2019 KTM 790 Adventure R

2019 KTM 790 Adventure R First Impression

An adventure bike that feels more like a dirt bike…hmmm.

Seiji has been my friend/trainer for a very long time. Seiji loves adventure as well as getting lost into the wilderness. He is the only human that I know that doesn’t need technology in their life to make them happy. He likes being off the grid! He’s an accomplished cyclist, rock climber, trainer, and just an overall fun-haver that loves two-wheels. He managed to get his hands on the KTM ADV790R and and sent us over this quick first impression on what this machine is all about. I couldn’t think of a better guy to give us the low down -KK

By Seiji Ishii

KTM almost single-handedly started the adventure bike revolution with their 950 Adventure back in 2003. The 990 Adventure followed in 2007, and soon the interwebs were littered with footage of riders tackling formidable obstacles and terrain, in remote areas, often with camping gear on board. 

The riding public was and still is aging, and the will to jump doubles and blitz whoops declines. Careers and families eat up time, but the desire to ride a dirt bike and the lust for adventure helps fuel the growth of the dual-sport and adventure bike markets.

The 950/990 Adventure built a cult-like following that still exists today. KTM released several adventure models on the heels of the 950/990’s success, but the twin-cylinder bikes grew in weight, size, and price. Many were not pleased, including this author. Those entering the adventure bike ranks from motocross or trail bikes longed for lighter, more maneuverable machines, and younger riders interested in camping along backcountry routes yearned for lower pricing. 950’s and 990’s topped Craigslist searches as KTM dealers had to make more room for the ever-increasing girth of the newer adventure class bikes. 

A Reversal

2019 marked a reversal for the Austrian brand; the displacement of their new twin-cylinder adventure bike shrunk, with claims of lower center of mass, improved handling, and a lower price (MSRP $12,499; $13,499 for the R) compared to their current adventure twins. The masses longing for this turnaround put their deposits in, and deliveries of the highly touted and eagerly anticipated 790 Adventures fueled accolades, often stating the new bike to be the end-all, be-all of adventure bikes.

Damped First Impressions

I was amongst one of the first in my area to throw a leg over the 2019 KTM 790 Adventure R and I too boiled over with excitement as the new steed was indeed smaller and much easier to handle than my beloved 990. But I didn’t want to spew opinions right away and avoided the often ill-fated overindulgence of superlatives of a new bike. I didn’t want a press release coming off my keyboard. So I waited.

I have ridden my 790 on rocky ranch and farm roads in Central Texas, then on both tame and extremely challenging rocky terrain during the 2019 KTM Adventure Rider Rally in Crested Butte, CO. The riding in Texas occurred with no modifications other than suspension tuning by Konflict Motorsports (my bike was the development bike for Konflict). And I changed to the Michelin Anakee Wild tire for the rally. 

The most noticeable trait, other than the smaller physical size, of the 790R was the loss of the top-heavy feeling present in all other KTM adventure bikes. This trait was more obvious when negotiating tighter trails at lower speeds; gone were the extremely tippy feeling and the huge struggles to force the bike upright when the going is slow. This huge improvement is no doubt aided by the strange-looking, low slung gas tank arrangement on both sides of the bike. 

Another huge difference was the power delivery of the parallel-twin, a surprising departure from the V-twin design used since the birth of KTM’s adventure line. The engine mostly performed like I thought it would relative to a V-twin; the low-end grunt was dissipated, especially off closed throttle, I had to give it more revs for power and torque, there was a freer feeling to both building and decreasing revs, and I had less awareness of the fore/aft rotating engine mass. The parallel-twin, however, didn’t vibrate my teeth loose like assumed it would on freeways, proof that the double balancer shafts performed their role. 

Finally, the electronics package. Although KTM has graced the adventure line with a myriad of electronic riding aids, this was my first long-term experience since coming off my personal 990. I was wholly against electronics, my short experiences usually filled with frustrations in toggling functions or disdain for super abrupt and strong interventions. But, to my surprise, I was glad they were on the 790 Adventure R. From the mapping, Motorcycle Traction Control, Cornering ABS, and Offroad ABS, the amount I could manipulate these functions appeased my inner skeptic. If I found myself frustrated (traction control when starting on loose dirt on a steep incline, wanting to torque steer by rear wheel in washes, etc.), simply stopping to change the combination of functions in play righted the issue. And, coming off 16 months of not riding due to a knee injury, some of the off road riding modes were certainly helpful and confidence-inspiring when I understood what was supposed to happen. 

First Impression Conclusion

If I have to pick the standout characteristic of the KTM 790 Adventure R, it’s the improved handling. 

When describing what it’s like to ride an adventure bike someone new, I always say “whatever you do on a dirt bike, you have to do it earlier and with less intensity, and the bike reacts slower.” I would also say that my 990 felt like a big dirt bike that could cruise the freeway, while the 1090, 1190, and 1290 all felt like a street bikes that could go on dirt. Extrapolate these statements and that’s what I feel about the 790. 

My closing thoughts are that the KTM 790 Adventure R feels more like a dirt bike than any other adventure bike I’ve sampled. And I think that’s great and I certainly hope the trend continues.  



2020 Suzuki RM-Z250 Test

No Suzuki didn't change anything on the RM-Z 250 in 2020, but that doesn't stop me from giving you some on track testing info on what it’s like to ride. I recently picked up my 2020 RM-Z 250 test bike and went out to a few tracks to get a re-fresher course on what it’s like to ride. If you want know what Suzuki changed from the 2018 to 2019 version you can click here to get the details: https://www.keeferinctesting.com/latest-news-1/2019/5/23/2020-suzuki-rm-z250450-photosspecs


Engine: The 2020 Suzuki RM-Z 250 engine has great bottom-mid range power, but loses its luster up on top end/over-rev. From 0-15% throttle opening the Suzuki is one of the snappiest in the class (next to the Yamaha), but pulling power after the corner is not its strong suit. The tighter the track I tested at the more I liked the engine character. The longer more flowy tracks is something that will take some work on your part (the rider) if you’re riding a Suzuki. If you can learn to short shift the 2020 RM-Z 250 your lap times will drop, but if you try to rev the Suzuki like a Honda CRF250R you will not want to look at the times when you pull in. You will have to work this yellow bike like a rib to get the most out of it on the track. If you’re looking to get more out of the RM-Z 250 engine look towards JGRMX. They make a kit for the Suzuki RM-Z 250 that really wakes up the mid-top end power. Read about it here: https://pulpmx.com/2019/06/19/keefer-tested-jgrmx-stage-2-kit-for-rm-z250-450/

Couplers: The Suzuki still comes with an easy-to-use, plug-in fuel couplers that change the engine mapping. The white coupler is the most aggressive off the bottom and gets the rpm to rev through their range faster (more free feeling). The grey coupler runs dirty (rich feeling) and makes the Suzuki feel smoother on low RPM. I preferred the white coupler at all tracks I tested at. 


Suspension: If you’re a heavier rider you will like the stiff natured suspension that the Suzuki comes with. I would have thought that Suzuki would put softer springs in for 2020, especially with all the complaints about the stiff 2019 suspension, but that didn't happen for some reason. I did manage to try a RM-Z 250 with one step softer springs and it was much more compliant and helped the Suzuki’s stiff natured chassis feel on rougher tracks. I am a 170 pounds and the fork is too stiff on de-cel and deflects on small chop. The rear of the bike lacks rear wheel traction because of the high/stiff rear end feel so dropping your sag to 108mm can help you get some extra bite under acceleration. When you get a guy like Adam Enticknap that weighs over 185 pounds and loves the stock RM-Z 250 suspension, you know it’s sprung way too stiff. Supercross guy = Loves stiff set up. 

Best Settings:


Spring rate: 4.9 N/mm 5.0 N/mm is stock

Compression: 12-13 clicks out 

Rebound: 11 clicks out

Fork Height: 2-3mm


Spring rate: 50 N/mm 52 N/mm is stock

Sag: 108mm 

Hi-compression (blue): 12 clicks out

Lo-compression (silver): 11 clicks out

Hi-rebound (bottom of shock): 14 clicks out

Lo-rebound (red): 15 clicks out

Make your life and your ride more enjoyable by sticking softer fork springs in your RM-Z250 (if you’re 180 pounds or less).

Make your life and your ride more enjoyable by sticking softer fork springs in your RM-Z250 (if you’re 180 pounds or less).

Chassis: The Suzuki chassis inspires confidence through corners (once softer springs are installed) and I was able to carve insides like they were going out of style. Unlike the RM-Z450, the RM-Z250 is the king of cornering in its division. I am a front end steering rider and the Suzuki accepts riders that love to carve corners with their front end. Straight line stability is slightly twitchy with the stock springs, but becomes much more friendly once the softer springs are installed. On paper the Suzuki isn't the lightest on the scales, but the bike feels light and playful on rutty type tracks with the snappy throttle response. I think this RM-Z250 chassis could be great choice for a novice rider looking to help his/her cornering. 


