Top 5 Mods For The 2018.5-2019.5 Husqvarna FC450/Rockstar Editon

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 will work for the 2018.5/2019/2019.5 Husqvarna FC450 and Rockstar Edition models. 

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1. ECU Re-Map: The 2019.5 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition still feels a little rich on bottom end and lean on top end. The 2019.5 ECU settings are slightly better than my 2018.5 that I purchased, but it’s still not close to where it needs to be. Getting a simple re-flash of your ECU from Jamie at Twisted Development will help the sluggish feel off the bottom and get you more bottom-mid range RPM response. It will make the “light on paper” FC450/Rockstar Edition actually feel light on the track. If you can’t splurge for the Vortex ignition then go with a re-flash of your stock ECU. This is my first “MUST HAVE” on this machine. It will change the character of the Husqvarna for the better.    


2. Black Throttle Cam: A close second to getting this sucker better through corners is installing the black throttle cam so there isn't a huge lag in response mid-corner. With the standard throttle cam the bike comes on soft and then has a big hit that can upset your rolling corner speed. THIS DRIVES ME NUTS! Installing the black cam will help the transition at 0-15% throttle opening through corners. Some dealers will install this cam before purchase, but it’s good for you to check by simply unbolting your throttle housing and checking your throttle tube for the black throttle cam.  


3. 14/52 Gearing: Want to make your shock feel better and help your third gear pulling power? Try going to a 14/52 gearing and you’ll notice a slightly better third gear pull as it could possibly make leaving your RE in third gear through corners much easier. Going up to a 14/52 gearing ratio also helps relax the shock under load, which makes connectivity to the rear wheel more positive. I have tried 13/49 gearing and although it has better recovery than the stock 13/48 and 14/52 gearing, the 13/49 set up didn't add to the shock’s/rear end comfort like the 14/52 ratio did. Try it!  


4. Handlebars/Bar Bend: I have tinkered way too much with this over the past couple years, but I feel like I have finally honed in on a good handlebar bend. I have stuck with Pro Taper’s SX Race bend for my style of riding and my height. The SX Race bend is slightly taller than the stock Husqvarna bend (+7mm), but is not so tall where it affects my corners. The SX Race bend also comes standard with a length of 800mm, which is the exactly the right amount of length most of us are looking for. The stock Husqvarna bend is long (811mm) and gives me a hard to lean feel through corners. I also went with a Fuzion (crossbar style) bar, but that is simply just preference as I could easily go back to a Pro Taper EVO style as well. 

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5. Airbox Mod: You want a little more excitement out of your Husqvarna’s low end? Drill some 1/2 inch holes in the left side airbox cover (as shown) and you’ll get some increased throttle response throughout the RPM range. Rumor has it that all FC Husqvarna’s will be coming with pre-drilled air vents come 2020. The Husqvarna airbox is smaller than the KTM so there his more benefit on the track doing this to the Husqvarna versus the KTM. 

Extras: Kris what about suspension? The AER fork is decent and I can ride with it, but yes of course I would recommend a set of WP Cone Valve forks if you want maximum comfort and front end traction. Do you need a Trax shock? The answer is, “no”. The stock shock is quite good and has tons of comfort. Yes, you can run CV forks with a stock shock. I’ve done it and it works just fine. The AER fork performance is good, but still will change on you throughout a long day of riding.

Keep an eye on motor mounts, spokes, and sprocket bolts as they come loose because of the Husqvarna’s vibration. Yes, the steel frame bikes vibrate a little more than the aluminum frame bikes, so that means you need to check bolts more often.

Top 5 Mods For The 2019 Kawasaki KX450

By Dominic Cimino

So I’m guessing you might have (or thinking about putting) a 2019 KX450 in your garage if you are reading our “top five improvements”. Good! This bike is awesome and deserves some minor updates to make it even better. After racing our test bike for the first time this year I can vouch that the five things you are about to read about have definitely help make this green machine shine. Let’s get into it...


First - Suspension. This is a public service announcement that should not go unnoticed. This is hands down one of the best things that any of you can do to improve your new ride. The new model mx bikes that are hitting the showroom floors in the last few years have proved to have great working components. Look at the BluCru - the KYB fork and shock combo continues to dominate every year. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider getting the bike tailored specifically for you and your riding ability. The KX benefited greatly from Race Tech’s special touch. After two attempts, we got the spring rates/valving dialed in for me, providing a plush/stable ride at speed with great bottoming resistance for the big stuff. I’m so happy with how the suspension feels compared to stock, so this first improvement is a no brainer.

Second - 22mm offset triple clamps. 
The Kawasaki motocross bikes have always handled well in stock trim. Cornering is made easy with their comfortable ergonomics and chassis combination. But after testing Ride Engineering’s shorter offset (stock is 23mm) it was a clear decision to stay with this improvement. Although they have a more rigid feel, the 2019 KX450 became even more playful in the cornering department allowing me to practically point & shoot anywhere I want to go when on the track. Laying over in deep ruts is made easier as well, as the naturally flickable character of this bike and improved cornering precision will make you smile. Let’s not forget that they also give the bike a special look as well, so I always give a nod for these added bonus points. 


Third - Rear linkage pull rod. 
This is the first time I’ve ever had the chance to test this easy bolt-on part from Ride Engineering. And easy it is - two bolts and a sag adjustment (105mm) will really prove to improve the way this 450 feels. The pull rod squats the rear end of the bike out slightly and alters the progression of the shock, which all translates to a more stable ride. There are no surprises even in rough conditions. The KX stays planted and predictable and I have found myself charging the rough sections much harder than I have in the past. This is a great performance benefit at a great price point.


