2018 Yamaha YZ85 Review

KEEP KIDS ON DIRT BIKES NOT THEIR PHONES!!! It's known that kids are the future of the world, and what better way to raise those kids than on a dirt bike right? The 2018 YZ85 brings big-bike performance to a small package, all for $4,299 of mom and dad’s hard earned blue collar money. The Yamaha has 33-inch seat height and 157-pound overall weight so make sure your little guy or gal has some biceps on them. The YZ 85 package may not be small, but depending on what your kid is looking for, may be the perfect amount of punch to haul them around the track or trail. My 12 year old son Aden is a novice moto kid, is 81 pounds, 5'0 tall and loves dirt bikes. He has been riding gas powered dirt bikes since he was eight years old and has put a ton of hours on the the Yamaha YZ85 over the course of several months.

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The YZ package has been around since 2002, but the bike got a clutch and transmission update in 2014 and then a new cylinder, bodywork, and clutch lever in 2015. The Yamaha is the only two-stroke that does not have a power valve, which shows up in less-broad power.

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The Yamaha’s engine has somewhat of a weak low-end, but once into the power the blue bike pulls hard. This can be a problem for beginner or novice type riders as there is really no smooth transition from bottom to mid range.The Yamaha needs more clutch effort out of corners to get up in the revs and more shifting to stay in the mid and top-end, but Aden said that once he was in the middle to upper range the bike was fun. It was the low end that was difficult to manage at times for him, especially when he got tired. Jetting is slightly rich off bottom in stock trim, which can be ok for slower riders to help make that sudden “hit” less intimidating, but we raised the clip portion up one to clean some of that bottom end up. Aden found the shifting was smooth and I never viewed him missing shifts or hitting false neutrals while trying to pin it around the track.

Aden Keefer's butt whip

Aden Keefer's butt whip

 

The fork and shock soaked up bumps for my 81 pound red head and seemed to work great in both high and low-speed tracks we ride at. Aden described the suspension as like pillows over bumps. I kept an o-ring around the fork to see how much travel he was using to monitor if I needed to stiffen or soften the compression on the fork. Upon inspection, we kept the forks clickers stock and overall the suspension looked to have a very dead feeling when Aden rode it. Interesting note with the suspension: I tried making some changes to the fork to see if Aden could feel the difference, but he usually came back with “ I don’t feel anything”, so I went with what I saw on the track and left the fork alone. Aden praised the YZ’s cornering ability and thought it was very nimble (despite the weight on paper) when practicing his butt whips over some kickers. Straight line stability is superb on the Yamaha under acceleration and braking bumps. Aden never really was out of control on the YZ85, but dad also gets on him about being safe, so make sure to reiterate that to your child as well. Aden did complain about the brakes being somewhat soft/spongy when we picked up the Yamaha, so we bled both ends and that gave a better feeling around the track. The overall feeling of the YZ85 is a low and compact machine when riding and inspires confidence to try new things on the track. Aden liked his sag set at 84mm as that left him with a balanced feel around most tracks. This is more of a preference thing, but a good rule of thumb is to keep the 2018 YZ85 at around 80-85mm of sag. The cockpit is roomy that seems to be meant for taller kids and wasn’t  cramped for the 5’0 length of Aden. 

 

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The durability of the 2018 YZ85 is superb just like its bigger blue counter parts, but the clutch is one thing to watch out for. As Aden started to get a little more aggressive with the clutch, the lifespan of the plates went downhill. I changed out a clutch twice in a matter of 15 engine hours, so make sure to listen to your kid while riding to see if you can hear it slipping. Hinson and GYTR make clutch kits for the YZ85 that is stronger than stock and will last longer for your child’s clutch happy finger. Besides a clutch all we did was change air filters, transmission oil, grips and tires for the 35 hours that we have had the YZ85. The little blue ripper is a reliable piece of machinery for any young child to have fun on.   

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Extra Credit: We installed GYTR’s pipe and silencer combo on the 2018 YZ85 to see what it does to the power curve. Installing this pipe and silencer combo actually smoothed out the power down low (less of a light switch feel), but increased the mid to top end pulling power. In order to test this out dad had to get his 170 pound butt on the seat and do it himself, but I was able to feel the power character change immediately. If you are looking to smooth out the low end feel of the Yamaha’s power valve-less engine, the GYTR pipe and silencer could be a great choice. You can check out all of Yamaha's hard parts over at shopyamaha.com or visit Yamahamotorsports.com.

Extra Extra Credit: We also tried a out a Bills pipe and silencer on the 2018 YZ85 to see how it compared to the GYTR version. The Bills pipe and silencer combo is a more race oriented package with more of a hit. If you're looking for more bark down low and crisper throttle response, the Bill's combo does just that. Bottom to mid RPM response was increased and the bike sounded like a miniature 125! It barked! However, it didn't rev out quite as good as the GYTR version on top end. Mid-top end performance was slightly better with the GYTR pipe/silencer, but Aden liked the looks of the cone pipe on the Bill's better than the GYTR. Kids these days, I wonder where he got that? You can visit billspipes.com to check out the Yamaha YZ85 cone pipe/silencer. 

 

If you have any questions about the 2018 Yamaha YZ85 feel free to email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com 

 

2018 Yamaha YZ450FX First Impression

It’s no secret that the 2018 Yamaha YZ450FX is a close brother to Yamaha’s 2017 450F motocross bike. That being said, I think most riders would be surprised at how good of a job Yamaha has done turning a great moto bike into a great off-road bike. With no major changes to the 2018 FX model aside from the addition of blue wheels (which look awesome) and different graphics, the FX has proved itself to be one of my favorite all around bikes to ride. For me this bike doesn’t do any one thing perfect, but does a multitude of off-road duties pretty darn close.

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The Yamaha is well known for having one of the most powerful four-stroke engines (250cc or 450cc). Yamaha has done a great job walking the tightrope between having a lot of power and making that power rideable on the FX. The only time the power is touchy is just off idle when riding VERY slow in first gear coming on and off the throttle. Other than that slight jerky feeling, Yamaha mapped the FX so that the bottom end doesn’t have as much of an abrupt surge of power when the throttle was cracked like its motocross brother tends to have at times. That being said, the FX is no slouch, the majority of the meat is made from the bottom to the upper mid of the RPM range. When revved, it still makes power, but the most of the pulling power is made in the mid-range, not when it’s near the rev limiter. Another aspect that makes the FX better off-road than the YZ-F is that first through third gears are slightly shorter and fifth is slightly taller than the moto model. The lower gears really help when lugging through tighter trails by not forcing the rider to fan the clutch to keep the bike from stalling. When I said that fifth gear was taller I meant it! When fifth is wound out I found that in STOCK FORM the FX will go 101MPH! I doubled checked this on a GPS and found it to be true! 

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When it comes to off-road suspension, I’m a huge fan of spring forks for a few reasons. Let’s get real, no one wants another “chore” to do when getting ready to ride by having to check their air fork pressure. Second, because it’s no secret that air forks pump up when ridden for extended periods of time and when you’re on a long ride or race you want a consistent feeling fork. You don’t want something that will pump up and get harsh in an hour or two right?  The KYB SSS spring fork are the most comfortable and for me reliability/durability are huge advantage because most off-road guys don’t buy a new bike every year. The KYB SSS fork on the FX is a bit softer than the moto bike and to me it’s a bit soft in general. There is a slight springy/fast feeling when hitting g-outs or chopping the throttle. When I chop the throttle the front end tends to dive and there is a lot of pitching going on with the FX. However, the springy sensation gives the slightly heavy bike (262 lbs. wet) a lighter and fun feeling when riding in the rocks or just messing around. To me the KYB fork is slightly softer than the shock, which didn’t give me as much of a wallowing sensation as the fork. I ran the shock sag at 104mm with good results, but if you feel if it’s too soft on high speed hits try 102mm. Make sure to leave the fork flush as this is the happy spot for the Yamaha’s chassis to be most balanced. You don’t want an enhanced diving sensation and that is what raising the fork up will do. I think for most novice to intermediate riders the suspension is just a few clicks away from being really good, but for expert to pro riders, stiffer fork springs would help with the slightly soft feeling forks.

Some people who ride the Yamaha say that it feels big or girthy in the mid section, which in some way I can understand, but for me that isn’t always a bad thing. The FX is maybe a bit big feeling, but that translates to a stable, planted feeling at higher speed, which is a huge plus. I will gladly take a bike that is slightly harder to corner in tight terrain, but stable at speed, over super nimble bike that is twitchy at speed. When it does come to cornering I feel like the FX has a slightly vague feeling in the front end and at times in softer terrain, wanted to push. In flatter turns the FX is very predictable and I found it easier to slide and steer with the rear of the bike rather than the front. In the past the FX came with Dunlop AT-81 tires, which I’m not a huge fan of, but with Dunlop MX-3S tires mounted front and rear the Yamaha got a bit more front end traction than the AT-81 tires of the past. Some other off-road parts that Yamaha incorporates are an e-start, kickstand, 18” rear wheel, larger 2 gallon fuel tank, skid plate and a o-ring chain. It may be the hard core off-road rider in me, but I feel like any bike marketed as “off-road” should come with hand guards. Sadly, Yamaha does not. Another thing I feel like the FX is missing is a stock spark arrestor; I know it’s meant for closed course off-road racing, but a lot of closed course events require a spark arrestor (especially in California). 

We will be trying the 2018 YZ450FX in some of these types of conditions when GNCC rolls around.

We will be trying the 2018 YZ450FX in some of these types of conditions when GNCC rolls around.

After over 100 miles of trail riding on the 2018 Yamaha YZ450FX I’m super impressed that they made the motocross bike into such a good off-road machine. For west coast racing the FX seems to be the prefect mix of speed and stability and that is what most guys out here are looking for. I’m sure the slightly bigger feeling and extra technique it takes to maneuver the FX in tight conditions could be remedied with different off-set clamps or even an engine relocation kit form DRD. We will be trying some of these things soon to see if it helps in tighter conditions. The FX has been so fun to ride it may help bring me out of vet class retirement. –Michael Allen

If you have any questions about this test please feel free to email me at michael@keeferinctesting.com

Steve Matthes And The 2018 Suzuki RM-Z450

Kris Keefer’s been a pain in my ass. The guy who may ride more than anyone else in the industry is always on me to go dirt bike riding and I was trying in the off-season before I wadded up on a ten foot double, supercross started and I got busy. Still, he won’t let it go. He borrowed me an 2018 Suzuki RMZ450, I got some RMaRMy dog tags with my name on them and I needed to go riding. 

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He’s right though, I should ride more. For one, it’s fun exercise and two, it’s why we all started in this crazy industry in the first place. My bike was beat up after the crash pretty bad so step one was replacing those parts before I even thought about getting back on the bike. 

 

I bent the stock Renthal Fatbars and got a pair of Pro Taper Fuzion bars to replace them. I like the look of a crossbar bar (as in, I like having a bar right there in front of me) but I feel that one can notice the flex of a crossbar-less bar in terms of forks working better so I left the Fuzion in the “unlock position. I bent the shit out of the upper bar clamp so Ride Engineering sent me one of their mounts with plastic mounts instead of the garbage (in my opinion) rubber ones that come stock. The eight 6mm bolts to adjust your bars is a tad much but it’s lighter than four 8mm bolts so that’s what RE went with. It’s one fine looking machined piece. 

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Also, like most everyone should, I put a Works Connection Elite Perch on the bike and ditched the stock perch. Stock one wasn’t bad but the pull, the lever feel and the looks (blue!) of the WC perch can’t be beat.

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Also, I wanted a bit more from the ‘Zook so I went up one tooth on the rear with a PT sprocket (thanks Jody!). Oh and I wanted an exhaust on the bike, stock exhausts don’t work bad in many cases but this one felt (key word: felt) like it held the power back and of course, it weighed the same as a small bassett hound. Pro Circuit sent me a stainless T-4 system for the machine. 

 

I also had Randy Richardson install a new Michelin Starcross 5 Medium on the back, well I didn’t have him do it. He volunteered to do it and it was awesome. Great tire with a more specific feel than what was on there before. He left me a front tire that I have yet to change (much to his dismay) and honestly, I need to do it. I think, I don’t know, that the front on the Suzuki that comes stock is garbage. I can’t keep the front end from sliding in a hard packed turn (forks are in a very neutral position so that’s not it). The jury is out whether this is a front tire issue or a “shitty rider” issue. I’ll change it and let you guys know at some point. 

 

Ok, I went out two days this past week to get back on the horse I feel off of and try these things out. 

 

First up, a general overview of the 2018 Suzuki RMZ450. First off, it’s sex on wheels. IS there a better looking bike out there? I say no. From the coating on the forks and shock to the old-school blue tank (cover) to the wheels, it’s one hell of a badass bike. 

 

Before he gave me the Suzuki, Keefer let me try an ’18 YZF450 and ’18 CRF450 as well and I have to say, both bikes had a way better motor than the Suzuki. I’m not even going to get into the suspension because with my size, they’re all soft. Motor-wise though, the Yamaha was by far better than the other two then it was Honda and then Suzuki. These rides are why I wanted an exhaust system and went up one tooth on the rear. I wanted some more hit. 

