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 was performed, that 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. 

 

 

 

2019 KTM 450 XC-F Review

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Take a look at any major off-road racing series right now and you will see that the majority of them will have at least one KTM up front. This is no coincidence because KTM has been working diligently to prove themselves as the premier brand that sells bikes “Ready To Race” over the last several years. The KTM 450 XC-F seems to be a popular pick when it comes to winning races and even for that weekend warrior type of rider. Being an off-road guy I was excited to finally get off of the moto track and on to the trails. Although some of the parts have stayed the same on the 450XC-F, a lot has changed for the 2019 model, including the engine, which has been put on a diet and now only weighs 59.5 pounds. Also in the engine department is a new SOHC cylinder head, new cam with updated cam timing and a new cam chain guide with DLC coating for less friction. The on-the-fly map selections have been updated, along with the ever so important traction control that you can actually feel on the trail. The chassis dimensions have stayed the same for 2019, but the chassis is now made of a high tech, lightweight, chrome-moly steel, including hydro-formed parts to help improve chassis stiffness. Included with the new frame material are brackets that are pre-welded on the frame for mounting a KTM Power Parts skid plate (more on that later). The sub-frame has been extended under the fender by 40mm to help with rear body work strength. The seat and bodywork also have been changed for 2019 giving the bike a slimmer look and feel. The swingarm slot has been made slightly longer to give more adjustability to the rider if they want a longer wheelbase for certain tracks. The headpipe on the 2019 450 XC-F now has an FDH resonator system for improved performance along with a new muffler that has a screen inset. The suspension settings have been updated for 2019 and the bike is still fitted with the AER 48mm fork. 

 

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Now that you know about the changes to the 2019 KTM 450 XC-F here’s how all that correlated when I hit the dirt: For starters the trail conditions in Southern California have been less than ideal lately between the dust and heat, but I’m always up for some trail riding. Once running, the KTM 450 XC-F has a throaty sound to it, not raspy or loud, just a solid tone that made me excited to see what this engine was all about. Off the bottom, the roll on power is a bit deceiving to the riders and surprising. What I mean by this is that it seems a bit soft like it’s lacking bottom end torque. BUT…… After putting more time on the bike, I don’t think my original testing diagnosis was correct. Although other 450 off-road bikes may have more excitement or bark down low, this KTM seems a bit more linear/refined. The low end feel is connected to my throttle hand, which provides maximum traction to the rear wheel. This sensation makes it feel like its lacking bottom end, but in reality it’s just very smooth and linear from bottom to mid. The only time I really wanted more bottom end torque was when I was being a bit lazy, riding a gear too high and trying to lug the bike too much. The KTM never fell on its face, it just didn’t have the snap off the bottom (throttle response) that other red or blue bikes (in the same category) have. From mid to top is where this bike really seems to shine and makes me smile under my helmet. Unlike a lot of other 450 machines, this KTM doesn’t mind being revved more. After the smooth bottom end this bike comes alive and seems to make consistent pulling power all the way to the rev limiter. First gear is a bit tall for my liking, but it wasn’t the end of the world because the smooth bottom end power never made the bike bog (or have a dirty FI setting feel) when I was lugging it at low speeds. I’d also like to add how much I like the clutch feel and engagement, as there is a consistent engagement and a buttery feel that I’ve come to love with this Brembo hydraulic clutch. 

 

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 Being able to use the map selector switch on-the-fly is a nice feature because you never know when you’re going to come upon a technical section and want to soften the power delivery. Map one is the softer map and has a smoother power delivery from bottom to top. Map two is the aggressive map and takes away some of the smooth bottom, ramping the power up quickly and giving the bike more of a free revving power characteristic. One thing I did notice was that map one lights up white and map two lights up green, but when map two is lit up, it illuminates map one in green as well. Traction control on a dirt bike is still a foreign thing to this old soul, but in the slippery dry California desert it was a welcomed sight. Don’t think of it as traction control for a car where it cuts 50% of the power and 100% of the fun. Think of it as more of a little traction fairy that watches over the rear wheel and doesn’t let it spin quite as much as it would without traction control. (Editor's Note: I guess this "traction fairy" is much like your designated driver at a party where he or she lets you have a good time, doesn't suck the fun out of the room, but at the end of the night you end up getting home safe. That's how I take this, right?) Where I found it most helpful is on slick faster trails where the KTM’s rear wheel really wants to come around when you get too much wheel spin. The TC makes riding more aggressively in these situations much easier on the rider. 

