 450 power plants. Now I know that not everyone is like me, so I can see why a FC350 could be less intimidating to a vet or novice type rider, which is why one of my vet testers wants one now! 



Clutch/Brakes: The Brembo brakes that come on the Husqvarna FC250/350 are one of the strongest brake systems available. If you’re coming off of a Nissin equipped machine, getting used to the Brembo system may take some time for you to get your braking points down. The Brembo’s are strong and powerful so not a lot of pressure is needed by your finger at the lever. The Magura clutch is a little more on/off feeling than that of the more linear Brembo hydraulic system on the KTM, but either will not fade on you during a long moto. The Magura clutch has a smaller window of engagement that will take some time for riders that are used to a cable clutch, but once you find that engagement point, that foreign feeling will disappear from your mind within a few times out on the track.  


A Pro’s Perspective: Colton Aeck National #526

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FC250 On The Track:

Engine: The FC 250 has never been a torque monster. This engine does its best work in the mid-top end of the rev range. Riding mainly 450s for the past few years, getting on a 250f took some adjustment, but once I learned to rev it again, I really enjoyed this engine.

The FC 250 comes with 2 map settings that you can change on the fly with a switch on the handlebar. Map 1 is more aggressive from bottom-mid range, but leaves me wanting a bit more on top. Map 2 has less bottom end hit/ throttle response with a more aggressive mid-top end. I chose map 2 because I could leave the bike in a lower gear for the corners, but it would rev to the moon before needing to shift.
Overall this engine is a lot of fun!

Chassis: I'm a big fan of the steel frames on the Huskys and KTMs. The steel frame gives me more comfort and bump absorption and just an overall more connected feeling to the ground. The FC 250 is light and nimble in the air and corners like its on rails. No complaints in the chassis department.

Suspension: The FC 250 received a softer setting for suspension in 2020. As with most stock bikes the suspension was soft for me with initial settings. I ended up adding air to the fork and stiffening high speed compression on the shock. This balanced out the bike front and rear, gave me less of a "pitching" sensation under braking and allowed me to push harder through jump faces and big breaking bumps. Overall the suspension has very good comfort and with a couple adjustments I was able to get a good amount of performance as well.

FC 350 On The Track:

Engine: Wednesday was my first time ever riding a 350, I have to say it was a lot of fun! The engine is super easy to ride. As you might expect, it's a perfect mix between 250 and 450. Off the bottom it has a really strong, yet smooth pull similar to a 450 and it revs high and pulls great on top, a lot like a 250. For me it was like having the best of both worlds,it was a lot of fun!

Chassis: Similar to my comments of the 250, I really enjoy the steel frame. It provides a super comfortable ride and leaves you feeling very planted to the ground. The FC 350 corners well, yet is still stable at high speeds. It's fun and easy to ride.

Suspension: The suspension on the 350 was a lot closer for me in stock form. The fork held up higher in its stroke and gave me more confidence to charge through rough sections. I still ended up increasing air pressure in the fork and also added a couple clicks of compression front and rear. This added a bit more performance and was a setting I was really happy with. It wouldn't take much tuning to make this a setting I could race with.

250 350 Comparison:


So, the big question... Would I choose the 250 or 350?

As a professional racer, the 350 doesn't really have a place. Lining up at a national or supercross and being at a 100cc disadvantage doesn't make much sense. That being said, most of you readers aren't lining up a your local supercross.

For the average guy who just rides for fun and maybe races from time to time, I think the 350 is the perfect bike. You have the fun factor of a 250, with the low end grunt/ easy to ride power of a 450. The place I really enjoyed the 350 was in the corners. If I made a mistake in a turn, the 350 had enough power to pull me out of it and still make the next jump or obstacle. I didn't have that luxury on the 250, a mistake in a turn would be much more costly.

Again, for your average consumer I think the 350 is an awesome, super fun bike. If I wasn't racing professionally, it would be in the running of bikes I would personally buy.

























2020 KTM Offroad TPI Introduction



By: Dominic Cimino

Having the opportunity to travel to a new destination for a new model release is a no brainer. New places, new faces, and new motorcycles are a seamless integration that I’ve always really enjoyed being apart of. This time, I got the chance to head to the Pacific North West for KTM’s 2020 TPI Offroad introduction. This all encompassing read that you are about to dive into will highlight these great new Austrian bikes as well as the whole kit n’ kaboodle that made up these memorable couple days hosted by our good friends under the orange tent.

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For starters - this was a bucket list type of event for me. To be able to fly into Seattle with a fresh gear bag packed and ready to ride is a dream. No loading up bikes, tools, spares, nothing. KTM did it all for us, even to the extent of pre-registering us in our respective classes for round 7 of the WORCS series. It is by far the closest thing to being a factory supported rider that I’ve ever had. Literally - show up and ride (or I should say race). Let me keep going as I describe the smile I’ve been wearing the last few days - KTM also had their factory offroad semi for us to pit out of with our teammate, Taylor Robert. With the rig came a personal chef, whom prepared the team amazing breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals everyday. I mean, COME ON! Is Keefer Inc. worthy of such treatment?? I would say no after seeing my race results, but I’ll get to that later.

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Now onto the meat of this story and the real reason why I attended the Grays Harbor WORCS event. For 2020, KTM expanded their two-stroke TPI model lineup (Transfer Port Injection) to include both the 300 and 250XCs, as well as an all new 150XC-W. This means five total models are available when you also add the 300 and 250XC-Ws that were introduced last year. As you may or may not be aware, the new TPI technology is a game changer in the two-stroke world and the closest thing to relating the modern day four-stroke EFI to our old school pre-mix friends. Now that this injection system is available on these new bikes, say goodbye to carbs and jets forever as they will no longer be offered in these lineups. Love or hate new technology, you have to get used to it if are looking to buy yourself a new steed. All of these 2020 offroad bikes see the newest generation chassis and suspension, as well as updated bodywork, exhaust, and of course power-plants. Since my primary focus at this event was centered around the 300XC, I’ll highlight some additional details now. 

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The XC bikes are meant for true closed course competition. If you consider the SX platform as pure bred Motocross/Supercross, the XC is a pure bred offroad machine. Outfitted with a larger gas tank, 18” rear wheel, and a six speed transmission (amongst many other traits), out of the box these bikes are pretty much “Ready to Race”. The 2020 300XC TPI sees a newly designed oil tank with a built in mesh filter to protect the oil pump from debris. This tank electronically controls injection into the throttle body, ensuring an average fuel-to-oil ratio of 80:1. This means one full tank of oil (0.7 liters) is capable of lasting you at least five full 2.25 tanks of gas (11.25 gallons total). That is an amazing amount of riding you can squeeze out of these machines. And don’t worry - 80:1 sounds incredibly lean, but that is where technology comes into play. You do not have to worry about harming your motor - the electronics prevent all of that. And no - you cannot bypass the system. Meaning, the question of “can I just run pre-mix and not fill the oil tank?” The answer is no, these modern motors do not work like that. The new exhaust system looks interesting (almost cone-pipe ish) but definitely purposeful. The ridges are from a 3D stamping process for better strength and resistance to rock/debris impacts. At the same time, they reduce noise levels as well. You might also notice the oval shape near the lower frame cradle which is meant for more ground clearance and reduced width. The pipe is matted to a newly designed silencer as well, which has re-worked internals for better flow in order to harness higher performance. 

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Enough about the details, let’s ride the damn thing. Our Editor in Chief insisted that I raced the 450A class against some of the fastest offroad kids on the west coast (I’m retired bro). I was able to get one 30 minute unclassified session in the morning to get a feel for the bike and learn the race course to the best of my ability. Afterwards, I only requested a couple adjustments to suspension for added comfort, where I slowed rebound front/rear as well as decreased compression. The rocks n’ roots in the woods were in abundance and to race for over an hour I wanted plushness. After that it was off to the races as I lined up against 17 others on my row. I had a decent mid-pack start, but soon found myself laying in a buttery mud-slick three turns in (aka dead last). I had my work cut out for me but relied on my brand new 300 to get me back to the pack. The entire race course was incredibly slick, so traction was almost non-existent, except for the MX track. The 300 was an absolute beast in these conditions. I had to remember to keep the bike in third gear almost everywhere inside the tree-lined single track. The lugability and crisp running motor allowed me to stay very light on the throttle but not sacrifice race pace. This bike allows you to stay in a higher gear at very low speeds without stalling. It continues to roll smooth, and if you crack the throttle all the way open, it does not bog or fall on its face. It efficiently works the motor back into the powerband.

For anyone riding or racing Enduro or cross country genres, this bike is a weapon. You don’t have to rev it to go fast at all, and quite frankly, it begs for the complete opposite. There were only a couple fast straights for us to open up all the way, but that is not where this bike shines as the motor pretty much signs-off at high RPM. The chassis was stable and easily maneuverable as the bike felt light and flickable. I experienced little to no vibration and overall rigidity was vastly decreased when comparing two other generation 300XCs that I’ve ridden and raced in the past. I wish I had more time to further dial in suspension for me, but unfortunately my changes after practice didn’t really improve the feel as much as I would have hoped. On the defense, the conditions were tough out there and made me work hard for the hour and ten minutes I was on course. I’m confident that the range of adjustability in these new XACT components would have allowed me to really dial things in if we had the time to do so. 