 

Race Tech revalved my suspension front and rear and yeah, there are issues at the highest levels with the new BFRC Showa shock but for me, it’s fine. The forks are awesome, they’re basically like A kit from a few years ago. The guys at RT did great work and guess what, the bike works much better with the right spring rate in there! 

 

All in all, I think the Suzuki is a bike that does everything well. Nothing, from the turning to the motor to the ergos are going to blow your mind but there’s also nothing it does super bad or weird. Again, my suspension is setup for me so it’s fine. I’m sure Suzuki didn’t spend all this money on a basically all-new bike to hear jerkies like me say it’s “fine” but sorry bro, that’s what it is. It’s also not holding me back whatsoever out there on the track. 

 

Because I had been off the bike for so long, I rode Monday with the stock exhaust and the first “moto” (VERY LOOSE TERM) on Wednesday with it on. After that I put the PC system on and went back out on a semi-sandy track with mostly easy jumps, whoops and one section that’s fast. 

 

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I went out there and was a bit let down right off the back. I expected some better throttle response and a bit more hit right away. The muffler is shorter than stock so one would think this would be the feel I’d get but maybe it was a bit better, but not much. Where the system definitely came alive from stock was rolling on in third. I noticed first lap, out of this left-hander, that rolling it on brought the front wheel up whereas that didn’t happen with the stock. 

 

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I think this should tell you that the Japanese engineers do a good job with designing an exhaust and not that the PC is bad. With the amount of room one has to move piping around, there’s not much to do for the aftermarket companies. Upon riding some more, I can 100% attest to the Pro Circuit system having more in the mid to top range. Yes, I wanted more hit off bottom. No I didn’t get it. It’s ok, I’ll be fine. 

 

By the way, the fit and finish of the PC system was amazing. It went on like butter, no weirdo pushing and pulling. It was awesome, they even give you a new bolt for the muffler and some grease to put on the mid-pipe. 

 

SIDE NOTE: I didn’t remove the standard screen that was installed on the muffler because Keefer told me not to worry about it and then he told it would make a difference. Too bad for me, I didn’t have a 4mm allan key on me. Taking it out will help bottom end hit for sure but I’m just not sure how much. 

 

So yeah, there’s my write-up on the new 2018 Suzuki RMZ450 and all I’ve done it and why so far. Suzuki wants the bike back soon so I better keep at it. Honestly, it’s better to just ride than keep getting these texts from Keefer asking me how riding is going. 

 

First Impression: 2018.5 KTM 450SX-F Factory Edition

For those of you that don't like listening to your bike reviews via podcast, have no fear, I have smashed the computer keys for you all, so that you may read what it's like to ride the 2018.5 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition. KTM did a ton of revisions and have even made the bike slightly lighter than it already was in 2018. The frame, swingarm, engine, muffler system, suspension settings and bodywork all have been changed on this 2018.5 FE. Here are more than a few key attributes of the new KTM Factory Edition.  

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1. Engine: The new Factory Edition engine isn't that much different than the standard 2018 version KTM 450 SX-F. What you’re getting is a little more mid range pulling power and a slightly added RPM response (on low rpm) increase over the 2018 model. The FE is still silky smooth and has a very linear power, which doesn't wear the rider out easily like some other 450cc models can. The map switch is a great tool for riders that want a more smoother roll on delivery (map 1) or want a more frisky and peppy bottom end hit (map 2). I prefer map 2 as it’s still linear enough on hard pack portions of the track, but has better “hit” down low to get me out of soft pockets of the track better than map 1. 

 

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

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3. Suspension: Let’s not beat a dead horse here….You all know I am not an air fork rider, but the WP AER stuff is pretty damn good! Does it have the front end bite of a spring fork? No, it doesn’t. Does the AER fork have mid-stroke comfort? Yes, it does. Now don't get me wrong, the Yamaha KYB SSS fork is still better, but the AER fork is not that far behind it. Where the AER fork suffers is the consistency over a long day of riding. When I am riding the track at 2PM and have been there all day, the AER fork doesn't react the same as it did an hour or so ago. It’s not as drastic as it used to be, but I still want a little more consistency in my front end. I am however getting used to how much front end feel I have now with the AER and trust it more than I ever have. It gives me decent front end grip on lean in, but I would like a little more grip on corner exits. Like I said, mid-stroke comfort is good on straight-line and the KTM FE reacts well on braking bumps. The KTM FE WP AER fork does have a little more comfort on the top of its stroke compared to the Husqvarna Rockstar Edition, but I am looking for that supple feel when accelerating while hitting those bumps at speed. I want a little less deflection than the KTM front end has (on acceleration). The shock is quite good on the FE and as usual has a dead feel to it and is not reactive. This is a good thing! Loads of rear wheel traction and less side to side movement on the FE, which gives me a feeling that I can twist the throttle harder and sooner. 

 

4. Ergonomics: The 2018 KTM 450 SX-F had a bend in the shrouds that bothered the crap out of me when I cornered. People complain about the Yamaha YZ450F being fat in the middle, but the 2018 KTM 450 SX-F was as fat in the shroud area (with that bend in it) than the Yamaha. The new FE doesn't have that fat feeling or that bend any more in the shrouds! Hallelujah! The FE is very narrow feeling in the mid section and you are able to ride up on the tank even better with the lower mounted radiators. The rider triangle (peg/seat/handlebars) is short and tall rider friendly, but KTM needs to cut their bar width to a 801mm spec. The longer spec of the Neken bar gives me a wide feeling when I am cornering. I have cut last year’s handlebars down to 801mm and it gave me an even better feeling coming into corners without my arms going out too wide. You would think 9-10mm isn't that big of a deal, but once you cut them and see, you will thank me for your new found confidence in corners. The Selle Dalla Valle gripper seat keeps you in place so good that it will eat your ass up! Literally! Seriously guys, I am typing this with Bag Balm on my butt right now. Dear KTM, make the seat a little less aggressive. Thank you, -Keefer’s Ass. 

5. Expected Release Date: Eaaaaaaasy tiger, pump the brakes! Don't expect to go to your local KTM dealer and grab one of these bad ass machines right away. Make sure to talk to your wife about this purchase (I know I may have to as well) first and expect these beauties to be in dealers in early March. KTM only brought 500 of these suckers in so you might want to get that deposit sorted out ASAP. MSRP is going to be around the mid 10’s (yes, that’s ten grand), but to me the extra grand or so is worth it if you were going to buy an 2018 KTM 450 SX-F anyway. To me, the chassis improvements alone is worth the extra money. Basically you are buying a 2019 model in March, look at it that way. 

 

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6. KTM Vs. Husqvarna: “Keefer….Isn’t the 2018.5 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition and 2018.5 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition the same bike, but different colors”? That is the question on the heading of hundreds of emails that I get. On paper they are very close, but have differences. Just think of that movie “The Interview” with James Franco and Seth Rogan. “We are same, same, but different”. Here is the deal guys…..The KTM has a different spec muffler, airbox, swingarm, handlebars, plastic and of course color/graphics. They feel different on the track and if you listen to my podcast you will hear Eric Grondahl and I talk about which bikes we prefer. I chose the KTM because it has a little more hit down low, while coming out of corners. Eric chose the Husqvarna because he likes that smoother delivery and feels the front end is more compliant on steeper downhills while turning. The bikes are very close and it wouldn't matter to me which one I would get, because if I wanted more throttle response out of the Husqvarna, I can drill holes in the airbox and run some race fuel. Boom! Done! I do like the orange color way better, but like I said we are splitting hairs here. 

 

7.  Things That I Didn't Like: No bike is perfect right? The KTM FE has a long throttle pull. It feels like I have to chicken wing it to get it to the throttle stop. If I want to hold the KTM FE wide open I almost have to do a double twist of the throttle in order to get it to full throttle. I tried the black throttle cam that KTM and Husqvarna offers, but it made it too jumpy rolling the throttle on through corners. However, if I was riding sand or a soft track I would stick with the black throttle cam. If you're having that problem, look into that option of a different throttle cam. I mentioned the seat and how it eats up my rear end, but it also loses it’s color quick as well. It seems the sun fades the seat cover out within 20 hours of use. I am not a huge fan of lock on grips yet, as I can feel some handlebar stiffness compared to standard half-waffle soft grips. The spokes still need to be checked constantly, so make sure you are on the ball, at the track, with that. 

 

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

 

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9. Conclusion:  At the end of the day I am very happy with the changes KTM did to the 2018.5 Factory Edition. It makes me smile when I ride it and it opens up the track more for me to explore new lines. When you have a bike that is this easy to ride, with tons of rear wheel traction, is lightweight, it lets you explore options on the track that you normally wouldn't otherwise. It’s pretty damn cool! KTM sets the bar high for other manufacturers R&D departments and forces them to keep evolving their motorcycles. This is great for all us moto heads out there! Look for more setting tips and tricks as I get more time on this orange number 1 steed. Stay tuned to pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com for continual developments with the KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition. 

Comparing The 2018 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition To The 2018 FC450 Standard Edition

What exactly does the 2018 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition do differently on the track compared to the standard 2018 FC450? Is it worth the extra money? Isn’t that always the question? Is the juice worth the squeeze? After putting over 13 hours on the bike in just over two weeks I wanted to break down what the differences are on the track. If you want to learn more about the 2018 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition and the changes that it received click on this link to learn all about it: https://www.keeferinctesting.com/motocross-testing/2017/12/6/2018-husqvarna-fc450-rockstar-edition. 

Engine: The standard 2018 Husqvarna FC450 comes on smooth and builds RPM’s calculated which leads the rider to have maximum rear wheel traction. The Rockstar Edition is not different in that aspect, however with the engine changes Husky made to the “RE” it does have slightly more pulling power down low. The RPM response isn’t better on the RE, but getting out of the corner the 2018.5 machine pulls 2nd and 3rd gear just a tad harder. I still would like to have more RPM response like the Honda and Yamaha have, but what I do get out of this Rockstar Edition engine is a ton of connectivity from my throttle hand to the rear wheel. I can get on the gas so much sooner on this Husqvarna than I can on any Japanese model. My lap times are deceivingly fast because I simply don’t feel like I am charging that hard. When I do lap time comparisons on the Rockstar Edition in comparison to the 2018 FC450 and YZ450F, I am consistently 0.4-0.8 seconds faster a lap on the Rockstar Edition over the course of 15 minutes. What is even more confusing is that I don’t feel faster, but with how much rear wheel traction I have I can see why I am faster around the track on the RE. The Husqvarna engine also lets you pull second gear farther than any other 450cc model available (minus the KTM 450 SX-F). I did change the stock 13/48 gearing to a 14/52. On paper both of these ratios are the same, but the 14/52 gearing helped liven up third gear in corner for me. I could utilize third gear more with better RPM response than the stock gearing. Since I was on the prowl for more throttle response, I tried the smaller black throttle cam. The smaller throttle cam gave me more excitement down on low RPM’s, but it was harder to control through corners and I felt I lost some of that connectivity to the rear wheel some. It is a great option however for you rider that hit sand tracks and softer tilled dirt. The RE’s engine is slightly better than the standard 2018 FC450, but nothing that is life changing.

Chassis: This is where I think most of the improvements between the two Husky’s are felt on the track. The problem with the standard FC450’s chassis is that although super compliant and comfortable on intermediate to hard terrain, once you get on a softer, tackier type track and start to really push, you can feel the frame flex under loads. On east coast dirt the Husqvarna and KTM frames are not as magical as they are on the west coast hard pack dirt. The standard frame is great on square edge, choppy terrain, but if you have a long sweeper with some rolling whoops you can feel the frame flex and then release which gives you a swapping sensation out of the rear end (I can feel this on the west coast as well). It unsettles the rear end and forces the rider to let off the throttle. The new RE feels more planted from the swingarm pivot bolt back and has a more solid feel. Rigid? No. Solid? Yes. Some magazines are mistaken the solid feel for a harsh feel in the fork, but that couldn’t be more further from the truth. The new Rockstar Edition chassis carves corners with ease and feels super light on the track. It actually feels lighter than the standard edition when needing to make a sudden line change. Straight line stability is improved even with the solid feel and I can hang it out out a little more with the newfound solid feel. Since Husqvarna gave us 10mm more rear wheel chain adjustment space, I tried this and found it to be better for rear wheel traction, but also lended me a broken rear fender. If you bottom out the rear shock a lot (which is not that hard to do with the Rockstar Edition) be careful about putting the rear wheel too far back because when you bottom out, it could break the rear fender where it mounts up underneath the seat like it did on me.