Brakes: Suzuki’s Nissin brakes are very good and are as good as the other Japanese manufacturers. The front brake has enough control to it that you’re able to drag the front brake in shallow ruts, without the front wheel locking up. The rear brake doesn't lock up and will not squeak if you’re a brake dragger. I abused the rear brake on one specific track/test day with a lot of hills and they did not fade/squeak in a 30 minute Moto. 

With the Suzuki finishing in the bottom of most media shootouts this year, does that mean you need to disregard the RM-Z250 altogether? Hell no! This bike is a fun bike to ride/race under the helm of the right rider. If you’re looking to improve your cornering and ride tighter 2-3rd gear type tracks, the RM-Z250 is a great choice once you drop some lighter springs in it. Maybe you’re looking to get a new 250F and DO NOT want to spend over 8K? You can get a 2019 Suzuki RM-Z250 for less than 7K at some dealerships! Boom! My son Aden is on a 125 two-stroke, but loves the Suzuki’s RM-Z250’s fun power with excellent cornering capability, for his nervous novice throttle hand. Suzuki makes a good bike so don’t believe every shootout you read. 


  • Bottom End Power

  • Cornering Capability

  • Pricepoint


  • Lack Of Top End/Over-Rev

  • Stiff/Harsh Suspension

  • Chassis Has Stiff Feel On Rough Tracks

2020 450 MX Bracket Shootout "The Podium"

As long as I can remember, shootouts have been a staple in our industry. I remember being an 11 year old kid reading about the 1987 80cc Shootout in Dirt Rider Magazine and then proceeding to ask my dad for a Honda CR80 because it was the winner. Little did I know that just because a machine wins a shootout doesn't necessarily mean it’s the best bike for you. There is a lot to consider when purchasing a bike, but it’s fun to see which bikes have certain standouts or feels best when riding them all back to back. Fast forward to 2020 and the format to these shootouts haven't changed much, so I thought it would be time to try something different. I decided to do a bracket style shootout (similar to a college basketball format), with two bikes/three riders per bracket, with the winner moving on and the loser going home. This style of shootout removes a lot of biases as well as gives test riders more time to dissect each bike with only two bikes for each test. Let’s face it, not every guy in this shootout is fit, so having less bikes to test at one time is probably best. I personally ranked each bike on how I felt each machine performed (my opinion, not fact) out on the track and used that ranking to create the bracket for the other testers in this shootout. The bracket battles went as such:

Yamaha Vs. Suzuki = Yamaha Wins

Kawasaki Vs. Honda = Kawasaki Wins

Husqvarna Vs. KTM = KTM Wins

Final Bracket:

KTM Vs. Kawasaki Vs. Yamaha 

The 450 MX Bracket Shootout is done and dusted and we now have our podium for 2020. Below are the top three bikes from the shootout as well as some brief highlights, opinions, quotes, and why the other two machines didn't win. If you would like to dive more into the opinions of the riders as well as get more insight on each bike, head over to the “Podcast” section on keeferinctesting.com and simply click on “Keefer Tested” to listen to each bracket breakdown. They are not only informative, but a fun listen. Stay tuned for the 4th, 5th, 6th place rankings coming next week! As always we are here for you if you need us by emailing your questions to kris@keeferinctesting.com

Winner: Yamaha YZ450F


Why It Won: The Yamaha YZ450F has the most track toughness (well rounded) and is the easiest to set up to make a wide variety of riders happy. With the changes Yamaha made to the chassis/engine for 2020 it made big blue corner with more front end positivity and gave each rider more throttle to rear wheel connection. The engine is strong yet very usable and can pull you around the track in a higher gear without a lot of clutch abuse. The Yamaha Power Tuner App is easy to use to alter the power character if need be and the suspension is simply the best in class with the most comfort/performance. Each rider commented on how they didn't have to search for smoother lines in the afternoon when the track got bumpy as the Yamaha provided a safe feel on rough terrain. They could simply hit the rough line with confidence knowing that the YZ450F would do most of the work.  

Why It Could Have Lost: Yamaha still has some work to do when it comes to ergonomics. Although the bar mount height is much better for 2020, the position it’s in (forward hole) wasn’t well perceived by most riders. Most riders went to the back hole/forward mount position for a better feel in corners. The seat has a pocket that makes you feel like you’re sitting in the bike rather than on top of it and can feel cramped for taller riders (6’0 and up). 

Rider Quotes: 

“The Yamaha has the most comfort for my bigger size. I look for comfort because I don’t get to ride all the time, but when I do ride I want, I want to be able to be in control” -Kelly Gelhaus 5’10 220 pound Senior Intermediate 

“This is the best stock engine I have ever ridden” -Colton Aeck 6’0 175 pound Pro

Second Place: Kawasaki KX450 


Why It Got Second: The Kawasaki KX450 is the only other bike in the class that can rival Yamaha’s comfort on rough tracks. If you’re looking for a stable machine with the most chassis comfort available, then the KX450 is your bike. The bump absorption of this Kawasaki frame is unmatched, but the soft fork really holds it back. Riders from 165 pounds and up all commented on how the fork would dive too much on de-cel and that hurt the Kawasaki’s corner entry at times. The KX450’s engine character has an exciting rpm response, but transitions to a smoother roll on power delivery once exiting corners. This is good and bad depending on each tester. Some testers wanted more low end, but others praised how it easy it was to control coming out of corners. Kawasaki’s mid to top end pull is strong, but not quite as meaty as the Yamaha, especially when going up longer hills or with tracks with deeper soil. Most riders commented on how easy they could hit flat corners because of the amount of traction they had with the Kawasaki. The Kawasaki feels lighter than the Yamaha, but the Yamaha had more cornering stability on rougher/longer ruts. 

Why It Could Have Won: The Kawasaki could have won if they went up on the fork spring rate, which would have added to the already great straight line stability, but would have also added to an even better cornering character (initial lean in). The 250mm rear disc is touchy and sometimes can lock up too soon coming into corners. The amount of stability the KX450 comes with along with its newfound neutral cornering makes for a machine that is liked by almost all testers. 

Rider Quotes:

I can’t believe how good this bike really is. The Kawasaki is able to come down these steep Glen Helen hills with ease. I felt confident right away on this bike” -Kenny Day 5’7 160 pound Vet Pro 

"The KX450 may not have the motor like the Yamaha, but the medium lean, on throttle traction I get with this frame makes me want to choose it over the Yamaha”. -Joe Oehlhof 5’10 195 pound Vet Pro

Third Place: KTM 450 SX-F


Why It Got Third: There are plenty of things about the KTM 450 SX-F that make it a great bike. An engine character that is buttery smooth down low, yet has the longest mid-top end pulling power in the class. A power that is so deceiving that it might make you think you’re not going to clear an obstacle, but you end up over shooting it because of the amount of traction it comes with. A lightweight feeling that can’t be beat when deciding to make sudden line changes. If you want to cut down from a blown out rut or berm, the KTM does it the easiest. Brembo brakes that allow you to dive into corners harder with more control and that allows for quicker lap times. With all this being said the KTM gets rated down to third because the AER fork simply doesn't have the front end traction or comfort the bikes in front of it has. This made each tester leery of really pushing the orange machine on rougher tracks. The AER fork also doesn't have the consistency of a spring fork so you will have to continue to chase settings throughout the day. 

Why It Could Have Won: The KTM 450 SX-F accepts a wide range of rider, but if you’re a novice rider that is scared of huge power, the KTM will not rip your arms out and get you fatigued like other 450’s can. If you’re a more aggressive rider the lightweight chassis feel along with the connectivity to the rear wheel allows for the faster rider to push their cornering to a new level. Most riders in this shootout said that rolling on the throttle earlier through corners was a common occurrence when they were on the KTM. If KTM could get more consistency and/or more comfort out of the AER fork, the other manufactures would be in a world of hurt. Or how about if they just went to a spring fork? Now we are talking!  

Rider Quotes:

“The KTM easily could of won this shootout for me, but the AER fork feel harsh on slap down-Kelly Gelhaus 220 pound Vet Intermediate 

“I am usually a 250F type of rider, but the way the KTM 450 SX-F delivers its power makes me want to ride a 450! It’s so easy to ride! -Tod Sciacqua -155 pound 5’8 Vet Expert 

Any one of these bikes can be great for anyone reading this article. By listening and reading the information we have up at Keeferinctesting.com you can make an educated decision on which bike fits your riding style/needs. Also, maybe more important, is which one fits your pocketbook? If you’re looking to get the best deal on any one of these bikes please email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com and we can get you in contact with David over at Power Motorsports.

Which Bike Is Right For Me? 250 Vs. 350 Vs. 450

A question I get asked a lot is what size bike is right for me? While this is a question that is not easy to answer, I thought I would try to give you some perspective on what each bike is like to ride and how to determine which one could be right for you. I have tested the 2020 Husqvarna 250/350/450 and will use these bikes, in this article, as my baseline for explanation. As always I am here to help when I can, so please feel free to email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com if you have any uncertainties. That’s why I built Keefer Inc. Testing.  


