2020 KTM Offroad TPI Introduction

By: Dominic Cimino

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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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

Hidden Gems "Vet Racing"

This installment of hidden gems is going to be a little different than the others, in that it doesn’t necessarily have to do with a product. This hidden gem is more along the lines of a mindset and getting back to doing the thing that once gave you so much joy, THAT’S RACING! You see, I call vet racing a hidden gem because like so many other riders sometimes when we get older we can get less competitive. Like many of you out there; once I got into my later twenties, racing became not as much fun as the competition became younger, faster, and more willing to take risks than my 29-year-old married self. (editors note: You were 29 MIKE?! I MEAN, COME ON!! YOU’RE IN YOUR PRIME!!!) Between the ages of 26-29 I found myself in a weird place when it came to motorcycling; I would help Kris test products, go to the track and practice, and trail ride with my friends, but had no real desire to race. The reason I lost that desire is because I was getting smoked by younger, more enthusiastic riders that didn't have a 10 or so hour a day real job. Call me a poor sport if you will, but I found myself mentally defeated before the gate or banner would even drop. 


Like I said, I was in a weird spot because I saw racing the Vet class as “lame” or just for slow people who couldn’t cut it anymore and to me the Vet class was a symbol of admitting defeat. My mindset all changed when I went down to Mexico with Alexander Smith (Malcolm’s son) to race the Tecate Enduro in 2018. You see Alexander and I have a relationship like most of you with riding buddies… We will talk endless amounts of shit to each other before a race knowing damn well that you may lose, but not caring one bit because it’s a “friendly rival”. Alexander had raced the vet class the two years before as he is older than myself (and of course I gave him endless amounts of shit for being an old man) and in 2018 when I turned 31 he said I should race “Vet” so I could “come race with the real men”. When I signed up, I honestly didn’t know what to expect for competition, I figured I would do well, but it still didn’t seem like I was racing for the overall like I used to be (it felt more like being a side show instead of the main event). 


When you race a sprint Enduro you start with your class, so instead of starting on a row between 7-10 guys, I was now starting on a row between 40-50 guys. This was a little weird because I knew there were going to be plenty of guys in front of me that I’d have to pass in every test. As I got to the line and started chatting with the other Vet racers around me it was actually refreshing that everyone was super friendly and in a different place in life, when compared to the 21-year-old fearless riders I was used to starting next to. We talked married life, having kids, our jobs, instead of getting hammered and partying (although a few beers were had after the race). As the race started, I noticed that just because I was entered in the vet class that didn’t we were the slow class. In fact, there were many “Vet dudes” that I had to really push my poor little 125’s throttle cable past its limit to pass or even keep up with. The race was brutal and took over 4 hours to finish with 3 long technical special tests to complete. After all was said and done the results were posted that night and to my surprise, the vet class didn’t end up being the slow class at all! In fact, the first nine riders were pro, followed by the winner of the Vet class (not me) two more pro riders, then myself where I finished 2nd Vet and 13th overall out of 184 finishers. After being all up in my head about racing the “old man” class and feeling washed up, the results showed the first three Vet riders ended up beating the winner of the open class. I’m a basket case! 


I didn’t write this story to stroke my ego (ok maybe it feels good knowing Alexander will read about me beating him again), but to give former younger racers turning old racers some advice. Just because you’re older, think you’re slower, fatter, and less competitive doesn’t mean you can’t go out and still kick some ass. Just know that just because you aren’t as fast as you once were, doesn’t mean you can’t also have a great time. Don’t get me wrong, I'm no pro racer nor do I ever think I was, but I showed up, entered the “old guy” class, raced my ass off with guys my age and had a blast doing it. Isn’t that what this is all about? Having fun and creating memories? Also, it’s fun to be the “young” guy in the “old guy” class. Since Alexander talked me into racing the Vet class in Mexico, I have raced the Vet class everywhere I go and have found the same camaraderie in every discipline (even moto where sometimes other racers are way too cool). The bottom line is that I have found Vet racing to be a hidden gem because it has re-lit a fire under me to get back out there racing and enjoy my motorcycle. Plus, it always feels good to beat a younger guy, shake his hand, then pull off my helmet and show off my shimmering silver locks.  


Top 5 Mods For The 2019 Yamaha YZ450FX

Not everyone wants to “add” parts to their new dirt bikes, which is fine, but for those that must tinker, we put together a “Top 5” must haves that we would recommend. We will be doing these “Top 5” articles with all of the new 450F/250F’s (along with a couple off-road machines) and will be splitting the information up between and These mods are recommended, by us, through countless hours of testing. If you don’t find a specific aftermarket company that you prefer in this article, don't fret, email me at and we can talk it out like adults should. Again, we will not push something on you unless we know it works. These mods that are in this article simply work for this specific machine. 


1. FMF 4.1 Slip On Muffler 

It’s no secret that the 2019 Yamaha 450FX is a great off-road competition bike, but to some it may be a surprise that in stock form it’s not legal to race at the majority of off-road races. The one thing that holds the FX back from being off-road race friendly is the lack of a spark arrestor, which 99% of off-road race organizations require in order to racer on public or even private lands.  We opted to go with an FMF slip on muffler which comes with a spark arrestor (in the box, not installed in the muffler) which gave the FX a slightly louder tone and got rid of the slightly raspy stock sounding muffler. With the spark arrestor removed the engine lost a little bottom end roll on power, but gained some over rev. With the spark arrestor insert installed, the muffler mimicked the stock characteristics and gained some mid-range. 


2. Yamaha Power Tuner App

Yamaha is the first manufacturer to offer a phone app to map your motorcycle and it’s awesome! The app is very user friendly and gives you the ability to use Yamaha’s provided apps, as well as being able to make your own. Yamaha provides four maps; Mild Power, MX Power Feeling, High Revving, and Torquey. Two maps are able to load in the bike at one time and I have found myself trail riding with my phone as well as trying other maps when we come to a stop. The maps can be toggled between the handlebar mounted map switch and I have found it very handy depending on the terrain changes. 


3. Firepower Battery 

The newest generation Yamahas are very hard to start in gear, and even when in neutral they tend to turn over for longer than desired. I have found that different maps also effect how quickly the bike will fire up. So far, I have killed two batteries in the 450FX just from trail riding and constantly stopping and starting over the course of several hours. Luckily, I was able to bump start the bike both times but after the second dead stock battery I knew it was time for an upgrade. The Firepower battery was slightly lighter than the stock and has yet to leave me stranded. That being said it still doesn’t like to be started in gear.    

4. Handguards

I’ve said it before and ill say it again, if a bike is designed to be an off-road bike it should come with handguards. The FX comes with a bitchin skid plate, but they decided not to add handguards on the production bike. Although for the bike’s introduction, Yamaha added GYTR flag handguards, which have been on the bike ever since. It all depends on what type of riding or racing you do, some people swear by flag style mounts, and others will not ride without full wraps, but either way, do yourself a favor and put on some type of hand protection.|42&ls=yamaha-motor-company&dealernumber= 


5. Fork Springs

Although the 2019 FX has much better hold up than the previous generation, the fork still has a slight diving sensation when chopping the throttle or under heavy braking. This can be somewhat fixed with clickers if you aren’t too heavy, but on my 190 pound ass (give me a break my wife is pregnant), stiffer springs will do the trick. Race Tech recommends going from the stock .46 kg/mm to a .50 kg/mm to fix the issue. I have also heard of people putting the springs from the moto bike (.51 kg/mm) and having good results. Either way, a little more hold up goes a long way when your riding gets faster and more aggressive. 

2019 Honda CRF Trail Line


Some of my fondest memories that I have as a child was riding with my parents in the desert on the weekends. I remember sitting in class daydreaming about heading to the desert to ride my motorcycle and wishing it was Friday evening so we could pack up and head out. Not only was it great to spend time with my family, it also programmed my young mind on what I wanted in life. Once the teenage years did hit me, I wasn't all about partying and getting into trouble. Instead, without me even knowing, riding with my parents at a young age gave me a passion that kept me out of trouble later in life. Living in the hight desert, trouble can find you without you even asking for it. Dirt bikes kept me on the straight and narrow and some of that directly has to do with Honda providing trail bikes that my family chose to purchase. Getting more families and kids off their phones and out to OHV areas to ride is important for the health of our sport. If the basic “learn to ride bikes” aren't here for these potential new consumers/families (and all we have is the advanced technology going into the bigger more advanced machines) than our sport is doomed. 


Fast forward to 2019 and Honda has put some of that modern technology into their CRF trail bike lineup. Gone are the days of kickstarting and jetting your Honda trail bike, not to mention they even look like the bigger more racier CRF motocross machines. What about the cost of the newer technology driving these trail bikes up? I understand that cost is an issue with every middle class family, but coming from that kind of family, I know that having these advancements can help roll these types of bikes over to newer/younger generations, without much needed maintenance. I learned how to ride on a second generation Honda trail bike and I could only wish I would of had fuel injection (among other modern upgrades) on mine. Chances would of been high that my son would have learned on the same bike that I did. I can see these types of newer Honda trail bikes getting passed down from even further generations because of the advancements that Honda has put into their trail line.


We recently had a chance to take delivery of the 2019 Honda CRF110F, CRF125F, and CRF250F and we gave those machines to a family (that is relatively new to the sport) so that they could enjoy a couple weekends out in the desert to ride these fun new “Ride Red” machines. Below is a breakdown of each machine, what changed for 2019, which family member “tested” which machine, weight/age/size of rider, and their ability. Also stay tuned for a special Keefer Tested Podcast that will be going over these Honda trail bikes and how a family like the Sirevaag’s used these models to enjoy some quality family time. 


CRF110F $2,399.00: Landon Sirevaag/8 years old/new rider/4’1/60 lbs.

Overview: For 2019, this model features a Keihin electronic fuel-injection system that’s tuned for linear power delivery and precise throttle response, and is 50-state off-road legal. The easier-to-use power is matched to an all-new steel twin-spar frame that’s engineered with CRF Performance Line DNA but extensively tested and developed for the right balance of precision and comfort for recreational riders. The smooth power delivery and nimble chassis function together to offer a secure ride. The new CRF110F carries over its four-speed, clutch-less transmission for takeoffs and shifting that quickly become comfortable for every rider. An additional 12mm of rear-suspension travel and a 5mm increase in seat-foam thickness (without increasing overall seat height) mean improved comfort whether sitting or standing. And of course the CRF110F delivers Honda’s legendary build quality and reliability, so the bike dependably fires up every time the starter button is pressed and doesn’t stop until the tank runs dry—and when that moment is looming, the FI system provides a low-fuel warning light. A big benefit for the young rider’s “factory mechanic” is that the fuel-injection system eliminates the possibility of carburetor jets clogging with fuel residue if the motorcycle sits for an extended period—and reduced maintenance means more family time on the trail or track. The CRF110F boasts top-level performance in a small package—just like its rider. 