 

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When it comes to the chassis it’s clear that this bike was designed for high speed racing over rough terrain. The faster I rode the better the handling characteristic’s seemed to get no matter the terrain. When I tried to slowly trail ride the bike I felt like there was a lack of front end traction and the front end had a slight push. However once I started to ride at more of a race pace and weighting the front tire more (my race pace, not Taylor Robert or Kailub Russell) the front end started tracking more consistently as well as gave me more confidence. I will admit I’m not a fan of air forks, but it’s clear that KTM has the best air fork on the market and is slowly starting to win me over. My main gripe with any air fork for that matter is just that I’m a bit lazy and I don’t want to deal with having to check my fork pressure before heading down the trail. Other than that the AER fork has a comfortable feeling on the trail especially when the speeds are higher and the bumps get bigger (this fork has superb bottoming resistance). The front end had a tendency to get some deflection in slow rockier sections, but it wasn’t so bad that it was a huge problem. This was just noticeable because I have tested other heavier, spring fork equipped off-road machines. The rear of the bike felt planted in almost all conditions and just like the front has excellent bottoming resistance. Overall the suspension has a fast feel to it, but I like that feeling as it helps make the bike feel lighter and more nimble on the trail. 

 

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Being that this bike was created to be an out of the box off-road competitor (and by all means it is) I was happy to see it came with the basic off road goodies like an 18” rear wheel, kickstand, hand guards, spark arrestor and off-road specific tires. Speaking of tires, although they are off-road specific, I’ve never been a fan of the Dunlop AT81 front or rear tire. In my opinion the front and rear tires lack side bite (lean angle) in turns (flat turns especially) when conditions are dry and slippery. You may have noticed in the beginning of this story that KTM has pre-welded on tabs for a skid plate, you may have also noticed that I didn’t mention a skid plate in the off-road goodies list that come on the 2019 KTM 450 XC-F. Maybe I sound like an old man, but for god sakes, if it’s an off-road bike and it comes with handguards, it NEEDS to come with a skid plate too, even if it’s just a glide plate. After logging mile after mile on the orange off-roader it’s clear that KTM is still one of the leaders in the off-road competition bike category. One of the cool parts about KTM is that they make a bike for everyone and if this bike sounds too aggressive for you because you’re either a slower racer, or mainly a trail rider, take a look at KTM’s EXC line (hopefully we will get our hands on that line soon). However, if you’re an avid off-road lover like me or are an aggressive trail rider, the 2019 450 XC-F should be at or near the top of your list of bikes to buy. If you have any more questions about the 2019 KTM 450 XC-F or any other burning questions, feel free to reach out to me at Michael@keeferinctesting.com.

2019 Honda CRF450RWE First Impression

 

Editors Note: I wanted a test rider that rides/races Hondas a lot, but not a Honda rider who gets help or paid from Honda, but a real world, blue collar, racer type of guy to see if the Works Edition is really that much of a benefit for the money. I have known Colton Aeck for a while and he has always come across to me as a young kid with his “shit together” so to speak. As someone who looks for test riders, this is a rare thing. Almost Unicorn like! He’s articulate, he's polite, he calls it how he sees it and can translate that into actual words on a computer screen. While I was in Colorado on a family vacation, I tasked Colton with the job of comparing the “WE” to the standard edition a little, so you consumers can read if the juice is worth the squeeze.  

 

The 2019 Honda CRF450RWE… What is it and is it worth the extra $2,200 on the price tag?

 

 2019 Honda CRF450RWE

2019 Honda CRF450RWE

 

For 2019 Honda released their first ever WE or “Works Edition” motorcycle. At first glance the 2019 CRF450RWE looks a lot like Ken Roczen’s factory race bike. The “WE” utilizes the 2019 CRF450R as a base, but features a handful of upgrades like the Ken Roczen replica graphic kit, a hand ported cylinder head with an engraved “CRF450R Works Edition” stamp, Yoshimura slip on exhaust and more aggressive ECU settings. Other upgrades include: Kashima and titanium nitride coated forks, “super finished” and titanium nitrate coated shock shaft, valving settings, DID LT-X rims, RK gold chain, black triple clamps and a Throttle Jockey gripper seat cover. 

 

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So does all the extra bling and goodies translate into improved performance on the track? In short, Yes it does for me, but let me dive a little deeper, starting with the engine.

 

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The combination of the head porting, Yoshimura slip on mufflers and the new ECU settings really liven up the engine on the CRF450RWE. RPM response is improved through the mid/top end and the engine has an overall “free” or quick revving feeling throughout the rpm range. It really does feel like a race engine and I would know because I have a race engine in my own personal 2018 Honda CRF450R. The biggest power increase is through the mid to top end and the rev cut off limit (over-rev) feels like it’s a couple hundred RPM’s higher than the standard “R”. I didn’t have to shift the “WE” quite as early as the the standard model coming out of corners. Although I will say the "R" has much better pulling power than the 2018 model. 

 

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The chassis is virtually the same between the WE and the standard model, except for the DID LT-X rims. But don’t discount that small change, because I think it has a noticeable effect on the handling of the WE. There is more of a solid feel when landing hard off of jumps compared to the standard “R” rims and for my aggressive riding style, that suits me better, so I can really appreciate that small of a change. Some of you may not even notice this on the track. but I am picky when it comes to rims and their strength. 

