2019 Yamaha YZ250F First Impression

 

From Super to Superb 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

2019 Kawasaki KX450 Optional Set Up Notes

 

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

 

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Engine: 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Suspension: 

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

 

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

Fork: 

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

Oil Level: Standard

Compression Range: Stock to Plus three

Rebound Range: Stock To Plus One

 

Shock:

Spring Rate: Standard

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

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

Rebound Range: Stock To Plus Two

 

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

Fork: 

Spring Rate: Stock

Oil Level: Standard

Compression Range: Plus Three To Plus Four

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

 

Shock:

Spring Rate: Stock

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

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

Rebound Range: Stock To Plus Two

 

 

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2018 Yamaha YZ65 Update (Summer School Assignment)

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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Milestone AME Minicross Riverside, Californa


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

 

Transworld MX Glen Helen, California


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

 

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Mammoth MX Mammoth, California 

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

 

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2019 Yamaha YZ85 Review

 

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

 

 Aden Keefer and the 2019 Yamaha YZ85

Aden Keefer and the 2019 Yamaha YZ85

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

2019 Yamaha YZ450F Review

 

I don’t need to tell you how big of a fan I was of last year’s YZ450F do I? It had a powerful engine character, great suspension, stable chassis and had an improved cornering ability. Yes, it could feel heavy at times and doesn't turn as sharp as a Honda, but it did A LOT of things really well. For 2019 Yamaha made only small changes on paper, but sometimes small changes make big improvements when riding on the track. I have been putting the hours on this bike since I received it over two weeks ago, just so I could give you more than a “First Impression” of this machine. Here are some key things about the 2019 Yamaha YZ450F that you NEED to know about. Oh and if you want more quality information, go click on the Podcast tab right here on keeferinctesting.com to hear even more about the bLU cRU machine. 

 

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Changes To The 2019 YZ450F: The 2019 Yamaha received increased rigidity in the axle collars, the front wheel surface area increased at the collar and axle bracket, a new shape on the rear wheel collars, stiffer suspension settings with increased damping, the seat foam stiffness has increased 16%, a tab has been added to the right side number plate and a 49 tooth rear sprocket (from a 48 tooth) has been aded to the 2019 YZ450F. 

 

 Updated wheel spacers for 2019. 

Updated wheel spacers for 2019. 

 Updated wheel spacers for 2019. 

Updated wheel spacers for 2019. 

 

Engine: The 2019 Yamaha YZ450F engine doesn't feel much different than the 2018 version did. Why? Because the engine is the same minus the shiny new blue head cover. Need a re-fresher course on how good the Yamaha YZ450F engine is? Not a problem….Let me break it down for you right here: There is a ton of bottom end excitement with the Yamaha’s engine character. It pulls hard from bottom to mid range and allows the rider to “lug” more than any other 450 motocross machine on the market. Using third gear through corners is made easier in 2019 because it comes with a 49 tooth rear sprocket (up one tooth from 2018, so thank you Jody). Going up one tooth is something most everyone did to their 2018 YZ450F machines, so it’s nice Yamaha incorporated that for the new year. Mid to top end pull is plentiful and I would only want maybe a little more over-rev from the Yamaha (if I was going to nit pick this engine). The connection to the rear wheel is not as good as a KTM 450 SX-F, but you are getting much more excitement from the YZ450F engine than the orange machine. If you do want more connection to the rear wheel and maybe a broader power the “TP Map” is something you can install from your Yamaha Power Tuner App (more on that later in this article). Every time I get back on a Yamaha YZ450F from riding other brands of 450’s, it makes me appreciate how much power this thing has. It is fast! The only other engine that comes close to the Yamaha for bottom to mid range excitement is the Honda CRF450R.  

 

Suspension: The best suspension on a stock production motorcycle period! Yes, better than a 2019 KX450F! The new firmer suspension settings help the pitching sensation that I felt from the 2018 YZ450F. It doesn't feel harsh by any means, but at least now the bike doesn't get a wiggle or a low feel (from the front end) when you’re coming into a corner. The fork has so much comfort on braking bumps and can take some aggressive riding as well. To me it’s a very generous blend of comfort and performance that Yamaha/KYB managed to weave into this fork. For my weight and ability I would go to a stiffer spring rate, but for a production machine this KYB SSS fork is something other manufacturers need to strive for. Out back the rear shock doesn't have that “high” feel to it as much as in year’s past and is great on acceleration chop. Out west we get a lot of square edge inside of ruts and the rear of the 2019 YZ450F settles slightly better than the 2018 version did. The stiffer valving lets the shock ride a little higher in the stroke (on acceleration), which gives me more of a planted feel when on throttle. Coming into braking bumps the shock gives the rider the freedom to hop over the bumps or go all Jeff Stanton and charge through them. The shock’s action is slightly slower feeling than last year’s bike and prevents the rear end from wallowing or bucking when trying to finesse your way through bumps.    

 

Chassis: I am fairly tired of other testing outlets saying that the YZ450F doesn't corner. Please stop, it’s getting old! This isn’t a 2013 Yamaha YZ450F we are talking about ok? Since the 2018 machine came out, the Yamaha YZ450F corners well. No, it’s not the sharpest cornering machine out there, but then again I don’t want it to be. I want a stable machine that can get me from point A to point B in a hurry and without much movement from the chassis. The 2019 YZ450F is stable and never does anything you don’t want it to do. Yes, it will take some extra work by the rider to change direction, but it WILL do it. With the updated fork lugs and wheels spacers the new Yamaha is better at hitting the rut and sticking inside of it. I can come into a corner faster on the new 2019 machine and it will give me a planted feel better than the 2018 bike did. I get added front wheel traction and a better contact patch throughout the whole corner. You don't necessarily need to bank off of something now with the 2019 like you did with the 2018. It can turn under a blown out rut better and let’s you get on the throttle sooner. This is not a huge noticeable difference, but if you're a previous Yamaha YZ450F owner, I am confident you will be able to feel these positives fairly quickly. 

 

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Rider Triangle: I am pretty sure I was the first guy to tell Yamaha that they had a problem with their 2018 YZ450F seat foam. It was soft and you could feel the fuel tank on your butt when you dove into corners aggressively. The firmer foam feels much better and I have had zero problems with hitting the fuel tank. The firmer foam also gives me the sensation of a less wallowy feel coming out of corners. The firmer seat foam alone makes the Yamaha feel slightly lighter on the track and less clapped out. When coming off of a 2018.5 KTM/Husqvarna I can see how some people might think the Yamaha feels wide. Visually it does look that way, but once you spend a day on the Yamaha that all goes away. I don't feel like the YZ450F is wide in corners and the shrouds never catch on my legs when lifting them up through corners. The handlebar, seat to footpeg area feels good to my 6’0 frame, but I needed to go back to 2017 bar mounts to lower the bar height a little. The 2018 bar mounts are 5mm taller and I just DO NOT like that feeling of a high handlebar, especially in corners. For those of you above 6’0 you may want to keep the stock 2019 bar mounts intact.     

 

Yamaha Power Tuner App: The easiest way to get more or less power out of your 2018 or 2019 Yamaha YZ450F is the Yamaha Power Tuner App. Simply download the app to your phone and you are able to change the fuel and ignition timing to your new blue machine. It is super easy to use and doesn't require a pilot’s license to navigate your way through. When the track gets a little slick or rough I am all about the “TP Map” that Travis Preston and his colleagues created. I have attached this map here, but you can also go to https://www.yamahamotorsports.com/motocross/pages/yamaha-power-tuner-smart-phone-app and let Yamaha guide you through everything step by step. To me Yamaha makes it’s much easier to change your bike’s power character than any other manufacturer. I personally watched all the videos on Yamaha’s website and can change my mapping at the track with zero issue.

 

Settings: Here are some settings that I liked on the 2019 Yamaha YZ450F. Try these out for a baseline setting for yourself: 

 

Fork: 

Height: 4-5mm (5mm is standard in 2019)

Compression: Two clicks stiffer than stock

Rebound: One click slower than stock

 

Shock:

Sag: 105mm

Low Speed Compression: Stock

High Speed Compression: Stock

Rebound: Two clicks slower than stock

 

Tire Pressure:

13 PSI front and back

 

ECU Setting: 

TP Map (As Shown)

 

Handlebar: 

I went and purchased a set of Pro Taper EVO SX Race bend’s (same bend as stock, but with more damping character than stock)

 

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Stock Muffler: You want to keep the great low end engine feel on the Yamaha 2019 YZ450F? Then don’t go slapping on an aftermarket muffler on it just yet. The stock muffler gives you that excitement and throaty engine character. Trust me when I say that I tested several mufflers and almost all of them take bottom end away from the YZ450F. Yes, most increase the mid-top end, but I really don’t need any more of that. You can do a lot with the Yamaha Power Tuner App so before you go dumping money into an aftermarket muffler, play with the app a little, don’t be lazy!  

