2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 “Need Only” Project Build Part One

The 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 didn't fare well in any magazine shootout this year. Does that mean it should just get shunned and not paid attention to? No, absolutely not. Like I have said in my podcasts before, every bike is good, it’s just up to you on which one is right for you? How much you ride, what type of rider you are, and how fat your wallet is, carries a lot of weight when it comes to purchasing a new motocross machine. The one thing Suzuki has over other manufacturers is that you can get a leftover new 2018 RM-Z450 and even a new 2019 RM-Z450 for much less than any other brand. You can find a brand new RM-Z and save yourself $4000.00! When it comes to saving money, why wouldn't you want to buy a Suzuki! When you got a family, bills at home and maybe a wife that wants something of her own, being able to purchase a $10,000 dirt bike is not really an option. However, when you can purchase a 6-7 thousand dollar dirt bike it becomes more appealing, especially to the wife. 

I wanted to create a 2019 RM-Z450 project build that was only on a “need only” basis. ‘What does the Suzuki need? If you were going to save up some money, after your Suzuki purchase, where would the wise decisions go to? I didn't want this to be a fashion over function type of build, because frankly, not everyone has cash coming out of their asses to spend on meaningless shit for their dirt bikes. The cash people do have is hard earned and not everyone is looking to bling out their ride. Not everyone’s bike is “Too Lit”! Sorry Enticknap, but there are no gold wheels or gold necklaces with this build. If you’re rich then just stop reading this article now because this isn’t for you. I recruited my long time friend and former AMA Supercross rider Joe Oehlhof to help me build this yellow bike. Joe is as blue collar as they come and doesn't spend money on just anything. He left the pro scene, became a San Bernardino County firefighter, got married, and has three kids. He loves riding at a high level, but also knows he can’t be dumping all of his money into dirt bikes anymore. With all of that being said, we wanted to build a Suzuki RM-Z450 into what we feel would be a competitive bike to win a shootout. What would it take? Why did we change the parts that we did? How did it work out on the track? These are the questions that this series of articles will answer. We will continue to evolve this build, but for now here is part one of what, why, and how the 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 is getting better. 


What: Pro Circuit Ti-6 Full muffler system. 

Why: To help bottom-mid range power delivery/RPM response and lose weight. 

Conclusion:  The stock Suzuki RM-Z450’s power is vanilla at best. It’s lethargic down low and needs some excitement. The KTM 450 SX-F’s power is smooth, but still has enough pulling power to keep most people happy. The Suzuki lacks pulling power, so we installed a Pro Circuit Ti-6 muffler on and got some added pulling power. The PC system didn't “wow” us for initial RPM response at first, but we installed the insert into the muffler and that helped back pressure to create some more throttle response. Joe and I both liked the insert in for increased bottom to mid range throttle response. Installing this PC system helps with coming out of corners and helping the Suzuki’s recovery time. With the stock system the recovery time out of corners (if you were a gear too high) was embarrassing for a 450cc machine. It would be hard to get back into the meat of the power forcing you to downshift and then immediately upshift, to get moving again quickly. With the PC system the rider can fan the clutch lever a couple times (in the higher gear) and it helps get the Suzuki on down the track in a quicker manner. The PC system is a step in the right direction for bottom and mid range pull. It doesn’t help or negatively affect the top end at all. Yes, we still need more to make us happy. 


What: Pro Circuit Fork/Shock re-valve and linkage.

Why: To help bump absorption and help pitching when on/off throttle hard. 

Conclusion: Jim “Bones” Bacon retired, but Joe bugged him enough to help us with our Suzuki suspension woes. In stock form the Suzuki dives under braking and then squats too much under load when exiting a corner. This upsets traction and balance when trying to push the limits around the track. The chassis also feels slightly rigid at times when the track is square edgy and hard pack. Bones re-sprung the suspension for Joe’s weight (190 pounds), valved it, and installed 1mm longer pull rods. The difference on the track was noticeable immediately for the better. Sometimes when you get your suspension re-valved you notice some added comfort, but get some negative effect on other portions of the track, where the stock stuff feels better. The PC suspension helped balance out the ride attitude of the RM-Z450 on de-cel and increased cornering ability for both of us. There was less pitching sensation when chopping the throttle therefore the front end became more predictable on entrance of corners. Cornering stability was also improved, especially through choppy/long ruts. The Suzuki felt more planted inside the rut without feeling harsh like the stock suspension did. Exiting corners we both thought that the connectivity to the rear wheel was better once on the throttle. Straight line stability improved and the chassis felt slightly less rigid on square edge, which helped overall end-of-day type comfort. This can be attributed to the longer link allowing the initial part of the linkage curve to be a little stiffer feeling. After riding with the Pro Circuit tuned suspension we both feel there is more comfort than the stock WP suspension that comes equipped on the KTM/Husqvarna. Both Joe and I could be more aggressive on the track with more predictability than the stock stuff had to offer. To get both of us riders happy on a set of suspension is tough to do since Joe and I have a 25 pound difference in weight. 


What: Pro Taper EVO handlebars and Race Cut grips. 

Why: Joe didn't like stock bend or the stock grips.

Conclusion: Some people will like the stock bar bend some people will not. Joe was in the “not” category. Joe is 5’9 and I am 6’0. I am long. Joe is short. I didn't think the stock bend was bad by any means, but I wasn't opposed on changing the bar bend. Originally Joe decided on the Pro Taper Windham EVO bend, but I told him that was too high of a bend for his short stature. Of course he didn't listen and got them anyway. Guess what? He didn't like them. He tried my Husqvarna stock Pro Taper EVO bars on my KTM and decided on that bend for the Suzuki. Guess what? He loved them. We cut the Husqvarna stock bend down to 804mm (they come 811mm standard) and slapped them on. We both thought we could could get over the front end better than the stock Renthal FatBar Suzuki bend. Putting the PT bars on also increased flex/comfort on chop as we had more comfort. Yes, we are old, we like comfort. Since Joe doesn't ride as much anymore because he has a real job, his hands are “riding pussified” somewhat. So in order to make his lotion soft, dinner cooking, fireman baby hands happy, we went with a Pro Taper race cut grip, which we both liked. The PT’s offer a softer compound than stock and help keep more cushion for the pushin. 

Just performing these first three modifications helped the 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 out tremendously. We both are still looking for more overall power however and will continue to evolve the curve with a couple more modifications. The stock Yamaha and KTM have more pulling power and can pull each gear farther than what our modified Suzuki can do. We are still under budget on this build (compared to a off the showroom floor 2019 YZ450F and KTM 450SX-F), so look for part two of this 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 “NEED ONLY” build soon. We also will be talking about how much we spent on an upcoming Rocky Mountain ATV/MC “Need Only” Suzuki Project Build Podcast coming up soon.  

What's Coming: 

High Compression Piston

Engine Mounts 


If you have any questions about this build please email me at kris@keeferincteting.com and I am happy to guide you.