Suspension: Now I have a theory about this Rockstar Edition suspension. I call it a “theory” because I didn’t speak directly to any of Husky’s R&D testers yet about this. As a production tester I kind of know how things are developed and feel Husqvarna went a little softer on their suspension settings because their RE frame was a little stiffer now. It makes sense to me and you can feel the soft suspension immediately once out on the track. The RE WP AER fork has a standard air pressure setting of 10.5 bars (from 10.8 on the standard edition), but I go up to 10.6-10.7 bars on jumpier style tracks. The fork bottoms out on flat landings and up steeper jump faces. On de-cel bumps (off throttle) the RE fork is better than the standard FC450 however. On throttle though the Rockstar Edition fork feels like it has less traction than the standard FC450 fork. When accelerating over some braking bumps or hitting the tops of acceleration chop the front end feels less planted to the ground than the standard version. If you are coming into a corner and chop the throttle the fork has a pretty comfortable mid-stroke feel, but once back on throttle the fork feels slightly harsh and has some deflection. Out back the shock is soft on high speed compression plain and simple. The shock has a good damping character at the beginning and middle part of its stroke, but near the end it just falls away and feels empty. I would like to see WP/Husqvarna fill that part in with some more high speed compression damping force. I tried going stiffer on the high speed, but it hurt the rear end comfort on acceleration chop for me too much for me to justify the change. I did go in four clicks on the low speed compression and slowed the shock down three clicks to try and get it to hold up just a bit more for me. Overall, the FC450 Rockstar Edition has a softer feel to it, but both ends of the machine feels balanced. I will be looking for more hold up and increased comfort in the common weeks so stay tuned for a Keefer Tested podcast on some updated specs.

Ergonomics: The standard 2018 FC450 was tough to lift my leg up high into corners because the mid shroud area always snagged my pant/knee braces. The KTM was even worse yet, but the new RE FC450 is much slimmer feeling and the rider sits more on top than in. I also can grip with my legs better and I don’t feel like the rear end of the bike is as fat as it once was. Some magazines were bitching about the lower bar bend, but I actually like it. I tried a slightly higher bend and I hated it so I went back to stock. For all you Husqvarna/KTM owners out there do yourself a favor and stick with a low/flat bar bend. Both of these bikes are a little front end high anyway and you don’t want to compound this with a higher bar. The gripper/pleated seat works well, but make sure to have some Bag Balm on hand to rub on your ass! This seat tears my butt up! I am working with a chaffed ass here people! I love riding this bike so much, but I pay the price when I get home that evening.

In closing the 2018 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition is a better machine than the standard 2018 FC450. If I was going to by a Husky (which I just might do) I would be willing to pay the extra grand or so for this model for the simple fact of the chassis and the small engine improvements that come with it. Stay tuned to pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com for more on-track testing info from this white stallion.

Race Tech Suspension Review (2018 Honda CRF450R)

 

I am going to hit you all with some truth right out of the gate here. I wasn't a fan of Race Tech suspension back when I last tried it in 2006-2007’ish. I couldn't find a setting that I liked because it was either too mushy feeling or had a harsh feeling near the end of the stroke. Fast forward ten years or so and I came into contact with Chris and Rob at Race Tech. They asked if I was available to help test some stuff and if I wanted to try a setting for my 2018 Honda CRF450R test bike? Honestly I was hesitant, but being a test rider I must practice what I preach and have an open mind to everything I try, so I accepted their offer and set my suspension off to Corona, California where their headquarters is located. It took them five business days to complete and my suspension was back on my bike and ready to rip. 

 

IMG_6886.jpg

Race Tech installed Gold Valves in the fork and shock of the CRF450R. I didn't know Race Tech offered as many different types of Gold Valves as they do, so here is a break down of different types of Gold Valves. These types are available for motocross and off-road applications from the Race Tech website:

Fork Gold Valves (Direct From Race Tech)

 

    •    TYPE 1 - High flow valving piston enables outstanding bottoming resistance while retaining a plush controlled ride. Extremely versatile.

        

    •    For Motocross, Offroad, Trial, Hillclimb, Supermoto, Street, Road Race, Drag Racing and many other applications. 

        

    •    TYPE 2 - Smaller ports increase bottoming resistance for more extreme types of riding. NOTE: These Kits will be harsher than Type 1. 

        

    •    For Aggressive Motocross, Supercross and Supermoto.

        

    •    G2-R - This valve offers the ability to change port size by changing restrictor shim diameter. It also has the ability to preload the valving stack for dive control. G2-R Damping Curves can be produced to mimic both Type 1 and Type 2 Kits. It can produce curves not available to T1 & 2 as well. The G2-R can be setup for any type of riding. It is the most versatile valve design in the world!

        

    •    For Motocross, Offroad, Trial, Hillclimb, Supermoto, Street, Road Race, Drag Racing and many other applications. 

        

    •    Rebound Gold Valves - Many rebound valving systems are grossly inadequate. No matter what modifications are attempted, the forks will never perform with precision and control. These Kits offer the advantage of both adjustable Mid-Valve and Rebound. Available for most Dual Chamber Showa, KYB and WP Forks. 

        

    •    For Motocross, Offroad, Trial, Hillclimb, Supermoto, Street and Road Race. 

 

        

    Shock Gold Valves:

 

Shock Gold Valves control both Compression and Rebound.

    •    TYPE 1 - High flow valving piston enables bottoming resistance and "feel" while retaining a plush controlled ride.

        

    •    For Motocross, Offroad, Trial, Hillclimb, Supermoto, Street, Road Race, Drag Racing, and many other applications.

    •    TYPE 2 - Smaller compression ports increase bottoming resistance for more extreme types of riding. NOTE: These Kits will be harsher than Type 1.

        

    •    For Aggressive Motocross, Supercross, and Supermoto.

 

On The Track: 

Let’s get to the reason why you are reading this. Does it work better? Before getting on the Race Tech valved suspension I recently tested and spent time on the stock suspension, Enzo, Factory Connection and Pro Circuit re-valved sets. Although the 2018 stock suspension has a better balance than the 2017 CRF450R stuff I was still looking for some increased mid-stroke comfort in the fork and more damping out of the end stroke on the shock. The companies above provided me with most of what I was looking for, but I felt when the track got hacked out with square edge and chop, the sets I have tried felt on the firm side and was difficult to ride for a longer duration of time. With the firmer Honda chassis I wanted to get more comfort out of my suspension. The Showa A-kit fork you see on this test bike is basically the same fork that is on your stock 2017-2018 Honda CRF450R with only a few special coatings. 

 

IMG_6889.jpg

Race Tech Fork: Initially when I went out on the 2:00PM bumpy Glen Helen track I immediately thought the fork was moving too much in the stroke, but when I started to get my speed up and started to push, I quickly realized that wasn't the case. The fork moved in the stroke, but never bottomed in an un-ordinary fashion on the track. What it did do was give me more front end traction than stock as well as any other setting I have tried to date yet. The front tire followed the blown out Glen Helen terrafirma better than I usually feel coming from a Honda. Usually I get some type of deflection and or pitching from the CRF450R fork late in the day, but to my surprise the fork had an ample amount of damping and increased mid-stroke comfort. I did slow the rebound down one click and stiffen up the compression two clicks for the downhills at Glen Helen. Doing this just helped keep my front end up a little more on steep grade de-cel. I ran the fork height flush at Glen Helen and 2-3mm up in the clamp everywhere else I tested. If you have big downhills running the fork flush will help stability and help combat pitching sensation. When going to some softer dirt with larger braking bumps the Race Tech fork feeling/sensation didn't alter that much. The front end remained planted and didn't dive under heavy braking. This helped me corner quicker and let me dive into corners harder. I could get aggressive with my technique and not have to worry about unsettling the chassis while entering corners. Tracks with steeper jump faces I noticed I would like a little more hold up, so I am going to try and add a small amount of oil to see if this helps hold the front end up a little. However, I am only going to try 5cc's. What? Only 5? Yes, I can feel 5cc’s. Usually magazines go in 10cc increments, but to me that is too much. Pala Raceway in California has some bigger jump faces and is usually not the norm for a motocross track, so this is something that is an extreme case. All of the other tracks I went to the fork held up just fine. Note: Stock fork spring rate was used for my 170 pound carcass of a body. 

 

IMG_6896.jpg

Race Tech Shock: On previous settings I ran a 1mm Ride Engineering link, but for a starting point with this test I went back to a stock link. Now as you can see I am on a Showa A-kit shock, but the only big difference between the stock shock and the kit shock is that the shock shaft on these kit shocks are 18mm in size, the stock shock shaft is 16mm. To me I prefer a stock shock as the 18mm shaft makes the rear end feel to harsh/rigid compared to the standard 16mm shaft. This was one of the things I wanted to try and fix when talking to Chris and Rob at Race Tech. I needed more comfort out of acceleration chop and while I did get increased comfort on acceleration (out of corners) with the Race Tech set up, the action of the rear end had a slower feel. Usually a slower feel is good where off throttle de-cel bumps form, but not so good when on throttle square edge bumps come into play. The Race Tech shock/rear wheel, much like the fork, followed the ground much better than with other previous settings. In order to get that feeling, I would of had to resort to the Ride Engineering link, but now I got that rear wheel traction with the Race tech re-valve and the standard link. When accelerating out of corners the rear end felt plusher and it cut the harshness in half when hitting holes and square edge. Let me paint you this picture for a moment; instead of feeling a harsh point or spike through the rear end of the bike four out of the five bumps with the stock setting, I now only feel maybe two. The rear wheel sticks to the ground and absorbs more of the junk down in the rut instead of getting a spike and wheel spin. If you are looking to never feel any of the bumps out on a track, you are going to be looking for that feeling the rest of your life. Why? Because that is not ever going to happen! If there are bumps on a track you are going to feel most of them regardless, however it’s in what degree you feel those bumps that makes a good set of suspension or a bad set. On de-cel/braking bumps the Race Tech shock had that dead feel that I was looking for and never reacted too quickly when staying on the gas longer into corners. If there was one negative to the shock it was that I wanted a little more high speed damping on steeper jump faces. I tried going in on high speed compression and it just hurt my acceleration comfort. It wasn't worth the trade off for me. I decided on a sag setting of 108mm and that kept the bike balanced and working the best on all tracks and conditions. 

 

IMG_6897.jpg

Verdict: I don’t know if I was wrong about the Race Tech stuff in the past or maybe it’s just their settings/Gold Valves have evolved over time and improved? Whatever the reason is, I am pleasantly surprised with the first setting I received from them. I am going to send the shock back to see if I can get more high speed compression damping, but to me I could go race this setting on any track around these parts. This is the best Honda CRF450R setting I have tried to date and am looking forward to spending more time with this machine with this Race Tech suspension. Stay tuned as I will get back to you all with an update on the second shock setting. 

 

Price List: 

Racetech.com 

Fork Re-Valve $100.00

2 qt. Fork Fluid $ 39.98 

Fork Gold Valve $175.00

Fork Rebound Gold Valve $169.95

Shock Re-Valve $100.00

Shock Fluid $24.99

Shock Gold Valve $169.99

Rear 5.6 Shock Spring $119.99 

If you have any questions about this test or any other tidbits you must know please feel free to email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com  

 

 

 

    

2018 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition

Husqvarna brought out the red carpet for their all new 2018 FC450 Rockstar Edition in downtown Los Angeles at the OUE Skyspace. Jeff Emig hosted the event to unveil the new machine as well as all of the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna riders. Jason Anderson and Dean Wilson have been riding the new Rockstar Edition for just over a month now and both have said that it does feel a lot different from their previous machines they were on. Once both riders got acclimated they noted that the chassis was the most noticeable difference, as front wheel traction was much better through flat corners than the previous models they both raced. There is not an MSRP set yet for the bike at this time so look for that soon. We will be able to hop on one to test in a couple weeks so stay tuned for a full podcast about how the Husqvarna works out on the track. In the meantime here are some photos of the Rockstar Edition FC450 as well as some specs for you all to gander. 

FC 450 ROCKSTAR EDITION – UPGRADE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Frame offering increased longitudinal rigidity
  • Carbon fiber reinforced skid pate
  • New 2-piece subframe design (0.5 lb lighter)
  • Chain adjustment length increased by 5 mm
  • Mechanical holeshot device offered as standard
  • Stiffer upper triple clamp 
  • Triple clamp protector integrated into the front number plate
  • WP DCC rear shock featuring new piston and updated setting 
  • 260 mm floating front disc with standard front disc protector
  • ProTaper handlebar with new bend
  • New flow-designed resonance chamber
  • Shorter and more compact silencer
  • New generation Li-Ion 2.0 Ah battery
  • Updated cooling system featuring new center tube
  • External fuel line moved inward for added protection
  • More compact SOHC cylinder head (15 mm lower & 1 lb lighter)
  • Gearbox produced by Pankl Racing Systems
  • Billet Rekluse clutch cover
  • Redesigned bodywork

 

The 2018 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition 

The 2018 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition 

               The new Husqvarna comes with a Rekluse Factory Racing clutch cover.

               The new Husqvarna comes with a Rekluse Factory Racing clutch cover.

No FMF or Akrapovic here. Husqvarna wanted to stick with their own branded production muffler with the new machine. 

No FMF or Akrapovic here. Husqvarna wanted to stick with their own branded production muffler with the new machine. 

                                An updated floating 260mm waved disk is now used. 

                                An updated floating 260mm waved disk is now used. 

                A new lower bend Pro Taper handlebar and a top mount that is stiffer. 

                A new lower bend Pro Taper handlebar and a top mount that is stiffer. 