Fourth - Handlebars. 
Kawasaki has done a great job at providing a motorcycle with a very adjustable cockpit to fit a wide range of riders. Having different foot-peg placements and handlebar mounting positions helps any of us get the most comfort out of our new bike. So why not maximize the comfort even more by selecting your preferred bar bend? I chose a set of Pro Taper EVO bars (in the Husqvarna bend) to achieve this. The low/flat sweep really caters to my riding style, and after trimming 1/4 inch from each side, this really got the cockpit dialed in. These handlebars also offer a bit more flex, so I feel they compliment the Ride Engineering triple clamps added rigidity.


Fifth - Exhaust. 
Our latest test was thanks to our friends at Yoshimura. They provided us an RS-4 full exhaust system to help further improve the power delivery on our 2019 KX450. After a painless installation, we were greeted with better looks and a better sounding tone. Power improvements were found from the mid to top-end as this exhaust really enhanced the free revving character of the new green machine. The mid-range stayed plenty lively with a little bit more aggressiveness that progressed into top-end over rev. I am able to hold gears longer while staying on the gas before having to upshift. I am definitely convinced that once we start adjusting mapping/ECU settings, this exhaust system is going to shine even more.

So there you have the top five improvements for Kawasaki’s newest big bore. Such an awesome bike to ride/race, it truly has been a blast getting this bike dialed in for me and I can’t wait to ride it more! If you have any questions for me, please don’t hesitate:

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..  

Top 5 Mods For The 2019 Yamaha YZ450FX

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


1. FMF 4.1 Slip On Muffler 

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


2. Yamaha Power Tuner App

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


3. Firepower Battery 

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

4. Handguards

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


5. Fork Springs

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

"Top 5" 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 Mods

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. Full Or Slip On Muffler System: The 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 lacks a little bottom end and RPM response, so in order to get a little more of that the easiest thing to do is throw on a slip on or full muffler system. I am not going to sit here and tell you that you NEED a Pro Circuit Ti-6 system like the one that is on our test bike, but Joe Oehlhof (our test rider) says that the PC did help the lethargic feeling somewhat. Our “Average Joe” tester is no bullshit so I stand behind his findings. The PC system didn't “wow” us for initial RPM response at first, but we installed the insert into the muffler and that helped back pressure enough to create some more throttle response. Joe and I both liked the insert in for increased bottom to mid range throttle response without losing much top end pull. Installing this PC system helps with coming out of corners and also helps the Suzuki’s recovery time. With the stock system the recovery time out of corners (if you were a gear too high) was embarrassing for a 450cc machine. It would be hard to get back into the meat of the power forcing you to downshift and then immediately upshift, in order to get moving again quickly. With the PC system the rider can fan the clutch lever a couple times (in the higher gear) and it helps get the Suzuki on down the track in a quicker manner. The PC system is a step in the right direction for bottom and mid range pull. It doesn’t help or negatively affect the top end at all. Yes, we would still like a little more to make us happy. But wait… It does get better… Keep reading… 


2. Ride Engineering Link: Simply installing the Ride Engineering link helped balance the RM-Z out on de-cel. If you’re running the stock suspension (valving/springs) this simple mod will help the RM-Z from wanting to transfer its weight towards the front end. The RM-Z450’s BFRC shock is known for unloading on de-cel (or riding high off throttle) and that can cause oversteer (knifing) on entrances of corners. Once you install the longer Ride Engineering link arms on the Suzuki it will settle down on de-cel and not pitch towards the front end as much. Running the sag at 107mm (fork height 4-5mm) with the link arm will alleviate some of your balance issues on the #RMaRMy. 


3. Vertex Hi Compression Piston Kit: Installing a 13.5:1 Vertex piston kit helped get some added excitement out of Suzuki’s bottom to mid range. Stock compression is 12.5:1 on the RM-Z450, but bumping the compression up to 13.5:1 allows for us to still run pump fuel safely. Where you will notice the added pull is on deeply tilled tracks or soft tracks that force the rider to get on the throttle harder. The Suzuki now feels a little “spunkier”, “livelier”, and “more fun” to ride. It also helps the chassis feel lighter when the track is tighter or when it gets rougher. It allows the rider to “pop” over bumps and makes the Suzuki feel a little more playful. 


4. Hinson Clutch Kit (Basket, Pressure Plate, Inner, Fibers, Steels, Springs): The stock clutch fades quickly during motos and the clutch lever actuation (engagement) is very narrow. Once the Hinson clutch kit was installed the feel of the clutch was more positive and less vague. The Hinson also took the improved bottom end we got from the muffler/piston and transferred that power better to the rear wheel. The stock mushy lever feeling was gone and a slightly stiffer firm feel replaced it. However, it wasn’t a “Honda hard pull” feel, just a slightly firmer/more positive than the stock Suzuki pull. We have been riding with the Hinson clutch for over a few months now and that feeling hasn't changed one bit. We also have to change our clutch plates less as the Hinson set up doesn't get burned up as quickly. 


5. FCP Engine Mounts: If you still feel like the chassis is stiff during your late motos going to these mounts will help alleviate some of that harsh/sharp feeling through the headtube of the frame. I have tried these FCP mounts on most bikes and although they DO NOT work on every machine, I have found great results with them on the Suzuki RM-Z450. Immediately the front/top mounts got rid of some of the stiff bound up feeling of the chassis and allowed it to settle even more entering corners, stayed planted transitioning through the middle part of the corner, and allowed the suspension to absorb acceleration chop while keeping the rear wheel planted under acceleration.  This was just another improvement from a simple bolt on part that gave me that secure feeling, to allow me to carry my momentum through corners and push the bike a little harder. Note: We tried just the top mounts first (for comfort/straight line stability) and then went to the front mounts for increased cornering (lean angle) ability. Use both for best results… 

2019 Honda CRF Trail Line


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


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


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


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

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

2019 Updates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Engine / Drivetrain

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

  • Four-speed gearbox with automatic clutch.