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At the end of the day, I worked my way up to a less than stellar 14th place result. My initial goal was top 10, but for this washed-up retired offroad dude, it just wasn’t in the cards. Hats off to the front runners as these kids are no joke. Needless to say, the entire experience was one to remember. I had never ridden in the PNW before, but I can’t wait to go back (coming soon in my future). A huge thank you to the entire KTM crew as they hosted one hell of an event for the media as everything ran picture perfect. Not one thing was overlooked and seeing how the race team operates first hand during a race weekend made me truly respect and appreciate the Redbull KTM Factory effort even more than I already do. Team manager Anti runs a tight ship and it shows. For anyone reading this (thank you) and interested in KTMs 2020 TPI lineup, definitely consider one of these bikes. If you haven’t accepted the fact that technology has taken over the motorcycle world yet, I’m not sure what to tell you. For two-banger fans world wide, think about it: never having to mix gas ever again. Your Ratio-Rite can now become a cocktail cup (thank you Randy Richardson). Never having to mess with jetting ever again. We now pray for those screws on the bottom of our float bowls that are probably stripped out by now. And lastly, never having to worry about a two stroke that just doesn’t run crispy, the way we all want it to 100% of the time. Because let’s face it - a super crisp two smoke is sure to put a smile on your face. The KTM TPIs are one hell of a package.







Thank you again for reading! Any questions, get at me!

Dominic@keeferinctesting.com



2020 Husqvarna FC450 Baseline/Start Up Settings

The 2020 Husqvarna FC450 has minimal changes to it from the 2019 FC450 and 2019.5 Rockstar Edition, so we took what we have learned with those bikes and tinkered with the 2020 version in order to get you the best baseline setting we could for a wide range of riders. After numerous hours and tests later we have come up with these suggestions as the best baseline setting so you can just go out and ride. 

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 Suspension: The factory fork and shock settings are much softer on the 2020 FC450 so we did go a little bit stiffer on air pressure and softer on compression settings, but have found improved results in comfort, not just performance. All three test riders (155, 170, 195 pounds) that tried this setting agreed that the bike/chassis was calmer on acceleration and de-cel bumps. This setting will give the Husqvarna better hold up as well as help the front end from feeling stinkbug coming into corners. This setting was also well perceived on the 2019.5 Rockstar Edition as well. Our 195 pound rider preferred a 48N/m shock spring with the recommended shock settings below.

Fork:

Air Pressure: 10.9 bar

Compression: 14-15 out

Rebound: 11 out

Fork Height: 5mm


Shock:

L/S Compression: 11-12 clicks out

H/S Compression: 1-3/4 turns out

Rebound: 12 clicks out

Sag: 104-105mm


Shock: (195 pounds and over)

Spring Rate: 48N/m

L/S Compression: 14 clicks out

H/S Compression: 2 turns out

Rebound: 13 clicks out

Sag: 104-105mm

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Rider Triangle: The standard Pro Taper handlebar that comes on the FC450 is low and flat, but fits the Husqvarna’s cockpit very well for most. I did want more height from my bar when I stood up, so I went with a Pro Taper Fuzion SX Race bend and this helped me get over the front of the bike more when standing. The SX Race bar worked well for riders from 5’8 to 6’1. The SX Race bend comes in a crossbar or crossbar-less style and is 800mm width, 87mm height, 54.5 rise, and 54mm sweep. If you’re looking for a better stand up feel from your Husqvarna look for handlebar close to this measurement. If you do like the stock bar try cutting the bar down to 803mm instead of the longer/standard 811mm. This will help you corner.   

ECU Settings: The 2020 FC450 has a much better map 2 ECU setting and doesn't need a re-flash like the 2019 or 2019.5 Husqvarna did. Map 2 is my preferred standard map in most conditions as it comes on a little sooner and pulls slightly harder than map 1. However, if you want to get more power, I recently tested a Vortex ignition mapped by Chad at XPR Motorsports on the 2020 FC450 with great results. If you’re looking for increased bottom to mid range while keeping that smooth/linear engine character Chad over at XPR has a couple maps that you could really benefit from. If you already have a Vortex you can simply send Chad your ECU and he can send you a “Keefer” map that we have tested on the 2020 FC450. A Vortex ignition isn't needed in all bikes but he Husqvarna really benefits from this modification.


Gearing: The 2020 FC450 comes with a 13/49 gearing ratio. This gearing should be just fine for most tracks, but if you want a little more mid range engine recovery and free-er feeling shock on acceleration, a 14/52 gearing ratio works well. The 14/52 gearing will require a new chain length and I usually go with this gearing when riding tracks similar to Glen Helen (aka faster choppy tracks) to settle the rear end under load.   

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Chassis: Aftermarket engine mounts are all the rage right now and some of you may not have the money to spend on a pair of engine mounts for your Husqvarna. I will say that I don’t feel like the Husqvarna’s chassis is stiff, but I have heard from other lighter riders that it can be at times, so I decided to play around with torque specs on the engine mounts and stumbled across this. If you’re experiencing a stiff feeling chassis sensation and want the Husqvarna to settle while leaning (under throttle), there is an inexpensive way to achieve some extra front end traction. You can remove the left side upper engine mount bolt (upper right bolt only, as shown) and torque all other top engine mount bolts to 30Nm. This band aid will give you a more planted sensation when on throttle while leaning the FC450 through sweepers and fast straights. You will have to make sure that all engine mount bolts have blue Loctite to ensure they do not back out. You can also try torquing your swingarm pivot bolt to 95 Nm (instead of 100Nm) to help rear end traction out of corners. The downside to doing these mods is that the chassis will flex a little more, so if you’re riding deep tilled tracks this modification may be too “flexy” for some (especially when chopping throttle).  

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Rear Axle Block Kit: Going to a Works Connection axle block kit or Ride Engineering axle block kit will get rid of the fixed left axle block on the stock Husqvarna’s axle. This will help the rear end to move more freely under throttle and improve the shock’s comfort on acceleration chop. Rear wheel placement isn’t as crucial on the Husqvarna as it is on some other 450’s we have tested so if your rear wheel placement is somewhere in the middle of the axle block marks, that will be sufficient for these recommended suspension settings. 


Airbox/Side Panel Modification: If you’re a 2019 or 2019.5 Husqvarna owner do yourself a favor and get the 2020 left side airbag cover as that will get you snappier throttle response at low rpm’s. 

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2020 Yamaha YZ250F On-Track Facts And Figures

Yamaha didn't change the YZ250F very much for 2020, but we did manage to get some added on-track information on Yamaha’s latest YZ250F and get you some feedback just in case you missed it in 2019. Below are some notes that should be taken into consideration about the changes Yamaha’s did make in 2019 and how the new 2020 YZ250F rides on the track. We will also lightly compare how the 2020 compares to the older 2018 model just in case you’re coming off of an older Yamaha YZ250F for comparison sakes.  

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Also, just in case you missed the bold italics above, we say “very much” because some other media outlets are saying that NOTHING has changed with the 2020 YZ250F, but there is one small change and that may have been over looked. The filter element now has a rubber grommet to keep the element in place under the harmonics of the motorcycle while running. The 2019 filter element didn't seal that well, but with the updated grommet the 2020 seals much better. It’s not much, but it’s an important piece to a problem that the 2019 Yamaha had. 

2020 Filter Element

2020 Filter Element

2019 Changes:

Yamaha kept the reward slanting engine design (for 2019 the engine is slanted forward 1 degree from the 2018) that already worked so well on the last model and made some changes to make it even better. Starting by adding electric start, Yamaha is the second Japanese manufacturer to have an e-start 250F motocross bike. The exhaust port shape was slightly modified so it transitions to the head pipe (which shape has also been changed to accommodate this) better and has increased the flow rate. Also in the head, Yamaha has increased the intake valve lift, and slightly changed the angle of the exhaust cam. The final changes to the new head are larger lifter buckets and slightly stiffer valve springs. Underneath the head, the piston crown has been increased, which has bumped the compression from 13.5:1 to 13.8:1.


 The throttle body on the 2019 changed from Keihin to Mikuni. It is 44mm and has a 12 hole injector. Also different on the throttle body is the cold start (choke) which now has to be pushed in to be activated and is deactivated by fully closing the throttle. Along with the engine changes and new fuel system, the ECU settings have been updated. The new dual electrode spark plug’s cap now has a finger holder keeping the cap firmly in place. The transmission side of the engine has also received key changes including a heavier duty clutch. What makes the clutch stronger is larger plate diameter, 6 clutch springs (one more than last year), and thicker steel plates (which in turn reduced the number of friction plates from 9 to 8). The transmission gears have also been updated and are using a high impact steel.

The new e-start is a compact, sits behind the cylinder, and drives the clutch basket directly. The 1.5 pound lithium battery sits under the rear of the seat and has a capacity of 2.4AH and 13.2volts. The amount of power the YZ 250F needs to generate has been reduced because of the addition of the battery which means there is less resistance on the stator/engine.


The frame on the 2019 has been majorly changed to make the bike feel more nimble on the track. The frame rails that go around the gas tank/air box are now straight where last year had more of an S shape. Other parts of the frame have been changed from forged pieces to extrusion aluminum, and the engine mounts have been changed from steel to aluminum. The material at the swingarm mount have been increased front to back and narrowed side to side, making the side of the frame flatter at the swing arm mount. The steering head has also been moved forward 6mm to help with stability.