 

Grips: Although I like the stock grips myself most others would disagree with me. They can feel fat in your hands and most would like to go to a smaller grip feel. However as far as stock OEM grips go, the Yamaha grips are the most blister friendly compound grips out there. If Yamaha could make the grip slightly smaller they would sell more OEM grips. Does anyone even purchase stock OEM grips from their dealer? Probably not. Continue on…..

 

Is The 2019 Yamaha YZ450F Better Than The 2018: Small refinements make the 2019 YZ450F a better handing machine. The engine is a 2018 version, but the handing of the 2019 Yamaha makes it a 3.25 on my test rating scale (compared to a baseline 3, which is the 2018 YZ450F). Going up a quarter point on a testing sheet is considered a fairly noticeable change in the production testing world. So to me, if it was a matter of only saving a few hundred bucks between the 2018 and 2019 versions, I would gladly pay the extra few hundred on the 2019 Yamaha YZ450F.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

2019 Husqvarna FC/TC First Impression Notes

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I had the pleasure of getting invited to ride five new 2019 Husqvarna motorcycles (TC125, TC250, FC250, FC350, FC450) at the “Baker Factory” in Florida last week. Husqvarna held their 2019 world motocross introduction at Aldon’s lovely facility and let me tell you it is immaculate. The weather was hot and humid, but the track provided a great testing ground to give you some first impressions. Here are some things that I thought you would like to know about the 2019 Husqvarna line up, straight from the east coast.

 

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All Of The New 2019 TC And FC Models Have: 

 

Redesigned bodywork and graphics

Blue coated frame featuring increased rigidity

New 2-piece subframe design (250 g lighter)

Updated setting on the WP AER 48 forks

WP DCC shock featuring new piston & updated setting

Reworked SOHC cylinder head on the FC 450 (500 g lighter)

New cylinder head casting on FC 350 (200 g lighter)

Optimized timing on FC 250 exhaust camshaft

Machined finish on TC 125 & TC 250 upper exhaust port

Reinforced kick start intermediate gear on TC 125

New mufflers on 2-strokes, redesigned header pipe on TC 250

Chain adjustment length increased by 5 mm

New, stiffer upper triple clamp

Traction & launch control with updated settings [4-strokes]

New throttle cable routing for easier maintenance

Flow-designed resonance chambers & more compact silencers on 4-strokes

New generation Li-ion 2.0 Ah battery

Updated cooling system with new centre tube

New DS (diaphragm steel) clutch on TC 125, FC 250 & FC 350

ProTaper handlebar with new bend

Laser engraved D.I.D. wheels with new spoke nipples

New gearboxes produced by Pankl

 

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TC 125/250 Two-Strokes: It’s not everyday that I swing my leg over a 125 and 250 two-strokes. The TC125’s engine is much improved since the last time I took it for a test spin. What I noticed about the TC125’s engine is that the jetting is very crisp and spot on. The TC125 barks and has great throttle response throughout the RPM range. However, the TC250 feels rich down low and doesn't have that “crisp” feel out of corners like the little TC125 did. Both two-stroke machines have very light feeling chassis’s and can corner extremely well. The Baker Factory’s dirt was heavy as it had just rained the night before so the ruts were deep and long, but that didn’t phase these light weight TC’s. They both can lay over nicely in corners and have plenty of front wheel traction so you are able to cut down on those insides with ease. Vibration is not as apparent on the Husqvarna two-strokes like it is on the KTM’s. The KTM’s DO NOT have that much vibration, but it is apparent immediately that the Husqvarna’s just have less of it. Husqvarna uses a Pro Taper bar instead of a Neken, which to me helps the damping quality of the machines. The suspension on both machines felt soft to me. I am sure that if I was back in California, where the dirt is hard and choppy it would be better, but with the deep conditions of the Baker Factory the forks on both machines felt soft on de-cel bumps. Remember the dirt is extremely grabby on the east coast and adding a little air pressure to the AER fork and stiffening up the low speed compression on the shock will help you out. In this case going up 2 psi on the AER fork helped balance the pitching sensation out for me. I only had minimal time on each machine so a thorough test will just have to wait until I get my hands on my test bikes. At the end of the day if you asked me which bike is more fun to ride, I would have to tell you the 125 was more of a fun machine to rip around Aldon’s. Hitting ruts wide open and not letting off was something that put a pretty big smile on my face. 

 

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Husqvarna FC250: Husqvarna did a ton of work to the FC250 and it really showed especially in the engine department. I have always complained about lack of bottom end on the FC250, but now there is some added torque available for us lazy riders in 2019. I am not saying that the FC250 has YZ250F type bottom end, but at least now there is some excitement out of corners. The FC250’s engine still builds RPM’s calculated, but has a little better recovery time when I screw up on the track. A little stab of the clutch and the engine is very lively and pulls hard. You still have that great Husqvarna FC250 mid-top end pull and you are able to leave the white machine in second and third gear longer than the previous year model as well. The 2019 chassis is refined and although I didn't feel as big of difference on the 19 FC250 (from the 2018) as I did the FC350 or FC450, it still gives me the confidence to charge bumps and rollers without giving me a wallow or heavy feel. Cornering is superb on the FC250 and feels light through corners and in the air. I think some of that light weight feel has something to do with a little more excitement from the engine, which always makes a bike feel lighter. Another aspect to the FC250 that I like a lot more this year is that it has less engine braking. Less engine braking means less pitching and a lighter more free-revving engine feel. This is huge when the dirt is soft like it is on the eat coast! The suspension on the FC250 feels balanced and soaks up smaller bumps better, but I still feel there needs to be more comfort in the fork on slap down landings. On slap down landings the WP AER fork feels harsh and doesn't have the comfort a spring fork has.        

 

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Husqvarna FC350: Just last week I tested the KTM 350 SX-F and I can say the Husqvarna FC350 has mostly the same characters as the 350 SX-F. I say “mostly” because the FC350 doesn't vibrate near as much as the KTM and the FC350 doesn't have as much excitement down on low RPM like the KTM 350SX-F. The Baker Factory track that we tested on was tight and had long ruts, so the FC350 felt a considerably lighter than the FC450 did, even though there is only a few pounds difference between the two. The 2019 FC350 has more mid-range pulling power than the 2018, which is noticeable as soon as you roll the throttle on. It still doesn't have the torque of a 450, but then again if you wanted to purchase a bike with loads of torque you wouldn't be interested in the FC350 now would you? You have heard me talk about “engine recovery time” in other reviews and the FC350 has improved in that area as well. Just a small amount of clutch gets the FC350’s power back into what I like to call “the meat”. The meat is where the FC350 just sings and pulls you to the next corner or obstacle in a hurry. As light as this chassis feels on the 2019 FC350, it stays pretty damn straight (on-throttle). When accelerating out of long sweepers, the rear end stays more connected to the ground than last year’s model. The stiffer frame helps this contact feeling and is very noticeable under heavy load (which I actually got to test here at the Baker Factory being that the dirt is so good). I ran every FC and TC machine at around 105mm of sag and this seemed to be the happy spot where most of the machines felt balanced. The FC350’s suspension felt much like the 450’s in which both ends of the bike move together, give you a lot of traction and can handle hitting sizable braking bumps at speed. I made a huge mistake one lap, missed my braking point (into a corner), hit a big braking bump too fast and the FC350 just kicked a little and didn't give me a big huck a buck like it would have in year’s past. 

 

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Husqvarna FC450: I am not going to sit here and lie to you. I think I put more time on the FC450 than any other bike here at the Baker Factory. Why, you ask? It’s actually quite simple. It is fast, yet easy as hell to ride! But 450cc’s is way too much for me Keefer? Unless you’re 125 pounds and a beginner, I am going to have to say “it isn't too much for you”. The way the 2019 FC450 delivers its power is quite magical. If you're worried about too much hit down low, don't be, because the bottom end delivery is so smooth and easy to manage. Actually, I would want some more bottom end hit so I could pop out of these deep east coast ruts a little better at times. Back at home in California where the dirt is hard, this smooth delivery is what I am looking for, but back here where the dirt is heavy and wet you need some bottom end snap to get you on down the track ASAP. Even though the TC125 put a smile on my face, the FC450 put a bigger smile on my face due to its long pulling power and fun nature. The chassis is stable and predictable at speed, but still gives you a lightweight cornering feel. The suspension balance is good, but I am so spoiled with my WP Cone Valve/Trax shock set up (on my FC450 Rockstar Edition) that going back to the AER fork makes the Husqvarna feel slightly harsh on the very top of its stroke. When accelerating out of corners (when the fork is light and in the top of its stroke) the AER fork can deflect a little. This just gives a slight uneasy feel, but once off the gas the fork remains planted with a good amount of front wheel traction. The FC450’s ignition setting did have some slight de-cel popping, but maybe this was due to the high temps and high humidity in Florida. I usually don't experience this on the west coast.  