  • Adjustable throttle-limiter screw to match rider abilities.

  • Convenient electric starter with kick-start backup.

Chassis / Suspension

  • Low seat height of only 26.3 inches.

  • Handlebar pad.

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

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


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

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

2019 Updates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Meets CARB and EPA off-road emissions standards.


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


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

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

2019 Updates

  • All-new 250cc overhead-cam engine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • CRF Performance Line-inspired muffler with compact positioning.

  • CRF Performance Line-inspired bodywork and graphics.


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

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

  • Electric starter makes getting going a breeze.


  • 34.8 inch seat height.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Meets CARB and EPA off-road emissions standards.

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


What’s a Trail Bike?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Green Sticker Facts:

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

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

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

Top Five Trail Bike Areas in Southern California:

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

Hungry Valley SVRA

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

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

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

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

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

ADMINISTRATOR: California State Parks


El Mirage Dry Lake OHV Area

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ocotillo Wells SVRA

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

WHAT: Over 85,000 acres

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

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

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

ADMINISTRATOR: California State Parks


Rowher Flat OHV Area

WHERE: Near Santa Clarita

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

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

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

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

Day-use fee is $5.

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


Cactus Flat OHV Staging Area

WHERE: Northeast of Big Bear Lake

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

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

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

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

ADMINISTRATOR: San Bernardino National Forest


Honda Rider Education Centers:


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


Honda Rider Education Center Locations

  1. Colton, California

  2. Irving, Texas

  3. Troy, Ohio

  4. Alpharetta, Georgia


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


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


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


For more information:

 To register: 


Honda’s Trail Bike History: 


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


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


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


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


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


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


 Honda Trail Bike Timeline: 


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


  • Z50A / Z50R (’68-’99) 

  • XR75 (’73-’78) 

  • XR80 (’79-’03) 

  • XR185 (’79-’82) 

  • XR250 (’79-’04)* 

  • XR200 (’80-’02)* 

  • XR100 (’81-’03) 

  • TR200 Fat Cat (’89-’90) 

  • XR70 (’97-’03) 

  • XR50R (’00-’03) 

  • CRF50F (’04-’19) 

  • CRF70F (’04-’12) 

  • CRF80F (’04-’13) 

  • CRF100F (’04-’13) 

  • CRF150F (’04-’17) 

  • CRF230F (’04-’17) 

  • CRF110F (’13-’19) 

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

  • CRF250F (’19) 

2019 Yamaha WR450F First Impression

Written By: Michael Allen

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition First Impression

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


What are the changes to the 2019.5 Husqvarna Rockstar Edition?   


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

New topology optimized rocker arms

New factory machined anodized triple clamps 

Factory start for front fork
Black frame
Composite skid plate

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

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

Pro Taper EVO handlebars

ODI soft lock on grips


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

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

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


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

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

milestone -1-26.jpg

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

2019.5 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition First Impression

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


What are the changes to the 2019.5 KTM Factory Edition?   


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

New Factory machined Anodized triple clamps 

Factory start for front fork
Orange frame
Composite skid plate

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

2019 250 MX Shootout

After two episodes, 13 riders, over five hours of rider opinions, three vastly different tracks, over 90 pages of notes, and several engine hours later, the 2019 250 MX Shootout is dusted. We set out to find the correct 250 four-stroke motocross machine for you and have came away with the final ranking. Below are the final scores (that were tallied up by using an olympic style scoring) and a brief evaluation/summary of each bikes strengths and weaknesses. If you want to hear more about each bike and get a much broader/detailed breakdown of each machine, click on the podcast tab to listen to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast Presented By Fly Racing And Race Tech right now! 

First Place: Yamaha YZ250F


This wasn't a surprise as the Yamaha boasts unreal amounts of torque for a 250F, which makes any type of rider smile from ear to ear. The YZ250F comes on strong down low, has a wide mid-range and pulls much farther up top than it did in 2018. Combine that with the best suspension in class it was tough to beat when it came to riding a very rough track. The amount of comfort that the suspension gave for a wide variety of riders was unmatched and proved that this is one of the most broad spectrum motocross machines available today. When asking testers to pick out one negative, most found it difficult to think of one, but the exhaust note under higher RPM’s was annoying. 


Most torque/pulling power in class

Plushest suspension 

Yamaha Power Tuner App makes it easy to tailor the power for each rider (it’s free with purchase of bike)


Wide feeling, still noticeable for a few laps

Exhaust note is annoying

Bridgestone X20 tires aren't as good at mid corner as Dunlop

Second Place: 


Surprise! Surprise! At least it was to me. In my final ranking I rated the Honda fourth, but in the overall standings the Honda CRF250R was second best in the shootout. Why? Almost every test rider agreed that the Honda’s chassis was the most agile and well rounded over the course of the test. Bump absorption was superb at rough tracks, ease of cornering, and a lightweight feel all had most of the riders buzzing. The downside to the Honda is you have to ride it aggressively because it simply doesn't have the torque that the Yamaha does. The CRF250R revs out farther than the Yamaha, but its sweet spot is much narrower than the YZ250F. I guess the old theory of “engine is king” is somewhat thrown out the window in this case. The Honda's map switch and its maps are actually noticeable. Most everyone agreed that “map three” was the better map to get some added bottom end feel out of corners where it’s needed. The 2019 Honda also didn't want to overheat like it did in 2018 so maybe that’s another reason why it moved up the ranking in 2019. 


