review

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. 







 

 50 Hours On The 2019 KTM 450SX-F



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

Living With The 2019 Yamaha YZ450FX By Michael Allen

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

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

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

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

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

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













2019 Yamaha YZ250F First Impression

 

From Super to Superb 

 

Since Yamaha unveiled the all new YZ250F five years ago, it’s been a quality machine that has a lot of positives to it. Over the last five years, Yamaha has done a lot of fine tuning to chassis, engine and suspension, which made the YZ250F even better. In terms of making changes that make the YZ250F even better, 2019 is the biggest year for changes since its inception in 2014.

 

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Before we get to how it works on the track here are all the changes for 2019, starting with the engine. Yamaha kept the reward slanting engine design (for 2019 the engine is slanted forward 1 degree from the 2018) that already has been in the loop since 2014 and made some changes to make it even better. Starting by adding electric start, Yamaha is the second Japanese manufacturer to have an e-start 250F motocross bike and as spoiled as I sound it’s a welcomed addition. The exhaust port shape was slightly modified so it transitions to the head pipe (which shape has also been changed to accommodate this) better and has increased the flow rate. Also in the head, Yamaha has increased the intake valve lift, and slightly changed the event angle of the exhaust cam.  The final changes to the new head are larger lifter buckets and slightly stiffer valve springs. Underneath the head, the piston crown has been increased which has bumped the compression from 13.5:1 to 13.8:1. 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

The Yamaha Power Tuner app, in my opinion, is one of the coolest features on this machine. You no longer need a stand-alone device to change the mapping of your fuel injected Yamaha; you can now do it from your smart phone via Yamaha’s app. All you need to do is take your side panel off (only the first time you use the app) and get the bikes serial number, then bump the starter button and connect to the Wi-Fi signal the bike puts out. Once connected you can pair the bike in the app and change mapping, record maintenance, monitor trouble codes and even log your races and track conditions. There is also a handlebar mounted map switch that allows the rider to switch maps on-the-fly. You can load a map from your Yamaha Power Tuner App, directly into your YZ250F and go back and forth between any two maps the rider desires.    

Now that all the changes and technical mumbo jumbo is out of the way let’s get to how all that correlates to on-track feeling. Starting with the engine, the 2019 YZ 250F has a more free-revving feeling than the previous model. Yamaha did a lot of work in the engine department on this bike  and tried to get added power from mid to top end and they definitely hit the mark.  When pulling down a long straight away, or trying to pull a gear a bit longer than the 2018, the 2019 will oblige and pull hard all the way to the rev limiter. This free revving feeling also results in a more playful power characteristic making the engine feel more lively because you aren’t having to short shift to stay in the meat of the power. All that being said, I feel like Yamaha traded a bit of bottom end pulling power in order to gain the top end power. The best way to describe it is the 2018 wasn’t as picky about what gear you needed to be in when exiting corners, you just maybe needed a flick of the clutch (recovery time) and the bottom end power opened up and started pulling. For 2019 you need to be a little more selective about what gear you are exiting the corner in, because if you are a gear high, it will take a bit more clutch work to get the engine into the meat of the pulling power. Although the 2019 slightly lacks bottom end power when compared to the 2018, in my opinion, it’s still ahead of the rest of the 250F field. The last thing in the engine department that needs to be mentioned is the new electric start. I like the fact that there isn't a clutch cancel switch so the starter can be activated at any time. That being said there was a slight hiccup from time to time. When the bike was in gear, it seemed to turn over just fine but struggled to fire at times. If the engine found the compression stroke with the clutch not all the way engaged the starter would stop spinning, and the button wouldn’t work when pushed for 2-3 seconds. After 2-3 seconds it would work as usual when the button was pressed; it almost seemed like an auto reset breaker would pop, then re-set itself and continue working. To combat this I would just try and make sure the bike was in neutral before starting it.  