To be completely honest, I didn’t expect to feel the difference in the suspension coatings and valving on the “WE”. Once you’re on the track the difference is clear, the initial part of the fork’s stroke has a plush yet firmer feel and the bike as a whole seems to settle better into corners. I feel like there is some added hold up (fork) on de-cel and the balance of the bike is better to me once off the throttle. I get slightly less pitching (or diving sensation) when chopping the throttle hard into some braking bumps. Again, the “R” is a little soft for my aggressive riding style, but still has a lot of comfort. The “WE” may have slightly less comfort in the mid-stroke, but it what it lacks in comfort it makes up for in performance when I decide to lay some hot laps down. Between the more powerful and responsive mid to top end, the suspension coatings and the stronger DID rims, the “WE” feels a little more flickable feeling on the track. I notice this mostly in the air and leaning into corners.

 

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So the big question..Is the 2019 Honda CRF450RWE worth the extra $2,200?

Well, If you have a few extra bucks to spend and you want to have a more unique bike, that is also really cool then YES! If you plan on doing some modifications to your existing “R” you would easily spend more than $2,200 to do all these upgrades yourself right? If you have the extra money, want something unique and actually get some real world on track benefits then having a “Works Edition” is pretty damn cool. -Colton Aeck 

If you want more information and want to hear what the boss man has to say about both Honda machines you can click on the "Podcast" tab right here on keeferinctesting.com and listen to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast. 

2019 Honda CRF450R First Impression

 

As the 2019 bike roll-outs continue, we ventured back to Chaney Ranch to swing our leg over the 2019 Honda CRF450R and all new CRF450RWE (Works Edition).  From prior experience, the Chaney Ranch facility proved to not be the best testing grounds to form great opinions/settings on new bikes, but rather a place that would allow us to get comfortable on a bike and become more excited to take it elsewhere.  So my first impression of the 450R is just that - a way for me to communicate my initial thoughts based on one day of riding (and trust me when I say I can’t wait to ride this bike again).  

 

 2019 Honda CRF450R 

2019 Honda CRF450R 

 

First and foremost, let me start by stating that I was not a fan of either the 2017 or 2018 Honda 450R.  I’m a relatively small dude - 5’7”, 145lbs, so harnessing the prowess of a big bore can be daunting at times.  I personally felt that the 17’ & 18’ 450’s where very rigid, and I struggled to find settings that would make me comfortable in stock trim on rougher tracks.  Mostly, I felt these bikes were quick to react and deflect off of any small bumps/chop on track, making it hard for me to hold onto (skinny guy problems). Honda brought out an 18’ for us to ride and I was able to confirm these opinions before riding the new bikes. Without a doubt, within minutes I could feel the difference of the updates that Honda made for 2019. The CRF450R’s Next-Gen twin spar aluminum frame positions the rear shock’s mounting point lower, opening up the airbox area and contributing to a lower center of gravity. Honda also took some rigidity out of the sub-frame to help with rear wheel traction and comfort. The new swingarm design is lighter and provides appropriate rigidity communication to the rest of the bike, resulting in a much more compliant feel. The bike feels more stable, more predictable, and way more confident when riding at speed. It allows you to ride the bike more aggressively and with more confidence in rough conditions.  Keep in mind, the overall frame geometry is exactly the same as the prior years, so the 19’ definitely will not feel foreign to someone who has become familiar with the last few generations.  Further enhancements to the chassis for the new model year include revised suspension settings, which further improve the overall feel and performance of the 450R.  They are somewhere in the mix between the 17’ (which was soft) and the 18’ (which was stiffer). I made very minute adjustments to improve comfort, which included a sag setting around the 109-110mm mark, and softening the forks and low speed compression on the shock. These small adjustments transmitted into noticeable differences and I started liking the bike even more as the day progressed.  Finally, I was smiling while riding red again!

 

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Moving into the power plant, 2019 sees a revised cylinder head with a focus on the exhaust port and a new header pipe.  The header pipe diameter has been increased as well as overall length to the muffler, all resulting in more power across the rpm range.  Honda also updated the selectable EFI map selections (standard-1/smooth-2/aggressive-3) for better use of power delivery in specific conditions, as well as selectable HRC launch control modes.  I did not really dive into the launch control modes on the 450R, but have been told that they help offer a great advantage for riders looking to rip that #absoluteholeshot. My impressions of this 2019 motor were great, as I felt the power delivery was very linear (something that I like). It was not as barky/aggressive on the low-end as previous generations have been, so I did enjoy “Map 3” the most, which woke the bike up a bit, allowing it to regain some snap and playfulness without losing the linear power curve. Over-rev seemed plenty sufficient as well, as the bike did pull well in high rpms, but the only thing that really didn’t stand out was the mid-range. I felt the “meat in the middle” was a little lack-luster, making me want to twist the throttle more to keep the bike alive. All in all, the motor and chassis combination seemed to work well with one another.