FC250: The FC250’s engine character is smooth off the bottom end then starts to build power up quickly from mid-top end. It’s a very non-aggressive type of low end delivery that has a deceiving strong mid range torque character. The FC250’s delivery is meant for a rider that likes to carry momentum and not rely on sheer bottom end torque to pull him out of a corner. If you like to let each gear rev out then this engine is perfect for that type of riding style.You would think without tons of torque feel, the FC250 wouldn't have a lot of recovery when in the wrong gear through corners, but to my surprise, the Husqvarna’s engine has superb recovery time and will get you back down the track, in the meat of the power, in no time. 


FC350: If you have never rode a 350cc Husqvarna/KTM then you’re missing out. The 350 comes on slightly more aggressive then the 250cc engine, but packs more punch through the mid-top end range. Again, if you’re looking for massive amounts of torque out of corners this still isn't your cup of tea, but the FC350 does have some low end RPM response (excitement) that the FC250 doesn’t. Hopping over bumps and getting over a double out of a corner is much easier with the extra RPM response that this engine brings. Not to mention that the bike still feels as light as a 250 when cornering, so getting through the corners in order to be able to clear an obstacle is made easier with the 350. The pulling power of the mid-top end range is where this FC350 will put a smile on your face. Just when you think it’s time to shift, you’re wrong, so just let it rev out a few hundred RPM more. When riding the 350 to 450 back to back, the 350 feels as fast as the 450 on top end. I don’t feel like I am losing much ground to the 450 on fast straights as long as I am not going uphill. This is where the 350 will get ate up by the 450. Pulling power/torque/meat feel is the 450’s strong suit. 


FC450: The overall engine character of the FC450 still has that smooth easy to ride feel, but with slightly less engine braking than the 350 to me. Coming into corners you can feel less drag on the engine and less movement in the chassis compared to the 350’s engine. If you’re looking for a hard hitting 450 engine character this isn't your type of machine. However, if you’re looking for an easy to ride, connected to the rear wheel feel, deceivingly fast type of power, the FC450 could be just what you’re looking for. The FC450 doesn’t feel that much heavier on the track compared to the 350, but to me the 350 has more engine recovery than the 450 when in the wrong gear. The RPM response of the 350 is more lively than the 450, but you can get away with being lazy on the 450 and let that big motor pull you out of “the wrong gear trouble” without killing the engine. Basically what I am saying is that the 450 “chugs/lugs” better than the FC250/350 can. 

Now that we have each engine character broken down, where does that leave you? What type of rider are you? That is important when deciding on which size bike to purchase. You have to know what type of tracks you’re riding, how often you’re riding, how serious you take your riding, and how you ride. Ask yourself these hard questions and then you can use this guideline below to decide on which direction you would like to go. 

250cc Rider: You would be surprised on how many riders over 50 years old I have turned on to 250cc’s four-strokes and they are completely happy. The Yamaha YZ250F has unbelievable amounts of torque for the older rider that may need some of that because he may like to ride a gear high (AKA, still lazy because you’re old). With the 250cc machine you’re able to get away with riding harder than you should because it simply doesn't have the weight of the 450cc machine. You’re able to push harder into corners and work on your technique because you’re not scared of the engine delivery. You’re actually able to ride the machine instead of the machine riding you. Obviously bigger riders (over 200 pounds) will need more engine than 250cc’s, but if you’re in the 200 pound range and are a beginner type of rider I would actually recommend a 250cc four stroke to you. It’s safer and can help you jumpstart your on-the-bike fitness without the consequence of getting hurt because of fatigue on the bike. Being tired while riding a 250cc four-stroke is much safer than riding a 450cc four-stroke fatigued. If you’re a 85cc rider and are looking to graduate to a bigger bike you DO NOT need a 250cc four-stroke. You need a 125cc two-stroke. Chances are you’re a 110 pounds so a 250cc four-stroke is too much bike for you. 


350cc Rider: Just because you may be a bigger rider (200-230 pounds) doesn’t necessarily mean you need a 450cc motorcycle to get you around the track. In fact, I have had many 220-230 pound testers love the FC350 because they could actually ride it harder/longer than that of their 450cc machines. If you’re racing against guys in a class full of 450’s, having a a 350 as a weapon of choice to outlast your competitors could prove wise. I could see you may need a 450 if your local tracks are super sandy and deep, but if you have soft to intermediate terrain, a 350 is much easier to handle for a longer moto, than that of a 450. Let’s say you’re just an average weekend warrior that likes to hit the track with your buddies and race on occasion. The 350 is a perfect size machine to be able to enjoy some laps without worrying about getting whiskey throttle after lap four because you have arm pump. I really try to recommend a 350 to most vet riders that like to ride for fun and occasionally race because it really does have enough power to clear all the jumps on a local track as well as corner easy enough to help your technique because let’s be real, you know your technique is not up to snuff. Let’s face it, you work five days a week and can’t be at the gym like these other people that seem to have so much damn time, so why not get an engine character that you can control. It amazes me how some guys egos can get in the way of purchasing the right motorcycle. The 350cc engine will be easier to manage on rough tracks that will require some technique and finesse. 


450cc Rider: Look I am not going to sit here and tell you that a 450cc four stroke motorcycle isn't my favorite bike to ride, because it is! It’s easy to be lazy and go fast, but there is one caveat. You have to be in shape to hold on to it! If I didn't ride so much I would ride a 350 more, but all I do is ride so I like a 450 engine! You can’t just show up to your local track on the weekends, hop on your 450 and expect to haul ass for more than just a few laps. If you do try to do this without “help” your medical bills will be high and your wife will be pissed. The good news is that out of all the 450 MX’ers, the FC450 is the easiest to ride/control/handle because of its well mannered power delivery. You fit the 450cc rider checklist if you are serious about your local racing, like to keep yourself in shape, want to improve on both of the aforementioned statements, have been riding more than a few years, and/or just simply a bigger dude (over 240 pounds). I really try to let older vet guys know that they simply DO NOT need 450cc’s of power just because they can go out and buy it. They will never use all of it and they will get tired too quickly. To me that isn't fun. Fun is being able to ride more than four laps, rip corners correctly, and go home un-injured. The 450 is capable of giving you all of this as well, but just know it might take more work on your part to be able to do all of those things easier and the correct way.

Hopefully after reading through this article you have determined which type of rider you are, can relate to one of these machines, and decide which cc displacement is your next purchase. I understand it’s difficult to make a 9-10K purchase based on something you have yet to ride, but that’s where I try to come in and hopefully guide you in the right direction! A lot of these manufacturers have demo days at local tracks so be sure to look for those near you and try the new bikes if you’re able. See you at the track! -KK

2020 Yamaha YZ450F Start Up/Baseline Settings/Tips/Tricks

The Yamaha YZ450F is winning a lot of shootouts this year with it’s completely redesigned frame and engine layout as well as a stiffer suspension package that makes the bLU cRU ride a race-ier type of machine. I am fan of machines that are fun to ride as well as make me want to ride faster and this 2020 YZ450F does this for me. Over the past few weeks I have really got to know this bike better by racing it and riding it all over Southern California. Here are some of my settings that hopefully can help you go faster at your local track. 

2020 YZ450 keefer inc -1-4.jpg

Suspension: In stock form the 2020 Yamaha YZ450F’s suspension settings are still slightly soft (once suspension is broke in) at times on bigger bumps at speed. Going slower on the action as well as stiffening the compression really helps the whole bike remain planted around the track. The comfort that this KYB suspension has is unmatched and the track toughness it provides makes your life so much less stressful on set up. This setting below will work for most riders ranging from 170-200 pounds. 


Height: 5mm

Compression: 7-8 clicks out

Rebound: 8 clicks out


Sag: 103mm

Low Speed Compression: 8 clicks out

High Speed Compression: 3/4 turns out

Rebound: 8 clicks out 

Engine/Power Tuner App: I have tried several maps on the YZ450F, but have always came back to the two below. The stock engine has a lot of bark from 0-10% throttle opening and for the tracks that we have out here (on the west coast) it’s too much at times. For you east coast riders try the “Keefer 1” map as that should be plenty enough bottom to mid range delivery to get you out of that soft soil, yet keep it manageable/linear to hold onto for a 20 minute moto (YES, I AM JEALOUS OF YOUR DIRT!). For all the rest of you, try the TP 3.0 map as that is the map that I use 80% of the time. The linear/easy to roll on throttle delivery along with the longer pulling power that this map has makes it a tractor around the track. I raced four motos with this TP 3.0 map and pulled 3 out of 4 holeshots at Glen Helen. The connection to the rear wheel is much better for 2020! Yes, these maps will also work on your 2019 YZ450F…  


Muffler: As of right now I am running the stock muffler system, but currently have a Akrapovic, Pro Circuit, and FMF in the shop to test, so hold tight to see if any of these are better than stock. There is nothing wrong with the stock YZ450F muffler so don’t be scared to run a stock muffler on your Yamaha for a long time. Relax. Yamaha makes a great stock muffler system so don't be shy about running it.  