 

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Having the map selector on the bars is definitely a plus, and gives you two separate options that can be changed on the fly. The two maps that were loaded in the bike were stock, and “hard hitting”. Using the Yamaha Power Tuner app is very user friendly and I think one of the cool features is the maintenance recorder. It’s just reassuring to always know when the last time you did things to your bike was and it’ll tell you when it’s time to maintenance certain things again. Yamaha updates their maps that their test riders work on for you to be able to download and try. You can also as well make your own or try one that a buddy has made. We are all a bit scared of electronics, but I have to admit it’s kind of nice to be able to change how the bike runs with the push of a few buttons instead of re-jetting a carburetor. It’s also pretty damn cool that your bike will tell you what’s wrong with it in the app if there is a trouble code (I’ve tried waterboarding a carburetor and never got a straight answer out of it).

 

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The chassis on the 2019 YZ250F is where Yamaha made the biggest improvements. The changes they made to combat some stability issues hit the mark and the bike is night and day better. Not that it was all over the place before, but I definitely feel that the bike tracks better in a straight line and has very little twitchiness to it. Usually when a bike gets more straight line stability it gives up a bit of cornering ability, this isn’t the case with the 2019. The previous model was hard to lean into corners and didn’t like staying leaned over, but the new bike has definitely instilled confidence in my inside rut abilities. Tipping into a corner takes less rider input and staying leaned while in the rut is much easier with the bike not feeling like it wants to stand up. I’m sure some of this comfort is also from the slimmer bodywork on the new model. The slimmer radiator shrouds are a very welcomed change and helped me keep my knees tighter to the bike and my leg tighter to the shroud when it’s up in ruts. This feeling is aided by the 18mm narrower seat at the tank, it’s also lower in the rear which I didn’t notice much, but may be more beneficial to shorter riders. 

 

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Rounding out all the positive changes made to the 2019, the suspension has taken a huge step in the right direction. After spending a lot of time on the 2018 I felt that the suspension was too divvy (or had a pitching sensation). The new YZ 250F has a much firmer feeling to the suspension, not stiffer, just firmer. Let me explain myself; when going through rougher sections, the front and rear of the bike are still soaking up the bumps well, they just don’t seem to be transferring energy to the opposite end of the bike which caused the pitching sensation. There is no longer a wallowy feeling, like the suspension is using too much of the stroke, instead it does a better job of staying up in the stroke. On harder landings the bike no longer blows through the stroke, like I said before its firmer not stiffer, it retains a plush feel without giving the rider any harshness. 

With all these changes being made to the 2019 YZ 250F it’s going interfering come shootout time. Yamaha has really stepped up their game this year and showed themselves to be at the forefront of technology with the easy to use tuner app. The 2019 is offered in traditional Yamaha blue or white/cyan and has an MSRP of $8,299. Yamaha also offers their “bLU cRU” contingency program for motocross and off-road racers. In addition to the contingency, Yamaha also has free trackside assistance at certain races for any Yamaha racers.  If you have any more questions about the 2019 Yamaha YZ250F feel free to reach out to me at Michael@keeferinctesting.com or Kris at kris@keeferinctesting.com. -Michael Allen 

 

 

 

 

 

2019 Yamaha YZ450F Review

 

I don’t need to tell you how big of a fan I was of last year’s YZ450F do I? It had a powerful engine character, great suspension, stable chassis and had an improved cornering ability. Yes, it could feel heavy at times and doesn't turn as sharp as a Honda, but it did A LOT of things really well. For 2019 Yamaha made only small changes on paper, but sometimes small changes make big improvements when riding on the track. I have been putting the hours on this bike since I received it over two weeks ago, just so I could give you more than a “First Impression” of this machine. Here are some key things about the 2019 Yamaha YZ450F that you NEED to know about. Oh and if you want more quality information, go click on the Podcast tab right here on keeferinctesting.com to hear even more about the bLU cRU machine. 

 

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Changes To The 2019 YZ450F: The 2019 Yamaha received increased rigidity in the axle collars, the front wheel surface area increased at the collar and axle bracket, a new shape on the rear wheel collars, stiffer suspension settings with increased damping, the seat foam stiffness has increased 16%, a tab has been added to the right side number plate and a 49 tooth rear sprocket (from a 48 tooth) has been aded to the 2019 YZ450F. 

 

Updated wheel spacers for 2019. 

Updated wheel spacers for 2019. 

Updated wheel spacers for 2019. 

Updated wheel spacers for 2019. 

