2020 Kawasaki KX450 Vet National Race Weapon

Five months ago, Keefer says to me while we were out riding, “Hey, you should race the Vet National.”  I responded back with, “Nah, it’s too much work getting ready for it.  I don’t have the time.” Of course immediately after Kris is done flapping his lips, his wife Heather chimes in with, “Yeah, you should race it. Kris will get you whatever bike you want.” My head sparked up and for some weird reason my mouth started to reply with, “Alright, in that case I am in”!  KK looks at Heather with a scoured look and says, “Wait, wait, wait…Whoa, Whoa, Whoa. You can’t be making those kinds of promises!”  A verbal agreement from any Keefer is a binding agreement so I immediately went Law And Order on his ass with “Nope, she said it.  That’s the deal.”  And Keefer replied with, “OK, we will get you a good bike and let you get it dialed in. Will you race it then?”  I reluctantly said, “Yes.”  Figuring it would probably never happen with Keefer’s schedule as well it being the fire season here in California (I am a San Bernardino County Fireman).  Never the less, we are roughly a week out from the Vet National and here I am preparing myself and a bike that I had about one month of time on.  

Getting the actual bike took a little longer than expected because of the “450 MX Bracket Shootout” and other factors, but in the end, Keefer decided to give me the 2020 Kawasaki KX450. Once he told me this, I got excited because I chose this bike as one of the top bike’s in this year’s 450 bracket. It’s a bike I feel really comfortable on, so I was excited to put some time on it, shake it down, and figure out what areas I wanted to address.

Luckily for me, Kawasaki provided a solid base to start from, which helps when you are in a time crunch.  The stock Kawasaki 450 is a great all-around bike for a wide range of riders, hence the reason why it got second in the bracket. For me the engine is strong yet very controlled, has a confidence inspiring compliant chassis, coupled with a smooth progressive powerband, that allows you to feel in control, while being able to push your limit. After spending a little over a week shaking this bike down, I came up with a few key areas that I wanted to improve. So here we go with phase one…


First area I wanted to concentrate on was the rider triangle which is really easy because I felt very comfortable with the stock bar position and bend. Call me old school but I do still like the 7/8” bar because of the flex that it provides. Kawasaki offers a lot of adjustability with several different bar position options with the triple clamp and two options with the foot pegs, but after trying several different combinations, I settled on the stock peg position and the bar mounts in the rear hole, facing in the forward position. Once I decided on this setup, I enlisted Pro Taper to provide that next level comfort. I went with the Carmichael bend Fuzion Bar because it’s a 1 ¼” bar, so you get the durability in case you have a crash, but comfort and flex of the 7/8” bar due to the option of locking or unlocking the cross bar. The locked position gives you a little firmer feel with less flex and the unlocked position gives you a bit more flex that mimics the character of a 7/8” bar.  Pro Taper also provided the oversized bar mounts, which easily bolted in using the rubber mounting and stock clamp. I rounded it out with the 1/3 waffle soft grips that added grip and comfort for my sissy hands.


Next on the list of improvements was to boost the power for starts.  In stock form the Kawasaki KX450 provides a very broad manageable rider friendly powerband, but by no means is this bike slow. The power feels connected to the throttle, has excellent roll on bottom end with a strong pull through mid and top.  I had no complaints with the power delivery, I just wanted more. Don’t we all! I called the guys at Pro Circuit knowing that their relationship and years of experience with Kawasaki would provide me what I hopefully needed.  They sent me up with their Ti-6 Exhaust which provides a 1.5 pound weight savings as its titanium tubing is thing of beauty.  After bolting the system on (which is painless), I immediately noticed improvements throughout the power band.  It kept that smooth manageable roll on power, but increased it slightly, plus added more pull in the mid-range and thus improving the recovery time when shifting from second to third.  It also provided more over-rev just in case I got lazy (which is more common now that I am over 40) and I needed to leave the KX450 in second gear at times.  I know it sounds crazy to have a system that boosts power everywhere because usually it can be better in one area and not so good in another, but this system gave me exactly what I was looking for.  I have a couple more options to try to help move the power more, but that will be in phase two of this story so be watching for that.


The last thing I was able to try in this phase of the Keefer forced “Vet National Bike Build” was another “comfort” piece. This piece made big improvements on the 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 bike build, so we asked Kris Palm of FCP Engine Mounts to help me out for this green machine.  Factory Chassis Parts provided engine mounts with different a material and thickness (compared to stock) that allowed the chassis to flex differently yet shockingly provided a smoother overall feel, especially when the track is at its worst.  After a long day of testing with Keefer as well as doing two twenty-minute motos at Glen Helen, Kris from FCP bolted the engine mounts on and had me try them. If you have never ridden Glen Helen at 4pm just imagine a track that’s dry, most of the berms are blown out, has edgy off camber sweepers, kickers on the jumps, nasty braking bumps, and even nastier square edges through the corners, as well as down the next straight away. These conditions are commonplace here in California. If I was back home in Ohio, I may have not went this direction because of the soil differences, but since I am dealing with this kind of drier soil here on the west coast, I look for “comfort” when testing any part.  It’s miserable to ride a track as rough as GH when you’re not comfortable, but if you can make a bike work in those conditions, you have accomplished a great feat.  Like I said before, the Kawasaki chassis is (in my opinion) the best one out there, so I wasn’t sure if the FCP mounts would be able to improve upon that. In a nutshell, the mounts give the chassis just that little bit more flex, which takes away the transfer of energy that happens when you hit those bumps, so you don’t feel the sharpness of them as much. Upon entering corners, the FCP mounts take away some of that harsh hit you may feel and calms the movement of the bike down even more.  On initial lean through corners is where the mounts shine by allowing you to brake really hard and stick inside shallow inside west coast ruts.  Once in that rut, the bike stays planted and absorbs the acceleration chop better and continues down the next straight in a calmer manner.

I am really happy with the improvements we were able to make with bolt on parts and pieces from Pro Taper, Pro Circuit, and FCP.  Taking a good bike and making it a little better is always fun yet tough, so I am looking forward to phase two where I will be testing a remap of the stock ECU by Pro Circuit, modifying the suspension in order to dial it in for my weight and riding ability as well as a full clutch system from Hinson.  Stay tuned for that test as well as a Vet National story, to see how all of this preparation in one month’s time goes and the more difficult task of preparing myself with limited riding time due to firefighting duties, dad duties, and husband duties.  My hope is to give you guys that have regular jobs and family responsibilities a path to dialing in your bike, so you can enjoy that one day a week you get to ride. -Joe Oehlhof

If you have any questions about this test please feel free to email and he will try to do his best to answer any questions you might have.