2019 Updates

  • Follows technology developments of CRF Performance Line with Keihin electronically controlled fuel-injection system that delivers linear and hesitation-free power, minimizing intimidation for new riders and providing a friendly power delivery for all levels. Fuel-injection system delivers smooth power at all rpm and all throttle openings. 

  • Twin-spar steel frame, inspired by the CRF Performance Line frame architecture, provides the right balance of rigidity and comfort.

  • New frame and 12mm increase in rear-suspension travel let this small bike handle the bigger bumps with better control and reduced bottoming.

  • New seat foam is 5mm thicker, yet bike maintains same overall seat height of previous model due to seat placement in the new frame.

  • New 1 gallon steel fuel tank with integrated fuel pump incorporates built-in fuel filter and low-fuel indicator on handlebar (lights up at .2 gallons remaining). New frame design shields tank in the event of a fall. 

  • All-new bodywork with CRF Performance Line styling and graphics. 

  • New handlebar-mounted multiple-function handlebar switch incorporates starter button, ignition “key on” indicator, fuel-injection system status, and “low fuel” indicator light (replaces reserve setting on petcock).

  • New ratchet-style fuel-tank cap reduces possibility of loosening during ride. 

  • Half-waffle grips have a smaller circumference for an improved fit with smaller hands. 

Engine / Drivetrain

  • Air-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke 109cc engine tuned for new riders.

  • Four-speed gearbox with automatic clutch.

  • Adjustable throttle-limiter screw to match rider abilities.

  • Convenient electric starter with kick-start backup.

Chassis / Suspension

  • Low seat height of only 26.3 inches.

  • Handlebar pad.

  • Meets current EPA and CARB off-road emissions standards.

Rider Opinion: I just started riding and am learning how to ride on a KTM 50 SX. I still don’t know how to use a clutch, but I want to learn soon. I like that this bike is fun and not as loud as my KTM 50 because I feel like I can think more when I ride. I can start this bike on my own unlike my KTM 50 where I have to have my dad start it for me. Following my dad on trails or riding the kids track at local motocross tracks seems like more fun to me on the Honda. I can also ride the 110F around my backyard without making my neighbors too mad! The Honda is a little bigger than my KTM, but I can flat foot without a problem. -Landon Sirevaag  


CRF125F $3,099.00: Shannon Sirevaag/35 years old/Beginner/5’3/155 lbs.

Overview: CRF Performance Line technology such as fuel injection and twin-spar frame design is now bestowed on the CRF Trail Line, advancing the 2019 CRF125F and CRF125F Big Wheel into modern off-road motorcycles that maximize fun and ride enjoyment. The electronically controlled Keihin fuel-injection system delivers smooth, seamless, linear power at any rpm and throttle setting—ideal for new motorcyclists and equally advantageous for advanced riders on technical trails or when going through big elevation changes—and the model is 50-state off-road legal. The all-new twin-spar frame is made of steel and extensively tested and developed for a confidence-inspiring chassis wrapped in new body panels and graphics that match those of the model’s race-oriented CRF siblings. Both CRF125F models retain the proven 124.9cc SOHC engine and four-speed gearbox for strong power and intuitive shifting feel. In terms of hardware, the two versions differ only in wheel size, swingarm length and final-drive gearing, resulting in a difference in seat height of 1.8 inches. Instructors or parents will appreciate the peace of mind that comes with putting a rider on a secure and nimble machine, and maintenance is simplified with fuel injection—no jets to change or to clog with fuel residue if the bike sits for an extended period. Electric start, low-fuel indicator light, ignition “key on” indicator, and Honda’s earned reputation for making the best-built and most dependable motorcycles on the trail mean pride of ownership all week and fun and thrills every weekend. 

2019 Updates

  • All-new electronically controlled Keihin fuel-injection system replaces carburetor. FI delivers linear and hesitation-free power for easier-to-control delivery at all points in the powerband.

  • Twin-spar steel frame, with heavy-duty design inspired by the frame architecture of the CRF Performance Line, provides the right balance of rigidity and suppleness for trail-bike comfort.

  • Suspension travel increased (by 10mm increase in front, 12mm rear) for improved plushness and better bottoming resistance.

  • New 1 gallon steel fuel tank with integrated fuel pump and fuel filter. Low-fuel indicator on handlebar illuminates when .2 gallons remain. New frame design shields tank in the event of a fall. 

  • All-new bodywork and graphics match styling of CRF Performance Line. 

  • New handlebar-mounted, multiple-function switch incorporates starter button, ignition “key on” indicator, fuel-injection system status, and low-fuel indicator light. (Replaces reserve setting on petcock.)

  • New ratchet-style fuel tank cap reduces possibility of loosening during ride. 

  • Half-waffle grips have a smaller circumference for a better fit with smaller hands. 

  • New seat foam is 5mm taller, yet seat height on the standard version is only 2mm higher, due to seat placement in the new frame. (Seat height on Big Wheel version isn't increased from 2018.)


  • The 124.9cc SOHC engine returns with smoother, more linear power delivery.

  • Four-speed gearbox is well matched to the broad power spread.

  • Electric starter makes getting going a breeze, with kick-start backup included.


  • CRF125F and CRF125F Big Wheel have seat heights of 29.1 inches and 30.9 inches, respectively.

  • CRF125F has wheel sizes of 17 and 14 inches front and rear, respectively. CRF125F Big Wheel has 19- and 16-inch wheels. 

  • The 31mm fork provides plush front-suspension action.

  • Pro-Link® rear-suspension design with sophisticated single shock for consistent action.

  • Smooth stopping power provided by hydraulic front brake with 220mm rotor and 95mm rear drum brake.

  • Front brake lever is adjustable to work with varying hand sizes.

  • Styling follows that of the race-winning CRF Performance Line.

  • Meets CARB and EPA off-road emissions standards.


Rider opinion: I literally only ride a few times a year, when we go camping with the family out in the desert, but the reason why I don't ride more is because my TTR125 is a kickstart and hard to fire up. I like to be independent and take care of my own stuff when we are camping. My husband is usually tying to teach or help our son, so I want to make sure I am self sufficient. I was a little nervous riding the Honda CRF125F, but once I sat on it I felt like it fit my frame better than the blue bike. I was offered the 125F Big Wheel, but now I am glad I chose the standard wheel version as it fit me perfectly. I am not that great at using the clutch, but only a couple stalls later, I got the hang of it and could take off easily. I like the way I can go super slow and the Honda doesn’t want to stall out on me. It seems to chug along the trails nicely without the CRF125F being too jumpy with my throttle hand. If I stalled it going up a hill, I could flat foot on this bike better than the Yamaha, which gave me confidence to try new things that I normally wouldn’t. The less my husband has to help out on the trail, the happier we all are as a family. I am sure you other wives out there can relate to what I am talking about right? The best part about this Honda is that I DO NOT have to kick it and it’s as simple as pushing a button. I don’t know if this is a huge deal, but I like that the seat isn't too hard for my behind on long rides. -Shannon Sirevaag     


CRF250F $4,599.00: Matt Sirevaag/35 years old/Vet Novice/5’9/205 lbs.

Overview: Increased displacement, more power and better stability enhance the confidence-inspiring nature of the all-new flagship of the CRF Recreational Line and bring performance gains that also make this a great platform for advanced riders. The CRF250F brings an all-new 250cc four-valve engine with Keihin electronic fuel injection for increased power, and it is now 50-state off-road legal. Its tubular steel frame brings improved handling—a benefit that will be appreciated by all riders. More torque and a linear power delivery mean new riders can learn at lower, less intimidating rpm, and advanced off-roaders can utilize the strong torque in technical sections. The smooth low-end power blends seamlessly into a stronger midrange and top end, and the increase in torque at all rpm results in fewer shifts so that riders can focus more on trail challenges. The mass-centralization philosophy of the CRF Performance Line is carried over to this trail model, with the muffler positioned closer to the center of mass. The result is a lighter feel, intuitive responsiveness, and confidence-inspiring handling, especially on corner entrances. The Pro-Link® rear suspension system puts the smooth power to the ground, and the Showa 41mm fork works with the new frame’s steering geometry to provide maximum front-wheel traction. Braking is handled with new petal-style rotors for improved modulation, heat transfer and mud clearing, and the CRF Performance Line-inspired aggressive, compact bodywork allows improved rider/machine interface. Hot or cold, stored in the garage or stopped on the bad line up a challenging hill, the CRF250F’s EFI and electric starter fire up the engine with the touch of a button, and there are no carburetor circuits to clog with fuel residue if the bike sits for extended periods. The new, 1.6 gallon fuel tank enables good range and is protected between the frame spars in the event of a fall, and the integrated fuel pump includes a low-fuel sensor with a handlebar-mounted indicator. Add it all up, and the all-new CRF250F is more bike, for more riders.

2019 Updates

  • All-new 250cc overhead-cam engine.

  • All-new Keihin electronically controlled fuel injection systems delivers more linear power and easy start-up whether bike has been sitting or is hot on the trail.

  • All-new tubular steel frame for a stable, nimble chassis.

  • CRF Performance Line philosophy of mass centralization applied to vehicle packaging.

  • New 41mm fork, plus Pro-Link rear-suspension system with single shock.

  • Front and rear hydraulic brakes with petal-style rotors for improved heat dissipation.

  • Handlebar-mounted low-fuel and “key on” indicator lights.

  • CRF Performance Line-inspired muffler with compact positioning.

  • CRF Performance Line-inspired bodywork and graphics.


  • The 250cc SOHC engine returns with smoother, more linear power delivery.

  • Four-speed gearbox is well matched to the broad power spread.

  • Electric starter makes getting going a breeze.


  • 34.8 inch seat height.

  • Wheel sizes of 21 and 18 inches front and rear, respectively.

  • The 41mm fork provides plush front-suspension action.

  • Pro-Link® rear-suspension design with sophisticated single shock for consistent action.

  • Smooth stopping power provided by front and rear hydraulic brakes, with 240mm and 220mm rotors, respectively.

  • Front brake lever is adjustable to work with varying hand sizes.

  • Styling follows that of the race-winning CRF Performance Line.

  • Meets CARB and EPA off-road emissions standards.

Rider Opinion: Even though I ride and race on occasion I love spending time with my family out in the desert. However, riding my full size motocross bike isn't quite the right choice for going on mellow trail rides with my family out on the trails. What I like about the CRF250F is that it actually has a fun power character and is not so lethargic down low that I am bored out of my mind. The suspension is not so soft that my 210 pound body bottoms out the fork/shock on every little bump I hit. The ergonomics of the CRF250F is small so I could actually see my wife graduating to this model when she gets more comfortable with riding the CRF125F. The only real complaint I had is that it’s on the heavy side, so picking it up does take some muscle. -Matt Sirevaag 


What’s a Trail Bike?

