2020

2020 Yamaha YZ450F Start Up/Baseline Settings/Tips/Tricks

The Yamaha YZ450F is winning a lot of shootouts this year with it’s completely redesigned frame and engine layout as well as a stiffer suspension package that makes the bLU cRU ride a race-ier type of machine. I am fan of machines that are fun to ride as well as make me want to ride faster and this 2020 YZ450F does this for me. Over the past few weeks I have really got to know this bike better by racing it and riding it all over Southern California. Here are some of my settings that hopefully can help you go faster at your local track. 

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Suspension: In stock form the 2020 Yamaha YZ450F’s suspension settings are still slightly soft (once suspension is broke in) at times on bigger bumps at speed. Going slower on the action as well as stiffening the compression really helps the whole bike remain planted around the track. The comfort that this KYB suspension has is unmatched and the track toughness it provides makes your life so much less stressful on set up. This setting below will work for most riders ranging from 170-200 pounds. 


Fork: 

Height: 5mm

Compression: 7-8 clicks out

Rebound: 8 clicks out


Shock: 

Sag: 103mm

Low Speed Compression: 8 clicks out

High Speed Compression: 3/4 turns out

Rebound: 8 clicks out 


Engine/Power Tuner App: I have tried several maps on the YZ450F, but have always came back to the two below. The stock engine has a lot of bark from 0-10% throttle opening and for the tracks that we have out here (on the west coast) it’s too much at times. For you east coast riders try the “Keefer 1” map as that should be plenty enough bottom to mid range delivery to get you out of that soft soil, yet keep it manageable/linear to hold onto for a 20 minute moto (YES, I AM JEALOUS OF YOUR DIRT!). For all the rest of you, try the TP 3.0 map as that is the map that I use 80% of the time. The linear/easy to roll on throttle delivery along with the longer pulling power that this map has makes it a tractor around the track. I raced four motos with this TP 3.0 map and pulled 3 out of 4 holeshots at Glen Helen. The connection to the rear wheel is much better for 2020! Yes, these maps will also work on your 2019 YZ450F…  

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Muffler: As of right now I am running the stock muffler system, but currently have a Akrapovic, Pro Circuit, and FMF in the shop to test, so hold tight to see if any of these are better than stock. There is nothing wrong with the stock YZ450F muffler so don’t be scared to run a stock muffler on your Yamaha for a long time. Relax. Yamaha makes a great stock muffler system so don't be shy about running it.  


Handlebar Set Up: I really tried hard to like the 2020 Yamaha YZ450F handlebar set up, but couldn't come to grips with the way the bar mounts forced my upper body through corners. It put me in a weird position when diving into ruts and it actually affected my corning speed. I went back to the rear hole with mounts forward and fell in love all over again. I am 6’0 and prefer the 2019 stock hole placement. I love the stock Yamaha bar bend and use that bar bend on almost all of my test bikes, but if you want a little more flex, go with a Pro Taper EVO SX RACE bar (same bend as the Yamaha stock bar). The stock Yamaha bar has a 5mm wall thickness and the Pro Taper EVO has a 4mm wall thickness, so you’ll get more flex. 

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Seat: If there is one problem area of the Yamaha it is the seat. The seat still breaks down quickly and can feel clapped out. This makes you feel like you're riding in the Yamaha and not on top. I am usually not a fan of taller seats, but Yamaha’s Accessory (GYTR) 20mm taller seat is actually pretty good. It puts you on top of the bike more and helped my sitting-to-standing transition out of corners. This helps you get off your ass out of the corner because the transition from sitting to standing is not as drastic. Soaking jumps up with your legs is always faster than seat bouncing. If you don’t go with the GYTR seat then go to gutsracing.com and get yourself a firmer or taller foam.


MX3S Front Tire: Yamaha will not want to hear this, but I feel the Yamaha corners better with a Dunlop MX3S front tire rather than the stock MX33. Yes, the MX3S is coming back and will be in stock in a couple weeks. If you’re having trouble with initial lean into corners, get yourself a Dunlop MX3S front and thank me later. 


Gearing: I tried a 13/50 gearing set up for all you novice riders, but it didn't work as good as the stock 13/49 set up. The stock gearing is just fine for 90% of tracks because the Yamaha’s engine has so much torque that it can pull third gear. Yes, even for you novice riders! Third gear is that “lugable” that you will not stall through corners, just make sure to cover the clutch lever. 

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Triple Clamps/Offset: The Yamaha YZ450F doesn't need aftermarket triple clamps nor does it need an offset change. The rigidity balance that the stock clamp has is a blend of comfort and performance that is hard to find with aftermarket clamps. Still having a hard time in corners? Don’t purchase clamps, simply go to a 102mm shock sag setting or go to a fork height of 7mm. I suggest trying one or the other, not both at the same time. This keeps balance as well as keep the superb bump absorption of the chassis/clamps. Some other machines accept aftermarket clamps better than others, but this Yamaha has the most comfort/performance with the stock clamp. Don’t go backwards on your set up by purchasing parts you don’t need!  

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Cycra Powerflow Shrouds: If you want the visual appeal of a thinner mid section you can go to Cycra Powerflow shrouds that are thinner at the top of the shrouds than the stock pieces. I like that the Cycra shrouds also feel slightly thinner when squeezing the Yamaha while I am standing.  

If you have any questions about the 2020 Yamaha YZ450F, please email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com and I hopefully can help you out.

2020 Honda CRF450R Start Up/Baseline Settings/Tips/Tricks

The Honda CRF450R has only minimal changes for 2020, but that doesn't mean all the settings roll over from the 2019 version. Yes, some of the tips/tricks will remain the same from your 2019 Honda CRF450R, but we have come up with a couple new tricks since the 2019 model was released. With the new Internal valving suspension changes, the Honda has more hold up in the front on de-cel, but we went to work and came up with some baseline settings that we feel would benefit most Honda riders. I have done all of these modifications to my Honda CRF450R test steed and it quickly became one of the most fun bikes to ride at a wide variety of tracks. The Honda requires more attention than other machines in its class, but once you pay attention to her and purchase her a few gifts, she will reward you with lower lap times, increased smiles, and a bike that will make you more comfortable out on the track. Hey married dudes, sound familiar?  

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Suspension: The Honda CRF450R is the toughest bike to find that “track toughness” we all want out of our motocross machines, but once you do find that magic setting, this bike is insanely fun to ride.The CRF450R’s suspension holds up higher in the stroke for 2020 and gives the rider a decent amount of comfort on the small chop, but don't expect it to be better than the KYB suspension that comes on the Yamaha. All riders that helped me test this bike (165, 170, 190 pounds) went stiffer on the fork to help the Honda from diving under heavy braking. Even with the fork changes Showa made for 2020 we still wanted some more hold up. If we rode the CRF450R around at 80%, the fork had enough comfort and hold up, but when pushing the bike hard the fork needed some added performance. Once going a little stiffer (compression) and slower (rebound) the front end felt calmer and allowed for a more aggressive riding style. The shock has a ton of comfort initially, especially coming out of rough/choppy corners, but on heavy g-outs or steep jump faces the end of the stroke is empty (soft) feeling. Going stiffer on high speed compression a quarter turn will help hold up and prevent you from going to the chiropractor later that afternoon. We ended up going with a 105mm of sag as that pleased all three riders and left them with the best balance on and off throttle. Try this setting at your local track to get the most comfort out of your Showa suspension.  

Fork: (Rider weight 165-190 pounds)

Height: 3mm

Compression: 6 clicks out

Rebound: 8 clicks out


Shock: 

Sag: 105mm

Low Speed Compression: 8 clicks out

High Speed Compression: 2-3/4 turns out

Rebound: 7 clicks out


Swingarm Pivot Bolt Torque Spec: This costs zero dollars and should be done as soon as you get your 2020 Honda CRF450R. The stock swingarm pivot bolt torque spec is 65 ft.lbs., but re-torque it to 60 ft.lbs. What does this simple adjustment do? It can help the stiffer feel underneath your butt/rear of machine when accelerating out of corners (because your shock’s high speed compression is stiffer) and also gives the Honda more rear wheel traction. The Honda chassis has a stiff natured character to begin with so loosening up the swingarm pivot bolt a little helps free it up. Trust me, it helps! 

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Vortex ECU (Mapped By XPR Motorsports): I have done a few projects with Chad at XPR Motorsports and he continues to impress me with his impressive ECU settings. The Honda doesn't need more horsepower, in fact it wouldn't hurt if it had a slightly mellower delivery. So why install a Vortex ECU? The XPR mapped Vortex ECU will give you more horsepower, but will spread out that newfound horsepower with a longer and smoother delivery than the stock 2020 ECU can. The stock ECU still has that herky/jerky roll on power in map one/three through corners and that really upsets the chassis and my corner speed at times. That pisses me off! If your corner speed is off then you’re going to have a bad day at the track.

Chad has several maps that smooths out that low end feel just enough to where you can roll your corners easier and have a broader pulling power down the straight. The over-rev that this Honda gets with this XPR Vortex ECU/mapping alone is worth the price of admission because it allows me to use second gear longer. It also allows you third gear riders to use that gear more and be lazier, if that’s how you like to ride. Chad has the mapping down and can get you a cleaner, smoother, broader, more exciting power with this simple mod. Did I mention that it helps the stiff chassis feel? Well it does because you can now ride the CRF450R in the lower RPM range (thanks to more torque) and that frees up the frame on chop, square edge, and braking bumps. Yes, sometimes improvements to the engine can directly affect chassis feel. 

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Gearing: This gearing will only work best if you have the above three modifications done. I stumbled across this gearing on a test day and found out that I really liked it. The 14/52 gearing allows you to run your axle farther back (which the Honda needs) and gives the engine a more connected feel to the rear wheel. Try this gearing if you have done the above three mods. If you’re running the stock ECU/engine configuration you can try going with a 13/48 gearing. Going down a tooth will help with roll on power delivery and give the Honda a smoother more manageable low end power. 

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Full Muffler System: If there is a couple companies that knows how to make a better Honda power delivery it’s Yoshimura and Akrapovic! Both mufflers makes broader horsepower, keeps the strong bottom end pull intact, and gives the Honda a deeper more throaty sound. Just bolting on either one of these systems (without the ECU change) will help the Honda’s map one/three on/off feel from 0-15% throttle opening. This is where the Honda needs help and both mufflers help smooth the CRF450R in this area. You will also lose just over 1.5 pounds with these systems. However, good luck trying to get an Akrapovic muffler system as they are not easily accessible to the consumer. 


Rekluse Torque Drive Clutch Pack: How’s that lever pull doing for you on your CRF450R? Not that great right? I hated going from a light clutch lever pull (on other machines) to the hard feel of the 2020 Honda CRF450R. The CRF450R needs some longer clutch life (because I am a clutch dragger), so installing the Rekluse Torque Drive Clutch Pack has increased my life and gives me less fade in longer motos. This kit leaves your stock internals intact, but increases your clutch plate count by using the “Torque Drive” technology. This mod also gives you a better clutch pull at the lever as it’s not as stiff because the Rekluse Torque Drive Pack allows more disks in your OEM’s footprint.


Custom Clutch Arm: The Honda’s clutch engagement point is very narrow and although the Rekluse Torque Drive Clutch Pack helps the life/pull, the engagement is still too on/off for me. Chad at XPR Motorsports makes a custom clutch arm that really helps get an increased linear feel out of your clutch engagement. Not only is my engagement point wider, but it also delivers the power to the ground smoother, which in turn gave me more throttle to rear wheel feel. What does that mean? More consistent starts and better mid-exit corner rear wheel connection. This is a modification that you would never know was on the factory bikes when walking the pits at a Supercross because it’s difficult to see from the naked eye. For the right price I am sure Chad at XPR Motorsports could make you one. Thank me later! 


Handlebar Map Switch Care Instructions: If you have a Honda CRF450R you will need to pay close attention to your map switch on your handlebars when washing. If you haven't had condensation/water get into your map switch yet, consider yourself lucky. I get a ton of emails that are titled “Honda Will Not Start”. I come to find out that most of these CRF450R’s are getting water inside the map switch cluster while the consumer is washing the unit. This shorts out the connection and prevents the red machine from starting. Best thing you can do before you wash your Honda is wrap the map switch cluster with some type of plastic (I use a ziplock bag) and then duct tape the plastic around the handlebar/map switch. This will prevent water from getting into the cluster while you’re washing. You can also take apart the cluster and squirt more dielectric grease near/around the connections, but doing this will not complete prevent this mishap from happening. 


Air Filter/Cage: You can bend out the little metal tabs on your air filter screen and throw it in the trash. By using just the plastic air filter cage without the screen can give the Honda more airflow  and can give you more mid range pulling power as well as RPM response. 


