Review

2020 Honda CRF250R First Impression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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







 



















 

























2020 Honda CRF450R First Impression

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

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New For 2020: 


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


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


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


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

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On Track Feeling:

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

2020 KTM 250 SX-F First Impression

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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









































2020 Husqvarna FC250/350 First Impression

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

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

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

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


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


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

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Engine Maps: On the FC250, Map 2 was a great all around map for all three testers we used. Map 2 didn't come on stronger than map 1, but gave the Husqvarna more rpm response and mid range recovery time, while pulling harder up top. Map 1 was a little stronger off bottom end, but was too short for our testers taste. The FC350 had slightly less engine braking in map 1, but just didn't have that excitement that map 2 had through the mid range so we chose to ride in map 2 and deal with the engine braking in second gear. In map 2 we could shift to third gear sooner than in map 1, so that was also a positive for the track we tested at. The TC button simply doesn't get enough play with test riders, but the TC button does work well for conditions that are slick, hard pack, and/or slippery. Find the preferred map you like to ride in and use the “TC” button when the track turns for the worse.   

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

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



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



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


A Pro’s Perspective: Colton Aeck National #526

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FC250 On The Track:

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

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

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

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

FC 350 On The Track:

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

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

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

250 350 Comparison:


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

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

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

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

























2020 KTM Offroad TPI Introduction



By: Dominic Cimino

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







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

Dominic@keeferinctesting.com



2020 Husqvarna FC450 Baseline/Start Up Settings

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

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

Fork:

Air Pressure: 10.9 bar

Compression: 14-15 out

Rebound: 11 out

Fork Height: 5mm


Shock:

L/S Compression: 11-12 clicks out

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

Rebound: 12 clicks out

Sag: 104-105mm


Shock: (195 pounds and over)

Spring Rate: 48N/m

L/S Compression: 14 clicks out

H/S Compression: 2 turns out

Rebound: 13 clicks out

Sag: 104-105mm

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

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


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

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

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


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

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2020 Yamaha YZ250F On-Track Facts And Figures

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

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

2020 Filter Element

2020 Filter Element

2019 Changes:

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


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

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


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


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


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


On The Track With The 2020 YZ250F:


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

2020 Kawasaki KX250 Baseline/Start Up Settings

We had a chance to shake down the new Kawasaki KX250 some more and went to a few tracks with three different riders to find a baseline setting for all you new KX owners to try. These settings were agreed upon by all testers that weighed from 150-190 pounds and varying from Novice-Pro. 

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Suspension: The new KYB suspension is a step in the right direction for Kawasaki in 2020, but we felt it was slightly unbalanced coming from the showroom floor. The fork held up well on de-cel, but the shock rode low in the stroke at times under acceleration. All riders agreed that they could use a better balance/ride attitude around the track. Try this setting in order to get the KX250 to hold up in the rear more under acceleration while trying to keep comfort on de-cel. 


Fork:

Compression: 12 clicks out

Rebound: 9 out

Height: 5mm 


Shock:

L/S Compression: 5 clicks out

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

Rebound: 15 out

Sag: 103-104mm

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Engine/Coupler: We tried all the couplers and while most agreed the stock green coupler gave the most overall useable power around the track, the riders who had cornering technique issues or slower entrance speeds, liked the white (lean) coupler better for low end recovery and rpm response. The white coupler will fall of earlier on top end and not have quite as much over-rev as the green coupler so just know you will lose some of the KX250’s superb top end pulling power. The black coupler will be good for extreme hard pack or loose conditions. The rear of the Kawasaki will hook up better as well as make the chassis feel more planted on throttle. The black coupler will also be friendlier to riders that are new to 250F’s and will not have as much rpm response to scare them off.  