When it comes to off-road motorcycles, there are many types and not much variance in appearance, a combination that can make things confusing for those new to the world of trail riding. Following are some principle characteristics possessed by most good trail bikes:

FIT: While it’s always important for a motorcycle to properly fit its rider, that’s especially true for those new to the pastime. In particular, the seat height should be low enough that the rider’s feet can comfortably touch the ground, thereby inspiring confidence and aiding control in tricky trail conditions. This is why trail bikes generally have lower seat heights than their more performance-oriented siblings. 

POWER: Whereas maximum performance is the focus for race bikes, trail machines usually prioritize a broad spread of power. This means that power will build gradually as the throttle is opened, so that the rider is less likely to be surprised by an abrupt acceleration “hit.” At the same time, the engine should offer plenty of torque, to ease crawling over rough obstacles at low speed, and to help avoid stalling.

WEIGHT: Once again, because rider friendliness is a priority with trail bikes, they should be relatively light. When maneuvering a motorcycle along a twisty singletrack (or—let’s be honest—picking it up after a tip-over), excess weight is about as welcome as a bull in a china shop.

STARTING: Back in the day, all motorcycles were brought to life via kick-start levers, which represented yet another challenging ritual for new riders to learn. Fortunately, good trail bikes now feature push-button electric starters, so the rider energy and bandwidth once expended on just getting the motorcycle running can be directed to mastering the actual process of riding. 

EMISSIONS: One of the most important lessons of trail riding is to Tread Lightly, which means participating in the riding experience in such a way that the natural environment is minimally affected. In addition to not tearing up the actual terrain, the concept extends to noise pollution, which means good trail bikes should have quiet mufflers and should be equipped with a spark arrestor in order to reduce the risk of starting a wildfire. In addition, it’s important that trail bikes run cleanly. In some riding areas and at certain times of the year, the California Air Resources Board requires off-road motorcycles be equipped with a “Green Sticker,” a DMV-issued registration that certifies the motorcycle meets certain air-emissions standards. In order to meet these standards, a trail bike typically must be fuel-injected.

RELIABILITY: Like many activities, learning to ride is a process that requires time and repetition. That being the case, every hour spent working in the garage (or—even worse—pushing a motorcycle back to the truck) is one less hour that could be spent practicing on the trails. Therefore, good trail bikes should require only basic routine maintenance in order to run reliably for years.


Green Sticker Facts:

California Air Resources Board (CARB) established regulations to limit the use of Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs) that do not meet emission standards applicable for California OHV riding areas. After the regulations were established, CARB and DMV worked together to develop criteria for identifying non-complying OHVs. OHVs are registered by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). A red or green sticker is issued depending upon certain criteria.

Green Stickers are issued for all California OHVs that are model year 2002 and older, including those that were previously issued a Red Sticker, and for compliant vehicles that are model year 2003 and newer. Green stickers are issued to OHVs for year-round use at all California OHV riding areas.

Red Stickers are issued to 2003 year-model-and-newer OHVs that are not certified to California OHV emission standards. If an OHV has a "3" or "C" in the eighth position of the vehicle identification number (VIN) then it will be issued a Red Sticker. Red Stickers are issued to OHVs that can only be used in California OHV riding areas during certain seasons.

Top Five Trail Bike Areas in Southern California:

Trail bikes are best enjoyed on trails, and although urban crawl and other factors have claimed some riding areas over the years, there are still many good trails for riding off-highway vehicles (OHVs) in the Southern California area. While some are privately owned, those that are most appropriate for new riders are generally publicly funded and managed. This list is aimed at new riders of two-wheel off-road motorcycles.  

Hungry Valley SVRA

WHERE: North of Los Angeles in the Tejon Pass, near the town of Gorman

WHAT: California’s third-largest SVRA (State Vehicular Recreation Area), Hungry Valley covers 19,000 acres and offers over 130 miles of trails.

WHY: The wide variety of well-designed trails makes Hungry Valley suitable for most ability levels.

WHEN: Best in spring and autumn, whereas summer can be somewhat dusty. With elevations between 3,000 and 6,000 feet, the area can get cold temperatures and even snowfall in winter.

HOW: Take Interstate 5 north, exit 202, Ralphs Ranch Rd. to Gold Hill Rd./Hungry Valley Rd. Day-use fee is $5.

ADMINISTRATOR: California State Parks


El Mirage Dry Lake OHV Area

WHERE: Mojave Desert, on the western edge of San Bernardino County, near the town of Adelanto

WHAT: Divided into four general sections, the El Mirage OHV Area comprises 24,400 acres with 40 miles of trail.

WHY: Relatively close to most of the Los Angeles area, El Mirage OHV Area features a dedicated training area for new riders, who can also use the friendly flat lakebed to get used to operating the motorcycle controls with relatively few obstacles as distraction. The area also offers a nice infrastructure and camping areas, made possible through strong investment and the well-organized non-profit Friends of El Mirage.

WHEN: Best in spring and autumn, though winter can also be good if cold nighttime temperatures aren't a problem. Summer temperatures often reach triple digits.

HOW: From most of the Los Angeles basin, take Interstate 15 north. Exit at Highway 395 and go north. Take Crippen Ave. west, and just before the town of El Mirage, take Mountain View Rd. north. Day-use fee is $15.

ADMINISTRATOR: Bureau of Land Management with cooperation from State of California


Ocotillo Wells SVRA

WHERE: Northeast of San Diego, between Anza Borrego State Park and the Salton Sea

WHAT: Over 85,000 acres

WHY: As long as you’re comfortable with relatively primitive conditions, you can’t beat Ocotillo for shear scale, as the actual SVRA is surrounded by many more hundreds of thousands of acres of land that is also legal for off-road riding.

WHEN: Autumn, winter and spring are all quite nice, whereas summer temperatures can soar to over 100º F.

HOW: From Los Angeles, take Interstate 10 east to Indio. Take Highway 86 south to Highway 78 west, then turn right on Holmes Camp Rd. There is no entrance fee.

ADMINISTRATOR: California State Parks


Rowher Flat OHV Area

WHERE: Near Santa Clarita

WHAT: At 10,240 acres, Rowher Flat isn’t among the larger off-road areas, but its 60 miles of trails are marked and groomed.

WHY: One of the most convenient OHV areas for residents of the Los Angeles area. 

WHEN: With elevations between 2,100 and 4,844 square feet, Rowher Flat can be ridden in all seasons, though it’s best avoided after storms.

HOW: From Los Angeles, take Interstate 5 north to Interstate 14 east. Exit at Sand Canyon and go north to Sierra Highway. Take a right on Sierra Highway, and after five miles, take Rush Canyon Rd.

Day-use fee is $5.

ADMINISTRATOR: Angeles National Forest, in cooperation with Los Angeles County and California State


Cactus Flat OHV Staging Area

WHERE: Northeast of Big Bear Lake

WHAT: Cactus Flat is just one of several starting points for accessing trails in the San Bernardino National Forest OHV system, which offers a huge variety of trails.

WHY: The Big Bear area offers not only wonderful trails, but—for when your riding appetite has been filled—also a number of great campgrounds and other mountain recreational activities.

WHEN: Great for escaping the low-elevation summer heat, the Big Bear area can also be ridden in spring and autumn, but trails can be snow-covered in winter.

HOW: From the town of Big Bear, take Highway 18 north to Cactus Rd. Turn right and follow it to the riding area. A day Adventure Pass is $5.

ADMINISTRATOR: San Bernardino National Forest


Honda Rider Education Centers:


Honda’s commitment to powersports and the environment extends beyond selling product, a point made evident as one navigates the grounds of any of the four Honda Rider Education Centers across North America. In some cases nestled in urban jungles, these facilities aren’t just a means for teaching riders (of all brands) the proper operation of off-highway motorcycles and ATVs; they’re also places where riders and non-riders alike can learn about the environment and responsible land use.


Honda Rider Education Center Locations

  1. Colton, California

  2. Irving, Texas

  3. Troy, Ohio

  4. Alpharetta, Georgia


A staple of the program, the Colton Rider Education Center was expanded in 2004, Honda trucking in 7,000 yards of dirt and some 2,541 plants to help distinguish five separate ecosystems. Here, riders can get a feel for grassland, chaparral, woodland, riparian and desert terrains—each of these areas inspired by trails native to the nearby San Bernardino National Forest and the Mojave Desert.


As part of the half-day DirtBike course offered at the Honda Rider Education Center, riders will learn the fundamental and technical skills needed to operate an off-road bike in a safe and smart manner; that includes, but isn’t limited to, starting, stopping, shifting, cornering, standing, proper body positions, and going over certain obstacles. The best part? It can be a family activity, with private classes (two students) and family classes (up to five family members) offered on request for weekdays or weekends. Students needn’t bring their own gear, either, as safety apparel is loaned through the program.


Open to anyone 6 and older, Honda’s Rider Education Courses are another example of Honda’s commitment to powersports, as well as a recognition of its social responsibility and support of its customers. Want to navigate the grounds yourself?


For more information:

 To register: 


Honda’s Trail Bike History: 


It all started in the most unassuming of ways. In 1961, at Tama Tech, a Honda-owned amusement park in Japan, Honda’s 49cc Z100 was featured as part of an attraction meant to help park goers experience the joys of riding. So popular was the attraction that Honda would go on to build the Z100-based CZ100, and later, the Z50 Mini-Trail that was brought to America. Complete with 8-inch wheels, knobby tires, an adjustable seat, and a folding handlebar, the Z50A was immediately popular, in part because it could be stowed in a car trunk for easy transport to local riding spots. A star was born, and the Z50 Mini-Trail went on to become American Honda’s best-selling motorcycle of all time. 


While it would spend the first years of its life adorned with a smattering of street-legal components, the Z50A never shied away from the trail, and by 1979, increased off-road use in North America meant it was time for something even more dirt-focused. The 1979 Z50R delivered on that promise and would continue to do so for the next two decades, this long-running model growing with generations of new riders until it was replaced by the XR50R in 2000. 


Honda’s trail bike lineup also grew to include slightly larger models, with the 1973 XR75 setting the bar for small-displacement, single-cylinder four-stroke motorcycles. Replaced by the XR80 in 1979, this model ruled the trails, and some even commandeered it for racing, with considerable success. 


Honda’s trail lineup expanded rapidly as early as 1981, with the introduction of the XR100, and would go on to include the XR70, XR80, XR100, each of which sat proudly alongside the Z50R on showroom floors and had new riders singing, “I wanna ride, I wanna ride.” 


In 2004, a transition to the CRF nomenclature helped create unity within Honda’s off-road family, which now included the CRF50F, CRF70F, CRF80F, and CRF100F. Guaranteeing that there was something for everyone in the family, the CRF150F and CRF230F were introduced at the same time, each of these models building on the strong base formed by larger trail bikes such as the XR200/XR200R and XR250/XR250R. 