Maintenance: I am very meticulous when it comes to oil changes with the Honda CRF450R. I change my engine oil every 2-3 engine hours on this model because I noticed that no matter oil I run or try in this machine that it is fairly burnt after three hours. In other machines I do not notice the oil being as dark in color after three hours as the Honda so I change oil religiously. Doing this has given me increased clutch life as well as ensures that I have no oil related engine issues.  

If you have any questions about your 2020 Honda CRF450R please feel free to email me your questions and I will ry to help as much as I can. kris@keeferinctesting.com


















2020 KTM 450 SX-F Start Up/Baseline Settings/Tips


The 2020 KTM 450 SX-F came to us with only minimal changes from the 2019 version, but since then we have gained some more knowledge because I have spent so much time on the 450 SX-F. Here are some baseline settings, suggestions, as well as some tips/modifications you can do to help increase the comfort of your new orange brigade machine. 

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Engine/ECU: For 2020 KTM fixed most of the 450 SX-F’s ECU problems with the help of some of us media testers. Last year the 2019 ECU setting was rich off the bottom and slightly lean on top, which made for a lethargic/inconsistent throttle delivery. For 2020 the ECU is better and has a more lively feel coming out of corners and still has the super connected rear wheel feeling. I am usually a “map two” kind of rider due to its increased pick up/recovery feel, but sometimes I am looking for that extra puling power that is needed when the track is tilled deep or soft. I have been on the Vortex ignition bandwagon for a couple years with this machine and for 2020 it hasn't wavered. If you want the same great rear wheel connection as well as more pulling power everywhere, look into a Vortex ignition from Chad at XPR Motorsports or Jamie at Twisted Development. I have turned a lot of KTM riders onto this mod and have had a 100% approval ratio. What I like about this modification is that it doesn't hurt reliability and makes for a very usable yet powerful engine for almost every type of rider. Yes, it will set you back around $800.00, but to me is much better than slapping on a muffler system and will do more for your engine. 

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Suspension: If you haven't listened to my WP XACT Pro Components suspension podcast you may want to at least check that out, but if you're sticking with the stock suspension for a while, you can try this setting to see if this helps comfort when the track gets rough. This setting below should be in the ballpark for riders around 165-200 pounds, but if you’re heavier than 200 pounds going to a stiffer rear spring wild help the ride attitude of the KTM. I have went to several tracks and tried many different settings, but this specific setting had the most “track toughness”. The KTM’s stock WP suspension doesn't quite have the comfort like the Husqvarna does, but the KTM/WP set also holds up more in the stroke. To get some added comfort back with the added hold up, try this setting. 

Fork (Stock Triple Clamp): 

Height: 5mm

Air Pressure: 10.7 Bars

Compression: 14-15 clicks out

Rebound: 16 clicks out


*With KTM Hard Parts Triple Clamps*

Height: 5mm

Air Pressure: 10.7-10.8 Bars

Compression: 12 clicks out

Rebound: 15 clicks out

Shock:

Sag: 103mm

Low Speed Compression: 13 clicks out

High Speed Compression: 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 turns out

Rebound:  12 clicks out


Chassis: Aftermarket engine mounts are all the rage right now and some of you may not have the money to spend on a pair of engine mounts for your KTM. I will say that I don’t feel like the KTM chassis is stiff, but I have heard from other vet riders that it can be at times, so I decided to play around with torque specs on the engine mounts and stumbled across this. If you’re experiencing a stiff feeling chassis sensation and want the KTM to settle while leaning (under throttle), there is an inexpensive way to achieve some extra front end traction (as well as an overall more planted feel). You can remove the left side upper engine mount bolt (upper right bolt only, as shown) and torque all other top engine mount bolts to 30Nm. This band aid will give you a more planted sensation when on throttle while leaning the KTM 450SX-F through sweepers and fast straights. You will have to make sure that all engine mount bolts have blue Loctite to ensure they do not back out (you should do this regardless if you keep all the bolts in or not). You can also try torquing your swingarm pivot bolt to 95 Nm (instead of 100Nm) to help rear end traction out of corners. The downside to doing these mods is that the chassis will flex a little more, so if you’re riding deep tilled tracks this modification may be too “flexy” for some (especially when chopping throttle).  

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Handlebars: The stock Neken handlebar is too stiff and doesn't offer too much comfort. Get yourself a set of Pro Taper bars and make your arms and hands happy again. The Pro Taper SX Race bar worked well for riders from 5’8 to 6’1. The SX Race bend comes in a crossbar or crossbar-less style and is 800mm width, 87mm height, 54.5 rise, and 54mm sweep. If you’re looking for a better “stand up feel” from your KTM look for handlebar close to this measurement. If you do like the stock bar try the Pro Taper Husqvarna Stock bend.  

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Triple Clamps: After riding back to back with the stock triple clamps and the KTM hard parts clamps I have realized that the stock clamps are stiffer. I have since installed the KTM Hard Parts triple clamp (or the 2019.5 Factory Edition clamp) on the 2020 KTM 450 SX-F with excellent results. The front end has more of a softer initial touch on slap downs and the fork action is smoother on de-cel bumps. It’s crazy to think that the fork feels softer now with the “Hard Parts” clamp installed, but that is exactly how it feels when going to the “Hard Parts” clamp. I was able to increase my compression damping a little to help hold up off-throttle and kept more comfort through the entire stroke (with the stock AER fork) with the “Hard Parts” clamp. I also get slightly more lean angle front end traction (or cornering stability) with this “Hard Parts” clamp because the front end isn't bouncing around inside long/choppy ruts. 

Rear Brake Pedal Spring: Purchase a Honda CRF450R rear brake pedal spring with the rubber around the spring. The KTM rear brake pedal spring vibrates and will break every 3-4 engine hours. Orrrrrrrrr. Get a KTM rear brake pedal spring and wrap it with plastic tubing, but to me it’s easier just to get the Honda spring and be done with it. 


Gearing: I like the stock 13/49 gearing, but for sand I prefer the 14/52 gearing for mid rpm recovery and chassis feel. Yes, going to a 14/52 will put your rear wheel back more than the 13/49 and get you some extra high speed stability with the 14/52. At tracks like Glen Helen I go with a 14/52 because I get that extra planted/stable feeling coming down hills. 

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Rear Axle/Axle Blocks: Going to a Works Connection Elite axle block kit or Ride Engineering axle block kit will get rid of the fixed left axle block on the stock KTM’s axle. This will help the rear end to move more freely under throttle and improve the shock’s comfort on acceleration chop. Both are great, but you will have to decide if you want a complete axle/axle block kit like Ride Engineering’s or just the blocks themselves like WC’s.


Muffler: To me FMF makes the best muffler system for the KTM 450 SX-F. There are some other companies that have other bikes dialed in more, but on the KTM, FMF has got it dialed. You will get more low to mid RPM response as well as more mid range pulling power. Top end is increased plus the over-rev is as good as stock. It is one of the few times that I was impressed because it was actually better than stock in almost all areas. The downside is that you must keep up on muffler packing (every 10-12 engine hours) because the FMF will blow out and that could damage your expensive titanium can. Did I mention that you will lose almost two pounds with this system? If you slap on spring forks you will be gaining almost three pounds. You can get most of that back with a 4.1 Titanium FMF Muffler system.   

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

























2020 Yamaha YZ250F Baseline/Start Up Settings/Tips

The Yamaha YZ250F is un-changed for 2020 so this baseline set up article can be used for the 2019 YZ250F as well. The Yamaha is the easiest small bore four stroke motocross machine to ride with its torquey low end and improved top end pulling power that Yamaha came up with in 2019. For this test we focused on trying to keep the comfort that the Yamaha comes with, but also try to get the YZ250F to accept a rider that wants to push his limits on this bike. Below are some settings that we think may be able to help drop your lap times while keeping the Yamaha planted underneath you. 

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Suspension:  

The KYB/SSS/Yamaha suspension has the most comfort out of any bike in stock form, but if you want to start pushing the bike’s limits it can get soft and spongy feeling. After our initial test we took the 2020 Yamaha YZ250F to three vastly different types of tracks and noticed as the bike broke in all riders wanted more hold up from the suspension. We tried going to a heavier 4.8N/m fork spring (4.7N/m is stock) with the stock valving and to all three testers (160, 170, 190 pounds) liked the hold up and calmness that the stiffer spring came with. The heavier front spring helped the Yamaha’s chassis under heavy braking and each rider was able to push into rough corners harder without as much pitching. Settling into ruts was also easier because of the calm front fork feel. The rear of the bike can accept heavier riders better than the front so going to a stiffer rear spring for us wasn't warranted. What we really liked about this setting is that it didn't upset chassis balance and only improved the bike’s overall feel out on the track. Only a small increase of firmness was felt on the top of the fork’s stroke, but all riders agreed that the trade off was worth it. 


Fork: 

 Height: 5mm (Stock is 7mm)

Spring Rate: 4.8N/m (Stock is 4.7N/m)

Compression: 12 (Stock is 11 clicks out)

Rebound: 9-10 clicks out (Stock is 9 clicks out) 


*Optional Stock Spring Fork Setting*

Height: 4mm

Spring Rate: 4.7N/m

Compression: 8 clicks out

Rebound: 7 clicks out


Shock:

Sag: 105mm

Spring Rate: 55N/m

High Speed Compression: 1.25 Turn Out (1 Turn Out Is Stock)

Low Speed Compression: 8-9 clicks out (10 clicks out is stock)

Rebound: 9 clicks out (11 clicks out is stock)


ECU/Yamaha Power Tuner:

I really felt that the 2020 Yamaha YZ250F could benefit from a free-er engine feel on de-cel so I worked on a map to try and achieve this. This “Keefer Free Feeling” map gives you less pitching on de-cel coming into the corners and also made the Yamaha feel lighter through mid-corner, which helped keeping the lean through corners as well as change of direction. I felt like I could give up a small amount of torque to achieve this and that is what you will find when going to this map. You will get slightly less torque, keep that great mid-range pull as well as a slight increase in top end. If you want to also sacrifice a little torque feeling and increase the second and third gear pulling power (with the same amount of engine braking the stock map gives) go to the “Hard Hitting Map” Yamaha has pre-programmed on your Yamaha Power Tuner App. I use the “Hard Hitting” for my base map and the Free Feeling” map for my secondary map. Please don’t forget to update your apps on your phone as Yamaha does update their Power Tuner with new maps from time to time. 

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Chassis: 

Please for the love of all things holy DO NOT screw/change the engine mounts on this machine. I will say that some aftermarket engine mounts will help some other OEM’s frame feel for the better, but in the case of the Yamaha YZ250F, it really doesn't need aftermarket mounts. I have no problem pushing products that work, based on each individual machine, but that doesn't mean that specific part works for every single machine. Some machines could benefit with a softer/stiffer mount combo, but to me Yamaha did a great job of blending comfort with cornering stiffness for 95% of us “normal” folk. When trying some aftermarket engine mounts on the 2019 YZ250F it made the bike have less predictability when the track got rough. When smooth I could see some benefit on initial lean through corners (lighter feel), but when the track got hammered the Yamaha was tougher to get into the corner because the damping character of the chassis was harsher on de-cel bumps. Could you make aftermarket engine mounts work on this bike? I am sure you could with the help of some suspension tuning, but the purpose of this article is to get you increased comfort/more performance with less hassle and money. If we were talking 2018 Honda or 2019-2020 Suzuki, I would be steering you into the aftermarket engine mount direction, but we are talking bLU cRU here people! 

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Gearing:   

Two out of three test riders preferred the stock 13/50 gearing, but our slower heavier guy with less cornering technique liked going more the MXA (one tooth up) (13/51) route. Say what you want about going only “one tooth” up on a sprocket, but I can tell you that it does help on some machines with riders that have problems with using third gear in corners. The Yamaha has enough torque for intermediate type riders to use third gear in corners, but novices will appreciate a 13/51 ratio more to help them recover from mistakes. Going to this gearing will shorten the length of second and third gears, but it will allow you to short shift better and use the meat of the Yamaha’s power just like it was developed/intended. 


Seat: 

Do yourself a favor and get a 2020 YZ450F seat or a GUTS Racing firm seat foam. Yamaha changed the seat shape/stiffness in 2019, but still the middle of the seat can breakdown quickly and get soft. The fuel tank and subframes rails are not friendly when leaning on the edge of your seat or when you decide to seat bounce an obstacle out of a corner. 

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Rider Triangle:

Yamaha’s rider triangle can be cramped for some taller riders, but simply going to the forward bar mount hole (on the triple clamp) with mount faced back will get you 16mm’s of more room. The 2020 YZ450F comes like this stock, but you can do that slight tweak yourself and get more weight over the front end. I am 6’0 and prefer the rear hole with the mount forward, but I have heard more than one taller rider complain about being cramped on the Yamaha. I have yet to try moving the pegs down/back, but will look into this as an option for you taller riders.