2020 450 MX Bracket Shootout (Fourth, Fifth, Sixth)

As long as I can remember, shootouts have been a staple in our industry. I remember being an 11 year old kid reading about the 1987 80cc Shootout in Dirt Rider Magazine and then proceeding to ask my dad for a Honda CR80 because it was the winner. Little did I know that just because a machine wins a shootout doesn't necessarily mean it’s the best bike for you. There is a lot to consider when purchasing a bike, but it’s fun to see which bikes have certain standouts or feels best when riding them all back to back. Fast forward to 2020 and the format to these shootouts haven't changed much, so I thought it would be time to try something different. I decided to do a bracket style shootout (similar to a college basketball format), with two bikes/three riders per bracket, with the winner moving on and the loser going home. This style of shootout removes a lot of biases as well as gives test riders more time to dissect each bike with only two-three bikes for each test. Let’s face it, not every guy in this shootout is fit, so having less bikes to test at one time is probably best. I personally ranked each bike on how I felt each machine performed (my opinion, not fact) out on the track and used that ranking to create the bracket for the other testers in this shootout. The bracket battles went as such:

Yamaha Vs. Suzuki = Suzuki Loss

Kawasaki Vs. Honda = Honda Loss

Husqvarna Vs. KTM = Husqvarna Loss

B Main Bracket (Suzuki, Husqvarna, Honda): 

The 450 MX Bracket Shootout is done and dusted and we now have the fourth, fifth, and sixth place machines ranked. We tested these three machines below and ranked them based on how they stack up against each other for our final “B Main Bracket”. Below are those machines from the shootout as well as some brief highlights, opinions, and quotes from the riders. If you would like to dive more into the opinions of the riders as well as get more insight on each bike, head over to the “Podcast” section on and simply click on “Keefer Tested” to listen to each bracket breakdown or simply click on the show over at They are not only informative, but a fun listen as well. As always we are here for you, so if you need us you can email your questions to


Fourth Place: Honda CRF450R

Why It Got Fourth: The Honda wins the “B Main” bracket because of its incredible pulling power/engine character and cornering ability. The softer the track is the better the Honda feels to the rider. Each tester commented how different the bike felt compared to the last time they tested it. The track conditions proved to be sandier than the last test and the Honda’s engine could get each tester in and out of corners the best out of this bracket on this day. The ergonomics of the Honda is unmatched and most riders felt at home quickly on the CRF450R. The Showa suspension has a good amount of comfort on de-cel bumps, but is masked by a rigid chassis that can sometimes make riders feel that the suspension is harsh. Dropping the forks flush in the clamps can make the chassis calm down on faster tracks, but just know that this will make the Honda turn in slower on entrance of corners. For how heavy this bike is on the scales, it feels as if it’s one of the lightest on the track and all the riders commented on how easily they could put the bike into tighter spots.  

Why It Could Have Won: The CRF450R needs more track toughness. The same reason it got fourth (and won the “B Main”) is the same reason why it didn't win the whole enchilada. The Honda feels great one day, have you skiing from ear to ear, and can make you feel like you forgot how to ride on another day. It can get frustrating at times! A more forgiving chassis feel along with a more linear power character can make this bike a winner come 2021! 

Rider Quotes:

“The CRF450R has so much power. It’s hard to believe that this is a stock engine!-Kenny Day 5’7 160 pound Vet Pro

 “I was surprised how well the Honda worked today. I was expecting it to feel different, but I actually loved riding it today. The track was rougher, but also softer and I was able to push, unlike the previous week where I felt sketchy on the same track”. -Joe Oehlhof 5’10 195 pound Vet Pro


Fifth Place: Husqvarna FC450 

Why It Got Fifth: It’s crazy to think a bike this good gets fifth place, but this is how close all these bikes really are. I mean I liked this bike so much that I went out and purchased one from a dealership. So this goes to show you that a fifth place bike is pretty damn good! The Husqvarna scored fifth and was well respected for its easy to ride engine character and deceivingly fast mid-top end pulling power. You are able to clear obstacles that you would think you would have to hit harder, but the FC450 hooks up so well and is so quiet, that it makes clearing those obstacles less stressful. The shock is one of the best in class with its dead/calm feeling that inspires riders to dive deeper into rough corners, but setting up the AER fork is like hitting a moving target. 

Why It Could Have Won: The FC450 could have scored a better ranking if the suspension had a little more hold up and comfort. Husqvarna decided to break away from KTM’s suspension settings in 2020 and go with their own, but to most of the testers that did this shootout, the setting was simply too soft. Going up in air pressure on the WP AER fork only hurt the suppleness on slow speed bump absorption and that created an unbalanced feel front to back. It’s a give and take with this fork and it can be tough to find that perfect setting that each tester wanted.  

Rider Quotes:

“The Husqvarna could have easily been on the podium for me, but the AER fork feels soft and slightly inconsistent for my weight/ability.” -Kelly Gelhaus 220 pound Vet Intermediate 

“The Husqvarna allowed me to get on the throttle sooner into corners because it feels smooth. I thought this feeling would hurt more than help, but then I looked at my lap times and just smiled”! -Tyler Enticknap -195 pound 5’11 Pro


Sixth Place: Suzuki RM-Z450

Why It Got Sixth: The Suzuki gets sixth not because of a kickstarter, but because it lacks comfort and predictability. The BFRC rear shock is very difficult to dial in for the average rider and getting that rider to feel comfortable when the track gets rough is almost impossible. We would normally say for a weekend warrior that it wouldn't matter, but even novice testers noticed the lack of comfort in the shock when we would go back out onto the track after lunch time. The chassis is on the stiffer side like the Honda, but the RM-Z450 can still lay into ruts easily. The rider doesn’t have to give the Suzuki that much body english into their lean (coming into corners) because the Suzuki almost does the cornering for you. It likes to be laid over.   

Why It Could Have Won: It’s tough to say that the Suzuki would have won if they would have done X,Y, and Z because there are a lot of factors that Suzuki would need to address before we can even remotely think about that. However, does that mean it shouldn't be considered for a future purchase? Absolutely not, it should! The Suzuki RM-Z450 is affordable, is a reliable bike (even though that it may not have that reputation), has an easy to ride engine character, and is a machine that can help a rider get better at cornering. The sixth place bike is not a last place bike in our opinion. It still is a viable option and a great bike for 80% of the consumer that is looking to purchase a new motorcycle.

Rider Quotes:

“I liked short shifting the RM-Z450. It makes its power better when you don’t have to rev it, unlike the Husqvarna”. -Kenny Day 5’7 160 Pound Vet Pro

“The stiffer chassis feel to me helped when I loaded the bike harder coming down hills. The Suzuki felt better when I pushed it harder, but didn't work as good if I tried to smooth out”. -Tyler Enticknap 195 pound Pro


Which Bike Is Right For Me? 250 Vs. 350 Vs. 450

A question I get asked a lot is what size bike is right for me? While this is a question that is not easy to answer, I thought I would try to give you some perspective on what each bike is like to ride and how to determine which one could be right for you. I have tested the 2020 Husqvarna 250/350/450 and will use these bikes, in this article, as my baseline for explanation. As always I am here to help when I can, so please feel free to email me at if you have any uncertainties. That’s why I built Keefer Inc. Testing.  


FC250: The FC250’s engine character is smooth off the bottom end then starts to build power up quickly from mid-top end. It’s a very non-aggressive type of low end delivery that has a deceiving strong mid range torque character. The FC250’s delivery is meant for a rider that likes to carry momentum and not rely on sheer bottom end torque to pull him out of a corner. If you like to let each gear rev out then this engine is perfect for that type of riding style.You would think without tons of torque feel, the FC250 wouldn't have a lot of recovery when in the wrong gear through corners, but to my surprise, the Husqvarna’s engine has superb recovery time and will get you back down the track, in the meat of the power, in no time. 


FC350: If you have never rode a 350cc Husqvarna/KTM then you’re missing out. The 350 comes on slightly more aggressive then the 250cc engine, but packs more punch through the mid-top end range. Again, if you’re looking for massive amounts of torque out of corners this still isn't your cup of tea, but the FC350 does have some low end RPM response (excitement) that the FC250 doesn’t. Hopping over bumps and getting over a double out of a corner is much easier with the extra RPM response that this engine brings. Not to mention that the bike still feels as light as a 250 when cornering, so getting through the corners in order to be able to clear an obstacle is made easier with the 350. The pulling power of the mid-top end range is where this FC350 will put a smile on your face. Just when you think it’s time to shift, you’re wrong, so just let it rev out a few hundred RPM more. When riding the 350 to 450 back to back, the 350 feels as fast as the 450 on top end. I don’t feel like I am losing much ground to the 450 on fast straights as long as I am not going uphill. This is where the 350 will get ate up by the 450. Pulling power/torque/meat feel is the 450’s strong suit. 