                                            Standard mechanical holeshot device. 

                                            Standard mechanical holeshot device. 

                                             New racing inspired ribbed seat cover.  

                                             New racing inspired ribbed seat cover.  

                                                Carbon fiber reinforced skidplate.

                                                Carbon fiber reinforced skidplate.

Updated WP AER fork settings and these cool new lower triple clamp protectors built into the front number plate. 

Updated WP AER fork settings and these cool new lower triple clamp protectors built into the front number plate. 

FC 450 ROCKSTAR EDITION

ENGINE

Engine type

Single cylinder, 4-stroke

Displacement

449.9 ccm

Bore/stroke

95/63.4 mm

Compression ratio

12.75:1

Starter/battery

Electric starter / Lithium Ion 12V 2.0Ah

Transmission

5 gears

Fuel system

Keihin EFI, throttle body 44 mm

Control

4 V / SOHC with rocker levers

Lubrication

Pressure lubrication with 2 oil pumps

Gear ratios

16:32 18:30 20:28 22:26 24:24 -

Primary ratio

31:76

Final drive

13:48

Cooling

Liquid cooling

Clutch

Wet multi-disc DDS-clutch, Magura hydraulics

Ignition / Engine Management

Keihin EMS

CHASSIS

Frame

Central double-cradle-type 25CrMo4 steel

Subframe

Carbon fiber reinforced polyamide

Handlebar

Pro Taper, Aluminum Ø 28/22 mm

Front suspension

WP USD, AER 48

Rear suspension

WP Monoshock with linkage

Suspension travel front/rear

310/300 mm

Front/rear brakes

Disc brake Ø 260/220 mm

Front/rear rims

1.60 x 21"; 2.15 x 19" DID

Front/rear tires

80/100-21"; 120/90-19"

Chain

5/8 x 1/4"

Silencer

Aluminum

Steering head angle

26.1°

Triple clamp offset

22 mm

Wheel base

1,485 ± 10 mm / 58.5 ± 0.4 in

Ground clearance

370 mm / 14.6 in

Seat height

960 mm / 37.8 in

Tank capacity, approx.

7 l / 1.85 gal

Weight, without fuel, approx.

2018 250 MX Shootout 

 

Just like we did for the 450 MX Shootout we are bringing you a written version of our findings from the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC 2018 250 MX Shootout presented by Fly Racing . We spent a long three days of testing all the machines and broke them down as best we could. We had over 15 different rider opinions that included a couple ladies as well (which we think is very important in this size classification). If you want to go back and listen to all three shows you can look for them on pulpmx.com or right here at  keeferinctesting.com and click on the podcast tab. For you old school non-podcast humans out there I wanted to go over each bike’s ranking and what some positives and negatives were about each of those machines. We went to three vastly different types of tracks so we could really dive into each machine weaknesses and strengths. I do want to get across that each one of these bikes are a very capable machine that could be great for any type rider. Just a few little modifications could add up to a completely different type of machine that could work great for you. For example the Honda CRF250R was either on top of a rider’s pick or at the bottom of another. This is the testament to how close these bikes are and how each bike can be a great choice for any rider. 

 

In our coverage of the 2018 250 MX Shootout we used an Olympic type of scoring system to get the overall results. Each day test riders would write down notes and rank each machine at the end of the test. There is a winner for each day, but after the final day, the scores were tallied (the lowest scores being the best) and an overall winner was crowned. The KTM 250SX-F won the first two days at Milestone in Riverside, California and Sunrise Cycle Park in Adelanto, California. The third day we went to Carson Mumford’s private sand track in the high desert of California and the Husqvarna FC250 took top honors there. However, once all the days scores  were tallied, the KTM 250 SX-F was the winner in the inaugural Keefer Inc.Testing/Pulp MX 250 MX Shootout! Congratulations to everyone at KTM for building such a well rounded machine and great job by their R&D team. 

 

After going over 15 riders notes, below is a compiled brief description of each machine and three positives and three negatives. I also wanted to incorporate one modification that I would want to make (or recommend) to do to each machine upon purchase (or shortly thereafter). Again, this is just an overview of some key points we dove into on each day’s podcast. So……If you haven't experienced a shootout in a podcast format, do yourself a favor and listen to all the info that is available for you to hear. Sometimes it’s tough to really decipher a rider’s opinion through text/written form without hearing the test riders tone while they speak about it. That can’t be translated fully here on your computer screen or your phone and can only be translated through actually hearing their words and what they have to say. This is why I think this form of testing information is important to get out to you in a more organic, tailgate-talk type of way. If you’re in the market for a new 250 MX machine here are the rankings, some stand out qualities and some things that each bike needs help with.         

 

 

Sixth Place: Suzuki RM-Z250

 

Randy Richardson rips for a 50-something year old. The RM-Z still can corner well and has great throttle response down low. 

Randy Richardson rips for a 50-something year old. The RM-Z still can corner well and has great throttle response down low. 

Suzuki didn't change the RM-Z250 one bit as they focused their R&D efforts on the RM-Z450. The Suzuki for lack of a better word is slower than the other 250s in its class. The bottom end delivery is good on the zook, but once past those low rpm’s the yellow machine loses its luster. If you short shift the Suzuki, it can reward you, but it’s sheer lack of pulling power and top end makes it the bottom of the pecking order for most riders. The KYB PSF2 fork is not the most friendly on a rough track as it is difficult to set up and get a comfortable setting. Most riders said they wanted more hold up and then when they got that the fork was too harsh. Welcome to the air fork world folks! Suzuki was praised for its cornering ability and its easy to lay over style. However, some testers said that the Honda and Kawasaki may have passed the Suzuki in the king of cornering category. The lean coupler is still the best setting for overall horsepower and it it is also noted the the Suzuki feels dated when riding it. With some engine work and a re-valve the Suzuki can be a dangerous weapon in the right hands.

 

Positives: 

 

  • Shock has good comfort on acceleration bumps 
  • Snappy throttle response/bottom end delivery 
  • Slim Ergos 

 

 

Negatives: 

 

  • Soft overall power feel (mid-top) 
  • Fork is difficult to set up and harsh on small bump
  • MX52 tires leave rider searching for traction on hard pack (vague feel)

 

Recommended Modification: A high compression piston and and an aftermarket muffler system does this bike wonders. It wakes the bottom to mid up even more and lets it pull harder into the top end. 

 

 

 

Tie/Fourth Place: Kawasaki KX250F

 

                                       The KX250F is an impressive machine for 2018. 

                                       The KX250F is an impressive machine for 2018. 

The Kawasaki KX250F received some changes to their engine for 2018 and you could feel those changes in the way of performance on the track. The KX250F did really good on the final day of the shootout at Mumford’s getting a second place and winning two test riders over on this day. Just like the KX450F the 250F frame has one of the best bump absorption characters in the group. When the track gets rough and hacked out, the frame of the Kawasaki flexes and gives the rider superb feel. The bad news is that the Showa SFF fork masks that great feeling with its harsh feel for most riders. Heavier riders didn't notice it as much, but Kawasaki needs to get back on the double coil spring fork program to improve this machine. The engine has a snappy throttle response with a free feeling on de-cel without much engine braking. Once rolling on the throttle the power is not as strong as the KTM or Husqvarna, but still creates a lightweight feeling on the track. The KX250F feels light through corners, but the Kawasaki still feels long. Most riders thought the green machine is a more neutral turning bike and not the rear wheel biased machine it was a couple years ago. If it wasn't for the harsh feeling fork and a little more top end/over-rev this bike could be in the top three very easily. In fact if my opinion/ranking was involved in this shootout I would have put it third! 

 

Positives: 

 

  • Frame bump absorption
  • Snappy throttle response
  • Feels light through corners

 

Negatives:

 

  • Fork is tough to dial in and harsh through mid-stroke
  • No electric start 
  • Lack of top end/over-rev  

 

Recommended Modification: If you can get a Kawasaki FI tool to re-map your KX250F, it really does make it a drastically better machine. We put one of the Kawasaki technicians maps inside of our test bikes and it makes the KX250F pull longer from mid-top (something this bikes needed). Pro Circuit also has a great setting for the Showa SFF fork that helps mid stroke comfort.  

 

Tie/Fourth Place: Honda CRF250R  

 

Chris "I rev my bike more when my chic shows up" Johnson loved the cornering of the Honda. 

Chris "I rev my bike more when my chic shows up" Johnson loved the cornering of the Honda. 

The Honda was the most anticipated 250 for 2018 with an all new machine with a dual overhead cam, dual headpipes, electric start, updated frame and spring forks! What was interesting when going back to listen to the shootout was that it either won or was ranked further down in the riders rankings. The engine is lacking some torque than the Yamaha, KTM, Kawasaki and Husqvarna has. Once you get passed the empty bottom end feeling however the Honda absolutely rips. It pulls hard through the mid-top end and revs out farther (on paper) than any other machine in its class. Aggressive riders loved this type of engine character while other heavier/lazier riders wanted more torque. Even though the Honda is one of the heavier bikes in the shootout on the scales, it still feels agile when cornering or whipping the machine. The suspension rivals the Yamaha’s for class leading comfort and most every rider praised how well the suspension worked on the track. The Honda likes to run a sag measurement of 108mm as this helps straight line stability when the track gets choppy. When we ran the rear end higher the CRF250R got a little oversteer through mid-corner, so make sure to really pay attention to sag settings. 

 

 

Positives:  

 

  • Top end pulling power with tons of over-rev 
  • Balanced suspension 
  • Ergonomics. Every rider loved the way the Honda felt when riding.  

 

 

Negatives: 

 

  • Empty/soft feeling bottom end pull 
  • Must be ridden aggressively 
  • Slight twitchy feeling if sag is not paid attention to closely  

 

Recommended Modification: Just like the Suzuki the Honda could benefit from slightly more compression and a muffler. I have already ridden a slightly modified version of the Honda and it actually has some torque now! Honda will be making a cam for the new 250R that will also be developed in house so you know it will be good.  

 

Third Place: Yamaha YZ250F  

 

New blue rims and some graphic changes are all the Yamaha YZ250F got for 2018, but it's still a very good machine with loads of torque..

New blue rims and some graphic changes are all the Yamaha YZ250F got for 2018, but it's still a very good machine with loads of torque..

The Yamaha YZ250F didn't change for 2018 as Yamaha made all the changes to the 450F. The YZ250F has incredible amounts of excitement down low and more torque than any other bike in class. Pulling power through the mid-range is also as good as the KTM and Husqvarna, but starts to lose ground once into the top end and over-rev. The orange and white bikes pull stronger in those departments, but if you short shift the Yamaha it will pull a taller gear without any trouble. Most vet riders and testers who normally ride 450’s loved this engine character. Faster pros wanted more from the Yamaha’s top end. The YZ250F will corner well if your technique is good. If you have bad technique in corners then the Honda or Suzuki will be your best choice. The fork and shock on the Yamaha won the suspension category almost everyday and most every test rider said that they loved the suspension, especially when the track turned for the worse. This is when you can appreciate the suspension and chassis of the blue machine. It lacks an electric start (2019 YZ250F should have one) and some riders felt it was wide in the shroud area, but the pure excitement of this engine makes it a tough bike not to purchase.   

 

 

Positives: 

 

  • Exciting bottom end and torque feel 
  • Best suspension in class 
  • Durability         

 

Negatives: 

 

  • Lacks over-rev compared to the top two 
  • Flat corners has slightly less of a planted feel
  • Wide shroud area fro some riders 

 

Recommended Modification: A Vortex ignition. This is going to sound expensive (and it is at around 600 bucks), but this was the single best modification that I have made to the YZ250F. It lets the YZ250F pull longer on top end and rev out further while keeping the fun exciting low end feeling.  

 

Second Place: Husqvarna FC250  

 

Dylan Anderson commented that the Husqvarna FC250's engine kept pulling through the mid to top end, which let him clear larger size obstacles out of corners.

Dylan Anderson commented that the Husqvarna FC250's engine kept pulling through the mid to top end, which let him clear larger size obstacles out of corners.

The Husqvarna FC250 came oh so close to wining this whole thing! It is such an easy bike to ride and gives you confidence in its ability to give you maximum traction at any track. The FC250 surprisingly hits harder than the KTM and has more rpm response, which makes it feel slightly lighter than the orange version. Testers loved the engine and its buttery smooth, yet exciting pulling power out of corners. It’s almost deceiving because the Yamaha has more “crack” at initial throttle so you might think you are popping out of corners quicker. However, the Husqvarna doesn't  wheelie out of corners and sticks to the ground while pushing you forward in a quicker manner than any other bike in the shootout. The Husky’s suspension is what held it back from winning this year. Although both the Husky and KTM have the best air fork in today's motocross realm, it still doesn't give the predictability over a long day of riding as much as the spring forks in the shootout. The spring fork also gives the rider slightly more front end traction (mid corner) and that seemed to be very important to some riders in this year’s shootout. The Husqvarna is light, but on the track the FC250 corners excellent and the lack of weight) is really felt when you need to cut down early from a corner or scrub a jump. This is where the Husky shines and is superior from others. The KTM and Husqvarna have the best brakes in the shootout, but be forewarned if you never experienced a Brembo set up. It can be too grabby at times so make sure to get used to the feel at first. The “Traction Control” option is cool and actually works, so don't be scared to push that button on hard pack days. The action of the Magura clutch is not as good as the KTM’s Brembo hydraulic unit, but still is very good. 