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Maintenance: 

We have ridden the 2019 YZ250F a ton and although haven't had anything major go wrong with our YZ250F we did go through two stock batteries. Our YZ450F has never had a battery issue, but our YZ250F needed help in this area. We installed a FirePower battery in our test bike and had no other battery related issues. I also have received emails about timing chains going out and if we ran into this problem. The answer is no, but if you are a high revving, faster intermediate/pro type of rider, changing a timing chain every 20 hours is not uncommon. Follow your owners manual for regular scheduled maintenance, but just know that those maintenance schedules that Yamaha “suggests” aren't based on every type of rider. Each rider is different, but for the average rider/racer the Yamaha still has superb durability and is one of the few bikes that gives me less headaches during the course of the year. Please don’t believe everything you read on message boards and consider asking and trusting people and/or media outlets that spend a lot of time on these machines. I mean if I search up “headaches” on WebMD, I usually will read that I have some sort of Cancer and I should go to the hospital ASAP. Just because “Bobby Two Stroke” says Yamaha’s are ticking time bombs doesn’t mean they really are. Oh and you most likely DO NOT have Cancer, so everyone chill down. Sometimes message boards are a lot like WebMD, so proceed with some sort of caution. I am all not saying that a YZ250F’s will never blow up because they can just like any other machine. Take care of this bike and most likely it will take care of you.

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Throttle Play:

Check your YZ250F’s throttle play when you get it home. Most of the units I have seen have had a ton of free play in the throttle. The bad news is you are not able to adjust it all the way out with the top throttle cable adjusters. You will have to adjust the cables play on the throttle body in order to get most of it out. After adjusting the throttle play on the throttle body, proceed to adjust the top throttle cable adjusters to get the desired free play. Throttle play is a preference, but to me there is way too much throttle play, off the showroom floor, on the YZ250F. I have went to a couple dealerships and blipped throttles just to check and most had A LOT of play. Check your throttle free play!   

Wear Items:

I am not a huge fan of the stock grips on the YZ250F as they feel fat, the chain guide and slider are actually pretty damn good on the YZ250F compared to other Japanese machines, sprockets and chains are your average 10 hour change out items, I go through clutch plates every 10-12 hours and I am fairly abusive on clutches, the 2020 air filter seals better thanks in part to a rubber grommet in the middle of the filter, but leave the backfire screen in for added dirt/particle safety, and the Bridgestone X20’s provide a good amount of traction and lean angle grip, but when they wear down slightly they are very un-predictable under hard lean angle.

If you have any questions about the 2020 Yamaha YZ250F please feel free to ask away at kris@keeferinctesting.com. Hopefully we can give you an intelligent and enlightening answer, but if we don’t know the answer to your question, we simply will reply with an “I don’t know”. We don’t know everything.

2020 Honda CRF250R Start Up/Baseline Settings/Tips

I have been testing the 2020 Honda CRF250R at more than a few different tracks trying to get this baseline setting article out to you all. I have finally found a few settings that I think most of you could appreciate as well as benefit from. With Honda being one of only two manufacturers to change their 250’s significantly for 2020, I wanted to make sure all you new 2020 CRF250R owners or future buyers had a great starting point. Here are some settings that will help you enjoy your ride more and tinker with less: 

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Suspension: 

In stock form the Showa suspension on the 2020 Honda CRF250R has decent comfort on de-cel bumps, but lacks a little hold up for riders ranging from 160-190 pounds. If you’re over 190 pounds going up a spring rate on each end is your ticket to a better handling CRF250R. After riding with this setting below at three different tracks, more than one time around, I figured out that this baseline suspension setting gave the 2020 Honda CRF250R the most “track toughness”. If you happen to feel like the fork is harsher (through the mid stroke) with this setting, simply open up the rebound (faster) back to stock setting. This will help free up the fork slightly under front end load (off-gas). The shock needs just a little more hold up under acceleration so simply going stiffer/slower on low speed compression/rebound gives the rider more comfort and added traction out of corners. I tried experimenting with high speed compression, but the Honda is finicky with high speed. Going stiffer on high speed compression (shock) put too much weight on the front end (fork) creating a harsher feeling front fork.


Fork: 

Height: 3mm (Stock is 5mm)

Compression: 7-8 clicks out (Stock is 9 clicks out)

Rebound: 10 clicks out (Stock is 11 clicks out) 

Shock:

Sag: 100-101mm

High Speed Compression: 2-5/6

Low Speed Compression: 10 clicks out (11 clicks out is stock)

Rebound: 5 clicks out (6 clicks out is stock)

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Chassis:

As of right now I prefer the stock engine mounts torqued to the OEM/manual settings. Some bikes react better to aftermarket engine mounts than others and as of right now I feel the best settings (for comfort) come from the stock engine mounts. You can however torque the swingarm pivot bolt to 52 ft.lbs. for increased flex under throttle, while leaning. If you feel like the rear end is planted and doesn't deflect under load on chop please leave it at the OEM/manual torque spec. If you feel like the Honda is standing up through mid corner simply go back up to 5mm on fork height with the above suspension specs to help mid corner lean.


Gearing: 

I went back and forth between the stock 13/48 gearing and 13/49, but ultimately decided on sticking with stock. Why? I felt the 13/49 gearing made second gear less usable and didn't help me get into third gear any quicker. The 13/49 robs too much top end away from second and third gears on medium to faster flowy tracks. If you’re riding a tight track and suffer from bad corner technique going to a 13/49 could benefit you more. Decide which tracks you ride the most and what type of rider you are in order to decide which way to go with your gearing. 

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Steering Head Nut:

Do yourself a favor and tighten up the steering head nut a little on the 2020 Honda CRF250R. The steering comes too loose from the factory and can cause some knifing in corners and can give you slight head shake on de-cel. Simply tightening the steering head nut a little makes the Honda’s front end feel more planted (less loose feeling) when performing corners/initial lean/turning the handlebars. This is a simple modification, but really helps the Honda’s ride attitude around the track. Sometimes it’s the simple/easy things in life that make a difference. Dirt bikes are no different.


ECU Map Switch:

I like map three the best for most tracks around these parts and for more torque out of corners. Even though Honda improved their torque for 2020, it still lacks some pulling power out of corners, compared to the Yamaha. Running the 2020 CRF250R in map three will benefit you the most in this situation. This is my preferred map, but map one is also very usable and can pull pull you farther in second/third gear. 

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Clutch:  

Going to a Rekluse Torque Drive Clutch Pack will give you better clutch lever feel as well as clutch life. The engagement of the lever ratio doesn't change, but it lets you put more of that horsepower to the rear wheel, without slipping, when hard on the throttle in soft dirt. This is simply a clutch pack and not the complete system. You use the stock OEM inner, outer, basket clutch pieces with this kit.


Cooling:

I am not going to sit here and say that Honda fixed ALL of their cooling issues with the radiator change they made for 2020. The Honda CRF250R still runs hot and will puke some radiator coolant out of the overflow when riding in the higher RPM’s during a long moto (20-30 minutes). Just keep an eye on your coolant level if you’re riding in hot an or deep sandy conditions. I had to add a little coolant to the radiator on longer, hotter days here in Southern California. Don’t be lazy and you’ll be fine. I am looking into trying a couple things to help this situation in the future so check back here for more updates on this.

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Inexpensive Way To Get Less Rigidity:

Renthal Fatbars come stock on all CRF’s and while we like the strength/bend of the new bar, I still feel like they are stiff on slap down landings/square edge. Going to a Pro Taper EVO handlebar will take away some rigidity as well as give you less vibration to your hands. The 4mm wall thickness of the Pro Taper EVO bar is something I have tested back to back against the Renthal Fatbar. Even if you painted both bars black and sent me on a blind test, I would come back within a lap and tell you which bar was which. It’s that noticeable. If you like the stock bar bend try the Pro Taper EVO SX Race bend as that is the closest bend to the stock 839 Honda Fatbar. 


Renthal 839 Fatbar    (L) 802 (H) 91 (R) 51 (S) 51 (mm)

Pro Taper SX Race    (L) 800 (H) 87 (R) 54 (S) 54 (mm)

If you have any questions about your Honda or anything in this article please feel free to email me and hopefully I can help you out. kris@keeferinctesting.com







2020 Kawasaki KX450 Review/Baseline Settings

The 2020 Kawasaki KX450 is exactly the same as the 2019 Kawasaki KX450, but the 2020 version just has more green. Kawasaki focused all of its R&D efforts on the KX250 for 2020 so the bigger brother just got a few more green plastic pieces, but that doesn't mean we didn't hit the R&D’ing hard. I really wanted to get some updated settings for you Team Green riders out there in hopes that it will help you set up your 2019-2020 KX450 in a more timely manner. Here are some thoughts and settings on the 2020 Kawasaki KX450:

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Engine Feel: Just in case you were trying to decide on if the 2020 KX450 is better than the 2018 version, let me tell you, there is no comparison. The 2020 comes on quicker with a lighter, more free-revving feel and has less engine braking. I am usually not a guy who likes to de-tune a stock 450cc motocross bike, but the Kawasaki simply is too crisp from 0-5% throttle opening on slicker/hard pack tracks. Yes, too crisp! Where you feel this 0-5% is when you’re barely on the throttle through longer ruts. The KX450 gets jumpy with the stock green coupler and it upsets the chassis, which makes you very inconsistent through corners. Once the black coupler is installed it controls that 0-5% and gives you an incredible, yet smooth pulling power that feels similar to a KTM 450 SX-F. The mid range has a nice amount of meat and the smoother pulling power of the top end/over-rev is noticeable on longer straights or up hills. I didn’t lose mid to top end pulling power with the black coupler (compared to the stock green one) and I could ride the KX450 more aggressively through corners. The engine is super connected to the rear wheel and never steps out coming out of corners. This is an impressive power plant! After I rode with the black coupler a few times I decided that I would like to increase the mid to top end pull so I created a map with Kawasaki to get some more in that area. *See below for map*  

Weight Feeing (Chassis): I was told that the 2020 Kawasaki KX450’s frame is 1.87 pounds lighter than it was in 2018. The total weight of the new machine has only increased roughly three pounds from 2018, but to me it feels lighter than the 2018. Why? I feel it is because of the way the 2020 Kawasaki makes its power. It is very free feeling and snappy which makes this bike have a very light/nimble feeling through corners. I am able to lay it down with ease and cut down under a blown out rut almost as easy as a KTM/Husqvarna. I do get a little twitch on de-cel (which can be fixed with a fork spring change), but it wasn't a horrible or un-easy feeling. Straight line stability is still the same straight and arrow Kawasaki feel that you expect, but with added traction. The frame absorption is the best attribute of this machine and other manufacturers should take notice of how well this KX450 feels when the track goes to crap. The whole bike feels friendlier than any other 2020 machine on square edge and the only other one that comes close in comfort is the Yamaha YZ450F.   

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Hydraulic Clutch: The Nissin hydraulic clutch feels nothing like a Brembo or Magura. The Nissin hydraulic feel is a little bit of cable and hydro. What the hell does that mean Keefer? It means that there is a little play in the Nissin hydraulic lever that makes it feel like a cable pull initially. Unlike a Brembo where there is no play and is very touchy (on/off feel), the Nissin has more of a progressive feeling. So far I prefer the Nissin clutch engagement/feel over the Brembo. I like to ride the clutch a little with my finger while I ride, so having that little bit of play ensures that I don't burn up my clutch as quick. The clutch can slip at times under heavy load/under throttle if the track is super deep. You will be able to feel the lever start to creep in towards your grip when accelerating out of corners at times. To combat this you can simply remove the judder spring and add a fiber to the clutch pack.   

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Suspension Comfort: The 2020 Kawasaki is so much more balanced than previous generation KX450’s and I was able to set the front end down where I wanted to without feeling like the front end was going to snap my wrists. The fork has tons of comfort, but is also too soft/divy for my liking. At tracks with hills or sizable jumps, the fork was too low in the stroke and bottomed too many times. Going stiffer on the compression only hurt de-cel bump comfort, so I settled on going slower on the rebound, which helped some. The shock is soft as well on slap down landings, but going eight clicks (two full turns) in helped keep the rear end up and thus helps wallow feeling. This setting will get you by on most tracks, but do yourself a favor and read the recommended suspension settings below for optimal balance of the KX450. The recommended settings below will help with hold up and ride comfort.

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Cornering/Chassis: The 2020 KX450 is a more “neutral” cornering machine than in previous years. I am able to get more front end bite than last year, but also am still able to rear steer the green machine very well too. I had a rear end steering tester with me at the intro and he liked how well it backed into corners as well as much as I liked the front end bite from mid-exit of corner. I say mid-end because the KX450 still does have a slight vague feel on entrance of corners so Raising the fork up 2mm in the clamp helps this feeling somewhat and gives you increased front bite. 


