Test

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






The 2019 Honda CRF450R "Track Toughness" Project (Part One)



There are a lot of you 2019 Honda CRF450R owners out there and most of you food my email inbox with set up questions. If there is one machine that makes me want to ride on pure looks alone, it would be this 2019 Honda CR450R. But… Sometimes looks can be deceiving and although it’s beautiful to look at, the Honda is a handful to ride fast on a rough track. The set up window for this bike is very narrow and you must absolutely “nail it” to get that comfort most of you are looking for on this machine. Trust me, I get it and understand how finicky this CRF450R can be as I have had more time on this machine than any other in my testing fleet. The phrase “Track Toughness” is used a lot in the world of production testing. What is “Track Toughness”?Track Toughness is a phrase that means how well a machine can adapt to any type of track and or track condition. The Honda lacks some “Track Toughness”.

So in order to seek out that comfort we all want out of this sucker and widen that “Track Toughness” window, I have been working diligently on key modifications/settings to pass along to you all out there that will actually help this bike’s Track Toughness. This is not a fluff build, but more for serious die hard red riders/racers that want the most out of their bikes. I will be doing this build in phases, so look for added parts to this article coming soon. Don’t freak out if you don’t see your special mod in this article. Chances are we will get to it in part two… In the meantime here are a few things for you Honda owners out there can try in order to keep that big smile intact from the time you load up your truck, until the time you leave the track.

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Swingarm Pivot Bolt Torque Spec: This costs zero dollars and should be done as soon as you get your 2019 Honda CRF450R. Stock swingarm pivot bolt torque spec is 65 ft.lbs., but try to re-torque to 60 ft.lbs. What does this simple adjustment do? It helps the stiff/bound up feel underneath your butt/rear of machine when accelerating and also gives the Honda more rear wheel traction. The Honda chassis has a stiff natured character to begin with so loosening up the swingarm pivot bolt a little helps free it up. Trust me, it helps! 

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

Chad has several maps that smooths out that low end feel just enough to where you can roll your corners easier and have a broader pulling power down the straight. The over-rev that this Honda gets with this XPR Vortex ECU/mapping alone is worth the price of admission because it allows me to use second gear longer than our 2019 KTM 450SX-F test bike (with a Vortex ECU). It also allows you third gear riders to use that gear more and be lazier, if that’s how you like to ride. Chad has the mapping down and can get you a cleaner, smoother, broader, more exciting power with this simple mod. Did I mention that it helps the stiff chassis feel? Well it does because you can now ride the CRF450R in the lower RPM range (thanks to more torque) and that frees up the frame on chop, square edge, and braking bumps. Yes, sometimes improvements to the engine can directly affect chassis feel. 

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Yoshimura RS-9 Full Muffler System: If there is one company that knows Honda’s, it’s Yoshimura! The Yosh muffler makes broader horsepower, keeps the strong bottom end pull intact, and gives the Honda a deeper more throaty sound. Just bolting on this Yoshimura system (without the ECU change) will help the Honda’s on/off feel from 0-15% throttle opening. This is where the Honda needs help and the Yoshimura muffler helps smooth the CRF450R in this area. You will also lose just over a pound with this system. 


14/51 Gearing: This gearing will only work best if you have the above three modifications done. I stumbled across this gearing on a test day and found out that I really liked it. The 14/51 gearing allows you to run your axle farther back (which the Honda needs) and gives the engine a longer 2nd and 3rd gear pull. This gearing also helps the rear of the Honda relax under load and will give the rider extra rear wheel traction. Try this gearing if you have done the above three mods.

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

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

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Race Tech Suspension: The most important piece to this puzzle would be the Honda’s Showa suspension. The stock Honda suspension is a little soft for my 170 pound frame and when Honda’s R&D team developed this stock suspension setting for the 2019 Honda CRF450R they needed to get comfort form the suspension to offset the stiffer nature of the Honda chassis. Race Tech took my stock Showa suspension and my A-Kit set and went to work. We ended up going to a .52 fork spring and a .58 rear shock spring to balance the bike out for me. The fork has better hold up and more control than the stock fork and gives me a more planted feeling on initial lean coming into corners. The overall firmer feel of the Race Tech fork doesn't have that harsh nature you would expect from heavier valving, but instead has a better damping feel that still has enough comfort to keep me happy. I tested several fork heights and for me flush-3mm was the best. On faster/rougher types of tracks I went flush on the fork, but on tighter tracks, I stuck with a 3mm height. Getting the correct fork height is still crucial for this chassis. 

I decided to run the stock link and cut the shock 1mm to try and lower the rear enough to where  I don’t get a stink bug feel on de-cel/braking bumps. I played with a ton of sag settings and came up with a 109mm of sag, which gave me the balance to where the CRF450R didn't move much when on/off throttle heavy. Running a little lower sag setting also helped when the dirt was deep or sandy, so that there wasn't too much weight pushed towards the front of the machine causing me to have over-steer. I like that I can hit stuff harder at speed with the Race Tech re-valved shock and also having increased traction on choppy corner exits. The Race Tech Gold Valves keep evolving so if you haven't gave them a try, this might be the perfect machine to give it a whirl. I didn't have the best of luck with Race Tech a few years ago, but Rob and the gang over there have really stepped it up and have their settings down for this model. 