 

Positives: 

 

  • Easy to ride, smooth yet exciting engine character 
  • Lightweight chassis feel
  • Rear wheel traction (connected to throttle hand)  

 

 

Negatives: 

 

  • Harsh feeling mid stroke at rough tracks 
  • Fluctuation of fork feeling throughout day at track
  • Bike looks hammered too quickly 

 

Recommended Modification: This bike doesn't need much, but I would get the suspension re-valved to get more comfort out of it when the track is hacked out. WP Factory Services does a great job at setting your bike up and making the Husqvarna a more balanced, comfortable machine. 

 

First Place: KTM 250 SX-F

 

The winner! The KTM 250 SX-F takes the cake when it comes to engine, chassis and ease of riding.

The winner! The KTM 250 SX-F takes the cake when it comes to engine, chassis and ease of riding.

What separated the KTM and Husqvarna this year was the rear end compliancy on rougher type tracks. Most testers didn't know that the swingarms between the two were different, but the KTM swingarm has a slightly different shape (on the inside of swingarm) and a softer (more flex) feel. The KTM didn't feel like it had quite the bottom end snap the Husky had, but most testers said it had a little more top end pull. Rear wheel traction is always at an optimal level and accelerating out of a corner the orange machine stays straight and hooked up. The fork between the Husky and KTM feel almost identical and 10.6-10.7 bars was a good base setting for most riders. 103-105mm of sag gave the KTM a balanced feel and let the rider start his corner early, which helped lean the orange brigade over nicely through flat corners. The lightweight feel of the KTM has to be mentioned because it doesn't those “out of shape” riders as tired as other bikes in class.  

 

 

Positives: 

 

  • Strong mid-top end pulling power that creates an exciting feel
  • Rear wheel traction
  • Lightweight feeling  

 

 

Negatives: 

 

  • Fork has harsh feeling mid-stroke 
  • Handlebar feels slightly more rigid than Pro Taper bar on Husky 
  • Shock had soft feeling on end stroke (high speed compression) 

 

Recommended Modification: This is going to be cheap and easy. Go to a Pro Taper handlebar or a Rental FatBar. The Neken handlebar that is on the KTM is rigid and hurts the wrists on slap down landings. I also like going to standard non lock on grips as they are not as rigid as well. You can also do the same thing to the suspension re-valve as I recommended with the Husky.

2018 450cc Motocross Shootout

 

Unless you have been living under a rock you know that the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC 2018 450 MX Shootout podcast presented by Fly Racing has wrapped up a while ago and we crowned a winner. If you want to go back and listen to all four shows you can stay right here and click on the podcast tab and find each day’s podcast at your fingertips. However, for you non podcast humans out there I wanted to go over briefly each bike’s ranking and what some positives and negatives were about each of those machines. We had nearly 20 testers over the course of three days at three separate tracks to really dig into what each machine has to offer. What I do want to stress is that each one of these bikes are a very capable machine. One rider’s top picks can be someone else’s bottom pick. This is the testament of how close these bikes are and how each can be a great choice for any rider. 

 

In our coverage of the 2018 450 Shootout we used a Motocross Of Nations type of score to get the overall results. Each day test riders will write down notes and rank each machine at the end of the test. After the final day the scores were tallied, the lowest scores being the best and an overall winner was crowned. The Honda CRF450R won the first day at Sunrise Cycle Park in Adelanto, California and KTM 450 SX-F won the second day at the famous Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino. The third and final day was held at Competitive Edge MX Park in Hesperia, California and the Honda would come out on top once again to take the win in the inaugural Keefer Inc.Testing/Pulp MX Shootout! 

 

After going over almost 20 riders notes, below is a compiled brief description of each machine and three positives and three negatives that stood out over the course of the shootout. We also put together what type of rider each bike could be good for. Again this is just an overview of some key things we dove into on each day’s podcast. So…… If you haven't experienced a shootout in a podcast format do yourself a favor and listen to all the info that is available for you to hear. Sometimes its tough to really decipher a rider’s opinion through text without hearing their tone while they speak about it. That can’t be translated fully here on your computer screen or phone and can only be translated through hearing what they have to say. This is why I think this form of testing information is important to get out to you in a more organic, tailgate talk type of way. If you’re in the market for a new 450 MX machine here are the rankings, some stand out qualities and some things that each bike need help with.         

 

 

Sixth Place: Suzuki RM-Z450

 

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Suzuki was one of the most anticipated bikes to ride in the 2018 shootout. When asking each tester what bike he was excited the most to ride, almost all said the Suzuki. However, after getting off the RM-Z450 most would be scratching their head wondering which direction to go to improve the machine. On the track the Suzuki still corners very well even though it feels like a tank when taking it off the stand. The frame feel of the RM-Z450 is improved from the 2017 version and is more compliant on fast rough straights. The new Showa spring fork was well perceived and while a little soft for most testers is still tons better than the TAC Showa fork that graced the Suzuki last year. The BFRC shock was noticeably comfortable on acceleration bumps and had tons of traction coming out of choppy ruts once we dropped the sag to 108mm. What hurt the Suzuki was the lack of excitement in the engine delivery and the hinged feeling between the front end and rear end of the Suzuki on long sweeping corners. When the track is tilled deep you are able to feel the weight more because the lack of bottom end response. When the track was firmed up and hard packed the Suzuki’s engine delivery was easier to handle and was in the top three of novice testers. 

 

Positives: 

 

  • Shock has good comfort on acceleration bumps 
  • Easy to ride engine character for novice riders (Roll On Throttle Delivery)
  • Slim Ergos 

 

 

Negatives: 

 

  • Soft overall power feel 
  • Fork soft and makes bike feel unbalanced
  • No electric start 

 

 

 

Fifth Place: Kawasaki KX450F 

 

9X1A8721.jpg

The Kawasaki is unchanged for 2018, but that doesn't mean it’s not a great bike. The KX450F’s frame has one of the best bump absorption characters in the group. When the track gets rough and hacked out, the frame of the Kawasaki flexes and gives the rider superb feel. The bad news is that the Showa TAC air fork masks that great feeling with its harsh feel for most riders. Heavier riders didn't notice it as much, but Kawasaki needs to get back on the spring fork program to improve this machine. The engine has a snappy throttle response with a free feeling on de-cel without much engine braking. Once rolling on the throttle, the power is not as strong as the Honda or Yamaha, but still creates a lightweight feeling on the track. The Kawasaki still feels long, but not heavy by any means. Most riders thought the green machine is a more neutral turning bike and not the rear wheel biased machine it was a couple years ago. If it wasn't for the harsh feeling fork this bike could be in the top three very easily. We are going to try a spring fork on our 2018 test bike to see what this bike can really do!  

 

 

Positives: 

 

  • Frame bump absorption
  • Snappy throttle response
  • Shock has tons of comfort on braking bumps/acceleration bumps

 

Negatives:

 

  • Fork is tough to dial in and harsh through mid-stroke
  • No electric start 
  • Long feeling for less skilled riders through corners 

 

 

Tie/Third Place: Yamaha YZ450F 

 

9X1A8583.jpg

Yes, thats right we had a tie for third place after all the scores were tallied up. The Yamaha YZ450F is all new and hopes were high for the bLU cRU. The Yamaha won the engine category of our shootout on almost everyday as the powerful, yet smooth bottom end delivery, along with a wide mid to top end pull was the favorite with most testers. The Yamaha engine pulls second and third gear very far and makes it easy for any type of rider to take advantage of its spread on the track. The KYB suspension was also the best of the bunch with its very comfortable feeling when the track gets rough. Riders from 165 pounds to over 200 pounds agreed that this suspension was superb on the big bumps of Glen Helen. One of the things that held it back from winning was cornering character. Most riders agreed that on tip in the Yamaha was better, but on corner exits it wanted to stand up too early. Some riders complained of a slight twitchy feeling “on throttle” with the front end. Once “off throttle” the YZ450F felt planted and didn't have the wiggle it once did. A couple riders complained that they still felt the Yamaha was wide feeling, but we think that it is more of a visual thing than a feeling on the track. I rated the Yamaha first at Competitive Edge because of my ability to push on a track that gets rough. Shocking that I rated a Yamaha first, but with a couple adjustments the YZ450F becomes a very good weapon for my style of riding. 

 

 

Positives:  

 

  • Incredible, yet easy to ride engine
  • Best suspension in class
  • Tuneability with new Yamaha Power Tuner app  

 

 

Negatives: 

 

  • Wants to stand up on corner exits 
  • Dip (low feeling) in middle of seat leaves a funky pocket for rider triangle
  • Slight twitchy feeling on throttle 

 

 

Tie/Third Place: Husqvarna FC450 

 

9X1A8550.jpg

The Husqvarna FC450 is basically a KTM 450 SX-F, but with a smaller composite airbox, different muffler, Pro Taper handlebars and slightly different (less rigid) swingarm. The delivery of the Husqvarna is smooth and there really is no exciting hit to it anywhere in its power delivery. The good news about this character is that the traction gets put to the ground and the FC450 and has tons of forward bite (AKA traction). It also has a top end pull that is best in class with an over-rev that is as god as its orange step brother. The WP AER fork feels the same as the KTM with a comfortable feel overall feel and this air fork actually moves at the top of its stroke unlike the Showa TAC air fork. The rear end of the bike felt different than the KTM as it is more compliant on fast choppy straights, but it feels like the Husqvarna has sightly less of a planted feel on flat corners. Testers loved the handlebar map switch and most liked the aggressive map (map two) on the tracks we tested at. The smooth power delivery is what hurt the FC450 the most in this shootout, but at the same time was one of the favorites, of some, at harder pack tracks. Again, its all preference and this is how close these ranking were. 

 

Positives: 

 

  • Mid to top end engine pulling power 
  • Compliant, light feeling chassis on hard pack tracks
  • Best air fork in game        

 

Negatives: 

 

  • Soft bottom end power 
  • Flat corners has slightly less of a planted feel
  • Slightly more vibration on high rpm’s than other machines 

 

 

Second Place: KTM 450 SX-F

 

9X1A8750.jpg

The orange brigade came damn close to wining this sucker! It is such an easy bike to ride and gives you confidence in its ability to give you maximum traction at any track. The KTM hits harder than the Husqvarna and has more rpm response, which makes it feel slightly lighter than the white version. Testers loved the engine and its buttery smooth, yet exciting pulling power out of corners. It’s almost deceiving because the Honda has more “crack” at initial throttle so you might think you are popping out of corners quicker. However, the KTM never wheelies and sticks to the ground and pushes you forward in a quicker manner than any other bike in the shootout. The KTM’s suspension is what held it back from winning. Although it is the best air fork in today's motocross realm, it still doesn't give the predictability over the course of the day as much as the spring fork. The spring fork also gives the rider slightly more front end traction and that seemed to be very important to most riders in this year’s shootout. The KTM is light, we all know this, but on the track the KTM corners excellent and the weight (or lack of) is really felt when you need to cut down early from a corner. This is where the KTM is superior from others. The KTM and Husqvarna have the best brakes in the shootout and the traction control button is no only a great feature, but it actually works… So try it! 

 

 

Positives: 

 

  • Easy to ride, smooth yet exciting engine character 
  • Lightweight chassis feel
  • Rear wheel traction (connected to throttle hand)  

 

 

Negatives: 

 

  • Harsh feeling on slap down landings through handlebars 
  • Fluctuation of fork feeling throughout day at track
  • Spokes loosen up quickly so check them often 

 

 

 

First Place: Honda CRF450R

 

9X1A8460.jpg

The 2018 barely had any changes you say? Well I am not going to argue that, but I will argue that the changes Honda made were key to each riders feeling on the track. The heavier spring rates front and back, the softer engine mounts and mapping change made a better balanced, easier to ride CRF450R. In our shootout, I express my shock as I didn't think it could win, but every test rider I spoke with loved the exciting engine character that the Honda brings and how easy it was to get in and out of a corner. One tester noted that the fork settled into the perfect stroke height when coming into corners, so that he had just the right amount of front end traction. A hard hitting bottom end, torque feel and a mid to top end that had enough pulling power for less skilled riders to get over larger obstacles. Three maps are available on the handlebar and this allowed the rider to dial in how he wanted the engine to deliver the power. Even though the Honda hovers around 12 pounds on the plus side to the KTM, it feels just as light as the orange bike when cornering. It sticks to the ground and provides enough rear wheel traction to get on the gas early. The suspension is balanced, but most riders wanted to go slightly stiffer on both ends. The only real complaint we got was that the end stroke on the Honda was somewhat empty and soft. The chassis is on the stiff side compared to the other Japanese aluminum frames in the shootout, but only a couple riders felt that on the track. The red machine has a narrow feel along with a cockpit that can cater to larger sized riders now. The 2018 Honda CRF450R proved to be the most well rounded bike for a wide variety of riders. The only real negatives were clutch pull/life and a bar bend that is too tall for some riders.  