Honda’s Trail lineup turned another important corner in 2013, when the CRF110F was introduced as a replacement for the CRF70F, and once again in 2014, when the CRF125F was brought in as the replacement for Honda’s long-successful CRF80F; its CRF125F Big Wheel sibling stepping in for the iconic CRF100F, and going on to form the platform that would be the starting point for a 2019 model-year update. 


 Honda Trail Bike Timeline: 


Following is a comprehensive chronological list of Honda trail bikes through the years. Please note that this list doesn’t include street-legal (dual-sport) models, two-stroke models or machines over 250cc displacement. 


  • Z50A / Z50R (’68-’99) 

  • XR75 (’73-’78) 

  • XR80 (’79-’03) 

  • XR185 (’79-’82) 

  • XR250 (’79-’04)* 

  • XR200 (’80-’02)* 

  • XR100 (’81-’03) 

  • TR200 Fat Cat (’89-’90) 

  • XR70 (’97-’03) 

  • XR50R (’00-’03) 

  • CRF50F (’04-’19) 

  • CRF70F (’04-’12) 

  • CRF80F (’04-’13) 

  • CRF100F (’04-’13) 

  • CRF150F (’04-’17) 

  • CRF230F (’04-’17) 

  • CRF110F (’13-’19) 

  • CRF125F / CRF125 Big Wheel (’14-’19) 

  • CRF250F (’19) 

2019 Yamaha WR450F First Impression

Written By: Michael Allen

I’m sure there are a lot of people who come to the Keefer Inc. website that don’t really care about off-road bikes, but then there are my people; the ones who not only love off-road, but just motorcycles in general. Like I said, I love off-road bikes, so when Yamaha asked us if we wanted to try the 2019 WR450F, I was all about it. In the past it usually takes manufacturers up to three years to move the changes they’ve made to their motocross bikes over to the off-road line, but for this model, it has taken just under two years. The 2019 WR 450F is all new from the frame to the engine and even down to the headlight, in which Yamaha has made big changes. 


The WR has an all new engine with a more compact electric starter that is mounted behind the cylinder and drives the clutch basket. This starter also has a heat shield on top of it to protect it from the head pipe. The engine shares a lot of parts with the YZ450F, but some parts are specific to the WR like the clutch plates, and magneto rotor. The different clutch plates help provide a lighter clutch feel as well as better clutch modulation. The wide ratio 5-speed transmission spreads the power out over a much wider range than the YZ450F and it was explained to us this way.. The gears on the WR are spread as follows: First gear is like adding fourteen teeth to the rear sprocket of the motocross bike Second gear is like adding eight, third gear is like adding two teeth, fourth gear is the same as the motocross version, and fifth gear is like removing four teeth, which almost acts like an overdrive. The other main change to the 2019 WR450F is the chassis, which has a rigidity increase of 25% vertically 9% horizontally and 15% torsionally. Don’t let those numbers scare you into thinking this bike is going to be too stiff because Yamaha went to work in other places to give it a better overall balance (while retaining comfort) than the 2018 version. Along with the new chassis, the 2019 WR has slimmer bodywork that make the shrouds 16mm narrower, really helping minimize the “bulky” feeling that some people associate with the Yamaha. The new headlight is tucked closer to the head tube as well as being lower, which helps keep the weight closer to the center of the bike. Another cool feature the WR has is a digital trip meter/speedometer which is adjustable so it can be used for enduros or rally events. Finally Yamaha has gone away from their old cable drive for the trip meter and entered the 21st century using a magnetic pickup. The wire for the pickup is cleanly routed behind the left fork guard and is completely protected from off-road elements. The 2019 comes with a fan, which in my opinion is a necessity for hard core off road bikes. The fan does seem to run for a long time once stopped on the trail, but I was never left stranded with a dead battery over the course of our test. The fuel tank is slightly larger on the 2019 at 2.16 gallons which was achieved by using a more compact fuel pump that allows for more fuel volume. The stock skid plate is very cleanly mounted and offers more protection up the water pump than the 2018 model. Although Yamaha put GYTR handguards on the bikes for us on the intro day, the bike does NOT come with them, which in my opinion is a bummer because after all it is an off-road bike.


Now that you know all the changes to the 2019 WR, here is how it works in the real world. To start, the bike comes from the dealership slightly more corked up than the form we rode the bike in. We were told that the way the WR50F comes is a Japanese  standard practice and removing the items that we took off did not change the bikes legality in any state (even California). Unfortunately for this year the WR is not a green sticker bike in California and is stuck being a red sticker for the time being because of some new California regulations (thanks California). Back to the un-corking we did; the stock intake comes with a snorkel under the backfire screen, feel free to remove it and you’re 1/3 of the way to making the WR rideable. Next remove the throttle stop screw to get the full range of throttle opening and finally take out the ridiculously small pee hole cork in the muffler to help the bike breathe. Like I said, this opens the bike up while still keeping it legal to ride on the trails, but at the same time doesn’t un-cork the bike and make it loud and raspy. With the bike ready to ride, it’s still remarkably quiet and to be honest I had my doubts about how good it could be because it was so quiet. 


The 2019 doesn’t come with a kick starter and in fact doesn’t even have the hole in the side case to be able to put one on. This may worry some old school people, but in all my years of testing electric start dirt bikes I have never been stranded by one on the trail. If the bike is in neutral, the clutch doesn’t need to be engaged to start the engine, but if the bike is in gear, the clutch does need to be pulled in to get the starter to turn over the engine. This can be over ridden by cutting the wires that goes to the clutch switch and soldering them together (but you didn’t hear that from us). One thing that we did discover that seems to be an issue with all of the current Yamaha models is that they don’t like to be started while in gear. For some reason the extra drag of the clutch is slightly too much for the engine to turn over and actually fire, so we found ourselves having to put the bike in neutral most of the time to get it started. 


The engine on the 2019 WR450F is greatly improved over the 2018 with a much more free revving feeling, which no longer makes the engine feel heavy slow revving. Yamaha told us they still wanted the WR to have a trail bike feel without having it feel like and old Honda XR. In my opinion Yamaha did a great job blurring the line between total trail bike and off-road race bike. With the new slightly more powerful engine, the 2019 WR has a more playful power characteristic, which makes the whole bike feel lighter and nimble. The corked-up sounding muffler didn’t hamper power nearly as badly as I had imagined. In fact after talking with Keefer we both agreed that the lack of “sound” never hampered the bike’s power delivery all day. Not once were we unable to ride over an obstacle or complete a hill climb due to a hiccup or lack of power. In fact we rode some very long sandy hill climbs and were able to clean them every time all while hardly making any noise. I think the new engine will give the WR the ability to be raced (even in stock form) without feeling like the bike is at a disadvantage. We were told that this is the closest that the WR has ever been in relation to the YZ 450F model and when on the trail it’s pretty clear that the WR has the ability to be pushed whenever you want to pick up the pace.

The increased rigidity on the 2019 was immediately felt on the trail, but not necessarily in a bad way. Although the stiffer chassis does result in a slightly less comfortable ride at slow speeds over small chop/rocks it gains in agility on tighter trails. The chassis no longer feels lethargic and lazy when trying to make quick direction changes, instead it reacts quickly with minimal input from the rider. Just the slightest weight transfer to the footpegs and the WR reacts with confidence without feeling too twitchy. I think that the change to the engine really works in unison with the new chassis, to make the bike feel more exciting and more like a competition bike. With that being said the WR still acts like a trail bike, but it just seems to me like Yamaha has moved the WR slightly closer to the FX model than it has ever been. One place where I felt the 2018 was slightly better than the 2019 was straight line stability on very fast/loose rock jeep trails. With weight comes stability and the lighter feeling 2019 WR450F does feel slightly looser feeling at speeds than the previous model. For my personal taste I would take a better handling bike over one that just goes in a straight line well. 


Yamaha never tried to chase the dragon when all the other manufacturers were on the air fork train. Not going down the air fork road only helped Yamaha because they never stopped developing their KYB SSS fork, which in my opinion is the best OEM fork on the market.  Recently other manufacturers have been bragging about how their suspension is basically an “A-Kit”, but the SSS suspension is outperforming their so called “A-Kit” set ups. Yamaha seems to rely on the performance of their fork and knowing that giving it a cool title doesn’t make it perform any better. We like that! The fork on the WR comes with a 4.6 N/mm spring while the shock come with a 56 N/mm, which are both slightly stiffer than the 2018 WR, but lighter than the 2019 YZ 450F. The fork and shock on the 2019 WR450F work perfectly in unison unlike the 2018 model which has a front heavy pitching sensation when getting off the throttle as well as using the front brake. The balance front to back is much better (on the 2019) and the suspension settings have a much better balance. The range of terrain the 2019 WR450F can handle is much wider than the 2018 and that gives the consumer the option to open up a wide variety of trail options, without having to compensate for the 2018 shortcomings. The new WR can be pushed with more confidence at a faster pace without blowing through the stroke and gives the rider more comfort.  


I think that overall it’s safe to say that Yamaha has made a much better WR that has done a great job of blending a trail bike and race bike. I feel like if you wanted to buy a Yamaha to race closed course events then go trail ride with your buddies you were pigeon held to buy the FX in 2018, but now for 2019 I feel like the WR has taken that place. If you ride trails the majority of the time and occasionally race, the WR is truly a viable choice now. As European manufacturers step up their game, I thinks it’s really cool to see Yamaha answer with improved off-road bikes. Yamaha is waking up and realizing that they can make a bike that can be a trail bike without being too soft and lazy feeling. Instead Yamaha has made a comfortable trail bike that can be ridden at a race pace if you feel like stepping up your riding game. It has been apparent over the past few years that most trails and starting lines have turned orange-ish in color, but after riding Yamaha’s latest offering, a sea of blue may dim the orange fires. If you have any questions about the 2019 Yamaha WR450F feel free to reach out to me at

Living With The 2019 Yamaha YZ450FX By Michael Allen

It’s now been over three months since I took possession of the 2019 Yamaha YZ 450FX and I’ve been able to ride it in many different conditions. Mostly it has been used as my trail bike in the Southern California desert and mountains, but I have also raced it at a local District 37 Sprint Enduro more recently. Luckily, we’ve had a wet winter down here, so needless to say there’s nothing much better than wet dirt and an off-road 450. Overall the FX has been a fun bike to ride and has proved itself quite versatile in different terrains and scenarios. Here are some of the experiences I have had with the 2019 Yamaha YZ450FX. 