FC450: The overall engine character of the FC450 still has that smooth easy to ride feel, but with slightly less engine braking than the 350 to me. Coming into corners you can feel less drag on the engine and less movement in the chassis compared to the 350’s engine. 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 FC450 could be just what you’re looking for. The FC450 doesn’t feel that much heavier on the track compared to the 350, but to me the 350 has more engine recovery than the 450 when in the wrong gear. The RPM response of the 350 is more lively than the 450, but you can get away with being lazy on the 450 and let that big motor pull you out of “the wrong gear trouble” without killing the engine. Basically what I am saying is that the 450 “chugs/lugs” better than the FC250/350 can. 

Now that we have each engine character broken down, where does that leave you? What type of rider are you? That is important when deciding on which size bike to purchase. You have to know what type of tracks you’re riding, how often you’re riding, how serious you take your riding, and how you ride. Ask yourself these hard questions and then you can use this guideline below to decide on which direction you would like to go. 

250cc Rider: You would be surprised on how many riders over 50 years old I have turned on to 250cc’s four-strokes and they are completely happy. The Yamaha YZ250F has unbelievable amounts of torque for the older rider that may need some of that because he may like to ride a gear high (AKA, still lazy because you’re old). With the 250cc machine you’re able to get away with riding harder than you should because it simply doesn't have the weight of the 450cc machine. You’re able to push harder into corners and work on your technique because you’re not scared of the engine delivery. You’re actually able to ride the machine instead of the machine riding you. Obviously bigger riders (over 200 pounds) will need more engine than 250cc’s, but if you’re in the 200 pound range and are a beginner type of rider I would actually recommend a 250cc four stroke to you. It’s safer and can help you jumpstart your on-the-bike fitness without the consequence of getting hurt because of fatigue on the bike. Being tired while riding a 250cc four-stroke is much safer than riding a 450cc four-stroke fatigued. If you’re a 85cc rider and are looking to graduate to a bigger bike you DO NOT need a 250cc four-stroke. You need a 125cc two-stroke. Chances are you’re a 110 pounds so a 250cc four-stroke is too much bike for you. 


350cc Rider: Just because you may be a bigger rider (200-230 pounds) doesn’t necessarily mean you need a 450cc motorcycle to get you around the track. In fact, I have had many 220-230 pound testers love the FC350 because they could actually ride it harder/longer than that of their 450cc machines. If you’re racing against guys in a class full of 450’s, having a a 350 as a weapon of choice to outlast your competitors could prove wise. I could see you may need a 450 if your local tracks are super sandy and deep, but if you have soft to intermediate terrain, a 350 is much easier to handle for a longer moto, than that of a 450. Let’s say you’re just an average weekend warrior that likes to hit the track with your buddies and race on occasion. The 350 is a perfect size machine to be able to enjoy some laps without worrying about getting whiskey throttle after lap four because you have arm pump. I really try to recommend a 350 to most vet riders that like to ride for fun and occasionally race because it really does have enough power to clear all the jumps on a local track as well as corner easy enough to help your technique because let’s be real, you know your technique is not up to snuff. Let’s face it, you work five days a week and can’t be at the gym like these other people that seem to have so much damn time, so why not get an engine character that you can control. It amazes me how some guys egos can get in the way of purchasing the right motorcycle. The 350cc engine will be easier to manage on rough tracks that will require some technique and finesse. 


450cc Rider: Look I am not going to sit here and tell you that a 450cc four stroke motorcycle isn't my favorite bike to ride, because it is! It’s easy to be lazy and go fast, but there is one caveat. You have to be in shape to hold on to it! If I didn't ride so much I would ride a 350 more, but all I do is ride so I like a 450 engine! You can’t just show up to your local track on the weekends, hop on your 450 and expect to haul ass for more than just a few laps. If you do try to do this without “help” your medical bills will be high and your wife will be pissed. The good news is that out of all the 450 MX’ers, the FC450 is the easiest to ride/control/handle because of its well mannered power delivery. You fit the 450cc rider checklist if you are serious about your local racing, like to keep yourself in shape, want to improve on both of the aforementioned statements, have been riding more than a few years, and/or just simply a bigger dude (over 240 pounds). I really try to let older vet guys know that they simply DO NOT need 450cc’s of power just because they can go out and buy it. They will never use all of it and they will get tired too quickly. To me that isn't fun. Fun is being able to ride more than four laps, rip corners correctly, and go home un-injured. The 450 is capable of giving you all of this as well, but just know it might take more work on your part to be able to do all of those things easier and the correct way.

Hopefully after reading through this article you have determined which type of rider you are, can relate to one of these machines, and decide which cc displacement is your next purchase. I understand it’s difficult to make a 9-10K purchase based on something you have yet to ride, but that’s where I try to come in and hopefully guide you in the right direction! A lot of these manufacturers have demo days at local tracks so be sure to look for those near you and try the new bikes if you’re able. See you at the track! -KK

2020 Husqvarna FC250 Start Up/Baseline Settings/Tips/Tricks

I had the chance to spend some extra time on the 2020 FC250 and managed to try several settings to see which direction could be the correct way for you Husqvarna owners. Here are a few baseline settings you can try to get more comfort out on the track. 


Suspension: For 2020 the Husqvarna theme was to get more comfort out of the WP suspension and although I think they did do that to a certain extent they might of went too soft for most of the riders that will be purchasing this machine. Here are a couple different settings (based on weight) to try next time you’re out on the track. Note: When adjusting your air pressure in your fork, make sure to check your fork pressure before you start riding as well as after your first session. Your AER fork air pressure will build up the first time out considerably within 15 minutes. After you come back in, let the bike sit for around 10-15 minutes and reset to the desired/recommended air pressure. The AER fork shouldn't go up in air pressure as quick/high for the remainder of the day. It will start to creep up, but the amount in which it does is not nearly as fast as the first time it gets warm. 

Fork: (150-170 pounds)

Air Pressure: 10.4 bars

Compression: 10 clicks out

Rebound: 10 clicks out 

Fork: (170-190 pounds)

Air Pressure: 10.6 bars

Compression: 14 clicks out

Rebound: 11 clicks out 

Shock: (150-170 pounds)

Sag: 105mm

High Speed Compression: 1-1/2

Low Speed Compression: 14 clicks out

Rebound: 11 clicks out

Shock: (170-190 pounds)

Sag: 105mm

High Speed Compression: 1-1/4

Low Speed Compression: 12 clicks out

Rebound: 13 clicks out 


Engine: If you’re looking to get more out of your engine without diving into the engine too much there are a couple relatively inexpensive mods you can do. A stock ECU re-map from Jamie at Twisted Development can get you some added RPM response along with some increased pulling power out of corners. If there is one area of the engine that the FC250 needs helps with it’s the low end RPM response and pulling power. The Husqvarna is NOT a torque monster, but instead loves to be ridden in the mid-top end range. With the stock ECU re-map the Husqvarna will get some more “pop” out of corners, have a free-er engine rev feel, as well as pull you out of the corner harder than the stock maps. The beauty is that you still have two maps to choose from, but now both newly programmed maps have more pull than the stock maps provide. It’s a relatively low cost item for the performance gain. Of course if you have the money a Vortex ignition is always a good idea, but that also will set you back 800-1000 bucks. The Vortex will give you increased power everywhere in the RPM range and can make your engine have an even free-er rev feel, which makes the FC250 more exciting to ride. A lot of times a Vortex ignition, muffler system, and suspension work is all I ever do to my race bikes.