Handlebar Set Up: I really tried hard to like the 2020 Yamaha YZ450F handlebar set up, but couldn't come to grips with the way the bar mounts forced my upper body through corners. It put me in a weird position when diving into ruts and it actually affected my corning speed. I went back to the rear hole with mounts forward and fell in love all over again. I am 6’0 and prefer the 2019 stock hole placement. I love the stock Yamaha bar bend and use that bar bend on almost all of my test bikes, but if you want a little more flex, go with a Pro Taper EVO SX RACE bar (same bend as the Yamaha stock bar). The stock Yamaha bar has a 5mm wall thickness and the Pro Taper EVO has a 4mm wall thickness, so you’ll get more flex. 

2020 YZ450 keefer inc -1-33.jpg

Seat: If there is one problem area of the Yamaha it is the seat. The seat still breaks down quickly and can feel clapped out. This makes you feel like you're riding in the Yamaha and not on top. I am usually not a fan of taller seats, but Yamaha’s Accessory (GYTR) 20mm taller seat is actually pretty good. It puts you on top of the bike more and helped my sitting-to-standing transition out of corners. This helps you get off your ass out of the corner because the transition from sitting to standing is not as drastic. Soaking jumps up with your legs is always faster than seat bouncing. If you don’t go with the GYTR seat then go to gutsracing.com and get yourself a firmer or taller foam.

MX3S Front Tire: Yamaha will not want to hear this, but I feel the Yamaha corners better with a Dunlop MX3S front tire rather than the stock MX33. Yes, the MX3S is coming back and will be in stock in a couple weeks. If you’re having trouble with initial lean into corners, get yourself a Dunlop MX3S front and thank me later. 

Gearing: I tried a 13/50 gearing set up for all you novice riders, but it didn't work as good as the stock 13/49 set up. The stock gearing is just fine for 90% of tracks because the Yamaha’s engine has so much torque that it can pull third gear. Yes, even for you novice riders! Third gear is that “lugable” that you will not stall through corners, just make sure to cover the clutch lever. 

2020 YZ450 keefer inc -1-15.jpg

Triple Clamps/Offset: The Yamaha YZ450F doesn't need aftermarket triple clamps nor does it need an offset change. The rigidity balance that the stock clamp has is a blend of comfort and performance that is hard to find with aftermarket clamps. Still having a hard time in corners? Don’t purchase clamps, simply go to a 102mm shock sag setting or go to a fork height of 7mm. I suggest trying one or the other, not both at the same time. This keeps balance as well as keep the superb bump absorption of the chassis/clamps. Some other machines accept aftermarket clamps better than others, but this Yamaha has the most comfort/performance with the stock clamp. Don’t go backwards on your set up by purchasing parts you don’t need!  


Cycra Powerflow Shrouds: If you want the visual appeal of a thinner mid section you can go to Cycra Powerflow shrouds that are thinner at the top of the shrouds than the stock pieces. I like that the Cycra shrouds also feel slightly thinner when squeezing the Yamaha while I am standing.  

If you have any questions about the 2020 Yamaha YZ450F, please email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com and I hopefully can help you out.

2020 Honda CRF450R Start Up/Baseline Settings/Tips/Tricks

The Honda CRF450R has only minimal changes for 2020, but that doesn't mean all the settings roll over from the 2019 version. Yes, some of the tips/tricks will remain the same from your 2019 Honda CRF450R, but we have come up with a couple new tricks since the 2019 model was released. With the new Internal valving suspension changes, the Honda has more hold up in the front on de-cel, but we went to work and came up with some baseline settings that we feel would benefit most Honda riders. I have done all of these modifications to my Honda CRF450R test steed and it quickly became one of the most fun bikes to ride at a wide variety of tracks. The Honda requires more attention than other machines in its class, but once you pay attention to her and purchase her a few gifts, she will reward you with lower lap times, increased smiles, and a bike that will make you more comfortable out on the track. Hey married dudes, sound familiar?  


Suspension: The Honda CRF450R is the toughest bike to find that “track toughness” we all want out of our motocross machines, but once you do find that magic setting, this bike is insanely fun to ride.The CRF450R’s suspension holds up higher in the stroke for 2020 and gives the rider a decent amount of comfort on the small chop, but don't expect it to be better than the KYB suspension that comes on the Yamaha. All riders that helped me test this bike (165, 170, 190 pounds) went stiffer on the fork to help the Honda from diving under heavy braking. Even with the fork changes Showa made for 2020 we still wanted some more hold up. If we rode the CRF450R around at 80%, the fork had enough comfort and hold up, but when pushing the bike hard the fork needed some added performance. Once going a little stiffer (compression) and slower (rebound) the front end felt calmer and allowed for a more aggressive riding style. The shock has a ton of comfort initially, especially coming out of rough/choppy corners, but on heavy g-outs or steep jump faces the end of the stroke is empty (soft) feeling. Going stiffer on high speed compression a quarter turn will help hold up and prevent you from going to the chiropractor later that afternoon. We ended up going with a 105mm of sag as that pleased all three riders and left them with the best balance on and off throttle. Try this setting at your local track to get the most comfort out of your Showa suspension.  

Fork: (Rider weight 165-190 pounds)

Height: 3mm

Compression: 6 clicks out

Rebound: 8 clicks out


Sag: 105mm

Low Speed Compression: 8 clicks out

High Speed Compression: 2-3/4 turns out

Rebound: 7 clicks out

Swingarm Pivot Bolt Torque Spec: This costs zero dollars and should be done as soon as you get your 2020 Honda CRF450R. The stock swingarm pivot bolt torque spec is 65 ft.lbs., but re-torque it to 60 ft.lbs. What does this simple adjustment do? It can help the stiffer feel underneath your butt/rear of machine when accelerating out of corners (because your shock’s high speed compression is stiffer) and also gives the Honda more rear wheel traction. The Honda chassis has a stiff natured character to begin with so loosening up the swingarm pivot bolt a little helps free it up. Trust me, it helps! 


Vortex ECU (Mapped By XPR Motorsports): I have done a few projects with Chad at XPR Motorsports and he continues to impress me with his impressive ECU settings. The Honda doesn't need more horsepower, in fact it wouldn't hurt if it had a slightly mellower delivery. So why install a Vortex ECU? The XPR mapped Vortex ECU will give you more horsepower, but will spread out that newfound horsepower with a longer and smoother delivery than the stock 2020 ECU can. The stock ECU still has that herky/jerky roll on power in map one/three through corners and that really upsets the chassis and my corner speed at times. That pisses me off! If your corner speed is off then you’re going to have a bad day at the track.

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


Gearing: This gearing will only work best if you have the above three modifications done. I stumbled across this gearing on a test day and found out that I really liked it. The 14/52 gearing allows you to run your axle farther back (which the Honda needs) and gives the engine a more connected feel to the rear wheel. Try this gearing if you have done the above three mods. If you’re running the stock ECU/engine configuration you can try going with a 13/48 gearing. Going down a tooth will help with roll on power delivery and give the Honda a smoother more manageable low end power. 


Full Muffler System: If there is a couple companies that knows how to make a better Honda power delivery it’s Yoshimura and Akrapovic! Both mufflers makes broader horsepower, keeps the strong bottom end pull intact, and gives the Honda a deeper more throaty sound. Just bolting on either one of these systems (without the ECU change) will help the Honda’s map one/three on/off feel from 0-15% throttle opening. This is where the Honda needs help and both mufflers help smooth the CRF450R in this area. You will also lose just over 1.5 pounds with these systems. However, good luck trying to get an Akrapovic muffler system as they are not easily accessible to the consumer. 

Rekluse Torque Drive Clutch Pack: How’s that lever pull doing for you on your CRF450R? Not that great right? I hated going from a light clutch lever pull (on other machines) to the hard feel of the 2020 Honda CRF450R. The CRF450R needs some longer clutch life (because I am a clutch dragger), so installing the Rekluse Torque Drive Clutch Pack has increased my life and gives me less fade in longer motos. This kit leaves your stock internals intact, but increases your clutch plate count by using the “Torque Drive” technology. This mod also gives you a better clutch pull at the lever as it’s not as stiff because the Rekluse Torque Drive Pack allows more disks in your OEM’s footprint.

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

Handlebar Map Switch Care Instructions: If you have a Honda CRF450R you will need to pay close attention to your map switch on your handlebars when washing. If you haven't had condensation/water get into your map switch yet, consider yourself lucky. I get a ton of emails that are titled “Honda Will Not Start”. I come to find out that most of these CRF450R’s are getting water inside the map switch cluster while the consumer is washing the unit. This shorts out the connection and prevents the red machine from starting. Best thing you can do before you wash your Honda is wrap the map switch cluster with some type of plastic (I use a ziplock bag) and then duct tape the plastic around the handlebar/map switch. This will prevent water from getting into the cluster while you’re washing. You can also take apart the cluster and squirt more dielectric grease near/around the connections, but doing this will not complete prevent this mishap from happening. 