 

Engine: The 2019 Yamaha YZ450F engine doesn't feel much different than the 2018 version did. Why? Because the engine is the same minus the shiny new blue head cover. Need a re-fresher course on how good the Yamaha YZ450F engine is? Not a problem….Let me break it down for you right here: There is a ton of bottom end excitement with the Yamaha’s engine character. It pulls hard from bottom to mid range and allows the rider to “lug” more than any other 450 motocross machine on the market. Using third gear through corners is made easier in 2019 because it comes with a 49 tooth rear sprocket (up one tooth from 2018, so thank you Jody). Going up one tooth is something most everyone did to their 2018 YZ450F machines, so it’s nice Yamaha incorporated that for the new year. Mid to top end pull is plentiful and I would only want maybe a little more over-rev from the Yamaha (if I was going to nit pick this engine). The connection to the rear wheel is not as good as a KTM 450 SX-F, but you are getting much more excitement from the YZ450F engine than the orange machine. If you do want more connection to the rear wheel and maybe a broader power the “TP Map” is something you can install from your Yamaha Power Tuner App (more on that later in this article). Every time I get back on a Yamaha YZ450F from riding other brands of 450’s, it makes me appreciate how much power this thing has. It is fast! The only other engine that comes close to the Yamaha for bottom to mid range excitement is the Honda CRF450R.  

 

Suspension: The best suspension on a stock production motorcycle period! Yes, better than a 2019 KX450F! The new firmer suspension settings help the pitching sensation that I felt from the 2018 YZ450F. It doesn't feel harsh by any means, but at least now the bike doesn't get a wiggle or a low feel (from the front end) when you’re coming into a corner. The fork has so much comfort on braking bumps and can take some aggressive riding as well. To me it’s a very generous blend of comfort and performance that Yamaha/KYB managed to weave into this fork. For my weight and ability I would go to a stiffer spring rate, but for a production machine this KYB SSS fork is something other manufacturers need to strive for. Out back the rear shock doesn't have that “high” feel to it as much as in year’s past and is great on acceleration chop. Out west we get a lot of square edge inside of ruts and the rear of the 2019 YZ450F settles slightly better than the 2018 version did. The stiffer valving lets the shock ride a little higher in the stroke (on acceleration), which gives me more of a planted feel when on throttle. Coming into braking bumps the shock gives the rider the freedom to hop over the bumps or go all Jeff Stanton and charge through them. The shock’s action is slightly slower feeling than last year’s bike and prevents the rear end from wallowing or bucking when trying to finesse your way through bumps.    

 

Chassis: I am fairly tired of other testing outlets saying that the YZ450F doesn't corner. Please stop, it’s getting old! This isn’t a 2013 Yamaha YZ450F we are talking about ok? Since the 2018 machine came out, the Yamaha YZ450F corners well. No, it’s not the sharpest cornering machine out there, but then again I don’t want it to be. I want a stable machine that can get me from point A to point B in a hurry and without much movement from the chassis. The 2019 YZ450F is stable and never does anything you don’t want it to do. Yes, it will take some extra work by the rider to change direction, but it WILL do it. With the updated fork lugs and wheels spacers the new Yamaha is better at hitting the rut and sticking inside of it. I can come into a corner faster on the new 2019 machine and it will give me a planted feel better than the 2018 bike did. I get added front wheel traction and a better contact patch throughout the whole corner. You don't necessarily need to bank off of something now with the 2019 like you did with the 2018. It can turn under a blown out rut better and let’s you get on the throttle sooner. This is not a huge noticeable difference, but if you're a previous Yamaha YZ450F owner, I am confident you will be able to feel these positives fairly quickly. 

 

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Rider Triangle: I am pretty sure I was the first guy to tell Yamaha that they had a problem with their 2018 YZ450F seat foam. It was soft and you could feel the fuel tank on your butt when you dove into corners aggressively. The firmer foam feels much better and I have had zero problems with hitting the fuel tank. The firmer foam also gives me the sensation of a less wallowy feel coming out of corners. The firmer seat foam alone makes the Yamaha feel slightly lighter on the track and less clapped out. When coming off of a 2018.5 KTM/Husqvarna I can see how some people might think the Yamaha feels wide. Visually it does look that way, but once you spend a day on the Yamaha that all goes away. I don't feel like the YZ450F is wide in corners and the shrouds never catch on my legs when lifting them up through corners. The handlebar, seat to footpeg area feels good to my 6’0 frame, but I needed to go back to 2017 bar mounts to lower the bar height a little. The 2018 bar mounts are 5mm taller and I just DO NOT like that feeling of a high handlebar, especially in corners. For those of you above 6’0 you may want to keep the stock 2019 bar mounts intact.     

