First Impression

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 : or simply go to


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! 


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.   


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. 


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. 


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



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: 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:


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. 


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.   


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. 


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.


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 and for more updates and settings as we ride this green machine more. 


2019 Yamaha WR450F First Impression

Written By: Michael Allen

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

2019.5 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition First Impression

The latest Husqvarna has hit our grubby little test hands and we are here to let you in on what we thought of it. The 2019.5 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition has some small changes from the previous version, but we wanted to see if those changes made a difference on the track. Not to be outdone by the orange side, Husqvarna has a few different bits and pieces to their bikes to separate themselves from the brigade. Below are ten things that you all should know about the latest “Edissssssssshhhh” offering from Husqvarna.    


What are the changes to the 2019.5 Husqvarna Rockstar Edition?   


Rockstar team factory racing graphics
New CP box-in-box piston & new PANKL connecting rod 

New topology optimized rocker arms

New factory machined anodized triple clamps 

Factory start for front fork
Black frame
Composite skid plate

New FMF 4.1 Slip-On muffler
New Factory D.I.D DirtStar wheels

Factory GUTS Racing seat cover
Semi- Floating front disc
Front brake disc guard
Black rear sprocket 

Pro Taper EVO handlebars

ODI soft lock on grips


 Engine: On paper there are only three pieces to the RE’s engine that have changed… The CP box in box piston, the Pankl connecting rod with brass bushing, and topology optimized rocker arms. Now with those three things in mind I wasn't expecting much change from the 2019 KTM FE, but to me the free-feeling of the engine is slightly more noticeable in 2nd and 3rd gears than the orange bike. When revving the Rockstar Edition out in second gear there is much less engine de-cel drag than the 2019 version. The RE also feels like it pulls farther in second gear than the 19, but the overall bottom end delivery has slightly more RPM response due to the FMF slip on muffler. I tried the stock Husqvarna 2019 muffler at this test and it provided a smother roll on power delivery than the FMF, which made rolling corners easier, but the FMF system had more punch out of the corner.

ECU Settings: ECU settings are the most important piece to your modern day four stroke engine. An ECU setting that is spot on can help the bike’s chassis and an ECU that is not mapped correctly can hurt handling on the track as well. The Husqvarna’s ECU setting is not as good as the KTM FE in stock form, plain and simple. Yes, it’s the same ECU as the KTM, but feels different on the track! Why? I DON’T KNOW!!!!! I only know what I feel on the track and I am telling you it’s not the same low end delivery. It’s slightly rich off the bottom (0-10% throttle opening) and has a slightly disconnected feel to the rear wheel, which hurts the handling of this bike mid corner. It’s tough to roll the corner smoothly with that jerky on/off feel from the mapping (on very low RPM only). To help remedy some of this I experienced with back pressure on the muffler. With the stock mapping, the FMF slip on needs some back pressure, so installing the insert into the muffler can help that 0-10% throttle opening. Once I got some added back pressure, the Rockstar Edition smoothed out on low RPM and gave me some connection back to the rear wheel through/out of corners. Map 1 (linear pulling power with less throttle response down low, but more top end pull) and Map 2 (more pulling power/RPM response down low and slightly less pull up top) also has a distinct difference on the track and are more noticeable than the 2019 mapping choices. This is all good news for future RE buyers.  

Chassis: If you're a Husqvarna owner you know that it takes more time to break in the 2019 steel frame compared to a Japanese aluminum framed motorcycle. I have only a few hours on this chassis and it still has that firm feel to it much like the KTM FE did. It takes a good 7-8 hours on this frame to feel broken in or “relaxed” on the track. The RE turns as good as the 2019 version (once mapping has been remedied) and all the same excellent “change of direction” qualities are apparent on the RE as well. Straight line stability is not the best of the 450 bunch, but not the worst neither.   


Suspension: WP has changed their branding strategy so don’t freak out about the XACT name just yet (we can explain that one in another article). I do like the silver color change that WP has done for the RE/FE line of suspension and that color change will also be on the 2020 production models. The WP AER fork has an updated piston that allows for a tighter tolerance along with valving updates. The standard air pressure fork setting has also now gone up from 10.5 bars to 10.9 bars on the RE. The rear shock likes a sag of around 105mm, but the overall feel of the RE’s WP suspension is slightly firmer with more hold up than the 2019 model. Would I rather have a spring fork? Of course, but the updated AER fork does have some qualities that I like. I like that the front end feels light (de-cel/off-throttle) while keeping front end traction high enough so I don’t have to change my riding style up. I am a front end steering rider and the AER fork will give you what you need on initial lean. The mid stroke of the RE’s WP fork has a free-er feel and the action seems smoother than 2019, which makes for a plusher ride. The shock doesn’t feel that much different to me than the 2019, but then again, I never had a problem with the 2019 shock.    