Air Filter/Cage: You can bend out the little metal tabs on your air filter screen and throw it in the trash. By using just the plastic air filter cage without the screen can give the Honda more airflow  and can give you more mid range pulling power as well as RPM response. 

Maintenance: I am very meticulous when it comes to oil changes with the Honda CRF450R. I change my engine oil every 2-3 engine hours on this model because I noticed that no matter oil I run or try in this machine that it is fairly burnt after three hours. In other machines I do not notice the oil being as dark in color after three hours as the Honda so I change oil religiously. Doing this has given me increased clutch life as well as ensures that I have no oil related engine issues.  

If you have any questions about your 2020 Honda CRF450R please feel free to email me your questions and I will ry to help as much as I can. kris@keeferinctesting.com

2020 Husqvarna FC250 Start Up/Baseline Settings/Tips/Tricks

I had the chance to spend some extra time on the 2020 FC250 and managed to try several settings to see which direction could be the correct way for you Husqvarna owners. Here are a few baseline settings you can try to get more comfort out on the track. 


Suspension: For 2020 the Husqvarna theme was to get more comfort out of the WP suspension and although I think they did do that to a certain extent they might of went too soft for most of the riders that will be purchasing this machine. Here are a couple different settings (based on weight) to try next time you’re out on the track. Note: When adjusting your air pressure in your fork, make sure to check your fork pressure before you start riding as well as after your first session. Your AER fork air pressure will build up the first time out considerably within 15 minutes. After you come back in, let the bike sit for around 10-15 minutes and reset to the desired/recommended air pressure. The AER fork shouldn't go up in air pressure as quick/high for the remainder of the day. It will start to creep up, but the amount in which it does is not nearly as fast as the first time it gets warm. 

Fork: (150-170 pounds)

Air Pressure: 10.4 bars

Compression: 10 clicks out

Rebound: 10 clicks out 

Fork: (170-190 pounds)

Air Pressure: 10.6 bars

Compression: 14 clicks out

Rebound: 11 clicks out 

Shock: (150-170 pounds)

Sag: 105mm

High Speed Compression: 1-1/2

Low Speed Compression: 14 clicks out

Rebound: 11 clicks out

Shock: (170-190 pounds)

Sag: 105mm

High Speed Compression: 1-1/4

Low Speed Compression: 12 clicks out

Rebound: 13 clicks out 


Engine: If you’re looking to get more out of your engine without diving into the engine too much there are a couple relatively inexpensive mods you can do. A stock ECU re-map from Jamie at Twisted Development can get you some added RPM response along with some increased pulling power out of corners. If there is one area of the engine that the FC250 needs helps with it’s the low end RPM response and pulling power. The Husqvarna is NOT a torque monster, but instead loves to be ridden in the mid-top end range. With the stock ECU re-map the Husqvarna will get some more “pop” out of corners, have a free-er engine rev feel, as well as pull you out of the corner harder than the stock maps. The beauty is that you still have two maps to choose from, but now both newly programmed maps have more pull than the stock maps provide. It’s a relatively low cost item for the performance gain. Of course if you have the money a Vortex ignition is always a good idea, but that also will set you back 800-1000 bucks. The Vortex will give you increased power everywhere in the RPM range and can make your engine have an even free-er rev feel, which makes the FC250 more exciting to ride. A lot of times a Vortex ignition, muffler system, and suspension work is all I ever do to my race bikes.


The second option is going with an aftermarket muffler like a FMF 4.1 or even a Akrapovic. Both of these mufflers provided more mid range and top end but also increased throttle response. You will not be getting any added bottom end, but the good news is that you will not be losing any as long as you keep the inserts in. The FMF requires you to install the insert/spark arrestor and the Akrapovic comes with it already installed. LEAVE THEM IN! Back pressure is the Husqvarna’s friend. 

Gearing: Going to a 14/52 or 53 gearing helps with rear wheel placement and of course using third gear around the track more. Using this gearing puts the rear wheel back further and can increase the stability of the FC250 without sacrificing too much lean in when coming into corners. Also this modified gearing ratio will help get you out of second gear sooner and let you use the engine where it’s intended to be used. Second gear can bind this chassis up more than other machines (feels much tighter in second gear than Japanese bikes) when the track gets rough. Third gear has such a free-er feel (compared to second gear) on the FC250 that you will be able to pull yourself out of corners without the high rev/binding nature of second gear. Using this 13/52 gear ratio frees up the rear end under load/heavy throttle and allows for increased rear wheel traction. If you feel like you’re having to shift the FC250 too early coming out of corners, try 14/52-53 and use third gear. Boom! 

Triple Clamp Torque Specs: If you’re still living with the stock clamps you can try this torque spec setting on the pinch bolts for a more complaint front end feel (on braking bumps) with increased lean angle traction. If you DO NOT feel like you need more front end compliancy on the FC250 please disregard this and keep living your life. This was just an option that I stumbled across that can make some difference in comfort. Going slightly lower on the lower clamp torque spec helps with front end flex and fork stroke movement. Going to a factory Husqvarna accessory triple clamp eliminates binding and gives the FC250 a softer initial touch with more de-el front end comfort, but those are expensive right? Doing this minor torque spec mod helps bridge some of that gap between stock clamp and accessory clamp.  

Top Clamp Torque Spec: 17Nm

Bottom Clamp Torque Spec: 9Nm 


Axle Blocks: Invest in the Ride Engineering or the Works Connection Elite axle block kit as either or will give you more rear end traction and keep the left side axle block from binding up rear wheel/swingarm area. This is an old KTM Race Team trick. 

Engine Mounts: The stock torque specs on the FC250’s engine mounts are just fine and since we are talking about the engine mounts, the stock mounts are just fine as well. There is NO need for aftermarket engine mounts on this machine. Especially if you’re doing these chassis mods above, the frame flex character should be plenty compliant enough on wide variety of rough tracks. 

Black Throttle Cam: This goes without saying… Use the black throttle cam for best overall power to rear wheel connection. 

Maintenance Intervals: I change my engine oil every 2-3 hours of ride time, but for the normal weekend warrior you can go as far as 4 engine hours. I use Motorex, Blud, Maxima or FirePower 10/40 synthetic engine oil as they all work well on this machine. Keep a fuel filter handy in your tool box as they can get dirty and cause issues down the road with starting or even give you a dirty/rich feeling sensation when they are clogged. 

2020 KTM 450 SX-F Start Up/Baseline Settings/Tips

The 2020 KTM 450 SX-F came to us with only minimal changes from the 2019 version, but since then we have gained some more knowledge because I have spent so much time on the 450 SX-F. Here are some baseline settings, suggestions, as well as some tips/modifications you can do to help increase the comfort of your new orange brigade machine. 


Engine/ECU: For 2020 KTM fixed most of the 450 SX-F’s ECU problems with the help of some of us media testers. Last year the 2019 ECU setting was rich off the bottom and slightly lean on top, which made for a lethargic/inconsistent throttle delivery. For 2020 the ECU is better and has a more lively feel coming out of corners and still has the super connected rear wheel feeling. I am usually a “map two” kind of rider due to its increased pick up/recovery feel, but sometimes I am looking for that extra puling power that is needed when the track is tilled deep or soft. I have been on the Vortex ignition bandwagon for a couple years with this machine and for 2020 it hasn't wavered. If you want the same great rear wheel connection as well as more pulling power everywhere, look into a Vortex ignition from Chad at XPR Motorsports or Jamie at Twisted Development. I have turned a lot of KTM riders onto this mod and have had a 100% approval ratio. What I like about this modification is that it doesn't hurt reliability and makes for a very usable yet powerful engine for almost every type of rider. Yes, it will set you back around $800.00, but to me is much better than slapping on a muffler system and will do more for your engine. 


Suspension: If you haven't listened to my WP XACT Pro Components suspension podcast you may want to at least check that out, but if you're sticking with the stock suspension for a while, you can try this setting to see if this helps comfort when the track gets rough. This setting below should be in the ballpark for riders around 165-200 pounds, but if you’re heavier than 200 pounds going to a stiffer rear spring wild help the ride attitude of the KTM. I have went to several tracks and tried many different settings, but this specific setting had the most “track toughness”. The KTM’s stock WP suspension doesn't quite have the comfort like the Husqvarna does, but the KTM/WP set also holds up more in the stroke. To get some added comfort back with the added hold up, try this setting. 