Rider Traingle: The footpeg to seat to handlebar ratio is great! The seat is flat, which puts me more on top of the machine than “in” it like the 2018 did. I like this feeling and it makes maneuvering on the bike better for my 6’0 frame.


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


Brakes: Do yourself a favor and get a 2018 rear disc and hanger. The 250mm disc is too grabby and really screws up my corners/braking points. The rear end will slide when I don't expect it and this causes my corners to be herky/jerky. 


2020 KX450 Suspension Settings:

Fork: 

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

Oil Level: Standard

Compression:12-13 clicks out

Rebound Range: 11 clicks out

Fork Height: 2mm

 Shock:

Spring Rate: Standard (190 pounds or over, try one spring rate heavier)

Low Speed Compression: 16 clicks out

High Speed Compression: 1 1/8 turns out

Rebound: 11 out

 

Coupler/ECU Setting:

The engine on the 2019 KX450 in stock trim is exciting and makes the Kawasaki feel light. It has great RPM response, but does have a little dip from mid to top, so I created this map to help fill that dip in and make it pull slightly longer. You will notice a slightly more linear (more control at low RPM) pull down low without the jerky feeling through corners. With this map installed it helped settle the chassis down through long ruts and improved overall traction feel. In the testing world we call this "cornering stability". With this map installed it helped the 2020 KX450's cornering stability, especially on intermediate terrain. You will need to use the white coupler in and use the Kawasaki FI Calibration Tool to create this map. 

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Where Does The 2020 KX450 Rank Amongst The 2019 Shootout Winner:

I have come to really appreciate the stability of the 2020 KX450 and like how confidence inspiring it can be on rough tracks. It isn’t the leader in the cornering category, but it sure is the leader in bump absorption and comfort. The KX450 still feels long to me, but at least now I can feel my front end through corners, which for my riding style is very important. If you were to ask me what bike I would want to ride Glen Helen on at 3:00 PM? I would choose the KX450 a close second to the YZ450F. The KX450’s frame character and stable/neutral nature has me rolling the throttle on harder when conditions get worse. The only reason I pick the Yamaha over the Kawasaki is because of the engine pulling power the Yamaha has up the hills. The Kawasaki feels lighter than the Yamaha in corners and is easier to manage when making sudden rut/line choices. I also like the fact that I can explore different parts of the track and not have to back down my speed that much because the KX450 chassis remains calm. I appreciate the KX450 the more I ride it against other machines in its class.  

If you have any questions about the 2020 KX450 please feel free to ask away and email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com. We try to give you the correct path when choosing a new machine! They aren’t cheap! We know this!













2020 Yamaha YZ450F In Depth First Ride

For 2020, Yamaha is the only manufacturer to have any significant changes done to their 450cc motocross machine. With over 15 updated engine components, over 10 chassis components, and a suspension valving makeover Yamaha wasn't resting on their 2019 450 Shootout success. If there was one 2020 450 motocross bike that I was anxious to ride, this bike right here takes the cake. I was anxious to feel the changes Yamaha made out on the track, but also nervous because quite frankly I didn't want them to screw up an already great machine. In this “11 Things” I will break down all of the “feels” that I experienced while riding the 2020 Yamaha YZ450F. If you want to know more about the exact changes Yamaha made to the YZ450F, click here: https://www.keeferinctesting.com/latest-news-1/2019/6/4/yamaha-announces-full-lineup-of-2020nbspmotocross-bikes

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Engine: So what exactly are you getting with the 2020 Yamaha YZ450F engine? Compared to the 2019 you’re getting a more connected rear wheel feel out of corners and more RPM response. I don’t feel like you're necessarily getting more bottom end pulling power, but the initial crack of the throttle is improved (almost too much, but more on that in the ECU portion) right when you get ready to stab that throttle (anywhere in the RPM range). Where I felt most of the improvements were through mid range-top end pulling power. The difference in “meat” through the mid-range once out of corners is impressive. We talk about third gear a lot in these tests and how important that gear is to the rider. If third gear is not useable in corners, it’s tough to ride smooth and forces the rider to be more active on the bike, which could result in getting more tired more quickly. The Yamaha has more mid-range pulling power, which allows you to use third gear through corners even easier in 2020. Usually you will have to fan the clutch a little to get the engine to recover and get back into the upper RPM range, but with the 2020 YZ450F you can just roll on the throttle and it will start pulling you down the track immediately. Top end pulls farther in second and third gears for 2020 and will not sign off as much as the 2019 YZ450F does. Even though a 450 shouldn't be revved out, let’s be real, sometimes we are lazy and DO NOT have perfect riding technique, so it’s nice to leave it in second gear and use that gear all the way to the next corner. It happens right? This new engine character helps you do that better without sounding like Justin Barcia at Southwick. In a nutshell the 2020 engine in fact has more power with most of it being more controlled to the rear wheel. 

Engine Free Feeling: The improvements that the Yamaha made in this category warranted its own category. I mentioned to the R&D guys at Yamaha how much free-er second gear felt as the 2020 YZ450F didn't have near as much engine braking as the 2019 did. With the previous 2019 engine, the engine braking was apparent on grabby/heavy dirt, but with the 2020 engine refinements, second gear feels less tight and puts less force on the front wheel off-throttle. This helps the suspension settle coming into corners and that improvement alone helps the 2020 YZ450F corner better/more efficiently.

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Chassis: The 2020 YZ450F feels stiffer around the track. However don’t get scared off by the word “stiff”. It’s not rigid by any means, but just has a stiffer feel and not a wallowy sensation. Let’s go over this a little…The chassis is softer near the front of the machine and on the downtubes. The engine cradle tube thickness has been beefed up for increased rigidity as well as an engine mount material/shape change to help get this year’s YZ450F more planted. Now I am not going to sit here and tell you that this bike is a cornering dream and the changes that Yamaha made make this bike a class leading carver, but what it did gain is cornering stability as well as predictability through those corners. Gone is the hinged feeling near the rear of the bike when leaning under throttle through sweepers. The new Yamaha feels more planted under throttle while leaning through fast rougher corners (AKA sweepers). Straight line stability is still intact from 2019, but now has a slightly lighter initial lean in coming into tight corners. I didn't experience any added mid corner front end traction with the 2020 (maybe because of the MX33 front tire), but corner exits are improved as the 2020 YZ450F stayed leaned over easier at the end of corners. I do feel when the track gets rough the 2020 Yamaha is easier to push your limits, but just like with any performance gains you will lose a little comfort if riding around at 80% of your ability compared to the 2019. This new chassis will reward a rider that pushes harder and wants to go faster when the track gets rougher. Think GH @ 4:30.   

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Suspension: The stiffer setting that Yamaha went to amazingly still has more comfort than any other suspension out there for 2020. I mean I guess it shouldn't be a shock, but I am wired to think if I go stiffer, my comfort sensation on the track might go down. For 2020, the comfort that you've grown accustomed to with the KYB SSS/Yamaha suspension is still there! Even though both ends have more hold up and less pitching I still ended up going stiffer on my settings. I felt like under throttle out of corners the rear of the bike (shock) was too low and I was getting a harsh mid stroke feel. Going in one click stiffer on the low speed compression as well as in (stiffer) on the high speed compression a quarter turn will help with hold up. I also wanted to calm the rear of the bike down on braking bumps so I made a huge change to the rebound just to see how the YZ450F took it and to my surprise it really liked a slower shock setting, so don’t be scared to go as much as three clicks in (slower) on the rebound. Again, for 2020, Yamaha’s goal was to increase performance as well as comfort and they somehow weaved both seamlessly together for a no fuss suspension spec that I think will please a wide range of riders.   


Brakes: Remember the top 5 mods to the 2019 YZ450F article? One of those mods was installing a Brembo front brake system on the Yamaha. Just FYI, for 2020, I don’t think I will be going that direction. Yamaha went with a new caliper with an increased piston size, a more rigid caliper body, a larger surface area on the brake pads with a higher friction material, as well as a front disc that also has 16% more surface area. The new Nissin front brake is not as strong as a Brembo, but it’s much more powerful than the 2019 system by far. The somewhat mushy front brake lever feel is now gone and now you will be getting more power at the lever. I didn't have to pull the front brake lever in nearly as far as the 2019 lever, so make sure to prepare yourself before grabbing a finger full. On more than one occasion I grabbed too much lever and almost washed the front end out because it can be a little touchier than last year’s front brake. If you feel like it may be too touchy simply adjust it in towards the throttle and this helps tremendously. It’s nice to have a strong front brake to the Yamaha as it makes charging into corners that much easier. I also approve of the new 240mm rear disc size (from 245mm in 2019) for 2020. Kawasaki has a 250mm rear disc, but it’s so grabby that your braking points coming into corners gets all screwed up. No one needs 250mm of rear disc. Bigger is not ALWAYS better and in this case the smaller diameter rear disc is easier to modulate your braking. 

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Rider Triangle: Simply put, I don’t like the changes Yamaha made to the 2020 handlebar position. I do like the 5mm lower mounts (2017 mount height), but the 16.5mm forward position in 2020 is just too much for my 6’0 frame. Yamaha wanted to get the rider to more forward on the bike for 2020 and although they achieved that, my riding position/technique suffered. I had more leverage on the bike when I was in the 2019 position and could feel the front tire more when leaning. With the 2020 position I couldn't get enough leverage down on the front end to push the front end down when I needed to. The 2020 position bent my elbows too much when sitting and caused my arms to be less relaxed, which forced me to have the wrong grip with my hands on the bars. Putting the mounts back to the original rear hole/forward mount position let me corner better and gain more control over the Yamaha. I will say when standing the 2020 setting of the forward hole/rear facing mount was more comfortable because it put my upper body in more relaxed position. Find out what works best for you and what area of the track is most important to your technique (for you to be the most comfortable and stick with that setting). 

20mm Taller Seat: Matthes and I tried an optional 20mm taller seat and I actually liked it. I am usually not a taller seat kind of guy, but I liked that there wasn't as much of a pocket as the stock foam shape. With the 20mm taller seat you obviously sit more on top of the YZ450F instead of inside it and to me that helped with the transition from sitting to standing. I think of David Vuillemin every time I seat bounce a jump and it pisses me off. In that case I might invest in one of these suckers to try out, so he stops yelling at me inside of my head while riding. Yamaha Accessories Division will be offering this optional seat to purchase. 


ECU Settings/Engine Maps: The new on-the-fly handlebar mounted map button on the 2020 YZ450F is a welcome addition. I thought the added RPM response down low of the stock/standard map was too touchy for me through corners. I liked the “stock” map for longer/faster/softer tracks, but for everything else I used the TP 3.0 map, Keefer 1, and Exciting Power Character (all attached) maps the most. The TP 3.0 builds more RPM’s a little smoother/slower, but is super connected and the most easiest to ride. The “Keefer 1” map has a little more RPM hit initially, but still uses that smoothness of the TP 3.0 pulling out of corners. Finally, the “Exciting Power Character” uses that smooth roll on of the TP 3.0 down low, but has more RPM excitement through the mid range power. I thought the 2020 YZ450F’s chassis performed the best with the TP 3.0 as it didn't upset the YZ450F chassis as much rolling through mid corner. Try these and let us know what you think! 

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Dunlop MX33 Tires: I immediately went home and put one of my trusty Dunlop MX3S front tires on this bike to see if it improves cornering! WOW! Even thought Dunlop doesn't make this front tire now, I still feel like the 3S helps the Yamaha’s initial lean and turn in. The 3S makes the Yamaha easier to cut underneath a blown out rut and has a more comfortable carcass feel on bumps. The 33 front tire is better than the 3S later in the corner, but to me I really need that initial lean in feel to help predict my corner. If you’re a front end steering rider you may not like this front tire feel as it may feel vague/pushy, but don’t blame it on the YZ450F yet. Scour the earth for a Dunlop MX3S (there still out there somewhere) or try a Pirelli MX32 if you want some better lean in angle traction. 


Setting Up In The Air While Starting A Lean Angle: I found that one area that the YZ450F is weak is when you’re setting up in the air, to get on the throttle to start a lean, the YZ450F feels heavy/vague once the suspension loads/unloads. Unlike a KTM or Husqvarna where they feel planted when landing off a jump while leaning, under that lean angle the Yamaha takes longer to regain a full traction/planted feel. I am able to continue my lean angle that I started in the air, land that way, and get on the gas immediately with the KTM/Husqvarna. This is something that may not be felt by most of you without riding other bikes back to back, but it’s something that I noticed almost immediately when riding the same track with a few different bikes. 