Gearing: It comes with a 13/48, but with the FMF slip on muffler, it doesn't need that extra tooth like the KTM does. The FMF has more bottom end pull than the Akrapovic so stock gearing is just fine. 

milestone -1-26.jpg

Lightweight Feel: You would think with an engine character that is so smooth down low and linear feeling, that the Rockstar machine would feel heavy on the track, but it feels quite the opposite. It’s light, flickable, and if you want to make a sudden line change, it can do that exceptional as well. Leaning into corners and keeping it leaned all the way through the corner is the Husqvarna RE’s strong suit. I can also stand up through corners much easier on this machine (compared to other colored machines) due to the lightweight nature and slim feel.


Pro Taper Handlebars: Say what you want, but handlebars are a huge piece to a bike’s puzzle. Compared to the KTM/Neken combo, the Husqvarna/Pro Taper combo is much friendlier to the hands/wrists out on the track. There is less vibration and more dampening character through the EVO bars, which I prefer on rough tracks. 


FMF Slip On: The FMF slip on has better RPM response and more excitement than the Akrapovic. The FMF is louder than the Akrapovic, but the FMF also needs that insert put in with the stock mapping. If you have an FMF system already on a current Husqvarna/KTM model than that insert (that’s probably still in your box or garage) will work inside this new system on the RE.   


GUTS Racing Seat: Just like the KTM seat, this GUTS seat is very grippy, but also will eat your butt cheeks up on a long day of motos. The foam itself is not the problem, it’s just that the pleats on the seat are very aggressive. Just be ready to spackle the cheeks up with some Bag Balm if you're riding sand or plan on doing a long day of riding.


Factory Trips Clamps: The Husqvarna aluminum factory CNC-machined triple clamps feature optimally tuned steering stem stiffness, in order to try and achieve perfect alignment and precise fork clamping for a highly responsive and smooth fork action. They can be adjusted to an offset of 20 or 22mm that gives you the option to change your Husqvarna RE for different track conditions. I noticed zero added rigidity riding with RE’s clamp (compared to the stock 2019 clamp). I also didn’t notice any improvements on the track (with the the RE clamp), but the blue does look eye popping!    

So which new “Edition” machine should you get? The white one or the orange one? These bikes are like 1A and 1B and both have minute differences on the track. I prefer the Husqvarna’s components (with the FMF slip on, GUTS seat, and Pro Taper handlebars), but I also like the KTM’s low RPM feel a little more than the Rockstar bike. Find out what is more important to you and go that route. However, just know when it was time to spend my own money on a dirt bike, I did choose the Husqvarna Rockstar Edition.  

If you want to learn more about this 2019 Husqvarna 450 Rockstar Edition, listen to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or here on right now. We try hard to give you a couple different avenues to digest your dirt bike information.   

2019.5 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition First Impression

It’s only February, but are we really seeing a 2019.5 model already? Yes, that’s right, KTM introduced the 2019.5 450 SX-F Factory Edition to us media dweebs out at Fox Raceway in Pala, California Tuesday morning. I have been putting a lot of time on an orange bike lately for an article that is up right here (50 hours on the KTM 450 SX-F) on, so this model release came at a perfect time. A time where I can really dissect the differences between the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F and the 2019.5 KTM 450 FE. Now even though this is only a first impression, I managed to come up with ten things about this fresh orange model that you may be interested in. These beauties will be arriving in dealerships come early March. 


What are the changes to the 2019.5 KTM Factory Edition?   


Red Bull KTM Factory Racing graphics
New CP box-in-box piston & new PANKL connecting rod 

New Factory machined Anodized triple clamps 

Factory start for front fork
Orange frame
Composite skid plate

 New Akrapovič Slip-On muffler
 New Factory D.I.D DirtStar wheels

 Factory seat with Selle Dalla Valle logo
 Semi- Floating front disc
 Front brake disc guard
 Orange rear sprocket 


Engine: On paper there are only two pieces to the engine that have changed… The CP box piston and the Pankl connecting rod with brass bushing. Now with those two things in mind I wasn't expecting much change from the 2019 version, but to me the free-feeling of the engine is very noticeable in 2nd and 3rd gears. When revving the Factory Edition out in second gear there is much less engine de-cel drag than the 2019 version. The FE also feels like it pulls farther in second gear than the 19, but the overall bottom end delivery is smoother because of the Akrapovic slip on muffler. The stock muffler has more bottom end hit, but the Akrapovic, along with the engine changes, make for a stronger pulling mid range. There are two points of the Fox Raceway track where the 2019 must be shifted to third gear (out of corners), but the FE doesn’t need to be shifted and can pull second gear to the next obstacle. The top end and over-rev seem to be the same as the 2019, but that is just fine with me as the KTM FE has enough power for me. 

ECU Settings: I was told from the KTM R&D staff that the FE’s ECU settings are the same as the 2019 and that left me bewildered. Why? Because out on the track the ECU settings are so much better on the 2019.5 version than the 2019 machine that there is NO WAY they could be the same. Now I am not into conspiracy theories, but to me someone from KTM Austria must not have passed on the “updated” ECU info to the guys at the North American office. On the track the rich low end 2019 feeling is not apparent on the FE and the lean top end de-cel pop, that comes standard on the 2019, is also not there on the FE (no matter how hard you rev the 2019.5 out). Map 1 (linear pulling power with less throttle response down low, but more top end pull) and Map 2 (more pulling power/RPM response down low and slightly less pull up top) also have a distinct difference on the track and are more noticeable than the 2019 mapping choices. This is all good news for future FE buyers.  