 

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Blue Frame/Handguards: I am going to say this as nice as I can…Husqvarna please get your color scheme together. Blue frame, yellow fork guards, white plastic, black frame guards? Just when I really start to like the looks of the 2018.5 Rockstar Edition, you go and do this to me! Really?! The blue frame is dull and just looks tired too quickly for me. I would rather have a black or white frame to go with some yellow accents. Handguards? NO! I can understand why you are putting them on the FX line up, but we are moto guys! If I need handguards I will go purchase some at a later time. Handguards make the bike look fat and heavy and it’s not flattering to me. I am not a huge fan of the way the 2019 Husqvarna’s look, but I am going to give you guys a pass in 2019 because they work so well. 

 

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Baker’s Factory: To be able to come here and ride was something that only few will ever do. Aldon has built himself an immaculate area for riders to hone their craft. Between the work shops that you can eat off the floor, the perfectly mowed grass, the gym that smells like cotton candy and pink lemonade, the perfectly prepped tracks, this place is a dirt bike fanatic’s dream. The track that we got to test on was a mix of sandy clay and had huge ruts within an hour of riding on it. Testing a motorcycle here is optimal because you have the deep/heavy dirt for engine testing, dirt that provides big braking bumps and square edge for chassis/suspension testing. All of this gives you a well rounded testing facility to make any motorcycle better. After my day was done I walked back onto the track to really soak it all in. I looked at the lines that were formed and couldn't believe how rough it got in a short amount of time. Not only did it get rough, but it kept high levels of traction throughout the day. Something in which California can’t offer riders. 

 

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Zach Osborne: Want to know how cool Zach-O is? He came out to both days of Husqvarna’s introduction and just hung out with the media guys. Not only did he do interviews, take photos and BS with everyone, he walked around the “other” track to help out the Rockstar Husqvarna team riders with their motos. Zach is just a down to earth guy that loves the sport as much as you or I. 

 

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Heat/Humidity: I know I am a west coast guy and you east coast dudes are used to this stuff, but holy crap it’s gnarly out here in Florida. I should of came out here to train for Loretta’s and I would of been so much better off. Being able to train in this stuff and ride national level type tracks is a such a huge advantage. On the day we were there testing Aldon had Marvin Musquin, Jordan Bailey, Mitchell Harrison and Michael Mosiman doing sprints and motos. To put in the work here at this facility will not only help you physically, but mentally as well. 

 

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East Coast/West Coast, Two Types Of Settings: I have listened to some of my testing media colleagues talk about taking these bikes back home to California to test them on our home turf. This statement doesn't make sense to me at all and it drives me nuts as a test rider! Not every guy who purchases a Husqvarna lives in California right? Just because we are more comfortable on California dirt doesn't mean “we” can’t give you (the reader) testing feedback on “your” kind of dirt. This is why I want to do an east and west coast 450 shootout this year. My California setting doesn't work on Florida dirt/tracks and I know this. I also know there are thousands of people who want testing information on the east coast, not just the west coast. As test riders we are supposed to adapt to our test environment and try to give you the most honest feedback/setting that we can on the dirt we are provided, at the time of the test. We can’t just disregard where we are testing and expect to go back home and give you some “real world testing info”. Come on! We are at the Baker Factory, so that is why I am giving you some first impression testing feedback on these Husqvarna’s from this type of dirt. 

2019 Kawasaki KX450 First Impression

Kawasaki has a brand new KX450 without the “F” people! Who needs more “F” in this world anyway?! Seriously though, Kawasaki has a brand new 450 and it is probably the most anticipated motocross machine of 2019. I headed down to Pala, California last Tuesday night to attend the presentation that Kawasaki had for the media, to get a feel of the new parts that are on this 2019 KX450 machine. Kawasaki has a lot of R&D invested in this bike and definitely are looking for some great results come shootout time. The 2019 KX450 is available now at our local dealers and cost $9,299.00. Will it be in the hunt for a shootout win this year? It’s quite possible, but first things first, let me break you down some things I felt on the first day of testing so you can get an idea of what this bike is all about.  

 

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Engine Feel Compared To 2018 KX450: Ummmm…No comparison. The 2019 comes on quicker with a lighter, more free-revving feel! I am usually not a guy who likes to de-tune a stock 450cc motocross bike, but the Kawasaki simply is too crisp from 0-5% throttle opening. Yes, too crisp! Where you feel this 0-5% is when you are barely on the throttle through ruts. The KX450 gets jumpy with the stock green coupler and it upsets the chassis, which makes you very inconsistent through corners. Once the black coupler is installed it controls that 0-5% and gives you an incredible, yet smooth pulling power that feels similar to a KTM 450 SX-F. The mid range has a ton of meat and the increased top end/over-rev is noticeable on the second lap. I felt like I lost zero mid to top end pulling power with the black coupler (compared to the stock green one) and I could ride the KX450 more aggressively through corners. The engine is super connected to the rear wheel and never steps out coming out of corners. This is an impressive power plant! After I was done testing I was chatting with McGrath and he even said he preferred the black coupler. So there’s that, if you don't want take my word for it. 

 

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Cornering/Chassis: The new 2019 KX450 is more cornering “neutral” than in previous years. I am able to get more front end bite than last year, but also am still able to rear steer the green machine very well too. I had a rear end steering tester with me at the intro and he liked how well it backed into corners as well as I liked the front end bite from mid-end corner. I say mid-end because the KX450 still does have a slight vague feel on entrance of corners. Raising the fork up 2mm in the clamp helps this feeling somewhat and gives you increased front bite. 

 

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Suspension Comfort: Thank you Kawasaki and sweet baby Jesus for the return of spring forks!!! The 2019 Kawasaki is so much more balanced than last year’s bike and I was able to set the front end down where I wanted to without feeling like the front end was going to snap my wrists. The fork has tons of comfort, but is also too soft for my liking. At Pala there are some sizable jumps and the fork bottomed at too many times. Going stiffer on the compression only hurt de-cel bump comfort, so I settled on going slower on the rebound, which helped some. The shock is soft as well on slap down landings, but going eight clicks (two turns) in helped keep the rear end up and thus helps wallow feeling. 

 

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A-Kit Style Fork: When asked about the Showa A-Kit style fork to a Showa technician, I was told that this is truly an A-Kit style fork. When the Showa tech saw the drawings of the 2019 KX450 in its pre-production stage he thought it was a race team fork at first glance. Many parts that are inside of this production Kawasaki Showa spring fork is what comes inside the factory boys forks. 

 

Weight Feeing (Chassis): I was told that the 2019 Kawasaki KX450’s frame is 1.87 pounds lighter than it was in 2018. The total weight of the new machine has only increased roughly three pounds from 2018, but to me it feels lighter than the 2018. Why? I feel it is because of the way the 2019 Kawasaki makes its power. It is very free feeling and snappy which makes this bike have a very light feeling through corners. I am ale to lay it down with ease and cut down under a blown out rut almost as easy as a KTM/Husqvarna. I do get a little twitch on de-cel, but it wasn't a horrible or un-easy feeling. Straight line stability is still the same straight and arrow Kawasaki feel that you expect. The frame absorption is one of the Kawasaki’s strong points and although the Pala track wasn't rough, there was some hidden square edge that I managed to hit during the day to test this. 

 

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Hydraulic Clutch: The Nissin hydraulic clutch feels nothing like a Brembo or Magura. The Nissin hydraulic feel is a little bit of cable and hydro. What the hell does that mean Keefer? It means that there is a little play in the Nissin hydraulic lever that makes it feel like a cable pull initially. Unlike a Brembo where there is no play and is very touchy (on/off feel), the Nissin has more of a progressive feeling. So far I prefer the Nissin feel over the Brembo. I like to ride the clutch a little with my finger while I ride, so having that little bit of play makes sure that I don't burn up my clutch as quick. The clutch feeling as you would expect was superb and I had zero fading or lever movement while riding. Kawasaki is the first Japanese manufacturer to have a hydraulic clutch on a motocross machine. Impressive! 

 

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Muffler: Ehhhhhh boy, here we go! Everyone complaining about the bazooka of a muffler from the 2019 Kawasaki. Yes, it’s long. Yes, it’s not that attractive, but the muffler tone is ten times better than the 2018. I will gladly take a long muffler that sounds good and provides excellent power delivery. This bazooka does just that!  

 

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Rider Traingle: The footpeg to seat to handlebar ratio is also another improvement. The seat is flatter, which puts me more on top of the machine than “in” it like last year. I like this feeling and it makes maneuvering on the bike better for my 6’0 frame. 