The second option is going with an aftermarket muffler like a FMF 4.1 or even a Akrapovic. Both of these mufflers provided more mid range and top end but also increased throttle response. You will not be getting any added bottom end, but the good news is that you will not be losing any as long as you keep the inserts in. The FMF requires you to install the insert/spark arrestor and the Akrapovic comes with it already installed. LEAVE THEM IN! Back pressure is the Husqvarna’s friend. 

Gearing: Going to a 14/52 or 53 gearing helps with rear wheel placement and of course using third gear around the track more. Using this gearing puts the rear wheel back further and can increase the stability of the FC250 without sacrificing too much lean in when coming into corners. Also this modified gearing ratio will help get you out of second gear sooner and let you use the engine where it’s intended to be used. Second gear can bind this chassis up more than other machines (feels much tighter in second gear than Japanese bikes) when the track gets rough. Third gear has such a free-er feel (compared to second gear) on the FC250 that you will be able to pull yourself out of corners without the high rev/binding nature of second gear. Using this 13/52 gear ratio frees up the rear end under load/heavy throttle and allows for increased rear wheel traction. If you feel like you’re having to shift the FC250 too early coming out of corners, try 14/52-53 and use third gear. Boom! 

Triple Clamp Torque Specs: If you’re still living with the stock clamps you can try this torque spec setting on the pinch bolts for a more complaint front end feel (on braking bumps) with increased lean angle traction. If you DO NOT feel like you need more front end compliancy on the FC250 please disregard this and keep living your life. This was just an option that I stumbled across that can make some difference in comfort. Going slightly lower on the lower clamp torque spec helps with front end flex and fork stroke movement. Going to a factory Husqvarna accessory triple clamp eliminates binding and gives the FC250 a softer initial touch with more de-el front end comfort, but those are expensive right? Doing this minor torque spec mod helps bridge some of that gap between stock clamp and accessory clamp.  

Top Clamp Torque Spec: 17Nm

Bottom Clamp Torque Spec: 9Nm 


Axle Blocks: Invest in the Ride Engineering or the Works Connection Elite axle block kit as either or will give you more rear end traction and keep the left side axle block from binding up rear wheel/swingarm area. This is an old KTM Race Team trick. 

Engine Mounts: The stock torque specs on the FC250’s engine mounts are just fine and since we are talking about the engine mounts, the stock mounts are just fine as well. There is NO need for aftermarket engine mounts on this machine. Especially if you’re doing these chassis mods above, the frame flex character should be plenty compliant enough on wide variety of rough tracks. 

Black Throttle Cam: This goes without saying… Use the black throttle cam for best overall power to rear wheel connection. 

Maintenance Intervals: I change my engine oil every 2-3 hours of ride time, but for the normal weekend warrior you can go as far as 4 engine hours. I use Motorex, Blud, Maxima or FirePower 10/40 synthetic engine oil as they all work well on this machine. Keep a fuel filter handy in your tool box as they can get dirty and cause issues down the road with starting or even give you a dirty/rich feeling sensation when they are clogged. 

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. 



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. 


 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


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. 



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! 



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. 


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. 


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.



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.


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 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 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:


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.   


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.   


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.


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:


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


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. 

White Kawasaki FI.jpg
White Kawasaki IG.jpg

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 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:


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.   


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! 


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 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. 


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. 


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.  


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. 


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 and 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. 


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. 


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.   


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. 


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 for any burning q’s.

2020 Husqvarna FC250/350 First Impression

Husqvarna brought us their 2020 FC250 and FC350 to us this week, so in standard Keefer Inc. fashion we wanted to break down the ten most important aspects of both bikes to you. For 2020 minimal changes were made to the FC250/350 and those changes Husqvarna made were to the suspension valving, airbox/side panel (drilled holes), gearing change (FC350 got a 14/51 ratio), and of course BNG’s. We will be riding both of these machines more throughout the weeks so stay glued to and for settings info. 

2020 FC keefer-1-3.jpg

Engine Feel: Does the FC 350 have the torque of a 450? Does the FC250 have the torque of a Yamaha YZ250F? No, they don’t! They are smoother than those other bikes off the bottom end and have a more linear roll on power delivery. Is this a bad thing? No, it isn’t. It just means you’re getting a more controlled engine character with a wide power curve. 350cc’s of power is usually plenty of power for most consumers, but if you’re looking for more torque and want to be lazy, the 450 will be better. The FC250 and FC350 both have a similar engine character where they are sneaky fast. Sneaky because they build rpm’s calculated and smooth then all of a sudden you find yourself over jumping a certain section of jumps. This takes a few laps to dial in, but once you do, you will be able to appreciate how much easier this type of engine character is to ride. Both engines make a lot of rear wheel traction so don’t expect a ton of hit anywhere through the powerband on these models, so the “Tony Alessi Water Truck Lane Test” may not be the best guide on how good these engines really are on the track. Both machines have tons of over-rev, so if you’re into short shifting, these bikes may not be the best for you. They both liked to be revved! The Husqvarna’s are not torque monsters like the Yamaha’s, but if you want to let each gear eat, both machines will allow you to ride that way. You would think without tons of torque feel, the FC250/350 wouldn't have a lot of recovery when in the wrong gear through corners. To my surprise both engines have superb recovery time and will get you back down on the track, in the meat of the power, in no time. 

2020 FC keefer-1-8.jpg

Weight Feeling (Chassis): The 2020 Husqvarna FC250 weighs in at 218 pounds and FC350 weighs 219 pounds dry. That is only one pound! The 250/350 feels lighter in corners than they do in the air, which is very odd to me. However the good news is that you are able to cut down from blown out berms or ruts very easily on either bike. The FC250 feels more like 5 -7 pounds lighter than the FC350 on the track, do to it’s more free-feeling engine character. The FC250 has a very free feeling engine (in each gear) and the inertia of the FC250’s engine is much less, so that makes it feel more than a pound lighter on the track. Compared to a FC450, the FC350 feels slightly lighter through corners and on sudden direction changes, but to me there is more of a weight feeling gap between the 250/350.  

Straight Line Stability: As light as both machines feel on the track the FC250/350 stay pretty damn straight (on-throttle). When accelerating out of long sweepers the rear end stays more connected to the ground than previous year models and track straight. The stiffer frame helps this rear wheel contact and is very noticeable under heavy load. There is nothing unexpected that happens when pushing the limits on these machine. If you hit the same bump 20 times, both machines will react the same each of those 20 times. 

Suspension: Both sets of 2020 WP suspension on the FC250/350 are on the soft side. All three test riders (165, 170, and 185 pounds) thought the fork on each model needed more air. On the FC250 we went up to 10.7 (10.6 stock) bars and on the FC350 we went up to 10.8 bars (10.4 stock) and that helped both bikes from diving on de-cel. Both shocks are empty (soft) on the end stroke (g-outs, jump faces) so adding some high sped compression (1/8-1/4 turn) helps hold up the rear end in those areas of the track. After changing the fork and shock, both bikes will ride higher in the stroke and actually have more comfort on de-cel. All riders thought the suspension (after this change) was more balanced and all riders could push harder into bumps with more aggression. We will be getting you specific clicker settings in a future article coming in a couple weeks right here on and

Engine Braking (FC350): I noticed that in second gear the FC350 had quite a bit of engine braking, but in third gear the engine braking was significantly less. Usually with other bikes there isn't the much engine braking change from second to third gear, so to combat this I tried to downshift late into corners, so that off-throttle pitching sensation wasn't as apparent. I will be testing some gearing on the FC350 to see if I can help this sensation very soon. The FC250 didn't have nearly as much engine braking as the 350 and had more of a free feeling second gear de-cel (freewheel) coming into corners. 