Chassis: If you're a KTM owner you know that it takes more time to break in the 2019 steel frame compared to a Japanese aluminum framed motorcycle. I have only a few hours on this chassis and it still has that firm feel. It takes a good 7-8 hours on this frame to feel broken in or “relaxed” on the track. The FE turns as good as the 2019 version and all the same excellent “change of direction” qualities are apparent on the FE as well. Straight line stability is not the best of the 450 bunch, but not the worst neither. You can drop the WP XACT fork down to the first line (2.5mm up) like I did to help straight line stability.  


Suspension: WP has changed their branding strategy so don’t freak out about the XACT name just yet (we can explain that one in another article). I do like the silver color change that WP has done for the FE line of suspension and that color change will also be on the 2020 production models. The WP AER fork has an updated piston that allows for a tighter tolerance along with valving updates. The standard air pressure fork setting has also now gone up from 10.5 bars to 10.9 bars on the FE. The rear shock likes a sag of around 106mm now instead of 105mm, but the overall feel of the FE’s WP suspension is slightly firmer with more hold up than the 2019 model. Would I rather have a spring fork? Of course, but the updated AER fork does have some qualities that I like. I like that the front end feels light (de-cel/off-throttle) while keeping front end traction high enough so I don’t have to change my riding style up. I am a front end steering rider and the AER fork will give you what you need on initial lean. The mid stroke of the FE’s WP fork has a free-er feel and the action seems smoother than 2019, which makes for a plusher ride. The shock doesn’t feel that much different to me than the 2019, but then again, I never had a problem with the 2019 shock.  


Gearing: It comes with a 13/48, but with this Akrapovic slip on muffler I think I want a 13/49 to help with throttle response to help with recovery and second to third gear pulling power. I have also tried a 14/52 with good results as well, so feel free to try that too. 


Lightweight Feel: You would think with an engine character that is so smooth down low and linear feeling that the orange machine would feel heavy on the track, but it feels quite the opposite. It’s light, flickable, and if you want to make a sudden line change, it can do that exceptional as well. Leaning into corners and keeping it leaned all the way through the corner is the KTM FE’s strong suit. No one in the class can beat an orange bike in this category. 

Dunlop MX3S Tires: Even though you can’t purchase them anywhere anymore, these tires are still going strong on the KTM production machines. Well…. At least for another year anyway. 

Vibration: Every time I get back on a KTM from a Japanese bike I notice more vibration. The updates that KTM have made to the FE internally have improved the vibration slightly. The 2019.5 doesn't give you as much feedback to the hands as the 2019 does. Good news!  

Selle Dalla Valle Seat: This factory seat is very grippy, but also will eat your butt cheeks up on a long day of motos. The foam itself is not the problem, it’s just that the pleats on the seat are very aggressive. Just be ready to spackle the cheeks up with some Bag Balm if you're riding sand or plan on doing a long day of riding. 


Factory Trips Clamps: The KTM Hard Parts aluminum Factory CNC-machined triple clamps feature optimally tuned steering stem stiffness, in order to try and achieve perfect alignment and precise fork clamping for a highly responsive and smooth fork action. They can be adjusted to an offset of 20 or 22mm that gives you the option to change your KTM FE for different track conditions. I noticed zero added rigidity riding with KTM’s Hard Part FE clamp compared to the stock 2019 clamp. I also didn’t notice any improvements on the track (with the the FE clamp), but the orange does look factory!    

If you want to learn more about this 2019 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition listen to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, here on, and or right now. We try hard to give you a couple different avenues to diet your dirt bike information.   

2019 Husqvarna FC/TC First Impression Notes



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


45782_FC 450 2019.jpg


All Of The New 2019 TC And FC Models Have: 


Redesigned bodywork and graphics

Blue coated frame featuring increased rigidity

New 2-piece subframe design (250 g lighter)

Updated setting on the WP AER 48 forks

WP DCC shock featuring new piston & updated setting

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

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

Optimized timing on FC 250 exhaust camshaft

Machined finish on TC 125 & TC 250 upper exhaust port

Reinforced kick start intermediate gear on TC 125

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

Chain adjustment length increased by 5 mm

New, stiffer upper triple clamp

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

New throttle cable routing for easier maintenance

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

New generation Li-ion 2.0 Ah battery

Updated cooling system with new centre tube

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

ProTaper handlebar with new bend

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

New gearboxes produced by Pankl


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


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


45770_FC 250 2019.jpg


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


45776_FC 350 2019.jpg


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




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




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




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




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




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




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

2019 Kawasaki KX450 First Impression

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




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




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




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




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


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




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




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




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




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




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

2019 KTM 250/350 SX-F First Impression

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



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


2019 KTM 350 SX-F

2019 KTM 350 SX-F

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


2019 KTM 250 SX-F

2019 KTM 250 SX-F

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



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



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