 

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To round out some other important improvements to this year’s 450R, the bike now sees a Renthal Fatbar attached to a new top triple clamp (offers 4 different handlebar mount positions), updated front brake caliper, and last but not least… BLACK WHEELS!  Yes… this is very important, because holy hell the bike looks so damn sexy with them! And speaking of holy hell and sexy, how about the all new 450R Works Edition?! The bike is drool worthy and I swear to you, it will cause a double-take to anyone at first glance who might confuse it with a factory race bike. I spent some time on this bike as well during the intro, but it was not my focus - my partner, Colton Aeck, will provide you with the details in his own impressions right here on KeeferIncTesting.com. I will say this - the Works Edition is one bad machine, and I applaud Honda for actually making it a better package for the money when comparing it to the orange/white competition. It is not just about aesthetics with the 450RWE, its about performance as well, and I’m hoping to ride it again in the near future to form better opinions on how much better it can be or should be, versus the standard “R” model. 

 

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I personally feel that the 2019 new bike season is shaping up to be great. Japanese manufacturers have stepped up across the board, providing machines that look, feel and perform better than they have in the last few years. Honda has proven this so far with their 450R, which is noticeably improved form the 2018. The updated chassis is the obvious stand-out here, providing a more compliant and predictable ride than the previous generations. What was also cool to experience first hand was being surrounded with professional privateers during this intro (albeit current red riders) that could attest to the changes that the new bike experienced. Everyone seemed to agree on specific traits, and what stood out when they had their turn to spin laps (and let me explain that they all agreed that they want the 2019 bikes to race on next season). As mentioned earlier, riding in the location we did for this intro was just the beginning… I am now more eager than ever to ride in different conditions to really get a true depiction of the 19’ model.  As always, please stay tuned to KeeferIncTesting.com to read/listen/learn as we continue to have some fun testing the 2019 offerings across the board. Thank you for reading! -Dominic Cimino

 

 Dominic Cimino ripping the CRF450RWE. 

Dominic Cimino ripping the CRF450RWE. 

2019 Yamaha YZ250F First Impression

 

From Super to Superb 

 

Since Yamaha unveiled the all new YZ250F five years ago, it’s been a quality machine that has a lot of positives to it. Over the last five years, Yamaha has done a lot of fine tuning to chassis, engine and suspension, which made the YZ250F even better. In terms of making changes that make the YZ250F even better, 2019 is the biggest year for changes since its inception in 2014.

 

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Before we get to how it works on the track here are all the changes for 2019, starting with the engine. Yamaha kept the reward slanting engine design (for 2019 the engine is slanted forward 1 degree from the 2018) that already has been in the loop since 2014 and made some changes to make it even better. Starting by adding electric start, Yamaha is the second Japanese manufacturer to have an e-start 250F motocross bike and as spoiled as I sound it’s a welcomed addition. The exhaust port shape was slightly modified so it transitions to the head pipe (which shape has also been changed to accommodate this) better and has increased the flow rate. Also in the head, Yamaha has increased the intake valve lift, and slightly changed the event angle of the exhaust cam.  The final changes to the new head are larger lifter buckets and slightly stiffer valve springs. Underneath the head, the piston crown has been increased which has bumped the compression from 13.5:1 to 13.8:1. 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

The Yamaha Power Tuner app, in my opinion, is one of the coolest features on this machine. You no longer need a stand-alone device to change the mapping of your fuel injected Yamaha; you can now do it from your smart phone via Yamaha’s app. All you need to do is take your side panel off (only the first time you use the app) and get the bikes serial number, then bump the starter button and connect to the Wi-Fi signal the bike puts out. Once connected you can pair the bike in the app and change mapping, record maintenance, monitor trouble codes and even log your races and track conditions. There is also a handlebar mounted map switch that allows the rider to switch maps on-the-fly. You can load a map from your Yamaha Power Tuner App, directly into your YZ250F and go back and forth between any two maps the rider desires.    

Now that all the changes and technical mumbo jumbo is out of the way let’s get to how all that correlates to on-track feeling. Starting with the engine, the 2019 YZ 250F has a more free-revving feeling than the previous model. Yamaha did a lot of work in the engine department on this bike  and tried to get added power from mid to top end and they definitely hit the mark.  When pulling down a long straight away, or trying to pull a gear a bit longer than the 2018, the 2019 will oblige and pull hard all the way to the rev limiter. This free revving feeling also results in a more playful power characteristic making the engine feel more lively because you aren’t having to short shift to stay in the meat of the power. All that being said, I feel like Yamaha traded a bit of bottom end pulling power in order to gain the top end power. The best way to describe it is the 2018 wasn’t as picky about what gear you needed to be in when exiting corners, you just maybe needed a flick of the clutch (recovery time) and the bottom end power opened up and started pulling. For 2019 you need to be a little more selective about what gear you are exiting the corner in, because if you are a gear high, it will take a bit more clutch work to get the engine into the meat of the pulling power. Although the 2019 slightly lacks bottom end power when compared to the 2018, in my opinion, it’s still ahead of the rest of the 250F field. The last thing in the engine department that needs to be mentioned is the new electric start. I like the fact that there isn't a clutch cancel switch so the starter can be activated at any time. That being said there was a slight hiccup from time to time. When the bike was in gear, it seemed to turn over just fine but struggled to fire at times. If the engine found the compression stroke with the clutch not all the way engaged the starter would stop spinning, and the button wouldn’t work when pushed for 2-3 seconds. After 2-3 seconds it would work as usual when the button was pressed; it almost seemed like an auto reset breaker would pop, then re-set itself and continue working. To combat this I would just try and make sure the bike was in neutral before starting it.  