Fork (Stock Triple Clamp): 

Height: 5mm

Air Pressure: 10.7 Bars

Compression: 14-15 clicks out

Rebound: 16 clicks out

*With KTM Hard Parts Triple Clamps*

Height: 5mm

Air Pressure: 10.7-10.8 Bars

Compression: 12 clicks out

Rebound: 15 clicks out


Sag: 103mm

Low Speed Compression: 13 clicks out

High Speed Compression: 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 turns out

Rebound:  12 clicks out

Chassis: Aftermarket engine mounts are all the rage right now and some of you may not have the money to spend on a pair of engine mounts for your KTM. I will say that I don’t feel like the KTM chassis is stiff, but I have heard from other vet riders that it can be at times, so I decided to play around with torque specs on the engine mounts and stumbled across this. If you’re experiencing a stiff feeling chassis sensation and want the KTM to settle while leaning (under throttle), there is an inexpensive way to achieve some extra front end traction (as well as an overall more planted feel). You can remove the left side upper engine mount bolt (upper right bolt only, as shown) and torque all other top engine mount bolts to 30Nm. This band aid will give you a more planted sensation when on throttle while leaning the KTM 450SX-F through sweepers and fast straights. You will have to make sure that all engine mount bolts have blue Loctite to ensure they do not back out (you should do this regardless if you keep all the bolts in or not). You can also try torquing your swingarm pivot bolt to 95 Nm (instead of 100Nm) to help rear end traction out of corners. The downside to doing these mods is that the chassis will flex a little more, so if you’re riding deep tilled tracks this modification may be too “flexy” for some (especially when chopping throttle).  


Handlebars: The stock Neken handlebar is too stiff and doesn't offer too much comfort. Get yourself a set of Pro Taper bars and make your arms and hands happy again. The Pro Taper SX Race bar worked well for riders from 5’8 to 6’1. The SX Race bend comes in a crossbar or crossbar-less style and is 800mm width, 87mm height, 54.5 rise, and 54mm sweep. If you’re looking for a better “stand up feel” from your KTM look for handlebar close to this measurement. If you do like the stock bar try the Pro Taper Husqvarna Stock bend.  


Triple Clamps: After riding back to back with the stock triple clamps and the KTM hard parts clamps I have realized that the stock clamps are stiffer. I have since installed the KTM Hard Parts triple clamp (or the 2019.5 Factory Edition clamp) on the 2020 KTM 450 SX-F with excellent results. The front end has more of a softer initial touch on slap downs and the fork action is smoother on de-cel bumps. It’s crazy to think that the fork feels softer now with the “Hard Parts” clamp installed, but that is exactly how it feels when going to the “Hard Parts” clamp. I was able to increase my compression damping a little to help hold up off-throttle and kept more comfort through the entire stroke (with the stock AER fork) with the “Hard Parts” clamp. I also get slightly more lean angle front end traction (or cornering stability) with this “Hard Parts” clamp because the front end isn't bouncing around inside long/choppy ruts. 

Rear Brake Pedal Spring: Purchase a Honda CRF450R rear brake pedal spring with the rubber around the spring. The KTM rear brake pedal spring vibrates and will break every 3-4 engine hours. Orrrrrrrrr. Get a KTM rear brake pedal spring and wrap it with plastic tubing, but to me it’s easier just to get the Honda spring and be done with it. 

Gearing: I like the stock 13/49 gearing, but for sand I prefer the 14/52 gearing for mid rpm recovery and chassis feel. Yes, going to a 14/52 will put your rear wheel back more than the 13/49 and get you some extra high speed stability with the 14/52. At tracks like Glen Helen I go with a 14/52 because I get that extra planted/stable feeling coming down hills. 


Rear Axle/Axle Blocks: Going to a Works Connection Elite axle block kit or Ride Engineering axle block kit will get rid of the fixed left axle block on the stock KTM’s axle. This will help the rear end to move more freely under throttle and improve the shock’s comfort on acceleration chop. Both are great, but you will have to decide if you want a complete axle/axle block kit like Ride Engineering’s or just the blocks themselves like WC’s.

Muffler: To me FMF makes the best muffler system for the KTM 450 SX-F. There are some other companies that have other bikes dialed in more, but on the KTM, FMF has got it dialed. You will get more low to mid RPM response as well as more mid range pulling power. Top end is increased plus the over-rev is as good as stock. It is one of the few times that I was impressed because it was actually better than stock in almost all areas. The downside is that you must keep up on muffler packing (every 10-12 engine hours) because the FMF will blow out and that could damage your expensive titanium can. Did I mention that you will lose almost two pounds with this system? If you slap on spring forks you will be gaining almost three pounds. You can get most of that back with a 4.1 Titanium FMF Muffler system.   

If you have any questions about your KTM please feel free to email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com

2020 Yamaha YZ250F Baseline/Start Up Settings/Tips

The Yamaha YZ250F is un-changed for 2020 so this baseline set up article can be used for the 2019 YZ250F as well. The Yamaha is the easiest small bore four stroke motocross machine to ride with its torquey low end and improved top end pulling power that Yamaha came up with in 2019. For this test we focused on trying to keep the comfort that the Yamaha comes with, but also try to get the YZ250F to accept a rider that wants to push his limits on this bike. Below are some settings that we think may be able to help drop your lap times while keeping the Yamaha planted underneath you. 



The KYB/SSS/Yamaha suspension has the most comfort out of any bike in stock form, but if you want to start pushing the bike’s limits it can get soft and spongy feeling. After our initial test we took the 2020 Yamaha YZ250F to three vastly different types of tracks and noticed as the bike broke in all riders wanted more hold up from the suspension. We tried going to a heavier 4.8N/m fork spring (4.7N/m is stock) with the stock valving and to all three testers (160, 170, 190 pounds) liked the hold up and calmness that the stiffer spring came with. The heavier front spring helped the Yamaha’s chassis under heavy braking and each rider was able to push into rough corners harder without as much pitching. Settling into ruts was also easier because of the calm front fork feel. The rear of the bike can accept heavier riders better than the front so going to a stiffer rear spring for us wasn't warranted. What we really liked about this setting is that it didn't upset chassis balance and only improved the bike’s overall feel out on the track. Only a small increase of firmness was felt on the top of the fork’s stroke, but all riders agreed that the trade off was worth it. 


 Height: 5mm (Stock is 7mm)

Spring Rate: 4.8N/m (Stock is 4.7N/m)

Compression: 12 (Stock is 11 clicks out)

Rebound: 9-10 clicks out (Stock is 9 clicks out) 

*Optional Stock Spring Fork Setting*

Height: 4mm

Spring Rate: 4.7N/m

Compression: 8 clicks out

Rebound: 7 clicks out


Sag: 105mm

Spring Rate: 55N/m

High Speed Compression: 1.25 Turn Out (1 Turn Out Is Stock)

Low Speed Compression: 8-9 clicks out (10 clicks out is stock)

Rebound: 9 clicks out (11 clicks out is stock)

ECU/Yamaha Power Tuner:

I really felt that the 2020 Yamaha YZ250F could benefit from a free-er engine feel on de-cel so I worked on a map to try and achieve this. This “Keefer Free Feeling” map gives you less pitching on de-cel coming into the corners and also made the Yamaha feel lighter through mid-corner, which helped keeping the lean through corners as well as change of direction. I felt like I could give up a small amount of torque to achieve this and that is what you will find when going to this map. You will get slightly less torque, keep that great mid-range pull as well as a slight increase in top end. If you want to also sacrifice a little torque feeling and increase the second and third gear pulling power (with the same amount of engine braking the stock map gives) go to the “Hard Hitting Map” Yamaha has pre-programmed on your Yamaha Power Tuner App. I use the “Hard Hitting” for my base map and the Free Feeling” map for my secondary map. Please don’t forget to update your apps on your phone as Yamaha does update their Power Tuner with new maps from time to time. 



Please for the love of all things holy DO NOT screw/change the engine mounts on this machine. I will say that some aftermarket engine mounts will help some other OEM’s frame feel for the better, but in the case of the Yamaha YZ250F, it really doesn't need aftermarket mounts. I have no problem pushing products that work, based on each individual machine, but that doesn't mean that specific part works for every single machine. Some machines could benefit with a softer/stiffer mount combo, but to me Yamaha did a great job of blending comfort with cornering stiffness for 95% of us “normal” folk. When trying some aftermarket engine mounts on the 2019 YZ250F it made the bike have less predictability when the track got rough. When smooth I could see some benefit on initial lean through corners (lighter feel), but when the track got hammered the Yamaha was tougher to get into the corner because the damping character of the chassis was harsher on de-cel bumps. Could you make aftermarket engine mounts work on this bike? I am sure you could with the help of some suspension tuning, but the purpose of this article is to get you increased comfort/more performance with less hassle and money. If we were talking 2018 Honda or 2019-2020 Suzuki, I would be steering you into the aftermarket engine mount direction, but we are talking bLU cRU here people! 



Two out of three test riders preferred the stock 13/50 gearing, but our slower heavier guy with less cornering technique liked going more the MXA (one tooth up) (13/51) route. Say what you want about going only “one tooth” up on a sprocket, but I can tell you that it does help on some machines with riders that have problems with using third gear in corners. The Yamaha has enough torque for intermediate type riders to use third gear in corners, but novices will appreciate a 13/51 ratio more to help them recover from mistakes. Going to this gearing will shorten the length of second and third gears, but it will allow you to short shift better and use the meat of the Yamaha’s power just like it was developed/intended. 