 

 

Positives: 

 

  • Strong pulling power that creates an exciting feel
  • Balanced suspension 
  • Ease of cornering 

 

 

Negatives: 

 

  • Slight stiffer chassis feel on hard pack, rough tracks.
  • Clutch pull and life 
  • Shock had soft feeling on end stroke (high speed compression)   

2018 450 MX Shootout Photo Gallery

 

 

Check out some photos from the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC 2018 450 MX Shootout Presented By Fly Racing. Preston Jordan was kind enough to offer up his photo skills for us on Day 1. Check It out below and follow Preston on Instagram @pjj205... 

 

                                                     Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner! 

                                                     Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner! 

Broc Shoemaker flies the Husqvarna through the clear skies of the high desert. 

Broc Shoemaker flies the Husqvarna through the clear skies of the high desert. 

Colton Aeck has come from a broken back to ripping a motorcycle in less than eight months.

Colton Aeck has come from a broken back to ripping a motorcycle in less than eight months.

                          Tyler Bowers looked good on the Yamaha all day long. 

                          Tyler Bowers looked good on the Yamaha all day long. 

              Joe Oehlhof liked the KTM so much he went out and purchased one himself. 

              Joe Oehlhof liked the KTM so much he went out and purchased one himself. 

            Our novice test rider Matt Sirevaag loved the Kawasaki and its chassis feel.

            Our novice test rider Matt Sirevaag loved the Kawasaki and its chassis feel.

Chris "Big" Johnson commented that the Suzuki felt heavy when taking it off the stand, but was light feeling in the air.  

Chris "Big" Johnson commented that the Suzuki felt heavy when taking it off the stand, but was light feeling in the air.  

          Broc "Nightshow" Shoemaker gets ready for some leg swag on the green machine.  

          Broc "Nightshow" Shoemaker gets ready for some leg swag on the green machine.  

                                                                 Hulk!!!!!!! Smash!!!!!!!

                                                                 Hulk!!!!!!! Smash!!!!!!!

                                               Alex "Harbor Freight" Ray looking clean. 

                                               Alex "Harbor Freight" Ray looking clean. 

     Ty "Kawasaki Grips" Davis was sore for two weeks after his two days of testing with us. 

     Ty "Kawasaki Grips" Davis was sore for two weeks after his two days of testing with us. 

                                                                       Best Dressed.

                                                                       Best Dressed.

2018 Husqvarna TE250i First impression

Story Written By Michael Allen

 

We didn't just get a stock 2018 Husqvarna TE250i, we got a fully decked out FMF/Husqvarna looking race machine.  

We didn't just get a stock 2018 Husqvarna TE250i, we got a fully decked out FMF/Husqvarna looking race machine.  

For years we have been hearing rumors about the elusive fuel injected two-stroke. Everything from reading about Honda’s patent on a fuel injected two-stroke to seeing spy photos of KTM test rider Lars Enockl riding one at an extreme enduro. We have to admit that when we heard from a reliable source it would be imported to the US we were excited and nervous at the same time. It’s not that we didn’t think it would work, but we were concerned about reliability. Why? Husqvarna/KTM was taking arguably the most simple engine design (not to mention an engine that has a powerful, easy to ride delivery) and possibly complicating the process of how it breathes. However, we knew that if Husqvarna felt it was ready to be introduced to the media, it must of passed and performed to their standards.  

You couldn't wipe the smile off of our test rider Michael Allen's face after riding the TE250i.

You couldn't wipe the smile off of our test rider Michael Allen's face after riding the TE250i.

Now we all know that Husqvarna is similar to the KTM, so it’s not a coincidence that they just so happened to introduce a fuel injected two-stroke in the same year as the orange giant. Nevertheless, Husky is importing a handful of TE250i bikes although they’re not importing any of 300cc models. When Kris called me to ask if I’d like to test the new 250i, my inner two-stroke off-road lover about jumped through the phone at the opportunity. I even started packing my gear bag before I was even off the phone and headed to the high desert. 

The 2018 Husqvarna TE250i that we got our hands on had some extra Husqvarna branded accessories added onto it. The beautiful looking TE250i had blue crash proof levers, a pipe guard (where the exhaust meets the cylinder), a rotor guard, FMF pipe and Powercore 2 silencer, brake pedal tip, swing arm guard, anodized blue Husqvarna triple clamps, Guts Racing non-slip seat cover, bib mousse tubes and even a Colton Haaker pre-printed backgrounds. While shooting some glamour shots of the bike itself I noticed the 250i looks very similar to last year’s model, but upon closer inspection the engine is obviously much different, not to mention the carburetor seems to be missing and there is an expensive piece of aluminum in its place (a 39mm Dell'Orto throttle body). The Kill switch is now a toggle on/off and there is also a map switch on the right side of the handlebar with two map settings, standard and soft. 

An FMF pipe and Powercore 2 silencer was bolted on to add some more "braaaaaaap" to our evaluation. 

An FMF pipe and Powercore 2 silencer was bolted on to add some more "braaaaaaap" to our evaluation. 

Admittedly it was a bit odd to pour straight gas into a two-stroke bike’s gas tank, but with the pre-mix oil tank being in the frame, the days of mixing your own gas are long gone. We rode the bike several hours without having to add any oil, but we did here from Husqvarna R&D stating: When the oil indicator light does goes on, you still have a couple tanks of fuel to ride with before there is zero oil circulating through the oil pump system. When starting the 250i, there is a “choke” on the 39mm  throttle body that gets pulled out and turned 90 degrees to stay on, but once the bike is slightly warmed up it can be turned 90 more degrees and will disengage. Our bike seemed to have a very low idle, so I adjusted the idle screw which is right above the choke to where it sounded about right. When I took off I noticed the clutch, like all hydraulic clutches, was buttery smooth as surprisingly so was the power delivery. Right away I noticed it didn’t seem to have the typical cold blubbery two-stroke feeling, it was smooth and crisp the whole time it was getting warmed up. 

Premix fuel is not required as the oil is stored in a separate tank (shown above) and the electronic oil pump provides the correct amount of oil according to the RPM of the engine. 

Premix fuel is not required as the oil is stored in a separate tank (shown above) and the electronic oil pump provides the correct amount of oil according to the RPM of the engine. 

Once warm I was able to start ripping the bike around a bit and see where it shined, being that we were testing in the desert it was soon made clear that the TE wasn’t designed for being screamed across valleys. That’s because the TE isn’t a desert race bike, the T to us stands for "two- stroke" and the E stands for "enduro", so I left the whooped out open areas in search of tight single track and rock gardens. For the 250i, the tighter the terrain the better engine feels, the engine runs so crisp at such low rpm, it’s nearly impossible to stall. If you’re the kind of rider that likes to use the lower rpm (lugging) meat of the power and ride a gear or two high, you’ll be in love with the 250i. The throttle feels incredibly connected to the rear wheel and with how smooth the power is, it almost has a traction control like feel (in a good way) as the rear wheel seems to stick to the trail like Velcro. In tight, sandy, uphill switchbacks, the 250i could be kept in second gear and kept the bike moving forward, instead of just spinning and digging itself into the ground. On the more open and flowy type of trails where the bike could be opened up, the power was almost too smooth and lacked some excitement that usually comes with riding carbureted two-strokes. I’m not saying that it will fall on its face, but the excitement just got shifted a little higher up in the rpm range. The majority of the exciting power is in the mid-top end range, if you’re looking for that familiar peppy two-stroke feel. However, it can take some clutch work to get into that exciting part of the power if you’re in a higher gear in some corners or tighter areas. If you’re looking for that lugable, traction-esque power then the TE250i is the machine to give you what you need. There are two maps on the TE250i, Map One is the standard map and Map Two is a smoother map. I used map one most of the day as it had the most pull with a great amount of traction. Map two was a little too mellow for my liking, as it kind of took that excitement from the mid range away a little too much for the type of terrain I was riding in. If we had some slick conditions here in California I could see where this map would be beneficial. Hey, as a rider it’s good to have options and now we have two options when hopping on the TE250i. The Husqvarna always sounds crisp, like it has a perfectly jetted carburetor which is music to any two-stroke fans ears as well as throttle hands. 

The TE250i is light and flickable just like its TC brother. 

The TE250i is light and flickable just like its TC brother. 

The WP XPLOR 48mm fork on the TE is great for tight terrain. Initially the fork was a bit soft for big drop offs or g-outs, so we added a few clicks of compression (stiffer), as well as slowed the rebound down to try and slow the action of the fork some. This helped the bike from springing back up too quickly once low in the stroke. From middle to the bottom of the stroke the fork still has somewhat of an empty feeling and can blow through on larger obstacles. Although the fork and shock are a bit soft for fast pace riding, both work well together in tight, rocky single track. The balance of the TE250i is good and I could tell what Husqvarna/WP was after when going to this soft type of a feel. They were after plushness and they achieved that in the tighter spots I tested in. When going over multiple rocks the front and rear of the bike stayed straight and tracked right over any small to medium sized obstacle. The traction I felt was superb (with the softer feel) and this feeling instilled a lot of confidence in my riding, since I was able to focus on the next obstacle instead of fighting the bike. When standing on the pegs and riding, the 250i feels light and changes direction easy with minimal input when weighting the pegs or handlebar movement. Doing leg plant pivots around tighter areas took minimal effort and when entering corners the TE250i felt light on tip in. 

The WP XPLOR 48mm fork is soft on bigger hits, but works very well on the small to medium sized imperfections on the trail. 

The WP XPLOR 48mm fork is soft on bigger hits, but works very well on the small to medium sized imperfections on the trail. 

After spending some time on the 250i with not one hiccup, it’s clear that Husqvarna has really done their homework and made a great off-road machine. It also shows that there is a real future for clean and crisp two-strokes in the off-road market place. Husqvarna set out to make the ultimate bike for tight trails and extreme terrain and I’d say they did a pretty damn good job on the TE250i. If you’re an east coast style guy (or gal) who loves riding woods, tight single track, and extreme conditions this is definitely the bike for you. If you’re a west coast more open terrain style rider it can still be a formidable weapon, but you might want to get a slightly stiffer suspension set up. I’d be willing to bet that with the success of the TE250i, Husqvarna will be tuning a fuel injected two stroke engine for the TC250 in the near future. Keefer and I will be spending a little more time on the Husqvarna TE250i before it goes back to the manufacturer, and we will be playing with different power valve springs, adjustments, and gearing to see if we can get a little more bark out of the HusqvarnaStay tuned to KeeferIncTesting.com for more updates and an in depth podcast on this sexy looking Austrian/Swedish ride. 

Alex Ray's 2018 YZ450F Homework Assignment

 

Alex Ray Rides The 2018 Yamaha YZ450F 

 

I invited privateer rider Alex Ray out to test the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F last month with me at Glen Helen Raceway. When I bring a test rider out with me, I expect a lot of notes out of him or her. I want them to be very transparent on what they feel on the track (good or bad). I thought posting his notes up for you all would make an interesting piece to read. Putting pen to paper on what you feel on the track (and making it relatable) takes some time to learn and is not always easy. I wanted him to write his opinions on what the biggest differences (that he could feel) were between the 2017 YZ450F and the 2018 (since he currently rides a Yamaha YZ450F, I thought this would be a good idea). I don't know Alex extremely well, but from what I can tell the Tennessee native is a genuinely honest, polite, nice kid that really wanted to try his hand at doing some testing. Being that I am a sucker for polite privateers, I gave him his shot with Keefer Inc. Testing. Here is A-Ray's mostly un-edited opinions from the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F/Glen Helen introduction. -KK

 

Alex, this is what you call "Flickability". It's a testing term, get to know it. 

Alex, this is what you call "Flickability". It's a testing term, get to know it. 

 

This is it ! There's no turning back now as I am blood into Keefer Inc.
Testing . I'd like to first off thank Kris and Yamaha for having me
out at Glen Helen today for the all new 2018 YZ450F. This is a
completely new bike and a lot of people, including myself have been
very anxious to hop on one of these bad boys and take it for a spin .
I've been riding the 2017 model YZ-F for some time now so I have a pretty
good feel for the "Yamadog" . Here is my take on the new bike in
comparison to the old bike. 
 

Alex Ray

Bike - 2017 YZ450F
Class - professional
Height- 5'10
Weight - 185 lbs.


 

2017 Chassis:

On the 2017  bike the first thing I noticed was how big and wide the
bike was in the shroud/seat cockpit. It took a lot of getting used to
but over time I got a feel for it . Although the bike being big, it
handled really well and was very stable. I did not ride the 2017 with
stock suspension, but I still got a little deflection on acceleration
out of the turns at times. The bike feels a little heavy, but it's
stuck to the ground with good traction. I personally lose the front
coming into turns at times on the current model.

 

A-Ray is not scared to be aggressive and at times can be hard on clutches. 

A-Ray is not scared to be aggressive and at times can be hard on clutches. 