 

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Having the map selector on the bars is definitely a plus, and gives you two separate options that can be changed on the fly. The two maps that were loaded in the bike were stock, and “hard hitting”. Using the Yamaha Power Tuner app is very user friendly and I think one of the cool features is the maintenance recorder. It’s just reassuring to always know when the last time you did things to your bike was and it’ll tell you when it’s time to maintenance certain things again. Yamaha updates their maps that their test riders work on for you to be able to download and try. You can also as well make your own or try one that a buddy has made. We are all a bit scared of electronics, but I have to admit it’s kind of nice to be able to change how the bike runs with the push of a few buttons instead of re-jetting a carburetor. It’s also pretty damn cool that your bike will tell you what’s wrong with it in the app if there is a trouble code (I’ve tried waterboarding a carburetor and never got a straight answer out of it).

 

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The chassis on the 2019 YZ250F is where Yamaha made the biggest improvements. The changes they made to combat some stability issues hit the mark and the bike is night and day better. Not that it was all over the place before, but I definitely feel that the bike tracks better in a straight line and has very little twitchiness to it. Usually when a bike gets more straight line stability it gives up a bit of cornering ability, this isn’t the case with the 2019. The previous model was hard to lean into corners and didn’t like staying leaned over, but the new bike has definitely instilled confidence in my inside rut abilities. Tipping into a corner takes less rider input and staying leaned while in the rut is much easier with the bike not feeling like it wants to stand up. I’m sure some of this comfort is also from the slimmer bodywork on the new model. The slimmer radiator shrouds are a very welcomed change and helped me keep my knees tighter to the bike and my leg tighter to the shroud when it’s up in ruts. This feeling is aided by the 18mm narrower seat at the tank, it’s also lower in the rear which I didn’t notice much, but may be more beneficial to shorter riders. 

 

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Rounding out all the positive changes made to the 2019, the suspension has taken a huge step in the right direction. After spending a lot of time on the 2018 I felt that the suspension was too divvy (or had a pitching sensation). The new YZ 250F has a much firmer feeling to the suspension, not stiffer, just firmer. Let me explain myself; when going through rougher sections, the front and rear of the bike are still soaking up the bumps well, they just don’t seem to be transferring energy to the opposite end of the bike which caused the pitching sensation. There is no longer a wallowy feeling, like the suspension is using too much of the stroke, instead it does a better job of staying up in the stroke. On harder landings the bike no longer blows through the stroke, like I said before its firmer not stiffer, it retains a plush feel without giving the rider any harshness. 

With all these changes being made to the 2019 YZ 250F it’s going interfering come shootout time. Yamaha has really stepped up their game this year and showed themselves to be at the forefront of technology with the easy to use tuner app. The 2019 is offered in traditional Yamaha blue or white/cyan and has an MSRP of $8,299. Yamaha also offers their “bLU cRU” contingency program for motocross and off-road racers. In addition to the contingency, Yamaha also has free trackside assistance at certain races for any Yamaha racers.  If you have any more questions about the 2019 Yamaha YZ250F feel free to reach out to me at Michael@keeferinctesting.com or Kris at kris@keeferinctesting.com. -Michael Allen 

 

 

 

 

 

2019 Kawasaki KX450 Optional Set Up Notes

 

I have been spending a lot of time on this 2019 Kawasaki KX450 lately and have been enjoying my days with the green machine! The Kawasaki engineers should be proud with how their production machine came out and the consumer/buyer should be as well. However, that doesn't mean I will not experiment and try other settings to see if I can improve on the this 2019 Kawasaki  KX450. I wanted to share with you some of the settings that I have came up with since the "First Impression" podcast. If you have a 2019 KX450 and want to "tinker", give these a whirl and see if it helps you out on the track! As always feel free to email me your questions, concerns or maybe how you liked these settings! Hit me up at kris@keeferinctesting.com. Enjoy!   

 

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Engine: 

Optional Keefer_1 map (Linear, More Control, Bottom End Pull With Increased Mid To Top End)

The engine on the 2019 KX450 in stock trim is exciting and makes the Kawasaki feel light. It has great RPM response, but does have a little dip from bottom to mid, so we created this map to help fill that dip in and make it pull slightly longer. You will notice a slightly more linear (more control at low RPM) pull down low without the jerky feeling through corners. With this map installed it helped settle the chassis down through long ruts. In the testing world we call this "cornering stability". With this map installed it helped the 2019 KX450's cornering stability, especially on intermediate terrain. You will need to plug the white coupler in and use the Kawasaki FI Calibration Tool to create this map. *SEE BELOW*

 