In the past there have been comments about the seat height and width of the YZ 250F. Yamaha has changed that by making the seat slightly flatter, shorter, and narrower than last year’s model. Along with the seat, Yamaha has narrowed up the plastic where the rider’s knees contact the shrouds. The new shrouds have the air ducts integrated into them (same as 450) and the whole top part of the shroud no longer has to be removed to service the air filter. The air filter cover now only needs one Dzus fastener to be removed for access to the air filter which is no longer held in by a screw, instead it’s held in via rotating clips.


Yamaha tried to lighten the bike in 2019 up by using thinner, higher strength material for the handlebars, and also using lighter rims. To help with stability, they increased the surface area of the wheel collars where they contact the fork lugs and added more material to the rear collars. The KYB forks use new internals including a new piston, cylinder, mid speed valve, pressure piston, and stiffer spring rates (from 4.6N/mm to 4.7N/mm). The shock reservoir volume has been increased by 30cc and the coil spring now has less winds, is made of a thinner material (lighter), and the rate has changed from 54N/mm to 56N/mm.


On The Track With The 2020 YZ250F:


The 2020 YZ250F has great torque and pulling power down low, but doesn't quite have the top end pulling power like other bikes in its class. The YZ250F is so good at low rpm that it gives me the sensation that I want to ride a 250F full time. It’s that much fun! The Yamaha pulls hard out of corners and has a huge amount of bottom to mid range response that most will appreciate. There is enough meat coming out of corners that a wide range of riders as well as abilities can be left with the decision to leave it in second or third gear through corners. It’s a very vet rider friendly machine and gives the rider that excitement that we all look for in a bike. What is the downside? It does have more engine braking than the KX or CRF and I would like more top end pulling power through second and third gear. We worked on a different map to increase top end and also decrease engine braking. More on that below. 

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 The firm feel of the 2020 chassis makes the bike feel planted and have a positive front end feeling through corners. Where the 2018 kind of felt lethargic/slow to react to the rider, the 2020 feels slimmer and more nimble (from the swingarm pivot forward) yet has a better straight line character on fast choppy tracks. The easiest way to describe the way the 2020 feels is that it has a fun cornering character with a confidence inspiring straight line feel. The 2020 YZ250F isn’t the leader of getting in and out of corners the quickest, but the planted feel in which it comes with is calming to any rider. The chassis still has a pitching (off throttle) sensation, but with a small change to the ECU, this pitching feel can diminish. The beauty is that if you want engine braking with a heavier front end feel, the Yamaha can give you that or if you want a lighter front end feel with a less heavier front end feel, simply going to the “Keefer Free Feeling Map” can give you that as well. Again, to me, this is a very well rounded chassis for a wide range of riders and abilities.  

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 The 2020 KYB SSS fork is still the best fork out on the market. With the chassis changes Yamaha made in 2019, the KYB fork compliments those changes wonderfully. The fork does not dive as much on de-cel and stays up in the stroke more (especially with the KK map installed) than the 2018. The KYB fork does move in the stroke, but going 1-2 clicks slower on the rebound helped calm the front end down on g-outs or jump faces. Our lightest test rider liked he stock rebound setting on the fork, but if you’re slightly heavier going slower will be the better way to go. The shock likes to be set to around 104-105mm and it complimented all three riders that we used in this test. We set the baseline sag of 105mm to our middle weighted rider (170 pounds) and the other two riders (150 pounds and 195 pounds) thought the bike was balanced enough for them to push around the track. Traction to the rear wheel is apparent on the Yamaha when giving it the berries out of corners and it’s really difficult for the rear tire to step out coming out from a rut. On de-cel the rear of the 2020 Yamaha doesn’t have a vague light feel, which sometimes could leave you with that rear end “sliding out feel” and then that “oh shit” sensation like the 2018 version had. The rear end of the 2020 YZ250F feels heavier/planted (in a good way), which gave me the sensation of a more connected throttle to rear wheel feel (AKA, meaning a more planted/heavier feel).

 Stop with the Yamaha feels fat excuse. Every time I hear this I tell people “go measure your KTM and measure the Yamaha (at the shrouds) and get back to me”. Sitting on the 2020 YZ250F feels just fine because I feel more upright than “inside” the machine. The whole machine feels slimmer and flatter than the 2018, which to me will fit larger sized riders just fine. You will have to go with a stiffer foam after 10 hours or so, but that is an easy fix by calling Guts Racing. You can also go with the bar mount in the forward hole turned back if you need a little more cockpit room. I have tried this position and have come to like this rider triangle feel. The 2020 Yamaha YZ450F will come standard with this position, so I better get used to it.    


I really felt that the 2020 Yamaha YZ250F could benefit from a free-er engine feel on de-cel so I worked on a map to try and achieve this. This “Keefer Free Feeling” map below gives you less pitching on de-cel coming into the corners and also made the Yamaha feel lighter through mid-corner, which helped cornering as well as change of direction. I felt like I could give up a little amount of torque that the Yamaha has to achieve this and that is what you will find when going to this map. You will get slightly less torque, keep that great mid-range pull as well as slightly increase top end. If you want to also sacrifice a little torque feeling and increase the second and third gear pulling power (with the same amount of engine braking the stock map gives) go to the “Hard Hitting Map” Yamaha has pre-programmed on your Yamaha Power Tuner App. I use the “Hard Hitting” for my base map and the Free Feeling” map for my secondary map. 

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Bridgestone X20’s come standard on the 2020 Yamaha YZ250F and although I didn't like them on the YZ450F when I tried them they work well on the YZ250F, especially on front tire lean angle. I like that you can initiate your lean early on the font tire of the X20 and it will give you a positive feeling underneath you. The rear tire isn't quite as good on lean angle, but still hooks up in a wide range of conditions. I will say that the X20 has a better carcass feel than that of the Dunlop MX33 tires. I will take a Bridgestone X20 front tire all day over a MX33.  

Stay tuned for a settings article over on keeferinctesting.com as well as pulpmx.com for the 2020 YZ250F as soon as we got more time on the bLU cRU machine.

2020 Kawasaki KX250 Baseline/Start Up Settings

We had a chance to shake down the new Kawasaki KX250 some more and went to a few tracks with three different riders to find a baseline setting for all you new KX owners to try. These settings were agreed upon by all testers that weighed from 150-190 pounds and varying from Novice-Pro. 

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Suspension: The new KYB suspension is a step in the right direction for Kawasaki in 2020, but we felt it was slightly unbalanced coming from the showroom floor. The fork held up well on de-cel, but the shock rode low in the stroke at times under acceleration. All riders agreed that they could use a better balance/ride attitude around the track. Try this setting in order to get the KX250 to hold up in the rear more under acceleration while trying to keep comfort on de-cel. 


Fork:

Compression: 12 clicks out

Rebound: 9 out

Height: 5mm 


Shock:

L/S Compression: 5 clicks out

H/S Compression: 1-1/4 turns out

Rebound: 15 out

Sag: 103-104mm

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Engine/Coupler: We tried all the couplers and while most agreed the stock green coupler gave the most overall useable power around the track, the riders who had cornering technique issues or slower entrance speeds, liked the white (lean) coupler better for low end recovery and rpm response. The white coupler will fall of earlier on top end and not have quite as much over-rev as the green coupler so just know you will lose some of the KX250’s superb top end pulling power. The black coupler will be good for extreme hard pack or loose conditions. The rear of the Kawasaki will hook up better as well as make the chassis feel more planted on throttle. The black coupler will also be friendlier to riders that are new to 250F’s and will not have as much rpm response to scare them off.  

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ECU: We used Kawasaki’s Calibration Tool to tweak the fuel and ignition timing in order to try and get some of the 2019 KX250’s bottom end/torque back. The 2020 did lose a small amount of low end, but we were in the market to get some of that back for 2020. The map you see below will get you some of that torque back when exiting corners while maintaining the excellent mid-top end power that the 2020 comes with. Use the stock green coupler with this ECU setting…

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Rider Triangle: The test riders we used ranged from 5’8 to 6’0 tall and all used the stock bar mount/footpeg position. If you’re 6’1 and above going to the forward hole with the mount back is a good way to get some added/room comfort when sitting. If you like the 7/8 sized Renthal handlebar, but find it too tall for your liking, go with a 983 Renthal 7/8 bar as that bend will be slightly lower and flatter.

Gearing: 13/50 gearing is just fine for the Intermediate to Pro level rider with either the green or white coupler. If you’re a heavier rider that is lazier in corners you can try a 13/51 gearing to help you get back into the meat of the power sooner. We suggest using the green coupler with our preferred ECU setting with the 13/51 gearing however. This will ensure that mid-top end pulling power doesn’t fall off too soon.



Any questions about this bike you can reach out to us at kris@keeferinctesting.com.

2020 KX250 Versus 2019 YZ250F Comparison


By: Michael Allen

As the 250(F) class continues to be more competitive, it puts increased pressure on the manufacturers to make a solid platform for racers to start with. For their newest rendition of the KX250, Kawasaki was kind enough to invite us up to the legendary Castillo ranch for the first ride of the new bike. Being that the 250 is such a small four-stroke engine, it’s imperative that manufacturers squeeze every bit of power out of the tiny screamers and for 2020 Kawasaki went back to the drawing board. On top of changing many engine components, Kawasaki also focused on the chassis, suspension, and brakes to make the KX250 a contender for best in class. For this story we thought since you ask us “how does it compare to the YZ250F” all the time we thought it would be fun to compare the 2020 KX250 to one of the best bikes in this class: the 2019 YZ250F. I have been riding the 2019 Yamaha YZ250F for some time and have become well aquatinted with it, so Keefer asked me to conjure up this article and now here we are! Here is how I feel the two machines match up against each other. 