Chassis has a good balance of straight line stability and ease of cornering 

Mid-Top end power rivals the KTM and Husqvarna 

Suspension has comfort along with excellent hold up for larger riders 


Lack of bottom end torque

Clutch abusers will notice fading in longer motos

Transmission spacing is weird (2nd gear feels long, but 3rd gear feels short)

Third Place: KTM 250SX-F


The KTM250SX-F has a deceiving engine character and is smooth and linear down low, but actually has “meat” to its pulling power. It’s exhaust note is quieter than its competitors yet builds RPM’s more calculated, which leaves the rider with more rear wheel traction. If there is one thing lacking in the KTM’s armor it has to be bottom and mid range RPM response. It simply needs more excitement in this area to keep up with the blue bike. This easily can be changed with mapping, but KTM doesn't have a handy ECU tool to make that change accessible to the consumer. The handlebar mounted map switch works well and there is a distinct difference between map one and map two. The TC button is an added bonus that no one else has and it actually works on hard pack areas of the track, so don't be afraid to use it. Not to mention that you can turn it on and off while you ride or as the track deteriorates. The KTM’s AER fork isn’t the worst fork in the bunch, but the two bikes ahead of it simply are more comfortable when the track gets bumpy. The KTM is lacking some front end positivity while leaning and that was a complaint with over 50% of the testers. KTM and Husqvarna have the best brakes, a solid hydraulic clutch, and ergonomics that fit a wide range of riders. 


Mid to top end pulling power 

Feels light on the track

Clutch that never fades


Lack of bottom-mid range end RPM response (excitement) 

Fork lacks some mid-stroke comfort on de-cel bumps

Handlebar has stiff/rigid feel

Fourth Place: Husqvarna FC250


Whether you like it or not the Husqvarna FC250 does feel different than the orange bike. The Husqvarna has a slightly smoother roll on delivery, but to most test riders had a better pull on top end/over-rev. The vibration wasn't as apparent on the Husqvarna as it was on the KTM and the overall chassis forgiveness (or in the production testing world we call that “track toughness”) is better than the brigade as well, but not as good as the YZ250F (king of track toughness). Simply put, the Husqvarna got ranked behind it’s “blood relative” because of a less exciting bottom end power delivery when the track was deep. If the track was hard pack, most testers like the Husqvarna more, but with the conditions we tested at being 70% loamy and 30% hard pack the FC250 got a fourth place ranking. The AER fork didn't have the comfort of the Honda or Yamaha on small bump absorption, but with that being said could make our heavier testers happier on overall balance around the track, due to its easy to to adjust nature. 


Mid to top end pulling power

Feels light on track

Comes with Pro Taper handlebar 


Lack of bottom end RPM response 

AER fork lacks mid-stroke comfort 

Seat cover eats your ass up on longer rides 

Fifth Place: Kawasaki KX250


The Kawasaki KX250 is unchanged for 2019 as Team Green focused its efforts on the KX450. The engine on the KX250 is snappy/exciting down low and has an impressive amount of torque out of corners, but it’s short lived compared to the other bikes in its class. Running the white (lean) coupler helps the Kawasaki pull better through the mid range and gives it increased RPM response on mid-top end. The muffler note still sounds like crap, so hopefully Kawasaki will give the 250 the 450 exhaust note treatment. The Showa SFF fork was split 50/50 with testers as half could find a comfortable setting (mostly heavier riders) and the other half (smaller, lighter testers) couldn't make it plush enough on small to medium sized bumps. The back half of the KX250 had zero complaints and the frame’s bump absorption is comfortable, but all the complaints came from the front end. Cornering the KX250 felt light and nimble and tracked well through the middle to end of rutted and flat corners alike. Faster heavier riders noticed the rear of the bike being a little low and that hurt the initial lean of the Kawasaki. We are looking forward to seeing what the R&D guys have in store for us in 2020 with the KX250. 


Great bottom end RPM response 

Straight line stability 

Mid to exit of cornering stability 


Top end pulling power

Exhaust note

Harsh fork and tough to set up for a variety of tracks (Track Toughness) 

Sixth Place: Suzuki RM-Z250


To give this bike a sixth place pains me, but again Suzuki is still a great choice for a lot of riders. Let me explain why. The engine is snappy and quick off the bottom, especially when coming out of tight 180 degree corners, the RM-Z250 also has the best “lean in” coming into corners than anyone else in the shootout, and lastly the Suzuki’s suspension is decent when the rider tips the scales above 185 pounds. So with all this being said why did it get sixth? Simply put the RM-Z250 needs another 20%-25% more power everywhere, could use a softer fork/shock spring rate, and needs a less rigid feeling head tube area. The Suzuki transfers a lot of the track to the rider and that made most of the test riders back the throttle off (especially when the track got super rough). The frame just feels like it doesn't want to flex near the head tube area when pushing the Suzuki into a corner with decent size braking bumps. The best way to describe this feeling is like when you have a knot in your back muscles and you can’t seem to massage it out, but you constantly feel a tightness in that spot of your back no matter which way you turn, lay, sit, etc. That is the RM-Z250’s frame in a nutshell. There is however tons of potential in the engine and it feels exciting coming out of corners, but the Suzuki only teases you with that excitement and then it immediately runs and hides from you. Where did it go? We don’t know, but we want more of it! If the track was tight and smother (AKA Arenacross/Supercross) the Suzuki wouldn't be sixth, we do know that. 


Snappy throttle response 

Cornering ability

Ergonomics comfortable for most sizes 


Frame stiffness on rough tracks

Needs more pulling power/meat/torque

Over-sprung for most standard 250 sized riders   



2019 KX450 Stage 1 Modifications

“Fine Tuning Chassis And Handling With Ride Engineering”

By Dominic Cimino

As you may or may not be aware by now, I am enjoying my time on Kawasaki’s newest big bore. We are deep into the initial stages of fine tuning this dirt bike to my personal preferences and have logged a lot of laps with only a couple aftermarket modifications. Pro Taper handlebars, Race Tech tuned suspension, and most recently, Ride Engineering’s rear linkage and off-set triple clamps. I wanted to give you some insight I experienced during testing Ride Engineering’s chassis specific parts and what worked best for me to date. 