Do yourself a favor and get a 2020 YZ450F seat or a GUTS Racing firm seat foam. Yamaha changed the seat shape/stiffness in 2019, but still the middle of the seat can breakdown quickly and get soft. The fuel tank and subframes rails are not friendly when leaning on the edge of your seat or when you decide to seat bounce an obstacle out of a corner. 


Rider Triangle:

Yamaha’s rider triangle can be cramped for some taller riders, but simply going to the forward bar mount hole (on the triple clamp) with mount faced back will get you 16mm’s of more room. The 2020 YZ450F comes like this stock, but you can do that slight tweak yourself and get more weight over the front end. I am 6’0 and prefer the rear hole with the mount forward, but I have heard more than one taller rider complain about being cramped on the Yamaha. I have yet to try moving the pegs down/back, but will look into this as an option for you taller riders.



We have ridden the 2019 YZ250F a ton and although haven't had anything major go wrong with our YZ250F we did go through two stock batteries. Our YZ450F has never had a battery issue, but our YZ250F needed help in this area. We installed a FirePower battery in our test bike and had no other battery related issues. I also have received emails about timing chains going out and if we ran into this problem. The answer is no, but if you are a high revving, faster intermediate/pro type of rider, changing a timing chain every 20 hours is not uncommon. Follow your owners manual for regular scheduled maintenance, but just know that those maintenance schedules that Yamaha “suggests” aren't based on every type of rider. Each rider is different, but for the average rider/racer the Yamaha still has superb durability and is one of the few bikes that gives me less headaches during the course of the year. Please don’t believe everything you read on message boards and consider asking and trusting people and/or media outlets that spend a lot of time on these machines. I mean if I search up “headaches” on WebMD, I usually will read that I have some sort of Cancer and I should go to the hospital ASAP. Just because “Bobby Two Stroke” says Yamaha’s are ticking time bombs doesn’t mean they really are. Oh and you most likely DO NOT have Cancer, so everyone chill down. Sometimes message boards are a lot like WebMD, so proceed with some sort of caution. I am all not saying that a YZ250F’s will never blow up because they can just like any other machine. Take care of this bike and most likely it will take care of you.


Throttle Play:

Check your YZ250F’s throttle play when you get it home. Most of the units I have seen have had a ton of free play in the throttle. The bad news is you are not able to adjust it all the way out with the top throttle cable adjusters. You will have to adjust the cables play on the throttle body in order to get most of it out. After adjusting the throttle play on the throttle body, proceed to adjust the top throttle cable adjusters to get the desired free play. Throttle play is a preference, but to me there is way too much throttle play, off the showroom floor, on the YZ250F. I have went to a couple dealerships and blipped throttles just to check and most had A LOT of play. Check your throttle free play!   

Wear Items:

I am not a huge fan of the stock grips on the YZ250F as they feel fat, the chain guide and slider are actually pretty damn good on the YZ250F compared to other Japanese machines, sprockets and chains are your average 10 hour change out items, I go through clutch plates every 10-12 hours and I am fairly abusive on clutches, the 2020 air filter seals better thanks in part to a rubber grommet in the middle of the filter, but leave the backfire screen in for added dirt/particle safety, and the Bridgestone X20’s provide a good amount of traction and lean angle grip, but when they wear down slightly they are very un-predictable under hard lean angle.

If you have any questions about the 2020 Yamaha YZ250F please feel free to ask away at kris@keeferinctesting.com. Hopefully we can give you an intelligent and enlightening answer, but if we don’t know the answer to your question, we simply will reply with an “I don’t know”. We don’t know everything.

2020 Honda CRF250R Start Up/Baseline Settings/Tips

I have been testing the 2020 Honda CRF250R at more than a few different tracks trying to get this baseline setting article out to you all. I have finally found a few settings that I think most of you could appreciate as well as benefit from. With Honda being one of only two manufacturers to change their 250’s significantly for 2020, I wanted to make sure all you new 2020 CRF250R owners or future buyers had a great starting point. Here are some settings that will help you enjoy your ride more and tinker with less: 



In stock form the Showa suspension on the 2020 Honda CRF250R has decent comfort on de-cel bumps, but lacks a little hold up for riders ranging from 160-190 pounds. If you’re over 190 pounds going up a spring rate on each end is your ticket to a better handling CRF250R. After riding with this setting below at three different tracks, more than one time around, I figured out that this baseline suspension setting gave the 2020 Honda CRF250R the most “track toughness”. If you happen to feel like the fork is harsher (through the mid stroke) with this setting, simply open up the rebound (faster) back to stock setting. This will help free up the fork slightly under front end load (off-gas). The shock needs just a little more hold up under acceleration so simply going stiffer/slower on low speed compression/rebound gives the rider more comfort and added traction out of corners. I tried experimenting with high speed compression, but the Honda is finicky with high speed. Going stiffer on high speed compression (shock) put too much weight on the front end (fork) creating a harsher feeling front fork.


Height: 3mm (Stock is 5mm)

Compression: 7-8 clicks out (Stock is 9 clicks out)

Rebound: 10 clicks out (Stock is 11 clicks out) 


Sag: 100-101mm

High Speed Compression: 2-5/6

Low Speed Compression: 10 clicks out (11 clicks out is stock)

Rebound: 5 clicks out (6 clicks out is stock)



As of right now I prefer the stock engine mounts torqued to the OEM/manual settings. Some bikes react better to aftermarket engine mounts than others and as of right now I feel the best settings (for comfort) come from the stock engine mounts. You can however torque the swingarm pivot bolt to 52 ft.lbs. for increased flex under throttle, while leaning. If you feel like the rear end is planted and doesn't deflect under load on chop please leave it at the OEM/manual torque spec. If you feel like the Honda is standing up through mid corner simply go back up to 5mm on fork height with the above suspension specs to help mid corner lean.


I went back and forth between the stock 13/48 gearing and 13/49, but ultimately decided on sticking with stock. Why? I felt the 13/49 gearing made second gear less usable and didn't help me get into third gear any quicker. The 13/49 robs too much top end away from second and third gears on medium to faster flowy tracks. If you’re riding a tight track and suffer from bad corner technique going to a 13/49 could benefit you more. Decide which tracks you ride the most and what type of rider you are in order to decide which way to go with your gearing. 


Steering Head Nut:

Do yourself a favor and tighten up the steering head nut a little on the 2020 Honda CRF250R. The steering comes too loose from the factory and can cause some knifing in corners and can give you slight head shake on de-cel. Simply tightening the steering head nut a little makes the Honda’s front end feel more planted (less loose feeling) when performing corners/initial lean/turning the handlebars. This is a simple modification, but really helps the Honda’s ride attitude around the track. Sometimes it’s the simple/easy things in life that make a difference. Dirt bikes are no different.

ECU Map Switch:

I like map three the best for most tracks around these parts and for more torque out of corners. Even though Honda improved their torque for 2020, it still lacks some pulling power out of corners, compared to the Yamaha. Running the 2020 CRF250R in map three will benefit you the most in this situation. This is my preferred map, but map one is also very usable and can pull pull you farther in second/third gear. 



Going to a Rekluse Torque Drive Clutch Pack will give you better clutch lever feel as well as clutch life. The engagement of the lever ratio doesn't change, but it lets you put more of that horsepower to the rear wheel, without slipping, when hard on the throttle in soft dirt. This is simply a clutch pack and not the complete system. You use the stock OEM inner, outer, basket clutch pieces with this kit.


I am not going to sit here and say that Honda fixed ALL of their cooling issues with the radiator change they made for 2020. The Honda CRF250R still runs hot and will puke some radiator coolant out of the overflow when riding in the higher RPM’s during a long moto (20-30 minutes). Just keep an eye on your coolant level if you’re riding in hot an or deep sandy conditions. I had to add a little coolant to the radiator on longer, hotter days here in Southern California. Don’t be lazy and you’ll be fine. I am looking into trying a couple things to help this situation in the future so check back here for more updates on this.


Inexpensive Way To Get Less Rigidity:

Renthal Fatbars come stock on all CRF’s and while we like the strength/bend of the new bar, I still feel like they are stiff on slap down landings/square edge. Going to a Pro Taper EVO handlebar will take away some rigidity as well as give you less vibration to your hands. The 4mm wall thickness of the Pro Taper EVO bar is something I have tested back to back against the Renthal Fatbar. Even if you painted both bars black and sent me on a blind test, I would come back within a lap and tell you which bar was which. It’s that noticeable. If you like the stock bar bend try the Pro Taper EVO SX Race bend as that is the closest bend to the stock 839 Honda Fatbar. 