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When it comes to torque the Yamaha platform has been hard to beat for the past few years, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be beat in other areas of power delivery. Right when I got on the new 2020 KX250 I immediately felt like the mid to top end power was better than the blue machine. The KX engine revs free-er and has les engine braking on de-cel, which makes it very playful to ride. The Yamaha is more chuggy and you can feel every time that crankshaft comes around, which gives me that planted rear end acceleration feeling. The power on the Kawasaki doesn’t fall off as quick as bLU cRU, but to me it still doesn't rev as far as the CRF250R. Where the green machine does fall short is of course bottom end grunt power. The Yamaha simply is amazing in this area and can let any rider be lazier while still maintaining speed. The Kawasaki must be ridden more aggressively from the mid range on up. Third gear is much easier to work with through corners on the Yamaha compared to the Kawasaki, which means shifting down to second happens more often on the green machine.

 

Another tidbit that stood out to me is the exhaust note of the Kawasaki. The Yamaha exhaust gets blown out and raspy over time, but the Kawasaki exhaust note seems to be loud immediately. I also found it odd that if the Kawasaki was not at TDC the kick starter was hard to kick over and almost felt like a 450ish until you put a lot of force into the kick start. In other words don’t half ass your kicks and it will start. 

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For the past few years Kawasaki has been using the Showa Separate Function Fork for “weight savings”, but they have finally realized that like the air fork, some things are better the old fashioned way. For 2020 they went back to a dual coil spring KYB fork as well as a KYB shock, both with Kashima coating. After playing with some clickers we came up with a comfortable setting and I came away quite impressed with the comfort as well as the performance of the front and rear suspension. It’s no secret that the Yamaha has very good suspension settings, but I think there is one category where I think the Kawasaki slightly edges out the Yamaha. When it comes to performance I feel that the Kawasaki (for my speed) has slightly better hold up (once dialed in with clickers) and handles g-outs with a slightly less wallowy feeling. That being said, in order to have better performance, you must sacrifice comfort and the Yamaha has more of that. I am sure the slightly stiffer feeling chassis on the Kawasaki has something to do with the lack of comfort as well. Something we noticed was that the front and rear balance of the bike is very sensitive to changes with the shock. With minimal changes to sag, one or two low speed clicks, and/or high speed changes on the shock, the turning characteristics were noticeably affected. Just like your wife or girlfriend the KX can be somewhat emo/sensitive to suspension changes affecting the maneuverability of the bike, but when it’s set correctly the bike handles tighter corners marginally better than the Yamaha. 

For 2020 Kawasaki put a larger 250mm rear disk on the KX 250 to help improve braking power. I’m not sure what the exact problem is with the rear brake system, but Kawasaki missed the mark because the rear brake is not as good as the Yamaha’s. After my initial ride on the bike I felt that the rear brake pedal was too low and I wasn’t able to get my toe pressed down far enough to get the braking power I desired. After moving the pedal up, I took the bike out for another session and was surprised that I still didn’t have the desired braking power. Upon further inspection we noticed that the pedal has a very long stroke to get the brake to work and when it finally does it gets very grabby feeling. This was a downside because it makes it hard to drag the brake slightly or just give the rear wheel a little stopping power without locking up the rear wheel. While the Yamaha doesn’t have amazing brakes, the rear brake on the blue bike is more linear and easier to modulate. With that said the front brake on the Kawasaki is quite good and gives the rider a powerful progressive feel with a lot of control, without having to pull the lever too hard. 

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The rider triangle on the KX250 feels a little off due to the slightly soft seat. The soft seat makes the 7/8” bars (I have no problem with the bars) seem high and chopper feeling. Rolling the bars back seemed to somewhat remedy the feeling, but not completely mask the issue. Something that hasn’t changed on the Kawasaki is the cheap feeling grips that for some reason seem marginally narrow and are bonded to the throttle tube. 

The bottom line is that for 2020 Kawasaki made a move in the right direction in making the KX250 a better more competitive machine. The engine has been improved from mid to top and has a free revving feeling that makes the bike more fun to ride while giving the rider a broader power range when on the track. The suspension has made a big step in the right direction with the new KYB fork giving the rider better front end bump absorption. 

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The final piece to this article is the price… The KX250’s price point comes in at $7,799 (compared to $8,199 of the Yamaha) so it’s less expensive. If you have been looking to be part of the re-formed Team Green, 2020 seems to be the year that Kawasaki made jumps in the right direction.

Any questions about these machines please email me at michael@keeferinctesting.com






 











2020 Kawasaki KX250 First Impression

I recently got a chance to ride the new 2020 Kawasaki KX250 at the legendary Castillo Ranch and wanted to give you ten key points on Team Green’s new quarter liter four stroke from the first day of testing. If you want to learn more about all the changes Kawasaki made to the 2020 click here: https://www.keeferinctesting.com/latest-news-1/2019/6/18/kawasaki-introduces-updated-2020-kx250. I will be doing more back to back 2019/2020 testing next week so follow @keeferinctesting on Instagram to read more interesting tidbits. Again this is only the first day of riding this bike, but I know how impatient all of you are so here’s my initial impression:

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Engine: Kawasaki’s engineers focused on creating more mid to top end power on the 2020 KX250 and that is exactly what they did. I wasn't allowed to ride our 2019 test bike to compare back to back on this day (it’s a KHI thing), but I have brushed up on the 2019 KX250 enough this past week to let you guys know that it does have way more engine RPM recovery than the 2019. Bottom end feels about the same as the 2019 with that snappy out of the hole excitement, but the mid range pulling power is improved along with a healthier top end stretch that allows the rider to use fourth gear more than the 2019. Over-rev is also improved for 2020 especially in third and fourth gears where you need have the KX pull you down long straights. I also noticed that the changes that Kawasaki’s engineers made in 2020, the small bore four stroke has less engine braking than last year’s model, which makes the KX250 feel more playful. Transmission spacing is a little different feeling in 2020 (nothing has changed with gear ratios, but with the different engine specs this can happen) as the second to third gear gap is wide and the third to fourth gear gap is much closer, so sometimes bypassing third gear and going straight to fourth gear works best on longer straights. I will be messing with some gearing in the future so stay tuned to see if we can get second to third gears closer together in order to get third gear more useable around the track. 

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Couplers: The 2020 Kawasaki KX250 comes standard with a green coupler that provides the engine delivery we described to you above, but if you’re looking for more power everywhere with slightly less rear wheel connection than install the white coupler. The white coupler makes the KX250 feel lighter and gets better throttle response with increased mid to top end pull. Over-rev wasn't sacrificed with the white coupler (over green), but you will get less connectivity from the rear wheel on hard pack conditions. If you’re on a loamy or sandy surface the white coupler is a noticeable change for the better in power delivery. I tried the black coupler thinking it was going to hurt overall power output, but it only affected the low end delivery (over green/stock), and gave the KX250 so much more rear wheel traction in our afternoon test sessions. Try the black coupler if you're looking for some traction on hard pack, it works very well. The black coupler will make the KX250 feel slightly heavier yet more planted around the track.   

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Fork: Thank you Kawasaki for getting rid of that horrible Showa SFF fork! The KYB dual spring fork is a welcome change and gives the rider increased comfort in 2019. The overall action of the KYB fork is soft for my 170 pound frame, but a couple clicks stiffer on the compression helped hold up on de-cel. Going stiffer on the fork helped the bike from pitching which led to a calmer feel driving hard into corners. The KX250 fork feels similar to the YZ250F KYB SSS fork because it moves in the stroke a lot yet has pretty damn good bottoming resistance. The Castillo Ranch track wasn't that rough so we will get down to more suspension testing in the coming weeks. 


Shock: We played with a couple sag measurements and came to a good setting of 103mm that helped the balance of the KX250 under acceleration. If you feel like the rear of the KX250 is too low under acceleration and you're getting too much side to side movement, raise the sag to 103mm and this will help rear wheel traction. Once I found a good sag setting (from 105mm to 103mm) the rear of the bike squatted nicely under acceleration chop and provided more front end bite through corners. The end stroke of the KYB shock is a little soft, so going stiffer (quarter turn on the high speed compression) helped the rear of the bike stay up on g-outs and slap down landings.  


Chassis: Kawasaki didn't focus too much on chassis updates, but the changes that Kawasaki made to the lower front engine mount bolts did help in one area. On tip in (through corners) the 2020 KX250 feels easier to start your lean, which means it feels slightly lighter, but mid corner the Kawasaki has a tendency to want to stand up. Some of that has to do with cockpit feel for me, but more on that later… Straight line stability is still superb on the Kawasaki so going fast down hills is not an issue as the Kawasaki KX250 invites you to ride it hard without feeling to sketch. Bump absorption of this frame is one of the best in class and now with the suspension changes Kawasaki made for 2020 it has helped this feel on the track even more. 

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Brakes: The 270mm front brake is powerful and has a linear feel under heaving braking, which I really like. I can’t say the same thing for the 250mm rear brake as it’s grabby and hard to modulate coming into corners. If I was you I would go back to the 2019 KX250 240mm rear disc and hanger to help gain some more control coming into corners.

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Cosmetics: What do you guys think of the all green color scheme of the new KX250? I personally like it and think it’s bright, pops, and looks like the factory bikes. I am sold!