Being that the FX is designed as a “closed course” off-road race bike it’s naturally made to be more aggressive than the WR trail bike which has a VERY soft and mild mannered engine character. Although the FX is more moto related than a trail bike, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be tamed down, tailored to the rider’s skill level, and preference of riding. Yamaha now offers their power tuner app for any smart phone, which gives you the ability to load pre-set maps into the bike as well as giving you the ability to tailor your own maps. One thing that I am often asked is if the YZ450F maps will work in the FX and sadly the answer is “no”. That being said, there are plenty of FX maps out there to make your FX more aggressive and feel like a moto bike (see images for maps). Only two maps can be downloaded to the bike at one time and can be switched between the two on the fly. Personally, the two maps I like to have in the bike are “mild power” and “MX power feeling”, this gives me the ability to tackle different types of terrain and have a map that works fairly well in either faster or slower conditions. The mild power map richens up the bottom end and really helps the bike in tighter conditions where a lot of 450s are prone to flaming out. Although the mild map is really good, when riding a gear high in slow conditions the FX still benefits from having the rider cover the clutch just to make sure stalls are kept at bay. The more aggressive maps for the FX really make the bike feel just a touch off from the YZ450F with a very hard and aggressive hitting power that is great in faster, sandier conditions when you want the most power available. Having the app on your phone is genius and I would bet the other manufacturers will follow suite in coming years. I almost always have my phone on me when riding trails, so it’s really convenient to be able to try a different map when taking a trailside break (the app doesn’t need mobile service to change maps as long as you have them loaded on your phone).  


Over time (20 hours) the YZ450FX’s suspension oil/bushings had slightly broken down, which has made the damping feel a little softer than when the bike was new. I think for my weight (180 pounds) the spring rates are slightly soft when riding at a race pace (A Level), but at a trail pace the suspension settings are quite comfortable. The main places that the suspension is soft is when riding aggressively through large whoops and g-outs. The feeling I get (in those conditions) is a sensation of the fork and shock blowing through and riding slightly too low in the stroke. At the District 37 Sprint Enduro I had to check up more than I would like for g-outs because the fork and shock would bottom and it would make my feet/pegs hit the rocks in the bottom of g-outs. Stiffening up the compression on both ends of the suspension helped hold up and only minimally effected small bump absorption. This newer model FX is a better cornering bike than the previous generation by having the ability to change direction with less rider input. It may be partially in my head due to the slimmer feeling bodywork, but the newer model also feels slightly less top heavy and overall more nimble. The engine braking is much more friendlier in 2019 and ride attitude on/off throttle is much better. NOTE: Using the “MX Power Feeling” map creates less engine braking than the other maps.

The FX’s engine (in stock form) is very capable and doesn’t need much of anything to be really competitive in a race situation. The only aftermarket piece we have added to the FX is an FMF 4.1 slip-on, which was mostly needed to make the bike legal for off-road racing, since the FMF comes with a spark arrestor. The FMF took away the somewhat raspy sound that the stock muffler puts out and replaced it with a deeper tone that was slightly louder. The FMF system also helped mid range power, but slightly smoothed out the bottom end. I didn't mind the newfound delivery as the race was super technical and rocky, so having that smoother RPM response was fine for me. We will have more on the FMF 4.1 slip on system for the 2019 YZ450FX in another separate article. 


In terms of durability, I have only had two issues….. One is that the 2019 FX does NOT like to start when in gear. This doesn’t sound like that big a deal, but when it comes to races with dead engine starts this can become an issue. Also, when out on a long trail ride, in more extreme terrain, I had the battery die on me from starting and stopping frequently. With no kick start back up, I was lucky enough to be on a hill and could bump start the bike fairly easy. Once down the trail and riding a few miles, the battery would generate enough voltage to start the FX (although turning over slowly), but once the bike sat in the garage for a week, the battery lost all voltage and had to be replaced. The only other issue that I had was a blown fork seal on the caliper side. After talking with Travis Preston from Yamaha, he said that there were no nicks on the fork tube, but it could have been that the forks twisted in a small crash (I may have had a few of those) and upon compressing the front suspension, with misaligned forks, it damaged the seals. So if you ever have a crash that twists your handlebars, make sure to loosen the front end (fork pinch bolts, axle nut, etc.) completely before going back on your next ride. 


It’s no shocker that Yamaha built a great machine and I think we can all agree it’s a good thing that it’s not just the Europeans building great off-road/hybrid machines. In the future I’d like to race the FX at a few more local races and possibly try some stiffer spring rates, give you guys some added suspension specs, and work on even better maps for technical riding. After all, I need to do something to get better than a third place in the vet class (Kris says that’s not acceptable). Keep an eye out for a review on the FMF 4.1 muffler in the coming weeks over at and feel free to reach out to me at if you have any questions about the 2019 Yamaha YZ 450FX. 

Best Of 2018

Where did the year go? Wow! Time flies when you're riding, testing, typing, and talking about dirt bikes! With 2018 coming to a close I look back on the bikes/products (yes, some are 2019 bikes that I tested in 2018) that arrived or gained popularity this year and I picked a few that I think deserve some recognition. I went through a lot of bikes, parts, and gear this year so it was tough to narrow it down to just a few, but in the end these are the ones that stood out to me. I am a very picky guy, (just ask my wife) so pleasing me is somewhat difficult, but these products/bikes below indeed did something in order for me to write about them once again. As 2018 draws to a close, I salute these companies, manufacturers, and products for making the sport faster, safer, and more comfortable for all of us enthusiasts out there. Here they are in no particular order….

Vortex ECU For KTM 450 SX-F/Husqvarna FC450/Yamaha YZ450F: 


If there is one thing you can do to improve your modern day four-stroke power delivery, it would be to map your current ECU. Yamaha has an awesome PowerTuner app to play around with, so you can get your power delivery the way you like it (within a safe parameter) on the track. On the flip side to the Yamaha, the KTM/Husqvarna comes with a handlebar mounted map switch that allows you to choose between three settings (standard, aggressive, and traction control) so you can go pick and choose on how aggressive you want your orange/white bike to be while riding. However, if you really want to get more usable power, that is controlled, and broader, the Vortex ECU mapped by Twisted Development is my number one go to modification. On the 2019 KTM/Husqvarna 450’s the ECU comes rich down low and somewhat lethargic, which makes the bike heavy feeing. With the Vortex ECU mapped by Jamie at Twisted Development the stock KTM/Husqvarna lethargic power delivery down low becomes a snappy, easier to ride machine that pulls stronger out of corners and longer down the straights. By simply taking your seat off and plugging this Vortex ECU in, these two bikes quickly become two of my favorite machines to ride. You also have 10 pre-programmed maps on the trim dial so you can choose how aggressive you want your power delivered. Run the Vortex on pump fuel or race gas, it doesn't matter because there’s a map for both. The improvement you will feel on the track is huge and noticeable right away! 

2019 Yamaha YZ450F: 


Small changes to the 2019 Yamaha YZ450F made it our 450 MX Shootout winner and my favorite bike of the year! No it’s not the lightest bike on the market, but it’s engine delivery is unmatched, has the best production suspension in the game, has a better cornering ability for 2019, and is the most reliable bike on the track. Every time I think I may have found something better, I hop back on the ol’ 2019 YZ450F and fall in love all over again. It’s one of the only bikes I can ride in stock form and go very fast on right away. Kudos to all the Yamaha Japanese engineers and North America test riders for making an incredible machine! 

6D ATR-2 Helmet:  


6D Helmets launched their ATR-2 in 2018 and improved on an already great ATR-1 helmet. It has a shorter chin bar/nose area, shorter visor, and is lighter that the ATR-1, but keeps all the safety features of the ATR-1. It’s hard to write about something, that in some cases, can’t be fully tested until shit goes wrong. In the world of helmet safety, we as buyers have to be very trustworthy customers. I mean…We have no choice, but to trust in a certain helmet company’s technology right? We have to trust in what the helmet company is telling us (about their latest safety technology offerings) is in fact the truth and works in real world conditions, just like the test results say back at the testing facility. The only way to truly know if the helmet “works” or not is to crash and that is something that riders usually aren't looking to do. However, when it does come time to test the safety aspect of the helmet, it better damn well work and be what we paid for. I have worn and trusted in the 6D technology for quite sometime now and even spent my own money on a few helmets for my kid and I. My son and I both have crashed in an ATR-2 and came away dazed, but not confused. I feel whole heartedly that this is due to the 6D Technology, plain and simple. 

Ride Engineering One Piece Handlebar Mount:   


The Ride Engineering One Piece Oversize Bar Mount has a one-piece top that is designed to resist bending much better than the stock bar mount. Precision machined from aircraft quality aluminum, there is also a 6mm difference between the forward and back mounting positions. Ride Engineering also machines their own stainless steel posts that prevent over tightening, unlike some other competing brands that DO NOT use quality posts. I have stuck these Ride Engineering bar mounts on the KTM 450 SX-F and the Honda CRF450R with great results after crashing. I never had to find something to bang my front wheel off of to try and straighten my bars/mounts after a crash. These powerful suckers do not cause added rigidity to your ride and only cost $104.95, but you can save 20% by using the code Keefer-20 over at 

Guts Racing Firm Seat Foam And Gripper Wing Seat Cover: 


The real only downside to the Yamaha YZ450F is the seat density and cover. The foam is not firm enough near the middle portion of the seat the rider sometimes can hit the fuel tank when pushing hard into corners. So when you think of the words “hard” or “firm” you may think of uncomfortable right? Well in this case you would be wrong. The “firm” GUTS foam is just what the doctor ordered, especially when I am slamming into corners. With the GUTS firm foam the density is harder in the middle of the foam/seat, but also on the sides of the foam where you need it (especially when riding aggressively). Your butt is not always placed directly in the middle of the seat when you're riding, so why just make the middle part of the foam firm? GUTS thought of this because all of us riders need to have a firm feel on each side of the foam as well. The GUTS Racing foam provides the correct amount of density, so I am not pushing my tushy through the foam and into the plastic of the fuel cell. On top of the foam gripping the bike is important to me so Andy from GUTS makes these special “wing” gripper seat covers so my long legs have something to lock on to when standing up through rollers or choppy terrain. Having the “wing” seat also improves the cushioning of the side of the seat even more with the added padding sewn into the cover. It’s a brilliant idea and works awesome!

Works Connection Elite Axle Blocks For KTM And Husqvarna: 


Consisting of a pair of CNC’d Elite axle blocks, a titanium drive-side receiver, and a square removal tool nut, the Elite Axle Block Kit converts your stock KTM/Husqvarna rear axle from a fixed design into a floating type. KTM and Husqvarna Factory teams use this same floating type design on their race team bikes to improve traction as well as straight line stability, and it actually works! Another key component is the integrated receiver post on each axle block that allows the use of a caliper to precisely measure and match the left and right axle block’s position. This assures exact alignment of the chain and sprocket, which is critical to prolonging chain and sprocket life. I have been secretly running these on my KTM and Husqvarna test bikes for almost a year now and it may not seem like it’s much once installing them, but you will notice more rear wheel traction and a less harsh feeling under acceleration chop. 