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2019 VS. 2020: I feel that going from a 2019 to a 2020 YZ450F is a more noticeable difference for the better than going from a 2017-2018 YZ450F. Most of the changes that Yamaha made to the 2020 YZ450F are for the better and will help a wide range of riders become faster as well as give the rider a more predictable feel around the track. I always get the question “Is it worth it for me to get a 2020 over a 2019”? My answer to you is “yes, it’s worth it this year”. If the difference is a couple grand and you’re able to get the wife to sign off on it, then go with the 2020 because there is a lot of noticeable positive differences that will increase your fun factor when moto'ing. 

To get more settings info and more in depth talk about the 2020 Yamaha YZ450F listen to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast and/or Pulp MX’s podcast with Ryan Lockhart. 




























2020 Honda CRF250R First Impression

Honda won the 250 East Coast Supercross Championship with Chase Sexton aboard the CRF250, but to us normal everyday riders that really doesn't translate into a CRF250R that the average blue collar consumer can go purchase. The GEICO Honda is such a different machine than the one sitting on the showroom floor that it would be foolish to base your purchasing decision on that title alone. What we do know is that the 2019 Honda CR250R was a good bike that liked to be ridden at the upper ranges of higher rpms because it lacked torque down low. For 2020 Honda wanted to address those issues and went to work on refining not only the engine, but the chassis, and suspension as well. We spent a full day out at Fox Raceway in Pala, California with the Honda crew and came away with some first impressions that we feel you should take into consideration before purchasing a red machine. If you want to see exactly what Honda changed for 2020 please click this link :https://www.keeferinctesting.com/latest-news-1/2019/5/7/4xwgxuriezuyxlgyxyb2rgo6h1iaz0 or simply go to https://powersports.honda.com.

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Engine Feel: The 2020 CRF250R’s engine delivery is a much healthier version of the 2019 engine character. You’re able to feel the increased low end power right away once stepping off of the 2019 version. The 2019 version takes a lot of clutch work and massaging to get it into the meat of the power. The 2020 has more torque feeling out of corners and can be shifted into third gear sooner than the 2019. Now I will not sit here and tell you that it’s now a torque monster and can smoke a YZ250F on bottom end, but Honda did a good job at getting some extra low end power delivery. At 0-15% throttle opening there is more RPM response over the 2019 and the 2020 Honda now feels less hollow at lower RPM. If you're wondering what the hell “hollow" means, it’s basically another way of saying it felt slow (AKA hollow, empty). Mid range on the 2020 also has more pulling power to it especially in third gear, but top end pulling power feels as good as the 2019 version, which we do not mind because it was good. There is more bottom-mid range recovery time with the 2020 and that just makes for an easier to ride CRF250R. Even Phoenix Honda’s Jace Owen commented on how much better the low end felt compared to his 2019 stock machine back home. And yes, we were away from the Honda tent so it wasn’t near the Honda execs. It was a legit comment! 

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Suspension: Much like the 2020 CRF450R the CRF250R’s suspension holds up higher in the stroke for 2020 and gives the rider decent comfort on the small chop, but don't expect it to be better than the SSS KYB suspension that comes on the Yamaha YZ250F. All three riders that tested this bike (155, 165, 175 pounds) went stiffer on the fork to help the Honda from diving under heavy braking. Even with the fork changes Showa made for 2020, we still wanted some more hold up. Our older vet racer that tested the CRF250R thought the fork had enough comfort and hold up, but when pushing the bike hard by faster riders the fork needed some added performance at the end of the stroke. Once going a little stiffer (compression) the front end felt calmer and allowed for a more aggressive riding style. The shock/rear of bike has a ton of comfort/traction coming out of rough/choppy corners, but on heavy g-outs or steep jump faces the end of the stroke is empty (soft) feeling. Going stiffer on high speed compression an eighth of a turn will help hold up and prevent you from bottoming too hard on sharp jump faces and landings. We ended up going with a 102mm of sag as that pleased all three riders and left them with the best balance, on and off throttle. Note: This sag reading is different than in years past so make sure you start at 102mm to help balance of bike. If you feel like the rear is too high, try dropping the fork down in the clamp 2mm (from 5mm to 3mm) as this will help the CRF250R from stink bugging on de-cel.   

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Chassis: Now that the 2020 CRF250R shares the same frame as the CRF450R you think it would feel slightly rigid like the 450R does, but that is simply not the case. The 2020 CRF250R frame and chassis has good bump absorption on square edge and feels more compliant than the 450R. Straight line stability is improved from last year’s model and the CRF250R feels more connected to the ground while on throttle. The CRF250R’s cornering character remains as good as the 2019 on initial lean, but mid corner we noticed that the 2020 chassis was harder to keep leaned into the rut. It almost felt like it had a heavier feel in this area of the corner. The 2019 didn't want to stand up as much as the 2020, so cornering the 2020 takes a little more effort. I would gladly take a slower turning Honda for increased stability and that is exactly what we got for 2020 it seems. Don’t freak out and think the Honda can’t corner now, just know that it just takes a little more effort mid corner, but it’s still one of the better cornering machines. Yes, better than the YZ250F still. 

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Engine Maps: Each engine map has a distinct feel on the track and can be very useful in different types or for different types riders. Here is what I felt from each map:

Map One: Pulling power is good out of corners and has a broad mid-top end feel. Good for most tracks unless you're riding deep sand.  

Map Two: Smoother roll on power with less bottom to mid rpm response. Good for younger riders or tracks that are hard pack and loose. 

Map Three: Hardest hitting bottom-mid range with less pulling power on top/over-rev. Good for aggressive riders who want more out of corners or who like to shift early. 


Transmission: The 2020 Honda CRF250R’s second gear spacing is improved and that lets the rider pull that gear longer in order to use third gear more efficiently. Last year I would sometimes bypass third gear and go straight to fourth as third didn't have enough spacing from second, so it felt super short. Fourth gear felt like third gear on last year’s bike, but Honda managed to get it much better for 2020. For 2020 third gear is much more usable and makes the Honda easier to ride.


Cooling: Even with the enlarged left side radiator for 2020 the Honda can still run hot at times. While moving and riding the CRF250R doesn't get as hot, but if you find yourself idling off the side of the track while waiting for a homie, do yourself a favor and turn off the engine. Check your coolant level after every day of riding to ensure you do not get it too far down past the coils. 


Footpegs: Honda has newly shaped footpegs that are 20% lighter, but to me that didn't shed mud more easily like they claimed they would. If you own a Honda then you know how big a pain in the butt mud can be with the footpegs. They DO NOT self clean well. This hasn't changed for 2020. Buy yourself a pair of Acerbis rubber footpeg covers. Thank me later. 


Clutch Springs: Stiffer clutch springs are used in the 2020 CRF250R’s clutch and this is a great thing. The 2019 clutch felt like it was slipping all the time under throttle, but the 2020 clutch has more grab and bite, especially when under the throttle hard out of corners. This doesn't mean that the clutch is more durable in the long run (we will have to test that theory in the coming weeks), but at least the new clutch springs help get the power to the rear wheel better in 2020. 

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Is The 2020 Honda CRF250R Better Than The 2019 Version: A resounding YES! Unlike the 450R where I would tell you to save a couple grand and purchase a 2019, the 2020 CRF250R is much better than last year’s model. If you’re a Honda guy and are coming off of a 2019 CRF250R then you will be very please with what Honda did on the new bike. More power, better chassis feel, and suspension that has more hold up as well as comfort is reason enough for me to spend the extra cake on the new model. 


Brakes: The front brake is powerful! Honda seems to be back with great brakes along with a good feeling at the lever/pedal. The rear brake pedal is a little low stock so make sure to try and raise it up some when you pick yours up. If you feel like the front brake is too touchy, you can bring the lever closer into the grip which will help you modulate it better coming into corners. 


Steering Head: If you happen to feel a little twitchiness in the front end at times, I noticed that the front steering head feels loose. Simply tighten the steering up a little so that the handlebars DO NOT flop down to the stops. A good rule a thumb is that you should have to tap the bars twice for them to drop down to the stops.  

We will be riding the CRF250R more in the coming weeks so stay tuned for more information and a base suspension setting that will work for a wide range of riders. Any questions please email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com.







 



















 

























2020 Honda CRF450R First Impression

Going with the theme of “refinements” like a lot of manufactures are doing for 2020, Honda introduced the new CR450R at Fox Raceway in Pala, California last week. Minimal changes were made to Honda’s flagship motorcycle, but we had a chance to put those refinements to the test over the course of a few days and here is what are initial impressions were of the latest CR450R. We will be getting you guys some recommended base settings along with more tips and tricks in a couple weeks as we put more time on the red machine. If you want to learn more about the 2020 Honda CRF450R, listen to the RMATVMC Keefer Tested Podcast and actually hear my thoughts, instead of just reading them. 

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New For 2020: 


The battery position is lowered by 28mm to move the center of gravity downward in order to try and improve chassis balance/handing. 


All new Honda Selectable Torque Control with three levels of intervention; three mode HSTV monitors rpm spikes and responds by temporarily reducing torque to aid rear traction; a separate switch accesses revised mapping for riding modes for simple tuning depending on rider preference or course conditions. 


Revised internal fork and shock settings to help with chassis balance while trying to combat pitching (off-throttle). 


New rear brake pad material for improved performance, increased durability; elimination of lower rear brake rotor guard improves heat dissipation reducing unsprung weight. 

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On Track Feeling:

The engine on the 2020 CRF450R rolls on slightly smoother than the 2019 in map one, but still has plenty of excitement coming out of corners. The 2020 still could use a more linear pull down low for novice type riders though. If you lack technique through corners, do yourself a favor and ride the Honda CRF450R in map 2. Trust me, you will be much happier. You will find a noticeable difference in the CRF450R’s mid to top end power pulling power (with the 2020 mapping). It is slightly longer than 2019 and can let you become a little lazier with your shifts. The 2020 CRF450R can be left in second and third gears longer than the 2019, but just know that second gear is strong and can tire you out quicker. The benefit of having all that bottom end power is you’ll be able to ride the CRF450R in third gear through corners, which can lighten up the workload a little in longer motos. If you’re a heavier or gnarly dude head on over to map 3 and enjoy the harder hit than you had in map 1. Last year’s engine character was snappy and fun, but lacked some control down low, but for 2020 the red bike has a little more control which helps the chassis balance. Don’t worry, on paper, it’s the fastest bike (peak horsepower) in class.  

The 2019 CRF450R chassis still needed some help because of its aggressive and stiff nature. The 2020 ECU mapping has calmed down the CRF450R’s chassis slightly, which is great thing for you future buyers! You can have the fastest engine in the world, but it isn’t going to mean anything if the bike or rider can’t handle it right? The rigidity balance on the track hasn't changed much for 2020, but the slightly smoother engine character doesn't bind up the chassis as much under heavy throttle. The 2019 felt harsh when the track got hard packed and choppy, but the 2020 frame feels like it flexes slightly better because the engine delivery is chilled down a bit. With these ECU changes Honda made in 2020 the chassis feels like it sticks to the ground a little better on throttle while accelerating down the straights. 28mm doesn't seem like a lot, but with the battery box lower this does translate on the track while entering corners. All three riders that we had testing the 2020 bike against the 2019 noticed the “tip in” was easier on the 2020. Your initial lean doesn't feel as heavy on the new Honda and the bike falls into corners even better than the 2019 did. The CRF450R is already one of the best cornering bikes and with this change for 2020, it helps this even more. 

The CRF450R’s suspension holds up higher in the stroke for 2020 and gives the rider decent comfort on the small chop, but don't expect it to be better than the KYB suspension that comes on the Yamaha. All three riders that tested this bike (165, 170, 175 pounds) went stiffer on the fork to help the Honda from diving under heavy braking. Even with the fork changes Showa made for 2020 we still wanted some more hold up. If we rode the CRF450R around at 80%, the fork had enough comfort and hold up, but when pushing the bike hard the fork needed some added performance. Once going a little stiffer (compression) and slower (rebound) the front end felt calmer and allowed for a more aggressive riding style. The shock has a ton of comfort initially, especially coming out of rough/choppy corners, but on heavy g-outs or steep jump faces the end of the stroke is empty (soft) feeling. Going stiffer on high speed compression a quarter turn will help hold up and prevent you from going to the chiropractor later that afternoon. We ended up going with a 105mm of sag as that pleased all three riders and left them with the best balance on and off throttle.  

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Does The Honda Selectable Torque Control Work? Yes, that’s right you have another three modes to play with on the Renthal Fatbars now! These three modes actually can come in handy in slippery conditions and can even further customize the engine delivery for less experienced riders. Mode one is for track conditions that still have some moisture and traction, but can get slippery on exits of corners, mode two is for conditions that are slippery in most areas of the track, and mode three is for a track that is hard packed or very slippery in all areas. We messed around with all three modes and a couple of our riders came away pleasantly surprised. The track we were riding wasn't extremely slick at the end of the day, but having the ECU in map one along with the HSTC on in mode one; the CRF450R felt more stable and planted to the ground than it did at the beginning of the day, when the track was semi fresh. Two out of the three test riders thought it was an advantage and our fast pro moto guy (Colton Aeck) didn't think it did much for him. This is something that we will test more and will get back to you with in a future RMATVMC Keefer Tested Podcast. 