Rider Triangle: The seat to peg to handlebar ratio is ok for my 6’0 frame, but Kawasaki needs to get a new handlebar bend. The 971 Renthal bend is too tall/wide feeling and needs to be updated. I don’t mind the 7/8 size, but when I sit down on the seat, coming into corners, it feels like my arms are way too high. This puts my body positioning in the wrong place coming into corners and makes the bike want to stand upright mid corner. Kawasaki could remedy this situation by running a 983 7/8 Renthal handlebar, which is much more neutral feeling for the rider on this bike.  



Tires: Dunlop MX3S tires are still on the 2020 KX250, which means we still have front end traction and a softer carcass feel instead of having a stiffer MX33 carcass that could hurt this bike’s bump absorption feel. Don’t get too cozy though with these 3S tires because we will lose the MX3S full time come 2021. Boo! 

Seat: The middle of the seat on the KX250 is soft and too squishy, which makes me sink into the bike too much when accelerating or coming into a corner. This just compounds the high handlebar feel to me so getting a firm seat foam would be crucial to help me get my body positioning correct through corners. 



My overall first impression is that Kawasaki made a better KX250 by getting some added mid to top end pulling power that it needed, along with more engine RPM recovery, and increased comfort with the fork/shock. Will it be enough to bring it up near the front in the shootout rankings? Find out soon because shootouts are coming around once again. Check back to keeferinctesting.com and pulpmx.com for more updates and settings as we ride this green machine more. 






















 















2020 Husqvarna FC450 First Impression

It’s no secret that a Husqvarna was one of my favorite machines to ride in 2019. I liked it so much I went and purchased a Rockstar Edition and rode the crap out of it. I recently got my hands on the new 2020 Husqvarna FC450 and jotted down some initial thoughts for you all to go over just in case you wanted to know how it compared to the 2019 version. I will say that there are only a few updates to the 2020 model, but that doesn't mean it can’t feel drastically different on the track. Here are ten important things I feel you all should know about the 2020 Husqvarna FC450. 

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WP XACT Suspension: Don’t let the name fool you. WP just did some re-branding and is now using the XACT name for 2020 WP suspension. This is NOT some new technology that just came out, it’s just a name change. However, with that being said, WP/Husqvarna did change quite a bit to the 2020 suspension settings as they now have their own proprietary setting for the FC450 model (which means they do not share a setting with KTM anymore). Husqvarna went to a softer air pressure setting in the fork to match the valving (going from 10.9 to 10.7 bars in 2020) and also went from a 4.5 rear spring to a 4.2 rear spring. Husqvarna is trying to achieve more comfort for the average rider with these settings in 2020.

 

Gearing: Husqvarna went from a 13/48 to a 13/49 to help third gear recovery. Having a 13/49 helps the transition when shifting from 2nd-3rd gear and lets the rider feel increased rpm response. I approve of this gearing! 

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New Mapping: I love that the Husqvarna’s come with a on-the-fly handlebar map switch that offers two maps to choose from (without having to stop). For 2020 map one is what they call the ‘standard’ map, which is designed to have a controllable longer/linear power that is geared towards the non aggressive type of rider. Map two, on the other hand, is what Husqvarna is calling the ‘aggressive’ map that is supposed to be stronger across the board and although it is, it still is very linear feeling. Map two will not explode you out of a corner, but instead give you some added bottom/mid rpm response as well as have a more free feeling engine character. To me the lack of engine braking on map two makes the softer feeling fork dive less on de-cel. TC is still available and works just as good as 2019 so don't be scared to try it. If you ride hard pack tracks or slippery terrain do yourself a favor put your 2019-2020 Husqvarna FC450 on map two with the “TC” light on and thank me later.  


Piston Design: There is an updated piston skirt design for 2020 that is said to help improve durability. Don’t worry I will be the judge of the said durability improvement so make sure you stay tuned to future Rocky Mountain ATV Keefer Tested Podcasts. 


Dunlop MX3S Tires: Everyone enjoy these tires on the 2020 Husqvarna’s and KTM’s because we will not see them come 2021 on production machines! Dunlop is forcing manufacturers to go to the MX33 come the year 2021. 

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Engine Feel (On Track): The engine on the 2020 Husqvarna FC450 does feel slightly different than the 2019. The overall engine character still has that smooth easy to ride feel, but with slightly less engine braking. Coming into corners you can feel less drag on the engine and less movement in the chassis. When in map two there is also more mid-range rpm response on the 2020 thanks to the mapping changes Husqvarna made. No more lean top end de-cel pop and rich bottom end feel that hampered the 2019 version. If you’re looking for a hard hitting 450 engine character this isn't your type of machine. However, if you’re looking for an easy to ride, connected to the rear wheel feel, deceivingly fast type of power, the Husqvarna could be just what you’re looking for. 


Suspension Feel (On Track): Husqvarna/WP will tell you that they set up their 2020 suspension settings for the average consumer that wants comfort out of their motocross machine. They succeeded in getting less mid stroke harshness (de-cel) out of the AER fork, but to me the setting was too soft. I also understand that I am not the target consumer Husqvarna is trying to market this bike to so I took this into consideration. The action of the fork is smoother feeling than last year’s fork setting, moves more in the stroke, but gives the rider a considerable amount of front end traction (for an air fork) on braking bumps. This fork will feel low if you’re a heavier or aggressive type of rider, so going up to 10.8-10.9 bars would be in your best interest. Slowing the rebound down a couple clicks on the fork will also slow the action down a little and keep it from diving too much on jump faces and g-outs. Also don't forget to bleed your AER fork before every ride. Yes, it has bleed holes.

The WP rear shock still likes a sag of 105mm, but the overall feel of the shock is slightly empty feeling (soft) at the end of the stroke. If slamming into steeper jump faces or g-outs you will bottom out and see rubber marks under the rear fender fairly quickly. If you’re experiencing a lot of this, stiffening your high speed compression a quarter turn and turning in your low speed compression a couple clicks will help the shock’s end stroke feel. What the 2020 rear shock does do better than the 2019 is offer more rear wheel traction on acceleration bumps. The rear wheel drives through square edge chop better and doesn't give the rider a harsh/spike feel like the 2019 shock did.    

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Subframe/Motor Mount Bolts: Keep an eye on your two rear subframe bolts and engine mount bolts. On our test bike they worked their way out a little so make sure to keep some blue loctite on them and check them every so often.


Handlebar: The Pro Taper EVO bar is straight and flat, but long at 811mm. Do yourself favor and cut the bar down to 803mm and watch your cornering improve. 

What Do I Really Think: The 2020 Husqvarna FC450 is one of the easiest bikes to ride and can be enjoyed by a wide range of riders. I like this attribute! It’s user friendly 450cc nature is not too aggressive for the less experienced type of rider, yet still can get a very experienced rider around the track in a hurry, without a lot of effort. The WP suspension is softer than last year, but also gives the rider slightly more comfort on small bump absorption. The overall feeling of the bike is light around the track and allows the rider to open up his line choices. I will be testing the 2020 Husqvarna FC450 more in the coming weeks and will be getting you some optional settings to try so make sure you stay tuned to pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com in the coming weeks.   



















  




 

Hidden Gems "Vet Racing"

This installment of hidden gems is going to be a little different than the others, in that it doesn’t necessarily have to do with a product. This hidden gem is more along the lines of a mindset and getting back to doing the thing that once gave you so much joy, THAT’S RACING! You see, I call vet racing a hidden gem because like so many other riders sometimes when we get older we can get less competitive. Like many of you out there; once I got into my later twenties, racing became not as much fun as the competition became younger, faster, and more willing to take risks than my 29-year-old married self. (editors note: You were 29 MIKE?! I MEAN, COME ON!! YOU’RE IN YOUR PRIME!!!) Between the ages of 26-29 I found myself in a weird place when it came to motorcycling; I would help Kris test products, go to the track and practice, and trail ride with my friends, but had no real desire to race. The reason I lost that desire is because I was getting smoked by younger, more enthusiastic riders that didn't have a 10 or so hour a day real job. Call me a poor sport if you will, but I found myself mentally defeated before the gate or banner would even drop. 

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Like I said, I was in a weird spot because I saw racing the Vet class as “lame” or just for slow people who couldn’t cut it anymore and to me the Vet class was a symbol of admitting defeat. My mindset all changed when I went down to Mexico with Alexander Smith (Malcolm’s son) to race the Tecate Enduro in 2018. You see Alexander and I have a relationship like most of you with riding buddies… We will talk endless amounts of shit to each other before a race knowing damn well that you may lose, but not caring one bit because it’s a “friendly rival”. Alexander had raced the vet class the two years before as he is older than myself (and of course I gave him endless amounts of shit for being an old man) and in 2018 when I turned 31 he said I should race “Vet” so I could “come race with the real men”. When I signed up, I honestly didn’t know what to expect for competition, I figured I would do well, but it still didn’t seem like I was racing for the overall like I used to be (it felt more like being a side show instead of the main event). 