2020 FC keefer-1-21.jpg

Engine Maps: On the FC250, Map 2 was a great all around map for all three testers we used. Map 2 didn't come on stronger than map 1, but gave the Husqvarna 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 FC350 had slightly less engine braking in map 1, but just didn't have that excitement that map 2 had through the mid range so we chose to ride in map 2 and deal with the engine braking in second gear. In map 2 we could shift to third gear sooner than in map 1, so that was also a positive for the track we tested at. 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.   

Seat: Do yourself a favor and get a GUTS seat cover and take the violent stock seat off ASAP. If you plan on doing longer motos, save your butt and get a friendlier gripper seat. 

2020 FC keefer-1-22.jpg

Rider Triangle: I like the Pro Taper EVO bars the come on the Husqvarna, but when standing they are a little low in height for me. Going to a Pro Taper “SX RACE” bend keeps me from being hunched over when standing around corners. If you do like the low/flat profile of the stock bar, try cutting it down to 803mm for better corner entry as the stock length is a little too long. 

Which Bike Is More Fun To Ride: I get this question a lot so I might as well answer it. I really like riding the FC250 a little more than the FC350. Why? To me it has to do with how the bike handles. To me the FC250 is much more playful in the corners and feels lighter around the track. You have to ride both bikes aggressively and unlike a 450, you just can’t lug either bike around or be lazy, so I prefer a bike that will be lighter feeling around the track. Now don’t get me wrong… The FC350 is fun to ride, but for me I would take a 450 over a 350 because they both feel similar in weight around the track, so why not have more power at my throttle hand. The FC450 is also very linear off the bottom end and not intimating like some other 450 power plants. Now I know that not everyone is like me, so I can see why a FC350 could be less intimidating to a vet or novice type rider, which is why one of my vet testers wants one now! 

Clutch/Brakes: The Brembo brakes that come on the Husqvarna FC250/350 are one of the strongest brake systems available. If you’re coming off of a Nissin equipped machine, getting used to the Brembo system may take some time for you to get your braking points down. The Brembo’s are strong and powerful so not a lot of pressure is needed by your finger at the lever. The Magura clutch is a little more on/off feeling than that of the more linear Brembo hydraulic system on the KTM, but either will not fade on you during a long moto. The Magura clutch has a smaller window of engagement that will take some time for riders that are used to a cable clutch, but once you find that engagement point, that foreign feeling will disappear from your mind within a few times out on the track.  

A Pro’s Perspective: Colton Aeck National #526

2020 FC keefer-1-9.jpg

FC250 On The Track:

Engine: The FC 250 has never been a torque monster. This engine does its best work in the mid-top end of the rev range. Riding mainly 450s for the past few years, getting on a 250f took some adjustment, but once I learned to rev it again, I really enjoyed this engine.

The FC 250 comes with 2 map settings that you can change on the fly with a switch on the handlebar. Map 1 is more aggressive from bottom-mid range, but leaves me wanting a bit more on top. Map 2 has less bottom end hit/ throttle response with a more aggressive mid-top end. I chose map 2 because I could leave the bike in a lower gear for the corners, but it would rev to the moon before needing to shift.
Overall this engine is a lot of fun!

Chassis: I'm a big fan of the steel frames on the Huskys and KTMs. The steel frame gives me more comfort and bump absorption and just an overall more connected feeling to the ground. The FC 250 is light and nimble in the air and corners like its on rails. No complaints in the chassis department.

Suspension: The FC 250 received a softer setting for suspension in 2020. As with most stock bikes the suspension was soft for me with initial settings. I ended up adding air to the fork and stiffening high speed compression on the shock. This balanced out the bike front and rear, gave me less of a "pitching" sensation under braking and allowed me to push harder through jump faces and big breaking bumps. Overall the suspension has very good comfort and with a couple adjustments I was able to get a good amount of performance as well.

FC 350 On The Track:

Engine: Wednesday was my first time ever riding a 350, I have to say it was a lot of fun! The engine is super easy to ride. As you might expect, it's a perfect mix between 250 and 450. Off the bottom it has a really strong, yet smooth pull similar to a 450 and it revs high and pulls great on top, a lot like a 250. For me it was like having the best of both worlds,it was a lot of fun!

Chassis: Similar to my comments of the 250, I really enjoy the steel frame. It provides a super comfortable ride and leaves you feeling very planted to the ground. The FC 350 corners well, yet is still stable at high speeds. It's fun and easy to ride.

Suspension: The suspension on the 350 was a lot closer for me in stock form. The fork held up higher in its stroke and gave me more confidence to charge through rough sections. I still ended up increasing air pressure in the fork and also added a couple clicks of compression front and rear. This added a bit more performance and was a setting I was really happy with. It wouldn't take much tuning to make this a setting I could race with.

250 350 Comparison:

So, the big question... Would I choose the 250 or 350?

As a professional racer, the 350 doesn't really have a place. Lining up at a national or supercross and being at a 100cc disadvantage doesn't make much sense. That being said, most of you readers aren't lining up a your local supercross.

For the average guy who just rides for fun and maybe races from time to time, I think the 350 is the perfect bike. You have the fun factor of a 250, with the low end grunt/ easy to ride power of a 450. The place I really enjoyed the 350 was in the corners. If I made a mistake in a turn, the 350 had enough power to pull me out of it and still make the next jump or obstacle. I didn't have that luxury on the 250, a mistake in a turn would be much more costly.

Again, for your average consumer I think the 350 is an awesome, super fun bike. If I wasn't racing professionally, it would be in the running of bikes I would personally buy.

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. 


 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.


Air Pressure: 10.9 bar

Compression: 14-15 out

Rebound: 11 out

Fork Height: 5mm


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


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.   


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).  


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. 


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.  


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. 


 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.  


 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. 


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 as well as 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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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


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 and in the coming weeks.   



Hidden Gems "Vet Racing"

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


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


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


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


How To Whip

Not to say that I am James Stewart and that I am whipping every single jump on the track, but I can maybe help you shy away from those dreaded butt whips you’re doing! Let’s face it one of the best feelings of riding a dirt bike is hitting a jump and whipping it flat! It’s bad ass! Plus you can get some good looking Instabangers and possibly pull some chics right? I will attempt to teach you the basics on how to get the best whip you can out of yourself. The key elements of learning how to whip are having proper form and finding the right jump to do it. On the bike you must stay loose and on the balls of your feet. That is probably still to this day one of the hardest things to remember while I ride, which is to ride on the balls of my feet. When you ride on the balls of your feet you are more centered and stable on the bike, also you are able to move around more freely and loose. Another key is to find one of the most comfortable jumps that you ride (with no kickers on it) and that you feel comfortable on. Once you can jump straight and in control, try these steps:


1. Coming up the face of the jump you want to start carving or turning as you're riding up. You almost want a half moon-shaped line going up the face of the jump. This allows the bike to already start the whip before you even take off. I would also start by practicing going off of the jump sitting. It is much easier to whip sitting down than standing. It also gives the bike more pop coming off of the lip. 


2. As you just get ready to leave the face of the jump start pushing against the frame on your inside leg (depending on which way you throw whips). This allows more force on the inside of the machine and keeps its trajectory going that way. As your rear end starts to come out you want to loosen up your outside leg a little to keep the bike in its whip position. You will find that your outside leg will kind of already be off of the outside peg a little (which is good as long as it’s not dangling out there too much). 


3. As you enter the middle portion of your jump you will want to try to turn your handlebars towards the outside (pointing in the upward direction). This helps get the bike flatter as you're pushing with your inside leg to kick back end out, while your pushing with your outside arm on the bar downward to flatten the bike out. 


4. As you begin to come back down to the ground you will want to straighten your handlebar out and stop pushing with your inside leg. This will keep the bike from coming out too far. You will than transfer your weight back to your outside leg to push against the frame to straighten out rear end of bike. By now you and your bike should be as close to straight as possible.