 

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 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 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   

  

























 








2019 KX450 Stage 1 Modifications


“Fine Tuning Chassis And Handling With Ride Engineering”

By Dominic Cimino

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

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Performance Link: https://ride-engineering.com/products.php?d=1&p=l&pn=KX-LKA39-GN&t=

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

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21.5mm off-set triple clamps: https://ride-engineering.com/products.php?d=1&p=bm&pn=KX-TBK20-B9&t=kx

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

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22mm off-set triple clamps: https://ride-engineering.com/products.php?d=1&p=bm&pn=KX-TBK22-B9&t=kx

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

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

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

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


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

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What: High compression Pro Circuit piston

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

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

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

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

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

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What: FCP Engine mounts

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

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

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

Why: To achieve more comfort, adjustability, and durability 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Oehlhof

14 year professional motocross racer

Finished 16th in points in 2005 in 450 class

Made every main events in 2005

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

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






2019 Honda CRF250RX First Impression 


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

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

  • Large-capacity, 2.2 gallon resin fuel tank 

  • 18-inch rear wheel

  • Forged aluminum sidestand

  • Sealed drive chain

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

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Engine/Drivetrain

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

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

  • Downdraft intake layout improvies air-charging efficiency

  • Dual exhaust ports enable ideal air-charging efficiency

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

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

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

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

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

  • Electric-start standard for easy, fast engine startup

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

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

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

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Chassis/Suspension

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Front-brake hose resists expansion for precise braking

  • Smooth bodywork layout eases rider movement

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

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

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


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

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

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

48mm Showa spring forks grace the new 2019 CRF250RX.

48mm Showa spring forks grace the new 2019 CRF250RX.

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

The Honda loves to carve up some berms.

The Honda loves to carve up some berms.

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

Dear Honda, we need handguards please!

Dear Honda, we need handguards please!

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



























2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 “Need Only” Project Build Part One


The 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 didn't fare well in any magazine shootout this year. Does that mean it should just get shunned and not paid attention to? No, absolutely not. Like I have said in my podcasts before, every bike is good, it’s just up to you on which one is right for you? How much you ride, what type of rider you are, and how fat your wallet is, carries a lot of weight when it comes to purchasing a new motocross machine. The one thing Suzuki has over other manufacturers is that you can get a leftover new 2018 RM-Z450 and even a new 2019 RM-Z450 for much less than any other brand. You can find a brand new RM-Z and save yourself $4000.00! When it comes to saving money, why wouldn't you want to buy a Suzuki! When you got a family, bills at home and maybe a wife that wants something of her own, being able to purchase a $10,000 dirt bike is not really an option. However, when you can purchase a 6-7 thousand dollar dirt bike it becomes more appealing, especially to the wife. 

I wanted to create a 2019 RM-Z450 project build that was only on a “need only” basis. ‘What does the Suzuki need? If you were going to save up some money, after your Suzuki purchase, where would the wise decisions go to? I didn't want this to be a fashion over function type of build, because frankly, not everyone has cash coming out of their asses to spend on meaningless shit for their dirt bikes. The cash people do have is hard earned and not everyone is looking to bling out their ride. Not everyone’s bike is “Too Lit”! Sorry Enticknap, but there are no gold wheels or gold necklaces with this build. If you’re rich then just stop reading this article now because this isn’t for you. I recruited my long time friend and former AMA Supercross rider Joe Oehlhof to help me build this yellow bike. Joe is as blue collar as they come and doesn't spend money on just anything. He left the pro scene, became a San Bernardino County firefighter, got married, and has three kids. He loves riding at a high level, but also knows he can’t be dumping all of his money into dirt bikes anymore. With all of that being said, we wanted to build a Suzuki RM-Z450 into what we feel would be a competitive bike to win a shootout. What would it take? Why did we change the parts that we did? How did it work out on the track? These are the questions that this series of articles will answer. We will continue to evolve this build, but for now here is part one of what, why, and how the 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 is getting better. 

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What: Pro Circuit Ti-6 Full muffler system. 

Why: To help bottom-mid range power delivery/RPM response and lose weight. 


Conclusion:  The stock Suzuki RM-Z450’s power is vanilla at best. It’s lethargic down low and needs some excitement. The KTM 450 SX-F’s power is smooth, but still has enough pulling power to keep most people happy. The Suzuki lacks pulling power, so we installed a Pro Circuit Ti-6 muffler on and got some added pulling power. 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 to create some more throttle response. Joe and I both liked the insert in for increased bottom to mid range throttle response. Installing this PC system helps with coming out of corners and helping 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, 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 still need more to make us happy. 

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What: Pro Circuit Fork/Shock re-valve and linkage.

Why: To help bump absorption and help pitching when on/off throttle hard. 