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Optional Keefer_2 Map: (To Try With After Market Muffler System To Help De-Cel Popping) 

If you plan on installing a slip on or full aftermarket muffler system on your fresh 2019 KX450, use this map below to help reduce de-cel pop and increase pulling power through mid-top end. Chances are that you might have some de-cel popping when you install an aftermarket muffler and are running the white or green coupler. Simply installing the black coupler will help this de-cel popping, but takes aways some of the Kawasaki's RPM excitement. By using this map with the black coupler you get that RPM excitement back with a small amount of mid to top end pull increase. Try it if your aftermarket muffler gives you "The De-Cel Pops"! If it is NOT popping DO NOT worry about it and continue on with your life. This is for riders that experience de-cel pop only. *SEE BELOW*

 

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Suspension: 

The 2019 KX450 can experience a little pitching on de-cel especially when the track is tilled up deep or sandy. I spent some time with the Kawasaki technicians and really worked on trying to keep the KX450 balanced (while keeping comfort) around the track. Below are two settings that I came up with that will help two different types of tracks/dirt. One is for very soft/heavy dirt and the other is geared towards more Southern California type tracks. Try these if you're experiencing any type of pitching or if you just want to experiment when you're riding. Note: "Pitching" is when the bike dives too hard towards the front end (fork is low) and makes the rear of the bike feel high when off-throttle. This causes instability coming into corners.

 

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Soft Dirt Setting: (Note: "Plus" means stiffer or slower and "Minus" means softer or faster. When trying clicker ranges go one click at a time on fork as this Showa suspension is sensitive to clicks. When stiffening low speed compression on shock "4 clicks" equals "1 turn")   

Fork: 

Spring Rate 0.51 Spring (0.50 is stock) *If B level rider and over 200 pounds 0.52 springs is also a great option*

Oil Level: Standard

Compression Range: Stock to Plus three

Rebound Range: Stock To Plus One

 

Shock:

Spring Rate: Standard

Low Speed Compression Range: Plus Eight Clicks (Equals Two Turns) 

High Speed Compression Range: Stock To Minus 1/4 Turn

Rebound Range: Stock To Plus Two

 

Southern California Dirt Setting: (Note: "Plus" means stiffer or slower and "Minus" means softer or faster. When trying clicker ranges go one click at a time on  fork as this Showa fork is sensitive to clicks. When stiffening low speed compression on shock "4 clicks" equals "1 turn")

Fork: 

Spring Rate: Stock

Oil Level: Standard

Compression Range: Plus Three To Plus Four

Rebound Range: Minus Two (Important to speed up your rebound when going stiffer on this fork. If you don't speed up rebound, when going stiffer, the fork stays too low in stroke and almost feels sticky on de-cel.)

 

Shock:

Spring Rate: Stock

Low Speed Compression Range: Plus Eight Clicks (Equals Two Turns)

High Speed Compression Range: Stock To Minus 1/4 Turn

Rebound Range: Stock To Plus Two

 

 

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2018 Yamaha YZ65 Update (Summer School Assignment)

Dustyn Davis is the son of 1990 AMA Supercross 125cc West Region Champion, 1995 and 1999 AMA National Enduro Champion, 1997, 1998 and 2002 AMA National Hare & Hound Champion Ty Davis. Dustyn is a little high desert ripper that is guided by his talented father and has been racing our 2018 Yamaha YZ65 test bike for a few months now. We wanted to give him some "Summer School" homework, so we decided to have him write something about the Yamaha at each race he has entered. Here is what Dustyn had on his homework sheet.

 

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Race Report
Cedar City, UT WORCS 5/25/2018, Milestone MX Park, CA - AME Minicross 5/26/2018 Glen Helen, CA., Transworld MX 6/3/2018 Mammoth, CA - Mx Park 6/18/2018

For all of these races the I entered in the 2019 Yamaha YZ65 ran great. The suspension was so much better after my dad put a softer rear spring on it. The YZ65 was still very fast even after racing these races after putting at least 20 hours on it. One thing that kind of bothered me about the bike is that it is a little small with stock bars. Everything else felt really good though.

 

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WORCS Cedar City, Utah
I finished 3rd at the track in Utah. It was a fast track, but it was also rough. I had a lot of fun racing on the track. I like how stable the Yamaha is when I am wide open down some of the rough roads that WORCS has us race down. 

 

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Milestone AME Minicross Riverside, Californa


Tony Alessi put on this Minicross event and it was fun. It was a lot like Supercross, but also different because it was not inside a stadium. I got a 3rd and a 1st which felt amazing. The Yamaha made all the jumps from the corners without a problem, but I found out I need to have my dad work with me on my jumping skills. I am still learning how to jump, but the YZ65 gives me confidence because I know the motor is fast. I also like the suspension because I could soak up the small chatter bumps that fired on the tight track. 

 

Transworld MX Glen Helen, California


Transworld was also a lot of fun because we race up and down the hills. There was a lot of fast kids there, but I like competition. It was a wide-open course and really rutted up which made it feel even more exciting and challenging. I like how the Yamaha can be revved out going up the hills and I even made a couple passes on other bikes that seemed to be going all out. The Yamaha had more power than theirs, which helped me make easier passes. 