5.  As you begin to come back down to the ground you will want to straighten your handlebar out and stop pushing with your inside leg. This will keep the bike from coming out too far. You will than transfer your weight back to your outside leg to push against the frame to straighten out rear end of bike. By now you and your bike should be as close to straight as possible.

Notes: If you find yourself not completely straightened out by the time you land just make sure your body is as straight on the bike as possible. If your body is perpendicular with your machine and you are stiff your bike will swap back the opposite way and slap you on the ground and then you will be all pissed off at me! Remember, take it slow and give it some time. A solid whip will come to you as you get more comfortable on the bike. Learning to whip doens’t happen overnight and takes some practice. Keep working on it and you'll look like James did when he hit a Supercross finish line jump!

Top 5 Mods For The 2019 Yamaha YZ450F

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


1. Fire Power Battery: The stock Yamaha YZ450F battery is a problem. It doesn't like to start in gear and if you do try to start it in gear for too long the battery will drain quickly. I have had countless emails sent to me about Yamaha batteries and the only thing I can tell you guys is go with an aftermarket lithium ion battery. I have been using Fire Power batteries in my Yamaha’s and they all have been great. Not to mention that they are lighter than stock, so losing some weight doesn't hurt. For around $125.00, it’s a fairly inexpensive way to prevent you from being stranded at the moto track with a dead battery. 


2. GUTS RACING Stiff Seat Foam And Gripper Seat Cover: Yes, we know Yamaha made some stiffer changes to the foam for 2019, but once the foam breaks down a little we are back in 2018 all over again and hitting the fuel tank when slamming into ruts. Going to a GUTS stiffer foam does wonders from smacking your butt bone into the fuel cell that lies underneath you. Does be scared off by the word “stiff” as the GUTS foam is stiffer, but not so bad where you will be getting monkey butt. I go with the standard stiff foam and not the phantom foam as I like the feel of the standard stiff foam more. While you’re at it go with a gripper seat cover and prevent your rear end from sliding under acceleration. The stock Yamaha seat is slippery after about 20 hours and will not hold you in place from that explosive Yamaha 450 power.  


3. Heavy Duty Chain: Like most stock chains the Yamaha chain will stretch and be smoked before the 8 hour mark, so get a good high quality heavy duty D.I.D. 520 ERT2 Gold chain. If you don’t mind the weight and the drag of an o-ring chain that is also a great choice. 


4. FMF 4.1 Full Muffler System: I am not going to sit here and tell you that you NEED an aftermarket muffler for the 2019 YZ450F, because you don’t. The stock muffler is so good on this bike that it’s not something you will need right away. However, I know most of you have A.D.D. when it comes to putting shit on your bike, so I will recommend a muffler that I had some help in testing recently. I helped George at FMF come up with a different setting inside the muffler (or core) of this system to create some more back pressure, in order to keep the bottom end that the stock system has. The FMF 4.1 system knocks off almost two full pounds of weight, retains the stock bottom end power, increases the mid range and top end, and will only lose minimal over-rev. I have tried a ton of aftermarket mufflers for the YZ450F and all of them lose bottom end. Not this one…  



5. Front Brake: The Yamaha front brake is not the best of the bunch when it comes to stopping power, but there is a modification you can do to make it insanely good (besides just throwing an oversize rotor on). If you want increased stopping power without the grabby feel, purchase an older Yamaha caliper (that used a bigger piston/part number shown) and an older KTM Brembo master cylinder (part number shown) while using your current 2019 YZ450F brake line and feel the magic coming into corners. You will be able to brake later and modulate the front brake better in shallow ruts than you can with the current front brake. This set up is also much more linear and less grabby than just throwing on an oversize front rotor as well. Just make sure to purchase the stock KTM banjo bolts and use your current 2019 YZ450F front brake carrier along with the current brake pad clip..  

2019 Husqvarna FC350 First Test

Written By: Matt Sirevaag/210 pounds/Novice/Electrician

Since the smaller bore 350cc machine came along it seems there has been a heated debate in whom this bike is aimed at. I only owned and ever ridden 450cc bikes because that is what I thought I needed. I love my big bore bikes and never had the thought of a bike less than 450cc cross my mind. I am 5’9”, 210 pounds, but in my mind a 450 is where it’s at, or at least I thought… Keefer and I thought it would be fun and educational to stick me on the 2019 Husqvarna FC350 that Husqvarna so graciously let us evaluate. Just to let the readers out there know this bike does have some Husqvarna factory accessories, so it’s not completely stock. This bike has triple clamps, a hydraulic slave cylinder cover, Pro Taper gearing (14/50), and FMF exhaust. Let’s not beat around the bush, one of the most asked questions we get here at Keefer Testing is mostly engine related. How is the engine on the FC350? Does it have enough power of my size? How does this bike compare to a 450? Is this bike right for me? I can’t tell you if this bike is right for you, but I can give you my honest opinion and hopefully steer you in a good direction, for your next purchase.


Engine: Can one hundred CC’s less be that good? The way I see it yes it can, to be honest the majority of consumers buying 450’s don’t need nor can use all that power, including my-self. Yes, having gobs of torque at your finger tips puts a smile on your face, but do us novice riders really need it? As soon as I jumped on the FC350 I was surprised at how smooth the bottom end was. It had more torque feeling than a 250cc four-stroke, yet not as over powering as a 450cc bike. The smooth bottom end made rolling on the throttle through mid-corner a blessing in disguise for me. I was not as timid to give her a little more throttle in order to help improve my corner speed, which needs some help. Now don’t let this smooth bottom end fool you however, when the corners get deep/rutty, it still has plenty of torque to pull my 210 pounds through the deeper loamy sections of the track. Another notch in the old cap for a smooth bottom end power delivery is when you get on the throttle it doesn’t upset the chassis (when coming into the middle to end part of the corner). Once you exit the corner this is where the FC350’s engine really shows a rider what it’s capable of. What it might lack in 450cc torque down low, it makes up for it with a strong mid to top end pulling power.

The FC350 has a very similar mid to top end pull with an over-rev as good as the 2019 CRF450R (that I own) and that is a good thing. I have a saying that I use to my buddies: “yes, I ride a 450, but I only use 300cc’s of that 450cc power plant”. I never thought it was the truth until I had the chance to test the Husqvarna FC350. Not only were my lap times faster on the FC350, but I also noticed the more I rode the Husqvarna the more confidence I had in my riding (because I was not timid of the big power of the Honda). I can only count on one hand how many times I felt I needed more power out of this white machine. This is where the full FMF 4.1 exhaust came in; the FMF exhaust really did some manipulation to the engine character of the FC350. As soon as I hit the track this exhaust really gave the FC350 a little more pep. This feeling was mostly noticed through mid-corner where the little bit of extra torque (the FMF had) made the bike feel lighter and more agile in corners. When you found yourself in the wrong gear the FMF muffler also improved engine recovery time and made it easier for me to correct my bad shifting habits.

After riding both exhausts back to back (FMF/Stock) I noticed the stock exhaust almost made the bike feel a little lazy down low. The FMF 4.1 made the bike more exciting down low then continued to feed its way to an even meatier mid range pull. Between the two exhausts I felt as if the top end was pretty close to one another. I know that if I go purchase my own FC350, this FMF exhaust will be at the top of my list. It took an already good engine and gave it some added excitement with a 450’esq feel.