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ECU: We used Kawasaki’s Calibration Tool to tweak the fuel and ignition timing in order to try and get some of the 2019 KX250’s bottom end/torque back. The 2020 did lose a small amount of low end, but we were in the market to get some of that back for 2020. The map you see below will get you some of that torque back when exiting corners while maintaining the excellent mid-top end power that the 2020 comes with. Use the stock green coupler with this ECU setting…

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Rider Triangle: The test riders we used ranged from 5’8 to 6’0 tall and all used the stock bar mount/footpeg position. If you’re 6’1 and above going to the forward hole with the mount back is a good way to get some added/room comfort when sitting. If you like the 7/8 sized Renthal handlebar, but find it too tall for your liking, go with a 983 Renthal 7/8 bar as that bend will be slightly lower and flatter.

Gearing: 13/50 gearing is just fine for the Intermediate to Pro level rider with either the green or white coupler. If you’re a heavier rider that is lazier in corners you can try a 13/51 gearing to help you get back into the meat of the power sooner. We suggest using the green coupler with our preferred ECU setting with the 13/51 gearing however. This will ensure that mid-top end pulling power doesn’t fall off too soon.



Any questions about this bike you can reach out to us at kris@keeferinctesting.com.

2020 Husqvarna FC450 First Impression

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

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

 

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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



















  




 

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 pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com. 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 kris@keeferinctesting.com 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.    

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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.  

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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!  

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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...

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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: Dominic@keeferinctesting.com






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 pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com. 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 kris@keeferinctesting.com 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. 

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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. 

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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.  

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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. 

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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…  

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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 pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com. 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 kris@keeferinctesting.com 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. 

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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. https://www.fmfracing.com/Product/ProductDetail?CategoryID=584&BikeType=MX%2FOFFROAD&BikeMake=YAMAHA&BikeModel=YZ450FX&BikeYear=2019&ItemID=044443&imaConfig=Single&ParentCategoryID=31&Priority=9 

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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. https://www.yamahamotorsports.com/motocross/pages/yamaha-power-tuner-smart-phone-app 

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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.  https://www.firepowerparts.com/products/batteries    

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. https://www.shopyamaha.com/product/details/cycra-rebound-hand-shields?b=Motocross+Accessories&d=42|42&ls=yamaha-motor-company&dealernumber= 

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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. http://racetech.com/ChooseVehicle.aspx 

"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 pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com. 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 kris@keeferinctesting.com 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. 

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  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… www.procircuit.com 

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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. www.ride-engineering.com 

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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. www.vertexpistons.com 

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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. www.hinsonracing.com 

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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… www.fcpracing.com 

2019 Honda CRF Trail Line

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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.

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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. 

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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  

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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.)


Engine/Drivetrain

  • 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.


Chassis/Suspension

  • 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.

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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     

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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.


Engine/Drivetrain

  • 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.


Chassis/Suspension

  • 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 

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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.

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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

INFO: http://ohv.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=1192



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

INFO: https://www.recreation.gov/camping/gateways/15174



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

INFO: http://ohv.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=1217



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

INFO: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/angeles/maps-pubs/?cid=stelprdb5318340



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

INFO: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/sbnf/recreation/ohv/recarea/?recid=26363&actid=32



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:

Powersports.honda.com/experience/colton-rider-education-center.aspx

 To register:

www.dirtbikeschool.com 

909-430-3000.

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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.  

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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 Michael@keeferinctesting.com








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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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 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.

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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. 

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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.    

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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

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 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.   

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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.   

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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.

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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 keeferinctesting.com 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 keeferinctesting.com, 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. 

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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 

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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.  

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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.  

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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. 

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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. 

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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 pulpmx.com, and or keeferinctesting.com 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

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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. 



Postives: 

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)


Negatives: 

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: 

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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. 


Positives: 

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 



Negatives:

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

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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. 



Positives: 

Mid to top end pulling power 

Feels light on the track

Clutch that never fades

Negatives:

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

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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. 



Positives: 

Mid to top end pulling power

Feels light on track

Comes with Pro Taper handlebar 



Negatives:

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

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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. 


Positives: 

Great bottom end RPM response 

Straight line stability 

Mid to exit of cornering stability 


Negatives: 

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

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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. 

Positives: 

Snappy throttle response 

Cornering ability

Ergonomics comfortable for most sizes 

Negatives: 

Frame stiffness on rough tracks

Needs more pulling power/meat/torque

Over-sprung for most standard 250 sized riders