 

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Mammoth MX Mammoth, California 

Mammoth was the race that we all looked forward to because it is such an awesome
event. It kind of feels like we are all on a family vacation. The first few days that I was at mammoth was for my dads race. I rode my bicycle to the track for extra training on the days that I was not racing. The air is fresh, but the altitude kind of sneaks up
on you which makes it harder to breathe. It also affected the bike so we had to change the jetting and use some better fuel so the bike would run better and have more power. The fuel we used was VP Racing C- 50. We used this fuel because it had low octane that burns better for high altitude and it is oxygenated for more horsepower. I had to get used to the fast, choppy Mammoth track. I dont race motocross much so I had to get used to the big jumps. It didn’t take very long, by the end of the day I was almost clearing all of them. In my main event I was on the starting line and I gave it too much throttle and accidently looped out. Be careful kids this Yamaha is powerful! Trying to recover from a not so great start I got up to 28th place. The next race I got a better start, but throughout the race I ended up falling over at the tree turn. We did very little maintenance on the bike, which made it easy on my dad. Thanks Yamaha! We jetted the bike because of the altitude and we used a Uni air filter which helped us get more air to the motor for the high elevation. We moved the bars up to help me have more control. Yamaha makes it easy because there are so many bar adjustments. Moving the bars up helped me alot because it gave me more room and more control for going down the steep hills. I loved the bike and if I had the chance to change some things, it would only be a few minor adjustments (like the stock bars and the small brake pedal) only to fit my own personal preferences. Overall, the bike did not need any major changes that I noticed. I would recommend it to anyone from the first time rider to the experience racer. I loved racing this race and can't wait until next year. Kris asked me if I wanted to get back on my other bike anytime soon and I replied with a "heck no"! 

 

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2019 Yamaha YZ85 Review

 

When I heard Yamaha was coming out with a new YZ85 in 2019, I wanted to task my son with the job of writing the review. As a test rider I come in contact with a lot of new bikes, parts, etc., but I really wanted my son to know that all of this doesn't come without a cost. There is work to be done once I get these machines. This isn’t a free for all and he doesn't get free bikes just to thrash/ride. I wanted to keep this test/review as is and only clean up some grammar errors for reading purposes. I wanted to make sure this article was as good for your kids to read as it is for you, the parent, that may be in the market to  purchase a new 2019 Yamaha YZ85. I want to keep our kids on dirt bikes and not on their Playstation’s playing FortNite all day. Without further adieu here is Aden. -Kris Keefer

 

 Aden Keefer and the 2019 Yamaha YZ85

Aden Keefer and the 2019 Yamaha YZ85

 

Hi everyone, my name is Aden Keefer, I am 5’0, weigh 84 pounds, have red hair and I like to ride dirt bikes. My dad has been helping me with how to feel out a motorcycle when I go ride for the past couple years, so I thought I would give writing a review a shot. I have ridden a 2018 KX85 and 2018 YZ85 in the past, so in this article I will go back and forth and compare the 2019 Yamaha YZ85 a little between the other two bikes I have ridden. Riding dirt bikes with my dad is more fun than playing Fort Nite on my Playstation (editors note; but that doesn't stop him from wanting these things called “V-Bucks” all the time for that damn game), but now I have to do some work and write about it. My dad keeps telling me nothing in life is for free and now I know what he means. I hope you enjoy my article and get to learn something about this cool new 85 by Yamaha.  

 

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Some of the highlights of the new 2019 YZ85 that caught my eye are the 85cc 2-stroke engine has a YPVS (Yamaha power valve system) that boosts low and mid range power, a 36mm KYB coil spring fork, an updated shock setting, new aluminum swingarm, new routing on the front brake hose, wave style brake rotors and dunlop MX3S tires. When my dad showed me all of this it got me excited because I like riding 85’s that have a powervalve more because it always made me ride smoother, which from what my dad tells me, makes me ride faster. I guess I will trust his judgment since he is so old, sorry dad. 

 