Chassis: You take a good non over powering engine and stick that with what I feel is a good chassis and now we are talking. As you ride the FC350 you can tell you don’t have that 450 weight to throw around. As you charge into corners this chassis, though light, has a very planted feel on the front wheel, which lead to me having more confidence coming into corners. The light feeling also makes this bike a blast to throw around in the air, which helps me feel like I can whip (editors note: ummmmm. No….) The FC350 likes to be leaned over and can stay leaned over until you want to exit out of a corner. This lead over sensation is something I always struggle with on bigger bikes, like my Honda CRF450R.  A 450cc machine has a heavy feel with that extra torque, along with the gyro effect, due to more rotating mass, but the 350 doesn't have this feeling. Having less rotating mass makes the FC350 feel much lighter on the track compared to a FC450, which on paper is only a couple pounds heavier. Something that has been an on going trait of a Husqvarna is rear wheel traction and the FC350 is no exception.  You only have 350cc to pull you around, but rear wheel traction is as good, if not better, than that of the FC450. Typically with bikes that corner well (with a light feeling) they sometimes aren't that stable at speed (straight-line). I was surprised to find the FC350 fairly stable when hard on the throttle while on long straights. The FC350 may not have the straight line stability as a Yamaha YZ450F, but it does have better straight line stability than the Honda CRF450R, I currently ride. Even with the steel frame this chassis does have somewhat of a comfortable feel on rough sections of the track. This was most noticeable on braking bumps coming into corners. The Husqvarna retained that planted feel with not much movement in the bike (front to back). You do get a firm feel through the chassis, but not as much as the 2018 model that I spent some time on previously. Part of this might be the new Husqvarna factory accessories triple clamp that not only comes on the 19.5 FC450 Rockstar Edition, it’s also available through your local Husqvarna dealer. These clamps were designed to help decrease binding as well as have a better flex characteristic on the track. This could be part of why I felt the new FC350 had more comfort on small chop than last year’s model.


Suspension: Being a larger rider (without the height), I do a pretty good job at testing the weight range of stock suspension. The 2019 FC350 is using Husqvarna’s latest version of WP’s AER fork and WP rear shock. In stock trim (with 105mm of sag) I was not to sure how I would feel about the suspension spec that the Husqvarna R&D team may have come up with. Once on the track I could immediately feel the WP AER front fork dive quite a bit on corner entry and off gas situations. This was caused mostly by my weight and the stock 10.5 bar recommendation of the AER fork. I slowly went up .1 bar increments at a time until I found my happy place, which was 10.8 bars. This allowed the fork to hold up on de-cel, helped bottoming resistance, and have a decent amount of comfort on light bump absorption. 


 With the stock clicker settings and at 10.8 bars the fork was fairly compliant through the beginning part of the stroke. Although when hard on the front brake (on downhills) the fork would sit a little too far down in the stroke causing a stiff or harsh feeling through braking bumps. At the end of the day I found a good overall fork setting at 10.8 bars, 10 out on compression, and 9 out on the rebound. This gave me the best balance of hold up and comfort and allowed me to push my hardest without giving me an uncomfortable feel. Slowing down the rebound on the fork definitely gave the front fork a more predictable feel lap after lap. 

The only real issue I had with the WP shock was on the exit of corners. I felt the rear of the bike would squat too low causing the front wheel to get light and lose front end traction. Most of this is caused by being undersprung for my weight as the FC350 is set up for riders between 160-185 pounds. I could have gone and purchased a heavier spring for my weight, but most of us who purchase new bikes just want to ride. So in order to get the best setting I could out of the stock spring rate I started a quarter turn in (stiffer) at a time on the high-speed compression. The reason I made this change was to get the rear end of the bike to sit a little higher in the stroke and hold up on corner exit, which put more weight on the front end. Stiffening the high speed compression also helped the shock not blow through on the faces of jumps. When I managed to finally get done tinkering with the high speed compression I ended up being one turn out. 

I would have to say that this FC350 is very forgiving in the set up department. The window of adjustment is fairly large to make a wide range of riders and their abilities happy unlike the CRF450R. When I was experimenting and found myself way off on sag/clickers/spring rate the Husqvarna still cornered and handled very well. All I did was play with clickers to get a little more comfort over performance out of the suspension. The best shock setting that I came up with was a 105mm of sag, one turn out high speed compression, nine out on low speed compression, and eight out on rebound. I was very pleased at how balanced the bike was once I found these settings. I have to say WP in my eyes has done very well and come a long way (with their suspension settings) since the last time I got a chance to spin some laps on a set. Out of the box the AER fork is pretty good and gives the consumer a large range of adjustment, without having to rip off your forks, to send them to get re-sprung. That saves you a little money and saves you the anxiety of not having your bike to ride.


Extras: The Brembo brakes work great and work better than my touchy Nissin Honda units. The Brembo’s are progressive, which also makes my cornering a lot smoother. I can ride my finger on the lever (through corners) without the stress of locking up the front brake when arm pump is present. Coming from my Honda, having a hydraulic clutch on the Husqvarna is like a god send. The Honda clutch lever pull is tough and can give me a tight left arm when pushing, but with the Magura hydraulic clutch, the feel is much smoother and the action is always the same throughout my motos. 


So what did I really think of the 2019 FC350? Before this test I was a so called 450 only guy. Would I now take my own hard earned money and purchase a Husqvarna FC350? The answer is not that complicated… Hell YES, I would! I am blown away on how much I like this machine. If I never had the chance of testing this bike I would have never thought of purchasing anything less than 450cc motocross bike. Don’t get me wrong a 450 will still put a smile on your face, but do most of us need al of that power? I don’t, that’s for damn sure! If lap times don’t lie, my lap times were always two to three seconds a lap faster on every track I tested on. Not only were my laps faster, I was able to do more laps without getting fatigued as fast. I can honestly say that next year when I go to slap down my money on a new dirt scooter a 350cc bike is at the top of my list.

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.   

 50 Hours On The 2019 KTM 450SX-F

I have been hammering down a lot of motos on the 2019 KTM 450SX-F before it has to make its way back to the KTM offices to make way for the 2019.5 KTM 450 Factory Edition. There are still some consumers out there that are concerned about KTM’s durability and wonder if you can trust the Austrian machine over the course of several hard hours. Well to try and give some real world feedback, I have purposely been a little “over abusive” on this particular test steed to see if in fact we can trust the KTM engineers and their R&D department. I have just went over the 52 hour mark last week and have accumulated over 20 of those hours in the past three weeks on rough test tracks near my home. This KTM 450 SX-F has seen its fair share of the testing workload on many parts, accessories, and product evaluations in its 50 hour lifespan. A 50 hour engine, on my scale, is like a 75-80 hour engine on a regular blue collar average racer/rider. If you’re looking for shiny new photos of the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F you came to the wrong place. You might as well go hit the back button and look at the 2019 450 MX Shootout photos because these pictures are of a work horse and not a show pony. Below are some of the key points I wanted to share with you current 2019 KTM 450 SX-F owners and maybe potential KTM buyers about our test unit. 


Engine/ECU Settings: KTM’s R&D department is well aware that they may have missed the mark on stock ECU settings on the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F, but that doesn't mean you should just dismiss this engine. Some “other” media outlets are claiming that it’s too difficult to ride with the rich down low and lean up top feel of the standard ECU setting. There are a couple things to consider here: one that this engine does take some time to break in and feel like it should and two it does get slightly better with some time. Let me explain… When you first get your KTM 450 SX-F and ride her it may feel very tight, sluggish off the bottom end, have some de-cel pop, and may even flame out on you in corners. Some of these symptoms die off after 8-10 hours of riding time on the engine. I used the stock ECU box/settings for the first 16 hours and I had some of those symptoms until around hour 9, then the de-cel popping went away and also some of that sluggish feeling coming out of corners. The rich feeling still seems apparent under low RPM’s no matter what, but KTM is aware of this and will be making some changes to the ECU come factory Edition time. So does that mean you current 2019 KTM 450 SX-F owners are screwed? No. I just wanted to make it clear that this bike is very much rideable in stock form without a ECU re-flash. 