 

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

 

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Brakes: Kawasaki also went to work on the front and rear brakes of the 2019 KX450. The rear brake has a 250mm rotor (which is the largest rear production disc on a motocross machine), new master cylinder/hose and the front brake also has a new master cylinder. I would have to say that the front brake was more impressive than the rear because of how good its modulation was. It wasn’t a grabby feeling front brake and was more progressive to pull in. I could drag the front brake more through corners without getting that stabbing front end feel. I didn't notice that much of a power difference in the rear brake compared to the 2018, but it still worked well enough for me. Kawasaki riders that update to a 2019 will be able to feel the front brake improvements on their first ride.

2019 KTM 250/350 SX-F First Impression

As most of you know I choose my "core" evaluators wisely here at Keefer Inc. I don't just hire fast dudes that rip. They have to first have a good heart, be kind, haul ass, be able to joke around, be able to write, be able to evaluate, have a firm handshake, feel things on a track and of course translate that back onto your computer screen. Dominic Cimino is all of those things. This is why he is one of only a very few that I call my "core" guys. He is your normal hard working, blue collar rider that can give you all some honest feedback about any first impression. If you want to listen to what I think you can click on "Podcasts/Keefer Tested" and listen to my first impressions of both machines right there. However, if you prefer to read yours, here are Dom's initial thoughts. -KK

 

 

New bike season is always hot and heavy, and KTM kicked off the festivities today at Chaney Ranch with their 2019 250SX-F and 350SX-F new model introductions. For all you readers out there in Keefer Land, this is my first impression of both bikes, which on paper and in person, are practically identical. They utilize the same 2019 chassis (which is all new for this year and going onto all SX-F models), each bike has updated body work & ergonomics, a new Pankl transmission, and more... which I’m getting to in just a second.

 

 2019 KTM 350 SX-F

2019 KTM 350 SX-F


First off, the 350 - I personally own a 2016 with a decent amount of upgrades, so this quick comparison might come in handy for those in the same scenario looking to renew. Of course nothing compares to a new bike... they are just so crisp in every way. But beside that, the 2019 350SX-F power-plant is noticeably improved. It’s response is quicker - when you flick the clutch, it wakes up (but do not confuse this with torque, because the 350 will never be a 450). What I mean is, the lag-time to get into the revs’ is much less, and KTM can attest to these improvements by way of these updates (from air to exhaust): updated air box, fuel management system, velocity stack, and exhaust pipe/muffler. The cylinder head has been downsized (and most of the components associated with it) to claim about 200 grams of weight savings overall. As for the transmission, Pankl Racing Systems is owned and operated by KTM, which allows them the ultimate control in production and quality-control of superior transmission components. Does it make the bike go faster? No. All of the gear ratios were retained from last year. Just know that everything is of better quality overall.

 

 2019 KTM 250 SX-F

2019 KTM 250 SX-F



The 250SX-F motor has also been improved with similar updates listed to that of the 350 above. A standout feature to make mention of is the split injection inside the fuel control unit, which in specific areas of the fuel map, greatly improve throttle response. Ignition timing has been revised, as well the exhaust cam being retarded 1.5 degrees, all of which combine for a better power output and an easier way to rev out to it’s 14,000 max rpm. The new 250s have come a long way, and this bike is really fun to ride!

 

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Both the 250 and 350 see revised suspension settings, including new pistons in both the fork & shock, as well as updated dampening cartridges (keep in mind, each bike has it’s own specific settings). Each year KTM continues to get better in the suspension realm, and 2019 is feeling good so far, but further testing on different tracks will really help see where these bikes land in later tests. As for the chassis and ergonomics, both bikes feel great. The shrouds are narrower, the radiators have been lowered, and the new body-work not only looks beautiful, but allows you the ultimate freedom to move as you wish when in the cockpit. I did notice the front end being slightly twitchy at speed and also push in some areas, but keep in mind our debut test track wasn’t the best place to really dig into the nooks & crannies. On another note, for all you weight-weenies out there, KTM continues to innovate new ways to trim weight everywhere on their motorcycles. For 2019, here is what the bikes weigh in at: 250SX-F - 218lbs. 350SX-F - 219lbs. 450SX-F - 221lbs. It’s pretty damn impressive, considering how many other changes they make every year to get better than the rest.

 

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So, should I sell my 2016 350 to upgrade to a 2019? I mean, that’s ultimately what we are getting at, right?? If you are asking me this question right now after only one day of riding the new bikes - my answer is no. I have not had enough time to dissect it thoroughly, and I love my 2016. But, I will tell you that the 2019 250SX-F is a damn fun bike and this year’s shootouts could be very interesting, knowing what’s on the horizon in Japan-land. Nonetheless, stay tuned to keeferinctesting.com for more 2019 bike intros, tests, and long-term updates on these new steeds coming your way soon. New bike season is amongst us... “new bike, who dis?”

2018 Yamaha YZ250F Worn In, Not Worn Out

 

As my time with the 2018 Yamaha YZ250F comes to an end, I make no bones about it being my favorite 250F of all the 2018 models. Kris gave me this bike as my long term moto test bike, and in doing so has forced me to branch off from my off-road roots more than I have in the past. I’m sure it helps that I was somewhat familiar with the bike since I also love the Yamaha YZ250FX, but nevertheless Yamaha has made an outstanding machine. As previously stated I used this bike 95% of the time for moto, whether it be for racing, or just motoing down riding countless laps at Sunrise (Keefer’s favorite local track). Kris forced me to take inside lines, jump things I was scared of and ride 20 minute moto after 20 minute moto. In the 30+ hours I put on the Yamaha I never had to replace anything other than regular maintenance items. 

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The 2018 YZ250F is like most current model motocross bikes, if you take care of them they will take care of you. I made sure to keep up on oil changes, air filter cleanings, chain tensioning and what do you know, I never had a bike failure. There are only a few items that wore out and needed changing to make sure the bike stayed in good running order, grips, a fork seal, a clutch, and a chain. The grips just plain wore through, the chain didn’t fail but just got clapped out, the clutch started to slightly slip when the engine was under a heavy load and the fork seal most likely got cut by roost. I am a working class guy that has to pay for his own parts (outside of Keefer Inc. Testing duties) so I can appreciate the durability of this machine. I was impressed that this bike could be ridden hard for months and the maintenance would have only cost $386.00. 

 

  • Genuine Yamaha Clutch $181.19
  • Genuine Yamaha Grips $19.02 (most people don’t buy these but Yamaha replaced them)
  • Genuine Yamaha DID chain $71.39
  • Oil and Filter Changes $75.00
  • Genuine Yamaha Fork Seals $39.40 (both sides were replaced)

 

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After around 20 hours the stock exhaust did get noticeably louder and a bit annoying which I’m sure is normal since I’d be willing to bet there wasn’t much packing left. The suspension started to feel a bit soft and lacked dampening as the stock oil broke down, which was changed when the seals were replaced. One thing I wish this bike came with was a skid plate or glide plate (no not some ridiculous off-road one). After a long day of doing motos, it’s a pain to wash all the baked mud off the bottom of the engine.  

 

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I have to admit I’m a bit sad to see this bike go (maybe not as sad as Keefer was with the YZ450F) because it has helped me grow as a rider and has never let me down. I raced it at REM events, TWMX races placing 1st and 2nd and also did three days of seemingly endless tire testing. The 2019 models have recently been unveiled and from what it looks like the new bike received the same changes the YZ450F received in 2018, which should make the new 2019 YZ250F even better. I look forward to the 2019 (and Keefer) teaching me how to become more of a moto guy thus helping me progress as a rider and tester. But hell I guess until then it’s back to the trails I go while I still have the 2018 YZ450FX. -Michael Allen 

Justin Brayton's Smartop/MCR/Bullfrog Spas Honda CRF450R Photo Gallery

 She's A Beaut Clark! 

She's A Beaut Clark! 

 A D.I.D. DirtStar ST-X rim is laced up to a Dubya Talon Ultralight rear hub. 

A D.I.D. DirtStar ST-X rim is laced up to a Dubya Talon Ultralight rear hub. 

 The front hub is a stock unit that is polished. Brayton likes the way the stock hub feels for cornering. 

The front hub is a stock unit that is polished. Brayton likes the way the stock hub feels for cornering. 

 Stock foot peg placement, a set of titanium Pro Pegs and a Ride Engineering brake clevis.

Stock foot peg placement, a set of titanium Pro Pegs and a Ride Engineering brake clevis.

 This is the same Yoshimura RS-9 system that anyone can purchase. No special spec here. 

This is the same Yoshimura RS-9 system that anyone can purchase. No special spec here. 

 Factory Showa shock with an 18mm shock shaft. 

Factory Showa shock with an 18mm shock shaft. 

 X-Trig 22mm offset clamps, PDHS bar mounts with a 5mm spacer, and 996 Twinwalls. The Showa factory forks are spring forks with caps that may look like they're air assist, but don't let that fool you. 