 

Yamaha Power Tuner App: The easiest way to get more or less power out of your 2018 or 2019 Yamaha YZ450F is the Yamaha Power Tuner App. Simply download the app to your phone and you are able to change the fuel and ignition timing to your new blue machine. It is super easy to use and doesn't require a pilot’s license to navigate your way through. When the track gets a little slick or rough I am all about the “TP Map” that Travis Preston and his colleagues created. I have attached this map here, but you can also go to https://www.yamahamotorsports.com/motocross/pages/yamaha-power-tuner-smart-phone-app and let Yamaha guide you through everything step by step. To me Yamaha makes it’s much easier to change your bike’s power character than any other manufacturer. I personally watched all the videos on Yamaha’s website and can change my mapping at the track with zero issue.

 

Settings: Here are some settings that I liked on the 2019 Yamaha YZ450F. Try these out for a baseline setting for yourself: 

 

Fork: 

Height: 4-5mm (5mm is standard in 2019)

Compression: Two clicks stiffer than stock

Rebound: One click slower than stock

 

Shock:

Sag: 105mm

Low Speed Compression: Stock

High Speed Compression: Stock

Rebound: Two clicks slower than stock

 

Tire Pressure:

13 PSI front and back

 

ECU Setting: 

TP Map (As Shown)

 

Handlebar: 

I went and purchased a set of Pro Taper EVO SX Race bend’s (same bend as stock, but with more damping character than stock)

 

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Stock Muffler: You want to keep the great low end engine feel on the Yamaha 2019 YZ450F? Then don’t go slapping on an aftermarket muffler on it just yet. The stock muffler gives you that excitement and throaty engine character. Trust me when I say that I tested several mufflers and almost all of them take bottom end away from the YZ450F. Yes, most increase the mid-top end, but I really don’t need any more of that. You can do a lot with the Yamaha Power Tuner App so before you go dumping money into an aftermarket muffler, play with the app a little, don’t be lazy!  

 

Grips: Although I like the stock grips myself most others would disagree with me. They can feel fat in your hands and most would like to go to a smaller grip feel. However as far as stock OEM grips go, the Yamaha grips are the most blister friendly compound grips out there. If Yamaha could make the grip slightly smaller they would sell more OEM grips. Does anyone even purchase stock OEM grips from their dealer? Probably not. Continue on…..

 

Is The 2019 Yamaha YZ450F Better Than The 2018: Small refinements make the 2019 YZ450F a better handing machine. The engine is a 2018 version, but the handing of the 2019 Yamaha makes it a 3.25 on my test rating scale (compared to a baseline 3, which is the 2018 YZ450F). Going up a quarter point on a testing sheet is considered a fairly noticeable change in the production testing world. So to me, if it was a matter of only saving a few hundred bucks between the 2018 and 2019 versions, I would gladly pay the extra few hundred on the 2019 Yamaha YZ450F.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

2019 Husqvarna FC/TC First Impression Notes

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

 

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All Of The New 2019 TC And FC Models Have: 

 

Redesigned bodywork and graphics

Blue coated frame featuring increased rigidity

New 2-piece subframe design (250 g lighter)

Updated setting on the WP AER 48 forks

WP DCC shock featuring new piston & updated setting

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

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

Optimized timing on FC 250 exhaust camshaft

Machined finish on TC 125 & TC 250 upper exhaust port

Reinforced kick start intermediate gear on TC 125

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

Chain adjustment length increased by 5 mm

New, stiffer upper triple clamp

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

New throttle cable routing for easier maintenance

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

New generation Li-ion 2.0 Ah battery

Updated cooling system with new centre tube

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

ProTaper handlebar with new bend

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

New gearboxes produced by Pankl

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

2019 Kawasaki KX450 First Impression

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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