2018 Yamaha YZ65: 


Anytime a manufacturer develops a new dirt bike for kids I am all in. Yamaha introduced a new model to their lineup with the YZ65 in 2018 and it was well perceived not only by my little test guy, but by many other littler riders and parents alike. The YZ65 has a potent engine, great suspension, and adjustability that lets little riders a chance to grow with their machines. We even let our test rider Dustyn Davis ride it with his friends at the 24 Hours Of Glen Helen and the   YZ65 lasted the entire time in the muddy conditions. We have almost 80 hours racked up on this test unit along with a WORCS championship that Dustyn won along the way. 

2018 Top Gear Choices: 

You guys knew this was coming right? I am such a gear fanatic that I couldn't just pick one set that was my favorite, so I am giving you my top three sets of gear that I tested/wore throughout 2018, in no particular order: 

  1. Fly Lite Hydrogen: Lightweight, flexible, and most of all very comfortable the Fly Lite Hydrogen gear is a joy to wear on long days of testing. It’s ventilated enough to breathe through the hot summer days in the desert, but also is durable enough to last through the abuse I can throw at gear. Not to mention the solid colorways that FLY came back to for 2019 has me all giddy like a school girl on prom night. 


2. Fox FlexAir: When you put a set of Fox FlexAir gear on you really notice how lightweight and minimalistic this stuff really is. The gear is snug and so streamlined when I am riding that I notice that I can move around on the bike a lot better. This is a real thing folks! Just like cyclists streamlined, form fitting gear helps your body become more agile while riding and Fox does it right with the FlexAir gear! 


3.  O’Neal Hardwear: Say what you want about O’Neal, but they have come a long way with the styling of their gear. I wanted to put O’Neal in this mix because the Hardwear fit is much better in 2018 than it has been it quite sometime and there is no other gear out in the market that is as tough as the Hardwear pant and jersey in my opinon. Yes, the gear is a little heavier than the two above it, but the stuff is tough and has a clean look for 2019!  



If you like analyzing your riding like me then the LitPro is a pretty incredible tool to have. Look, I will be target up with you. I wasn't on board with the LitPro a while back because it was too damn hard to use and confusing to me. However LitPro has made some updates to their app and made easier for us idiots to use the device. I have been riding with the updated software for a few months now and by no means am I a pro at it, but at least I can see each session I do and analyze my lap times, my line choice, what’s faster, and which bike I may be faster on at any given time. I love that I can get with my buddy Travis Preston and really show him how fast my corner speed is compared to him! To me that is worth the $499.00 price tag! You can even track your heart rate during each moto, just in case you really want to go all “Baker Factory” out there! 

2018.5 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition: 


Did you really think you were going to get through this without me mentioning the Rockstar Edisssssh? No, the 2018.5 Husqvarna Rockstar Edition didn't win our shootout, but that doesn't mean I didn't get happy every time I rode one of these suckers. I would talk about how much fun it was to ride (to my wife) so many times that she finally got sick of it and went and bought me one. The Rockstar Edition has better ECU mapping than the 2019 FC450, it feels the lightest of all 450’s on the track, is super connected from my throttle hand to the rear wheel, and my lap times (from my LitPro) always said I was fastest on it! Simply put, the 2018.5 FC450 Rockstar Edition is just a fun bike to ride and gets even better with just a couple modifications like an FMF Muffler, removal of the backfire screen, and some good race fuel. To me the Yamaha and Husqvarna are my two most favorite bikes to ride of the 2018/2019 model year!   

2019 Honda CRF250RX First Impression 

What? Honda has another new model? Yes, that’s right, the 2019 CRF250RX is Honda’s latest off-road addition to their growing stable. We had a chance to let our “Electric Diesel” test rider Tod Sciacqua ride it at Cahuilla Creek in Anza, California for a full day of ripping. This is just a quick first impression, but we will be re-visiting this machine for a long term test soon so don’t fret your pretty little dirt bike faces. If you want to hear more about this red machine, click on the “Podcast” tab and listen to Tod and I talk about what this bike is like to ride. 


This all-new CRF250RX is specially designed for closed-course off-road competition only, so just know that this machine will not be OHV legal until you get a spark arrestor. Some of the CRF250RX key features that Honda would like you to know are:

  • Large-capacity, 2.2 gallon resin fuel tank 

  • 18-inch rear wheel

  • Forged aluminum sidestand

  • Sealed drive chain

  • Suspension with settings dedicated to closed-course off-road use 



  • High-performance, 249cc single-cylinder engine with dual-overhead-cam design and high rev limit.

  • Finger rocker arm with Diamond Like Coating (DLC) maximizes valve lift while retaining a low engine height

  • Downdraft intake layout improvies air-charging efficiency

  • Dual exhaust ports enable ideal air-charging efficiency

  • Cam profile, which is based on feedback on the CRF250R used by the Team HRC factory MX2 race team

  • Intake- and exhaust-port geometry provides strong low-rpm engine power while also maintaining stellar top-end performance

  • 44mm throttle body offers ideal low-rpm intake airflow for strong corner-exit performance

  • Honda’s piston oil jet with five nozzle holes provides superior piston-cooling efficiency and reduced knocking, enabling a precise ignition-timing setting for optimum power delivery

  • Lightweight AC generator keeps weight to a minimum and minimizes friction losses

  • Electric-start standard for easy, fast engine startup

  • Easily selectable Standard, Smooth, and Aggressive riding modes enable easy tuning depending on rider preference or course conditions

  • Selectable HRC launch control provides a steady stream of torque for excellent performance on race starts

  • Exclusive ECU settings for ideal engine performance and rideability in off-road situations



  • Lightweight aluminum frame with tapered main spars provides great rider feedback

  • Low center of gravity reduces front-end lift for strong acceleration

  • Renthal Fatbar® handlebar reduces steering-system weight, and flexes for comfort

  • Top triple clamp features two handlebar-holder locations for moving the handlebar rearward and forward by 26mm, ensuring rider comfort. When holder is turned 180 degrees, the handlebar can be moved an additional 10mm from the base position, resulting in four total unique handlebar positions

  • Newly shaped footpegs are 20% lighter and shed mud more easily, giving the rider great feel and confidence in all riding conditions

  • Engine guard allows excellent airflow, boosting engine-cooling performance

  • 49mm Showa SPG coil-spring fork with dedicated settings for ideal handling and comfort in technical conditions experienced in off-road racing

  • Fork protectors have outstanding coverage for protection in off-road conditions

  • Black rims offer strong presence parked in the pits or out on the trail

  • Lightweight front-brake caliper uses pistons of different diameters (30mm and 27mm) for strong braking performance

  • Front-brake hose resists expansion for precise braking

  • Smooth bodywork layout eases rider movement

  • In-mold graphics are durable and resistant to peeling caused by washing or abrasion

  • Dunlop Geomax AT81 tires provide optimum feel and traction in challenging riding conditions


So now that you have some idea about what Honda did to this sucker, what did Tod think about the 2019 CRF250RX: 

Going into the test day I was thinking this would be a corked up slow trail bike, not really expecting the awesomeness of the power potential this race bike truly really had. One of the first things I noticed was the oversized tank and the 18” rear wheel with the sweet looking racing black rims. Yes, I am sucker for black rims because it just makes the red plastic pop that much more. Throwing your leg over the Honda for the first time, you will notice the large fuel tank and by appearance you may think this tank will affect your riding while on the trail, but once you take off you forget all about it.


I want get this out of the way right now because I feel no one talks about this enough. There are three different power settings on the handlebar, which to me is always great for different riding conditions you may ride on any given day. I may be in the mood for different conditions, on any given ride I go on, so having the aggressive, smooth, or standard “mood” settings is perfect for the many different riding moods that I have. The engine delivery is snappy and responsive enough to pop me up over rocks, logs and the occasional rain ruts that we encounter here on the west coast from time to time. I only weigh in at 155 pounds so having too much power is a concern to me at times when looking to purchase a bike. With this CRF250RX I feel like I can manhandle this machine more because the power delivery is fun, yet never gets me in trouble when riding. The mid range to top end pulling power feels just like the 2019 CRF250R to me and that means it pulls far and likes to be revved. If there is anything I could complain about the engine, it would be lack of some torque down on very low RPM. The throttle response is crisp and instant, but the bottom end delivery can feel empty if I was on a tight trail that was somewhat sandy.  


The Showa suspension feels like it was tailor valved for my riding style and weight. Again I am not a heavy guy and this Showa CRF250RX suspension was plush for me out on the closed course trails of Cahuilla Creek. On the occasion I hit the moto track on the way into the pits, the suspension had enough hold up for the jumps that Cahuilla provided. Overall, I can’t sit here and type any real negative on the suspension side (as I love me some spring forks) and Showa knocked it out of the park with this fork setting. We set the sag at 106mm for my weight and I was happy right away with the balance that the HondaI had. I am sure Keefer will nitpick the crap out of this thing more at a later time, but for now lets just say the Showa suspension was great for my smaller stature. 

48mm Showa spring forks grace the new 2019 CRF250RX.

48mm Showa spring forks grace the new 2019 CRF250RX.

 While riding the diverse terrain I noticed how nimble and easy this CRF250RX is in the tight stuff (and through corners). Although the nature of the chassis is agile and quick handling, the straight line stability feels planted and not as twitchy as the 250R. On tighter switchbacks the CRF250RX feels light and very playful and that makes me want push harder through the tighter terrain. One thing is for certain about the evolution of dirt bikes these past few years; it’s that the brakes have improved dramatically. A lot of media testers don’t talk about how important good brakes are and the new Honda provides some great stopping ability. The front brake on past Honda’s felt somewhat spongey and soft to me, but this 2019 CRF250RX has a strong front brake that lets me charge into corners much harder than I can remember.   

The Honda loves to carve up some berms.

The Honda loves to carve up some berms.

Did I mention I love electric start? Well, I do! You might think you don’t need an electric start on a 250, but after a full day of riding, kickstarting your bike gets tiring. Us older guys love this feature as it just makes riding a dirt bike more enjoyable to me. The biggest bummer to me on the day was that they didn't let me take the bike home. I will have to say that I am also mystified that Honda doesn't put handguards on this machine. The seven mile loop that Honda laid out for us was filled with blood sucking demon branches that will attack you any chance they can. Just ask my right forearm! The Honda CRF250RX comes with a skid plate, which is mandatory for any off road bike, so why aren’t handguards mandatory on this sucker as well? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? 

Dear Honda, we need handguards please!

Dear Honda, we need handguards please!

Great job to Honda on making a hybrid machine that is easy to manage and fun to ride. Look for more 2019 Honda CRF250RX updates at soon or check out the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast on this site right now! -Big Air Tod  

2019 Honda CRF450X


Almost every motorcycle made has somewhat of a cult following, even some of those bad ones. However every so often there is a bike that becomes iconic and ever since 2006 the Honda CRF450X has been the Swiss army knife to so many riders throughout the riding and racing community. It’s no secret that the 450X has seen very little updates since its 2006 release and although it’s stayed the same, I think that’s a testament to how well Honda has designed the bike in the first place. The CRF450X has never been a real standout bike in any one category, I would even say that it’s been somewhat vanilla. Don’t take this the wrong way as vanilla ice cream can be eaten plain or can be made even better with just a few toppings right? That being said the 450X has been the platform for a huge amount of success especially on the west coast. This “vanilla” bike has had the ability to transform itself from the family trail bike to a bike, that is able to win multiple championships (in the high speed SCORE Baja series), while also being able to win multiple NHHA (National Hare and Hound) races and championships. 