Conclusion: Jim “Bones” Bacon retired, but Joe bugged him enough to help us with our Suzuki suspension woes. In stock form the Suzuki dives under braking and then squats too much under load when exiting a corner. This upsets traction and balance when trying to push the limits around the track. The chassis also feels slightly rigid at times when the track is square edgy and hard pack. Bones re-sprung the suspension for Joe’s weight (190 pounds), valved it, and installed 1mm longer pull rods. The difference on the track was noticeable immediately for the better. Sometimes when you get your suspension re-valved you notice some added comfort, but get some negative effect on other portions of the track, where the stock stuff feels better. The PC suspension helped balance out the ride attitude of the RM-Z450 on de-cel and increased cornering ability for both of us. There was less pitching sensation when chopping the throttle therefore the front end became more predictable on entrance of corners. Cornering stability was also improved, especially through choppy/long ruts. The Suzuki felt more planted inside the rut without feeling harsh like the stock suspension did. Exiting corners we both thought that the connectivity to the rear wheel was better once on the throttle. Straight line stability improved and the chassis felt slightly less rigid on square edge, which helped overall end-of-day type comfort. This can be attributed to the longer link allowing the initial part of the linkage curve to be a little stiffer feeling. After riding with the Pro Circuit tuned suspension we both feel there is more comfort than the stock WP suspension that comes equipped on the KTM/Husqvarna. Both Joe and I could be more aggressive on the track with more predictability than the stock stuff had to offer. To get both of us riders happy on a set of suspension is tough to do since Joe and I have a 25 pound difference in weight. 

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What: Pro Taper EVO handlebars and Race Cut grips. 

Why: Joe didn't like stock bend or the stock grips.

Conclusion: Some people will like the stock bar bend some people will not. Joe was in the “not” category. Joe is 5’9 and I am 6’0. I am long. Joe is short. I didn't think the stock bend was bad by any means, but I wasn't opposed on changing the bar bend. Originally Joe decided on the Pro Taper Windham EVO bend, but I told him that was too high of a bend for his short stature. Of course he didn't listen and got them anyway. Guess what? He didn't like them. He tried my Husqvarna stock Pro Taper EVO bars on my KTM and decided on that bend for the Suzuki. Guess what? He loved them. We cut the Husqvarna stock bend down to 804mm (they come 811mm standard) and slapped them on. We both thought we could could get over the front end better than the stock Renthal FatBar Suzuki bend. Putting the PT bars on also increased flex/comfort on chop as we had more comfort. Yes, we are old, we like comfort. Since Joe doesn't ride as much anymore because he has a real job, his hands are “riding pussified” somewhat. So in order to make his lotion soft, dinner cooking, fireman baby hands happy, we went with a Pro Taper race cut grip, which we both liked. The PT’s offer a softer compound than stock and help keep more cushion for the pushin. 

Just performing these first three modifications helped the 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 out tremendously. We both are still looking for more overall power however and will continue to evolve the curve with a couple more modifications. The stock Yamaha and KTM have more pulling power and can pull each gear farther than what our modified Suzuki can do. We are still under budget on this build (compared to a off the showroom floor 2019 YZ450F and KTM 450SX-F), so look for part two of this 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 “NEED ONLY” build soon. We also will be talking about how much we spent on an upcoming Rocky Mountain ATV/MC “Need Only” Suzuki Project Build Podcast coming up soon.  

What's Coming: 

High Compression Piston

Engine Mounts 

Ignition 

If you have any questions about this build please email me at kris@keeferincteting.com and I am happy to guide you.

   


2019 Honda CRF250R First Impression



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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



Fork: Height: 5mm

         Compression: Plus Two (two clicks stiffer than stock)

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


Shock: Sag: 107-108mm

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

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

            Rebound: Stock 

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


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

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

Living With The 2019 Yamaha YZ250F


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

2019 Yamaha YZ65/85 24 Hour Torture Test


At Keefer Inc. Testing we pride ourselves on riding the crap out of our test bikes. However, when it comes to smaller bikes, it’s not like I can Benjamin Button myself and ride 65’s/85’s. 1990 West Coast 125 Supercross Champion Ty Davis put together a Jr. 24 Hour Challenge Team for the 24 Hours Of Glen Helen that focuses on the younger generation of off-road racing. We need to keep kids on dirt bikes to help grow our sport and Ty has been working hard to make this happen. Dustyn Davis (son of Ty) has our 2019 YZ65 test bike, so we thought why not let him and his buddies loose on this sucker for the full 24 hours as a durability test so to speak. While those kids were at it why not have another batch of kids on our 2019 YZ85 as well. Our goal was to get the kids away from FortNite and get more riding time in, while getting some quality testing information downloaded as well. It’s a win, win! No PlayStation’s and XBOX’s here people! Below are the modifications that were performed to the 2019 Yamaha YZ65/85 and the outcome of each machine, directly from ZipTy’s team. -KK



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2019 Yamaha YZ85

  1. Put IMS footpegs on (wider) to help the kids feet, spreads the pressure more evenly so they don’t get sore over a long period of time