If you DO NOT want to spend the money on a Vortex ignition you can get your standard box re-flashed from Jamie at Twisted Development or Chad at XPR Motorsports. Both of these companies have a better ECU setting for you current orange brigade riders out there. Either one of these guys have a map that gets some more excitement and a cleaner air fuel setting to make the power even more useable. If you DO want to spend the extra $800.00 or so, the Vortex is simply magic for this engine. The engine delivery still remains so smooth yet easier to ride and increases the use of second and third gear. Going to the Vortex ignition gives you the option to ride with less effort while deceasing your lap times because the workload is simply less with the power character the Vortex gives the orange machine. I repeat you DO NOT have to have the Vortex to make the KTM 450 SX-F engine better! You can save some money and re-flash your current ECU!

What about durability once you go with a Vortex ignition? I have yet to have any durability issues with going to an aftermarket ECU that is correctly mapped from either said company above. It is one of the only modifications you can make to your machine that will make a noticeable difference in power without sacrificing the lifespan of your engine. 


What about clutch life? I am notoriously hard on clutches and I usually only get 9-10 engine hours on any given Japanese manufacturer clutch, but with the KTM I can almost double my lifespan. The KTM 450SX-F has only seen two clutches in the past 50 hours and I have been letting my engine run on the same oil for 5-6 engine hours at a time. To me that is impressive. I also DO NOT notice slippage under load when the engine gets hot. The hydraulic clutch is something that I have come to appreciate more through the years and although the engagement of the KTM is a little on/off feeling the overall performance of the clutch itself is amazing under heavy race oriented type stress. 

What about engine maintenance? I am not going to sit here and tell you I am some great mechanic and I am busing out valve clearance checks every 20 hours. I did check the valve clearance after 25 hours and they were within spec and I haven't checked them since. Like I mentioned above I have used Blud Racing 10/40 or Maxima Premium 10/40 oil in this bike and have only changed the oil every 5-6 hours. I am usually a 2-3 engine hour oil change kind of guy, but the KTM has held the rigorous amount of riding time that I have put on it. 


Chassis/Suspension: During the course of the 50 hours I spent on this machine I went back and forth with the stock WP suspension and the WP Cone Valve fork/TRAX shock. The Cone Valve fork provided me with more front end traction (under lean angle) and I could just be more aggressive with getting over my front end without it being inconsistent on a longer moto. The TRAX shock has more of a dead feeling than the stock shock yet provided only minimum comfort gains (over stock). The stock WP shock is very good for my weight and for the combinations of trans we ride here in California. If you’re serious about racing and performance than I would recommend this set up. IF you’re a weekend warrior and want to improve your riding, DO NOT worry about this as the stock stuff will be just fine.

I ended up running the stock AER fork for the last 20 or so hours on the KTM just to see if I can push around the track and found out that running the standard air pressure at 10.5 bars, with the compression at 20 clicks out, and the rebound at 14 clicks out was sufficient. This setting provided me the comfort without getting too harsh through the mid stroke during longer motos with bigger braking bumps/square edge. If you find this setting to be a little harsh on your hands and you're around 185 pounds go with a 10.6 bar setting, compression at 24 clicks out and a rebound of 14 clicks out. This will help hold the front end up on de-cel and help with harshness. 


What about the 2019 KTM’s stiffer frame? The stiffer chassis takes some time to get used to if you're coming off of a 2018 model. Don’t be scared off by the 10% increase in torsional rigidity stiffness. Just like the engine, the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F frame took me a little longer to break in to feel some quality bump compliancy (compared to Japanese machines). I see/hear riders complaining about the 2019 frame stiffness, but to me as a long term owner/consumer I prefer this. Why? A couple reasons: one the 2019 has a more positive cornering character than the 2018 does, feels lighter through mid corner, and doesn't feel clapped out at 50 hours! The 2018 frame (at 50 hours) felt worse than a 100 hour Yamaha YZ450F frame. With the stiffer chassis that KTM came out with in 2019, my test bike feels better now than it did when I was at 25 hours. The overall compliancy has softened up a little bit, but not so much where I feel the frame flexing under load like I did with the 2018 chassis.       


Gearing: I have ran the stock gearing, tried going to a 14/52, but have settled on a 13/49 for my final spec that I prefer at most tracks. I liked the 14/52’s traction character out of corners, but I feel like I lost a a little third gear recovery. I like running third gear through corners and with the 13/49 I feel like I can leave the KTM in third gear (with stock ECU) and fan the clutch minimally to get the orange brigade back into the meat of the power. The 13/49 gearing also doesn't hurt second gear pulling power that much to where I am forced to shift earlier than I did with the 13/48. I am fairly certain that Husqvarna will be making that 13/49 gearing change to their 2019.5 Rockstar Edition models as well. Give it a try if you're a third gear kind of rider. Oh and did I mention I have only changed out one set of sprockets/chain? Yep. 

Handlebars/Grips: I have been on a crossbar kick lately, so the Pro Taper Fuzion “SX RACE” bend has been on the KTM 450 SX-F for over half its life. I was in search of a slightly taller bar bend than what comes stock on the KTM (height 79.5mm, 52mm sweep) and a bar that flexed more, so going with the Pro Taper SX Race bend was great for me, especially in corners. I can still get over the front of the bike, but my elbows are up a little more naturally and I feel better when standing on the bike. If you're a crossbar kind of guy, the Pro Taper Fuzion bar has a EVO-ish flex character and will not feel as rigid as some other crossbar brands. Also note that the stock lock-on-grips/throttle tube also can get heavy after around 20 hours, so check your plastic tube for wear. The plastic on the lock on grips can get rough inside and make your throttle pull hard. IF you ware looking to put standard grips on go with a Motion-Pro throttle tube. I prefer plastic tubes more than aluminum ones for flex reasons. I am not a full time racer guy anymore so I don’t need the durability of an aluminum tube .   

Air Filter: Buy yourself a KTM 250SX two-stroke air filter cage because they come without a backfire screen and then go get a Twin Air filter. Just doing this little modification gave me some added RPM response which helps the KTM feel even lighter in tight sections of any given track. 

Wheels/Tires/Axle Blocks: You will have to check your sprocket bolts and spokes religiously, but if you use a little blue Loctite on your sprocket bolts you should be good. You can also increase the rear wheel traction by going with some Works Connection Elite axle blocks that will eliminate the fixed left side axle block from your axle. This allows both axle blocks to float under heavy load (acceleration) and will not give you a binding rear end (harsh) feel. It sounds minimal, but makes a difference on acceleration chop. You can also run your wheel a little farther back if you're changing your gearing to get some added straight line stability that the KTM can use at times. 

Rear Brake Pedal Spring: The stock one sucks! I break my brake pedal spring every 3-4 hours! You either are going to have to load up on brake pedal springs or go with a CRF450R brake pedal spring with the rubber over it (condom style). This helps with the vibration that the spring experiences, so it doesn't break. 


FMF 4.1 Muffler System: I have tried a lot of systems for this bike, but there is only one that I liked better than the stock system. The FMF 4.1 helps bottom end roll on power out of corners, gives you some added mid range meat, and keeps the stock system’s top end intact. You will shed almost 1.5 pounds and the exhaust note is not obnoxiously loud. I leave the insert out of this system and run it how it comes in the box. The KTM R&D team in Austria worked together with FMF to develop this muffler so it ensures that the air/fuel ECU mapping is correct when purchasing this system. Smart. 


Seat: I went with a Selle Della Valle seat for added butt traction out of corners. This seat is really good, but also really hard on your butt! I have been chaffed more times than I can remember, but it keeps you locked in that’s for sure! It also is super durable and takes washings well.