Something about hopping on a Honda and feeling comfortable right away is almost always unanimous with every rider that gets on one. I even overheard other media outlet testers saying that the Honda has the best cockpit (rider triangle) out of any other bike available today. Honda did a great job with the seat to peg to handlebar measurements. Other manufacturers take note please. 

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As usual I will be completely honest… I didn't notice any performance enhancements in rear braking or the “unsprung weight” Honda tells us they saved weight with the removal of the rear plastic disc cover. Plastic cover be damned! We no longer need you! Boom! Marketing team unite! Unsprung weight!  


I get a lot of emails asking these two questions so I will save myself a few of them by answering them right here… -KK


Is it worth getting a 2020 Honda CRF450R (compared to a 2019)? If it is a matter of saving you a couple thousand dollars? No, get yourself a fresh 2019 and use that money you saved to get your ECU re-mapped or better yet get a Vortex ignition done up by Chad at XPR Motorsports and thank me later. If it’s a matter of a thousand dollars or less than get the 2020 because the mapping alone is worth that much.  

Keefer…Is the 2020 CRF450RWE worth the extra money compared to the 2020 CRF450R? I don’t know yet… Give me another month, so I can ride the “WE”. Chill down… 

Come on back to keeferinctesting.com and pulpmx.com in a few weeks for a full breakdown of settings, tips, and tricks to make this 2020 Honda CRF450R even better. 

2020 KTM 250 SX-F First Impression

Coming off the heels of our Husqvarna test last week, KTM came in this week and delivered our  2020 250 SX-F for us to shake down at the infamous Glen Helen Raceway. Glen Helen is one of the most used motocross facilities in California for most manufacturers to test their production machines before they arrive to dealerships. I managed to gather up 10 important things about the 2020 KTM 250 SX-F that I feel would benefit a possible future consumer and here they are. 

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Engine Feeling: The KTM 250 SX-F is fast! It doesn't feel fast on low rpm, but is it’s so easy to roll on the throttle early in corners that it makes you a better rider without you even realizing. The 2020 KTM 250 SX-F has more bottom end power than the FC250, but both bikes are similar from mid to top end. The 250 SX-F top end is so impressive because it can rev out incredibly well in third gear and will surprise you on how far you can let this machine eat. The controlled engine character of the KTM 250 SX-F doesn't have the excitement of the YZ250F, but to me I can appreciate this controlled character as the rear of the KTM feels more connected than the YZ250F under throttle. You will not be able to use third gear in corners on the KTM like you can with the YZ250F, but having a second gear as long as the 250 SX-F doesn't make me really want to use third gear because second gear is so useable. If you are a third gear type of rider through corners the KTM does have a decent amount of recovery time, but going to a 14/52 gearing ratio (14/51 is stock) will help your cause even more. 

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Suspension: The new 2020 WP XACT settings are firmer than the Husqvarna, but to me that is a good thing. The standard air pressure on the AER fork is 10.3 bars, but we ended up with a 10.6 bar base setting for both riders (170 and 185 pounds). The added air helped the fork hold up on de-cel yet still had a decent amount of comfort on the bigger braking bumps that Glen Helen provided. The WP KTM 250 SX-F shock has more damping feel than that of the FC250 on the end of its stroke, but doesn't have the comfort on acceleration bumps like the FC250 does. We stiffened up the low speed compression a couple clicks and that helped prevent the KTM from squatting too much under a heavy throttle hand. If you still feel like it’s soft at the end of the stroke on jump landings or g-outs try going in a quarter turn in on the high speed compression. Overall, I don’t think the 2020 WP suspension spec is that much better than the 2019 setting, but it was comfortable enough for me to push it hard around Glen Helen when the track got rough in the afternoon. Basically I wasn't dreading my time there in the afternoon and that to me is a win.   

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Chassis: The KTM 250 SX-F feels light through corners and lacks a little front end traction once you add some air to the fork. The positivity of the front tire on lean angle will decrease when going up in air pressure on the AER fork, but this is only felt on corner exit. Initial lean and mid corner the KTM gives the rider a lot of confidence and doesn't require a lot of input by the rider to make an inside line. Straight line stability is also predictable as the KTM will react the same way every lap when hitting bumps at speed. The steel frame has a very connected/positive feel around the track. 

Transmission: We did have an odd feeling when shifting from second to third, under load, on the KTM. When coming out of a corner, under throttle, it was very hard to find third gear. I had to  let off the throttle and pull the clutch all the way in to make the shift. This was odd because our FC250 had zero trouble with shifting when we tested it last week. The Pankl transmissions are usually the best in the business, so having this issue could be just do to not having enough break in time on a new bike. Our KTM 250 SX-F test bike had under two engine hours on it, so maybe it wasn’t fully broken in, but we wanted to mention this. We will get back to you once we get over the 5-6 hour mark to see if this improves.  


Engine Braking: We mentioned in our FC250 test that the Husqvarna had a lot of second gear engine braking. With the KTM 250 SX-F this wasn't as apparent, which makes this transmission talk even more interesting. The KTM has a very free feeling engine character in both maps and this makes the whole bike feel very playful. 


Engine Maps: On the KTM 250 SX-F, Map 2 was a great all around map for both testers we used. Map 2 pulls strong through the mid range and gave us more “meat” feeling up the hills. Map 2 didn’t come on stronger than map 1, but gave the KTM more rpm response and mid range recovery time, while pulling harder up top. Map 1 was a little stronger off bottom end, but was too short for our testers taste. The TC button simply doesn't get enough play with test riders, but the TC button does work well for conditions that are slick, hard pack, and/or slippery. Find the preferred map you like to ride in and use the “TC” button when the track turns for the worse. I tried Map 2 with the TC in the afternoon and it does actually help the rear of the bike stay straighter upon accelerating. 

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Rider Triangle: Gone are the days where the KTM feels foreign or weird when coning off Japanese machines. The cockpit fits a wide range of riders and never feels too cramped even with the low bar bend (unless you’re 6’2 and up). I do however despise the stiff natured stock Neken handlebar on slap down landings or on square edge. To get less vibration and more flex, get yourself a Pro Taper handlebar ASAP. If you like the stock bend, order yourself a Husqvarna stock bend and you will be in the spec range of the stock Neken handlebar. The KTM seat is also much friendlier than the Husqvarna seat! Thank god! 

Airbox Cover: For 2020 KTM gives the consumer an extra left side cover (upon purchase of vehicle) with holes to help the 250 SX-F breathe better. We tested both covers (with holes and without) and while the cover with holes installed made the KTM pull better up on top end, the cover without holes gave the 250 SX-F better bottom to mid range rpm response. If you’re riding wet conditions, it’s nice to know that you have a cover that will not allow water inside your airbox. 

Dunlop MX3S Tires: Thank you KTM for not falling for the Dunlop MX33 front tire trap just yet. The MX3S tires come standard for 2020 again on the KTM and we hope Dunlop allows manufacturers to run the 3S tires for 2021. Orrrrr. Design another soft to intermediate tire that is as good on lean angle as the 3S is. 

Husqvarna Or KTM?: I get this question a lot! If it was me I would prefer the KTM 250 SX-F because of the free feeling engine and the stiffer suspension spec. I do like Husqvarna’s rear end compliancy and handlebars more, but the engine rules the roost in the 250F class and to me the KTM engine is a little better. Yes, I am splitting hairs, but I try not to waffle on your questions! 

If you have any questions about this test or any others, you already know that we are here for you. We try to make your purchase the correct purchase. Email Kris@keeferinctesting.com for any burning q’s.









































2020 Husqvarna FC450 Baseline/Start Up Settings

The 2020 Husqvarna FC450 has minimal changes to it from the 2019 FC450 and 2019.5 Rockstar Edition, so we took what we have learned with those bikes and tinkered with the 2020 version in order to get you the best baseline setting we could for a wide range of riders. After numerous hours and tests later we have come up with these suggestions as the best baseline setting so you can just go out and ride. 

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 Suspension: The factory fork and shock settings are much softer on the 2020 FC450 so we did go a little bit stiffer on air pressure and softer on compression settings, but have found improved results in comfort, not just performance. All three test riders (155, 170, 195 pounds) that tried this setting agreed that the bike/chassis was calmer on acceleration and de-cel bumps. This setting will give the Husqvarna better hold up as well as help the front end from feeling stinkbug coming into corners. This setting was also well perceived on the 2019.5 Rockstar Edition as well. Our 195 pound rider preferred a 48N/m shock spring with the recommended shock settings below.

Fork:

Air Pressure: 10.9 bar

Compression: 14-15 out

Rebound: 11 out

Fork Height: 5mm


Shock:

L/S Compression: 11-12 clicks out

H/S Compression: 1-3/4 turns out

Rebound: 12 clicks out

Sag: 104-105mm


Shock: (195 pounds and over)

Spring Rate: 48N/m

L/S Compression: 14 clicks out

H/S Compression: 2 turns out

Rebound: 13 clicks out

Sag: 104-105mm

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Rider Triangle: The standard Pro Taper handlebar that comes on the FC450 is low and flat, but fits the Husqvarna’s cockpit very well for most. I did want more height from my bar when I stood up, so I went with a Pro Taper Fuzion SX Race bend and this helped me get over the front of the bike more when standing. The SX Race bar worked well for riders from 5’8 to 6’1. The SX Race bend comes in a crossbar or crossbar-less style and is 800mm width, 87mm height, 54.5 rise, and 54mm sweep. If you’re looking for a better stand up feel from your Husqvarna look for handlebar close to this measurement. If you do like the stock bar try cutting the bar down to 803mm instead of the longer/standard 811mm. This will help you corner.   

ECU Settings: The 2020 FC450 has a much better map 2 ECU setting and doesn't need a re-flash like the 2019 or 2019.5 Husqvarna did. Map 2 is my preferred standard map in most conditions as it comes on a little sooner and pulls slightly harder than map 1. However, if you want to get more power, I recently tested a Vortex ignition mapped by Chad at XPR Motorsports on the 2020 FC450 with great results. If you’re looking for increased bottom to mid range while keeping that smooth/linear engine character Chad over at XPR has a couple maps that you could really benefit from. If you already have a Vortex you can simply send Chad your ECU and he can send you a “Keefer” map that we have tested on the 2020 FC450. A Vortex ignition isn't needed in all bikes but he Husqvarna really benefits from this modification.


Gearing: The 2020 FC450 comes with a 13/49 gearing ratio. This gearing should be just fine for most tracks, but if you want a little more mid range engine recovery and free-er feeling shock on acceleration, a 14/52 gearing ratio works well. The 14/52 gearing will require a new chain length and I usually go with this gearing when riding tracks similar to Glen Helen (aka faster choppy tracks) to settle the rear end under load.   

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Chassis: Aftermarket engine mounts are all the rage right now and some of you may not have the money to spend on a pair of engine mounts for your Husqvarna. I will say that I don’t feel like the Husqvarna’s chassis is stiff, but I have heard from other lighter riders that it can be at times, so I decided to play around with torque specs on the engine mounts and stumbled across this. If you’re experiencing a stiff feeling chassis sensation and want the Husqvarna to settle while leaning (under throttle), there is an inexpensive way to achieve some extra front end traction. You can remove the left side upper engine mount bolt (upper right bolt only, as shown) and torque all other top engine mount bolts to 30Nm. This band aid will give you a more planted sensation when on throttle while leaning the FC450 through sweepers and fast straights. You will have to make sure that all engine mount bolts have blue Loctite to ensure they do not back out. You can also try torquing your swingarm pivot bolt to 95 Nm (instead of 100Nm) to help rear end traction out of corners. The downside to doing these mods is that the chassis will flex a little more, so if you’re riding deep tilled tracks this modification may be too “flexy” for some (especially when chopping throttle).  

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Rear Axle Block Kit: Going to a Works Connection axle block kit or Ride Engineering axle block kit will get rid of the fixed left axle block on the stock Husqvarna’s axle. This will help the rear end to move more freely under throttle and improve the shock’s comfort on acceleration chop. Rear wheel placement isn’t as crucial on the Husqvarna as it is on some other 450’s we have tested so if your rear wheel placement is somewhere in the middle of the axle block marks, that will be sufficient for these recommended suspension settings. 


Airbox/Side Panel Modification: If you’re a 2019 or 2019.5 Husqvarna owner do yourself a favor and get the 2020 left side airbag cover as that will get you snappier throttle response at low rpm’s. 