  2. G2 Aluminum Throttle tube- due to kids falling, more reliable than the stock plastic.

  3. Cut Bars- for kids to have better control of the bike and handle better

  4. Pro-Taper bendable levers foldable to eliminate the levers from breaking if kids fell

  5. Dirt Tricks Spokes for reliability and longevity

  6. DID Chain for durability

  7. Rekluse Manual Clutch- For reliability

  8. Steahly Stator with lighting coil for the lights

  9. Galfer Custom Brake line made to clear the lights

  10. Uni Air Filter

  11. Mousse front and rear to eliminate flats less tire changes

  12. Maxxis Tires

  13. VP Fuel 110 mixed 50/50

  14. IMS oversized tanks for less pit stops

  15. Seal Savers to keep mud out of seals

  16. Baja Designs Lights for lights at night

  17. Zip-Ty Custom made light brackets

  18. Zip-Ty Coolant to keep the bike from overheating with muddy conditions

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How It Performed:

The 2019 YZ85 survived the full 24 hours in the muddy and rainy conditions without any issues. The Yamaha handled well in the tight technical sections and was easy for the kids to maneuver. We had a wide range of riders who race NHHA, Motocross, Big 6, and WORCS. The only problem we encountered was that the kids we used were not tall enough for the YZ85. In order to get them more comfortable, we cut the bars down 5mm and took a little preload out to lower the rear of the bike. This helped get kids to touch their feet in tighter sections of the trail. The kids liked the performance of the engine as it was exciting off the bottom, but not too pipey where it wasn’t connected to the rear wheel in the slippery conditions. The engine character was aggressive enough for the more experienced kids, but easy enough to ride for the novice kids that we used. The suspension was a little stiff (even when adjusters were backed out) for the kids on small chop because all the testers were smaller in size (70-100 pounds). We knew the Yamaha was known for its durability, but this race proved it, even with five different style of riders.

The 2019 YZ85 made it 43 laps that equaled 344 miles and finished 23rd out of 38 teams.




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2019 Yamaha YZ65:

  1. Customized seat for easier access for air filter changes

  2. Galfer Custom Brake line made to clear the lights

  3. DID Chain for durability

  4. Uni Air Filter

  5. Vortex Sprockets

  6. Mousse front and rear to eliminate flats less tire changes

  7. Rekluse Manual Clutch- For reliability

  8. Maxxis Tires

  9. VP Fuel 110 mixed 50/50

  10. Seal Savers to keep mud out of seals

  11. Baja Designs Lights for lights

  12. Zip-Ty Custom made light brackets

  13. Zip-Ty Coolant to keep the bike from overheating with muddy conditions

  14. Put IMS footpegs on (wider) to help the kids feet, spreads the pressure more evenly so they don’t get sore over a long period of time

  15. G2 Aluminum Throttle tube- due to kids falling, more reliable than the stock plastic.

  16. Cut Bars- for kids to have better control of the bike and handle better

  17. DID Chain for durability

  18. Pro-Taper bendable levers foldable to eliminate the levers from breaking if kids fell

  19. Millenium Re-nickelsil the Cylinder for durability

  20. AME Half waffle for the Kids hands Super glued on

  21. Shock Spring one rate softer, Pushed the forks down in clamp 3mm for stability

How It Performed:


We ended up changing the front and rear brake pads once, air filter once, one rear wheel, and poured in 20 gallons of fuel. The team had to replace the stator back to stock due to a failure that made the bike cut out/misfire. Once stock stator was installed we had zero issues. Each tester loved the power and all said that they were able to keep up with the 85 team for most of the race. Why? Because the Yamaha YZ65 engine is powerful enough and can keep up with the 85 in the tighter sections of the course. With the race being so muddy this slowed the overall speed down, which helped the 65 team. The Yamaha YZ65 suspension was plush enough for the 65 team and all of the kids thought it provided enough comfort, even with several pounds of mud packed on the machine. The Yamaha YZ65 finished the event with 43 laps that equaled 344 miles and finished 24th overall out of 38 teams. With Yamaha introducing the 2019 YZ65 this year, it proves that this first year model is a reliable bike for the little ones.

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2019 Yamaha YZ65

  1. Customized seat for easier access for air filter changes

  2. Galfer Custom Brake line made to clear the lights

  3. DID Chain for durability

  4. Uni Air Filter

  5. Vortex Sprockets

  6. Mousse Tubes front and rear to eliminate flats/less tire changes

  7. Rekluse Manual Clutch- For reliability

  8. Maxxis Tires

  9. VP Fuel 110 mixed 50/50

  10. Seal Savers to keep mud out of seals

  11. Baja Designs Lights for lights

  12. Zip-Ty Custom made light brackets

  13. Zip-Ty Coolant to keep the bike from overheating with muddy conditions

  14. Put IMS footpegs on (wider) to help the kids feet, spreads the pressure more evenly so they don’t get sore over a long period of time

  15. G2 Aluminum Throttle tube- due to kids falling, more reliable than the stock plastic.

  16. Cut Bars- for kids to have better control of the bike and handle better

  17. DID Chain for durability

  18. Pro-Taper bendable levers foldable to eliminate the levers from breaking if kids fell

  19. Millenium Re-nickelsil Cylinder for durability

  20. AME Half waffle for kids hands that were super glued on

  21. Shock Spring one rate softer, pushed the forks down 3mm




How Did It Perform?