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When you race a sprint Enduro you start with your class, so instead of starting on a row between 7-10 guys, I was now starting on a row between 40-50 guys. This was a little weird because I knew there were going to be plenty of guys in front of me that I’d have to pass in every test. As I got to the line and started chatting with the other Vet racers around me it was actually refreshing that everyone was super friendly and in a different place in life, when compared to the 21-year-old fearless riders I was used to starting next to. We talked married life, having kids, our jobs, instead of getting hammered and partying (although a few beers were had after the race). As the race started, I noticed that just because I was entered in the vet class that didn’t we were the slow class. In fact, there were many “Vet dudes” that I had to really push my poor little 125’s throttle cable past its limit to pass or even keep up with. The race was brutal and took over 4 hours to finish with 3 long technical special tests to complete. After all was said and done the results were posted that night and to my surprise, the vet class didn’t end up being the slow class at all! In fact, the first nine riders were pro, followed by the winner of the Vet class (not me) two more pro riders, then myself where I finished 2nd Vet and 13th overall out of 184 finishers. After being all up in my head about racing the “old man” class and feeling washed up, the results showed the first three Vet riders ended up beating the winner of the open class. I’m a basket case! 

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I didn’t write this story to stroke my ego (ok maybe it feels good knowing Alexander will read about me beating him again), but to give former younger racers turning old racers some advice. Just because you’re older, think you’re slower, fatter, and less competitive doesn’t mean you can’t go out and still kick some ass. Just know that just because you aren’t as fast as you once were, doesn’t mean you can’t also have a great time. Don’t get me wrong, I'm no pro racer nor do I ever think I was, but I showed up, entered the “old guy” class, raced my ass off with guys my age and had a blast doing it. Isn’t that what this is all about? Having fun and creating memories? Also, it’s fun to be the “young” guy in the “old guy” class. Since Alexander talked me into racing the Vet class in Mexico, I have raced the Vet class everywhere I go and have found the same camaraderie in every discipline (even moto where sometimes other racers are way too cool). The bottom line is that I have found Vet racing to be a hidden gem because it has re-lit a fire under me to get back out there racing and enjoy my motorcycle. Plus, it always feels good to beat a younger guy, shake his hand, then pull off my helmet and show off my shimmering silver locks.  

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How To Whip

Not to say that I am James Stewart and that I am whipping every single jump on the track, but I can maybe help you shy away from those dreaded butt whips you’re doing! Let’s face it one of the best feelings of riding a dirt bike is hitting a jump and whipping it flat! It’s bad ass! Plus you can get some good looking Instabangers and possibly pull some chics right? I will attempt to teach you the basics on how to get the best whip you can out of yourself. The key elements of learning how to whip are having proper form and finding the right jump to do it. On the bike you must stay loose and on the balls of your feet. That is probably still to this day one of the hardest things to remember while I ride, which is to ride on the balls of my feet. When you ride on the balls of your feet you are more centered and stable on the bike, also you are able to move around more freely and loose. Another key is to find one of the most comfortable jumps that you ride (with no kickers on it) and that you feel comfortable on. Once you can jump straight and in control, try these steps:

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1. Coming up the face of the jump you want to start carving or turning as you're riding up. You almost want a half moon-shaped line going up the face of the jump. This allows the bike to already start the whip before you even take off. I would also start by practicing going off of the jump sitting. It is much easier to whip sitting down than standing. It also gives the bike more pop coming off of the lip. 

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2. As you just get ready to leave the face of the jump start pushing against the frame on your inside leg (depending on which way you throw whips). This allows more force on the inside of the machine and keeps its trajectory going that way. As your rear end starts to come out you want to loosen up your outside leg a little to keep the bike in its whip position. You will find that your outside leg will kind of already be off of the outside peg a little (which is good as long as it’s not dangling out there too much). 

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3. As you enter the middle portion of your jump you will want to try to turn your handlebars towards the outside (pointing in the upward direction). This helps get the bike flatter as you're pushing with your inside leg to kick back end out, while your pushing with your outside arm on the bar downward to flatten the bike out. 

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4. As you begin to come back down to the ground you will want to straighten your handlebar out and stop pushing with your inside leg. This will keep the bike from coming out too far. You will than transfer your weight back to your outside leg to push against the frame to straighten out rear end of bike. By now you and your bike should be as close to straight as possible.

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5.  As you begin to come back down to the ground you will want to straighten your handlebar out and stop pushing with your inside leg. This will keep the bike from coming out too far. You will than transfer your weight back to your outside leg to push against the frame to straighten out rear end of bike. By now you and your bike should be as close to straight as possible.

Notes: If you find yourself not completely straightened out by the time you land just make sure your body is as straight on the bike as possible. If your body is perpendicular with your machine and you are stiff your bike will swap back the opposite way and slap you on the ground and then you will be all pissed off at me! Remember, take it slow and give it some time. A solid whip will come to you as you get more comfortable on the bike. Learning to whip doens’t happen overnight and takes some practice. Keep working on it and you'll look like James did when he hit a Supercross finish line jump!

2019 450/250 MX Gearing Specs


I have spent (as well as the Keefer Inc. Test Riders) a lot of time testing gearing on each machine on several different types of tracks. We did our evaluations on tight clay based tracks to flowing sandier based type courses. Since the word “gearing” is in the subject line in a lot of my emails, I thought I would condense some of the best gearing specs we have come up with for our 2019 test machines. We DO NOT however just change the gearing for the sake of changing the gearing like some other media testing outlets, but if a certain bike does need “one tooth” or more we will most certainly recommend that gearing. These gearing specs are for stock engines and/or with aftermarket mufflers. If you have engine work done to your bike chances are you could change gearing on a few of these machines. As usual if you have any questions we are here to help you. Email kris@keeferinctesting.com and I will be happy to assist you.

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Yamaha:

YZ250F: 13/50 (Stock)

YZ450F: 13/49 (Stock)

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Kawasaki:

KX450: 13/49 (Helps third gear roll on out of corners)

KX250: 13/50 (Stock)

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Suzuki:

RM-Z250: 13/50 (Stock)

RM-Z450: 13/51 (Helps pulling power down low on deep tracks)

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Honda:

CRF250R: 13/50 (Helps lengthen third gear pulling power without sacrificing second gear roll on)

CRF450R: 14/52 (Helps free up rear end feel of this stiff natured chassis)

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KTM:

This set up on all three bikes will help settle the rear end out of corners, will set your rear axle further back, and help 2nd-3rd gear transition.

250 SX-F: 14/53

350 SX-F: 14/53

450 SX-F: 14/52

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Husqvarna:

This set up on all three bikes will help settle the rear end out of corners, will set your rear axle further back, and help 2nd-3rd gear transition.

FC 250: 14/53

FC350: 14/53

FC450: 14/52

Top 5 Mods For The 2018.5-2019.5 Husqvarna FC450/Rockstar Editon

Not everyone wants to “add” parts to their new dirt bikes, which is fine, but for those that must tinker, we put together a “Top 5” must haves that we would recommend. We will be doing these “Top 5” articles with all of the new 450F/250F machines and will be splitting the information up between pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com. These mods are recommended, by us, through countless hours of testing. If you don’t find a specific aftermarket company that you prefer in this article, don't fret, email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com and we can talk it out like adults should. Again, we will not push something on you unless we know it works. These mods that are in this article will work for the 2018.5/2019/2019.5 Husqvarna FC450 and Rockstar Edition models. 

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1. ECU Re-Map: The 2019.5 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition still feels a little rich on bottom end and lean on top end. The 2019.5 ECU settings are slightly better than my 2018.5 that I purchased, but it’s still not close to where it needs to be. Getting a simple re-flash of your ECU from Jamie at Twisted Development will help the sluggish feel off the bottom and get you more bottom-mid range RPM response. It will make the “light on paper” FC450/Rockstar Edition actually feel light on the track. If you can’t splurge for the Vortex ignition then go with a re-flash of your stock ECU. This is my first “MUST HAVE” on this machine. It will change the character of the Husqvarna for the better.    

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2. Black Throttle Cam: A close second to getting this sucker better through corners is installing the black throttle cam so there isn't a huge lag in response mid-corner. With the standard throttle cam the bike comes on soft and then has a big hit that can upset your rolling corner speed. THIS DRIVES ME NUTS! Installing the black cam will help the transition at 0-15% throttle opening through corners. Some dealers will install this cam before purchase, but it’s good for you to check by simply unbolting your throttle housing and checking your throttle tube for the black throttle cam.  

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3. 14/52 Gearing: Want to make your shock feel better and help your third gear pulling power? Try going to a 14/52 gearing and you’ll notice a slightly better third gear pull as it could possibly make leaving your RE in third gear through corners much easier. Going up to a 14/52 gearing ratio also helps relax the shock under load, which makes connectivity to the rear wheel more positive. I have tried 13/49 gearing and although it has better recovery than the stock 13/48 and 14/52 gearing, the 13/49 set up didn't add to the shock’s/rear end comfort like the 14/52 ratio did. Try it!  

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4. Handlebars/Bar Bend: I have tinkered way too much with this over the past couple years, but I feel like I have finally honed in on a good handlebar bend. I have stuck with Pro Taper’s SX Race bend for my style of riding and my height. The SX Race bend is slightly taller than the stock Husqvarna bend (+7mm), but is not so tall where it affects my corners. The SX Race bend also comes standard with a length of 800mm, which is the exactly the right amount of length most of us are looking for. The stock Husqvarna bend is long (811mm) and gives me a hard to lean feel through corners. I also went with a Fuzion (crossbar style) bar, but that is simply just preference as I could easily go back to a Pro Taper EVO style as well. 

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5. Airbox Mod: You want a little more excitement out of your Husqvarna’s low end? Drill some 1/2 inch holes in the left side airbox cover (as shown) and you’ll get some increased throttle response throughout the RPM range. Rumor has it that all FC Husqvarna’s will be coming with pre-drilled air vents come 2020. The Husqvarna airbox is smaller than the KTM so there his more benefit on the track doing this to the Husqvarna versus the KTM. 