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2020 Yamaha YZ250F On-Track Facts And Figures

Yamaha didn't change the YZ250F very much for 2020, but we did manage to get some added on-track information on Yamaha’s latest YZ250F and get you some feedback just in case you missed it in 2019. Below are some notes that should be taken into consideration about the changes Yamaha’s did make in 2019 and how the new 2020 YZ250F rides on the track. We will also lightly compare how the 2020 compares to the older 2018 model just in case you’re coming off of an older Yamaha YZ250F for comparison sakes.  

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Also, just in case you missed the bold italics above, we say “very much” because some other media outlets are saying that NOTHING has changed with the 2020 YZ250F, but there is one small change and that may have been over looked. The filter element now has a rubber grommet to keep the element in place under the harmonics of the motorcycle while running. The 2019 filter element didn't seal that well, but with the updated grommet the 2020 seals much better. It’s not much, but it’s an important piece to a problem that the 2019 Yamaha had. 

2020 Filter Element

2020 Filter Element

2019 Changes:

Yamaha kept the reward slanting engine design (for 2019 the engine is slanted forward 1 degree from the 2018) that already worked so well on the last model and made some changes to make it even better. Starting by adding electric start, Yamaha is the second Japanese manufacturer to have an e-start 250F motocross bike. The exhaust port shape was slightly modified so it transitions to the head pipe (which shape has also been changed to accommodate this) better and has increased the flow rate. Also in the head, Yamaha has increased the intake valve lift, and slightly changed the angle of the exhaust cam. The final changes to the new head are larger lifter buckets and slightly stiffer valve springs. Underneath the head, the piston crown has been increased, which has bumped the compression from 13.5:1 to 13.8:1.


 The throttle body on the 2019 changed from Keihin to Mikuni. It is 44mm and has a 12 hole injector. Also different on the throttle body is the cold start (choke) which now has to be pushed in to be activated and is deactivated by fully closing the throttle. Along with the engine changes and new fuel system, the ECU settings have been updated. The new dual electrode spark plug’s cap now has a finger holder keeping the cap firmly in place. The transmission side of the engine has also received key changes including a heavier duty clutch. What makes the clutch stronger is larger plate diameter, 6 clutch springs (one more than last year), and thicker steel plates (which in turn reduced the number of friction plates from 9 to 8). The transmission gears have also been updated and are using a high impact steel.

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


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


In the past there have been comments about the seat height and width of the YZ 250F. Yamaha has changed that by making the seat slightly flatter, shorter, and narrower than last year’s model. Along with the seat, Yamaha has narrowed up the plastic where the rider’s knees contact the shrouds. The new shrouds have the air ducts integrated into them (same as 450) and the whole top part of the shroud no longer has to be removed to service the air filter. The air filter cover now only needs one Dzus fastener to be removed for access to the air filter which is no longer held in by a screw, instead it’s held in via rotating clips.


Yamaha tried to lighten the bike in 2019 up by using thinner, higher strength material for the handlebars, and also using lighter rims. To help with stability, they increased the surface area of the wheel collars where they contact the fork lugs and added more material to the rear collars. The KYB forks use new internals including a new piston, cylinder, mid speed valve, pressure piston, and stiffer spring rates (from 4.6N/mm to 4.7N/mm). The shock reservoir volume has been increased by 30cc and the coil spring now has less winds, is made of a thinner material (lighter), and the rate has changed from 54N/mm to 56N/mm.


On The Track With The 2020 YZ250F:


The 2020 YZ250F has great torque and pulling power down low, but doesn't quite have the top end pulling power like other bikes in its class. The YZ250F is so good at low rpm that it gives me the sensation that I want to ride a 250F full time. It’s that much fun! The Yamaha pulls hard out of corners and has a huge amount of bottom to mid range response that most will appreciate. There is enough meat coming out of corners that a wide range of riders as well as abilities can be left with the decision to leave it in second or third gear through corners. It’s a very vet rider friendly machine and gives the rider that excitement that we all look for in a bike. What is the downside? It does have more engine braking than the KX or CRF and I would like more top end pulling power through second and third gear. We worked on a different map to increase top end and also decrease engine braking. More on that below. 

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 The firm feel of the 2020 chassis makes the bike feel planted and have a positive front end feeling through corners. Where the 2018 kind of felt lethargic/slow to react to the rider, the 2020 feels slimmer and more nimble (from the swingarm pivot forward) yet has a better straight line character on fast choppy tracks. The easiest way to describe the way the 2020 feels is that it has a fun cornering character with a confidence inspiring straight line feel. The 2020 YZ250F isn’t the leader of getting in and out of corners the quickest, but the planted feel in which it comes with is calming to any rider. The chassis still has a pitching (off throttle) sensation, but with a small change to the ECU, this pitching feel can diminish. The beauty is that if you want engine braking with a heavier front end feel, the Yamaha can give you that or if you want a lighter front end feel with a less heavier front end feel, simply going to the “Keefer Free Feeling Map” can give you that as well. Again, to me, this is a very well rounded chassis for a wide range of riders and abilities.  

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 The 2020 KYB SSS fork is still the best fork out on the market. With the chassis changes Yamaha made in 2019, the KYB fork compliments those changes wonderfully. The fork does not dive as much on de-cel and stays up in the stroke more (especially with the KK map installed) than the 2018. The KYB fork does move in the stroke, but going 1-2 clicks slower on the rebound helped calm the front end down on g-outs or jump faces. Our lightest test rider liked he stock rebound setting on the fork, but if you’re slightly heavier going slower will be the better way to go. The shock likes to be set to around 104-105mm and it complimented all three riders that we used in this test. We set the baseline sag of 105mm to our middle weighted rider (170 pounds) and the other two riders (150 pounds and 195 pounds) thought the bike was balanced enough for them to push around the track. Traction to the rear wheel is apparent on the Yamaha when giving it the berries out of corners and it’s really difficult for the rear tire to step out coming out from a rut. On de-cel the rear of the 2020 Yamaha doesn’t have a vague light feel, which sometimes could leave you with that rear end “sliding out feel” and then that “oh shit” sensation like the 2018 version had. The rear end of the 2020 YZ250F feels heavier/planted (in a good way), which gave me the sensation of a more connected throttle to rear wheel feel (AKA, meaning a more planted/heavier feel).

 Stop with the Yamaha feels fat excuse. Every time I hear this I tell people “go measure your KTM and measure the Yamaha (at the shrouds) and get back to me”. Sitting on the 2020 YZ250F feels just fine because I feel more upright than “inside” the machine. The whole machine feels slimmer and flatter than the 2018, which to me will fit larger sized riders just fine. You will have to go with a stiffer foam after 10 hours or so, but that is an easy fix by calling Guts Racing. You can also go with the bar mount in the forward hole turned back if you need a little more cockpit room. I have tried this position and have come to like this rider triangle feel. The 2020 Yamaha YZ450F will come standard with this position, so I better get used to it.    


I really felt that the 2020 Yamaha YZ250F could benefit from a free-er engine feel on de-cel so I worked on a map to try and achieve this. This “Keefer Free Feeling” map below gives you less pitching on de-cel coming into the corners and also made the Yamaha feel lighter through mid-corner, which helped cornering as well as change of direction. I felt like I could give up a little amount of torque that the Yamaha has to achieve this and that is what you will find when going to this map. You will get slightly less torque, keep that great mid-range pull as well as slightly increase top end. If you want to also sacrifice a little torque feeling and increase the second and third gear pulling power (with the same amount of engine braking the stock map gives) go to the “Hard Hitting Map” Yamaha has pre-programmed on your Yamaha Power Tuner App. I use the “Hard Hitting” for my base map and the Free Feeling” map for my secondary map. 

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Bridgestone X20’s come standard on the 2020 Yamaha YZ250F and although I didn't like them on the YZ450F when I tried them they work well on the YZ250F, especially on front tire lean angle. I like that you can initiate your lean early on the font tire of the X20 and it will give you a positive feeling underneath you. The rear tire isn't quite as good on lean angle, but still hooks up in a wide range of conditions. I will say that the X20 has a better carcass feel than that of the Dunlop MX33 tires. I will take a Bridgestone X20 front tire all day over a MX33.  

Stay tuned for a settings article over on keeferinctesting.com as well as pulpmx.com for the 2020 YZ250F as soon as we got more time on the bLU cRU machine.

2020 KX250 Versus 2019 YZ250F Comparison


By: Michael Allen

As the 250(F) class continues to be more competitive, it puts increased pressure on the manufacturers to make a solid platform for racers to start with. For their newest rendition of the KX250, Kawasaki was kind enough to invite us up to the legendary Castillo ranch for the first ride of the new bike. Being that the 250 is such a small four-stroke engine, it’s imperative that manufacturers squeeze every bit of power out of the tiny screamers and for 2020 Kawasaki went back to the drawing board. On top of changing many engine components, Kawasaki also focused on the chassis, suspension, and brakes to make the KX250 a contender for best in class. For this story we thought since you ask us “how does it compare to the YZ250F” all the time we thought it would be fun to compare the 2020 KX250 to one of the best bikes in this class: the 2019 YZ250F. I have been riding the 2019 Yamaha YZ250F for some time and have become well aquatinted with it, so Keefer asked me to conjure up this article and now here we are! Here is how I feel the two machines match up against each other. 

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When it comes to torque the Yamaha platform has been hard to beat for the past few years, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be beat in other areas of power delivery. Right when I got on the new 2020 KX250 I immediately felt like the mid to top end power was better than the blue machine. The KX engine revs free-er and has les engine braking on de-cel, which makes it very playful to ride. The Yamaha is more chuggy and you can feel every time that crankshaft comes around, which gives me that planted rear end acceleration feeling. The power on the Kawasaki doesn’t fall off as quick as bLU cRU, but to me it still doesn't rev as far as the CRF250R. Where the green machine does fall short is of course bottom end grunt power. The Yamaha simply is amazing in this area and can let any rider be lazier while still maintaining speed. The Kawasaki must be ridden more aggressively from the mid range on up. Third gear is much easier to work with through corners on the Yamaha compared to the Kawasaki, which means shifting down to second happens more often on the green machine.

 

Another tidbit that stood out to me is the exhaust note of the Kawasaki. The Yamaha exhaust gets blown out and raspy over time, but the Kawasaki exhaust note seems to be loud immediately. I also found it odd that if the Kawasaki was not at TDC the kick starter was hard to kick over and almost felt like a 450ish until you put a lot of force into the kick start. In other words don’t half ass your kicks and it will start. 

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For the past few years Kawasaki has been using the Showa Separate Function Fork for “weight savings”, but they have finally realized that like the air fork, some things are better the old fashioned way. For 2020 they went back to a dual coil spring KYB fork as well as a KYB shock, both with Kashima coating. After playing with some clickers we came up with a comfortable setting and I came away quite impressed with the comfort as well as the performance of the front and rear suspension. It’s no secret that the Yamaha has very good suspension settings, but I think there is one category where I think the Kawasaki slightly edges out the Yamaha. When it comes to performance I feel that the Kawasaki (for my speed) has slightly better hold up (once dialed in with clickers) and handles g-outs with a slightly less wallowy feeling. That being said, in order to have better performance, you must sacrifice comfort and the Yamaha has more of that. I am sure the slightly stiffer feeling chassis on the Kawasaki has something to do with the lack of comfort as well. Something we noticed was that the front and rear balance of the bike is very sensitive to changes with the shock. With minimal changes to sag, one or two low speed clicks, and/or high speed changes on the shock, the turning characteristics were noticeably affected. Just like your wife or girlfriend the KX can be somewhat emo/sensitive to suspension changes affecting the maneuverability of the bike, but when it’s set correctly the bike handles tighter corners marginally better than the Yamaha. 

For 2020 Kawasaki put a larger 250mm rear disk on the KX 250 to help improve braking power. I’m not sure what the exact problem is with the rear brake system, but Kawasaki missed the mark because the rear brake is not as good as the Yamaha’s. After my initial ride on the bike I felt that the rear brake pedal was too low and I wasn’t able to get my toe pressed down far enough to get the braking power I desired. After moving the pedal up, I took the bike out for another session and was surprised that I still didn’t have the desired braking power. Upon further inspection we noticed that the pedal has a very long stroke to get the brake to work and when it finally does it gets very grabby feeling. This was a downside because it makes it hard to drag the brake slightly or just give the rear wheel a little stopping power without locking up the rear wheel. While the Yamaha doesn’t have amazing brakes, the rear brake on the blue bike is more linear and easier to modulate. With that said the front brake on the Kawasaki is quite good and gives the rider a powerful progressive feel with a lot of control, without having to pull the lever too hard. 