Changed brake pads once, air filter once, one rear wheel, and 20 Gallons of fuel. Had to replace the stator back to stock due to a failed custom stator.  Kids thought the power was fast, yet easy to ride hard as they were able to keep up with the 85 team for most of the race. The suspension seemed to be more forgiving on the Yamaha YZ65 as the kids never complained once about anything suspension/chassis related. The 65 team had a wide range of talent that ranged from motocross to off-road and each of them performed well for the 24 Hour long haul.  The Yamaha YZ65 team did 43 laps that equaled 344 miles and finished 24th overall out of 38 teams

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The 65 team picked the Yamaha because Dustyn Davis (son of Ty Davis) raced it all year and we wanted to prove that the Yamaha could withstand 24 hours of kids beating the shit out of it. This raced proved that there is superb durability for a first year 65cc model from Yamaha.






2019 Husqvarna FS 450 Supermoto

“Hi, my name is Dominic and I’ve never ridden Supermoto.” That is pretty much how I started my morning, not knowing what to expect when the Husqvarna boys invited us to ride their new 2019 FS 450 Supermoto. As a first timer, I immediately felt like a fish out of water - a “what the hell did I get myself into”, type thing. But, I quickly realized that you can either:

A - Ride super squirrely and be scared the whole day. 

Or, B - Grip it. And Rip It. 

So I tried my best at going the “B” route, and holy shit, it was an absolute blast! There is a definite art to riding very aggressively in a road racing environment, and the street editors that joined us (Waheed and Scaysbrook to name a couple) put it to us ”moto” guys in a hurry. I’m actually really happy that they were there, because it allowed me to watch and learn pretty quickly (on-demand training). After watching them burn a couple laps and learning what I could, off I went - attempting 20 minute Supermoto motos’ with a smile that could barely hide under my helmet. 



The Supermoto experience is so foreign that it is hard to explain in words. Some of our MX techniques apply, but a lot of them don’t. Cornering is much different, braking is done in it’s own way, and overall rider control (body vs bike) demands a unique style. I tried my best at adapting in my own way, just trying new things each lap to figure out what works and what doesn’t. And once I found a decent groove, I was able to dive into the motorcycle itself and study it a bit for anyone looking to learn about the actual bike, and not my beginner situation.

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The bike itself looks sexy right out of the box. It is graced with race-ready Alpina spoke wheels matched to Bridgestone R420 slick tires, and revised bodywork that looks down at a massive Brembo front brake system. I was told that it is the same system used on the current production Ducati Panigale. The other 90+% of the FS 450 practically replicates the motocross model. The suspension is obviously tuned differently, it has different offset triple clamps, and most importantly, a full blown slipper clutch. Lastly, Husqvarna put some useful wrap-around hand guards on the bars and an updated (more comfortable) seat. I truly feel that this bike is race-ready. We all know that the orange & white brigade boast that motto, but the FS 450 really showcases it well. 

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On the track, the 63 horsepower motor is at your disposal whenever you are ready. The bike does not hesitate in getting you to the next corner quickly and efficiently. Nor does it take much for that front wheel to lift off the ground, which made the FS 450 really exciting to ride. The slipper clutch system is also a major talking point.  This clutch allowed us to drag the bike into corners, (attempting to back it in) without getting any rear-wheel chatter. I was shocked to realize just how much rear brake I could use without it heavily effecting rpms/power. I now realize why having one of these systems is a must if you are a serious Supermoto rider. As always, the Brembo brakes did not disappoint as they provided ample stopping power in any scenario. I assumed the front brake was going to be incredibly aggressive, due to the size of the rotor and caliper, but I was wrong. It is very modular (or progressive) and allows you to maintain control when traveling at varying speeds. As for the suspension… here is where I cannot help anyone, because I do not have the slightest idea of where to start tuning a Supermoto set up. I will say that down the fast straights, the front end would get some head-shake. If/when I get to ride this bike again, that would be a focus for me to settle that down right away. 

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To wrap things up on the 2019 Husqvarna FS 450 Supermoto intro, all I can say is I would love to do this again! Having no expectations coming into this test day, it was so refreshing to be dealt with smiles all around, super close take-out scenarios on the track, and most notably, really fun battles with a few other guys I could actually hang with. If any of you reading this are interested in at least trying Supermoto, I would definitely recommend it. I rode all day in full motocross gear, but I think leathers would make me feel way safer. As for the million dollar question - would I buy this bike? Currently, I would say no - based solely on the fact that motocross is encompassing my life at the moment. On the other hand, if I was serious about riding Supermoto, there would absolutely be no question in my mind that this would be the bike to have. It has everything you need to not only indulge in the experience, but race competitively if push came to shove. If anyone reading this has more specific questions regarding this motorcycle (detailed specifications) please email kris@KeeferIncTesting.com and I will facilitate getting any questions you need answered. As always, I appreciate you taking the time to read this! Stay tuned for more fun things coming your way here at Keefer Inc. Testing

