2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 "NEED ONLY" Build (Part Two)


OK, so here we go with the long awaited part two of the 2019 RMZ450 “NEED ONLY” build.  As we stated before in part one, this is a damn good bike that just needs a few improvements.  So, in this part of the build we focused on trying to find a little more power, improving clutch feel and durability, and just some bolt on parts to add a little more “NEEDED” comfort.

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What: High compression Pro Circuit piston

Why: Simply stated, the bike needed more bottom end power

Conclusion: Once I picked up the bike from Pro Circuit, after they added the high compression piston, I couldn't wait to get it to the track and see the result (we are able to run pump gas as the compression ratio allows us to). I was surprised that such a small change could make a big difference.  The power was improved in all aspects of the power band, not just bottom end delivery.  On bottom end (with stock piston), the stock power was too mellow and the recovery characteristic was poor especially when the track is ripped deep.  This mod improved bottom end torque and recovery was vastly improved when I was in the wrong gear.  If I am being picky, I still want a little more RPM snap, but we may be able to get that with ignition or different mapping (this may be in part three). Surprisingly, the biggest improvement to the power was through mid to top end pull.  I feel like anytime I grabbed third gear, this bike had a smooth yet very noticeable meatier pull up through the top end (compared to the stock piston).  Overall, this Pro Circuit HC piston took a weak stock powerband and made it fun to ride with more than enough power to clear obstacles out of corners or pull you out of deep corners, but kept the rideability and rear wheel traction high. To me the is a “MUST” on this bike to improve excitement factor. Note: Running white coupler for best feeling on track.

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What: Hinson clutch (outer basket, inner basket, pressure plate, fibers, plates, heavier springs, and clutch cover)

Why: To improve overall durability and get rid of the vague feeling at the clutch lever

Conclusion: The Hinson family has been making top quality clutch components for as long as I can remember.  In 1997, when McGrath made the switch to Suzuki, he enlisted Hinson to solve his clutch problems with that model, not factory Suzuki. Immediately the feel at the clutch was more positive and less vague before I even made it onto the track.  Once I rode the bike on the track, the Hinson clutch took the improved power that we got from the piston and transferred that to the rear wheel.  The stock mushy lever feeling was gone and a slightly stiffer firm feel replaced it.  However, it wasn’t a “Honda hard pull” feel, just slightly firmer/more positive than the stock Suzuki pull. I have been riding with the Hinson clutch for over a month and that feeling hasn't changed one bit.  The Hinson durability is second to none and the improved feel was welcomed. Editors Note: Also just to give you guys, the reader, more insight on Joe’s riding technique, he is known to be a clutch destroyer. Joe is very hard on clutches and to say that a clutch has made it over a month without changing plates says something.  

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What: FCP Engine mounts

Why: Chassis felt a bit rigid on corner entrance, transitioning, and exiting choppy corners

Conclusion: I couldn't remove that small insecurity when entering corners, no matter what I tried with the suspension. I figured it had to be due to the stiffness in the chassis and not the suspension.  Kris Palm approached me at Milestone and bolted on his engine mounts for me to give it a try. Keefer told me that some of FCP mounts have made a differene in the past, so I was curious to see what they would do to this chassis. Immediately the mounts got rid of most of the stiff bound up feeling of the chassis and allowed it to settle entering corners, stayed planted transitioning through the middle part of the corner, and allowed the suspension to absorb any acceleration chop while keeping the rear wheel planted under acceleration.  Another improvement from a simple bolt on part that gave me that secure feeling to allow me to carry my momentum through corners and push the bike a little harder.

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What: Pro Taper (bars, grips, throttle tube, front brake lever, clutch perch/lever, chain, sprockets, and hour meter)

Why: To achieve more comfort, adjustability, and durability 

Conclusion: Bars - Once I found the right balance of bar height and bend while sitting and standing, I was happy with the SX Race bend.  

Grips - Working my full time job doesn't allow me to ride as much as I would like. Having the right grips are key and the soft compound 1/3 waffle gave me that cushy feel, allowing me to ride all day with no issues and the grip was excellent.

Throttle tube - The stock plastic throttle tube had a sluggish/slow feeling to it so when we replaced it with the aluminum tube the throttle had a lighter, snappier feel.  Plus it obviously is stronger and more durable in a crash.

 Front brake lever - In addition to looking great with its black color and having a cool Pro Taper cover/shield, the XPS Lever offered great adjustability with the dial to adjust reach and its multi directional folding capabilities kept it from breaking or bending in a crash.  

Clutch perch and lever - The Profile perch and lever offered the same great looks as the XPS front lever, friction free feel, quick adjust star to adjust clutch play, and a nylon sleeve to allow the perch to pivot in a fall.  Additionally it folds in almost all directions further protecting it in a fall and the reach is also adjustable.

Chain and Sprockets - I kept the stock gearing ratio but, opted for the black Race spec front and rear sprockets which gave me increased durability and looks. The Pro Series 520 mx chain gave me that cool gold chain look with minimal stretching and longer lasting chain life. 

Hour meter - The wireless hour meter was literally the easiest part I've ever applied to a bike. Peel and stick, then hit the button for info. It works off of vibration (eaaaaaaasyyyyyyy Keefer) while the bike is running, which led to a few complaints of additional time being added during transport. I live on a dirt road roughly 2 miles from pavement and i have had absolutely zero issues with this. 

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Overall I'm happy on this build, as Keefer mentioned, the whole point was to take a bike that consistently finishes towards the rear in the shootouts and show how great this bike can be with a few key improvements. I truly enjoy riding this bike and feel a confidence i've been missing since those years where I rode all the time. For the average guy, who may only get to ride once a week or less, to be able to hop on his bike and feel comfortable going fast is priceless. I feel we were able to achieve just that and hopefully this build will help you get that same feeling. Thanks for reading and stay tuned, i have a feeling this build may not be done yet.

Joe Oehlhof

14 year professional motocross racer

Finished 16th in points in 2005 in 450 class

Made every main events in 2005

Best 125 SX finish was Pontiac with a 4th Place 1999

Rode for AM Leonard KTM, Team Subway Honda, WBR Suzuki






Best Of 2018



Where did the year go? Wow! Time flies when you're riding, testing, typing, and talking about dirt bikes! With 2018 coming to a close I look back on the bikes/products (yes, some are 2019 bikes that I tested in 2018) that arrived or gained popularity this year and I picked a few that I think deserve some recognition. I went through a lot of bikes, parts, and gear this year so it was tough to narrow it down to just a few, but in the end these are the ones that stood out to me. I am a very picky guy, (just ask my wife) so pleasing me is somewhat difficult, but these products/bikes below indeed did something in order for me to write about them once again. As 2018 draws to a close, I salute these companies, manufacturers, and products for making the sport faster, safer, and more comfortable for all of us enthusiasts out there. Here they are in no particular order….

Vortex ECU For KTM 450 SX-F/Husqvarna FC450/Yamaha YZ450F: 

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If there is one thing you can do to improve your modern day four-stroke power delivery, it would be to map your current ECU. Yamaha has an awesome PowerTuner app to play around with, so you can get your power delivery the way you like it (within a safe parameter) on the track. On the flip side to the Yamaha, the KTM/Husqvarna comes with a handlebar mounted map switch that allows you to choose between three settings (standard, aggressive, and traction control) so you can go pick and choose on how aggressive you want your orange/white bike to be while riding. However, if you really want to get more usable power, that is controlled, and broader, the Vortex ECU mapped by Twisted Development is my number one go to modification. On the 2019 KTM/Husqvarna 450’s the ECU comes rich down low and somewhat lethargic, which makes the bike heavy feeing. With the Vortex ECU mapped by Jamie at Twisted Development the stock KTM/Husqvarna lethargic power delivery down low becomes a snappy, easier to ride machine that pulls stronger out of corners and longer down the straights. By simply taking your seat off and plugging this Vortex ECU in, these two bikes quickly become two of my favorite machines to ride. You also have 10 pre-programmed maps on the trim dial so you can choose how aggressive you want your power delivered. Run the Vortex on pump fuel or race gas, it doesn't matter because there’s a map for both. The improvement you will feel on the track is huge and noticeable right away! www.td-racing.com 



2019 Yamaha YZ450F: 

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Small changes to the 2019 Yamaha YZ450F made it our 450 MX Shootout winner and my favorite bike of the year! No it’s not the lightest bike on the market, but it’s engine delivery is unmatched, has the best production suspension in the game, has a better cornering ability for 2019, and is the most reliable bike on the track. Every time I think I may have found something better, I hop back on the ol’ 2019 YZ450F and fall in love all over again. It’s one of the only bikes I can ride in stock form and go very fast on right away. Kudos to all the Yamaha Japanese engineers and North America test riders for making an incredible machine! www.yamaha-motor.com 


6D ATR-2 Helmet:  

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6D Helmets launched their ATR-2 in 2018 and improved on an already great ATR-1 helmet. It has a shorter chin bar/nose area, shorter visor, and is lighter that the ATR-1, but keeps all the safety features of the ATR-1. It’s hard to write about something, that in some cases, can’t be fully tested until shit goes wrong. In the world of helmet safety, we as buyers have to be very trustworthy customers. I mean…We have no choice, but to trust in a certain helmet company’s technology right? We have to trust in what the helmet company is telling us (about their latest safety technology offerings) is in fact the truth and works in real world conditions, just like the test results say back at the testing facility. The only way to truly know if the helmet “works” or not is to crash and that is something that riders usually aren't looking to do. However, when it does come time to test the safety aspect of the helmet, it better damn well work and be what we paid for. I have worn and trusted in the 6D technology for quite sometime now and even spent my own money on a few helmets for my kid and I. My son and I both have crashed in an ATR-2 and came away dazed, but not confused. I feel whole heartedly that this is due to the 6D Technology, plain and simple. www.6dhelmets.com 

Ride Engineering One Piece Handlebar Mount:   

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The Ride Engineering One Piece Oversize Bar Mount has a one-piece top that is designed to resist bending much better than the stock bar mount. Precision machined from aircraft quality aluminum, there is also a 6mm difference between the forward and back mounting positions. Ride Engineering also machines their own stainless steel posts that prevent over tightening, unlike some other competing brands that DO NOT use quality posts. I have stuck these Ride Engineering bar mounts on the KTM 450 SX-F and the Honda CRF450R with great results after crashing. I never had to find something to bang my front wheel off of to try and straighten my bars/mounts after a crash. These powerful suckers do not cause added rigidity to your ride and only cost $104.95, but you can save 20% by using the code Keefer-20 over at ride-engineering.com 

Guts Racing Firm Seat Foam And Gripper Wing Seat Cover: 

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The real only downside to the Yamaha YZ450F is the seat density and cover. The foam is not firm enough near the middle portion of the seat the rider sometimes can hit the fuel tank when pushing hard into corners. So when you think of the words “hard” or “firm” you may think of uncomfortable right? Well in this case you would be wrong. The “firm” GUTS foam is just what the doctor ordered, especially when I am slamming into corners. With the GUTS firm foam the density is harder in the middle of the foam/seat, but also on the sides of the foam where you need it (especially when riding aggressively). Your butt is not always placed directly in the middle of the seat when you're riding, so why just make the middle part of the foam firm? GUTS thought of this because all of us riders need to have a firm feel on each side of the foam as well. The GUTS Racing foam provides the correct amount of density, so I am not pushing my tushy through the foam and into the plastic of the fuel cell. On top of the foam gripping the bike is important to me so Andy from GUTS makes these special “wing” gripper seat covers so my long legs have something to lock on to when standing up through rollers or choppy terrain. Having the “wing” seat also improves the cushioning of the side of the seat even more with the added padding sewn into the cover. It’s a brilliant idea and works awesome! www.gutsracing.com


Works Connection Elite Axle Blocks For KTM And Husqvarna: 

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Consisting of a pair of CNC’d Elite axle blocks, a titanium drive-side receiver, and a square removal tool nut, the Elite Axle Block Kit converts your stock KTM/Husqvarna rear axle from a fixed design into a floating type. KTM and Husqvarna Factory teams use this same floating type design on their race team bikes to improve traction as well as straight line stability, and it actually works! Another key component is the integrated receiver post on each axle block that allows the use of a caliper to precisely measure and match the left and right axle block’s position. This assures exact alignment of the chain and sprocket, which is critical to prolonging chain and sprocket life. I have been secretly running these on my KTM and Husqvarna test bikes for almost a year now and it may not seem like it’s much once installing them, but you will notice more rear wheel traction and a less harsh feeling under acceleration chop. www.worksconnection.com 

2018 Yamaha YZ65: 

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Anytime a manufacturer develops a new dirt bike for kids I am all in. Yamaha introduced a new model to their lineup with the YZ65 in 2018 and it was well perceived not only by my little test guy, but by many other littler riders and parents alike. The YZ65 has a potent engine, great suspension, and adjustability that lets little riders a chance to grow with their machines. We even let our test rider Dustyn Davis ride it with his friends at the 24 Hours Of Glen Helen and the   YZ65 lasted the entire time in the muddy conditions. We have almost 80 hours racked up on this test unit along with a WORCS championship that Dustyn won along the way. 

2018 Top Gear Choices: 

You guys knew this was coming right? I am such a gear fanatic that I couldn't just pick one set that was my favorite, so I am giving you my top three sets of gear that I tested/wore throughout 2018, in no particular order: 

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  1. Fly Lite Hydrogen: Lightweight, flexible, and most of all very comfortable the Fly Lite Hydrogen gear is a joy to wear on long days of testing. It’s ventilated enough to breathe through the hot summer days in the desert, but also is durable enough to last through the abuse I can throw at gear. Not to mention the solid colorways that FLY came back to for 2019 has me all giddy like a school girl on prom night. 

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2. Fox FlexAir: When you put a set of Fox FlexAir gear on you really notice how lightweight and minimalistic this stuff really is. The gear is snug and so streamlined when I am riding that I notice that I can move around on the bike a lot better. This is a real thing folks! Just like cyclists streamlined, form fitting gear helps your body become more agile while riding and Fox does it right with the FlexAir gear! 

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3.  O’Neal Hardwear: Say what you want about O’Neal, but they have come a long way with the styling of their gear. I wanted to put O’Neal in this mix because the Hardwear fit is much better in 2018 than it has been it quite sometime and there is no other gear out in the market that is as tough as the Hardwear pant and jersey in my opinon. Yes, the gear is a little heavier than the two above it, but the stuff is tough and has a clean look for 2019!  

LitPro:

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If you like analyzing your riding like me then the LitPro is a pretty incredible tool to have. Look, I will be target up with you. I wasn't on board with the LitPro a while back because it was too damn hard to use and confusing to me. However LitPro has made some updates to their app and made easier for us idiots to use the device. I have been riding with the updated software for a few months now and by no means am I a pro at it, but at least I can see each session I do and analyze my lap times, my line choice, what’s faster, and which bike I may be faster on at any given time. I love that I can get with my buddy Travis Preston and really show him how fast my corner speed is compared to him! To me that is worth the $499.00 price tag! You can even track your heart rate during each moto, just in case you really want to go all “Baker Factory” out there!   www.litprolive.com 


2018.5 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition: 

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Did you really think you were going to get through this without me mentioning the Rockstar Edisssssh? No, the 2018.5 Husqvarna Rockstar Edition didn't win our shootout, but that doesn't mean I didn't get happy every time I rode one of these suckers. I would talk about how much fun it was to ride (to my wife) so many times that she finally got sick of it and went and bought me one. The Rockstar Edition has better ECU mapping than the 2019 FC450, it feels the lightest of all 450’s on the track, is super connected from my throttle hand to the rear wheel, and my lap times (from my LitPro) always said I was fastest on it! Simply put, the 2018.5 FC450 Rockstar Edition is just a fun bike to ride and gets even better with just a couple modifications like an FMF Muffler, removal of the backfire screen, and some good race fuel. To me the Yamaha and Husqvarna are my two most favorite bikes to ride of the 2018/2019 model year!   

































































































2019 Honda CRF250RX First Impression 


What? Honda has another new model? Yes, that’s right, the 2019 CRF250RX is Honda’s latest off-road addition to their growing stable. We had a chance to let our “Electric Diesel” test rider Tod Sciacqua ride it at Cahuilla Creek in Anza, California for a full day of ripping. This is just a quick first impression, but we will be re-visiting this machine for a long term test soon so don’t fret your pretty little dirt bike faces. If you want to hear more about this red machine, click on the “Podcast” tab and listen to Tod and I talk about what this bike is like to ride. 