Extras: Kris what about suspension? The AER fork is decent and I can ride with it, but yes of course I would recommend a set of WP Cone Valve forks if you want maximum comfort and front end traction. Do you need a Trax shock? The answer is, “no”. The stock shock is quite good and has tons of comfort. Yes, you can run CV forks with a stock shock. I’ve done it and it works just fine. The AER fork performance is good, but still will change on you throughout a long day of riding.

Keep an eye on motor mounts, spokes, and sprocket bolts as they come loose because of the Husqvarna’s vibration. Yes, the steel frame bikes vibrate a little more than the aluminum frame bikes, so that means you need to check bolts more often.

Top 5 Mods For The 2019 Kawasaki KX450


By Dominic Cimino

So I’m guessing you might have (or thinking about putting) a 2019 KX450 in your garage if you are reading our “top five improvements”. Good! This bike is awesome and deserves some minor updates to make it even better. After racing our test bike for the first time this year I can vouch that the five things you are about to read about have definitely help make this green machine shine. Let’s get into it...

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First - Suspension. This is a public service announcement that should not go unnoticed. This is hands down one of the best things that any of you can do to improve your new ride. The new model mx bikes that are hitting the showroom floors in the last few years have proved to have great working components. Look at the BluCru - the KYB fork and shock combo continues to dominate every year. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider getting the bike tailored specifically for you and your riding ability. The KX benefited greatly from Race Tech’s special touch. After two attempts, we got the spring rates/valving dialed in for me, providing a plush/stable ride at speed with great bottoming resistance for the big stuff. I’m so happy with how the suspension feels compared to stock, so this first improvement is a no brainer.

Second - 22mm offset triple clamps. 
The Kawasaki motocross bikes have always handled well in stock trim. Cornering is made easy with their comfortable ergonomics and chassis combination. But after testing Ride Engineering’s shorter offset (stock is 23mm) it was a clear decision to stay with this improvement. Although they have a more rigid feel, the 2019 KX450 became even more playful in the cornering department allowing me to practically point & shoot anywhere I want to go when on the track. Laying over in deep ruts is made easier as well, as the naturally flickable character of this bike and improved cornering precision will make you smile. Let’s not forget that they also give the bike a special look as well, so I always give a nod for these added bonus points. 

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Third - Rear linkage pull rod. 
This is the first time I’ve ever had the chance to test this easy bolt-on part from Ride Engineering. And easy it is - two bolts and a sag adjustment (105mm) will really prove to improve the way this 450 feels. The pull rod squats the rear end of the bike out slightly and alters the progression of the shock, which all translates to a more stable ride. There are no surprises even in rough conditions. The KX stays planted and predictable and I have found myself charging the rough sections much harder than I have in the past. This is a great performance benefit at a great price point.

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Fourth - Handlebars. 
Kawasaki has done a great job at providing a motorcycle with a very adjustable cockpit to fit a wide range of riders. Having different foot-peg placements and handlebar mounting positions helps any of us get the most comfort out of our new bike. So why not maximize the comfort even more by selecting your preferred bar bend? I chose a set of Pro Taper EVO bars (in the Husqvarna bend) to achieve this. The low/flat sweep really caters to my riding style, and after trimming 1/4 inch from each side, this really got the cockpit dialed in. These handlebars also offer a bit more flex, so I feel they compliment the Ride Engineering triple clamps added rigidity.

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Fifth - Exhaust. 
Our latest test was thanks to our friends at Yoshimura. They provided us an RS-4 full exhaust system to help further improve the power delivery on our 2019 KX450. After a painless installation, we were greeted with better looks and a better sounding tone. Power improvements were found from the mid to top-end as this exhaust really enhanced the free revving character of the new green machine. The mid-range stayed plenty lively with a little bit more aggressiveness that progressed into top-end over rev. I am able to hold gears longer while staying on the gas before having to upshift. I am definitely convinced that once we start adjusting mapping/ECU settings, this exhaust system is going to shine even more.

So there you have the top five improvements for Kawasaki’s newest big bore. Such an awesome bike to ride/race, it truly has been a blast getting this bike dialed in for me and I can’t wait to ride it more! If you have any questions for me, please don’t hesitate: Dominic@keeferinctesting.com






The 2019 Honda CRF450R "Track Toughness" Project (Part One)



There are a lot of you 2019 Honda CRF450R owners out there and most of you food my email inbox with set up questions. If there is one machine that makes me want to ride on pure looks alone, it would be this 2019 Honda CR450R. But… Sometimes looks can be deceiving and although it’s beautiful to look at, the Honda is a handful to ride fast on a rough track. The set up window for this bike is very narrow and you must absolutely “nail it” to get that comfort most of you are looking for on this machine. Trust me, I get it and understand how finicky this CRF450R can be as I have had more time on this machine than any other in my testing fleet. The phrase “Track Toughness” is used a lot in the world of production testing. What is “Track Toughness”?Track Toughness is a phrase that means how well a machine can adapt to any type of track and or track condition. The Honda lacks some “Track Toughness”.

So in order to seek out that comfort we all want out of this sucker and widen that “Track Toughness” window, I have been working diligently on key modifications/settings to pass along to you all out there that will actually help this bike’s Track Toughness. This is not a fluff build, but more for serious die hard red riders/racers that want the most out of their bikes. I will be doing this build in phases, so look for added parts to this article coming soon. Don’t freak out if you don’t see your special mod in this article. Chances are we will get to it in part two… In the meantime here are a few things for you Honda owners out there can try in order to keep that big smile intact from the time you load up your truck, until the time you leave the track.

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Swingarm Pivot Bolt Torque Spec: This costs zero dollars and should be done as soon as you get your 2019 Honda CRF450R. Stock swingarm pivot bolt torque spec is 65 ft.lbs., but try to re-torque to 60 ft.lbs. What does this simple adjustment do? It helps the stiff/bound up feel underneath your butt/rear of machine when accelerating and also gives the Honda more rear wheel traction. The Honda chassis has a stiff natured character to begin with so loosening up the swingarm pivot bolt a little helps free it up. Trust me, it helps! 

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Vortex ECU (Mapped By XPR Motorsports): I have done a few projects with Chad at XPR Motorsports and he continues to impress me with his meticulous ways. The Honda doesn't need more horsepower, in fact it wouldn't hurt if it had a slightly more mellower delivery. So why install a Vortex ECU? The XPR mapped Vortex ECU will give you more horsepower, but will spread out that newfound horsepower with a longer and smoother delivery than the stock ECU can. The stock ECU still has that herky/jerky roll on power through corners and that really upsets the chassis and my corner speed. That pisses me off! If your corner speed is off than you’re going to have a bad day at the track. Just ask my wife, Heather! 

Chad has several maps that smooths out that low end feel just enough to where you can roll your corners easier and have a broader pulling power down the straight. The over-rev that this Honda gets with this XPR Vortex ECU/mapping alone is worth the price of admission because it allows me to use second gear longer than our 2019 KTM 450SX-F test bike (with a Vortex ECU). It also allows you third gear riders to use that gear more and be lazier, if that’s how you like to ride. Chad has the mapping down and can get you a cleaner, smoother, broader, more exciting power with this simple mod. Did I mention that it helps the stiff chassis feel? Well it does because you can now ride the CRF450R in the lower RPM range (thanks to more torque) and that frees up the frame on chop, square edge, and braking bumps. Yes, sometimes improvements to the engine can directly affect chassis feel. 

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Yoshimura RS-9 Full Muffler System: If there is one company that knows Honda’s, it’s Yoshimura! The Yosh muffler makes broader horsepower, keeps the strong bottom end pull intact, and gives the Honda a deeper more throaty sound. Just bolting on this Yoshimura system (without the ECU change) will help the Honda’s on/off feel from 0-15% throttle opening. This is where the Honda needs help and the Yoshimura muffler helps smooth the CRF450R in this area. You will also lose just over a pound with this system. 


14/51 Gearing: This gearing will only work best if you have the above three modifications done. I stumbled across this gearing on a test day and found out that I really liked it. The 14/51 gearing allows you to run your axle farther back (which the Honda needs) and gives the engine a longer 2nd and 3rd gear pull. This gearing also helps the rear of the Honda relax under load and will give the rider extra rear wheel traction. Try this gearing if you have done the above three mods.

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Rekluse Torque Drive Clutch Pack: How’s that lever pull doing for you on your CRF450R? Not that great right? I hated going from a light clutch lever pull (on other machines) to the hard feel of the Honda CRF450R. The CRF450R needs some longer clutch life (because I am a clutch dragger), so installing the Rekluse Torque Drive Clutch Pack has increased my life and gives me less fade in longer motos. This kit leaves your stock internals intact, but increases your clutch plate count buy using the “Torque Drive” technology. This mod also gives you a better clutch pull at the lever as it’s not as stiff because the Rekluse Torque Drive Pack allows more disks in your OEM’s footprint.  

Custom Clutch Arm: The Honda’s clutch engagement point is very narrow and although the Rekluse Torque Drive Clutch Pack helps the life/pull, the engagement is still too on/off for me. Chad at XPR Motorsports makes a custom clutch arm that really helps get an increased linear feel out of your clutch engagement. Not only is my engagement point wider, but it also delivers the power to the ground smoother, which in turn gave me more throttle to rear wheel feel. What does that mean? More consistent starts and better mid-exit corner rear wheel connection. This is a modification that you would never know was on the factory bikes when walking the pits at a Supercross because it’s difficult to see from the naked eye. For the right price I am sure Chad at XPR Motorsports could make you one. Thank me later! 