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Here are some of the other key details of the 2019 Yamaha YZ85 that Yamaha sent us that I need to tell you about: Yamaha makes the 2019 YZ85 better by creating adjustability for growing riders as the YZ85 comes with a 4-position adjustable bar mount, with 1-1/8 aluminum Pro-Taper style handlebars and adjustable front brake/clutch levers. Yamaha’s 85cc 2-stroke engine with YPVS (Yamaha power valve system) boosts low to mid-range power with strong high-RPM power. The mechanically controlled dual valves begin to open at 8,500 and fully open at 9,000 rpm. The valve open compression increases from 8.1:1 to 8.2:1 and the valve closed compression is 9.6:1. The connecting rod is 4mm shorter with a resin balance weight added, the crankshaft oil seal ID is reduced 8mm, there is a revised crankcase shape to optimize charge flow as the primary compression ratio is increased. On the carb side of things the Keihin PW28 carburetor has some new settings with a new high-flow spacer-style reed block and high tension reed pedals,(0.42 to 0.52mm). There are new expansion chamber dimensions, a revised CDI mapping, a new higher voltage coil, new water pump housing and exit pipe, a wider base on 3rd and 4th gears that is claimed to increase gear strength and help with smoother shifting. There is a rear sprocket change from 47 to 46, a new 36mm KYB coil spring fork and shock settings, the new 36mm KYB spring front fork has a high rigid one piece outer tube, new aluminum swingarm, new front brake hose and wave style discs, new Dunlop MX3S tires, new chain adjuster, chain guide, the front brake has a more direct brake hose routing with wave style front and rear discs, updated fork guards, an oversized 1-1/8 aluminum taper style handlebar with new 4 position adjustable bar mounts and finally adjustable reach clutch and brake levers. As you can see there are tons of changes to this bike and it was tough for me to get all of them in there, but hopefully I got them all in. 

 

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Engine: The Engine on the 2019 Yamaha YZ 85 is very strong coming out of corners, but doesn't pull my arms off the bars like my 2018 YZ85 did once it hit the powerband. My Kawasaki KX85 kind of takes a while for the power to pick up in corners and is easy to manage, but feels slightly slower off the bottom compared to the new YZ85. I have been racing the AME Minicross Series at Milestone that is basically a tamed down SX track for kids and is very fun. When I come out of the bowl corners on my 2018 KX85 it doesn't really have the pulling power as much as my 2019 YZ 85 does. The 2018 YZ 85 doesn't have the top end that the new 2019 YZ 85 has because I can jump longer tabletops easier, which makes my mom nervous. My dad can usually calm her down a little, but when she is nervous she doesn't talk. With the 2018 YZ85 I had to fan the clutch a lot through the corners, but the 2019 Yamaha YZ85, I can stay off the clutch more and that makes my dad happy. He told me once when we were at the track that he doesn't want to raise an Alex Ray. I don’t know what he means by that, but I like Alex, he's my buddy (editors note; Alex is a nice guy, but Yamaha doesn't have enough clutches in the world to help my kid if he fans a clutch like A-Ray does). What I really like about the new YZ85 is that it takes less work for me to ride fast. I don’t get as tired on the 2019, like I did with the 2018. I am able to go through corners in second gear instead of having to downshift to first. This makes me smile. 

 

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Suspension: The 2019 Yamaha YZ 85’s suspension has a firm feel to it with excellent hold up. My dad told me to use the word “hold up” if it was firmer, so I just did. We had Race Tech re-valve my suspension on the Kawasaki KX85 and it was stiff, but that was very useful because I sometimes case jumps. The 2019 YZ85 suspension is similar to my Race Tech stuff because it doesn't react that quick and feels like it has more of a slower feel to it. I also notice that in braking bumps the Yamaha YZ85 doesn't move that much and sticks to the ground better than my last year’s Yamaha. The 2018 Yamaha moved a little more in the stroke when I hit bigger bumps, especially at Glen Helen. Last year’s YZ 85 suspension was too soft for me and it hurt my wrists at times when I landed. If I hit a large jump on the 2018 YZ85 the suspension would bottom out. However, on the 2019 YZ 85, the suspension is much better stock and I feel like I have more comfort on landings than I had on my previous year’s bike. I get more confidence with the 2019 YZ85 and that let’s me try to ride faster. I keep telling my mom and dad that I can go faster now, but they keep telling me to take my time (editors note; yes he is right, I have to pump the brakes on his “send it” button).  

 

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Chassis: The chassis on the 2019 YZ 85 is stable when I am hauling down straights, but can give me head shake a little at times on square edge, choppy tracks. My dad softened the compression a little and it felt better on rough track days. I really like the way the 2019 YZ85 corners and to me feels lighter than last year’s bike. The 2018 YZ 85 is a hand full for me at times because it can be hard to lean over as I start to get into the middle of the corner. On my Kawasaki KX85 I felt like it cornered good and it hooked up, but felt big when the track was rutty. When I rode rutted tracks the green bike felt long and sometimes it was tough for me to line up in a rut. The 2019 YZ85 feels compact and I am able to put the bike into ruts better. I really like the way the rear pivots in bowl corners because it whips around quickly. I also love the new handlebar! The oversize crossbar-less bar fits me just great. I didn't move the position and left it stock as it fits me just fine for right now. When I grow I will be able to move he bar mounts forward to help me move around on the bike more.

 

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My overall opinion is that the 2019 Yamaha YZ 85 is a really good bike and I enjoy it a lot. I love railing corners on this bike and hitting some bigger jumps, if my dad lets me. :( I like this bike more than the 2018 Yamaha YZ85 because it is faster and handles better to me. I look forward to ripping it up out there in the future with this bike and having fun. This has been Aden Keefer and I hope you liked my article. Go Check out KeeferInctesting.com and click on “Podcasts” so you can listen to. my dad and I talk more about the 2019 Yamaha YZ 85.