Performance Link:

This was the very first thing we bolted onto the KX450 and it definitely proves to be worth the investment. You can immediately feel how this shock link makes the bike more planted. It technically lowers the rear end when compared to the stock setting, which translates to a squatted feel (which I like on my bikes regardless of color). After setting the sag to Ride Engineering’s recommended setting (103mm), I found that sliding my fork up 3mm in the triple clamps from flush improved things even further. With the fork flush in the top clamp, the KX lost some of the initial lean-in feeling entering corners. The bike just wasn’t as responsive overall when I wanted to point and shoot places. After sliding the fork up, it allowed the bike to regain “some” of those specific handling traits that we all like with this bike. For this test, keep in mind that I kept the stock triple clamps on to get a true gauge on improved performance, and I feel that for a $220 bolt on part, this performance link is worth it. 


21.5mm off-set triple clamps:

Next up on the chopping block were these 21.5mm clamps. The stock clamp off-set on the 2019 KX450 comes in at 23mm, so 1.5mm is a pretty decent adjustment. It shows immediately when on the track too, as the bike handles completely different. Ride Engineering’s purpose when developing these clamps was to make the bike turn on a dime and leave a nickels’ worth of change… and I’m pretty sure they accomplished that! The steering became very aggressive and literally allows you to look in the direction you want to go as the bike follows. If anyone out there reading this would like to have assistance in corners and/or ruts, you may want to consider these clamps on your bike. The bike will point and shoot as you wish, the lean-in feel entering ruts is much more sensitive, and when you are physically in the rut, the bike likes to lay over with ease. But for me personally, I felt that these clamps were a little too much for my riding style. I naturally tend to ride over the front-end a lot (I’m a desert rat, remember?) and because of this, the front end became over-aggressive. At speed, I lost confidence because my bike inherited a twitchy sensation, making me feel like it could “knife” at any moment. Although it gained huge advancements in corners, I would rather the trade-off for better stability at speed. If you tend to ride tighter tracks at slower speeds, these clamps would probably be a no-brainer. 


22mm off-set triple clamps:

Ok - I know you might be saying, “really bro - .5mm different off-set?? Can you really tell?” The answer is whole-heartedly, YES. That 1/2mm really translates to a more predictable front-end steering feel, where the bike gained more stability in the places it needed it. In my layman’s terms: this is the happy middle between stock and that Supercross ready 21.5mm off-set. These clamps still allow you to enter a corner with ease (although not as easy as the 21.5’s) and keep you laid over until you exit. We kept the fork at the 3mm mark in the top clamp, and it proved to be the best position while testing. It really was a cool experience to test all three of these clamps during the same day to decipher which was best for me. 


On another note, I did want to mention a vital characteristic of the stock triple clamps that stands out after riding with different sets: they are less rigid than the Ride Engineering sets. This translates into a more compliant chassis feeling, where the bike feels better over small chop/bump absorption, as well as slap-down landings. This directly correlates to what you feel in your hands while riding, because I liked the stock clamps for these exact reasons. I personally think that some of you out there might have a hard time telling/feeling the difference of what I’m explaining here, so please take this little tidbit with a grain of salt if you’re not sensitive to small changes in your machine. Keep in mind, a TON of research and development go into OEM production clamps, but they have to appeal to an average rider world wide. Ride Engineering is taking that a step beyond and really fine tuning the handling characteristics for those of us that want more (hence the title of this update, “fine tuning”). That is what their clamps are providing - more precise and predictable handling for a motorcycle that already does it well, which in turn translates into more smiles at the end of the day. 

Stage 1 is almost complete on this 2019 Green Machine. I would like to re-visit Race Tech for some changes on suspension before we embark on the next slew of modifications, which will find us in the power department. This motorcycle continues to get better with every bolt we turn, so please stay tuned along the way. As always, we are here to help in any way we can, so feel free to send me an email if you need more info or have questions:  Thank you for reading!

Living With The 2019 Yamaha YZ450FX By Michael Allen

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


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


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

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


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


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

2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 "NEED ONLY" Build (Part Two)

OK, so here we go with the long awaited part two of the 2019 RMZ450 “NEED ONLY” build.  As we stated before in part one, this is a damn good bike that just needs a few improvements.  So, in this part of the build we focused on trying to find a little more power, improving clutch feel and durability, and just some bolt on parts to add a little more “NEEDED” comfort.


What: High compression Pro Circuit piston

Why: Simply stated, the bike needed more bottom end power

Conclusion: Once I picked up the bike from Pro Circuit, after they added the high compression piston, I couldn't wait to get it to the track and see the result (we are able to run pump gas as the compression ratio allows us to). I was surprised that such a small change could make a big difference.  The power was improved in all aspects of the power band, not just bottom end delivery.  On bottom end (with stock piston), the stock power was too mellow and the recovery characteristic was poor especially when the track is ripped deep.  This mod improved bottom end torque and recovery was vastly improved when I was in the wrong gear.  If I am being picky, I still want a little more RPM snap, but we may be able to get that with ignition or different mapping (this may be in part three). Surprisingly, the biggest improvement to the power was through mid to top end pull.  I feel like anytime I grabbed third gear, this bike had a smooth yet very noticeable meatier pull up through the top end (compared to the stock piston).  Overall, this Pro Circuit HC piston took a weak stock powerband and made it fun to ride with more than enough power to clear obstacles out of corners or pull you out of deep corners, but kept the rideability and rear wheel traction high. To me the is a “MUST” on this bike to improve excitement factor. Note: Running white coupler for best feeling on track.