Renthal 839 Fatbar    (L) 802 (H) 91 (R) 51 (S) 51 (mm)

Pro Taper SX Race    (L) 800 (H) 87 (R) 54 (S) 54 (mm)

If you have any questions about your Honda or anything in this article please feel free to email me and hopefully I can help you out. kris@keeferinctesting.com

2020 Kawasaki KX450 Review/Baseline Settings

The 2020 Kawasaki KX450 is exactly the same as the 2019 Kawasaki KX450, but the 2020 version just has more green. Kawasaki focused all of its R&D efforts on the KX250 for 2020 so the bigger brother just got a few more green plastic pieces, but that doesn't mean we didn't hit the R&D’ing hard. I really wanted to get some updated settings for you Team Green riders out there in hopes that it will help you set up your 2019-2020 KX450 in a more timely manner. Here are some thoughts and settings on the 2020 Kawasaki KX450:


Engine Feel: Just in case you were trying to decide on if the 2020 KX450 is better than the 2018 version, let me tell you, there is no comparison. The 2020 comes on quicker with a lighter, more free-revving feel and has less engine braking. I am usually not a guy who likes to de-tune a stock 450cc motocross bike, but the Kawasaki simply is too crisp from 0-5% throttle opening on slicker/hard pack tracks. Yes, too crisp! Where you feel this 0-5% is when you’re barely on the throttle through longer ruts. The KX450 gets jumpy with the stock green coupler and it upsets the chassis, which makes you very inconsistent through corners. Once the black coupler is installed it controls that 0-5% and gives you an incredible, yet smooth pulling power that feels similar to a KTM 450 SX-F. The mid range has a nice amount of meat and the smoother pulling power of the top end/over-rev is noticeable on longer straights or up hills. I didn’t lose mid to top end pulling power with the black coupler (compared to the stock green one) and I could ride the KX450 more aggressively through corners. The engine is super connected to the rear wheel and never steps out coming out of corners. This is an impressive power plant! After I rode with the black coupler a few times I decided that I would like to increase the mid to top end pull so I created a map with Kawasaki to get some more in that area. *See below for map*  

Weight Feeing (Chassis): I was told that the 2020 Kawasaki KX450’s frame is 1.87 pounds lighter than it was in 2018. The total weight of the new machine has only increased roughly three pounds from 2018, but to me it feels lighter than the 2018. Why? I feel it is because of the way the 2020 Kawasaki makes its power. It is very free feeling and snappy which makes this bike have a very light/nimble feeling through corners. I am able to lay it down with ease and cut down under a blown out rut almost as easy as a KTM/Husqvarna. I do get a little twitch on de-cel (which can be fixed with a fork spring change), but it wasn't a horrible or un-easy feeling. Straight line stability is still the same straight and arrow Kawasaki feel that you expect, but with added traction. The frame absorption is the best attribute of this machine and other manufacturers should take notice of how well this KX450 feels when the track goes to crap. The whole bike feels friendlier than any other 2020 machine on square edge and the only other one that comes close in comfort is the Yamaha YZ450F.   


Hydraulic Clutch: The Nissin hydraulic clutch feels nothing like a Brembo or Magura. The Nissin hydraulic feel is a little bit of cable and hydro. What the hell does that mean Keefer? It means that there is a little play in the Nissin hydraulic lever that makes it feel like a cable pull initially. Unlike a Brembo where there is no play and is very touchy (on/off feel), the Nissin has more of a progressive feeling. So far I prefer the Nissin clutch engagement/feel over the Brembo. I like to ride the clutch a little with my finger while I ride, so having that little bit of play ensures that I don't burn up my clutch as quick. The clutch can slip at times under heavy load/under throttle if the track is super deep. You will be able to feel the lever start to creep in towards your grip when accelerating out of corners at times. To combat this you can simply remove the judder spring and add a fiber to the clutch pack.   


Suspension Comfort: The 2020 Kawasaki is so much more balanced than previous generation KX450’s and I was able to set the front end down where I wanted to without feeling like the front end was going to snap my wrists. The fork has tons of comfort, but is also too soft/divy for my liking. At tracks with hills or sizable jumps, the fork was too low in the stroke and bottomed too many times. Going stiffer on the compression only hurt de-cel bump comfort, so I settled on going slower on the rebound, which helped some. The shock is soft as well on slap down landings, but going eight clicks (two full turns) in helped keep the rear end up and thus helps wallow feeling. This setting will get you by on most tracks, but do yourself a favor and read the recommended suspension settings below for optimal balance of the KX450. The recommended settings below will help with hold up and ride comfort.


Cornering/Chassis: The 2020 KX450 is a more “neutral” cornering machine than in previous years. I am able to get more front end bite than last year, but also am still able to rear steer the green machine very well too. I had a rear end steering tester with me at the intro and he liked how well it backed into corners as well as much as I liked the front end bite from mid-exit of corner. I say mid-end because the KX450 still does have a slight vague feel on entrance of corners so Raising the fork up 2mm in the clamp helps this feeling somewhat and gives you increased front bite. 

Rider Traingle: The footpeg to seat to handlebar ratio is great! The seat is flat, which puts me more on top of the machine than “in” it like the 2018 did. I like this feeling and it makes maneuvering on the bike better for my 6’0 frame.

7/8 Handlebars: Some manufacturers go away from 7/8 handlebars, but Kawasaki keeps them around and I approve! They flex, they offer better vibration characteristics and unlike what most people think DO NOT bend THAT easily. I have crashed my brains out on 7/8 bars and they didn't bend as bad as I thought. I can live with 7/8 bars on a production machine. 

Brakes: Do yourself a favor and get a 2018 rear disc and hanger. The 250mm disc is too grabby and really screws up my corners/braking points. The rear end will slide when I don't expect it and this causes my corners to be herky/jerky. 

2020 KX450 Suspension Settings:


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:12-13 clicks out

Rebound Range: 11 clicks out

Fork Height: 2mm


Spring Rate: Standard (190 pounds or over, try one spring rate heavier)

Low Speed Compression: 16 clicks out

High Speed Compression: 1 1/8 turns out

Rebound: 11 out


Coupler/ECU Setting:

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 mid to top, so I 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 and improved overall traction feel. In the testing world we call this "cornering stability". With this map installed it helped the 2020 KX450's cornering stability, especially on intermediate terrain. You will need to use the white coupler in and use the Kawasaki FI Calibration Tool to create this map. 

White Kawasaki FI.jpg
White Kawasaki IG.jpg

Where Does The 2020 KX450 Rank Amongst The 2019 Shootout Winner:

I have come to really appreciate the stability of the 2020 KX450 and like how confidence inspiring it can be on rough tracks. It isn’t the leader in the cornering category, but it sure is the leader in bump absorption and comfort. The KX450 still feels long to me, but at least now I can feel my front end through corners, which for my riding style is very important. If you were to ask me what bike I would want to ride Glen Helen on at 3:00 PM? I would choose the KX450 a close second to the YZ450F. The KX450’s frame character and stable/neutral nature has me rolling the throttle on harder when conditions get worse. The only reason I pick the Yamaha over the Kawasaki is because of the engine pulling power the Yamaha has up the hills. The Kawasaki feels lighter than the Yamaha in corners and is easier to manage when making sudden rut/line choices. I also like the fact that I can explore different parts of the track and not have to back down my speed that much because the KX450 chassis remains calm. I appreciate the KX450 the more I ride it against other machines in its class.  

If you have any questions about the 2020 KX450 please feel free to ask away and email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com. We try to give you the correct path when choosing a new machine! They aren’t cheap! We know this!

2020 Yamaha YZ450F In Depth First Ride

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


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

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

2020 YZ450 keefer inc -1-4.jpg

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


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

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

2020 YZ450 keefer inc -1-11.jpg

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

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

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


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

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

2020 YZ450 keefer inc -1-15.jpg

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

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

2020 Honda CRF250R First Impression

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



2020 Honda CRF450R First Impression

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


New For 2020: 

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

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

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

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


On Track Feeling:

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

2020 KTM 250 SX-F First Impression

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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

2020 Husqvarna FC250/350 First Impression

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

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

2020 FC keefer-1-8.jpg

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

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

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

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

2020 FC keefer-1-21.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

A Pro’s Perspective: Colton Aeck National #526

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FC250 On The Track:

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

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

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

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

FC 350 On The Track:

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

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

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

250 350 Comparison:

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

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

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

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

2020 KTM Offroad TPI Introduction

By: Dominic Cimino

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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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


2020 Husqvarna FC450 Baseline/Start Up Settings

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


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


Air Pressure: 10.9 bar

Compression: 14-15 out

Rebound: 11 out

Fork Height: 5mm


L/S Compression: 11-12 clicks out

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

Rebound: 12 clicks out

Sag: 104-105mm

Shock: (195 pounds and over)

Spring Rate: 48N/m

L/S Compression: 14 clicks out

H/S Compression: 2 turns out

Rebound: 13 clicks out

Sag: 104-105mm


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

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

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


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


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

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


2020 Yamaha YZ250F On-Track Facts And Figures

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


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

2020 Filter Element

2020 Filter Element

2019 Changes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

On The Track With The 2020 YZ250F:

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

2020 Kawasaki KX250 Baseline/Start Up Settings

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


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


Compression: 12 clicks out

Rebound: 9 out

Height: 5mm 


L/S Compression: 5 clicks out

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

Rebound: 15 out

Sag: 103-104mm


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


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


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

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

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