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This all-new CRF250RX is specially designed for closed-course off-road competition only, so just know that this machine will not be OHV legal until you get a spark arrestor. Some of the CRF250RX key features that Honda would like you to know are:

  • Large-capacity, 2.2 gallon resin fuel tank 

  • 18-inch rear wheel

  • Forged aluminum sidestand

  • Sealed drive chain

  • Suspension with settings dedicated to closed-course off-road use 

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Engine/Drivetrain

  • High-performance, 249cc single-cylinder engine with dual-overhead-cam design and high rev limit.

  • Finger rocker arm with Diamond Like Coating (DLC) maximizes valve lift while retaining a low engine height

  • Downdraft intake layout improvies air-charging efficiency

  • Dual exhaust ports enable ideal air-charging efficiency

  • Cam profile, which is based on feedback on the CRF250R used by the Team HRC factory MX2 race team

  • Intake- and exhaust-port geometry provides strong low-rpm engine power while also maintaining stellar top-end performance

  • 44mm throttle body offers ideal low-rpm intake airflow for strong corner-exit performance

  • Honda’s piston oil jet with five nozzle holes provides superior piston-cooling efficiency and reduced knocking, enabling a precise ignition-timing setting for optimum power delivery

  • Lightweight AC generator keeps weight to a minimum and minimizes friction losses

  • Electric-start standard for easy, fast engine startup

  • Easily selectable Standard, Smooth, and Aggressive riding modes enable easy tuning depending on rider preference or course conditions

  • Selectable HRC launch control provides a steady stream of torque for excellent performance on race starts

  • Exclusive ECU settings for ideal engine performance and rideability in off-road situations

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Chassis/Suspension

  • Lightweight aluminum frame with tapered main spars provides great rider feedback

  • Low center of gravity reduces front-end lift for strong acceleration

  • Renthal Fatbar® handlebar reduces steering-system weight, and flexes for comfort

  • Top triple clamp features two handlebar-holder locations for moving the handlebar rearward and forward by 26mm, ensuring rider comfort. When holder is turned 180 degrees, the handlebar can be moved an additional 10mm from the base position, resulting in four total unique handlebar positions

  • Newly shaped footpegs are 20% lighter and shed mud more easily, giving the rider great feel and confidence in all riding conditions

  • Engine guard allows excellent airflow, boosting engine-cooling performance

  • 49mm Showa SPG coil-spring fork with dedicated settings for ideal handling and comfort in technical conditions experienced in off-road racing

  • Fork protectors have outstanding coverage for protection in off-road conditions

  • Black rims offer strong presence parked in the pits or out on the trail

  • Lightweight front-brake caliper uses pistons of different diameters (30mm and 27mm) for strong braking performance

  • Front-brake hose resists expansion for precise braking

  • Smooth bodywork layout eases rider movement

  • In-mold graphics are durable and resistant to peeling caused by washing or abrasion

  • Dunlop Geomax AT81 tires provide optimum feel and traction in challenging riding conditions

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So now that you have some idea about what Honda did to this sucker, what did Tod think about the 2019 CRF250RX: 


Going into the test day I was thinking this would be a corked up slow trail bike, not really expecting the awesomeness of the power potential this race bike truly really had. One of the first things I noticed was the oversized tank and the 18” rear wheel with the sweet looking racing black rims. Yes, I am sucker for black rims because it just makes the red plastic pop that much more. Throwing your leg over the Honda for the first time, you will notice the large fuel tank and by appearance you may think this tank will affect your riding while on the trail, but once you take off you forget all about it.

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I want get this out of the way right now because I feel no one talks about this enough. There are three different power settings on the handlebar, which to me is always great for different riding conditions you may ride on any given day. I may be in the mood for different conditions, on any given ride I go on, so having the aggressive, smooth, or standard “mood” settings is perfect for the many different riding moods that I have. The engine delivery is snappy and responsive enough to pop me up over rocks, logs and the occasional rain ruts that we encounter here on the west coast from time to time. I only weigh in at 155 pounds so having too much power is a concern to me at times when looking to purchase a bike. With this CRF250RX I feel like I can manhandle this machine more because the power delivery is fun, yet never gets me in trouble when riding. The mid range to top end pulling power feels just like the 2019 CRF250R to me and that means it pulls far and likes to be revved. If there is anything I could complain about the engine, it would be lack of some torque down on very low RPM. The throttle response is crisp and instant, but the bottom end delivery can feel empty if I was on a tight trail that was somewhat sandy.  

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The Showa suspension feels like it was tailor valved for my riding style and weight. Again I am not a heavy guy and this Showa CRF250RX suspension was plush for me out on the closed course trails of Cahuilla Creek. On the occasion I hit the moto track on the way into the pits, the suspension had enough hold up for the jumps that Cahuilla provided. Overall, I can’t sit here and type any real negative on the suspension side (as I love me some spring forks) and Showa knocked it out of the park with this fork setting. We set the sag at 106mm for my weight and I was happy right away with the balance that the HondaI had. I am sure Keefer will nitpick the crap out of this thing more at a later time, but for now lets just say the Showa suspension was great for my smaller stature. 

48mm Showa spring forks grace the new 2019 CRF250RX.

48mm Showa spring forks grace the new 2019 CRF250RX.

 While riding the diverse terrain I noticed how nimble and easy this CRF250RX is in the tight stuff (and through corners). Although the nature of the chassis is agile and quick handling, the straight line stability feels planted and not as twitchy as the 250R. On tighter switchbacks the CRF250RX feels light and very playful and that makes me want push harder through the tighter terrain. One thing is for certain about the evolution of dirt bikes these past few years; it’s that the brakes have improved dramatically. A lot of media testers don’t talk about how important good brakes are and the new Honda provides some great stopping ability. The front brake on past Honda’s felt somewhat spongey and soft to me, but this 2019 CRF250RX has a strong front brake that lets me charge into corners much harder than I can remember.   

The Honda loves to carve up some berms.

The Honda loves to carve up some berms.

Did I mention I love electric start? Well, I do! You might think you don’t need an electric start on a 250, but after a full day of riding, kickstarting your bike gets tiring. Us older guys love this feature as it just makes riding a dirt bike more enjoyable to me. The biggest bummer to me on the day was that they didn't let me take the bike home. I will have to say that I am also mystified that Honda doesn't put handguards on this machine. The seven mile loop that Honda laid out for us was filled with blood sucking demon branches that will attack you any chance they can. Just ask my right forearm! The Honda CRF250RX comes with a skid plate, which is mandatory for any off road bike, so why aren’t handguards mandatory on this sucker as well? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? 

Dear Honda, we need handguards please!

Dear Honda, we need handguards please!

Great job to Honda on making a hybrid machine that is easy to manage and fun to ride. Look for more 2019 Honda CRF250RX updates at keeferinctesting.com soon or check out the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast on this site right now! -Big Air Tod  



























2019 85cc MX Shootout 

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Nothing brings me more joy than watching my son share the same passion that I do for dirt bikes. However making the decision (as a parent) to purchase the correct machine can be somewhat confusing, difficult, and expensive. That is where Keefer Inc. Testing comes in! We decided to do a 2019 85cc shootout for you moto loving parents out there, but also give you some insight on which bike might be best for you and your little one. This was a big undertaking for myself as it’s tough to get kids to open up on how each bike feels, but we can officially say that the 2019 85 MX Shootout has officially taken the checkered flag after three days of testing, over 50 pages of testing notes, eight test riders, and after countless engine hours have racked up on thee little bikes. The tracks we chose to test at were good for a wide range of abilities and wasn't so gnarly that your typical 85cc novice couldn't have some fun. We feel the tracks we tested on were the best tracks (combined with the prep that was performed) that brought out each machines strengths and weaknesses. In doing this we know the information gathered was the most accurate we could offer from our 11-14 year old testers. Below are the final rankings and a brief evaluation summary that were tallied up by using an olympic style scoring. If you want to hear more about each bike, get a much broader breakdown of each machine, and hear from one of the testers, click on the podcast tab to listen to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast Presented By Fly Racing And Race Tech this week!

Check back soon for a “Best Settings” article for each machine and a full photo gallery. We also will be doing some “Living With” articles with a few of these throughout the 2019 year, in order to give you parents some feedback on what is breaking and what you can do to make these bikes even better. Just don’t go all mini parent on your kids! Let them enjoy riding their dirt bikes and having fun with their family and friends. #KeepKidsOnDirtBikes

The 2019 Suzuki RM85 wasn’t available when we had photo day, so look for more action shots of the RM85 when we post up the “Best Settings” article.

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First Place: Tie KTM 85SX/Husqvarna TC85

MSRP: KTM 85SX $5,899.00

MSRP: Husqvarna TC85 $5,999.00


Unlike its bigger brothers, the KTM and Husqvarna are identical on paper and most of our test riders couldn't feel the difference between the two on the track, hence why we chose to have a tie for first place. Both engine packages are powerful enough to make even our pro test riders smile. Every test rider underestimated the power of the small but mighty engine, however it wasn't so gnarly that it scared our novice kids. Make no doubt about it though, these are racing that want to go fast. The KTM and Husqvarna have a smoother delivery down low (similar to their bigger four-stroke counterparts), but once both hit the midrange, they explode with a pulling power that gets you down the track in a hurry. Simply put the engines in both of these machines out perform all of the others in class and put smiles on every one of our young testers faces. Heck, I even rode them and it put a smile on my face! I wish I had these engines when I was on minis! The beauty of these motors is if you wanted to tame the power or move it around, you could very easily do so with the power valve adjuster. You can turn the power-valve adjuster on the right side of the engine 1/4 of a turn clockwise, have your little one ride the bike, come back to the pits and turn it 1/4 of a turn counterclockwise (from stock), and have them tell you which one he or she prefers. Doing this makes a big difference in the power delivery, so it’s worth the time and effort to give it a try to make the rider feel comfortable. Plus it’s a good evaluation to test their “test rider skills”. The top end and over-rev is what really sets these engines apart from the Yamaha. The Yamaha is better down low, but once opened up, the KTM and Husqvarna simply out pull it down the straights. You can just hear how much further the KTM and Husqvarna rev out when watching/hearing the kids ride each machine.

The hydraulic clutch was well perceived by each tester and the overall abuse that the KTM and Husqvarna clutches can take is better than the other colored machines. Usually air forks are a nightmare on big bikes, but in the world of small bikes, I don't think it’s as critical. Not one test rider complained about the 43mm WP AER fork and in fact it was easy to dial in for our wide range of testers. We normally stuck with the recommended 5 bar of fork pressure, but dialed it down to 4-4.5 bars for the lighter kids with great success. The KTM and Husqvarna do sit a little taller than the other bikes in the shootout so that is something parents will have to know going in before purchasing. Some of our smaller testers could quite touch the ground when seated, so be forewarned that you may have to lower the seat height for smaller riders. The handlebar bend is tall, wide, has some rise to it, but gives room for riders to grow into. The bar pad that KTM/Husqvarna use are horrible and should be replaced immediately with a foam style pad. The downside to these two machines? Price! They are over a grand more than any other bike in this shootout, so be sure you’re ready to pay for that “Race Ready” motto.

Positives:

Incredible mid-top end engine delivery

Balanced Suspension 

Hydraulic Clutch 

 

Negatives: 

Lack of bottom end power (compared to Yamaha)

Hard feeling bar pad

Could be tall for smaller riders

Who Are These Bikes For? Riders that want to go racing and ride very aggressively.  


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Third Place: Yamaha YZ85

MSRP: $4,599.00

Yamaha came in with a new YZ85 for 2019 and it was well perceived by most testers in our shootout. The engine on the 2019 Yamaha YZ 85 is very strong coming out of corners, but doesn't pull quite as far as the KTM and Husqvarna on top end/over-rev. The Yamaha has more of an exciting hit down low than the orange and white bikes, but just doesn’t have the recovery through the mid range like the front runners do. When some testers made a mistake coming out of corners they had to cover the clutch way more than they did with the KTM and Husqvarna. If the clutch was abused (like some novice kids can do) the YZ85 started to slip and drag during the course of the day. You could hear it starting to slip, so we were forced to change out the clutch plates after our second day of testing. The tighter the track we tested at the more the testers liked the power and RPM response of the Yamaha. It is a very exciting power delivery. The good news is that the jetting is clean and crisp with the Yamaha and comes ready to go right from the crate.

The 2019 Yamaha YZ 85’s suspension has a plush feel to it and to most testers had more comfort (in fork) on braking bumps than the Husqvarna and KTM. However our heavier testers couldn't quite get it to hold up enough for their aggressive style and had to really pay attention to downsiding jumps perfectly. Straight line stability was also praised as testers thought they could hit bumps faster at speed and the Yamaha remained stuck to the ground/planted. Compared to the KTM and Husqvarna though the Yamaha corners a little slower. Entering corners some testers thought it felt tough to lean the YZ85, which forced them to use outside lines more instead of getting into a tight rut. The handlebar bend was well liked by every test rider and the way the Yamaha fit all of our testers was amazing. Simply moving the bar mounts forward or back help create a smaller or larger rider triangle for each test rider. The ground clearance seemed to be just right for the wide range of riders as each felt comfortable right away. If you’re looking for a competitive bike that isn’t a KTM or Husqvarna, look no further than the YZ85. The blue bike should be your top pick simply because it’s a great bike that costs less than the top two machines. With a pipe and silencer the YZ85 could be as fast as the orange and white on top end.

Positives: 

Great bottom end power delivery

Ergonomically fits a wide range of riders

Stable at speed 

Negatives: 

Clutch life

Slightly slower cornering compared to Husqvarna and KTM

Black frame paint chips way too quick 


Who Is This Bike For? Riders who like a lot of RPM response and like to be aggressive on fast tracks. 



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Fourth Place: Kawasaki KX85

MSRP: $4,349.00

Fourth place goes to the Kawasaki KX85. The green machine honestly doesn’t do anything bad, but from what we heard from each test rider, doesn’t have any real stand out “this is the best” qualities (compared to the other machines) either. The engine delivery is calculated and easy to ride, which did make our younger/novice test riders more confident in charging around the track. There is no real explosive hit out of corners, but instead the rider has tons of traction at the rear wheel that is exceptional under slippery conditions. The Kawasaki gets pulled through the mid range and top end at faster/deeper tracks and our more experienced riders were just looking for more power throughout the power curve. The jetting comes a little rich so raising the clip up one or two really helped the rich/lethargic feeling on low end. The suspension is plush yet very soft for any test rider over 100 pounds, so if you are on the bigger side, a set of heavier springs and a re-valve might be in order. The lighter/smaller kids that tested the KX85 loved the bump absorption and raved about how stable the bike was for them on rough tracks. The KX85 corners well and to most testers had the best overall cornering stability that allowed kids to push past their limits through fast sweeping corners. The Kawasaki feels longer and lower to the ground, which makes it planted once under a lean angle. The KX85 is tailor made for smaller riders as the bars are swept back/low and the rider triangle is very small. Kawasaki needs to update their bar spec and quality of handlebar as it is dated compared to the others (besides Suzuki) in the shootout. We do know with a little work the KX85 is a weapon of choice for a lot of young amateur racers, but in stock form needs some updates to make it better than the top three. 

Positives: 

Stable at speed

Plush suspension for smaller riders

Rider triangle great for kids coming off of 65’s

Negatives:

Vanilla power delivery

Small cockpit for bigger kids

Soft suspension for aggressive riders over 100 pounds


Who Is This Bike For? Riders that race motocross and grand prix’s that prefer stability.