2018 Chassis:

This new bike seems like it's totally redone from top to bottom and
for the most part it is! With the new slimness of the bike you can
really get a feel for it right away .
 Another thing Yamaha did was lower the rear end of the bike a bit and
with that they pushed the front end of the bike out 6mm. They also went back
to a 22mm offset on the triple clamps . Me personally , I think the
22mm triple champs are too much. The bike corners really well but I
think you lose a bit of stability on the high speed sections of the
track to where you get that twitchy feeling back . Also I noticed if I
charged hard into a turn, I felt like the tires weren't sticking very
well in the small chop . It didn't want to settle and the bike wanted
to dance a bit with a stiffer more rigid feel . We did make a few clicker
adjustments to make the bike handle a bit better in these parts of the
track. I want to say we went 2 clicks stiffer on compression and 2 clicks slower on the rebound of the fork. On the shock, we did an eighth of a turn in on the high speed and
one click slower on the rebound.  The slower 180 degree turns the bike
performed very well with no over steer or popping the front tire out
of the rut .

2017 Engine:

The current bike's engine is very strong with good bottom end power .
It also has its negatives because the bike signs off super early forcing
me to shift more. Riding the Yamaha had a feeling like no other bike . With the air
box in the front of the motor it feels like your riding an airplane
because of the sound of the air sucking into the engine. With that,
I think the way the engine is designed gives it that torquey bottom
end power feel . One of the down falls to the engine was it had more
engine braking than other bikes I have ridden.


2018 Engine: 

 I personally jelled really well with the new engine feel . The
standard mapping was a very usable power with a lot of bottom or as
Keefer would say "EXCITEMENT" . For how much bottom the new Yamaha has
it is super smooth and easy to ride .
Riding this bike at Glen Helen I noticed right off the bat that second
gear feels like it pulls forever, but it doesn't end there. When I shifted to third gear I was  blown away at how well the bike just kept going and going. Yamaha made a lot of changes to the engine
with a new cylinder head, piston and also changed the angle a bit.
In my opinion all of these changes are for the better in my book .
Some clutch updates were made with the springs, plates and the
pressure plate. Doing this gives it a smoother pull and more grab out of the corners .

2017 Suspension: 

Didn't ride stock suspension. 

2018 Suspension:

 I thought the fork and shock were balanced and comfortable. I did feel like it was a little soft for me, especially landing off of jumps. On small choppy stuff the suspension was plush and allowed me to have good traction. For stock suspension I felt like it was one of the best sets of stock stuff I have ridden. Although I weigh in at 185 pounds I could still get pretty aggressive riding at Glen Helen.

2017 Electric Start:
No E-start

2018 Electric Start:

I'm just going to start of by saying electric start is the bees knees!
Its an easier faster way to start your bike and not only that , we all
make mistakes with little tip overs every now and again. The new
electric start allows you to get up and going as fast as possible .
One thing that stood out to me about the electric start was that you
could start your bike in gear. I caughtmyself numerous times
reaching for the kick starter but that's ok , I can do without that.

 

A-Ray did a pretty good job on his notes, but we will continue to groom him to be a better tester.

A-Ray did a pretty good job on his notes, but we will continue to groom him to be a better tester.


2018 Pros:

- Overall strong feeling of the engine.. And it's stock! 
-Electric start is bitchen
- Less engine braking than 2017
- Clutch action/feel
- Skinnier cockpit


2018 Cons:


- Slight twitchier front end
- When I weighted my outside peg and got my butt on the edge of the
seat , I could feel the gas tank on my butt bone.
- Side number plates will pop out for more aggressive riders.
- Front fender look
 

2018 Suzuki RM-Z450 First Ride In North Carolina

Suzuki Comes To Play In 2018

Story By Dominic Cimino 

 

                                                      The new 2018 Suzuki RM-Z450 

                                                      The new 2018 Suzuki RM-Z450 

 

To say we were excited to throw a leg over the new 2018 "Zook" would be an understatement.  There was much debate as to which machine held the highest regards in the "most anticipated bike of 2018" category, but we feel that the all new RM-Z450 is in that mix. It is pretty crazy to think that this yellow big bore had remained practically unchanged since 2005, aside from a few updates here and there. But Suzuki finally put an end to the "Ole Yeller" era with a completely redesigned bike focused on not only elevating the brand, but also supplying riders and racers around the world with a bike that can "Run", "Turn", and "Stop" better than the rest. 

 

So why is the RM-Z450 one of the most anticipated bikes of 2018?  As stated, after over 10 years the bike finally has changed, and not just the graphics, but a complete overhaul. Think about it: we are on a pretty sharp three to four year time frame with almost all other Japanese manufactures that release new models to the market. Some good, some not so good, but changes nonetheless.  Not to mention, KTM and Husky have been flipping new bikes faster than an In n Out cook does patties.  This left Suzuki no other option but to reveal a new machine that would leave us foaming at the mouth to ride.  And where did we get to finally ride this beauty?  The private facility owned by none other than the Joe Gibbs Race Team, located in North Carolina. The stage was set and the bike was ready, so let's get into it. 

 

The 450 experienced changes from the ground up, and we do not plan to dive into every minute detail in this story.  If you missed the previous link on KeeferIncTesting.com that unveiled most of those changes, click here to read through it: https://www.keeferinctesting.com/motocross-testing/2017/6/28/2018-suzuki-rm-z450-first-look.  Instead, we wanted to share our thoughts after getting up close and personal.  At first glance, she is an absolute beauty!  She has sharp lines in the new “beak” body design, hints of blue that really grab your attention, and ergonomics that will make your mouth water.  Once we sat on the bike and assessed all of our controls to adjust things accordingly, we noticed something was missing... the "magic button".  No electric start on this new 450, and with the way the industry is headed, it made us ponder why it was not included on an all-new bike in 2018.  We asked the Japanese born North American Motorcycle Operations Manager what the scoop was, and he revealed a pretty blatant honest answer: they simply ran out of time. We like that honesty! Suzuki was so focused on creating a brand new bike for the market, that everything else on the motorcycle took priority over tinkering with something foreign to the motocross lineup. It will be interesting to see how long it takes before that button makes it's debut. Nevertheless, this didn't hinder our excitement to get on the track after a couple swift kicks on the old fashioned, longer than normal, start lever.  

Yes, the Suzuki can still carve a corner like no one else. 

Yes, the Suzuki can still carve a corner like no one else. 

 

Once in motion, the 2018 RM-Z450 exudes a lively motor package with crisp throttle response.  The changes to the air boot design, fuel pump, and injector location all worked very well together, as it complimented the bike's extremely usable power curve. We feel that this RM-Z power character is so linear in the RPM range that you can ride in second or third gear whenever you choose. If you want to rev the bike, it allows you to due to having great over-rev.  If you want to cruise and stay more in the bottom end torque zone, it allows you to with ease as well. This new bike doesn't make you work to find the "meat" of the power, as it is incredibly user friendly no matter what position your throttle hand is in.  We personally did not utilize the additional ignition couplers while testing, but our friend and fellow test pilot, Dustin Pipes of PulpMX.com did, and he explained the leaner, more aggressive map was much better for him and the conditions we were in.  On the flip side, we were plenty satisfied with the available power in stock trim. 

 

Even with the weight of the Suzuki RM-Z 450 on the heavy side, the yellow machine is quite flickable. 

Even with the weight of the Suzuki RM-Z 450 on the heavy side, the yellow machine is quite flickable. 

You cannot always judge a book by its cover, but in the case of the new RM-Z, you definitely can.  As stated previously, just the looks of this 450 makes your mouth water, as it's sharp lines and updated styling evoke a sense of great handling characteristics naturally.  This stays true when on the track, as this bike will point and shoot anywhere you want it to.  We found ourselves several times charging into corners assuming we would push the front end or get stood up in deep ruts, but to no avail, it is proven once again why the yellow machine is known for it's amazing cornering abilities.  You will feel like a hero entering ruts, flat corners, and just about anything else that requires changing direction. Transitioning from the back of the bike all the way to the tank is effortless, as the ergonomics are slim and playful. The new lower-bend Renthal FatBars really catered to our smaller test rider, and compliment the overall feel of the rest of the bike.  The dimensions of the rider cockpit are also comfortable, as the combination of the bar, peg, and seat (rider triangle) dimensions work well with one another. In regard to its weight, the 450 is on the larger side of the scale weighing in at close to 250 pounds (with fuel).  But, because this bike handles so well, you will really only feel the weight when lifting it on & off the stand in the pits.  The balance of the chassis is also a highlight, with almost equal weight distribution applied to the front and rear end.  We did experience a little front end twitch from time to time, but we are positive that when we spend more time testing in different conditions that we can remedy this minor issue. 

 

Showa spring forks grace the front end of the 2018 Suzuki. Look at the color of those fork legs! 

Showa spring forks grace the front end of the 2018 Suzuki. Look at the color of those fork legs! 

As for the suspension package, we are all delighted to have spring forks back.  They proved to make the front end of the bike stable and planted, as the new beefed up internals allowed us to be aggressive in all circumstances. We did get the fork to bottom every other lap on the steep transitions and jump faces found on the JGR track, but we were reluctant to increase compression because we did not want to sacrifice how the fork felt everywhere else. As for the rear shock, this thing is interesting to say the least. The RM-Z450 utilizes Showa's BFRC technology found on their GSXR-1000R: Balance Free Rear Cushion.  All controls and adjustments are found on the upper shock reservoir that focuses on unique damping adjustments to control compression and "rebound".  We put "air quotes" on rebound, because there is no longer a rebound clicker adjustment. You will have to make 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, etc. turn increments on the new rebound adjuster instead of "clicks". Again, one day was not enough to really dissect how this thing works in depth, and what you need to do to make it work better.  But we can say that minor adjustments make noticeable differences.  The range of tuning options has multiplied significantly, and with proper time, one can really have some fun getting in tune with this shock.  To round out Suzuki's new motto headed into the new year of "Run", "Turn", "Stop", we will lastly talk about the RM-Z's brake package.  Up front you will find an oversized brake rotor that increases stopping power.  After burning the brake pads in for a few laps, we can tell you that the stopping power is improved; but we can also tell you that the front brakes are still nothing to brag to your friends about. The 2018 set up is good, but not great.  The rear brake sees a newly designed master cylinder that helps eliminate mud build up and the possibility of your boot getting hung up, and we can admit we had no issues with getting great feel and stopping power out back.  But because the term "Stop" is so heavily utilized in Suzuki's new marketing campaign, we feel that the front brake could be and should be so much better. 

The Suzuki's engine package is useable and even more powerful than in 2017. 

The Suzuki's engine package is useable and even more powerful than in 2017. 

 

Ok, time to wrap things up on the new Zook.  We can go on and on about a lot of things 2018 RM-Z related, but trust us, we want to ride it more first!  Yes, we found some things that we weren't the biggest fans of, but those were small slices out of a big pie.  This bike is awesome, and the truck taking it back California needs to step on it.  The motor is great, and the ergonomics are fantastic. The styling is drool worthy, and the suspension package is very unique.  Overall, we are confident that this yellow machine has what it takes to be a front-runner in the new year.  The 450 class is always stacked, so we are very happy to know that the Suzuki engineers took that to heart, as they are incredibly prideful of their motocross heritage.  They wanted to put extreme focus on regaining a solid foundation on the competitive side of the industry, and appeal to amateurs and professionals alike to establish one hell of an RM-Army.  In the end, to say we had an absolute blast at this year's Suzuki media intro would be an understatement.  We were spoiled with generous hospitality in so many facets, and were given the chance to ride a track nestled inside a lush green forest with dirt that everyone dreams of. Not to mention, even Mother Nature was on our side!  It was beautiful, and we want to thank everyone involved with this event for really showing us a great time.  Stay tuned on KeeferIncTesting.com for more coverage and future stories on anything RM-Army related.

2018 Yamaha YZ450F First Ride Impression

 

2018 Yamaha YZ450F First Ride Impression 

The long awaited 2018 Yamaha YZ450F media introduction was at Glen Helen Raceway Wednesday and I got to burn A LOT of laps around the facility (so I could give you all some initial feedback). Yamaha introduced this 2018 beauty to us a couple months ago and the bike is completely new (but you can use your existing 2017 wheels if you want). The MSRP has increased $500.00 ($9,199.00) for 2018, but you’re getting more with the new bike than you were with the 2017 version. If you want to hear more about the 2018 YZ450F you can listen to the “Keefer Tested” podcast that is up now on pulpmx.com, iTunes, keeferinctesting.com and Stitcher. After I get back from Loretta’s look for more testing info on the 2018 YZ450F. In the meantime below is what the 2018 feels like in contrast to the 2017 machine.