-Dominic Cimino

2019 Honda CRF450R Optional Suspension/Chassis Settings

 

If there is one bike that is sensitive to setting changes it is the Honda CRF450R. The 2019 version does have slightly more comfort in the chassis and have a little wider window (for setting changes) to work with than the 2017-2018 CRF450R. However, there is a couple very small things that can drastically improve the handling of your 2019 CRF450R (that will not cost you an arm and a leg). Try some of the following settings if you need a good baseline to start from on your 2019 CRF450R and CRF450RRWE. 

 

 

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*Rear Wheel Placement (Chain Adjustment)*:

Before we get into optional suspension settings I wanted to talk about rear wheel placement/adjustment. In stock form the rear wheel adjustment comes pushed in too far forward on the CRF450R. It may not look/sound like much, but I quickly found out that a few millimeters drastically improved the Honda’s chassis character. The Honda is already a quick turning machine, so if you're experiencing some stability or deflection problems in your front end try running your wheel farther back. You will have to get a new chain and cut it to the desired length, but try placing your wheel towards the last two-three markings on your chain adjuster blocks. By doing this, it allows you to keep your fork height at 5mm and prevents some harsh/deflection feeling in your fork. Most riders will drop their fork height flush or to 2.5mm when experiencing oversteer or stability problems, but that just hurts the Honda’s “turn in” ability and doesn't get you that much added straight line stability. Dropping the fork can make the Honda cornering seem somewhat heavy. Running your rear wheel farther back helps traction, increases stability and actually helps fork comfort on de-cel. When I come off of other bikes and get back on the Honda CRF450R it almost feels like the front wheel is tucked too far underneath me. I get some oversteer through corners and front wheel traction is inconsistent at times. Running the rear wheel back gives the Honda CRF450R increased cornering stability and helps some harsh feel I get from the forks on de-cel (braking bumps). Something as small as moving your rear wheel back on the red machine helps “planted feel” tremendously. The suspension settings below are settings that were made with the rear wheel placed farther back (than stock). 

 

Food for thought….There is a reason why KTM gave the customer more room to run the rear wheel back on their SX-F’s in 2019.    

 

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Suspension Settings (170-195 pounds): 

 

Fork:

Spring Rate: 0.50 

Compression: 9-10 clicks out

Rebound: 11 clicks out

Fork Height: 4-5mm (With rear wheel placement modification)

 

Shock:

Spring Rate: 5.6 

Race Sag: 107mm

Hi Speed Compression: 3-3 1/4 turns out 

Low-Speed Compression: 9 clicks out

Rebound: 6 clicks out

 

 

Suspension Settings (195 Pounds And Up): 

Fork:

Spring Rate: 0.51 

Compression: 12 clicks out

Rebound: 10 clicks out

Fork Height: 4-5mm (with rear wheel placement modification)

 

Shock:

Spring Rate: 5.8 

Race Sag: 108mm

Hi Speed Compression: 3-3 1/2 turns out

Low Speed Compression: 12-13 clicks out

Rebound: 10-11 clicks out

 

 

Chassis Notes: With the frame, swingarm, and linkage changes Honda made to the CRF450R in 2019 you don’t have to rip bolts out or loosen torque specs. I am currently testing engine hangers to see if it hurts or helps this new generation chassis, so stay tuned for that update in a future Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast.

 

Clutch: The clutch is still weak in the Honda so removing the judder spring and adding a clutch fiber can help the life of your plates by 6-8 engine hours. Just know that adding a clutch fiber will make the clutch pull slightly harder to pull in! 

 

 

2019 KTM 450 SX-F Review

 

We got our hands on the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F recently and wanted to divulge some quality testing information to all of you interested orange brigade riders out there.... 

 

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Engine: The new 2019 KTM 450 SX-F engine isn’t any different than the 2018.5 machine besides mapping. I do feel with the updated mapping you’re getting a little more mid-range pulling power and a slightly added RPM response (at mid-range rpm) increase over the 2018.5 model. The 2019 is still silky smooth and has a very linear power, which doesn’t wear the rider out easily like some other 2019 450cc models can. The map switch is a great tool for riders that want a more smoother roll on delivery (map 1) or want a more frisky and peppy bottom end hit (map 2). I prefer map 1 in 2019 as it’s still linear enough on hard pack portions of the track, but has a cleaner hit down low to get me out of soft pockets of the track better than map 2. 

 

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FI Setting: I do feel KTM missed the mark when it comes to the ignition/fuel mapping. The 2019 KTM 450 SX-F feels a little rich/dirty down low and a little lean on top end (de-cel popping). If KTM can get their mapping figured out, the already great engine character would be even better. I am going to go test some other maps and see if it helps with a cleaner power delivery. I know going to a Vortex ignition, that is mapped by Jamie Ellis of Twisted Development is a thing of beauty on this machine. Just FYI….