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Fifth Place: Suzuki RM85

MSRP: $4,199.00

The Suzuki ranked fifth, but although the looks of the RM85 look dated, the engine is actually quite good. I would say this is the most underrated/peppy engine in the shootout. The test riders felt the RM85 had better bottom end/RPM response than that of the KX85, but couldn't quite match the top end pulling power that the other bikes ahead of it had. Top end was short and the jetting was also a little rich for sea level riding conditions. We raised the clip up one (leaner) and this helped RPM response a little through the mid and top end range. Once jetting was leaned out most testers thought the Suzuki RM85 had a lightweight feel coming in and out of corners because of the snappy throttle response down low. Lightweight testers didn't mind the mellow mid-top end pulling power feeling, but riders that were over 100 pounds and more aggressive, simply needed more engine. The suspension is soft stock and compliments lighter riders well, but if you're an aggressive or heavier 85cc rider, you will want to get some heavier springs ASAP. The ride attitude of the RM85 on the track was tougher to figure out (with aggressive riders) because most of them complained about the front end feeling low on de-cel. With some of that front end dive though came increased front end traction through corners. Just like most Suzuki’s, the RM85 turns as well as the front runners in the class and likes tight inside lines the most. If the corners are sweeping and long the Suzuki can get a little unstable/twitchy for lighter riders. Straight line stability was well perceived with larger testers and was a little harder to handle with lighter riders. A couple testers complained about vibration coming through the handlebars and the grips hurting their hands. Suzuki desperately needs to update this area of the RM85 as we think these are the same bars that were on Buddy Antunez’s Suzuki when he was an RM80 rider back in the day. Although on paper the Suzuki is heavier it feels light on the track! Even thought the Suzuki RM85 is fifth we think this is a great bike for any local or novice/intermediate racer. My son Aden says this was one of the most fun bikes he has ridden at Milestone to date! Trust me, that says something as he is pickier than his old man.  

Positives: 

Good bottom end snap

Gives riders confidence in tight corners

Lightweight feel 


Negatives: 

Mid-Top end power

Soft suspension 

Dated handlebars and grips (cockpit)


Who Is This Bike For? A lighter novice rider that needs to gain confidence through ruts/corners.  


Best Overall Categories: 

Best Bottom End: Yamaha

Best Mid Range: KTM/Husqvarna

Best Top End: KTM/Husqvarna

Best Over Rev: Husqvarna 

Best Fork: Yamaha

Best Shock: Yamaha

Best Cornering: KTM/Husqvarna 

Best Straight-Line Stability: Kawasaki

Best Lightweight Feel: Suzuki 

Best Brakes: KTM/Husqvarna

Best Ergonomics: Yamaha

Best Shifting: KTM/Husqvarna









































































2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 “Need Only” Project Build Part One


The 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 didn't fare well in any magazine shootout this year. Does that mean it should just get shunned and not paid attention to? No, absolutely not. Like I have said in my podcasts before, every bike is good, it’s just up to you on which one is right for you? How much you ride, what type of rider you are, and how fat your wallet is, carries a lot of weight when it comes to purchasing a new motocross machine. The one thing Suzuki has over other manufacturers is that you can get a leftover new 2018 RM-Z450 and even a new 2019 RM-Z450 for much less than any other brand. You can find a brand new RM-Z and save yourself $4000.00! When it comes to saving money, why wouldn't you want to buy a Suzuki! When you got a family, bills at home and maybe a wife that wants something of her own, being able to purchase a $10,000 dirt bike is not really an option. However, when you can purchase a 6-7 thousand dollar dirt bike it becomes more appealing, especially to the wife. 

I wanted to create a 2019 RM-Z450 project build that was only on a “need only” basis. ‘What does the Suzuki need? If you were going to save up some money, after your Suzuki purchase, where would the wise decisions go to? I didn't want this to be a fashion over function type of build, because frankly, not everyone has cash coming out of their asses to spend on meaningless shit for their dirt bikes. The cash people do have is hard earned and not everyone is looking to bling out their ride. Not everyone’s bike is “Too Lit”! Sorry Enticknap, but there are no gold wheels or gold necklaces with this build. If you’re rich then just stop reading this article now because this isn’t for you. I recruited my long time friend and former AMA Supercross rider Joe Oehlhof to help me build this yellow bike. Joe is as blue collar as they come and doesn't spend money on just anything. He left the pro scene, became a San Bernardino County firefighter, got married, and has three kids. He loves riding at a high level, but also knows he can’t be dumping all of his money into dirt bikes anymore. With all of that being said, we wanted to build a Suzuki RM-Z450 into what we feel would be a competitive bike to win a shootout. What would it take? Why did we change the parts that we did? How did it work out on the track? These are the questions that this series of articles will answer. We will continue to evolve this build, but for now here is part one of what, why, and how the 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 is getting better. 

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What: Pro Circuit Ti-6 Full muffler system. 

Why: To help bottom-mid range power delivery/RPM response and lose weight. 


Conclusion:  The stock Suzuki RM-Z450’s power is vanilla at best. It’s lethargic down low and needs some excitement. The KTM 450 SX-F’s power is smooth, but still has enough pulling power to keep most people happy. The Suzuki lacks pulling power, so we installed a Pro Circuit Ti-6 muffler on and got some added pulling power. The PC system didn't “wow” us for initial RPM response at first, but we installed the insert into the muffler and that helped back pressure to create some more throttle response. Joe and I both liked the insert in for increased bottom to mid range throttle response. Installing this PC system helps with coming out of corners and helping the Suzuki’s recovery time. With the stock system the recovery time out of corners (if you were a gear too high) was embarrassing for a 450cc machine. It would be hard to get back into the meat of the power forcing you to downshift and then immediately upshift, to get moving again quickly. With the PC system the rider can fan the clutch lever a couple times (in the higher gear) and it helps get the Suzuki on down the track in a quicker manner. The PC system is a step in the right direction for bottom and mid range pull. It doesn’t help or negatively affect the top end at all. Yes, we still need more to make us happy. 

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What: Pro Circuit Fork/Shock re-valve and linkage.

Why: To help bump absorption and help pitching when on/off throttle hard. 


Conclusion: Jim “Bones” Bacon retired, but Joe bugged him enough to help us with our Suzuki suspension woes. In stock form the Suzuki dives under braking and then squats too much under load when exiting a corner. This upsets traction and balance when trying to push the limits around the track. The chassis also feels slightly rigid at times when the track is square edgy and hard pack. Bones re-sprung the suspension for Joe’s weight (190 pounds), valved it, and installed 1mm longer pull rods. The difference on the track was noticeable immediately for the better. Sometimes when you get your suspension re-valved you notice some added comfort, but get some negative effect on other portions of the track, where the stock stuff feels better. The PC suspension helped balance out the ride attitude of the RM-Z450 on de-cel and increased cornering ability for both of us. There was less pitching sensation when chopping the throttle therefore the front end became more predictable on entrance of corners. Cornering stability was also improved, especially through choppy/long ruts. The Suzuki felt more planted inside the rut without feeling harsh like the stock suspension did. Exiting corners we both thought that the connectivity to the rear wheel was better once on the throttle. Straight line stability improved and the chassis felt slightly less rigid on square edge, which helped overall end-of-day type comfort. This can be attributed to the longer link allowing the initial part of the linkage curve to be a little stiffer feeling. After riding with the Pro Circuit tuned suspension we both feel there is more comfort than the stock WP suspension that comes equipped on the KTM/Husqvarna. Both Joe and I could be more aggressive on the track with more predictability than the stock stuff had to offer. To get both of us riders happy on a set of suspension is tough to do since Joe and I have a 25 pound difference in weight. 

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What: Pro Taper EVO handlebars and Race Cut grips. 

Why: Joe didn't like stock bend or the stock grips.

Conclusion: Some people will like the stock bar bend some people will not. Joe was in the “not” category. Joe is 5’9 and I am 6’0. I am long. Joe is short. I didn't think the stock bend was bad by any means, but I wasn't opposed on changing the bar bend. Originally Joe decided on the Pro Taper Windham EVO bend, but I told him that was too high of a bend for his short stature. Of course he didn't listen and got them anyway. Guess what? He didn't like them. He tried my Husqvarna stock Pro Taper EVO bars on my KTM and decided on that bend for the Suzuki. Guess what? He loved them. We cut the Husqvarna stock bend down to 804mm (they come 811mm standard) and slapped them on. We both thought we could could get over the front end better than the stock Renthal FatBar Suzuki bend. Putting the PT bars on also increased flex/comfort on chop as we had more comfort. Yes, we are old, we like comfort. Since Joe doesn't ride as much anymore because he has a real job, his hands are “riding pussified” somewhat. So in order to make his lotion soft, dinner cooking, fireman baby hands happy, we went with a Pro Taper race cut grip, which we both liked. The PT’s offer a softer compound than stock and help keep more cushion for the pushin. 

Just performing these first three modifications helped the 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 out tremendously. We both are still looking for more overall power however and will continue to evolve the curve with a couple more modifications. The stock Yamaha and KTM have more pulling power and can pull each gear farther than what our modified Suzuki can do. We are still under budget on this build (compared to a off the showroom floor 2019 YZ450F and KTM 450SX-F), so look for part two of this 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 “NEED ONLY” build soon. We also will be talking about how much we spent on an upcoming Rocky Mountain ATV/MC “Need Only” Suzuki Project Build Podcast coming up soon.  

What's Coming: 

High Compression Piston

Engine Mounts 

Ignition 

If you have any questions about this build please email me at kris@keeferincteting.com and I am happy to guide you.

   


2019 Honda CRF250R First Impression



It’s finally here to talk about! Hallelujah! The 2019 Honda CRF250R! So what did Honda change to the 2019 Honda CRF250R? New cam profile based on feedback from the Team HRC factory MX2 race team, new intake and exhaust-port geometry, new 44mm throttle body from last year’s 46mm version, all-new piston oil jet uses five nozzle holes instead of four, for improved piston-cooling efficiency and reduced knocking, right-side exhaust pipe shortened 50mm for excellent high-rpm power, all-new AC generator reduces weight and friction, Renthal Fatbar instead of 7/8 handlebar, new engine guard allows increased airflow that is said to improve engine-cooling performance, redesigned fork protectors offer improved coverage, black rims bro, new, lighter front-brake caliper now uses pistons of different diameters (30mm and 27mm) for strong braking performance, updated front brake hose has reduced expansion for more precise braking, and finally newly shaped footpegs are 20% lighter and flush mud more easily. 

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The 2018 Honda CRF250R needed more torque to be able to hang with the Yamaha YZ250F. For 2019 Honda did improve on bottom end delivery, but it’s still not up to Yamaha YZ250F standards. The 2019 CRF250R can pull out of a soft corner slightly better than the 2018, but where you will really feel the difference between last year’s machine is through the mid-range. Mid range pulling power and RPM response is much improved as the Honda now feels more playful when accelerating over square edge and popping over braking bumps. Low end response doesn't have that exciting feel like the Yamaha, but to me the low end feeling (coming out of corners) feels on par with the KX250 now. The Honda CR250R needed more “meat” in second gear and it did get some, but the recovery time, from a mistake by the rider, is still not quite as good as the blue bike. If you're looking for a 250 four-stroke that likes to be revved and pulls far then the 2019 Honda CRF250R is your ticket. Top end pulls strong and over-rev is close to the KTM 250 SX-F, which means you will be rewarded by waiting just a second or two longer when making your shifts. The harder you ride this Honda the more it will reward you. This is not a lazy rider’s machine! If you were to ride both the 2018/2019 bikes back to back you will be able to feel the overall increased engine performance within the first couple laps. Trust me, I have done this several times. 

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The updated valving that Honda came up with for 2019 really helps the chassis feel out tremendously. The fork has better hold up on de-cel and can be ridden harder with a heavier rider on board. The comfort that the CRF250R fork has is almost as good as the KYB SSS fork that is on the YZ250F. In fact, to me, the Honda fork has slightly more comfort initially when slapping the front end down off of a big single or flat landing. The shock is also a step in a better direction with increased rear wheel traction, as the shock squats just the right amount when the throttle is twisted open. The balance of the Honda should be praised as it always feels flat when coming in hot to a corner and the stink bug feel that Honda is sometimes known for is not apparent on this model. 

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I have ridden almost all of the 2019 250’s and I must say that Honda has the best feeling chassis out of the bunch (I have yet to ride the 2019 Suzuki). The rigid feel that the CRF450R comes with is not apparent on the 250R. It feels planted at speed and can corner extremely well. The Honda is not the lightest on paper, but feels extremely light when riding. The beauty of this chassis is that you can rear end steer this 2019 Honda and also front steer without a problem. I complain about being trapped in a box with the 450R chassis as it’s super finicky to each change I make. The 250R has a wider window for the rider and doesn't seem to feel different when going from track to track. What you may be wondering is why the chassis feels better in 2019 when there wasn't anything changed to the frame. I am glad you asked! With the newfound bottom-mid range pulling power and the suspension changes that Showa made to the 2019 makes this a more fun/playful chassis to ride (compared to the 2018 version) on all different types of terrain.    

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Thank you Honda for going with the 839 Renthal Fatbar! It is a lower bend than the old 971 7/8 Renthal bar, which makes it easier to get over the front end and corner. I am able to stand up through corners much easier with the layout of the handlebar, seat, footpeg. I am 6’0 tall and Honda is one of the more roomier cockpits. Dean Wilson even commented that the Honda (when he tested it) was spacious enough for him! *TIP*!! If you’re looking to get the 839 Fatbar bend on your older Honda you will have to go to your local Honda dealer and order it through them as a Honda part number. 

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The three maps that you can choose from on the handlebar are actually different feeling on the track. Sometimes when you get a machine that has a handlebar mounted map switch it’s tough to decipher between the choices you have. For fun I had a buddy change the maps on the handlebar for each session I tested, without me knowing which map I was riding with. I wanted to really see if I could tell the difference between each map setting and to my surprise I could actually feel the difference between all three maps. I ended up making the correct choice each time I went out due to the fact that they are that noticeable. I preferred the aggressive map (map three/blinking three times) because it gave me more RPM response out of corners and bottom end torque. I was able to short shift a little more with map three, which helped recovery time when fanning the clutch out of corners. Try this with your buddy at the track and see if you can feel the difference without knowing which map he put you in. Oh and don’t cheat and look down at the map switch cluster!!!  

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The Honda still needs some help with 2nd, 3rd, 4th gear spacing. If I am at a jumpy track it’s tough for me to decipher on which gear I want to be in to hit something. Sometimes I come out of a corner in second, start accelerating, shift to third, and it feels like third gear runs out too quickly (for third gear). I end up shifting to fourth a lot of times to hit stuff, but the weird thing is that fourth gear on this bike is surprisingly very useable! I hardly ever get to fourth gear on a KTM or Yamaha, but with the Honda I use fourth gear a lot. So when you ride the Honda CRF250R (2018 or 2019) try shifting to fourth gear and see for yourself. If you want to do “The Jody” I will not disagree or hate because I also like a 49 tooth on the rear. *If you are wondering what “The Jody” is, it’s a one tooth up on the rear sprocket mentality*. 


Here is a baseline set up from stock clickers. If you DO NOT know what your stock clicker number is please use your owners manual. That is what it’s there for. There is some great information in there and Honda has one of the best owners manuals out there. Yes, I could give you the stock clicker number, but that would defeat the purpose of my app that will be here soon!  



Fork: Height: 5mm

         Compression: Plus Two (two clicks stiffer than stock)

         Rebound: Stock or plus one (one click slower/stiffer than stock)


Shock: Sag: 107-108mm

            High Speed Compression: 1/8 turn in from stock (that is stiffer, folks) 

            Low Speed Compression: Plus one (one stiffer than stock)

            Rebound: Stock 

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Is overheating still a problem Keefer? Yes, this is still a problem somewhat. If you ride deep sand tracks or ride when it’s over 100 degrees outside then make sure to check your coolant levels after every moto. I have tried a 1.6 radiator cap in the past and it helps a little just make sure you don’t sit there in the pits too long with your motor idling. You will not run out of coolant and blow up your bike unless you're at Glamis doing a three hour wide open moto. Just make sure to be conscious of the coolant level when riding.


In 2018 Honda had a recall on their clutch baskets as some of these were breaking and causing problems. For 2019 that is not a problem and has been resolved. The clutch on the 2019 still can fade during a long moto, if you over abuse it, so be forewarned. The clutch lifespan is around 10-12 hours for me as that is when I can feel it start to slip/drag. However, just know that I am a clutch slipper kind of guy as my finger is constantly on the clutch modulating the power to the rear wheel. 

I will be riding the 2019 Honda CRF250R a lot more so stay tuned for some added modifications that will get me some more torque. Always check back to pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com for the latest testing information. We got you! -Kris Keefe

2019 Kawasaki KX450 Update

Ahhh, the twenty-nineteen Green-Machine. There is a lot to love about Kawasaki’s new 450 and after an initial 20 plus testing hours have been racked up, this quick-read breaks those loves down and also highlights what I look forward to improving moving forward. As we all know, the KX450 was ranked high during our shootouts (it almost won the damn thing) for the new year, and for good reason! This completely brand new bike harnesses a lot of great features that will keep it a front runner moving into the future. 