X-Trig 22mm offset clamps, PDHS bar mounts with a 5mm spacer, and 996 Twinwalls. The Showa factory forks are spring forks with caps that may look like they're air assist, but don't let that fool you. 

 A factory front Nissin brake caliper stops the Honda on a dime. However, it isn't a grabby front brake, but has more of a progressive feel to it and that invites you to go in deeper into bowl corners. 

A factory front Nissin brake caliper stops the Honda on a dime. However, it isn't a grabby front brake, but has more of a progressive feel to it and that invites you to go in deeper into bowl corners. 

 JB10 opts for the feel of the titanium front engine hanger. Although the shape is the same as the stock piece, the stiffer feel of the titanium up front helps the side to side movement of the CRF450R feel quicker/lighter. 

JB10 opts for the feel of the titanium front engine hanger. Although the shape is the same as the stock piece, the stiffer feel of the titanium up front helps the side to side movement of the CRF450R feel quicker/lighter. 

 A GUTS ribbed seat cover keeps Justin from coming of the back while eating corners. Underneath the seat you will be able to find a Vortex ignition that is mapped to the XPR tuned engine. Yes, it's fast!  

A GUTS ribbed seat cover keeps Justin from coming of the back while eating corners. Underneath the seat you will be able to find a Vortex ignition that is mapped to the XPR tuned engine. Yes, it's fast!  

 You would think the whole package would make Brayton's bike feel rigid, but it actually has a ton of comfort for how stiff his suspension set up is. The team incorporates all stock hardware (no titanium) to help flex character.  

You would think the whole package would make Brayton's bike feel rigid, but it actually has a ton of comfort for how stiff his suspension set up is. The team incorporates all stock hardware (no titanium) to help flex character.  

 Chad Braun at XPR has this engine tuned beautifully. It has a free-revving feel with hardly no engine braking and is not only very fast, but very controlled as well. The traction to the rear wheel is amazing for how fast this machine is. Brayton's first and second gears pull so long, it feels like third gear in normal production standards. Now I know how Brayton gets such great starts! WOW! 

Chad Braun at XPR has this engine tuned beautifully. It has a free-revving feel with hardly no engine braking and is not only very fast, but very controlled as well. The traction to the rear wheel is amazing for how fast this machine is. Brayton's first and second gears pull so long, it feels like third gear in normal production standards. Now I know how Brayton gets such great starts! WOW! 

 The confidence you get coming into whoops with factory suspension underneath you is nothing like you ever felt. 

The confidence you get coming into whoops with factory suspension underneath you is nothing like you ever felt. 

Living With The 2016 Oset 20.0 Racing Electric Trials Bike

 I purchased a 2016 Oset 20.0 48v electric trials bike two years ago for Aden (my son) to hone his skills on around the house. Little did I know how much fun one of these suckers would be, not only for him, but for me as well. In those two years the Oset 20.0 has been a mainstay in our backyard, at local motocross tracks and the occasional desert trail ride. Plus, haven't you ever just wanted to ride right out of your garage or build a makeshift course in your backyard? Well, Oset bikes has made this possible without getting bitchy, non-friendly dirt bike people in an uproar. The version we have is the 2016 Oset 20.0 48v Racing Electric Trials Bike that was originally  designed for 8-12 year old’s (but that didn't stop me from trying it out, even if I am 25-30 years older). It is powered by 48v battery system (four 12 volt batteries) that has lasted us up to 2.5 hours per ride time, depending on size of rider and how it is ridden. The Oset 20.0 bike comes with a 48v wall charger that takes up to four hours to charge when unit is fully drained. Yes, that is the downside to this machine! The charge times!! 

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Our older 2016 model came with three fully adjustable power settings (speed, power, and response). Each setting can be adjusted via a knob near the front of the machine. What I have learned is that “speed” is the overall top speed the Oset 20.0 will go, “power” is much like a torque adjustment similar to bottom end on a gas powered machine and “response” is how quick you want the throttle to hit (or delay) when accelerating (similar to rpm response on a gas powered machine). For those in the target age range, the Oset 20.0 is a machine, which is a lot of fun, provides incredible opportunities for gaining skills and the bike can be ridden in any park or backyard – without upsetting grandma and grandpa next door. The Oset 20.0 machine is configured with front and rear disc brakes controlled by hand levers, like a mountain bike, a twist throttle like a motorcycle and the direct-drive electric motor means there’s no transmission, so no shift lever or clutch.

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My now 12 year old son Aden Keefer has been riding an Oset machine since he was six years old. His first was a 12.5 version that lasted him until he was almost nine years old. The only problem we ever had with the 12.5 was when he would crash, break the throttle housing and of course the occasional flat tires. Don't fear though as Oset Bikes has a US office based out of Montrose, Colorado and has plenty of replacement parts in stock and ready to purchase. The highlight of Aden’s childhood has been riding in his backyard after school with his buddies and building obstacles to get over cleanly. Good clean fun!  

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The cost of a new 2018 Oset 20.0 48v electric machine is $2999.00, but our 2016 version was $2899.00, so the cost has only increased a small amount in a couple years. Without a gas engine to keep supplied with fuel, oil, filters, etc, the Oset is fairly easy and cheap to own. The lifespan of the four batteries is going to vary a lot on usage however, but if the bike is used constantly we would suggest investing in batteries every year or so. We installed a set of lithium batteries on our 2016 unit and it not only lightened the Oset up almost six pounds, but increased lifespan of each ride by almost 30 minutes! Oset will sell you replacement batteries at $41.95 each, which isn’t a lot considering that yearly cost is probably less than the fuel alone for your gas powered-driven machine. However, my suggestion is to invest in some lithium-ion batteries so the kids can have a longer duration of fun. 

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Throttle response is awesome when the knob is turned near high and the electric motor makes great torque, so even if a skilled rider (like dad) gets on, he can loft the front wheel easily, which is essential for trials. The riding position is made to stand upwards and the purpose is for the rider not to really sit down, especially on a trials bike, so there’s no seat. Aden from time to time will sit down on the plastic just for the pure fact that his little 12-year-old chicken legs are getting tired, so it can be done. Having your young child’s brain wired into standing up most of the time will teach him or her very good foot placement on the pegs (for weight distributing) and also give them strong legs for when they graduate to a motocross style gas powered machine. All of these fundamentals that are key for riding a dirt bike can all be taught easily on the Oset 20.0 with minimal danger. If you look at any really good technical motocross rider, all of them have had some sort of trials bike or background growing up. The Oset 20.0 can teach anyone (not just 8-12 year old’s) the importance of balance on a motorcycle.

 

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I have played with the “speed” dial a lot over the past year or so and have clocked this sucker going 36mph at full speed. Now this isn't something that is important to this type of bike, but it’s nice to know that you’re able to take your kid trail riding and you’re not going at a snails pace. Now that Aden has become more accustomed to the Oset, the “Power” knob has been set to almost wide open. Damn, kids! The great thing about having all these control setting options is that you can monitor your child’s improvement and it’s easy to see it first hand. Having these control settings can also make it very easy for a parent’s mind to be at ease when watching their child ride on a daily basis. Less risk, more reward.

 

The fork and chassis remind me more of my mountain bike than a motorcycle, primarily because the Oset 20.0 doesn’t need the size and heavy-duty nature of a typical dirt bike suspension. The fork can be adjusted with air just like your typical mountain bike and also has a rebound adjustment for a slower or faster feeling (almost all of our settings are set to stock). Oset gives the customer an option to go to a heavier rear spring (which we have installed) for my larger frame. With my 170-pound body on the Oset, I felt the heavier rear spring was adequate enough for aggressive trials type obstacles (and Aden didn't notice a thing). If you’re trying to hit jumps with the Oset, I recommend checking the bolts on the plastic because they have and will back out fairly quickly.