 Improving the CRF450X (even if it was minimal) in every category (without hindering any one category) was the only way Johnny Campbell and Honda were willing to change the old tried and true red machine. One thing the 450X has always had and Honda wanted to keep was the ability to be a green sticker vehicle, which now makes the “X” one of only two 450cc bikes (the other being Yamaha’s WR 450) that is able to be ridden off-road year around. Being all new, the 2019 CRF450X’s fuel injected, Uni-cam engine is based off of the CRF450R, but with a slightly lower compression ratio (12:1). The lower compression ratio is achieved by having a different shaped, three ring piston. Also when compared to the “R”, the “X” has 12% more crank mass, which acts as a flywheel weight, helping give the engine more tractor like pulling power. New for 2019, the transmission is now a wide ratio six-speed mated to a rubber dampened front sprocket to keep chain noise to a minimum. The endless sealed o-ring chain is nice, but I personally like a master link for trailside issues.  The engine side cases have covers also to dampen engine vibration and keep overall engine noise down. The ECU settings on the 2019 are dedicated to the bike and since it is a green sticker bike they cannot be modified. Unlike the 450L (which this bike is closely related to), the “X” model does not come with a catalytic converter inside the muffler, although the muffler is still quite big and restrictive. Also differing from the “L” the head pipe diameter has been increased from 35mm to 38mm. 


The base chassis on the 450X is the same as the 450R with a few additional mounting holes, different engine hangers and slight changes to the sub-frame.  Some off-road specific goodies on the “X” include an 18” rear wheel, larger front brake master cylinder/hose (while still utilizing the “R” caliper and large rotor), a larger 2.01 gallon fuel tank, skid plate, dedicated suspension settings, larger offset fork lugs and a dedicated top triple clamp. Honda still uses a 7/8” Renthal handlebar which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it has more flex than an 1 1/8” bar. Finally Honda got rid of the old cable drive analog trip meter and joined this century with a nice digital readout that gives the rider different information.  The radiators on the “X” are larger than the “R” although unfortunately, unlike the “L” they don’t come with a radiator fan (although the plug is there and a fan from the “L” will bolt directly on). The headlight is literally the same halogen unit that come on the older “X” model (I assume for budget reasons) and the tail light is LED. The 2019 is E-start only and comes with a high capacity lithium ion battery. Oh and the 2019 CRF450X weighs 275 pounds when full of fluids. 


Our test day took place in the dry California desert and was set to a camping theme, which is where this bike is most likely going to be used in the real world. We split up into three groups, I headed out with Johnny Campbell as our guide and followed his dust down a seemingly endless sand whoop trail. Although not the most gradual way to warm up, it was immediately clear that just because this bike has the appearance and initial feel of a trail bike, that doesn’t meant deep down there still isn’t the heart of a Baja racer. Most trail bikes are sprung/valved extremely soft for the majority of the public, which gives a wallowy feeling especially in sand whoops. This isn’t the case with the 2019 CRF 450X; Honda was able to make the “X” comfortable at a trail pace while still making the suspension handle being ridden at a semi aggressive pace. On bigger g-outs the rear of the bike tended to go deep into the stroke and spring back, giving a slight kicking sensation. The forks only bottomed on hard, slap down landings and had an audible metal to metal clank sound. In rock gardens the front end stayed very planted and is stable, but when there is sand involved the bikes negative traits start to show. In sand washes the front end has a slight wander and gives the rider a lack of confidence. This may be partially due to the tire (Dunlop MX52), but in my opinion it was more of a suspension issue. The pushing feeling was greatly exaggerated when braking, and was hard to predict what the front wheel was going to do in almost any type of slower speed sandy section (even more so if there were rocks littered in). I noticed this in some washes we were in and thought it may have been just those washes, so when I got back to the camp I spun a few laps on a sandy turn track. It was quickly confirmed that the “X” in stock form isn’t a fan of turning in the sand, it isn’t planted and has a pushing sensation. After talking with Kris about this he explained it’s because the fork’s slightly soft settings hamper its turning ability when transferring your weight to the front on de-cel. When entering a corner sitting, the fork dives too far into the stroke and gives a knifing sensation. If I leaned back too far the fork wasn’t far enough in the stroke and it would have a pushing sensation.


What this Honda CRF450X does have that some other CRF’s don’t is straight line chassis comfort. The frame on this Honda is forgiving and doesn't put you in a small box like the CRF450R can do. It never deflects or feels harsh when riding over square edge or nasty terrain. We love the feel of this “X” chassis when going fast! Chasing Johnny Campbell down fast twisty roads with rollers is by far one of the more fun things to do on this Honda CRF450X. What I found is that on faster terrain, the “X” steers much better when standing and giving turning input through the pegs. Just a slight push on the pegs will get the bike to change direction while still feeling stable and confident. When I tried to point and shoot faster corners sitting down I had very little confidence in how the bike was going to react. If you like to stand or if you’re a rear end steering rider the CRF450X will fir you perfectly. The reason we think it corners better when standing is because when your weight is on the pegs, the load is centralized and not biased more to the front or rear so the balance front to rear doesn't get upset as much. 


To be 100% honest (which we always are over here at Keefer Inc) I was a little disappointed in the engine on the 2019 CRF450X. After riding the “L” last month we were told the “X” would be significantly opened up so the true potential of the engine could be enjoyed. Unfortunately the “X” has only a slightly free-er feeling engine. That being said I understand that with the restrictions of green sticker vehicles that Honda could only do so much. The bottom end power of the “X” is very linear and tame making the bike very easy to ride at lower speeds. When giving more throttle input the power of the “X” is deceiving as it builds power very calculated. Into the mid-range the bike starts to pull hard and almost feels like a diesel (similar to when the turbo was spools up). When that mid-range power comes on, the Honda gets the power to the ground and gets more exciting to ride. The reason I think the power may be “deceiving” is because the exhaust is so damn quiet and tame sounding that it never crosses my mind that it’s pulling so hard (with such a tame exhaust note). Past the mid, the top end is somewhat short, but that isn't a bad thing because the CRF450X likes to be short shifted and can do that with ease. In almost every situation the 450X like to be ridden a gear high and can be lugged fairly well. The gearing on the “X” is spaced out well and is one of the better gear boxes in the CRF range. I do feel like first gear could be a little lower because when at low speeds the engine was lugging a little more than I would like as I needed to cover the clutch. If the clutch wasn’t covered (in first gear) the Honda did flame out a coupe times on me in super tight/technical sections. Going up a couple teeth on the rear would most likely help remedy this issue, but wold also take away some top end pulling power (which I wouldn't mid so much). The CRF450X’s top speed was 96 MPH as I rung it out next to Johnny Campbell in a full tuck. Two times throughout the ride I found a false neutral between 2nd and 3rd gear and four to five times a found a false neutral between 4th and 5th gear. This could of happened because I was being lazy when shifting and not fully clicking my toe up. 


The ergonomics on the 2019 CRF450X are like any Honda as they always feel like home. The half waffle grips are good quality and the levers have a classic Honda comfortable feel. Something I always have and always will complain about on Honda’s is the damn clutch switch. 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 handlebar. This means you can’t just two finger the clutch and fire the bike (because the other two fingers are blocking the lever from being fully engaged. I also feel like a radiator fan should have come stock on the “X”. I bring this up because as I was messing around at slow speeds (for 10-15 minutes) I was able to overheat the bike and it slightly spit coolant out.  The front brake has been greatly improved over the previous generation “X’s” and stopping power much better than I remember. The master cylinder is larger, holding more fluid, and the feel, power, and progressiveness at the lever is something I fell in love with. The digital readout gives MPH, trip, total mileage, check engine, low fuel light, and one other cool function. The “X”’s computer measures how much fuel has been used, which doesn’t seem too exciting, but it’s how it’s measured that’s smart. Instead of measuring how much fuel is in the titanium tank, the Honda measures how much fuel has flowed through the fuel injection system. This lets the rider know the MPG while also telling the rider how much fuel has flowed through the system. On our ride, the fuel light turned on at the 50 mile mark, but this mileage can obviously change with the terrain as well as the amount you twist your wrist. Unlike the older model, the new bike doesn’t have a quick access air filter door with quick release. Instead the air filter is accessed like a motocross bike removing the two seat bolts and seat. The stock plastic skid plate is nice and I applaud Honda for having the skid plate, as well as front and rear rotor guards since this is after all an off-road bike. Although the “X” has bike protection, once again Honda doesn’t equip their off-road bike with handguards. I didn’t understand why they don’t have handguards so I asked, and was told the engineers in Japan say “XR’s have handguards, CRF’s do not” this didn’t really answer my question, but it seems like it’s something that isn’t likely to change any time soon. 


Honda set out to improve the 2019 CRF450X in every department and I think the project was a success. Unlike the older model, this bike doesn’t need to have the carburetor messed with and all the smog stuff removed to make it run. Out of the box, the 2019 CRF450X runs well and is a very capable, fun machine to ride. Once the aftermarket offers some goodies (making the bike a “closed course” machine) it has the ability to be morphed into whatever the consumer wants it to be (just like vanilla ice cream). Just like adding your favorite toppings to ice cream, the 2019 Honda CRF450X is a great base, and with some aftermarket parts of your choice the “X” is still a Swiss Army knife that can be transformed into whatever type of bike you desire; from trail boss to Baja racer. If you have any more questions about the 2019 Honda CRF450X feel free to reach out to me at -Michael Allen

2019 Yamaha YZ65/85 24 Hour Torture Test

At Keefer Inc. Testing we pride ourselves on riding the crap out of our test bikes. However, when it comes to smaller bikes, it’s not like I can Benjamin Button myself and ride 65’s/85’s. 1990 West Coast 125 Supercross Champion Ty Davis put together a Jr. 24 Hour Challenge Team for the 24 Hours Of Glen Helen that focuses on the younger generation of off-road racing. We need to keep kids on dirt bikes to help grow our sport and Ty has been working hard to make this happen. Dustyn Davis (son of Ty) has our 2019 YZ65 test bike, so we thought why not let him and his buddies loose on this sucker for the full 24 hours as a durability test so to speak. While those kids were at it why not have another batch of kids on our 2019 YZ85 as well. Our goal was to get the kids away from FortNite and get more riding time in, while getting some quality testing information downloaded as well. It’s a win, win! No PlayStation’s and XBOX’s here people! Below are the modifications that were performed to the 2019 Yamaha YZ65/85 and the outcome of each machine, directly from ZipTy’s team. -KK