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First and foremost, the chassis. When you look at this 450 on the stand, the bike looks big. When you sit on the bike, it feels big (tall). If you weigh the bike, it still is “big” (3rd heaviest bike in class, weighing in at 242lbs wet). BUT, when you ride the 2019 KX450, it DOES NOT feel big. Kawasaki has designed this chassis in a way for it to feel more slim, nimble, and easy handling than ever before. This bike is so playful in so many ways, and literally lets you put it anywhere you want. The cockpit dimensions were a bit off for me, as I’m short (period), and I felt the bar bend was too high. Not only do I dislike the 7/8th Renthals that come stock (sorry Kris), but it was even more of an excuse to change them out entirely for a low-bend, oversize bar. I chose a set of Pro Taper EVO (Husqvarna OEM bend) as the replacements, because I wanted low and a relatively mild sweep. The combination seems to work well as of now, but I literally just put them on and need more time to test. *(On a side note - why can’t Kawasaki use a different glue for their throttle side grip?? As an FYI, it takes an act of god, razor blades, and a Dremel to remove the damn thing).

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Moving onto the suspension, I was able to log the first 10-12 hours on all stock settings (adjusting minor clickers here and there) before sending the fork and shock to Race Tech for some love. In stock trim, the forks where a bit soft on harsh landings (bottomed out quickly) and they also liked to “pack up” in the mid-stroke. What I mean is, under braking or de-cel at speed, the fork likes to stay in the mid-stroke portion of the travel, translating into a harsh feeling/un-stable front end. Obviously, we sped up the rebound quite a bit, to get the fork to stay higher in the stroke, but the improvement was marginal. After riding Race Tech’s re-valve, bottoming resistance has been greatly improved, but I am still struggling with the same mid-stroke instability. Some things that have helped it (but not perfected it) have been speeding up the rebound settings again, and turning in high-speed compression on the rear shock. By doing so, it makes the rear shock ride higher, thus transferring more weight to the front with hopes to make the forks work as they should. I am pretty picky when it comes to front-end feel on my bikes, so this is going to be a work in progress to get it where I want. Part of the reason I wanted a lower-bend handlebar was to see if it would help me put more weight up front (from a body positioning stand point) to settle down the front. If not, I plan to turn back to Race Tech in the near future for new settings if I cannot get it where I want. Stay tuned. 

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As for the shock, I think it works well all around. In stock trim, it was too stiff for the forks, which I believe made the front-end feel ever softer than it should. After Race Tech massaged it, we lowered the spring rate for my weight (145lbs) with some internal valving to compliment it, and the shock is more supple and forgiving. I have a feeling that if/when I perfect the forks, the overall chassis/suspension combination on this bike is going to be hard to beat.  

With all of the new 450 power plants being so good these days, to dissect and nit-pick each of them is a real chore. The same goes for the KX450 motor. It is very free-revving and easy to ride across multiple different tracks and conditions. It definitely is not the fastest, it definitely does not have the most torque, but the usability and “racey” feel makes up for all of that. We had the guys at Kawasaki help us with some new map settings during initial testing, and we found two that we really liked. The first one Kris developed, with the intentions of a more aggressive, “snappy” race-feel to make the bike stay alive across the RPM range (which you can find by clicking on the 2019 KX450 “Optional Settings” article). We have currently been using this map the most. The other is for the nasty, slick days out here on the west coast. When blue groove becomes your friend, the more linear map really keeps the power plant more subtle, but useable from bottom to top. 

Next on my to-do list, is an exhaust. This is not to say the stock system is bad (I mean… if we are judging by looks, it’s bad). But, it actually sounds good and I do not mind the performance either. I am interested to see what improvements can be made by bolting on a new system. Is there any specific brand requests from anyone reading this? (Editors Note: We tried the FMF full system and although it was good, we wanted a little more excitement down low. FMF has since re-configured the headpipe and we will test ASAP).

Want to learn about a specific system, tell Kris! I am sure we can make it happen. -Dominic Cimino





Ok, this was supposed to be a “quick-read”. I guess it is easy to talk about something that you really like, and that is the case with this new 450 from Kawasaki. As stated, there is a lot to love about this bike, and we are just scratching the surface on the things that will prove to improve. My focus is to really get the forks dialed in, to polish of the great chassis combination that this bike has to offer. I am confident that when this happens, all of the others things that we will get to test moving forward will become the cherries on-top. You know the drill - keep an eye on KeeferIncTesting.com for all of this stuff and more. Thank you for reading!

2019 Honda CRF450X

 


Almost every motorcycle made has somewhat of a cult following, even some of those bad ones. However every so often there is a bike that becomes iconic and ever since 2006 the Honda CRF450X has been the Swiss army knife to so many riders throughout the riding and racing community. It’s no secret that the 450X has seen very little updates since its 2006 release and although it’s stayed the same, I think that’s a testament to how well Honda has designed the bike in the first place. The CRF450X has never been a real standout bike in any one category, I would even say that it’s been somewhat vanilla. Don’t take this the wrong way as vanilla ice cream can be eaten plain or can be made even better with just a few toppings right? That being said the 450X has been the platform for a huge amount of success especially on the west coast. This “vanilla” bike has had the ability to transform itself from the family trail bike to a bike, that is able to win multiple championships (in the high speed SCORE Baja series), while also being able to win multiple NHHA (National Hare and Hound) races and championships. 

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 Improving the CRF450X (even if it was minimal) in every category (without hindering any one category) was the only way Johnny Campbell and Honda were willing to change the old tried and true red machine. One thing the 450X has always had and Honda wanted to keep was the ability to be a green sticker vehicle, which now makes the “X” one of only two 450cc bikes (the other being Yamaha’s WR 450) that is able to be ridden off-road year around. Being all new, the 2019 CRF450X’s fuel injected, Uni-cam engine is based off of the CRF450R, but with a slightly lower compression ratio (12:1). The lower compression ratio is achieved by having a different shaped, three ring piston. Also when compared to the “R”, the “X” has 12% more crank mass, which acts as a flywheel weight, helping give the engine more tractor like pulling power. New for 2019, the transmission is now a wide ratio six-speed mated to a rubber dampened front sprocket to keep chain noise to a minimum. The endless sealed o-ring chain is nice, but I personally like a master link for trailside issues.  The engine side cases have covers also to dampen engine vibration and keep overall engine noise down. The ECU settings on the 2019 are dedicated to the bike and since it is a green sticker bike they cannot be modified. Unlike the 450L (which this bike is closely related to), the “X” model does not come with a catalytic converter inside the muffler, although the muffler is still quite big and restrictive. Also differing from the “L” the head pipe diameter has been increased from 35mm to 38mm. 

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The base chassis on the 450X is the same as the 450R with a few additional mounting holes, different engine hangers and slight changes to the sub-frame.  Some off-road specific goodies on the “X” include an 18” rear wheel, larger front brake master cylinder/hose (while still utilizing the “R” caliper and large rotor), a larger 2.01 gallon fuel tank, skid plate, dedicated suspension settings, larger offset fork lugs and a dedicated top triple clamp. Honda still uses a 7/8” Renthal handlebar which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it has more flex than an 1 1/8” bar. Finally Honda got rid of the old cable drive analog trip meter and joined this century with a nice digital readout that gives the rider different information.  The radiators on the “X” are larger than the “R” although unfortunately, unlike the “L” they don’t come with a radiator fan (although the plug is there and a fan from the “L” will bolt directly on). The headlight is literally the same halogen unit that come on the older “X” model (I assume for budget reasons) and the tail light is LED. The 2019 is E-start only and comes with a high capacity lithium ion battery. Oh and the 2019 CRF450X weighs 275 pounds when full of fluids. 

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Our test day took place in the dry California desert and was set to a camping theme, which is where this bike is most likely going to be used in the real world. We split up into three groups, I headed out with Johnny Campbell as our guide and followed his dust down a seemingly endless sand whoop trail. Although not the most gradual way to warm up, it was immediately clear that just because this bike has the appearance and initial feel of a trail bike, that doesn’t meant deep down there still isn’t the heart of a Baja racer. Most trail bikes are sprung/valved extremely soft for the majority of the public, which gives a wallowy feeling especially in sand whoops. This isn’t the case with the 2019 CRF 450X; Honda was able to make the “X” comfortable at a trail pace while still making the suspension handle being ridden at a semi aggressive pace. On bigger g-outs the rear of the bike tended to go deep into the stroke and spring back, giving a slight kicking sensation. The forks only bottomed on hard, slap down landings and had an audible metal to metal clank sound. In rock gardens the front end stayed very planted and is stable, but when there is sand involved the bikes negative traits start to show. In sand washes the front end has a slight wander and gives the rider a lack of confidence. This may be partially due to the tire (Dunlop MX52), but in my opinion it was more of a suspension issue. The pushing feeling was greatly exaggerated when braking, and was hard to predict what the front wheel was going to do in almost any type of slower speed sandy section (even more so if there were rocks littered in). I noticed this in some washes we were in and thought it may have been just those washes, so when I got back to the camp I spun a few laps on a sandy turn track. It was quickly confirmed that the “X” in stock form isn’t a fan of turning in the sand, it isn’t planted and has a pushing sensation. After talking with Kris about this he explained it’s because the fork’s slightly soft settings hamper its turning ability when transferring your weight to the front on de-cel. When entering a corner sitting, the fork dives too far into the stroke and gives a knifing sensation. If I leaned back too far the fork wasn’t far enough in the stroke and it would have a pushing sensation.

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What this Honda CRF450X does have that some other CRF’s don’t is straight line chassis comfort. The frame on this Honda is forgiving and doesn't put you in a small box like the CRF450R can do. It never deflects or feels harsh when riding over square edge or nasty terrain. We love the feel of this “X” chassis when going fast! Chasing Johnny Campbell down fast twisty roads with rollers is by far one of the more fun things to do on this Honda CRF450X. What I found is that on faster terrain, the “X” steers much better when standing and giving turning input through the pegs. Just a slight push on the pegs will get the bike to change direction while still feeling stable and confident. When I tried to point and shoot faster corners sitting down I had very little confidence in how the bike was going to react. If you like to stand or if you’re a rear end steering rider the CRF450X will fir you perfectly. The reason we think it corners better when standing is because when your weight is on the pegs, the load is centralized and not biased more to the front or rear so the balance front to rear doesn't get upset as much. 

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To be 100% honest (which we always are over here at Keefer Inc) I was a little disappointed in the engine on the 2019 CRF450X. After riding the “L” last month we were told the “X” would be significantly opened up so the true potential of the engine could be enjoyed. Unfortunately the “X” has only a slightly free-er feeling engine. That being said I understand that with the restrictions of green sticker vehicles that Honda could only do so much. The bottom end power of the “X” is very linear and tame making the bike very easy to ride at lower speeds. When giving more throttle input the power of the “X” is deceiving as it builds power very calculated. Into the mid-range the bike starts to pull hard and almost feels like a diesel (similar to when the turbo was spools up). When that mid-range power comes on, the Honda gets the power to the ground and gets more exciting to ride. The reason I think the power may be “deceiving” is because the exhaust is so damn quiet and tame sounding that it never crosses my mind that it’s pulling so hard (with such a tame exhaust note). Past the mid, the top end is somewhat short, but that isn't a bad thing because the CRF450X likes to be short shifted and can do that with ease. In almost every situation the 450X like to be ridden a gear high and can be lugged fairly well. The gearing on the “X” is spaced out well and is one of the better gear boxes in the CRF range. I do feel like first gear could be a little lower because when at low speeds the engine was lugging a little more than I would like as I needed to cover the clutch. If the clutch wasn’t covered (in first gear) the Honda did flame out a coupe times on me in super tight/technical sections. Going up a couple teeth on the rear would most likely help remedy this issue, but wold also take away some top end pulling power (which I wouldn't mid so much). The CRF450X’s top speed was 96 MPH as I rung it out next to Johnny Campbell in a full tuck. Two times throughout the ride I found a false neutral between 2nd and 3rd gear and four to five times a found a false neutral between 4th and 5th gear. This could of happened because I was being lazy when shifting and not fully clicking my toe up. 

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The ergonomics on the 2019 CRF450X are like any Honda as they always feel like home. The half waffle grips are good quality and the levers have a classic Honda comfortable feel. Something I always have and always will complain about on Honda’s is the damn clutch switch. When the bike stalls the clutch needs to be pulled in to be re-started, which is ok, but for the switch to be engaged the lever needs to be pulled in all the way to the handlebar. This means you can’t just two finger the clutch and fire the bike (because the other two fingers are blocking the lever from being fully engaged. I also feel like a radiator fan should have come stock on the “X”. I bring this up because as I was messing around at slow speeds (for 10-15 minutes) I was able to overheat the bike and it slightly spit coolant out.  The front brake has been greatly improved over the previous generation “X’s” and stopping power much better than I remember. The master cylinder is larger, holding more fluid, and the feel, power, and progressiveness at the lever is something I fell in love with. The digital readout gives MPH, trip, total mileage, check engine, low fuel light, and one other cool function. The “X”’s computer measures how much fuel has been used, which doesn’t seem too exciting, but it’s how it’s measured that’s smart. Instead of measuring how much fuel is in the titanium tank, the Honda measures how much fuel has flowed through the fuel injection system. This lets the rider know the MPG while also telling the rider how much fuel has flowed through the system. On our ride, the fuel light turned on at the 50 mile mark, but this mileage can obviously change with the terrain as well as the amount you twist your wrist. Unlike the older model, the new bike doesn’t have a quick access air filter door with quick release. Instead the air filter is accessed like a motocross bike removing the two seat bolts and seat. The stock plastic skid plate is nice and I applaud Honda for having the skid plate, as well as front and rear rotor guards since this is after all an off-road bike. Although the “X” has bike protection, once again Honda doesn’t equip their off-road bike with handguards. I didn’t understand why they don’t have handguards so I asked, and was told the engineers in Japan say “XR’s have handguards, CRF’s do not” this didn’t really answer my question, but it seems like it’s something that isn’t likely to change any time soon. 

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Honda set out to improve the 2019 CRF450X in every department and I think the project was a success. Unlike the older model, this bike doesn’t need to have the carburetor messed with and all the smog stuff removed to make it run. Out of the box, the 2019 CRF450X runs well and is a very capable, fun machine to ride. Once the aftermarket offers some goodies (making the bike a “closed course” machine) it has the ability to be morphed into whatever the consumer wants it to be (just like vanilla ice cream). Just like adding your favorite toppings to ice cream, the 2019 Honda CRF450X is a great base, and with some aftermarket parts of your choice the “X” is still a Swiss Army knife that can be transformed into whatever type of bike you desire; from trail boss to Baja racer. If you have any more questions about the 2019 Honda CRF450X feel free to reach out to me at Michael@keeferinctesting.com. -Michael Allen





















Living With The 2019 Yamaha YZ250F


After being in love with the previous model YZ 250F, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the 2019. Once the initial introduction testing was over I got to spend some real time on the bike and have been struck by cupids’ arrow (once again). Almost every aspect of the 2019 YZ 250F has been at least slightly improved from the previous generation. I’ve now had the bike for around four months and put 20+ hard hours on it riding everything from tight/jumpy moto tracks to deep wet sand tracks.

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One area that has really been improved is the mid to top pulling power for 2019. The previous model had amazing bottom end torque, but lacked excitement when the bike was being revved out as this engine loved to be short shifted. It’s no secret that the 2019 has more over-rev and more exciting power throughout the RPM range. However, there is a downside; in my opinion there is only so much power that a manufacturer can reliably get out of a 250cc motorcycle without creating a time bomb right? Yamaha already had the strongest 250F engine character, so to me it feels like what Yamaha did was move the meat of the YZ 250F power closer to the midrange instead of the bottom. In order to try and get the YZ 250F to have more exciting mid-top end power it lost a bit of torque out of corners. Kris (Keefer) has helped me a lot on mapping in order to make me happy and getting the Yamaha to have the best of both worlds. We came up with the Aggressive Keefer 2 (see photo for the number fields) map a couple weeks ago and it seems to work well everywhere. The new map got rid of the somewhat empty feeling (compared to last year) bottom end where if you were a gear high exiting a corner, the clutch would need a lot of massaging. Now I feel like I can exit a corner in a taller gear, using a minimal amount of clutch, to get the bike pulling down the next straight. The only place I feel this map is lacking is a bit of over-rev. There are times where I wish the engine would just pull a little longer in each gear, so I wouldn’t have to shift just before the next corner. (editors note: It sounds like Michael needs a 450 or get off his lazy ass. Bro! It’s a 250F, you must shift!) The next step is to try an exhaust system to see if it will give me more horsepower, but for now we are leaving the bike stock for shootouts. 

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The chassis and suspension of the 2019 Yamaha YZ250F is another part of the bike that has been vastly improved. The previous model had a somewhat soft and slight wallowy feeling through g-outs and flat landings. The new chassis and suspension have a much firmer feel without being harsh. The front and rear of the bike ride slightly higher in the stroke and in g-outs/hard landings the 2019 doesn’t dive un-necessarily too far into the stroke. This firm feeling has slightly faded with the amount of time we have put on the bike (as the oil has broken down) and I have had to compensate by stiffening the compression clickers a few clicks (both front and rear). The other place this chassis really shines is through corners, whether they be flat or rutted, the 2019 has a much more of a planted feel. The previous generation tended to want to stand up in rutted corners and take a bit more input from the rider to lean in. This chassis takes minimal input to lean in, stays planted, and leans all the way through ruts easily. 


Test rider Michael Allen used to go in a straight line fast, but now he loves to rip up some moto.

Test rider Michael Allen used to go in a straight line fast, but now he loves to rip up some moto.

A couple things that does bother me with the 2019 YZ 250F is the seat and exhaust. The seat, although made stiffer than the precious model, is still soft after it breaking it in. When seat bouncing or when seated while leaving a rut (with a square edge or hook in it) my ass blows through the foam and finds the top of the fuel tank. After long moto’s it leaves me with some soreness. GUTS Racing makes a cover and firmer foam that Kris will write about right here on the website. When the bike is new, the exhaust is on the loud side, but doesn't sound too bad, but after 10+ hours, it does get pretty blown out (raspy). The tone has gotten increasingly louder as well as quite annoying (especially for Kris when he’s riding behind me before I get lapped). The future plans for this bike are to compete in Keefer Inc’s 250cc shootout, then have some work done. What we’d like to do is focus on getting some more useable overall power from the Yamaha with an ignition and exhaust, then possibly get more extreme and install a higher compression piston as well as some different cams. The Yamaha has been reliable and I am still using the stock clutch! The Yamaha takes a licking and keeps on ticking! 

Keep an eye out for our 2019 250cc MX Shootout as well as the future build of this bike at Keeferinctesting.com. Also feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about the 2019 Yamaha YZ 250F at michael@keeferinctesting.com. -Michael Allen

2019 Yamaha YZ65/85 24 Hour Torture Test


At Keefer Inc. Testing we pride ourselves on riding the crap out of our test bikes. However, when it comes to smaller bikes, it’s not like I can Benjamin Button myself and ride 65’s/85’s. 1990 West Coast 125 Supercross Champion Ty Davis put together a Jr. 24 Hour Challenge Team for the 24 Hours Of Glen Helen that focuses on the younger generation of off-road racing. We need to keep kids on dirt bikes to help grow our sport and Ty has been working hard to make this happen. Dustyn Davis (son of Ty) has our 2019 YZ65 test bike, so we thought why not let him and his buddies loose on this sucker for the full 24 hours as a durability test so to speak. While those kids were at it why not have another batch of kids on our 2019 YZ85 as well. Our goal was to get the kids away from FortNite and get more riding time in, while getting some quality testing information downloaded as well. It’s a win, win! No PlayStation’s and XBOX’s here people! Below are the modifications that were performed to the 2019 Yamaha YZ65/85 and the outcome of each machine, directly from ZipTy’s team. -KK



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2019 Yamaha YZ85

  1. Put IMS footpegs on (wider) to help the kids feet, spreads the pressure more evenly so they don’t get sore over a long period of time

  2. G2 Aluminum Throttle tube- due to kids falling, more reliable than the stock plastic.

  3. Cut Bars- for kids to have better control of the bike and handle better

  4. Pro-Taper bendable levers foldable to eliminate the levers from breaking if kids fell

  5. Dirt Tricks Spokes for reliability and longevity

  6. DID Chain for durability

  7. Rekluse Manual Clutch- For reliability

  8. Steahly Stator with lighting coil for the lights

  9. Galfer Custom Brake line made to clear the lights

  10. Uni Air Filter

  11. Mousse front and rear to eliminate flats less tire changes

  12. Maxxis Tires

  13. VP Fuel 110 mixed 50/50

  14. IMS oversized tanks for less pit stops

  15. Seal Savers to keep mud out of seals

  16. Baja Designs Lights for lights at night

  17. Zip-Ty Custom made light brackets

  18. Zip-Ty Coolant to keep the bike from overheating with muddy conditions

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How It Performed:

The 2019 YZ85 survived the full 24 hours in the muddy and rainy conditions without any issues. The Yamaha handled well in the tight technical sections and was easy for the kids to maneuver. We had a wide range of riders who race NHHA, Motocross, Big 6, and WORCS. The only problem we encountered was that the kids we used were not tall enough for the YZ85. In order to get them more comfortable, we cut the bars down 5mm and took a little preload out to lower the rear of the bike. This helped get kids to touch their feet in tighter sections of the trail. The kids liked the performance of the engine as it was exciting off the bottom, but not too pipey where it wasn’t connected to the rear wheel in the slippery conditions. The engine character was aggressive enough for the more experienced kids, but easy enough to ride for the novice kids that we used. The suspension was a little stiff (even when adjusters were backed out) for the kids on small chop because all the testers were smaller in size (70-100 pounds). We knew the Yamaha was known for its durability, but this race proved it, even with five different style of riders.

The 2019 YZ85 made it 43 laps that equaled 344 miles and finished 23rd out of 38 teams.




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2019 Yamaha YZ65:

  1. Customized seat for easier access for air filter changes

  2. Galfer Custom Brake line made to clear the lights

  3. DID Chain for durability

  4. Uni Air Filter

  5. Vortex Sprockets

  6. Mousse front and rear to eliminate flats less tire changes

  7. Rekluse Manual Clutch- For reliability

  8. Maxxis Tires

  9. VP Fuel 110 mixed 50/50

  10. Seal Savers to keep mud out of seals

  11. Baja Designs Lights for lights

  12. Zip-Ty Custom made light brackets

  13. Zip-Ty Coolant to keep the bike from overheating with muddy conditions

  14. Put IMS footpegs on (wider) to help the kids feet, spreads the pressure more evenly so they don’t get sore over a long period of time

  15. G2 Aluminum Throttle tube- due to kids falling, more reliable than the stock plastic.

  16. Cut Bars- for kids to have better control of the bike and handle better

  17. DID Chain for durability

  18. Pro-Taper bendable levers foldable to eliminate the levers from breaking if kids fell

  19. Millenium Re-nickelsil the Cylinder for durability

  20. AME Half waffle for the Kids hands Super glued on

  21. Shock Spring one rate softer, Pushed the forks down in clamp 3mm for stability

How It Performed:


We ended up changing the front and rear brake pads once, air filter once, one rear wheel, and poured in 20 gallons of fuel. The team had to replace the stator back to stock due to a failure that made the bike cut out/misfire. Once stock stator was installed we had zero issues. Each tester loved the power and all said that they were able to keep up with the 85 team for most of the race. Why? Because the Yamaha YZ65 engine is powerful enough and can keep up with the 85 in the tighter sections of the course. With the race being so muddy this slowed the overall speed down, which helped the 65 team. The Yamaha YZ65 suspension was plush enough for the 65 team and all of the kids thought it provided enough comfort, even with several pounds of mud packed on the machine. The Yamaha YZ65 finished the event with 43 laps that equaled 344 miles and finished 24th overall out of 38 teams. With Yamaha introducing the 2019 YZ65 this year, it proves that this first year model is a reliable bike for the little ones.

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2019 Yamaha YZ65

  1. Customized seat for easier access for air filter changes

  2. Galfer Custom Brake line made to clear the lights

  3. DID Chain for durability

  4. Uni Air Filter

  5. Vortex Sprockets

  6. Mousse Tubes front and rear to eliminate flats/less tire changes

  7. Rekluse Manual Clutch- For reliability

  8. Maxxis Tires

  9. VP Fuel 110 mixed 50/50

  10. Seal Savers to keep mud out of seals

  11. Baja Designs Lights for lights

  12. Zip-Ty Custom made light brackets

  13. Zip-Ty Coolant to keep the bike from overheating with muddy conditions

  14. Put IMS footpegs on (wider) to help the kids feet, spreads the pressure more evenly so they don’t get sore over a long period of time

  15. G2 Aluminum Throttle tube- due to kids falling, more reliable than the stock plastic.

  16. Cut Bars- for kids to have better control of the bike and handle better

  17. DID Chain for durability

  18. Pro-Taper bendable levers foldable to eliminate the levers from breaking if kids fell

  19. Millenium Re-nickelsil Cylinder for durability

  20. AME Half waffle for kids hands that were super glued on

  21. Shock Spring one rate softer, pushed the forks down 3mm




How Did It Perform?



Changed brake pads once, air filter once, one rear wheel, and 20 Gallons of fuel. Had to replace the stator back to stock due to a failed custom stator.  Kids thought the power was fast, yet easy to ride hard as they were able to keep up with the 85 team for most of the race. The suspension seemed to be more forgiving on the Yamaha YZ65 as the kids never complained once about anything suspension/chassis related. The 65 team had a wide range of talent that ranged from motocross to off-road and each of them performed well for the 24 Hour long haul.  The Yamaha YZ65 team did 43 laps that equaled 344 miles and finished 24th overall out of 38 teams

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The 65 team picked the Yamaha because Dustyn Davis (son of Ty Davis) raced it all year and we wanted to prove that the Yamaha could withstand 24 hours of kids beating the shit out of it. This raced proved that there is superb durability for a first year 65cc model from Yamaha.






2019 Husqvarna FS 450 Supermoto

“Hi, my name is Dominic and I’ve never ridden Supermoto.” That is pretty much how I started my morning, not knowing what to expect when the Husqvarna boys invited us to ride their new 2019 FS 450 Supermoto. As a first timer, I immediately felt like a fish out of water - a “what the hell did I get myself into”, type thing. But, I quickly realized that you can either:

A - Ride super squirrely and be scared the whole day. 

Or, B - Grip it. And Rip It. 

So I tried my best at going the “B” route, and holy shit, it was an absolute blast! There is a definite art to riding very aggressively in a road racing environment, and the street editors that joined us (Waheed and Scaysbrook to name a couple) put it to us ”moto” guys in a hurry. I’m actually really happy that they were there, because it allowed me to watch and learn pretty quickly (on-demand training). After watching them burn a couple laps and learning what I could, off I went - attempting 20 minute Supermoto motos’ with a smile that could barely hide under my helmet. 



The Supermoto experience is so foreign that it is hard to explain in words. Some of our MX techniques apply, but a lot of them don’t. Cornering is much different, braking is done in it’s own way, and overall rider control (body vs bike) demands a unique style. I tried my best at adapting in my own way, just trying new things each lap to figure out what works and what doesn’t. And once I found a decent groove, I was able to dive into the motorcycle itself and study it a bit for anyone looking to learn about the actual bike, and not my beginner situation.

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The bike itself looks sexy right out of the box. It is graced with race-ready Alpina spoke wheels matched to Bridgestone R420 slick tires, and revised bodywork that looks down at a massive Brembo front brake system. I was told that it is the same system used on the current production Ducati Panigale. The other 90+% of the FS 450 practically replicates the motocross model. The suspension is obviously tuned differently, it has different offset triple clamps, and most importantly, a full blown slipper clutch. Lastly, Husqvarna put some useful wrap-around hand guards on the bars and an updated (more comfortable) seat. I truly feel that this bike is race-ready. We all know that the orange & white brigade boast that motto, but the FS 450 really showcases it well. 

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On the track, the 63 horsepower motor is at your disposal whenever you are ready. The bike does not hesitate in getting you to the next corner quickly and efficiently. Nor does it take much for that front wheel to lift off the ground, which made the FS 450 really exciting to ride. The slipper clutch system is also a major talking point.  This clutch allowed us to drag the bike into corners, (attempting to back it in) without getting any rear-wheel chatter. I was shocked to realize just how much rear brake I could use without it heavily effecting rpms/power. I now realize why having one of these systems is a must if you are a serious Supermoto rider. As always, the Brembo brakes did not disappoint as they provided ample stopping power in any scenario. I assumed the front brake was going to be incredibly aggressive, due to the size of the rotor and caliper, but I was wrong. It is very modular (or progressive) and allows you to maintain control when traveling at varying speeds. As for the suspension… here is where I cannot help anyone, because I do not have the slightest idea of where to start tuning a Supermoto set up. I will say that down the fast straights, the front end would get some head-shake. If/when I get to ride this bike again, that would be a focus for me to settle that down right away. 

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To wrap things up on the 2019 Husqvarna FS 450 Supermoto intro, all I can say is I would love to do this again! Having no expectations coming into this test day, it was so refreshing to be dealt with smiles all around, super close take-out scenarios on the track, and most notably, really fun battles with a few other guys I could actually hang with. If any of you reading this are interested in at least trying Supermoto, I would definitely recommend it. I rode all day in full motocross gear, but I think leathers would make me feel way safer. As for the million dollar question - would I buy this bike? Currently, I would say no - based solely on the fact that motocross is encompassing my life at the moment. On the other hand, if I was serious about riding Supermoto, there would absolutely be no question in my mind that this would be the bike to have. It has everything you need to not only indulge in the experience, but race competitively if push came to shove. If anyone reading this has more specific questions regarding this motorcycle (detailed specifications) please email kris@KeeferIncTesting.com and I will facilitate getting any questions you need answered. As always, I appreciate you taking the time to read this! Stay tuned for more fun things coming your way here at Keefer Inc. Testing

-Dominic Cimino

2019 450 MX Shootout

The 2019 450 MX Shootout has officially taken the checkered flag. After three days of testing, over 100 pages of testing notes, 16 test riders, countless engine hours racked up, and over seven hours of testing information sent to your ears (via podcast) we finally have a winner. The results changed dramatically from last year’s shootout and for 2019 the top five were all miserably close for each test rider. The tracks we chose to test at were also chosen by four out of the six manufacturers to evaluate their production machines before we got our hands on them. These tracks provided deep, loamy soil conditions in the morning that turned hard pack and slick towards the end of the afternoon. We feel these were the best tracks (combined with the prep that was performed) brought out each machines strengths and weaknesses. In doing this we feel the information gathered was the most accurate we could offer (from the west coast) from an evaluation standpoint. Below are the final rankings and a brief evaluation summary that were tallied up by using an olympic style scoring. If you want to hear more about each bike and get a much broader breakdown of each machine, click on the podcast tab to listen to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast Presented By Fly Racing And Race Tech right now!

First Place: Yamaha YZ450F

The Yamaha YZ450F won because it provided the riders with the most comfortable suspension, an easy to ride engine character, and a new found planted cornering ability. The small changes that Yamaha made did make a big difference out on the track. It’s also one of only a couple bikes that can use third gear through corners an get you out in a hurry. “Recovery Time” on this engine is impeccable and forgives riders when they make mistakes when shifting too early. Testers agreed that the YZ450F is much more confidence inspiring than that of the 2018 version through corners (cornering stability). It split wins/days with the Kawasaki, but the Yamaha had nine “individual test rider opinion wins” throughout the shootout that tipped the scales in its favor. Small changes on paper equals big changes out on the track for 2019. Congratulations Yamaha!

The Yamaha YZ450F won because it provided the riders with the most comfortable suspension, an easy to ride engine character, and a new found planted cornering ability. The small changes that Yamaha made did make a big difference out on the track. It’s also one of only a couple bikes that can use third gear through corners an get you out in a hurry. “Recovery Time” on this engine is impeccable and forgives riders when they make mistakes when shifting too early. Testers agreed that the YZ450F is much more confidence inspiring than that of the 2018 version through corners (cornering stability). It split wins/days with the Kawasaki, but the Yamaha had nine “individual test rider opinion wins” throughout the shootout that tipped the scales in its favor. Small changes on paper equals big changes out on the track for 2019. Congratulations Yamaha!

Second Place: Kawasaki KX450


The most improved machine in the 2019 450 MX Shootout belongs to Team Green. The KX450 won the first day of the shootout and was a favorite of most testers throughout the week. The chassis is well behaved and can be pushed hard by the rider without it doing anything out of the ordinary. The lightweight feeling of the KX450 is noticed immediately around the track and the free-feeling engine character makes it a very fun/playful bike to ride. With four “individual test rider opinion wins” it was the only other bike in the shootout to keep the Yamaha honest. Kudos to Kawasaki for making a great first year/generation KX450. That is not easy to do!

The most improved machine in the 2019 450 MX Shootout belongs to Team Green. The KX450 won the first day of the shootout and was a favorite of most testers throughout the week. The chassis is well behaved and can be pushed hard by the rider without it doing anything out of the ordinary. The lightweight feeling of the KX450 is noticed immediately around the track and the free-feeling engine character makes it a very fun/playful bike to ride. With four “individual test rider opinion wins” it was the only other bike in the shootout to keep the Yamaha honest. Kudos to Kawasaki for making a great first year/generation KX450. That is not easy to do!

Third Place: Husqvarna FC450

The Husqvarna FC450 is one of the most connected throttle to rear wheel bikes in this year’s shootout. There is so much traction that it is deceiving to some testers to figure out how much throttle to give, to clear obstacles immediately out of corners. It doesn’t feel or sound like the Husqvarna is really hauling ass down the track, but you end up over jumping certain jumps at times because the FC450 is hooking up so well. All of the riders preferred the black throttle cam on the Husqvarna/KTM for more a snappier/quicker RPM response. The WP suspension isn’t holding this bike back as much as it did in year’s past and leaning it over in corners is made easy with its lightweight feel. The Husqvarna fell down the ranking because riders did want a little more throttle response in deeper conditions (even with the black throttle cam installed). The FC450 was one of only three machines to score more than one “individual test rider win”.

The Husqvarna FC450 is one of the most connected throttle to rear wheel bikes in this year’s shootout. There is so much traction that it is deceiving to some testers to figure out how much throttle to give, to clear obstacles immediately out of corners. It doesn’t feel or sound like the Husqvarna is really hauling ass down the track, but you end up over jumping certain jumps at times because the FC450 is hooking up so well. All of the riders preferred the black throttle cam on the Husqvarna/KTM for more a snappier/quicker RPM response. The WP suspension isn’t holding this bike back as much as it did in year’s past and leaning it over in corners is made easy with its lightweight feel. The Husqvarna fell down the ranking because riders did want a little more throttle response in deeper conditions (even with the black throttle cam installed). The FC450 was one of only three machines to score more than one “individual test rider win”.

Fourth Place: KTM 450SX-F

The KTM 450SX-F has more bottom end and RPM response than the Husqvarna, but lacked some compliance/comfort when the track got choppy and rough. The KTM still feels lightweight through corners and gives riders, that lack cornering technique, more confidence through ruts. The Neken handlebar is a little more rigid than that of the Pro Taper bar that is on the Husqvarna and that doesn’t help on slap down landings. The engine character is smooth and linear thus helping/forcing riders carry more speed through corners. The WP/AER front fork lacks some small bump absorption, but once you break through that initial part of the travel, it is quite nice. The KTM 450 SX-F is one of my favorite bikes to ride with some minimal modifications done to it. The is how close all of these bikes really are! A little massaging here and there can make a fourth place bike a first place machine.

The KTM 450SX-F has more bottom end and RPM response than the Husqvarna, but lacked some compliance/comfort when the track got choppy and rough. The KTM still feels lightweight through corners and gives riders, that lack cornering technique, more confidence through ruts. The Neken handlebar is a little more rigid than that of the Pro Taper bar that is on the Husqvarna and that doesn’t help on slap down landings. The engine character is smooth and linear thus helping/forcing riders carry more speed through corners. The WP/AER front fork lacks some small bump absorption, but once you break through that initial part of the travel, it is quite nice. The KTM 450 SX-F is one of my favorite bikes to ride with some minimal modifications done to it. The is how close all of these bikes really are! A little massaging here and there can make a fourth place bike a first place machine.

Fifth place: Honda CRF450R

Ride Red. No Wing No Prayer. The Honda CRF450R has the fastest feeling engine character in the shootout. If you’re looking to get from point A to point B in a hurry, the Honda’s engine will oblige. As fast as the CRF450R is, it still feels connected to the rear wheel without much loss of traction, but the rigidity balance is what hurt it the most. When the track gets hard packed and rougher, the Honda suffers from lack of stability. The front end gets a little twitchy and can be difficult to ride fast when track conditions get worse. The suspension has a lot of comfort, but that comfort needs to come from the frame more, in order to be a shootout winner. Riders did like the on-the-fly handlebar mounted map switch and its three modes. Each mode has a completely unique feel to it unlike other machines where switching maps didn’t make a “huge” difference.

Ride Red. No Wing No Prayer. The Honda CRF450R has the fastest feeling engine character in the shootout. If you’re looking to get from point A to point B in a hurry, the Honda’s engine will oblige. As fast as the CRF450R is, it still feels connected to the rear wheel without much loss of traction, but the rigidity balance is what hurt it the most. When the track gets hard packed and rougher, the Honda suffers from lack of stability. The front end gets a little twitchy and can be difficult to ride fast when track conditions get worse. The suspension has a lot of comfort, but that comfort needs to come from the frame more, in order to be a shootout winner. Riders did like the on-the-fly handlebar mounted map switch and its three modes. Each mode has a completely unique feel to it unlike other machines where switching maps didn’t make a “huge” difference.

Sixth place: Suzuki RM-Z450

The Suzuki RM-Z450 is the best looking bike out of the bunch. However, looks alone couldn’t get the Suzuki up the charts in 2019, but the zook has improved slightly since last year. The BFRC shock still unloads (kicks) off throttle, which causes the rider to have a lot of pitching coming into corners. Most riders didn’t mind the engine’s delivery, but just wanted more from the powerplant (especially on deep tilled tracks). The white coupler was almost unanimously used by all riders which helps “wake up” the bottom to mid range, but the Suzuki still signs off too quickly up top. The cornering of the RM-Z450 is still great, but other machines are as good, if not better than the Suzuki for 2019. This bike would be great for a rider who wants to spend less money and still have a good bike to go race/ride on the weekends. Small modifications can really help the Suzuki become a better machine. In fact, we will be doing a project 2019 RM-Z450 this year, so stay tuned!

The Suzuki RM-Z450 is the best looking bike out of the bunch. However, looks alone couldn’t get the Suzuki up the charts in 2019, but the zook has improved slightly since last year. The BFRC shock still unloads (kicks) off throttle, which causes the rider to have a lot of pitching coming into corners. Most riders didn’t mind the engine’s delivery, but just wanted more from the powerplant (especially on deep tilled tracks). The white coupler was almost unanimously used by all riders which helps “wake up” the bottom to mid range, but the Suzuki still signs off too quickly up top. The cornering of the RM-Z450 is still great, but other machines are as good, if not better than the Suzuki for 2019. This bike would be great for a rider who wants to spend less money and still have a good bike to go race/ride on the weekends. Small modifications can really help the Suzuki become a better machine. In fact, we will be doing a project 2019 RM-Z450 this year, so stay tuned!


If you have any questions about the shootout please feel free to email me at kris @keeferinctesting.com. As usual we have an open door policy over here and love to bullshit about dirt bikes. If you see me at the track, come over and say hey!






2019 Honda CRF450L First Impression

 


Story Written By Michael Allen

For years now most people in the motorcycling world, including myself have been asking the same question; why have no Japanese manufacturers fed the starving masses what they’re hungry for, a real dual sport machine? Well comes to find out at the end of this long wait these reasons ended being the reason the 2019 CRF450L is so damn good. It all starts with culture… European and Japanese manufacturers have very different philosophies on business and how motorcycles are to be made. When the market took a downturn in 2008, KTM saw a chance to jump on a dual sport market that was lacking and they did a great job providing the public with great dirt bikes with license plates. The Japanese are much more conservative in business and in turn somewhat let the dual sport market be ruled by the Euros for the next 10 years. Fast forward to late 2018 and we have come to find out that for the last few years Honda has been developing an entirely new model (along with 6 others). You see, Honda didn’t want to just take an old carbureted 450X and add a license plate because that would just be a dirt bike instead of a true dual sport. That being said Honda did use the all new 450X as a platform for the 450L, but also added a lot of things that make the new model work well on AND off road.


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Honda released  seven new models this June and the two that are closely related are the 450X and the 450L. While they are both roughly based off the CRF450R and CRF450RX there are many differences. The basic engine configuration is the same, but the internals are very different. In the 450L engine, the compression ratio has been decreased to 12:1, valve timing is specific to the L, the crank inertia is 12% greater than the 450R, which acts like a flywheel weight and helps with tractability on the trail. There is a new piston with three rings, a new six speed transmission, lighter clutch pull, larger radiators, an electric fan, dedicated ECU settings and a DOT specific exhaust system. With these different internals the engine gained 5.1 pounds over the CRF450R. On the chassis and suspension side, the “L” also shares a lot of slightly modified “R” parts. The frame although based off of the “R” is slightly wider between the foot pegs, the head tube has slightly more rake and the sub frame on the L extends almost all the way to the end of the rear fender to help support the weight of the tail light and license plate. The shock and 49mm forks are the same ones that come on the 450R, but have internal changes in valving, spring rate, and have fork lugs with slightly more off-set. The front brake on the L has a larger reservoir and a thicker disk to meet DOT requirements. In the drivetrain Honda did some cool things to help keep road noise down. The chain is fully sealed, on the rear sprocket there is a rubber ring around the outer edge that the chain rides on and slightly compresses. What this does is eliminate lashing noise on the rear sprocket. In addition to the rear sprocket is a chain guard that fully covers the front sprocket and keeps the noise isolated.

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Also to keep things isolated, the swing arm is filled with polyurethane to keep vibration to a minimum (this also gives the rear suspension a bit more of a dead feeling when on the trails). The engine side cases on both sides have plastic covers that are isolated by foam and help greatly reduce engine noise and vibration as well as having a substantial factory plastic skid plate. The titanium fuel tank holds two gallons and the digital readout will give the rider live MPG as well as tell you how much fuel has been used (the bike averaged about 47 MPG). The L comes with very street-ish IRC dual sport tires (although for this event the bikes had Dunlop 606’s) wrapped on black DID rims. One area where I think Honda really took the dual sport game to the next level is the license plate, turn signals, and lights. The License plate bracket is mounted directly to the sub frame and is spaced far enough back that even after 102 miles of hard riding (including jumps with hard landings) the tire never touched it and it never bent. Everyone knows that dual sport turn signals are always a weak point, so Honda went back to the drawing board and created all new LED signals that can be bent in any direction without breaking, getting permanently damaged and just flex back to their original position. All the lights on the new 450L are LED and plenty bright with switches on the bars that are somewhat compact and simple to use. Finishing off the dual sport amenities are the mirrors, which in my opinion are just typical motorcycle mirrors that are fixed in their position. When leaning forward while riding I noticed the mirrors tended to hit me in the chest, breaking the jam nut loose and swiveled around on their own. Something I think this bike (as well as all off road bikes) could benefit from are factory handguards. This is a big pet peeve of mine because no one likes having their hands slapped by branches or being frozen by the cold weather.  

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Now that all the technical info and new features are out of the way here’s how it does on and off-road: Before I fully get into it, I want to squash one thing right off the bat. I’ve seen a lot of comments on social media during the launch and it drives me nuts. People commenting everything from “man that’s just a 250L with a bigger engine,” to “looks like a piece of shit street bike,” and my favorite “all the reviews say it’s terrible” even though all reviews are embargoed until 9/17. So the first thing I want to say is that everyone needs to chill down, give this bike a chance and don’t hate on it before the reviews are even out, or better yet try and get a chance to ride one for yourself if you don’t take our word for it. Our ride started early in the morning in the Pacific Northwest with some wet asphalt roads that led onto some dirt. The first thing I noticed about the 450L was how quiet the exhaust was. Yes it sounds very muffled  because there is a catalytic converter in the muffler. One thing we were told about the 450L is that Honda met every law and then some when it came to DOT regulations. The ECU cannot be modified and if the muffler is changed the bike will run too lean (it’s already pretty lean in stock form to meet regulations). With all that being said I’m sure someone in the aftermarket game will figure out a way to open this bike up to its true potential (albeit illegal). Another downside to the stock muffler is that since it has a cat (not meow) inside it, it has a tendency to get VERY hot. When I say very hot I mean glove and gear melting hot (don’t ask me how I know this). All the actions that Honda took to make the bike a pleasure to ride on the street really paid off. I’ve ridden other dual sports that vibrate your brains out while riding down the highway, but the 450L feels much more street like.

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Once we got onto the first dirt/gravel road it was clear that the ergonomics were purely derived from the L’s dirt heritage. The Dunlop 606’s are about as good as you’re going to get when it comes to a good dirt/street mix tire, but it was still clear that there weren’t true knobby tires mounted up. The tires seem to grip for a good bit of the initial lean, but once they broke loose then started to slide it seemed like traction was nowhere to be found and the bike just kept drifting. Exiting corners the roll on power was very strong and seemed to build somewhat like a diesel. Off the bottom the power is very smooth and linear and I feel like once the extra mass of the crank and clutch get moving the power gets exciting but not in a violent way. When the mass gets spinning the engine really starts to pull with an amazing connection to the ground. There is little to no wheel spin, the power just gets put to the ground and accelerates instead of breaking loose and spinning the rear tire. However, there isn’t much point in revving the L out because all you’ll be doing is making noise (this bike likes to be short shifted). 

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The dirt roads we were on had a lot of stutter bumps (washboards) and the L seemed to give minimal feedback in the seat and was very comfortable. One area of the suspension that gave me a little grief was on small square edged bumps, the forks had a slightly sharp feeling transferred to the bars. This was remedied by opening up the fork rebound two clicks. Riding the first bit of single track trail is when I realized that Honda had created a real competitive dual sport machine; one that the Europeans should take note of. Although the 450L weighs in at 289 pounds full of fuel (22 pounds heavier than its competition), on the trail you can hardly tell that it’s a bit on the heavy side. Moving down the trail, the L changes direction easily with minimal input and I found that it steers better standing up and weighting the pegs to change direction. The only time I really felt the extra weight was on tight switchbacks where the whole bike had to change direction from left to right (or vice versa) near 180 degrees. In that type of situation the slightly top heavy feeling started to show itself. 

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On faster flowing trails the suspension is clearly much more performance based than the European bikes, which feel very spongy and springy. The 450L has a much more performance based feeling and is able to be pushed at an aggressive pace. I only bottomed the bike once throughout the whole test day, and that was when a few other testers pointed out a road gap that they assured me I could jump (they were right, I could jump it, but the landing was less than ideal). I think Honda did a great job blending comfort with performance with this bike and I’m sure most of the consumers will agree. 

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Having a six speed transmission is a great addition to the new L for a couple reasons. Having a low first gear gives you the ability to tackle slower more technical terrain, and having a tall sixth gear gives you the ability to cruise down the highway at 65mph without feeling like you’re wringing the bikes neck. Speaking of sixth gear, the L has a governor set at 91mph (I know because I found it). When you hit 91mph the Honda feels like it’s still pulling, but then feels like someone hit the kill switch and it drops about 5mph before it starts to pull again. On multiple occasions I found a false neutral between fourth and fifth gear when I was being lazy and not fully moving my toe all the way up when shifting. Another slightly annoying trait was that the bike had a tendency to flame out if I wasn’t covering the clutch in technical terrain. This was slightly remedied by turning up the idle, but still happened from time to time. When this would happen, having electric start was nice, but having a clutch cancel switch wasn’t. When the bike stalls the clutch needs to be pulled in to be re-started, which is ok, but for the switch to be engaged the lever needs to be pulled in all the way to the bars. This means you can’t just two finger the clutch and fire the bike (because the other two fingers block the lever, this just takes an extra second and is a nuisance). 