What: Hinson clutch (outer basket, inner basket, pressure plate, fibers, plates, heavier springs, and clutch cover)

Why: To improve overall durability and get rid of the vague feeling at the clutch lever

Conclusion: The Hinson family has been making top quality clutch components for as long as I can remember.  In 1997, when McGrath made the switch to Suzuki, he enlisted Hinson to solve his clutch problems with that model, not factory Suzuki. Immediately the feel at the clutch was more positive and less vague before I even made it onto the track.  Once I rode the bike on the track, the Hinson clutch took the improved power that we got from the piston and transferred that to the rear wheel.  The stock mushy lever feeling was gone and a slightly stiffer firm feel replaced it.  However, it wasn’t a “Honda hard pull” feel, just slightly firmer/more positive than the stock Suzuki pull. I have been riding with the Hinson clutch for over a month and that feeling hasn't changed one bit.  The Hinson durability is second to none and the improved feel was welcomed. Editors Note: Also just to give you guys, the reader, more insight on Joe’s riding technique, he is known to be a clutch destroyer. Joe is very hard on clutches and to say that a clutch has made it over a month without changing plates says something.  


What: FCP Engine mounts

Why: Chassis felt a bit rigid on corner entrance, transitioning, and exiting choppy corners

Conclusion: I couldn't remove that small insecurity when entering corners, no matter what I tried with the suspension. I figured it had to be due to the stiffness in the chassis and not the suspension.  Kris Palm approached me at Milestone and bolted on his engine mounts for me to give it a try. Keefer told me that some of FCP mounts have made a differene in the past, so I was curious to see what they would do to this chassis. Immediately the mounts got rid of most of the stiff bound up feeling of the chassis and allowed it to settle entering corners, stayed planted transitioning through the middle part of the corner, and allowed the suspension to absorb any acceleration chop while keeping the rear wheel planted under acceleration.  Another improvement from a simple bolt on part that gave me that secure feeling to allow me to carry my momentum through corners and push the bike a little harder.


What: Pro Taper (bars, grips, throttle tube, front brake lever, clutch perch/lever, chain, sprockets, and hour meter)

Why: To achieve more comfort, adjustability, and durability 

Conclusion: Bars - Once I found the right balance of bar height and bend while sitting and standing, I was happy with the SX Race bend.  

Grips - Working my full time job doesn't allow me to ride as much as I would like. Having the right grips are key and the soft compound 1/3 waffle gave me that cushy feel, allowing me to ride all day with no issues and the grip was excellent.

Throttle tube - The stock plastic throttle tube had a sluggish/slow feeling to it so when we replaced it with the aluminum tube the throttle had a lighter, snappier feel.  Plus it obviously is stronger and more durable in a crash.

 Front brake lever - In addition to looking great with its black color and having a cool Pro Taper cover/shield, the XPS Lever offered great adjustability with the dial to adjust reach and its multi directional folding capabilities kept it from breaking or bending in a crash.  

Clutch perch and lever - The Profile perch and lever offered the same great looks as the XPS front lever, friction free feel, quick adjust star to adjust clutch play, and a nylon sleeve to allow the perch to pivot in a fall.  Additionally it folds in almost all directions further protecting it in a fall and the reach is also adjustable.

Chain and Sprockets - I kept the stock gearing ratio but, opted for the black Race spec front and rear sprockets which gave me increased durability and looks. The Pro Series 520 mx chain gave me that cool gold chain look with minimal stretching and longer lasting chain life. 

Hour meter - The wireless hour meter was literally the easiest part I've ever applied to a bike. Peel and stick, then hit the button for info. It works off of vibration (eaaaaaaasyyyyyyy Keefer) while the bike is running, which led to a few complaints of additional time being added during transport. I live on a dirt road roughly 2 miles from pavement and i have had absolutely zero issues with this. 


Overall I'm happy on this build, as Keefer mentioned, the whole point was to take a bike that consistently finishes towards the rear in the shootouts and show how great this bike can be with a few key improvements. I truly enjoy riding this bike and feel a confidence i've been missing since those years where I rode all the time. For the average guy, who may only get to ride once a week or less, to be able to hop on his bike and feel comfortable going fast is priceless. I feel we were able to achieve just that and hopefully this build will help you get that same feeling. Thanks for reading and stay tuned, i have a feeling this build may not be done yet.

Joe Oehlhof

14 year professional motocross racer

Finished 16th in points in 2005 in 450 class

Made every main events in 2005

Best 125 SX finish was Pontiac with a 4th Place 1999

Rode for AM Leonard KTM, Team Subway Honda, WBR Suzuki

Best Of 2018

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

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


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

2019 Yamaha YZ450F: 


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

6D ATR-2 Helmet:  


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

Ride Engineering One Piece Handlebar Mount:   


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

Guts Racing Firm Seat Foam And Gripper Wing Seat Cover: 


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

Works Connection Elite Axle Blocks For KTM And Husqvarna: 


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

2018 Yamaha YZ65: 


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

2018 Top Gear Choices: 

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

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


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


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



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

2018.5 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition: 


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

2019 Honda CRF250RX First Impression 

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


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

  • Large-capacity, 2.2 gallon resin fuel tank 

  • 18-inch rear wheel

  • Forged aluminum sidestand

  • Sealed drive chain

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



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

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

  • Downdraft intake layout improvies air-charging efficiency

  • Dual exhaust ports enable ideal air-charging efficiency

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

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

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

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

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

  • Electric-start standard for easy, fast engine startup

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Front-brake hose resists expansion for precise braking

  • Smooth bodywork layout eases rider movement

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

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


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

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


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


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

48mm Showa spring forks grace the new 2019 CRF250RX.

48mm Showa spring forks grace the new 2019 CRF250RX.

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

The Honda loves to carve up some berms.

The Honda loves to carve up some berms.

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

Dear Honda, we need handguards please!

Dear Honda, we need handguards please!