 

 

Engine: The 2018 YZ450F’s engine is tilted more forward in 2018 and has a host of changes internally for increased power output (you can go to https://www.keeferinctesting.com/motocross-testing/2017/6/11/first-look-at-the-2018-yamaha-yz450f to see what those changes are. The engine character has a more of a free feeling (less engine braking) than the 2017 version. The 2017’s engine braking was heavier, but the 2018’s engine has less off that drag on de-cel. Which in return gives the bike a better ride attitude coming into corners. The bottom end is snappy and comes on strong (yet smoother than the 2017) and chugs into a very meaty mid range that pulls farther than the 2017. If you’re not careful the mid range pull can get away from you (while in third gear) accelerating out of corners, because that's how hooked up the 2018 gets! Top end is lengthened (farther pull) and has slightly more over-rev than the 2017. It is not as smooth on low end as the 2017.5 KTM 450 SX-F, but not as snappy as the 2018 CRF450R. It is somewhere in the middle. I feel like Yamaha did a great job of improving the engine to an already impressive character. When doing this they made it easier for me to ride aggressively. 

 

With the changes Yamaha made it's easier to maneuver when the track gets hammered. 

With the changes Yamaha made it's easier to maneuver when the track gets hammered. 

Suspension: The suspension feels much like the 2017 and moves in the stroke a lot. However this movement doesn't have as near the amount of pitching like the older YZ450F does. The fork still has good comfort over braking bumps, but has slightly more deflection on small acceleration chop (which is more of a chassis feel, but more on that later). I stiffened the fork up two clicks and slowed the rebound down one click and this helped calm the fork down on light bump absorption. When accelerating out of corners the fork can deflect when high in the stroke, but this setting change helped this feeling. The fork height is set flush from the factory and I didn't feel the need to move the fork from that setting at Glen Helen. The shock needs to have a sag setting between 100-102mm similar to the 2017 setting. However the rear of the 2018 does not have that stink bug feel to it like the 2017. Coming into corners the rear of the Yamaha has a better ride attitude (lower feeling on de-cel) and will not push (or overpower) the front end near as much as the older bike. The shock is a little soft like the fork (at the end of the stroke), but still has remained comfortable on acceleration chop. I did go 1/8 of a turn stiffer on high speed compression to help keep the rear end up on jump landings and steep faces. I feel like the suspension has a wider range of adjustability to maximize the comfort for a wide range of riders. I had Alex Ray testing with me and while he's a good 20 pounds heavier than me, he found a comfortable setting to go fast on. 

 

No this is NOT Travis Preston! But...... We did put his number on our test bike, so he could see what his bike would look like with a rider who could actually scrub. 

No this is NOT Travis Preston! But...... We did put his number on our test bike, so he could see what his bike would look like with a rider who could actually scrub. 

Chassis/Handling: The 2018 chassis feeling is much different than the 2017. The 2018 YZ450F corners much easier and feels lighter on “tip in” (entrance of corners). Mid corner push that last year’s bike had is not as apparent with the new frame. The front end sticks through corners and will not give the rider as much vague feeling. The Yamaha doesn't want to stand up on you mid corner and will give you confidence charging into corners like Travis Preston (you're welcome TP for the compliment). The downside to the new chassis is the stiffer feel it can bring on straight line stability. The front head tube area has a little stiffer feel on acceleration (hence the fork deflection) and gives the rider less of a tire contact patch (only on acceleration). It feels like the front end is not firmly planted when on throttle and dancesaround a little more than the 2017. Off throttle the front tire has good grip and doesn't deflect as much. This stiffer 2018 feeling is exactly the opposite of the 2017 Yamaha YZ450F. I would say with a little more suspension set up I could get rid of most of that feeling, so I will tinker. We complained about cornering with the Yamaha for years right? Well…. They listened and now we might have to adapt to a slightly less stable straight line chassis feel to get that cornering feel that we wanted.  

 

Ergonomics: The 2018 is much slimmer when riding and easier to get farther forward on. I can move farther up on the seat and not have the shroud area hinder my leg movements in corners. The fat feeling shroud area is minimized and will not freak previous Honda or Kawasaki owners out there when deciding to move to this Yamaha for 2018. The middle part of the YZ450F (frame) is narrower and you are able to feel that when whipping the bike over jumps. The word “Flickable” is used a lot in the testing world and the Yamaha has more of it in 2018. The taller bar mounts take a little time to get used to, but the handlebar is the same bend/shape, so if you're a shorter rider (5’9 or below) just roll your bars back a little to compensate for the bar mount height if it bothers you. 

 

The Yamaha is slimmer in the shroud area for 2018. . 

The Yamaha is slimmer in the shroud area for 2018. . 

Other Tidbits: When I can get an e-start without making the bike feel like a hog on the track I am all in! The 2018 Yamaha’s e-start battery only weighs 1.5 pounds and doesn't require the rider to pull in the clutch. It cranks over fairly easy and makes stopping to talk to your homies in the pits much easier in the summer time. You can download the Yamaha Power Tuner app to your phone and make your 2018 Yamaha YZ450F’s engine character tailored made for you. There are three pre-programmed maps already on the app, but you are able to fine tune your fuel and ignition parameters to your liking. Having someone hack into your machine should not be a problem because its a password set account just like your home’s wi-fi connection. It’s also cool that you are able to share/text your personal map to your buddies, so they can try what you came up with as well. I went with a stronger bottom to mid map (shown in this article) and this helped me carry third gear more through corners. I felt like I was in between gears on some tighter corners, so I wanted more grunt on low to mid range. By adding some fuel and advancing the ignition a little I was able to use third gear around 75% of the track at Glen Helen, which made the bike even easier to ride. Work smarter not harder. 

 

Try this map for increased bottom to mid range. 

Try this map for increased bottom to mid range. 

The flat blue color the rims are good looking and lighter than last year’s design. If you don’t like them than you can always go with the white/cyan colored Yamaha with BLACK rims! They are reported to be stronger than last year’s stockers, so I will be testing this in the upcoming weeks! 

So when do they arrive in dealers? I spoke with two Yamaha employees and both told me they didn't have a firm date yet, but most likely dealers will see them in 2-3 weeks time. The MSRP is $9,199.00. That is $500.00 more than the 2017. If there is one thing I strongly didn't like about the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F it is the seat. The seat foam is soft and I can feel the seat base when I am leaning through a corner hard. The corner of the seat’s foam is soft and the seat base and gas tank area (near seat) hit my butt bone and is uncomfortable during a long moto. I am going to try a firmer foam ASAP. The airbox cover is so easy to take off. There is one dzus fastener that holds it on and then it pops off. The air filter is held on by two clips that makes removal ten times easier. The airbox/intake noise is similar to last year’s, so for those that are used to it will not know any change in sound. 

 

The flat blue rims grow on you and look so much better in person.

The flat blue rims grow on you and look so much better in person.

 

Wrapping it Up: So what’s the verdict? I have only had one day on the 2018 Yamaha, but from what it feels like it’s a better YZ450F. The chassis feels stiffer, but that makes for a better cornering blue bike that we haven't seen in….Well……Ever Right?….. I am going to be playing around and tinkering in the coming weeks so stay tuned for continual updates on keeferinctesting.com and pulpmx.com

 

 

If you have any questions about this test you can email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com. Don’t freak out if I don’t get back to you right away, I have a wife that requires quality time and I must give that to her so I don't end up divorced! Cheers! -KK

2018 Honda CRF450R First Ride

Keefer Inc. Testing First Ride Impression

2018 Honda CRF450R 

 

The 2018 Honda CRF450R may look like a 2017, but it sure doesn't act like one. 

The 2018 Honda CRF450R may look like a 2017, but it sure doesn't act like one. 

 

For those of you that didn't listen to the 2018 Honda CRF450R podcast I did, here is a written First Ride Impression version. Remember if you prefer to listen to your tests instead of read them, we are here for you! You can subscribe to “Keefer Tested“ on iTunes, go to pulpmx.com or get it on the Stitcher app…. Choose wisely…. 

 

 

Honda came out with a brand spankin new CRF450R in 2017, so the updates the 2018 have are minimal, but that doesn't mean they cant be felt on the track. Honda went ahead and stiffened up the suspension by increasing the spring rates on both ends of the bike, the engine hangers have been swapped out for a softer CRF450RX style hanger, a mapping change was made to the standard map that was developed to smooth out roll on power down low and increase mid to top end pull and last but not least an electric start with a lightweight lithium ion battery (straight from the HRC race department). On paper it doesn't sound like much, so I took the 2017 and 2018 bikes out to dissect them both (for a little comparison) and this is what I came away with. 

 

A Mapping change to the number 1 map (on the mapswitch) make the 2018 CR450R easier to ride.

A Mapping change to the number 1 map (on the mapswitch) make the 2018 CR450R easier to ride.

 

Engine: 

 

The 2017 engine character is super exciting and fun to ride, but can be a handful when trying to roll through ruts and corners. The 2018 (in map 1) comes on smoother and is much more friendly to ride than the 2017. This doesn't mean it lost its luster down on low RPM, it just means that it is more controllable than ever before. The rear wheel is more connected on the 2018 than last year and I can really feel the Honda getting more traction when the dirt gets harder. Mid to top end pull feels like it has also slightly increased over last year with the new mapping. The new bike can pull second and third gear slightly longer. You will however still need to downshift to second in corners, but will be able to shift a little earlier on the 2018. Over-rev is as good on the 2018 as last year’s model, but still not quite as good as a KTM 450SX-F. With the 2017 I felt like it was easy to stall on tighter corners and didn't have that chugability (yes, that’s right chugability) that I like so much from a bike like the Yamaha YZ450F. With the 2018 CR450R mapping change I felt like the Honda is a little more “chuggy” feeling down on low RPM and doesn't have the tendency to stall as easy. Map two and three are unchanged and to me I preferred map 1 on every track I rode besides very deep sand tracks. Map two is too mellow for my throttle hand and map 3 is very fun feeling, but when I get tired I prefer calming down a little bit! Don’t be threatened by a smoother power feeling on a 450 because chances are you will be faster with that type of engine character. Honda has picked up on this and gives the rider a smoother yet broader engine character in 2018.  

 

The new Honda still has a fun power character and is flickable around the track. 

The new Honda still has a fun power character and is flickable around the track. 

Suspension:  

 

2018. Firmer? Yes. Harsher? No. The 2018 Honda has a firmer feel to it and holds up in the stroke better than the 2017. At 170 pounds this is a better feeling for me on every track I rode at. Last year’s bike was a little “pitchy” feeling and gave me some oversteer (knifing) in corners. This year I was able to keep the fork height at 5mm up in the clamp and not get that oversteer I dreaded from last year’s machine. Going from on gas to off gas on the 2018 CRF450R gives the rider less movement and keeps front end traction high through corners. The fork has a firmer feel, but doesn't get harsh through the mid stroke and keeps a good damping feel all the way to the end of its stroke. Last year’s fork setting was a little empty feeling at the end part of the stroke and I bottomed the 49mm Showa spring fork going up faces of jumps. I experimented with shock sag and always came back to a 105-106mm setting. This was a happy place to keep the 2018 CRF450R balanced on braking bumps and acceleration chop. The shock soaks up square edge well and doesn't have that wallow feel on rollers like last year’s steed. I did get some bottoming on steep jump transitions so an 1/8-1/4 turn stiffer on high speed really helps this get better. If you feel like that both ends are harsh (on braking bumps and acceleration chop) try softening the fork two clicks, slowing the rebound down one click. On the shock go softer two clicks on low speed compression and stiffen rebound down one click. 

The 49mm Showa spring fork holds up more on de-cel and the bike doesn't have that "pitchy" feel to it.

The 49mm Showa spring fork holds up more on de-cel and the bike doesn't have that "pitchy" feel to it.

 

Chassis:  The softer engine hangers really help the 2018 Honda CRF450R settle into the corners better than the 2017. I originally did this mod to my 2017 and noticed a big difference in the bike’s attitude when the track was hard and choppy. The 2018 doesn't deflect as much off of bumps and is slightly more planted around the track.The softer hangers help the flex of the chassis and give the rider more of a contact patch feel from both tires. The added weight (five extra pounds in 2018) of the electric start doesn't correlate on the track and it was tough for me to feel any real weight disadvantage while pushing it on the track. If anything I can feel a slightly heavier feel on tip in, coming into corners, but it is barely noticeable (I am picky so I can feel that stuff). The CG feeling of the Honda is still superb and feels flickable around jumpier style tracks. The 2018 CRF450R corners better than the 2017 due to the chassis and suspension changes Honda made.  

The updated hangers are a welcome change to the 2018 CRF450R, even though most of you 2017 Honda riders most likely already did this to your machine.

The updated hangers are a welcome change to the 2018 CRF450R, even though most of you 2017 Honda riders most likely already did this to your machine.

 

Verdict:  

 

It was tough for me to ride the 2017 Honda CR450R at rough tracks, but the same tracks I hit with the 2017 didn't feel as gnarly to me when I rode the 2018 model. The more forgiving chassis, stiffer suspension, and an engine character that is easier to ride makes it less of a handful to push your limits. I like that I can be smoother on this bike and it will reward me. Did I mention the electric start kicks ass?! It starts easy and makes life a lot easier for me when I have a spill or need to stop to yell at my son for doing something sketchy out on the track. I am looking forward to riding the 2018 Honda CR450R against all of the other 450’s soon in the upcoming first annual Keefer Inc. Testing 450 MX Shootout. Stay tuned! 

Legend. 

Legend. 

 

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

 

For spec info you all can go click over to powersports.honda.com.