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The rider triangle on the KX250 feels a little off due to the slightly soft seat. The soft seat makes the 7/8” bars (I have no problem with the bars) seem high and chopper feeling. Rolling the bars back seemed to somewhat remedy the feeling, but not completely mask the issue. Something that hasn’t changed on the Kawasaki is the cheap feeling grips that for some reason seem marginally narrow and are bonded to the throttle tube. 

The bottom line is that for 2020 Kawasaki made a move in the right direction in making the KX250 a better more competitive machine. The engine has been improved from mid to top and has a free revving feeling that makes the bike more fun to ride while giving the rider a broader power range when on the track. The suspension has made a big step in the right direction with the new KYB fork giving the rider better front end bump absorption. 

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The final piece to this article is the price… The KX250’s price point comes in at $7,799 (compared to $8,199 of the Yamaha) so it’s less expensive. If you have been looking to be part of the re-formed Team Green, 2020 seems to be the year that Kawasaki made jumps in the right direction.

Any questions about these machines please email me at michael@keeferinctesting.com






 











2020 Kawasaki KX250 First Impression

I recently got a chance to ride the new 2020 Kawasaki KX250 at the legendary Castillo Ranch and wanted to give you ten key points on Team Green’s new quarter liter four stroke from the first day of testing. If you want to learn more about all the changes Kawasaki made to the 2020 click here: https://www.keeferinctesting.com/latest-news-1/2019/6/18/kawasaki-introduces-updated-2020-kx250. I will be doing more back to back 2019/2020 testing next week so follow @keeferinctesting on Instagram to read more interesting tidbits. Again this is only the first day of riding this bike, but I know how impatient all of you are so here’s my initial impression:

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Engine: Kawasaki’s engineers focused on creating more mid to top end power on the 2020 KX250 and that is exactly what they did. I wasn't allowed to ride our 2019 test bike to compare back to back on this day (it’s a KHI thing), but I have brushed up on the 2019 KX250 enough this past week to let you guys know that it does have way more engine RPM recovery than the 2019. Bottom end feels about the same as the 2019 with that snappy out of the hole excitement, but the mid range pulling power is improved along with a healthier top end stretch that allows the rider to use fourth gear more than the 2019. Over-rev is also improved for 2020 especially in third and fourth gears where you need have the KX pull you down long straights. I also noticed that the changes that Kawasaki’s engineers made in 2020, the small bore four stroke has less engine braking than last year’s model, which makes the KX250 feel more playful. Transmission spacing is a little different feeling in 2020 (nothing has changed with gear ratios, but with the different engine specs this can happen) as the second to third gear gap is wide and the third to fourth gear gap is much closer, so sometimes bypassing third gear and going straight to fourth gear works best on longer straights. I will be messing with some gearing in the future so stay tuned to see if we can get second to third gears closer together in order to get third gear more useable around the track. 

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Couplers: The 2020 Kawasaki KX250 comes standard with a green coupler that provides the engine delivery we described to you above, but if you’re looking for more power everywhere with slightly less rear wheel connection than install the white coupler. The white coupler makes the KX250 feel lighter and gets better throttle response with increased mid to top end pull. Over-rev wasn't sacrificed with the white coupler (over green), but you will get less connectivity from the rear wheel on hard pack conditions. If you’re on a loamy or sandy surface the white coupler is a noticeable change for the better in power delivery. I tried the black coupler thinking it was going to hurt overall power output, but it only affected the low end delivery (over green/stock), and gave the KX250 so much more rear wheel traction in our afternoon test sessions. Try the black coupler if you're looking for some traction on hard pack, it works very well. The black coupler will make the KX250 feel slightly heavier yet more planted around the track.   

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Fork: Thank you Kawasaki for getting rid of that horrible Showa SFF fork! The KYB dual spring fork is a welcome change and gives the rider increased comfort in 2019. The overall action of the KYB fork is soft for my 170 pound frame, but a couple clicks stiffer on the compression helped hold up on de-cel. Going stiffer on the fork helped the bike from pitching which led to a calmer feel driving hard into corners. The KX250 fork feels similar to the YZ250F KYB SSS fork because it moves in the stroke a lot yet has pretty damn good bottoming resistance. The Castillo Ranch track wasn't that rough so we will get down to more suspension testing in the coming weeks. 


Shock: We played with a couple sag measurements and came to a good setting of 103mm that helped the balance of the KX250 under acceleration. If you feel like the rear of the KX250 is too low under acceleration and you're getting too much side to side movement, raise the sag to 103mm and this will help rear wheel traction. Once I found a good sag setting (from 105mm to 103mm) the rear of the bike squatted nicely under acceleration chop and provided more front end bite through corners. The end stroke of the KYB shock is a little soft, so going stiffer (quarter turn on the high speed compression) helped the rear of the bike stay up on g-outs and slap down landings.  


Chassis: Kawasaki didn't focus too much on chassis updates, but the changes that Kawasaki made to the lower front engine mount bolts did help in one area. On tip in (through corners) the 2020 KX250 feels easier to start your lean, which means it feels slightly lighter, but mid corner the Kawasaki has a tendency to want to stand up. Some of that has to do with cockpit feel for me, but more on that later… Straight line stability is still superb on the Kawasaki so going fast down hills is not an issue as the Kawasaki KX250 invites you to ride it hard without feeling to sketch. Bump absorption of this frame is one of the best in class and now with the suspension changes Kawasaki made for 2020 it has helped this feel on the track even more. 

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Brakes: The 270mm front brake is powerful and has a linear feel under heaving braking, which I really like. I can’t say the same thing for the 250mm rear brake as it’s grabby and hard to modulate coming into corners. If I was you I would go back to the 2019 KX250 240mm rear disc and hanger to help gain some more control coming into corners.

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Cosmetics: What do you guys think of the all green color scheme of the new KX250? I personally like it and think it’s bright, pops, and looks like the factory bikes. I am sold!

Rider Triangle: The seat to peg to handlebar ratio is ok for my 6’0 frame, but Kawasaki needs to get a new handlebar bend. The 971 Renthal bend is too tall/wide feeling and needs to be updated. I don’t mind the 7/8 size, but when I sit down on the seat, coming into corners, it feels like my arms are way too high. This puts my body positioning in the wrong place coming into corners and makes the bike want to stand upright mid corner. Kawasaki could remedy this situation by running a 983 7/8 Renthal handlebar, which is much more neutral feeling for the rider on this bike.  



Tires: Dunlop MX3S tires are still on the 2020 KX250, which means we still have front end traction and a softer carcass feel instead of having a stiffer MX33 carcass that could hurt this bike’s bump absorption feel. Don’t get too cozy though with these 3S tires because we will lose the MX3S full time come 2021. Boo! 

Seat: The middle of the seat on the KX250 is soft and too squishy, which makes me sink into the bike too much when accelerating or coming into a corner. This just compounds the high handlebar feel to me so getting a firm seat foam would be crucial to help me get my body positioning correct through corners. 



My overall first impression is that Kawasaki made a better KX250 by getting some added mid to top end pulling power that it needed, along with more engine RPM recovery, and increased comfort with the fork/shock. Will it be enough to bring it up near the front in the shootout rankings? Find out soon because shootouts are coming around once again. Check back to keeferinctesting.com and pulpmx.com for more updates and settings as we ride this green machine more. 






















 















2020 Husqvarna FC450 First Impression

It’s no secret that a Husqvarna was one of my favorite machines to ride in 2019. I liked it so much I went and purchased a Rockstar Edition and rode the crap out of it. I recently got my hands on the new 2020 Husqvarna FC450 and jotted down some initial thoughts for you all to go over just in case you wanted to know how it compared to the 2019 version. I will say that there are only a few updates to the 2020 model, but that doesn't mean it can’t feel drastically different on the track. Here are ten important things I feel you all should know about the 2020 Husqvarna FC450. 

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WP XACT Suspension: Don’t let the name fool you. WP just did some re-branding and is now using the XACT name for 2020 WP suspension. This is NOT some new technology that just came out, it’s just a name change. However, with that being said, WP/Husqvarna did change quite a bit to the 2020 suspension settings as they now have their own proprietary setting for the FC450 model (which means they do not share a setting with KTM anymore). Husqvarna went to a softer air pressure setting in the fork to match the valving (going from 10.9 to 10.7 bars in 2020) and also went from a 4.5 rear spring to a 4.2 rear spring. Husqvarna is trying to achieve more comfort for the average rider with these settings in 2020.

 

Gearing: Husqvarna went from a 13/48 to a 13/49 to help third gear recovery. Having a 13/49 helps the transition when shifting from 2nd-3rd gear and lets the rider feel increased rpm response. I approve of this gearing! 

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New Mapping: I love that the Husqvarna’s come with a on-the-fly handlebar map switch that offers two maps to choose from (without having to stop). For 2020 map one is what they call the ‘standard’ map, which is designed to have a controllable longer/linear power that is geared towards the non aggressive type of rider. Map two, on the other hand, is what Husqvarna is calling the ‘aggressive’ map that is supposed to be stronger across the board and although it is, it still is very linear feeling. Map two will not explode you out of a corner, but instead give you some added bottom/mid rpm response as well as have a more free feeling engine character. To me the lack of engine braking on map two makes the softer feeling fork dive less on de-cel. TC is still available and works just as good as 2019 so don't be scared to try it. If you ride hard pack tracks or slippery terrain do yourself a favor put your 2019-2020 Husqvarna FC450 on map two with the “TC” light on and thank me later.  


Piston Design: There is an updated piston skirt design for 2020 that is said to help improve durability. Don’t worry I will be the judge of the said durability improvement so make sure you stay tuned to future Rocky Mountain ATV Keefer Tested Podcasts. 


Dunlop MX3S Tires: Everyone enjoy these tires on the 2020 Husqvarna’s and KTM’s because we will not see them come 2021 on production machines! Dunlop is forcing manufacturers to go to the MX33 come the year 2021. 

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Engine Feel (On Track): The engine on the 2020 Husqvarna FC450 does feel slightly different than the 2019. The overall engine character still has that smooth easy to ride feel, but with slightly less engine braking. Coming into corners you can feel less drag on the engine and less movement in the chassis. When in map two there is also more mid-range rpm response on the 2020 thanks to the mapping changes Husqvarna made. No more lean top end de-cel pop and rich bottom end feel that hampered the 2019 version. If you’re looking for a hard hitting 450 engine character this isn't your type of machine. However, if you’re looking for an easy to ride, connected to the rear wheel feel, deceivingly fast type of power, the Husqvarna could be just what you’re looking for. 


Suspension Feel (On Track): Husqvarna/WP will tell you that they set up their 2020 suspension settings for the average consumer that wants comfort out of their motocross machine. They succeeded in getting less mid stroke harshness (de-cel) out of the AER fork, but to me the setting was too soft. I also understand that I am not the target consumer Husqvarna is trying to market this bike to so I took this into consideration. The action of the fork is smoother feeling than last year’s fork setting, moves more in the stroke, but gives the rider a considerable amount of front end traction (for an air fork) on braking bumps. This fork will feel low if you’re a heavier or aggressive type of rider, so going up to 10.8-10.9 bars would be in your best interest. Slowing the rebound down a couple clicks on the fork will also slow the action down a little and keep it from diving too much on jump faces and g-outs. Also don't forget to bleed your AER fork before every ride. Yes, it has bleed holes.

The WP rear shock still likes a sag of 105mm, but the overall feel of the shock is slightly empty feeling (soft) at the end of the stroke. If slamming into steeper jump faces or g-outs you will bottom out and see rubber marks under the rear fender fairly quickly. If you’re experiencing a lot of this, stiffening your high speed compression a quarter turn and turning in your low speed compression a couple clicks will help the shock’s end stroke feel. What the 2020 rear shock does do better than the 2019 is offer more rear wheel traction on acceleration bumps. The rear wheel drives through square edge chop better and doesn't give the rider a harsh/spike feel like the 2019 shock did.    

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Subframe/Motor Mount Bolts: Keep an eye on your two rear subframe bolts and engine mount bolts. On our test bike they worked their way out a little so make sure to keep some blue loctite on them and check them every so often.


Handlebar: The Pro Taper EVO bar is straight and flat, but long at 811mm. Do yourself favor and cut the bar down to 803mm and watch your cornering improve. 

What Do I Really Think: The 2020 Husqvarna FC450 is one of the easiest bikes to ride and can be enjoyed by a wide range of riders. I like this attribute! It’s user friendly 450cc nature is not too aggressive for the less experienced type of rider, yet still can get a very experienced rider around the track in a hurry, without a lot of effort. The WP suspension is softer than last year, but also gives the rider slightly more comfort on small bump absorption. The overall feeling of the bike is light around the track and allows the rider to open up his line choices. I will be testing the 2020 Husqvarna FC450 more in the coming weeks and will be getting you some optional settings to try so make sure you stay tuned to pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com in the coming weeks.