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

2019 Honda CRF250R First Impression

It’s finally here to talk about! Hallelujah! The 2019 Honda CRF250R! So what did Honda change to the 2019 Honda CRF250R? New cam profile based on feedback from the Team HRC factory MX2 race team, new intake and exhaust-port geometry, new 44mm throttle body from last year’s 46mm version, all-new piston oil jet uses five nozzle holes instead of four, for improved piston-cooling efficiency and reduced knocking, right-side exhaust pipe shortened 50mm for excellent high-rpm power, all-new AC generator reduces weight and friction, Renthal Fatbar instead of 7/8 handlebar, new engine guard allows increased airflow that is said to improve engine-cooling performance, redesigned fork protectors offer improved coverage, black rims bro, new, lighter front-brake caliper now uses pistons of different diameters (30mm and 27mm) for strong braking performance, updated front brake hose has reduced expansion for more precise braking, and finally newly shaped footpegs are 20% lighter and flush mud more easily. 


The 2018 Honda CRF250R needed more torque to be able to hang with the Yamaha YZ250F. For 2019 Honda did improve on bottom end delivery, but it’s still not up to Yamaha YZ250F standards. The 2019 CRF250R can pull out of a soft corner slightly better than the 2018, but where you will really feel the difference between last year’s machine is through the mid-range. Mid range pulling power and RPM response is much improved as the Honda now feels more playful when accelerating over square edge and popping over braking bumps. Low end response doesn't have that exciting feel like the Yamaha, but to me the low end feeling (coming out of corners) feels on par with the KX250 now. The Honda CR250R needed more “meat” in second gear and it did get some, but the recovery time, from a mistake by the rider, is still not quite as good as the blue bike. If you're looking for a 250 four-stroke that likes to be revved and pulls far then the 2019 Honda CRF250R is your ticket. Top end pulls strong and over-rev is close to the KTM 250 SX-F, which means you will be rewarded by waiting just a second or two longer when making your shifts. The harder you ride this Honda the more it will reward you. This is not a lazy rider’s machine! If you were to ride both the 2018/2019 bikes back to back you will be able to feel the overall increased engine performance within the first couple laps. Trust me, I have done this several times. 


The updated valving that Honda came up with for 2019 really helps the chassis feel out tremendously. The fork has better hold up on de-cel and can be ridden harder with a heavier rider on board. The comfort that the CRF250R fork has is almost as good as the KYB SSS fork that is on the YZ250F. In fact, to me, the Honda fork has slightly more comfort initially when slapping the front end down off of a big single or flat landing. The shock is also a step in a better direction with increased rear wheel traction, as the shock squats just the right amount when the throttle is twisted open. The balance of the Honda should be praised as it always feels flat when coming in hot to a corner and the stink bug feel that Honda is sometimes known for is not apparent on this model. 


I have ridden almost all of the 2019 250’s and I must say that Honda has the best feeling chassis out of the bunch (I have yet to ride the 2019 Suzuki). The rigid feel that the CRF450R comes with is not apparent on the 250R. It feels planted at speed and can corner extremely well. The Honda is not the lightest on paper, but feels extremely light when riding. The beauty of this chassis is that you can rear end steer this 2019 Honda and also front steer without a problem. I complain about being trapped in a box with the 450R chassis as it’s super finicky to each change I make. The 250R has a wider window for the rider and doesn't seem to feel different when going from track to track. What you may be wondering is why the chassis feels better in 2019 when there wasn't anything changed to the frame. I am glad you asked! With the newfound bottom-mid range pulling power and the suspension changes that Showa made to the 2019 makes this a more fun/playful chassis to ride (compared to the 2018 version) on all different types of terrain.    


Thank you Honda for going with the 839 Renthal Fatbar! It is a lower bend than the old 971 7/8 Renthal bar, which makes it easier to get over the front end and corner. I am able to stand up through corners much easier with the layout of the handlebar, seat, footpeg. I am 6’0 tall and Honda is one of the more roomier cockpits. Dean Wilson even commented that the Honda (when he tested it) was spacious enough for him! *TIP*!! If you’re looking to get the 839 Fatbar bend on your older Honda you will have to go to your local Honda dealer and order it through them as a Honda part number. 


The three maps that you can choose from on the handlebar are actually different feeling on the track. Sometimes when you get a machine that has a handlebar mounted map switch it’s tough to decipher between the choices you have. For fun I had a buddy change the maps on the handlebar for each session I tested, without me knowing which map I was riding with. I wanted to really see if I could tell the difference between each map setting and to my surprise I could actually feel the difference between all three maps. I ended up making the correct choice each time I went out due to the fact that they are that noticeable. I preferred the aggressive map (map three/blinking three times) because it gave me more RPM response out of corners and bottom end torque. I was able to short shift a little more with map three, which helped recovery time when fanning the clutch out of corners. Try this with your buddy at the track and see if you can feel the difference without knowing which map he put you in. Oh and don’t cheat and look down at the map switch cluster!!!  


The Honda still needs some help with 2nd, 3rd, 4th gear spacing. If I am at a jumpy track it’s tough for me to decipher on which gear I want to be in to hit something. Sometimes I come out of a corner in second, start accelerating, shift to third, and it feels like third gear runs out too quickly (for third gear). I end up shifting to fourth a lot of times to hit stuff, but the weird thing is that fourth gear on this bike is surprisingly very useable! I hardly ever get to fourth gear on a KTM or Yamaha, but with the Honda I use fourth gear a lot. So when you ride the Honda CRF250R (2018 or 2019) try shifting to fourth gear and see for yourself. If you want to do “The Jody” I will not disagree or hate because I also like a 49 tooth on the rear. *If you are wondering what “The Jody” is, it’s a one tooth up on the rear sprocket mentality*. 