 

Chassis: This is where most of the changes (from the 2018) are felt on the track. The 2018 450 SX-F flexes a little too much at times off throttle (de-cel bumps) especially when the track is tilled deep or very loamy. I noticed this more when I went back east to go race than I did on the west coast. The 2019 KTM 450 SX-F is stiffer, but not harsher on choppy de-cel. This is important! Stiffer doesn’t always mean harsher! This creates a more precise feel coming into corners and also a better planted front end (yes, even with the AER fork). Did I mention it was light feeling? The 2019 KTM 450 SX-F feels like its five pounds lighter than the 2018. It’s only one pound lighter, but it feels much more lighter on direction changes. I am able to feel this on tip in leading into corners or on longer ruts. For example, a Yamaha YZ450F feels planted coming into corners, but also takes some effort to be able to lean it over (and keep it there) on longer ruts. The KTM just needs your body positioning to think about leaning over and it does it ASAP. It’s like the orange brigade is reading your mind coming into or through corners! Straight line stability is as good as the 2018 standard model, but everything is better on the 2019 model once off-throttle, which I prefer.

 

Suspension: I told this to Dave O’Connor at KTM. “If this bike came with a spring fork, every shootout would be yours”! You all know I am not an air fork kind of guy, but the WP AER stuff is pretty damn good (for an air fork). Does it have the front end bite of a spring fork? No, it doesn’t. Does the AER fork have mid-stroke comfort? Yes, it does. Now don’t get me wrong, the Yamaha KYB SSS fork is still better, but the AER fork isn’t atrocious like the Showa SFF-TAC Air fork was. Where the AER fork suffers is the consistency over a long day of riding. When I am riding the track at 3PM and have been there all day, the AER fork doesn’t react the same as it did at 1:30PM. It’s not as drastic as it used to be, but I still want a little more consistency in my front end. I am however getting used to how much front end feel I have with the AER and trust it more than I ever have. It gives me decent front end grip on lean in, but I would like a little more grip on flat corners where this is nothing to bank off of. Like I said, mid-stroke comfort is good on straight-line and the KTM 450 SX-F reacts well on braking bumps. The WP AER fork does have a little harsh spot on the top of its stroke when accelerating, but that is only when I went to a stiffer air setting (10.7 bars versus 10.5 bars). I would like to see a little less deflection than the KTM front end has (on acceleration). The shock is quite good on the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F and as usual has a dead feel to it. This is a great feeling on the track! Tons of rear wheel traction and less side to side movement is felt on the 2019, which gives me a feeling that I can twist the throttle harder and sooner out of corners. 

 

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Ergonomics: The 2018 KTM 450 SX-F had a bend in the shrouds that annoyed my legs when I cornered. People complain about the Yamaha YZ450F being fat in the middle, but the 2018 KTM 450 SX-F was as fat in the shroud area (with that bend in it). The 2019 KTM doesn’t have that fat feeling or that bend any more in the shrouds! Hallelujah! The 2019 bike is very narrow feeling in the mid section and you are now able to ride up on the tank even better with the lower mounted radiators. The rider triangle (peg/seat/handlebars) is both short and tall rider friendly, but KTM needs to cut their bar width to a 803mm spec. The longer spec of the Neken bar gives me a wide feeling when I am cornering and makes me feel uneasy. I cut last year’s handlebars down to 803mm and it gave me an even better feeling coming into corners without my arms resting out too wide. You would think 7-10mm isn’t that big of a deal, but once you cut them and see, you will thank me for your new found confidence in corners. I am not a huge fan of the looks of the new seat cover, but it is much friendlier to the butt on longer rides. 

 

Things To Check/Carry On A Consistent Basis: I have put many hours on the 2018.5 Factory Edissssssh and know a few things that you want to check/carry more often than not. Check your spokes after break in, check your sprocket bolts every other moto or so (and blue or red Loctite them), carry a couple fuel filters in your toolbox and make sure to have an array of torx bits in that toolbox. You're welcome! 

 

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Black Throttle Cam: The stock “gray” throttle cam to me uses a long pull (twist to full throttle). I almost have to double chicken wing it to get there at times. In order to combat that and get some more bottom end feeling, install the black throttle cam that KTM offers you. Doing this will make the KTM 450 SX-F feel more exciting out of corners and hit slightly harder/sooner. I stayed on map 1 when using the black throttle cam. 

 

Pankl Transmission: Under load the new 2019 transmission is much easier to shift. Not to say that the transmission on the 2018 is bad, but the buttery smooth shifting is somewhat reminiscent of some factory transmissions that I have spent some time on, in the past. Another thing that I noticed that the 2019 does better than the 2018 is that I am able to find neutral much easier (when at a stop), before I put the machine on the stand. However, while riding I have yet to hit a false neutral! Knock on wood! 

 

Adapting To A KTM: If you're thinking about making the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F your next bike, but are nervous about that European feel, don't stress on it. The newer KTM’s feel less foreign then they did just a few short years ago. I am able to adapt to the orange machines after coming off of Japanese machines easier than ever. 