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The CRF 450L comes with a factory one year warranty and Honda also offers up to an additional five years (which seems crazy that Honda will cover any issues you have with your basically off road bike for up to 6 years). And to top it all off it has an MSRP of $10,300 which is $900 less than the KTM and Husqvarna. Another thing that some keyboard warriors have been hounding on is the maintenance schedule of oil changes, which is every 600 miles and valve checks every 1,600 miles. Some people are saying that’s too frequent, but in my opinion that’s a lot of riding without having to worry about anything (this is also much less frequent than the competition). Honda put on a hell of an event at a great location with great people, everyone at the event worked their butts off and I feel super lucky to be one of the first people to ride the next level in the dual sport world. To sum it all up I think that Honda did all they could do, “legally” to make the best street legal dirt bike that is still a pleasure to ride on the street. Is it still corked up? Yes. Does it have more potential? Yes. But it’s going to be up to the aftermarket to take this bike from being a home run to a grand slam.  If it were me personally I think there are only two things I’d do to personalize this bike for myself. I’d get an exhaust (a quiet one) to open up the engine to its full potential as well as get the mapping richened up (when this service is available). This bike falls under the category of (for the most part) don’t mess with a good thing. Honda engineers, as well as riders like Johnny Campbell have put a lot of time into making the CRF450L this good. Honda may be a little late to the dual sport party, but after seeing all the effort put into this project they clearly mean business and are here to stay. If you have any more questions about the 2019 CRF450L feel free to reach out to me at Michael@keeferinctesting.com.

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2019 Yamaha YZ450FX First Impression


(Editor’s Note: Dominic Cimino is one of Keefer Inc. Testing’s OG test guys. In fact, I recruited him over at Dirt Rider when I was there because he was such a solid dude. He can ride a bike at a high level, is trustworthy, is no BS and his testing skills are good because he can feel what is going on with a bike as well as communicate that to others. Dom is the epitome of a “motorcycle enthusiast” and this is what he had to say when he had the chance to ride the 2019 Yamaha YZ450FX).

I have learned that the East coast version of the term “offroad” can be different than what we are used to on the West. Single-track inside of thick forests with mud, water-crossings, wet roots, sand, and steep up/down-hills are some of the normal elements found on the east. As a proud desert rat originally hailing from Las Vegas, my version of offroad consisted of fast, open terrain - lots of rocks, whoops, and everything else that comes with the desert. But once out of my west coast bubble and into new territory, offroad riding can change dramatically. More specifically, with a focus on better introducing the media to a true GNCC experience, Yamaha hosted us on Randy Hawkin’s private property in South Carolina, with a 12 mile course that contained all of the elements previously mentioned. It was important for Yamaha to really put an effort toward showing why so much cross country R&D goes into their FX/X models, to make them shine in these east coast conditions. GNCC is a very strong sport that showcased impressive numbers in 2017: roughly 12,000 riders competed last year, in front of almost 70,000 fans. Which brings us to the 2019 450FX - a “true closed-course competition, cross country racer”, and this is my first impression after having a blast riding in the greenery of the south.

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For 2019, the 450FX sees a lot of important updates that has stimulated much of the motocross model success. The bike is graced with the new chassis, updated KYB suspension, the best Power Tuner in the industry, and other offroad specific traits. Yamaha focused on making a 450 tailored specifically for tight woods riding, but also versatile enough to take it onto an open stretch of desert at high speeds. To the naked eye, it looks practically identical to the motocross bike - the only real tell-tale offroad components are the 18” rear wheel, updated kickstand, and full-coverage skid plate (which has been upgraded for 2019). But once you dive a little deeper, you will see there is much more. Most notably, the motor itself has been specifically tuned for cross country racing, with the wide ratio five speed transmission and EFI mapping/ignition timing that all compliment one another. The suspension components are sprung lighter and have valving specs that are aimed at pleasing riders on tight and technical trails. A new 2.2 gallon gas tank is stowed away nicely in the new chassis, reducing the amount of times needed to refuel. This bike is an offroad “sleeper” if you will, coming off as a motocross bike aesthetically, but harnessing almost everything you need to race at the highest levels in offroad today.

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To put it lightly, this motor is an absolute monster! It has such a broad scope of power with the wide ratio transmission, that it allows you to ride the bike in many different ways. First gear is low - if you need that emergency gear to get you out of really tight sections, say no more; it can practically lug you out of the swamp. And on the complete opposite, once you hit fifth gear, forget it! Fifth gear is so fast, its like having an overdrive. The versatility of this power plant is something special, as the 450FX compliments a wide range of cross country elements, and our 12 mile test course allowed us to try most of them. On the other hand, I did notice that the engine braking character can be intense at times and I wish there was a better way to lessen it’s dramatic effect on the trail. One of the biggest stand-outs for the new year is the Power Tuner app. This standard feature lets you tune the bike anyway you want - let me try to rephrase that: you can literally customize your motor character from your cell phone, people! This is a major advancement, and after learning how to use the app on this trip and trying extreme opposite maps to really feel the differences, I was blown away with the results. Furthermore, the 2019 450FX also has an alternate map switch on the handlebar, that allows you to switch between two different maps on the fly. It comes stock with pre-programmed base settings (one aggressive, one mellow), and then as you customize your preferences in the app, those changes are reflected on top of those settings. I had two goals when testing this technology; fine tune a map specific for my personal liking, and also, load two maps that were polar opposites to one another to see how much the bike would change after you push the button. My teammate for this test, Randy, summarized it best: when we loaded the opposing maps into the bike, it was literally like have two different motorcycles at your disposal. The changes can be anything you can imagine - do you want a fire breathing 450 in map 1?  Great, its all yours.  But when you get tired in 5 minutes, do you want to tame the beast into something that feels like a 300cc trail bike? Great, push the button! It really is impressive what you can accomplish using this technology, and the app has so many other useful data traits that anyone can appreciate. Kudos to Yamaha!

A handlebar mounted map switch that let’s you go back and forth bewtween two maps while you’re riding comes standard on the 2019 YZ450FX!

A handlebar mounted map switch that let’s you go back and forth bewtween two maps while you’re riding comes standard on the 2019 YZ450FX!

When it comes to the chassis, I think it is obvious that Yamaha’s new version they introduced on the motocross bike last year has been their best in quite some time. They made substantial progress with handling characteristics and ergonomics, as the bike feels smaller and more nimble. But, I will be the first to admit - I still wish this bike could go on a diet to shed some “L-B’s.” It is a heavy motorcycle overall, and in certain sections it can feel sluggish when you need to bob & weave your way through the trees at a slower pace. Luckily, Yamaha has done a great job at centering the mass right between your legs, which greatly increased it’s agility. When riding at a faster pace, the “weight complaint” can transform into making the bike feel more stable. You can mow over some nasty sections with ease on the 450FX, which comes in handy when the going gets tough. The chassis is very forgiving overall, as the bike will not transmit unwanted force and energy into your hands or feet. The new ergonomics are my favorite, as the rider cockpit involving the seat and shroud combination is much improved. It is fun to lay it into corners with it’s narrow shrouds, and having a lower seat profile allows you to move from the front to back with ease. 

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And lastly, the infamous KYB suspension components are literally the best in the business. Having the privilege to ride and test new bikes year to year has allowed me to appreciate just how good these components are. Right out of the box the fork and shock work very well, and with minor adjustments become that much better. The 2019 450FX sees the exact same components as the motocross sibling, but with specific valving and spring rates that allows the bike to perform better for GNCC and offroad riding. The fork springs are 4.6 N/mm, compared to 5.0 on the motocross bike, and the shock spring is 56 N/mm compared to a 58. Having owned the original 2016 450FX myself, these components and new valving specs are much improved. On the older bike, the forks were way too soft causing the “stinkbug effect” under any type of braking or when charging into corners. The 2019 does not have that problem, as the bike has a much better balance that allows the front and rear to work as they should. On the forks, I actually went one click out on compression and one click in on rebound, to create a more planted and plush ride in the conditions we were in. The shock is stable and predictable, and I only found myself slowing down the rebound to help when popping over roots and logs in the trees of Hawkin’s Ranch. Overall, the suspension package is impressive and I believe that it can accompany a wide range of riders and skill levels.

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This experience riding the new Yamaha cross country race bikes in South Carolina was very cool. Not everyday are we exposed to riding a private, beautifully laid out GNCC course in epic conditions, and then catered to with Southern hospitality every step of the way. Riding 2019 bikes is one thing, but riding them in the environment in which they belong is a whole other ballgame. It allows you to truly appreciate the nuances and specific traits associated with being a true closed course competition offroad racer. And as Yamaha’s testing team continues to develop amazing bikes year after year, they do so with a focus on making them better in each respective category. You can trust that the 450FX is not a motocross bike in sheep’s clothing - this bike is specific to offroad in every way. I would like to thank Yamaha for providing us with a great experience, and also Mr. Hawkins for being one of the nicest, most hospitable guys in the sport (he can make a mean “shrimp boil” too). As always, please stay tuned to KeeferIncTesting.com for more coverage on offroad related materials coming your way soon. Thank you for reading! -Dominic Cimino








2019 Yamaha YZ250X And 250FX First Impressions



(Editor’s Note: Randy Richardson lives in South Carolina and is the two-wheel marketing manager for Michelin Motorcycle. I have grown to know Randy very well over the years and found out he is a very smart man when it comes to knowledge of dirt bikes/evaluation. I also like that he can speak about a motorcycle well enough to get the “testing meat” across while keeping a sense of humor. That kind of guy fits in nicely with Keefer Inc. Testing, so I sent him down the street to the 2019 Yamaha YZ250X, YZ250FX, and YZ450FX introduction. Here are Randy’s findings).



Randy and his 1971 Yamaha JT1 Mini Enduro he got for his fourth birthday.

Randy and his 1971 Yamaha JT1 Mini Enduro he got for his fourth birthday.

HECK YES!  That’s exactly what I replied when Kris text me asking if I’d like to represent Keefer Inc. Testing (KIT) at the 2019 Yamaha Off-Road Press Intro to be held in Greenville, SC.  I’m not sure if Kris asked me because of my exceptional test rider feedback during the 2018 model year 250F shootout last November or simply because the host hotel was only 11 miles from my home. Regardless, I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to ride the all-new 2019 Yamaha YZ450FX as well as the YZ250FX and YZ250X model bikes on 7-time AMA National Enduro Champion Randy Hawkins’ Silver Hawk Plantation, which is a 1,000 acre private facility in Union, SC.  After scheduling a couple days of vacation from my day job at Michelin, I hit up Max & JT$ at WPS for some 2019 FLY Racing gear as I knew Kris would expect me to be nothing less than “Best Dressed” while representing KIT.

2019 Yamaha YZ250FX

2019 Yamaha YZ250FX

 

2019 Yamaha YZ250X

2019 Yamaha YZ250X


Yamaha rolled out the blue carpet for us with a nice hotel reception followed by a presentation where the Yamaha bLU cRU staff shared their reasoning for flying so many journalists all the way from So Cal to So Carolina.  Not only is the AmPro Racing team, which is Yamaha Motor Corporation’s Premiere Off-road Racing Program, located nearby but as Yamaha shared in their presentation, the overwhelming majority of the 12K+ motorcyclists who compete in the Grand National Cross Country series annually also reside in the Eastern half of the US.  Simply put, Yamaha wanted to provide journalists the opportunity to evaluate their “Pure Closed Course Competition, Cross Country Racer” machinery in the exact terrain and conditions they were designed to perform in.  The presentation included some Google map images for the ride location where we would spend the next couple days as well as a popular MX / Off-Road riding area in So Cal that is often used for Off-Road press intros.  The comparative visual of Silver Hawk Plantation’s rolling hills, heavily wooded terrain, and open fields had the So Cal journalists buzzing as the only green they usually see on the afore mentioned So Cal riding area’s terra firma is discarded Monster Energy cans.



 

Randy Richardson finding his inner 21 year old on the 2019 YZ250FX.

Randy Richardson finding his inner 21 year old on the 2019 YZ250FX.

During dinner I sat with Dominic Cimino, one of KIT’s California based test riders, and a few other journalists and we discussed the innovative changes Yamaha had made to the 2019 YZ450FX machines.   Listening to the young journalists whose job it is to evaluate and compare each manufacturer’s newest bikes and changes, combined with the fact that I’d be turning 52 years old the day after the intro and that my personal collection of bikes consist of some mid-70’s vintage bikes, some 2-strokes from the mid-2000’s, and a newer Adventure Touring bike, I began to doubt abilities and my anxiety about properly representing KIT began to rise.  I sent Kris a quick text telling him that I thought maybe he’d made a mistake by asking me to be a test rider and he promptly replied with what I assume was meant to be a comforting text message…  “Chill down Randy. Trust the process!”   Come to think of it, maybe Dom was the real KIT rest rider and Kris was letting me attend as a present for my birthday later in the week.  Either way, I had a job to do and I was going to give it my best.  

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The next morning, the Yamaha bLU cRU staff drove us out to the ride location where Randy Hawkins, the AmPro Racing mechanics, 2002 West Coast 125cc SX Champion and now Yamaha Test Rider / Production Technician Travis Preston, and a fleet of 2019 Yamaha motorcycles awaited our arrival.  As the early morning fog began to lift from the surrounding valleys and hillsides, and everyone began taking photos of the pristine bikes assigned to them, I had that exact same new-bike excitement that I had when my Dad gave me a 1971 Yamaha JT-1 Mini Enduro for my 4th birthday almost 48 years to the day earlier.  Unlike my first bike, at least my feet would actually reach the ground on the 2019 Yamaha’s.

Dominic Cimino two-smoking his way around the greenery on the YZ250X.

Dominic Cimino two-smoking his way around the greenery on the YZ250X.


We spent the first day riding both the Yamaha YZ250FX and YZ250X models and as I mentioned earlier, I’m a two-stroke guy.  Having said that, I was intrigued to compare Yamaha’s X model bikes back to back on the 12 mile course that featured a mix of tight Enduro and flowing GNCC trails, rocky creek crossings, some fast open field sections, a MX track, and a few very challenging hill climbs.  Hopefully no one noticed as I, similar to recent bLU cRU convert Steve Matthes, looked like a dork reaching for a kick-starter on the YZ250FX before remembering that the bike features Electric Starting.  Once I pressed the magic button and fired up Yamaha’s revolutionary rearward slanted, liquid cooled, DOHC 4-stroke power plant, I began clicking thru the 6-speed wide ratio transmission as I headed out across the field to enter the trail where I’d spend the next half hour or so dodging trees while evaluating the overall performance of the YZ250FX. Yamaha specs indicate that the engine is based on the YZ250F and includes all the same race-winning features such as an updated cylinder head, lightweight forged, two-ring, flat-top piston; a shorter, more durable piston pin with diamond like carbon (DLC) coating; a revised piston oil jet, and advanced connecting rod, crankshaft, and counter-balancer designs all resulting in improved peak power, power delivery and overall durability. It was obvious that the YZ250FX is a very refined platform as the bilateral beam frame that’s based on the championship winning YZ250F provided stability in fast sections as well as nimble lightweight feeling handling that enabled me to dodge every single one of the trees, including the one that Racer X Online’s Jason Weigandt tried to uproot with his bike.  I thought I’d mention that just in case he forgot to include it in his article.   The fully adjustable KYB spring-type XC spec YZ Fork and KYB XC spec YZ Rear Shock feature revised valving resulting in a very balanced feel that provided a supple feeling on the exposed roots and rocks on the trail, remained high enough in the stroke to absorb the bigger hits on the whooped-out trail sections, and also resisted bottoming when jumping the bigger table tops and doubles found on the MX track.  Having a ground clearance of 12.8” (compared to 14.2” on the YZ250X), the factory installed Glide Plate protected the YZ250FX engine and lower frame rails from the larger rocks and logs encountered on the course.  Though still a 2-stroke guy at heart, I quickly appreciated the versatility of the 250cc 4-stroke engine.  I’d describe the YZ250FX engine as very rider friendly as it enabled me to ride more aggressively in a lower gear at higher RPM’s or I could simply click up a gear to allow the engine’s usable torque to provide a smooth power delivery and less fatiguing ride.  Remember, smooth is fast and I used to be FAST… before I lost the S.  

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After lunch, my 2-stroke emotions were quickly triggered as I kick started the YZ250X to life for the afternoon riding session.  I sat there for a few moments gently blipping the throttle, embracing the moment, and then I slowly closed my eyes and began revving the crisply jetted engine to the tune of Whitesnake’s 1987 hit song Is This Love.  Even though the YZ250X features a 2.1 gallon fuel tank with a reserve feature, I snapped out of it before I wasted too much fuel and I headed out for more fun riding the amazing loop Yamaha provided us with.  The YZ250X’s liquid-cooled reed-valve-inducted engine features a revised compression ratio, exhaust port timing, revised Yamaha Power Valve System (YPVS) timing, and a model specific CDI unit that are all focused on creating a wide, controllable power character that’s ideal for cross-country racing.  The stock gearing of the 5-speed wide ratio transmission provides a broad range and the clutch’s reduced lever pull allowed me to quickly bring the RPM’s up to the desirable range.  I was definitely enjoying the throaty bark of the YZ250X more than Weege enjoyed the bark of that oak tree.  Similar to the YZ250FX model, the suspension performed well in all the terrain I mentioned before.  Though the wheelbase of the YZ250X is nearly an inch longer than the YZ250FX (58.5” vs 57.7”) and the rake is more relaxed (27.7deg vs 26.3 deg), the YZ250X weighs 20lbs less (229lbs vs 249lbs) resulting the bikes being similarly agile in the tighter sections of the woods.  While the YZ250FX and its 4-stroke engine breaking seemed to turn into corners more naturally, the lighter weight feeling YZ250X could easily be maneuvered where ever I wanted it to go and I enjoyed the handling characteristics of both bikes.  Standing at, or more like limping around at 5’ 10”, and just 12 lbs above my target weight of 170 lbs, the ergonomics of both bikes fit me perfectly.  The rider triangle (that’s test rider lingo) felt comfortable at all times and thanks to the seamlessly smooth seat and bodywork juncture, the only thing that made the transition from standing to sitting and back up again challenging on either bike was my torn ACL’s in my old knees.

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In addition to their Yamaha Team Blue color and updated graphics, both the 2019 YZ250FX and YZ250X models feature a side stand, a sealed o-ring chain, an off-road centric 18” rear wheel, Dunlop AT-81 tire shod blue rims, and a 30 Day Limited Factory Warranty.  Given that there’ll always be the 2-stroke vs 4-stroke debate, it’s obvious that Yamaha is dedicated to providing high performance based options for both sides of the ongoing argument and with a MSRP of $7,999 for the 2019 Yamaha YZ250FX and $7,499 for the 2019 Yamaha YZ250X, I think any consumer would be greatly pleased purchasing either model.  As for me, I really wish I had an extra $15,498 lying around as I’d love to have them both!  But then again, you know the old saying “You can’t ride two bikes at once”.   Well, with the innovation of the Power Tuner Smartphone App found on the 2019 Yamaha YZ450FX, I’m not so sure that statement holds true any longer as I spent time on day two of the intro on the significantly redesigned flagship model of Yamaha’s cross-country range.  I was amazed at how quickly the YZ450FX could be switched from a fire-breathing 450cc beast in the open fields to a super mellow rider friendly power delivery for the tight woods and back by simply pressing the handlebar mounted ignition mapping switch for a mere 0.2 seconds.  Even though I didn’t get a chance to ride the TP Pookie map, Yamaha’s innovation is truly like having two bikes in one so make sure to read Dominic’s complete review of the 2019 YZ450FX. 

 

Well, that’s a summary of my experience with the 2019 YZ250X and YZ250FX and as Keefer Inc Testing’s Senior East Coast Test Rider at the 2019 Yamaha Off-Road Press Intro.  Thanks again Kris and Yamaha Motor Corporation USA for this amazing life experience!

2019 Honda CRF450R Optional Suspension/Chassis Settings

 

If there is one bike that is sensitive to setting changes it is the Honda CRF450R. The 2019 version does have slightly more comfort in the chassis and have a little wider window (for setting changes) to work with than the 2017-2018 CRF450R. However, there is a couple very small things that can drastically improve the handling of your 2019 CRF450R (that will not cost you an arm and a leg). Try some of the following settings if you need a good baseline to start from on your 2019 CRF450R and CRF450RRWE. 

 

 

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*Rear Wheel Placement (Chain Adjustment)*:

Before we get into optional suspension settings I wanted to talk about rear wheel placement/adjustment. In stock form the rear wheel adjustment comes pushed in too far forward on the CRF450R. It may not look/sound like much, but I quickly found out that a few millimeters drastically improved the Honda’s chassis character. The Honda is already a quick turning machine, so if you're experiencing some stability or deflection problems in your front end try running your wheel farther back. You will have to get a new chain and cut it to the desired length, but try placing your wheel towards the last two-three markings on your chain adjuster blocks. By doing this, it allows you to keep your fork height at 5mm and prevents some harsh/deflection feeling in your fork. Most riders will drop their fork height flush or to 2.5mm when experiencing oversteer or stability problems, but that just hurts the Honda’s “turn in” ability and doesn't get you that much added straight line stability. Dropping the fork can make the Honda cornering seem somewhat heavy. Running your rear wheel farther back helps traction, increases stability and actually helps fork comfort on de-cel. When I come off of other bikes and get back on the Honda CRF450R it almost feels like the front wheel is tucked too far underneath me. I get some oversteer through corners and front wheel traction is inconsistent at times. Running the rear wheel back gives the Honda CRF450R increased cornering stability and helps some harsh feel I get from the forks on de-cel (braking bumps). Something as small as moving your rear wheel back on the red machine helps “planted feel” tremendously. The suspension settings below are settings that were made with the rear wheel placed farther back (than stock). 

 

Food for thought….There is a reason why KTM gave the customer more room to run the rear wheel back on their SX-F’s in 2019.    

 

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Suspension Settings (170-195 pounds): 

 

Fork:

Spring Rate: 0.50 

Compression: 9-10 clicks out

Rebound: 11 clicks out

Fork Height: 4-5mm (With rear wheel placement modification)

 

Shock:

Spring Rate: 5.6 

Race Sag: 107mm

Hi Speed Compression: 3-3 1/4 turns out 

Low-Speed Compression: 9 clicks out

Rebound: 6 clicks out

 

 

Suspension Settings (195 Pounds And Up): 

Fork:

Spring Rate: 0.51 

Compression: 12 clicks out

Rebound: 10 clicks out

Fork Height: 4-5mm (with rear wheel placement modification)

 

Shock:

Spring Rate: 5.8 

Race Sag: 108mm

Hi Speed Compression: 3-3 1/2 turns out

Low Speed Compression: 12-13 clicks out

Rebound: 10-11 clicks out

 

 

Chassis Notes: With the frame, swingarm, and linkage changes Honda made to the CRF450R in 2019 you don’t have to rip bolts out or loosen torque specs. I am currently testing engine hangers to see if it hurts or helps this new generation chassis, so stay tuned for that update in a future Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast.

 

Clutch: The clutch is still weak in the Honda so removing the judder spring and adding a clutch fiber can help the life of your plates by 6-8 engine hours. Just know that adding a clutch fiber will make the clutch pull slightly harder to pull in! 

 

 

50 hours on the 2018 Kawasaki KX250F on California’s best tracks 

SoCal Speedster

 

 

Riding and racing the 2018 Kawasaki KX250F throughout the year has been absolutely great. There’s a lot to be said about riding just one bike all year, but the best part has to be knowing that the handling is so predictable. As we all know, predictability of what the bike reacts too is extremely important when it comes to your confidence. With that, the Kawasaki is definitely one of the most confidence-inspiring machines they I’ve ridden in recent years. 

 

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Spending hours and hours on the same bike is the way to feel comfortable. After the first few initial rides, I became very familiar with the KX250F’s planted mannerisms and smooth power. There’s really not a lot I did to make the Kawasaki competitive. Right off the bat, I set the sag to 100mm and ran at four turns in on the forks compression. After a rough practice day on a fast Glen Helen raceway course, I tightened up the headset to help with the high speed stability of the front end. 

 

I own a pretty nice 450 thumper that sat in my garage all year thanks to the KX250F’s fun and agile nature. Even on hilly tracks, I opted for the 250F over my personal bike. At my age I ride just for the fun of it, so every time I open up my garage and looked at the bikes I had available to ride I would load up the Kawasaki in the pickup truck and head out. Whether it would be Glen Helen or LACR for a weekend race, the Kawasaki was my choice.

 

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The only maintenance I completed throughout the year was to change the oil every three hours and put in a new air filter every ride. The thing I noticed about the 250F was that you don’t wear out tires as fast, and the chains don’t stretch as much for sure. Everything about the KX-F is super easy to work on; changing the air filter and oil is quick and simple. The motor is just as strong and powerful after putting 40 hours on it. At one point, I got to do a little comparison with the 2019 Yamaha YZ250F. Thinking maybe the KX-F had gotten a little worn out in the power department, I put it to the test against the new Yamaha. After spinning a couple laps on the fresh YZ-F, the Kawasaki felt like the time on the motor was nothing. It was really nice to see a bike run so fresh after 40 hours! I was not happy having to return the Kawasaki as I liked it so much I wanted to buy it for myself. Based on what I’ve seen from this bike, I already can’t wait to ride the new 2019 Kawasaki KX250F!

 

Tod Sciacqua

Vet Exp

150 lb

50 years old. 

Started testing mini bikes when I was 13 years old and never stopped!

2019 KTM 450 SX-F Review

 

We got our hands on the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F recently and wanted to divulge some quality testing information to all of you interested orange brigade riders out there.... 

 

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Engine: The new 2019 KTM 450 SX-F engine isn’t any different than the 2018.5 machine besides mapping. I do feel with the updated mapping you’re getting a little more mid-range pulling power and a slightly added RPM response (at mid-range rpm) increase over the 2018.5 model. The 2019 is still silky smooth and has a very linear power, which doesn’t wear the rider out easily like some other 2019 450cc models can. The map switch is a great tool for riders that want a more smoother roll on delivery (map 1) or want a more frisky and peppy bottom end hit (map 2). I prefer map 1 in 2019 as it’s still linear enough on hard pack portions of the track, but has a cleaner hit down low to get me out of soft pockets of the track better than map 2. 

 

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FI Setting: I do feel KTM missed the mark when it comes to the ignition/fuel mapping. The 2019 KTM 450 SX-F feels a little rich/dirty down low and a little lean on top end (de-cel popping). If KTM can get their mapping figured out, the already great engine character would be even better. I am going to go test some other maps and see if it helps with a cleaner power delivery. I know going to a Vortex ignition, that is mapped by Jamie Ellis of Twisted Development is a thing of beauty on this machine. Just FYI….

 

Chassis: This is where most of the changes (from the 2018) are felt on the track. The 2018 450 SX-F flexes a little too much at times off throttle (de-cel bumps) especially when the track is tilled deep or very loamy. I noticed this more when I went back east to go race than I did on the west coast. The 2019 KTM 450 SX-F is stiffer, but not harsher on choppy de-cel. This is important! Stiffer doesn’t always mean harsher! This creates a more precise feel coming into corners and also a better planted front end (yes, even with the AER fork). Did I mention it was light feeling? The 2019 KTM 450 SX-F feels like its five pounds lighter than the 2018. It’s only one pound lighter, but it feels much more lighter on direction changes. I am able to feel this on tip in leading into corners or on longer ruts. For example, a Yamaha YZ450F feels planted coming into corners, but also takes some effort to be able to lean it over (and keep it there) on longer ruts. The KTM just needs your body positioning to think about leaning over and it does it ASAP. It’s like the orange brigade is reading your mind coming into or through corners! Straight line stability is as good as the 2018 standard model, but everything is better on the 2019 model once off-throttle, which I prefer.

 

Suspension: I told this to Dave O’Connor at KTM. “If this bike came with a spring fork, every shootout would be yours”! You all know I am not an air fork kind of guy, but the WP AER stuff is pretty damn good (for an air fork). Does it have the front end bite of a spring fork? No, it doesn’t. Does the AER fork have mid-stroke comfort? Yes, it does. Now don’t get me wrong, the Yamaha KYB SSS fork is still better, but the AER fork isn’t atrocious like the Showa SFF-TAC Air fork was. Where the AER fork suffers is the consistency over a long day of riding. When I am riding the track at 3PM and have been there all day, the AER fork doesn’t react the same as it did at 1:30PM. It’s not as drastic as it used to be, but I still want a little more consistency in my front end. I am however getting used to how much front end feel I have with the AER and trust it more than I ever have. It gives me decent front end grip on lean in, but I would like a little more grip on flat corners where this is nothing to bank off of. Like I said, mid-stroke comfort is good on straight-line and the KTM 450 SX-F reacts well on braking bumps. The WP AER fork does have a little harsh spot on the top of its stroke when accelerating, but that is only when I went to a stiffer air setting (10.7 bars versus 10.5 bars). I would like to see a little less deflection than the KTM front end has (on acceleration). The shock is quite good on the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F and as usual has a dead feel to it. This is a great feeling on the track! Tons of rear wheel traction and less side to side movement is felt on the 2019, which gives me a feeling that I can twist the throttle harder and sooner out of corners. 

 

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Ergonomics: The 2018 KTM 450 SX-F had a bend in the shrouds that annoyed my legs when I cornered. People complain about the Yamaha YZ450F being fat in the middle, but the 2018 KTM 450 SX-F was as fat in the shroud area (with that bend in it). The 2019 KTM doesn’t have that fat feeling or that bend any more in the shrouds! Hallelujah! The 2019 bike is very narrow feeling in the mid section and you are now able to ride up on the tank even better with the lower mounted radiators. The rider triangle (peg/seat/handlebars) is both short and tall rider friendly, but KTM needs to cut their bar width to a 803mm spec. The longer spec of the Neken bar gives me a wide feeling when I am cornering and makes me feel uneasy. I cut last year’s handlebars down to 803mm and it gave me an even better feeling coming into corners without my arms resting out too wide. You would think 7-10mm isn’t that big of a deal, but once you cut them and see, you will thank me for your new found confidence in corners. I am not a huge fan of the looks of the new seat cover, but it is much friendlier to the butt on longer rides. 

 

Things To Check/Carry On A Consistent Basis: I have put many hours on the 2018.5 Factory Edissssssh and know a few things that you want to check/carry more often than not. Check your spokes after break in, check your sprocket bolts every other moto or so (and blue or red Loctite them), carry a couple fuel filters in your toolbox and make sure to have an array of torx bits in that toolbox. You're welcome! 

 

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Black Throttle Cam: The stock “gray” throttle cam to me uses a long pull (twist to full throttle). I almost have to double chicken wing it to get there at times. In order to combat that and get some more bottom end feeling, install the black throttle cam that KTM offers you. Doing this will make the KTM 450 SX-F feel more exciting out of corners and hit slightly harder/sooner. I stayed on map 1 when using the black throttle cam. 

 

Pankl Transmission: Under load the new 2019 transmission is much easier to shift. Not to say that the transmission on the 2018 is bad, but the buttery smooth shifting is somewhat reminiscent of some factory transmissions that I have spent some time on, in the past. Another thing that I noticed that the 2019 does better than the 2018 is that I am able to find neutral much easier (when at a stop), before I put the machine on the stand. However, while riding I have yet to hit a false neutral! Knock on wood! 

 

Adapting To A KTM: If you're thinking about making the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F your next bike, but are nervous about that European feel, don't stress on it. The newer KTM’s feel less foreign then they did just a few short years ago. I am able to adapt to the orange machines after coming off of Japanese machines easier than ever. 

 

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Specs: Here are some baseline settings to start with on the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F:

 

Fork:

 

Air Pressure: 10.5-10.7 bars (depending on weight, I am 170 pounds and I like 10.7 bars to keep the front end up a little more de-cel)

Compression: If going with 10.7 bars try softening the compression up a 2-4 clicks to aid in mid-stroke comfort. If going with a stock air pressure reading go up 1-3 clicks on compression. 

Rebound: Standard

 

Shock: 

 

Sag: 105mm

Low Speed Compression: 2-3 clicks stiffer

High Speed Compression: Heavier riders (180 and up) might want to try and go with a 1/4 turn in (stiffer) on high speed compression. If you’re less than 180 pounds you can stick with stock to 1/8 turn in.

Rebound: Loamy/deep tracks go with 1-2 clicks slower. Hard pack tracks, stick with stock to 2 clicks faster.