 

We got Aden that 12.5 racing version back in the day so he could learn the technical skills that he needed (in a safe way) before jumping into a pipey, aggressive, somewhat intimidating 65cc pre-mixed burning motocross machine. Over the course of those few years Aden has learned to be smoother, has better technique and doesn't get as much whiskey throttle. All of those important skills has to do with him riding and beating the crap out of the Oset 12.5/20.0 electric trials bikes. Getting your child to learn how to use a clutch is easy compared to getting him or her to learn the proper way to ride. In order to keep our kids safe they must learn the correct way to twist their right hand, know how to use the brakes and weight their pegs (for balance). The Oset has taught my son all of those things and even though he rides his 2018 Kawasaki KX85 more than his Oset now, that doesn't stop him from coming home from school to work on his technique silently in the backyard! Not to mention having an Oset 20.0 in your garage is almost like purchasing a small slice of heaven because it can get your child to get their homework done, chores completed and even say “please” before they ask do it. Boom! Suck it X-Box and Playstation! #KeepKidsOnDirtBikes 

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

2018 Yamaha YZ65 First Impression

On Monday I had the chance to go to Yamaha’s new 2018 YZ65 introduction. As you all know I am a big believer of “Keeping kids On Dirt Bikes” and Yamaha seems to be investing in that ideology as well. Yamaha hasn’t had a 65 in their lineup since 1983 and it’s nice to see Yamaha invest in making a competitive 65 for kids to start their motorcycle lifestyle. Now that the 2018 YZ65 is here, Yamaha now has a dirt bike that is available from the time you learn how to ride, until the time comes where you have to be an adult and purchase your own motorcycle. I remember the day when my dad told me "ok son, you're 18 now, it's time for you to make your own money and buy your own bikes"! Ouch! Since my son Aden is now 12 years old and growing so fast, he just missed the cut off for the Yamaha YZ65 and let me tell you, he wasn't happy about it. I decided to bring out Dustyn Davis (son of off-road legend Ty Davis) to spin some laps and get me some feedback. Although kids are tough to get information from, one thing was for certain, Dustyn really liked this bike from the time he got on the track. Conditions at the time of the test weren't ideal as winds gusted from 40-50mph, but Dustyn literally ran the YZ65 out of gas a couple of times. That right there speaks for itself, on how much fun he was having! Here are a few notable features and a first impression about the Yamaha YZ65, that I think are worth mentioning. If you want more information on the 2018 Yamaha YZ65 you can head over to iTunes, Pulpmx.com or click the "podcast" tab on this site and listen to the Keefer Tested Podcast. We are also working on a bonus podcast next week where we stick several different kids on the Yamaha YZ65, so you are able to hear their thoughts on the little blue screamer. So grab your kids, get them off their phones and take a listen/read on what this new bike has to offer.  

 

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1. The all-new 65cc two-stroke engine features Yamaha's YPVS, mechanical power valve system for a broad spread of power and torque across the entire RPM range.  Our 11 year old test rider Dustyn Davis said it was way faster than his KTM 65SX he currently rides, but didn't have a sudden hit to scare him away.

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2. The new YZ65 has a six port cylinder layout, center ribbed exhaust port, one piece power valve, compact combustion chamber, 5.2cc volume, lightweight single ring piston and a compression ratio that is; 8.1

 

3.    With a new steel frame and an adjustable front and rear linkless suspension, the YZ65 offers smaller riders some added traction along with more flex that comes with a steel frame. 

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4. Another cool feature is the 2018 Yamaha YZ65 has a removable Aluminum subframe that is super easy to take on and off. This makes life a lot easier when you want to wash the airbox out after a muddy or dusty race.  

 

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5. Specifically developed for the 2018 YZ65 the 36mm KYB forks come with 215mm of travel, a high rigidity outer tube that is Kashima coated and a fully adjustable compression and rebound damping system. 

 

6. The KYB long travel shock (98mm) comes with 270mm of rear wheel travel and fully adjustable compression/rebound damping. It's also worth mentioning that the rear shock doesn't have a linkage. Yamaha wanted to get some added ground clearance for the kids that scrub, are aggressive and push the bike to its limit.  

 

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7. The YZ65 comes with Blue Excel rims just like its bigger brothers, the front wheel is a 1.60x14 (60/100-14) and the rear wheel is a 1.60x12 (80/100-12). Maxxis Maxxcross tires comes stock on the blue Excel rims of the little blue shredding machine.

 

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8. Aluminum Pro-Taper style crossbar-less handlebars have a four way position adjustment that gives the rider a 27mm range of freedom. An adjustable clutch and front brake lever also comes standard, just in case the little guy or gal can’t reach the levers. 

 

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9. Accessories that will be available are a GYTR Air Filter, GYTR by FMF Expansion Chamber, GYTR by FMF Silencer, GYTR Pivoting Brake Lever, GYTR Pivoting Clutch Lever, Oil filler Cap, Yamaha Exhaust Plug, Motion Pro Fork Bleeders, GYTR Inner Clutch Hub, GYTR Clutch Pressure Plate, GYTR Billet Clutch Cover, GYTR Clutch Basket, GYTR Radiator Brace, Air Filter Wash Cap, Gripper Seat Cover, Lower Seat, MX Glide Plate and a Matrix Mini Stand w/ Wedge. 

 

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10. How did it look on the track? I say “look” because I didn't exactly get to ride it. Dustyn Davis screamed the Yamaha YZ65 around and it seemed like he thoroughly enjoyed it. Dustyn rides a KTM 65SX normally and races some motocross and WORCS style events. He told me that the 2018 Yamaha YZ65 is definitely faster than his KTM he has now, but that the shock was a little stiff for his 70 pound frame coming into corners. The cornering of the Yamaha was easier for him because he didn't feel as cramped on the Yamaha like he does at times on his KTM. He loved the power delivery and said it didn't hit too hard, but had plenty of pull for him out of the corners. Steve Butler (Yamaha's R&D Manager) was telling the media that when he tested the unit, he had it up to 60mph! Thats a full grown size man ripping on a 65 at 60mph! Impressive! At the end of the day, as we were packing up, I over-heard Dustyn ask his dad, “can we go buy one of these for me today”? Is the Yamaha YZ65 good? I guess there’s your answer!  

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2018 Kawasaki KX450F Notes

I have put an ample amount of time on the 2018 Kawasaki KX450F and wanted to get you some information just in case you didn't get to listen to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested 2018 KX450F Podcast. Kawasaki focused its energy and R&D money on the KX250F in 2018, but you green lovers don’t be sad because Kawasaki will have a brand new KX450F in 2019. 

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The KX450F’s engine is not the most explosive power delivery you will find out of a 450 for 2018. However, this is why I like this engine so much. It comes on smooth down low and gives me great traction, but then pulls harder through the middle to upper part of the power. I do notice that if there is a sizable jump out of a corner (when the track is deep) it will take more work to clear than a Yamaha YZ450F or KTM 450 SX-F.  Top end isn’t as long as a KTM, but the KX450F has more than enough power to get you around the track in a quick manner. I wanted a little more bottom end so I changed the stock coupler out for the lean white coupler. Doing this gave the Kawasaki a different engine character with added low-mid range pulling power. Be mindful that on very hot days that you might here some detonation from the engine when you do go to the lean coupler. If you do hear this immediately go back to the stock coupler and it should remedy this problem. I only had detonation on one very hot day, at a sand track, but had no problems any other day I tested. The clutch fades on heavy abuse, but is not as bad as the 2018 Honda CRF450R. The action of the clutch and engagement is fine and the pull is very easy, it just goes away if you fan it too much. Going to the lean coupler helps bottom end pulling power, which kept me off of the clutch on longer motos, but you might want to invest in a Hinson or Rekluse. 

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The fork is the only thing that holds the KX450F back for me (look for a Race Tech suspension re-valve article that will go up here next week). The Showa SFF-AIR TAC fork is finicky and doesn’t really feel the same throughout the day. The initial part of the stroke is stiff and deflects, but the end part of the stroke feels empty, which is weird for an air fork. The mid stroke has a decent amount of comfort coming into braking bumps, but it’s tough to find front wheel traction when pushing hard into a corner. The rear of the bike stays straight under acceleration and has an adequate enough damping feeling at jumpier tracks. The big problem for me was the front end. I played around with a ton of settings and got it to where it was decent, but I was still hoping for more comfort when the track was hard pack and square edgy. 

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Here is my best stock fork setting that I have come up with:

 

Compression 4 out 

Rebound, 10 out 

Inner Chamber 154 psi 

Outer Chamber 15.2-15.4 psi 

Balance Chamber 175 psi 

 

Here is my best shock setting: 

 

Low Speed Compression 10 out

High Speed Compression 1.5 out

Rebound 11 out

Sag 105-106mm 

 

 The 2018 KX450F chassis feeling doesn’t feel as long or big like the 2015 version did. The rear end steering biased machine of old is more neutral than ever before. It still feels longer than a Honda and KTM (especially mid corner), but can corner as good as a 2018 Yamaha. The tricky part to making that happen is getting a fork setting that allows the chassis to shine, which is tough to do, but possible with the settings provided. The Kawasaki will lean over in corners nicely and at tip the chassis feels light. The strength of the Kawasaki is its straight line stability and frame absorption. It’s a very stable machine at high speeds and Kawasaki seems to have found that superb rigidity balance they once had back in 2012. When you hit square edge at a good clip the frame feel is forgiving and not as rigid as a Honda. Most other manufacturer R&D teams will tell you that the KX450F frame has been a benchmark for them to aim for with their own models. If only this 2018 bike had spring forks! 2019 is coming so I will be patient!  

