2019 Honda CRF450L First Impression


Story Written By Michael Allen

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


2019 Yamaha YZ450FX First Impression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 Yamaha YZ250X And 250FX First Impressions

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

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

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

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

 2019 Yamaha YZ250FX

2019 Yamaha YZ250FX


 2019 Yamaha YZ250X

2019 Yamaha YZ250X

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

2019 Honda CRF450R Optional Suspension/Chassis Settings


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






*Rear Wheel Placement (Chain Adjustment)*:

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


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





Suspension Settings (170-195 pounds): 



Spring Rate: 0.50 

Compression: 9-10 clicks out

Rebound: 11 clicks out

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



Spring Rate: 5.6 

Race Sag: 107mm

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

Low-Speed Compression: 9 clicks out

Rebound: 6 clicks out



Suspension Settings (195 Pounds And Up): 


Spring Rate: 0.51 

Compression: 12 clicks out

Rebound: 10 clicks out

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



Spring Rate: 5.8 

Race Sag: 108mm

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

Low Speed Compression: 12-13 clicks out

Rebound: 10-11 clicks out



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


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



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

SoCal Speedster



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




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


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




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


Tod Sciacqua

Vet Exp

150 lb

50 years old. 

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

2019 KTM 450 SX-F Review


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




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




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


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


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




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


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




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


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


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




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




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

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

Rebound: Standard




Sag: 105mm

Low Speed Compression: 2-3 clicks stiffer

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

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




2019 KTM 450 XC-F Review



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




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




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




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




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

2019 Honda CRF450RWE First Impression


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


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


 2019 Honda CRF450RWE

2019 Honda CRF450RWE


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




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




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




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

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




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

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

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

2019 Honda CRF450R First Impression


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


 2019 Honda CRF450R 

2019 Honda CRF450R 


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




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




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




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


 Dominic Cimino ripping the CRF450RWE. 

Dominic Cimino ripping the CRF450RWE. 

2019 Yamaha YZ250F First Impression


From Super to Superb 


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




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. 




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.  




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.  




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).




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. 




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!   





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*




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*






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.




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")   


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



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")


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.)



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













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.




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.




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. 




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. 




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"! 





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.  




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. 




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. 




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. 




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).  




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.




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. 




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. 




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: 



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

Compression: Two clicks stiffer than stock

Rebound: One click slower than stock



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)



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)




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



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.


45782_FC 450 2019.jpg


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


45758_TC 125 2019.jpg
45764_TC 250 2019.jpg


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. 


45770_FC 250 2019.jpg


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.        


45776_FC 350 2019.jpg


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. 




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.  




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. 




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. 




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. 




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. 




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.  




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. 




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. 




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. 




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. 




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! 




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!  




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. 




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




Brakes: 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!



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.



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. 



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)



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.  



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.