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Race Tech Suspension: The most important piece to this puzzle would be the Honda’s Showa suspension. The stock Honda suspension is a little soft for my 170 pound frame and when Honda’s R&D team developed this stock suspension setting for the 2019 Honda CRF450R they needed to get comfort form the suspension to offset the stiffer nature of the Honda chassis. Race Tech took my stock Showa suspension and my A-Kit set and went to work. We ended up going to a .52 fork spring and a .58 rear shock spring to balance the bike out for me. The fork has better hold up and more control than the stock fork and gives me a more planted feeling on initial lean coming into corners. The overall firmer feel of the Race Tech fork doesn't have that harsh nature you would expect from heavier valving, but instead has a better damping feel that still has enough comfort to keep me happy. I tested several fork heights and for me flush-3mm was the best. On faster/rougher types of tracks I went flush on the fork, but on tighter tracks, I stuck with a 3mm height. Getting the correct fork height is still crucial for this chassis. 

I decided to run the stock link and cut the shock 1mm to try and lower the rear enough to where  I don’t get a stink bug feel on de-cel/braking bumps. I played with a ton of sag settings and came up with a 109mm of sag, which gave me the balance to where the CRF450R didn't move much when on/off throttle heavy. Running a little lower sag setting also helped when the dirt was deep or sandy, so that there wasn't too much weight pushed towards the front of the machine causing me to have over-steer. I like that I can hit stuff harder at speed with the Race Tech re-valved shock and also having increased traction on choppy corner exits. The Race Tech Gold Valves keep evolving so if you haven't gave them a try, this might be the perfect machine to give it a whirl. I didn't have the best of luck with Race Tech a few years ago, but Rob and the gang over there have really stepped it up and have their settings down for this model. 







 

Top 5 Mods For The 2019 Yamaha YZ450F

Not everyone wants to “add” parts to their new dirt bikes, which is fine, but for those that must tinker, we put together a “Top 5” must haves that we would recommend. We will be doing these “Top 5” articles with all of the new 450F/250F machines and will be splitting the information up between pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com. These mods are recommended, by us, through countless hours of testing. If you don’t find a specific aftermarket company that you prefer in this article, don't fret, email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com and we can talk it out like adults should. Again, we will not push something on you unless we know it works. These mods that are in this article simply work for this specific machine. 

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1. Fire Power Battery: The stock Yamaha YZ450F battery is a problem. It doesn't like to start in gear and if you do try to start it in gear for too long the battery will drain quickly. I have had countless emails sent to me about Yamaha batteries and the only thing I can tell you guys is go with an aftermarket lithium ion battery. I have been using Fire Power batteries in my Yamaha’s and they all have been great. Not to mention that they are lighter than stock, so losing some weight doesn't hurt. For around $125.00, it’s a fairly inexpensive way to prevent you from being stranded at the moto track with a dead battery. 

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2. GUTS RACING Stiff Seat Foam And Gripper Seat Cover: Yes, we know Yamaha made some stiffer changes to the foam for 2019, but once the foam breaks down a little we are back in 2018 all over again and hitting the fuel tank when slamming into ruts. Going to a GUTS stiffer foam does wonders from smacking your butt bone into the fuel cell that lies underneath you. Does be scared off by the word “stiff” as the GUTS foam is stiffer, but not so bad where you will be getting monkey butt. I go with the standard stiff foam and not the phantom foam as I like the feel of the standard stiff foam more. While you’re at it go with a gripper seat cover and prevent your rear end from sliding under acceleration. The stock Yamaha seat is slippery after about 20 hours and will not hold you in place from that explosive Yamaha 450 power.  

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3. Heavy Duty Chain: Like most stock chains the Yamaha chain will stretch and be smoked before the 8 hour mark, so get a good high quality heavy duty D.I.D. 520 ERT2 Gold chain. If you don’t mind the weight and the drag of an o-ring chain that is also a great choice. 

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4. FMF 4.1 Full Muffler System: I am not going to sit here and tell you that you NEED an aftermarket muffler for the 2019 YZ450F, because you don’t. The stock muffler is so good on this bike that it’s not something you will need right away. However, I know most of you have A.D.D. when it comes to putting shit on your bike, so I will recommend a muffler that I had some help in testing recently. I helped George at FMF come up with a different setting inside the muffler (or core) of this system to create some more back pressure, in order to keep the bottom end that the stock system has. The FMF 4.1 system knocks off almost two full pounds of weight, retains the stock bottom end power, increases the mid range and top end, and will only lose minimal over-rev. I have tried a ton of aftermarket mufflers for the YZ450F and all of them lose bottom end. Not this one…  

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5. Front Brake: The Yamaha front brake is not the best of the bunch when it comes to stopping power, but there is a modification you can do to make it insanely good (besides just throwing an oversize rotor on). If you want increased stopping power without the grabby feel, purchase an older Yamaha caliper (that used a bigger piston/part number shown) and an older KTM Brembo master cylinder (part number shown) while using your current 2019 YZ450F brake line and feel the magic coming into corners. You will be able to brake later and modulate the front brake better in shallow ruts than you can with the current front brake. This set up is also much more linear and less grabby than just throwing on an oversize front rotor as well. Just make sure to purchase the stock KTM banjo bolts and use your current 2019 YZ450F front brake carrier along with the current brake pad clip..  















Top 5 Mods For The 2019 Yamaha YZ450FX

Not everyone wants to “add” parts to their new dirt bikes, which is fine, but for those that must tinker, we put together a “Top 5” must haves that we would recommend. We will be doing these “Top 5” articles with all of the new 450F/250F’s (along with a couple off-road machines) and will be splitting the information up between pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com. These mods are recommended, by us, through countless hours of testing. If you don’t find a specific aftermarket company that you prefer in this article, don't fret, email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com and we can talk it out like adults should. Again, we will not push something on you unless we know it works. These mods that are in this article simply work for this specific machine. 

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1. FMF 4.1 Slip On Muffler 

It’s no secret that the 2019 Yamaha 450FX is a great off-road competition bike, but to some it may be a surprise that in stock form it’s not legal to race at the majority of off-road races. The one thing that holds the FX back from being off-road race friendly is the lack of a spark arrestor, which 99% of off-road race organizations require in order to racer on public or even private lands.  We opted to go with an FMF slip on muffler which comes with a spark arrestor (in the box, not installed in the muffler) which gave the FX a slightly louder tone and got rid of the slightly raspy stock sounding muffler. With the spark arrestor removed the engine lost a little bottom end roll on power, but gained some over rev. With the spark arrestor insert installed, the muffler mimicked the stock characteristics and gained some mid-range. https://www.fmfracing.com/Product/ProductDetail?CategoryID=584&BikeType=MX%2FOFFROAD&BikeMake=YAMAHA&BikeModel=YZ450FX&BikeYear=2019&ItemID=044443&imaConfig=Single&ParentCategoryID=31&Priority=9 

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2. Yamaha Power Tuner App

Yamaha is the first manufacturer to offer a phone app to map your motorcycle and it’s awesome! The app is very user friendly and gives you the ability to use Yamaha’s provided apps, as well as being able to make your own. Yamaha provides four maps; Mild Power, MX Power Feeling, High Revving, and Torquey. Two maps are able to load in the bike at one time and I have found myself trail riding with my phone as well as trying other maps when we come to a stop. The maps can be toggled between the handlebar mounted map switch and I have found it very handy depending on the terrain changes. https://www.yamahamotorsports.com/motocross/pages/yamaha-power-tuner-smart-phone-app 

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3. Firepower Battery 

The newest generation Yamahas are very hard to start in gear, and even when in neutral they tend to turn over for longer than desired. I have found that different maps also effect how quickly the bike will fire up. So far, I have killed two batteries in the 450FX just from trail riding and constantly stopping and starting over the course of several hours. Luckily, I was able to bump start the bike both times but after the second dead stock battery I knew it was time for an upgrade. The Firepower battery was slightly lighter than the stock and has yet to leave me stranded. That being said it still doesn’t like to be started in gear.  https://www.firepowerparts.com/products/batteries    

4. Handguards

I’ve said it before and ill say it again, if a bike is designed to be an off-road bike it should come with handguards. The FX comes with a bitchin skid plate, but they decided not to add handguards on the production bike. Although for the bike’s introduction, Yamaha added GYTR flag handguards, which have been on the bike ever since. It all depends on what type of riding or racing you do, some people swear by flag style mounts, and others will not ride without full wraps, but either way, do yourself a favor and put on some type of hand protection. https://www.shopyamaha.com/product/details/cycra-rebound-hand-shields?b=Motocross+Accessories&d=42|42&ls=yamaha-motor-company&dealernumber= 

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5. Fork Springs

Although the 2019 FX has much better hold up than the previous generation, the fork still has a slight diving sensation when chopping the throttle or under heavy braking. This can be somewhat fixed with clickers if you aren’t too heavy, but on my 190 pound ass (give me a break my wife is pregnant), stiffer springs will do the trick. Race Tech recommends going from the stock .46 kg/mm to a .50 kg/mm to fix the issue. I have also heard of people putting the springs from the moto bike (.51 kg/mm) and having good results. Either way, a little more hold up goes a long way when your riding gets faster and more aggressive. http://racetech.com/ChooseVehicle.aspx