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Ergonomics are more friendlier to wider group of riders thanks to Kawasaki’s adjustable bar position and peg positions. You can choose from four handlebar positions and two peg heights (standard and -5mm). I am almost 6’0 and preferred the stock position on both the handlebar and footpegs. 

 

Say what you want about 7/8 handlebars, but I still feel like there is a place for them on production bikes. Some magazines give negative remarks about manufacturers using 7/8 handlebars because they are cheap and flimsy. What they are missing is that using 7/8 handlebars can correlate to less rigidity on a machine. This is important, especially with today’s stiffer aluminum frames. I am sure the Kawasaki R&D department has tested oversize bars, but have decided to use 7/8 not only for cost, but for rigidity feeling on the motorcycle. So let’s not assume we know more than the Japanese engineers ok people!  

 

The chain slider and chain guide are still not very good on the 2018 Kawasaki KX450F, so you might want to invest in several OEM pieces or you can go to TM Designworks and order their set up. However, be aware that the TM Designworks sliders and chain guides are louder and not as quiet as the stock pieces. 

 

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Durability on the Kawasaki KX450F has got a bad rap in the past few years. I have been on long trail rides with this machine and more than a few motos on my rough sand tracks and it has been great! Some of the fasteners are not as good as the other brands, but engine failures have not been an issue for me on the green machine. Keep an eye on the clutch and try to use a petroleum base engine oil to prevent the clutch from slipping. 

 

Stay glued to keeferinctesting.com for an update on the 2018 KX450F’s suspension as we let Race Tech try to solve the mystery of the Showa SFF TAC Air fork woes.

 

2018 Yamaha YZ450FX VS. 2018 Honda CRF450RX

 

Sometimes deciding between a bike can be a difficult thing to do. We get a ton of emails on which direction you all should go when deciding on either a 2018 Honda CRF450RX or a Yamaha YZ450FX. Since I am the resident off-road test rider here at Keefer Inc. I wanted to take both of these hybrid off-road/moto machines out to a couple of my favorite test spots to see how they stack up against one another. The terrain we tested on varied from sandy hill climbs, to slick, wet rocky canyons, as well wide open desert. Yes, we know this isn't relevant for you east coast riders, but maybe you east coast guys can at least get a direction on what each bike's character is by reading this. 

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Starting with the engine, it took me some time to realize that “more bottom end”, can have two different meanings on paper. For example, the Honda CRF450RX has a “more” exciting bottom end power than the Yamaha. I say this because as soon as you let the clutch out (from a stop in all three maps) there are gobs of instant power and torque available. This all sounds good, but I found that a lot of the time there is just too much power delivered to the rear wheel too quickly (needs more flywheel), which results in one of two things. Either the front end will come up out of corners, or the engine would stall which made the bike have a somewhat jerky, on/off feeling when trying to use the bottom end power. This was an issue that I had time and time again, causing me to really cover the clutch and make sure it was properly adjusted. Yes, that’s right! Adjusted! If the clutch was adjusted even slightly too loose, it had a tendency to drag when engaged, which was just enough to cause the bike to stall at times. Another downfall to the clutch was the cancel switch (inside the perch) that doesn't let the bike start without the clutch being FULLY engaged (lever damn near on the bar). If I stalled the Honda on the trail, I would try to just pull in the clutch with one or two fingers to re start it. However, I found out quickly that my other fingers that were on the bar wouldn’t let the clutch in far enough to engage the switch. When this happened I had to re-adjust my fingers on the grip in order to re start the bike. I realize that this is a total first world problem, but it was magnified by how often the bike stalled in technical terrain (note: changing maps didn’t seem to affect the stalling issues I had). Now that all the negative stalling talk is out of the way, once into the revs a bit the Honda has a very fun “racy” feel. When powering through sandy corners or climbing long, steep hills the power plant on the RX is amazing. The engine is fast revving, and has a very meaty feel when pulling through the rpm range. Unlike a lot of 450cc machines, the RX doesn’t mind being revved, and makes strong pulling power all the way to the rev limiter. This very powerful “racy” feeling is a lot of fun for an hour or so (think GP racing) but on a 2 plus hour trail ride it can get a bit draining having to ride the bike so aggressively. It doesn’t like to be cruised down the trail at a leisurely pace, it wants to be flogged, and rewards a more aggressive riding style. I think if you put a heavier flywheel weight on the CRF450RX this could be an even better off-road type machine.   

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Back to my “more bottom end” statement, when it comes to the Yamaha, I would say that the FX has “more” bottom end pulling power (but less excitement). Let me explain; as previously stated, the RX has gobs of power as soon as the clutch is let out and in my opinion for true off-road conditions this isn’t ideal. On the FX, when the clutch is released there is a smoother application of power that is transferred to the rear wheel (more traction). This heaver flywheel feeling results in needing less throttle to get the bike going, smooths out the bottom end making the bike easier to ride and takes less energy from the rider. This same feeling results in much less stalling when riding technical rocky trails. When the trail opens up the FX engine feels very free revving, but unlike the RX, the FX likes to be ridden more in the midrange of the rpm. Not to say it can’t be revved out, that’s just not where the “fun” power is. When the FX engine is revved out, the on-off throttle modulation is more noticeable and caused a slight seesaw (pitching) motion from front to back. This could be partially due to the slightly soft fork spring, but we’ll touch more on that later. After spending many hours on both bikes I can say that in the engine department, I feel like Yamaha did a slightly better job at turning their motocross engine into more of an “off-road” friendly power plant. 

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When it comes to off-road suspension, it’s obvious that standard motocross settings on either bike wouldn’t be suitable. Both bikes come equipped with spring forks (thank god), but that’s about the only thing they have in common. The Showa 49mm fork on the Honda is clearly aimed at performance over trail riding comfort (after all these bikes are technically closed course race bikes). This doesn’t mean that there’s isn't any trail riding compliance there, it means that the fork on the RX is a bit harsh in the initial part of the stroke. I mainly noticed this in rocky areas of the trail when smaller rocks just appear at the top of the dirt. These conditions make the Honda’s front end deflect at times when I was at trail riding pace. Now if I was to charge through the same section with some speed and aggression, there was less deflection. The RX has great bottom resistance and feels balanced front to back, a little harsh on small stuff, but balanced nonetheless. The shock on the Honda has a firm feeling, but has slightly less harshness than the fork while keeping good bottom resistance. 

The Yamaha’s KYB SSS fork is much more trail compliant (softer feeling) than the RX and moves more in the stroke. When out for a trail ride there is minimal deflection and the front end has a very stable feeling. In small chop the front wheel stays planted, but when you start to really ride aggressive the fork starts to show a slight weakness. When being pushed hard, the fork rides slightly low in the stroke and blows through on g-outs and hard landings. It also has a diving feeling when the throttle is chopped (de-cel), or when hard on the brakes entering corners. Where the Honda has a firm balanced feel, the FX has a slightly unbalanced feeling as the fork moves in the stroke more than the shock. I know the fork would benefit greatly from a stiffer spring, which would bring the bike back into balance while still giving a ride aimed towards comfort. When comparing the suspension on the two machines, it’s really going to be what the rider prefers. For me I like the FX suspension overall due to the fact that it's more comfortable to trail ride, and with a stiffer fork spring it would have better balance. The Honda suspension is good, but definitely rewards the rider who is aggressive and pushes the bike. I am usually not pushing unless I am racing and would prefer more of a comfort setting. 

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Off-road riding can be so diverse in terms of terrain when compared to motocross. These bikes do different things well and in my opinion they cater to different rider/racers. The Honda feels slightly shorter and taller than the Yamaha (which is contrary to the dimension numbers) and that creates a nimble feeling when riding. In tighter terrain the RX changes direction quicker and with less effort than the FX. The RX is a front-end steering bike and with minimal input it will turn into tighter corners with ease. Where this nimble feeling isn’t as good is at higher speeds, which is when the RX has a slightly nervous feeling in the front end. When it comes to the FX, it takes a bit more input in tighter terrain to change direction and can feel heavier (which it is 262lb compared to the RX’s 257lb). On the other hand, the FX gives the rider a lot of confidence when being ridden at higher speeds. The FX is more of a rear end steering machine and takes a little more effort to lean into tighter corners. Although by the numbers, the RX has more rake and a longer wheelbase, but the FX feels as though it’s more planted and comfortable at higher speeds. In terms of amenities, both bikes are basically identical; both have e-start, an 18” rear wheel, skid plate, kickstand, larger fuel tank, and off-road mapping. The clutch cancel switch on the Honda will not let the bike start without the clutch in period. On the Yamaha the bike needs the clutch pulled in to start unless the bike is in neutral (although most riders will disable these features as soon as they get their bikes). A cool feature that Honda has on the bars of the Honda is a mapping switch cluster button. This button shares the kill switch and gives the rider three different mapping options; standard, smooth and aggressive. They do indeed slightly change the power characteristics of the bike and it’s also cool that the maps can be changed on the fly. While the mapping options are cool, I feel like Yamaha went a step further by changing 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th gears to better suit a wider range of off-road riding and racing. 

 

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When it comes down to it, these are both great bikes, but they will cater to two different types of riders. The RX is all about power, aggression and speed making it a great choice for faster riders who race more moto style, WORCS, or Big 6 GP races. While on the other hand the FX is a better do it all bike for the guy who trail rides just as much as he races. Being that its stable at speed the FX makes a great desert race bike (proved by NHHA champion Gary Sutherlin), and can also hold its own in GNCC racing where smoother bottom end power is a must. There are two things I’d like to see come stock on both these bikes. The first thing is handguards, maybe it’s the off-road goober in me, but the first thing I do when I get any bike (off-road especially) is put a set of handguards on (I’d do full wraps if I lived in the tight trees). The second is a spark arrested muffler (or mufflers in the case of the RX). I understand that both bikes were designed for “closed course off-road racing”, but let’s get real, everyone goes trail riding and it sucks to have to spend big bucks for a spark arrestor to be legal. 

 

So there it is, I’ve broken down both bikes and now the decision is up to you. Are you the aggressive rider who likes a nimble feeling  and races frequently? Or are you the 50/50 trail rider/racer who loves smooth bottom end power and a more stable feeling at high speeds? Feel free to reach out to me at michael@keeferinctesting.com if you have any more questions about these two bikes?  –Michael Allen

 

2018 Husqvarna FC350 First Test  

 

The 350cc machine concept took a while to catch on with the consumer, but I have been seeing many more 350’s at the track the last couple years. Some of this is do to the fact that Husqvarna and KTM 350’s are so much better than they were just a few short years ago. I recently received my 2018 Husqvarna FC350 test bike and have been putting a lot of time on it the past few weeks and have a good impression of the bike’s character that I will break down below. If you want to learn more or just want to get your information in podcast form, click on the podcast tab and listen to the 2018 Husqvarna FC350 First Impression now. 

 

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Engine: The 2018 Husqvarna FC350’s engine character is more like a 250 than a 450. The bottom end comes on strong and has an exciting feel to it, but doesn't have the sheer torque numbers like the FC450 does. The 2018 FC 350 puts out a max horsepower reading of 52.62 @12800 RPM with a max torque reading of 28.54 ft-lbs at 8300 RPM. The 2018 FC450 has a max horsepower reading of 56.35 horsepower at 9500 RPM with a max torque reading of 36.50 ft-lbs. at 7100 RPM. The FC450 has eight more ft-lbs of torque, which is a considerable amount when you ride them back to back. The peak horsepower numbers are closer however and when up to speed (like going down a fast straightaway) the 350 feels very close to the 450 in terms of sheer speed. Where you will lose some time to a 450 is coming out of deep, tilled up corners where you need that “meat” to pull you up on top of the soft stuff. One upside to the Husqvarna FC 350 engine character is that it has a much livelier/exciting RPM response feel over the somewhat smoother feeling of the FC450. If you want to pop over a hole or braking bump the FC 350's excitement can get you over small imperfections on the track easier. The FC 350’s mid range pull is impressive as it can pull even a bigger sized rider around the track in third gear, with the right amount of clutch use. One of my 220 pound novice test riders stated that “the FC 350 was the most fun he had on a bike”. The beauty about the FC350’s engine is that you can leave it in second gear, longer, down a straightaway and not have to worry abut shifting to third gear. It’s ok, because the FC 350 likes to be revved. The rider will have to learn how to ride the mid-sized white bike this way, but once you do, you come to appreciate the Husqvarna’s extra pulling power character. This bike is fast on top end, plain and simple! I am telling you that you will not miss much top end (if any) compared to a 450. Not one time when I rode this bike was I thinking "I need more top end”. I can clear anything on the track with the Husqvarna FC 350 that I can clear with a 450. You just will have to be conscious of not shifting too early. Ride it like a 250F down low, but reap the benefits of a 450 up on top. That should be the Husqvarna FC350’s tag line. 

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Suspension: Do I wish the Husqvarna FC 350 had a spring fork? Yes, I do, but the 48mm AER fork isn't horrible. Would I rather have a Showa spring fork from a 2018 Honda CRF450R? No, I will gladly take the new 2018 setting that WP has inside the FC 350. I ran 10.6 bars in the fork and that seemed to give the WP fork a nice feel when it’s in the top of the stroke, decent comfort through the middle part of the stroke and an ample amount of bottoming resistance near the end. I recommend staying in between 10.5-10.7 bars if you're in between 160 pounds to 200 pounds. This will give you the most amount of comfort through braking bumps and more front end traction through corners. Don't mess with the fork height as the stock height leaves the FC 350 with the best balance on all different types of tracks. You can slow the rebound down on the fork one or two clicks to slow the action down to help the fork from coming back to quick on slap down landings. I have always got along with most WP rear ends as they usually have a dead feel over braking bumps and I like how the rear of the FC 350 sticks through corners. The shock is best served up at 105mm and a high speed that is anywhere from a quarter turn to half turn in (stiffer) on high speed compression. This setting keeps the rear end from feeling to low on jump faces and landings. You can also experiment with opening (softening) the rebound one or two clicks to get some of that rear wheel traction/compliance back in acceleration bumps. I experimented with low speed compression and found out that I always went back to a stock setting for the most comfort on rough/choppy/tracks. The FC 350 is a well balanced motocross machine that lets you push your limits without it doing anything out of the ordinary on the track.  

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Chassis: The steel frame on the Husqvarna is a well mannered combination of flex and rigidity balance that is tough to replicate. I prefer the steel frame that comes on the new Rockstar Edition Husqvarna FC450, but I really come to appreciate how much traction the 2018 FC350 has when the track offers little to none. Straight line stability of the Husqvarna FC 350 is good and is a comfortable bike at high speeds. The carbon composite airbox is smaller in diameter on the FC 350 (which hurts power a little) than a KTM’s, but the FC 350 offers a little more plushness when hitting square edge compared to a KTM 350 SX-F. The only downs side to this chassis is that it can flex more than I would like on soft dirt when riding aggressively. When hitting rolling whoops through corners (on throttle) the rear end of the bike can unload and snap back which causes the Husqvarna FC 350 to step out and give the rider an uneasy feeling. The benefit to the new generation Rockstar Edition FC 450 frame is that it is much better in this area. Hopefully Husqvarna will go to the new generation frame in 2019 on the 350 to combat this issue. 

 

Extras: 

Airbox Side Cover: If you want a little more bottom end and throttle response try drilling out your side panel like the photo shows. This will only take a few minutes and can give you a little more pop/bottom end out of corners. Just be aware that you will now have holes in your side panel when it is raining or in muddy conditions, which can wreck havoc on the air filter sooner rather than later. 

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Muffler: I have tried an FMF slip on system on the FC 350 and KTM 350 SX-F in the past with good results. The slip on will give you slightly more bottom, but where you will notice the difference is through the mid range and top end. Going to a full system will not give you as much bottom end, but you'll get more mid to top end than a slip on style system. You can also put a KTM style muffler/can on and that will get you some extra response. The KTM’s muffler is slightly different and is not as quiet as the Husqvarna muffler. 

 

Ergonomics: The rider triangle (peg, seat, handlebars) is comfortable for my 6’0 frame and I love the fact Husqvarna uses Pro Taper handlebars and not Neken. The Pro Taper bars flex more and to me the bar bend Husqvarna uses is better when cornering. It’s a flatter/lower bend that I am accustomed to. 

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Engine Maps: If you want the most out of your 2018 FC350 then make sure to use Map 2. Map 2 will get you more snap down low and a harder/longer pulling mid-range. If you’re looking for a more useable power in hard pack or maybe you're not quite in shape yet for that 20 minute moto, use Map 1. It has a smoother deliver with a broad mid-top end pull. It will rev out a little farther than Map 2 and that could be good for a GP style race. 

 

Gearing: I tried going up and down a tooth on the rear sprocket, but always came back to stock gearing. Going up a tooth shortened the puling power and didn't help getting into third gear any sooner. Going down a tooth actually was pretty good at more of faster style GP track that let second, third and fourth gears pull slightly longer. I didn't like it in tighter sections however as I had to down shift to first gear at times to get out of sharp 180 corners. Stick to stock, trust me.

The Husqvarna FC 350 is for anyone that wants a light feeling machine that has a lot of fun factor. If you're a serious racer that rides on deeper style dirt you will most likely want a 450. Every time I ride the FC 350 I always say to myself "why don't I have one of these in my garage". The answer that usually comes to my mind is I still have an ego and want the most horsepower available when I decide to go racing. However, once I get over my "racing" stage of my life, I know I would see myself owning a Husqvarna FC350.  

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

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.