2019 Yamaha YZ85

  1. Put IMS footpegs on (wider) to help the kids feet, spreads the pressure more evenly so they don’t get sore over a long period of time

  2. G2 Aluminum Throttle tube- due to kids falling, more reliable than the stock plastic.

  3. Cut Bars- for kids to have better control of the bike and handle better

  4. Pro-Taper bendable levers foldable to eliminate the levers from breaking if kids fell

  5. Dirt Tricks Spokes for reliability and longevity

  6. DID Chain for durability

  7. Rekluse Manual Clutch- For reliability

  8. Steahly Stator with lighting coil for the lights

  9. Galfer Custom Brake line made to clear the lights

  10. Uni Air Filter

  11. Mousse front and rear to eliminate flats less tire changes

  12. Maxxis Tires

  13. VP Fuel 110 mixed 50/50

  14. IMS oversized tanks for less pit stops

  15. Seal Savers to keep mud out of seals

  16. Baja Designs Lights for lights at night

  17. Zip-Ty Custom made light brackets

  18. Zip-Ty Coolant to keep the bike from overheating with muddy conditions


How It Performed:

The 2019 YZ85 survived the full 24 hours in the muddy and rainy conditions without any issues. The Yamaha handled well in the tight technical sections and was easy for the kids to maneuver. We had a wide range of riders who race NHHA, Motocross, Big 6, and WORCS. The only problem we encountered was that the kids we used were not tall enough for the YZ85. In order to get them more comfortable, we cut the bars down 5mm and took a little preload out to lower the rear of the bike. This helped get kids to touch their feet in tighter sections of the trail. The kids liked the performance of the engine as it was exciting off the bottom, but not too pipey where it wasn’t connected to the rear wheel in the slippery conditions. The engine character was aggressive enough for the more experienced kids, but easy enough to ride for the novice kids that we used. The suspension was a little stiff (even when adjusters were backed out) for the kids on small chop because all the testers were smaller in size (70-100 pounds). We knew the Yamaha was known for its durability, but this race proved it, even with five different style of riders.

The 2019 YZ85 made it 43 laps that equaled 344 miles and finished 23rd out of 38 teams.

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2019 Yamaha YZ65:

  1. Customized seat for easier access for air filter changes

  2. Galfer Custom Brake line made to clear the lights

  3. DID Chain for durability

  4. Uni Air Filter

  5. Vortex Sprockets

  6. Mousse front and rear to eliminate flats less tire changes

  7. Rekluse Manual Clutch- For reliability

  8. Maxxis Tires

  9. VP Fuel 110 mixed 50/50

  10. Seal Savers to keep mud out of seals

  11. Baja Designs Lights for lights

  12. Zip-Ty Custom made light brackets

  13. Zip-Ty Coolant to keep the bike from overheating with muddy conditions

  14. Put IMS footpegs on (wider) to help the kids feet, spreads the pressure more evenly so they don’t get sore over a long period of time

  15. G2 Aluminum Throttle tube- due to kids falling, more reliable than the stock plastic.

  16. Cut Bars- for kids to have better control of the bike and handle better

  17. DID Chain for durability

  18. Pro-Taper bendable levers foldable to eliminate the levers from breaking if kids fell

  19. Millenium Re-nickelsil the Cylinder for durability

  20. AME Half waffle for the Kids hands Super glued on

  21. Shock Spring one rate softer, Pushed the forks down in clamp 3mm for stability

How It Performed:

We ended up changing the front and rear brake pads once, air filter once, one rear wheel, and poured in 20 gallons of fuel. The team had to replace the stator back to stock due to a failure that made the bike cut out/misfire. Once stock stator was installed we had zero issues. Each tester loved the power and all said that they were able to keep up with the 85 team for most of the race. Why? Because the Yamaha YZ65 engine is powerful enough and can keep up with the 85 in the tighter sections of the course. With the race being so muddy this slowed the overall speed down, which helped the 65 team. The Yamaha YZ65 suspension was plush enough for the 65 team and all of the kids thought it provided enough comfort, even with several pounds of mud packed on the machine. The Yamaha YZ65 finished the event with 43 laps that equaled 344 miles and finished 24th overall out of 38 teams. With Yamaha introducing the 2019 YZ65 this year, it proves that this first year model is a reliable bike for the little ones.

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2019 Yamaha YZ65

  1. Customized seat for easier access for air filter changes

  2. Galfer Custom Brake line made to clear the lights

  3. DID Chain for durability

  4. Uni Air Filter

  5. Vortex Sprockets

  6. Mousse Tubes front and rear to eliminate flats/less tire changes

  7. Rekluse Manual Clutch- For reliability

  8. Maxxis Tires

  9. VP Fuel 110 mixed 50/50

  10. Seal Savers to keep mud out of seals

  11. Baja Designs Lights for lights

  12. Zip-Ty Custom made light brackets

  13. Zip-Ty Coolant to keep the bike from overheating with muddy conditions

  14. Put IMS footpegs on (wider) to help the kids feet, spreads the pressure more evenly so they don’t get sore over a long period of time

  15. G2 Aluminum Throttle tube- due to kids falling, more reliable than the stock plastic.

  16. Cut Bars- for kids to have better control of the bike and handle better

  17. DID Chain for durability

  18. Pro-Taper bendable levers foldable to eliminate the levers from breaking if kids fell

  19. Millenium Re-nickelsil Cylinder for durability

  20. AME Half waffle for kids hands that were super glued on

  21. Shock Spring one rate softer, pushed the forks down 3mm

How Did It Perform?

Changed brake pads once, air filter once, one rear wheel, and 20 Gallons of fuel. Had to replace the stator back to stock due to a failed custom stator.  Kids thought the power was fast, yet easy to ride hard as they were able to keep up with the 85 team for most of the race. The suspension seemed to be more forgiving on the Yamaha YZ65 as the kids never complained once about anything suspension/chassis related. The 65 team had a wide range of talent that ranged from motocross to off-road and each of them performed well for the 24 Hour long haul.  The Yamaha YZ65 team did 43 laps that equaled 344 miles and finished 24th overall out of 38 teams

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The 65 team picked the Yamaha because Dustyn Davis (son of Ty Davis) raced it all year and we wanted to prove that the Yamaha could withstand 24 hours of kids beating the shit out of it. This raced proved that there is superb durability for a first year 65cc model from Yamaha.

2019 Husqvarna FS 450 Supermoto

“Hi, my name is Dominic and I’ve never ridden Supermoto.” That is pretty much how I started my morning, not knowing what to expect when the Husqvarna boys invited us to ride their new 2019 FS 450 Supermoto. As a first timer, I immediately felt like a fish out of water - a “what the hell did I get myself into”, type thing. But, I quickly realized that you can either:

A - Ride super squirrely and be scared the whole day. 

Or, B - Grip it. And Rip It. 

So I tried my best at going the “B” route, and holy shit, it was an absolute blast! There is a definite art to riding very aggressively in a road racing environment, and the street editors that joined us (Waheed and Scaysbrook to name a couple) put it to us ”moto” guys in a hurry. I’m actually really happy that they were there, because it allowed me to watch and learn pretty quickly (on-demand training). After watching them burn a couple laps and learning what I could, off I went - attempting 20 minute Supermoto motos’ with a smile that could barely hide under my helmet. 

The Supermoto experience is so foreign that it is hard to explain in words. Some of our MX techniques apply, but a lot of them don’t. Cornering is much different, braking is done in it’s own way, and overall rider control (body vs bike) demands a unique style. I tried my best at adapting in my own way, just trying new things each lap to figure out what works and what doesn’t. And once I found a decent groove, I was able to dive into the motorcycle itself and study it a bit for anyone looking to learn about the actual bike, and not my beginner situation.


The bike itself looks sexy right out of the box. It is graced with race-ready Alpina spoke wheels matched to Bridgestone R420 slick tires, and revised bodywork that looks down at a massive Brembo front brake system. I was told that it is the same system used on the current production Ducati Panigale. The other 90+% of the FS 450 practically replicates the motocross model. The suspension is obviously tuned differently, it has different offset triple clamps, and most importantly, a full blown slipper clutch. Lastly, Husqvarna put some useful wrap-around hand guards on the bars and an updated (more comfortable) seat. I truly feel that this bike is race-ready. We all know that the orange & white brigade boast that motto, but the FS 450 really showcases it well. 


On the track, the 63 horsepower motor is at your disposal whenever you are ready. The bike does not hesitate in getting you to the next corner quickly and efficiently. Nor does it take much for that front wheel to lift off the ground, which made the FS 450 really exciting to ride. The slipper clutch system is also a major talking point.  This clutch allowed us to drag the bike into corners, (attempting to back it in) without getting any rear-wheel chatter. I was shocked to realize just how much rear brake I could use without it heavily effecting rpms/power. I now realize why having one of these systems is a must if you are a serious Supermoto rider. As always, the Brembo brakes did not disappoint as they provided ample stopping power in any scenario. I assumed the front brake was going to be incredibly aggressive, due to the size of the rotor and caliper, but I was wrong. It is very modular (or progressive) and allows you to maintain control when traveling at varying speeds. As for the suspension… here is where I cannot help anyone, because I do not have the slightest idea of where to start tuning a Supermoto set up. I will say that down the fast straights, the front end would get some head-shake. If/when I get to ride this bike again, that would be a focus for me to settle that down right away. 


To wrap things up on the 2019 Husqvarna FS 450 Supermoto intro, all I can say is I would love to do this again! Having no expectations coming into this test day, it was so refreshing to be dealt with smiles all around, super close take-out scenarios on the track, and most notably, really fun battles with a few other guys I could actually hang with. If any of you reading this are interested in at least trying Supermoto, I would definitely recommend it. I rode all day in full motocross gear, but I think leathers would make me feel way safer. As for the million dollar question - would I buy this bike? Currently, I would say no - based solely on the fact that motocross is encompassing my life at the moment. On the other hand, if I was serious about riding Supermoto, there would absolutely be no question in my mind that this would be the bike to have. It has everything you need to not only indulge in the experience, but race competitively if push came to shove. If anyone reading this has more specific questions regarding this motorcycle (detailed specifications) please email and I will facilitate getting any questions you need answered. As always, I appreciate you taking the time to read this! Stay tuned for more fun things coming your way here at Keefer Inc. Testing

-Dominic Cimino

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


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 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 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

Living With The 2016 Oset 20.0 Racing Electric Trials Bike

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



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



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



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




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




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


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


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

If you have any questions about this test please feel free to email me at 

2018 Yamaha YZ450FX VS. 2018 Honda CRF450RX


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




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



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


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

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



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



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


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


2018 Yamaha YZ450FX First Impression

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

If you have any questions about this test please feel free to email me at

2018 Husqvarna TE250i First impression

Story Written By Michael Allen


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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