Here is a baseline set up from stock clickers. If you DO NOT know what your stock clicker number is please use your owners manual. That is what it’s there for. There is some great information in there and Honda has one of the best owners manuals out there. Yes, I could give you the stock clicker number, but that would defeat the purpose of my app that will be here soon!  

Fork: Height: 5mm

         Compression: Plus Two (two clicks stiffer than stock)

         Rebound: Stock or plus one (one click slower/stiffer than stock)

Shock: Sag: 107-108mm

            High Speed Compression: 1/8 turn in from stock (that is stiffer, folks) 

            Low Speed Compression: Plus one (one stiffer than stock)

            Rebound: Stock 


Is overheating still a problem Keefer? Yes, this is still a problem somewhat. If you ride deep sand tracks or ride when it’s over 100 degrees outside then make sure to check your coolant levels after every moto. I have tried a 1.6 radiator cap in the past and it helps a little just make sure you don’t sit there in the pits too long with your motor idling. You will not run out of coolant and blow up your bike unless you're at Glamis doing a three hour wide open moto. Just make sure to be conscious of the coolant level when riding.

In 2018 Honda had a recall on their clutch baskets as some of these were breaking and causing problems. For 2019 that is not a problem and has been resolved. The clutch on the 2019 still can fade during a long moto, if you over abuse it, so be forewarned. The clutch lifespan is around 10-12 hours for me as that is when I can feel it start to slip/drag. However, just know that I am a clutch slipper kind of guy as my finger is constantly on the clutch modulating the power to the rear wheel. 

I will be riding the 2019 Honda CRF250R a lot more so stay tuned for some added modifications that will get me some more torque. Always check back to and for the latest testing information. We got you! -Kris Keefe

2019 Honda CRF450X


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Living With The 2019 Yamaha YZ250F

After being in love with the previous model YZ 250F, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the 2019. Once the initial introduction testing was over I got to spend some real time on the bike and have been struck by cupids’ arrow (once again). Almost every aspect of the 2019 YZ 250F has been at least slightly improved from the previous generation. I’ve now had the bike for around four months and put 20+ hard hours on it riding everything from tight/jumpy moto tracks to deep wet sand tracks.


One area that has really been improved is the mid to top pulling power for 2019. The previous model had amazing bottom end torque, but lacked excitement when the bike was being revved out as this engine loved to be short shifted. It’s no secret that the 2019 has more over-rev and more exciting power throughout the RPM range. However, there is a downside; in my opinion there is only so much power that a manufacturer can reliably get out of a 250cc motorcycle without creating a time bomb right? Yamaha already had the strongest 250F engine character, so to me it feels like what Yamaha did was move the meat of the YZ 250F power closer to the midrange instead of the bottom. In order to try and get the YZ 250F to have more exciting mid-top end power it lost a bit of torque out of corners. Kris (Keefer) has helped me a lot on mapping in order to make me happy and getting the Yamaha to have the best of both worlds. We came up with the Aggressive Keefer 2 (see photo for the number fields) map a couple weeks ago and it seems to work well everywhere. The new map got rid of the somewhat empty feeling (compared to last year) bottom end where if you were a gear high exiting a corner, the clutch would need a lot of massaging. Now I feel like I can exit a corner in a taller gear, using a minimal amount of clutch, to get the bike pulling down the next straight. The only place I feel this map is lacking is a bit of over-rev. There are times where I wish the engine would just pull a little longer in each gear, so I wouldn’t have to shift just before the next corner. (editors note: It sounds like Michael needs a 450 or get off his lazy ass. Bro! It’s a 250F, you must shift!) The next step is to try an exhaust system to see if it will give me more horsepower, but for now we are leaving the bike stock for shootouts. 


The chassis and suspension of the 2019 Yamaha YZ250F is another part of the bike that has been vastly improved. The previous model had a somewhat soft and slight wallowy feeling through g-outs and flat landings. The new chassis and suspension have a much firmer feel without being harsh. The front and rear of the bike ride slightly higher in the stroke and in g-outs/hard landings the 2019 doesn’t dive un-necessarily too far into the stroke. This firm feeling has slightly faded with the amount of time we have put on the bike (as the oil has broken down) and I have had to compensate by stiffening the compression clickers a few clicks (both front and rear). The other place this chassis really shines is through corners, whether they be flat or rutted, the 2019 has a much more of a planted feel. The previous generation tended to want to stand up in rutted corners and take a bit more input from the rider to lean in. This chassis takes minimal input to lean in, stays planted, and leans all the way through ruts easily. 

Test rider Michael Allen used to go in a straight line fast, but now he loves to rip up some moto.

Test rider Michael Allen used to go in a straight line fast, but now he loves to rip up some moto.

A couple things that does bother me with the 2019 YZ 250F is the seat and exhaust. The seat, although made stiffer than the precious model, is still soft after it breaking it in. When seat bouncing or when seated while leaving a rut (with a square edge or hook in it) my ass blows through the foam and finds the top of the fuel tank. After long moto’s it leaves me with some soreness. GUTS Racing makes a cover and firmer foam that Kris will write about right here on the website. When the bike is new, the exhaust is on the loud side, but doesn't sound too bad, but after 10+ hours, it does get pretty blown out (raspy). The tone has gotten increasingly louder as well as quite annoying (especially for Kris when he’s riding behind me before I get lapped). The future plans for this bike are to compete in Keefer Inc’s 250cc shootout, then have some work done. What we’d like to do is focus on getting some more useable overall power from the Yamaha with an ignition and exhaust, then possibly get more extreme and install a higher compression piston as well as some different cams. The Yamaha has been reliable and I am still using the stock clutch! The Yamaha takes a licking and keeps on ticking! 

Keep an eye out for our 2019 250cc MX Shootout as well as the future build of this bike at Also feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about the 2019 Yamaha YZ 250F at -Michael Allen