 

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Specs: Here are some baseline settings to start with on the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F:

 

Fork:

 

Air Pressure: 10.5-10.7 bars (depending on weight, I am 170 pounds and I like 10.7 bars to keep the front end up a little more de-cel)

Compression: If going with 10.7 bars try softening the compression up a 2-4 clicks to aid in mid-stroke comfort. If going with a stock air pressure reading go up 1-3 clicks on compression. 

Rebound: Standard

 

Shock: 

 

Sag: 105mm

Low Speed Compression: 2-3 clicks stiffer

High Speed Compression: Heavier riders (180 and up) might want to try and go with a 1/4 turn in (stiffer) on high speed compression. If you’re less than 180 pounds you can stick with stock to 1/8 turn in.

Rebound: Loamy/deep tracks go with 1-2 clicks slower. Hard pack tracks, stick with stock to 2 clicks faster. 

 

 

 

2019 Honda CRF450RWE First Impression

 

Editors Note: I wanted a test rider that rides/races Hondas a lot, but not a Honda rider who gets help or paid from Honda, but a real world, blue collar, racer type of guy to see if the Works Edition is really that much of a benefit for the money. I have known Colton Aeck for a while and he has always come across to me as a young kid with his “shit together” so to speak. As someone who looks for test riders, this is a rare thing. Almost Unicorn like! He’s articulate, he's polite, he calls it how he sees it and can translate that into actual words on a computer screen. While I was in Colorado on a family vacation, I tasked Colton with the job of comparing the “WE” to the standard edition a little, so you consumers can read if the juice is worth the squeeze.  

 

The 2019 Honda CRF450RWE… What is it and is it worth the extra $2,200 on the price tag?

 

2019 Honda CRF450RWE

2019 Honda CRF450RWE

 

For 2019 Honda released their first ever WE or “Works Edition” motorcycle. At first glance the 2019 CRF450RWE looks a lot like Ken Roczen’s factory race bike. The “WE” utilizes the 2019 CRF450R as a base, but features a handful of upgrades like the Ken Roczen replica graphic kit, a hand ported cylinder head with an engraved “CRF450R Works Edition” stamp, Yoshimura slip on exhaust and more aggressive ECU settings. Other upgrades include: Kashima and titanium nitride coated forks, “super finished” and titanium nitrate coated shock shaft, valving settings, DID LT-X rims, RK gold chain, black triple clamps and a Throttle Jockey gripper seat cover. 

 

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So does all the extra bling and goodies translate into improved performance on the track? In short, Yes it does for me, but let me dive a little deeper, starting with the engine.

 

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The combination of the head porting, Yoshimura slip on mufflers and the new ECU settings really liven up the engine on the CRF450RWE. RPM response is improved through the mid/top end and the engine has an overall “free” or quick revving feeling throughout the rpm range. It really does feel like a race engine and I would know because I have a race engine in my own personal 2018 Honda CRF450R. The biggest power increase is through the mid to top end and the rev cut off limit (over-rev) feels like it’s a couple hundred RPM’s higher than the standard “R”. I didn’t have to shift the “WE” quite as early as the the standard model coming out of corners. Although I will say the "R" has much better pulling power than the 2018 model. 

 

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The chassis is virtually the same between the WE and the standard model, except for the DID LT-X rims. But don’t discount that small change, because I think it has a noticeable effect on the handling of the WE. There is more of a solid feel when landing hard off of jumps compared to the standard “R” rims and for my aggressive riding style, that suits me better, so I can really appreciate that small of a change. Some of you may not even notice this on the track. but I am picky when it comes to rims and their strength. 

To be completely honest, I didn’t expect to feel the difference in the suspension coatings and valving on the “WE”. Once you’re on the track the difference is clear, the initial part of the fork’s stroke has a plush yet firmer feel and the bike as a whole seems to settle better into corners. I feel like there is some added hold up (fork) on de-cel and the balance of the bike is better to me once off the throttle. I get slightly less pitching (or diving sensation) when chopping the throttle hard into some braking bumps. Again, the “R” is a little soft for my aggressive riding style, but still has a lot of comfort. The “WE” may have slightly less comfort in the mid-stroke, but it what it lacks in comfort it makes up for in performance when I decide to lay some hot laps down. Between the more powerful and responsive mid to top end, the suspension coatings and the stronger DID rims, the “WE” feels a little more flickable feeling on the track. I notice this mostly in the air and leaning into corners.

 

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So the big question..Is the 2019 Honda CRF450RWE worth the extra $2,200?

Well, If you have a few extra bucks to spend and you want to have a more unique bike, that is also really cool then YES! If you plan on doing some modifications to your existing “R” you would easily spend more than $2,200 to do all these upgrades yourself right? If you have the extra money, want something unique and actually get some real world on track benefits then having a “Works Edition” is pretty damn cool. -Colton Aeck 

If you want more information and want to hear what the boss man has to say about both Honda machines you can click on the "Podcast" tab right here on keeferinctesting.com and listen to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast.