Keefer's Handlebar Dimension Recommendations


When it comes to handlebars I am a very picky person. The height, width, rise, and position is very important to me. I find that you can’t run the same handlebar bend on every bike, even though I like a bend on one bike, sometimes it doesn’t feel as good on another. Every bike has a different rider triangle so you must adapt to different bar bends as you change motorcycles. As the years progress, dirt bikes evolve and so do their dimensions. As you may have heard in my “Handlebar 101” podcast (show #70), if the bar feels too low (height), you should try to get the bar height from your bar mount and not the handlebar itself. Getting the height from your bar mount allows you to keep proper technique (position) through corners (where most of the time is made up on a track). I wanted to break down some of my favorite bar bends right here (for each new motocross machine) and give you a recommendation on bar mount height for different sized riders.

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As you will notice most of these handlebars on this list are Pro Taper and Renthal. This doesn’t mean that I am trying to sell you these handlebar brands. This is just what I personally like myself and should be taken as such. If you like another bar brand, that is fine, simply look at the dimension of the preferred handlebar and try to mimic that dimension to your favorite handlebar company. There are tons of handlebar companies out there, but for me, Renthal and Pro Taper are the bars that I prefer. For testing purposes, I tried a wide range of handlebars in my shootout so go give that podcast a listen when you can (Show #70). There are some great options out there. Again….This doesn’t mean other handlebars are crap. For transparency reasons, I am letting you know that these are the companies I prefer. I receive ZERO dollars from Renthal or Pro Taper.

  • We are using 2019 models for reference, but if you have an older model and are concerned on which handlebar to run please feel free to email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com.

  • All Dimensions are in (MM).

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2019 Honda CRF 450R/250R:

Notes: The stock bar bend on the 2019 Honda CRF 450R/250R has finally been updated to a bend that is lower and flatter than previous years. This bend is actually quite good and we usually leave the stock Renthal handlebar on the Honda. If you think you would like more flex you can try the optional bar bend below.

Preferred:

Stock Renthal 839 FatBar (W)802 (H)91 (R)52 (S)51

Optional:

Pro Taper EVO SX Race (W)800 (H)87 (R)54.5 (S)54

Bar Mount Height: Stock 

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2019 Yamaha YZ450F/250F:

Notes: Yamaha also did a good job on creating a bar that is fairly neutral for different sized riders. It’s lower height seems to fit a wide variety of riders (5’8-6’2), but taller riders may want to put bar mount in forward hole/back position.

Preferred:

Pro Taper EVO SX Race (W)800 (H)87 (R)54.5 (S)54

Optional:

Renthal Fatbar 602 bend (W)801 (H)89 (R)59 (S)56

Bar Mount Height: Stock

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2019 Kawasaki KX450/250:

Notes: 7/8 lives on! Kawasaki managed to keep the good ol’ 971 Renthal 7/8 bars, which are pretty damn good! I like a 7/8 bar and I actually stick with the 7/8 theme if I can. The 7/8 bar does bend a little easier, but you get a lot of flex when the track gets rough. If you’re an aggressive rider who likes a little more positive steering than go to a 1-1/8 handlebar for increased stiffness.

Preferred: Renthal 7/8 983 bend (Villopoto/Stewart) (W)808 (H)95 (R)58 (S)55

Oversize Option: Pro Taper Fuzion Henry/Reed (W)800 (H)92 (R)66 (R)40 (S)55

Bar Mount Height: Stock

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2019 Suzuki RM-Z450/250:

Notes: The stock Suzuki bend has some sweep to it, which makes the bike feel small at times. I prefer to open the cockpit up a little.

Preferred: Pro Taper EVO SX Race bend (W)800 (H)87 (R)54.5 (S)54

Optional: ODI Podium Flight CountryBoy bend (W)803 (H)92 (R)56 (S)57

Bar Mount Height: Stock

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2019 Husqvarna FC450/250:

Notes: Husqvarna comes with a very low bend and that fits the ergos of this bike, but the width of the bar is too long. I actually like the stock handlebar bend on the Husqvarna, however I cut the handlebar down to 803mm, which really helps the character of the Husqvarna when leaning into corners.

Preferred: Stock Pro Taper EVO handlebar cut to 803mm (W)811 (H)80 (R)39.5 (S)51

Optional: Pro Taper EVO Carmichael bend (W)800 (H)77 (R)40 (S)55

Bar Mount Height: Plus 5mm

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2019 KTM 450SX-F/250SX-F:

Notes: The stock bar bend shape on the orange brigade is also decent, but it is too stiff and long. If you don’t think it is too stiff, you can simply cut the bar to 803mm and run it!

Preferred: Renthal 821 bend cut to 803mm (W)813 (H)78 (R)42 (S)54

Optional: Pro Taper EVO Husqvarna Stock cut to 803mm (W) 811 (H)77 (R)40 (S)55

Bar Mount Height: Plus 5mm

Yoshimura RS-9T Titanium Signature Muffler System For The 2019 Honda CRF450R

If there is one 2019 450 motocross machine that I think has the fastest overall engine character, it would have to be the Honda CRF450R. This engine is basically a race engine out of the crate. If you want to get to point A to point B in a quick manner, this Honda is the engine for you. So why on earth would you need more power? To me you wouldn’t need MORE, but maybe you can massage that power and move it around so that the engine delivery is slightly more controllable. This is where the KTM and Yamaha engines are better than the red machine. Both have more controlled power when the track gets rough or slippery. Controlled power is crucial in today’s 450cc world and a good muffler system can give you exactly this, if it’s a good system. Key word here people is “IF” it’s a good system. It is not as simple as reading dyno charts and slapping it on your bike. It requires real world track testing to feel the power character as well. We wanted to install/test a muffler system on our 2019 Honda CRF450R (that we purchased ourselves) to see if we could improve on a power plant that was already pretty damn impressive. We chose the Yoshimura RS-9 full titanium muffler system to try back to back with the stock system to see if it was in fact, what we were looking for.

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 When we originally tested the 2017-2018 CRF450R Yoshimura RS-9 system, we thought it was a pretty damn good system that was better than stock. However, the 2019 CRF450R stock exhaust changed for the better, so Yoshimura went to work on a new headpipe design to try and achieve even more power (than the stock 2019 exhaust system). Yoshimura also wanted to tuck in the new headpipe design, so it was less susceptible to crashes.

 Once installed and on the track the Honda’s exhaust note turned from the high pitch semi raspy stock sound to a deep throaty, more traditional 450 factory race bike sound. The crack of the throttle (or RPM response) is slightly smoother and less crisp than that of the stock system, but bottom end pulling power is increased over stock. Rolling out of corners, in second or third gear lets the rear wheel find increased traction over stock and was more controllable while accelerating out of hard pack corners. The slightly smoother RPM response takes away the Honda’s exciting feel slightly, but helps you gain a little more control coming out of corners. This is what I was looking for in a Honda CRF450R muffler! The mid range pull is healthier, with more meat, than stock and while the stock system had a tough time pulling third gear in tight/slower corners (without a gearing change), the Yoshimura system will give you an easier time rolling third gear in those tighter corners. With just the flick of the clutch lever (in third gear) the Honda will be in the meat of the power once again and have you down the straight in a hurry. We noticed top end and over-rev was better than stock, as the Yoshimura system helps the Honda carry second and third gears longer. It pulls amazingly well on deeply tilled dirt in second and third gear and there wasn’t a time where I thought to myself  “I need more top end pulling power”. You could tell Yoshimura was focused on controlling, yet increasing, the bottom to mid-range pulling power when they designed this 2019 CRF450R muffler system and they succeeded in doing so. It’s also impressive that they didn’t lose any top end and over-rev in the process, in fact they got some extra!

 Craftsmanship is second to none with the Yoshimura RS-9 titanium mufflers.

Craftsmanship is second to none with the Yoshimura RS-9 titanium mufflers.

After weighing both the stock and Yoshimura RS-9T systems you will be saving almost two full pounds, which is great since the Honda is on the heavier side (on paper) for a 450cc motocross motorcycle. This is a significant weight loss but for $1,499.00 it is a very pricey bolt on modification. If you are looking to save a little money, Yoshimura offers the stainless steel/carbon version for $980.00, but you will not be saving much weight (only half a pound). 

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Again you can’t say enough about the craftsmanship that goes into a Yoshimura system. The welds are flawless and the mufflers tuck up inside the side number plates for a stealthy, compact look. If you’re looking for a little added pulling power, with more control/connection on the track, and not to mention sexiness out your new 2019 Honda CRF450R, the Yoshimura RS-9T system will help you do all of those things very well. You will have to decide if you want to dip into your checking account to pay for these added features, but if you're in the market for a 2019 Honda CRF450R muffler, there is not a better system out there for this model. The Yoshimura system has held up great over my years of testing them and you can even send your system back for Yoshimura to re-furbish if you choose (for a fee of course). You can head over to Yoshimura-rd.com to get yours or call them at 800-634-9166.

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GUTS Racing Firm Seat Foam And Gripper GR1 Seat Cover 

 


If there is one area that the 2018-2019 Yamaha YZ250F/450F is lacking in, it would have to be the seat foam/seat cover area. Yamaha firmed up the seat foam for 2019, but to me it just wasn't enough for my skinny ass. If you have a Kardashian butt it might be ok, but for us skinnier riders we need a foam that doesn't sink into the fuel tank when slamming into corners. While I was searching for a firmer foam, I thought why not get a seat cover that has some ribs on it, in order to keep my but in place when coming out of corners as well! 

So I called up Andy over at GUTS Racing and he sent me their standard firm foam (not Phantom foam) and GR1 ribbed seat cover with extra padding sewn into the sides of the seat cover. Guts offers many different styles of covers and foam densities so make sure to check out gutsracing.com for all of their offerings. Swapping out seat foam isn’t that hard, it just takes patience and some trial and error to get the new cover on the seat. The foam shape is pretty much identical to the stock foam and went on the seat base without issue. The seat cover went on without much of a fuss either, but there might be a little extra material that you may have to trim once all of the staples are in.

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So when you think of the words “hard” or “firm” you may think of uncomfortable right? Well in this case you would be wrong. The “firm” GUTS foam is just what the doctor ordered, especially when I am slamming into corners. The stock 2019 YZ450F foam is a little better (than the 2018 foam), but lacks density on the sides where my butt is forcing the foam down. With the GUTS firm foam the density is harder in the middle of the foam, but also on the sides of the foam where you need it (especially when riding aggressively). Your butt is not always placed directly in the middle of the seat when you're riding, so why just make the middle part of the foam firm? GUTS thought of this because all of us riders need to have a firm feel on each side of the foam as well. The GUTS Racing foam provides the correct amount of density so I am not pushing my tushy through the foam and into the plastic of the fuel cell. My butt bone thanks you GUTS Racing! 

The GR1 GUTS Ribbed Seat Cover is unique because of the extra padding that is sewn into the cover on each side. Since the Yamaha seat is designed so thin near the middle portion and on the sides, I felt like I could use a little extra padding when working the sides of the seat through flat corners. Not only did I feel like the extra foam on the sides helped me through flat corners with the slightly wider nature of the seat cover (due to the foam inserts), but it helped me grip the Yamaha better with my legs. Not to go full Ryno on you, but using your legs is crucial to going fast on a motorcycle. Gripping the machine with your legs is sometimes overlooked to an amateur rider, so with these extra foam inserts inputted into the seat cover, it really helps me grip the side of the Yamaha when I am getting tired. It may not be the most attractive looking cover (due to its width), but it sure does do what its supposed to do. The ribbed portion of the seat cover also keeps me in place, but the gripper material isn't so gnarly that it is chaffing my ass on long test days. Some gripper materials out there are so aggressive that you can only ride one full day on it before you have to have your wife rub chamois cream on your ass. 

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If you own  2018-2019 Yamaha YZ250F/450F do yourself a favor and get a GUTS Racing firm seat foam and ribbed GR1 cover. Your ass can thank me later. The GUTS Racing standard height/firm seat foam will run you $89.90 and the ribbed GR1 seat cover with foam inserts on each side will cost you $149.90.     

X-trig ROCS Tech Triple Clamps And PHDS Mounts 


Photos By: Jeremy Doerksen

It’s hard to find aftermarket triple clamps that are better than stock these days. So much is involved in making a triple clamp that flexes enough, but also has enough rigidity to aid the machine in corners as well. With the triple clamp flex character so important to chassis handling (on all motocross bikes) sometimes it’s tough to find anyone that can make a “comfortable” set of aftermarket triple clamps. Why do you need aftermarket triple clamps? Well sometimes it’s just for looks with some riders, but there are occasions where you might want another offset to help you get more stability or a sharper turning character out of your machine. In this case I was looking for the standard offset for a 2019 KTM 450 SX-F, but felt like the stock KTM triple clamps were a little on the rigid side when the track got hard pack and rough.  

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Enter X-trig’s ROCS Tech Triple Clamps and PHDS Mounts. “ROCS” stands for “Revolutionary Opposing Clamp System”. The ROCS clamp allows for precise alignment of the fork tube with opposing clamping surface patterns, the stiffness of the steering stem is specifically tuned to the respective motorcycle model, the steering-head bearing is already mounted on the shaft tube for convenience, a special fork slot and clamping area for precise fork operation, precise clamping with special screws for low torque specs, OEM attachments can be mounted without auxiliary material, and flexibility that is adapted to the fork with anodizing in the technical factory OEM look. The difference between the ROCS “Tech” and the ROCS “Pro” is the “Tech” uses a standard offset with a pressed shaft tube. The “Pro” has two offsets you can choose from by simply adjusting the shaft tube (or steering stem). I didn't feel like the KTM needed an offset change as the KTM is predictable on straight line and corners well, so I stuck with the “Tech” clamps. 

 Revolutionary Opposing Clamp System

Revolutionary Opposing Clamp System

The PHDS (Progressive Handlebar Dampening System) is a system supported by elastomers designed to absorb engine and chassis vibrations. The system also dampens the forces acting on the handlebar in a horizontal and vertical direction, maintaining steering precision. The handlebar can be adjusted in 12 different positions when the PHDS is mounted. The KTM vibrates more in the handlebar area than any other 450 motocross bike, so this is something that I feel the KTM needs, in my opinion. 

 PDHS “Progressive Dampening Handlebar System”

PDHS “Progressive Dampening Handlebar System”

Installation of the ROCS clamp is fairly straight forward (with the pressed shaft tube). All you need to do is grease up the steering head bearing and slide the bottom clamp up in the head tube of the frame. All of the front fender mounting points and even the OEM hour meter bolts up the same way with the X-trig clamps. Super clean! Mounting up the PHDS bar mounts is a little tricky as the mounts themselves have a lot of moving parts, so make sure to read the instructions to ensure proper mounting. Technical Touch offers optional PHDS bar mount elastomers that come in soft or firm, but I chose to run the stock medium style elastomers, which seem to be just fine for motocross conditions. 


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I am super picky about bar positioning, shocking I know, so I went with the mounting hole closest to me (when sitting on bike) on the triple clamp with the PHDS mounts forward. This handlebar position gave me a +3mm bar position (forward from stock), which I preferred as the stock positioning is a little cramped for my 6’0 frame. The PHDS bar mount itself is the same height as the stock bar mount, which I was just fine with as I am using a Husqvarna Pro Taper EVO handlebar on the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F. Having so many positions available for the rider is definitely a huge positive for adjustability with these ROCS clamps. If you feel like you need a higher PHDS handlebar mount, X-trig also offers spacers to go under the PHDS mounting system. You can pick from 3mm, 5mm, and 10mm spacers.

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So what did the X-trig ROCS Tech Triple Clamp and PHDS handlebar mounts do on the track? My goal for this test was to find less front end vibration, try to get a more precise front end feel through corners, without getting added rigidity on hard pack/rough straights. Basically get a more compliant KTM 450 SX-F, tough to do right? The good news is that this is exactly what I found with the X-trig ROCS Tech/PHDS system. (Full Disclosure: I have found on other machines that I tested the X-trig ROCS clamps on weren’t as favorable as this KTM test) The X-trig ROCS Tech clamp on the KTM 450 SX-F provided enough flex and doesn’t feel like it negatively affected front end bump absorption, but was also stiff enough to give me a positive front wheel feel through flat corners. The ROCS Tech clamp is most noticeable when diving deep into a rut where there is a huge load put on the front end, forced by the rider. The chassis positivity through this area is much better than the stock clamps. The stock clamps has a tendency to flex too much and give the rider a wiggle on de-cel (on deeply tilled tracks or soft dirt) or give the rider an unsettled (dive) when dropping into a long/deep rut (this sensation can only be felt mostly by faster or heavier riders). The X-trig ROCS Tech clamp gives the front end less wallow (firmer) and more cornering stability (without upsetting chassis balance). Straight line stability is as good as stock and front end bump absorption is only minimally stiffer feeling on braking bumps/square edge. 

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The PHDS mounts do not vibrate nearly as much as the OEM rubber mounted bar mounts. The PHDS bar mounts flex as good as stock with the standard elastomers (up and down), but dampen vibration noticeably better around the track (especially at higher RPM’s). Slap down landings are improved slightly and front end positivity (entrance into corners) are as good as an OEM feel. Simply put the vibration characteristics the PHDS mounts provide are well worth their weight in gold. I use “weight” because they are heavier than stock ones by quite a bit, but I will gladly take some extra ounces over vibration any day. 

The cost of the X-trig ROCS Tech Triple Clamps and PHDS handlebar mounts are $800.00. The cost is more expensive than other triple clamps out on the market by a couple hundred bucks. However, there are only two triple clamps that I have tested, that to me, are as good or better than stock. If you're looking to get some of those KTM “vibes” dampened a little, pick up some front end cornering stability, and improve the looks of your KTM, X-trig has some really nice clamps and handlebar mounts available for your motocross machine. You can check out and purchase all of the X-trig products over at technicaltouchusa.com.   

If you have any questions about this test please feel free to email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com

Ride Engineering's 2019 Honda CRF450RWE Triple Clamp 



  Matt Sirevaag is your average dirt bike fanatic. He works overtime just so he can purchase extra “goodies” for his 2019 Honda CRF450R. He is only “allowed” (you married guys out there know what I am saying) to buy stuff for his bike if he makes extra cash. Matt works side jobs and puts in OT just so he can get his bike just the way he likes it. To me this is a real world test because of the test rider that has written it.    -KK

Matt Sirevaag is your average dirt bike fanatic. He works overtime just so he can purchase extra “goodies” for his 2019 Honda CRF450R. He is only “allowed” (you married guys out there know what I am saying) to buy stuff for his bike if he makes extra cash. Matt works side jobs and puts in OT just so he can get his bike just the way he likes it. To me this is a real world test because of the test rider that has written it. -KK


I am just the average nine to fiver and weekend warrior. I get up at 4AM, go to work, and think about dirt bikes (probably like most other riders out there). I walk through the race pits, drool over the factory machines, and wish I could just have one piece of eye candy that graces the factory riders machines. This is where Ride Engineering decided to give their CRF450R clamp that factory Honda like touch. They took their CRF450R clamp, moved the logos, and anodized them cherry red just like Ken Roczen’s factory machine. The Ride Engineering factory 450RWE triple clamp retains the stock 22mm offset that comes on 17-19 CRF450’s and can be used in conjunction with the stock bar mounts or Ride Engineering’s one piece bar mount.

Ride Engineering worked to try and make this Honda triple clamp retain the stock clamp characteristics (flex/rigidity balance). They also used 2024 aluminum, which is the same alloy aluminum that a lot of the factory teams use for their clamps. Just to add to the factory flare we put the new clamp on the scale and it weighed in at 7.9oz. lighter than the OEM clamp! The 450WE clamp fits both the previous 48mm and the new 49mm Showa forks. It also fits 2013-2019 Honda CRF450R, 2017-2019 CRF450RX, 2014-2019 CRF250R and let’s not forget the 2019 CRF450RWE. This is not Ride Engineering’s first rodeo as they have been building triple clamps with different offsets to help change the character of motocross machines for years. 

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Installation was a breeze as any novice mechanic can handle this job with a little time in the garage. I would suggest using the owner’s manual as torque specs are always crucial when it comes to suspension components. The torque spec on Keefer’s 2019 CRF450R test bike is: (upper pinch bolt 16 lb-ft, lower pinch bolts 15 lb-ft, and steering stem nut 80 lb-ft). As I hit Sunrise MX on my usual Saturday track day, I was not only excited to ride after a long work week, but I was hoping one of my favorite aspects of the new Honda (front end feel) was not gone. To my delight it was really hard to pick apart any huge differences between the two clamps on the track. As I put down my 30+2 lap moto (Thank you Kris Keefer! Yes, that is sarcasm) the Honda retained that front end feel that I loved with the stock clamp, but I did notice two small differences after I put more time on them. The Ride Engineering clamp does make the front end “turn in” slightly easier and also gives me a little firmer front end feel on hard pack square edge. This wasn't a drastic difference, but it is something I noticed after a few hours on the clamps. I am a heavier guy at over 200 pounds so a little firmer feel wasn't a deal breaker for me. I am the type of rider that is very sensitive to vibration or any unwanted feed back through the bars so I was pleased that I didn't get any increased vibration. Ride-Engineering utilizes the stock rubber’s for their bar mounts and this helps retain that OEM comfort while adding cushion over some other solid mounted bar mounts I tried last time. If you’re a vet rider and are looking for more comfort, make sure your bar mounts are rubber mounted! The Honda’s cornering manners were kept in tact, but with just a little more positive lean in, I did notice that the bar position was slightly more comfortable which I discovered most on deeply tilled up tracks/soil. The Ride Engineering clamp only has one location to mount the bars, but I did notice that the bar position was slightly more comfortable. The mounting position on the Ride Engineering clamps locates the bars three millimeters forward over the OEM mounting location. If you don’t like this bar location you can always turn around the stock bar mounts to pull the bars back.

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As you can tell the Ride Engineering CRF450RWE triple clamp is more of a factory look than a clamp that gives more performance. Having said that Ride Engineering does offer different offset triple clamps for the Honda CRF450R that come in 20mm, 21mm, and stock 22mm offsets. They also come in a black or red colorway. These other offset sizes are not the “450RWE” clamps and will have a Ride Engineering logo on the side. On a side note; try to keep the Ride Engineering colored triple clamps covered up from the bright sun. Too much sun (like sitting in the pits for an extended period of time) will fade the color a little. I simply put a towel over my bars to help shade the triple clamps as much as I can. The CRF450RWE clamp includes the top clamp, bottom clamp, pressed in stem, and lower bearing and it retails for $549.90. You can check out all of Ride’s accessories over at Ride-Engineering.com and take a look at what they have to offer for your trusty steed.

Matthew Sirevaag 205lb Novice

Full Time Electrician/Husband/Father/Dirt Bike Fanatic



Pro Taper Clamp-On Grips

 

There are certain things on motorcycles that are easy to improve on (seats, handlebars, foot pegs etc). Then there are grips, which for the most part are just rubber pieces on the ends of your handlebars that help keep you connect to the machine. However, for being just "rubber pieces" most riders are particular about which ones they use. Most riders have their favorite sets of grips and usually stick to those as long as they're riding. As of late there are a few companies out there who have decided that the grip needed a revamp and could be made better. Pro Taper is probably the largest handlebar company to jump into the clamp-on grip market and I was happy to get my hands on a set (pun intended). I wanted to see for myself if the days of safety wire and glue were a thing of the past. Instead of just molding rubber over plastic like some other companies have done, Pro Taper took a deeper look at the clamp-on grip to see how they could be made better. They windowed the clutch side plastic housing so there’s more cushion for the rider’s palm and fingertips. In addition to the windows in the housing they also made the overall diameter of the left side grip slightly smaller. 

 

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 I got the PT grips (I got ½ waffle, but they offer 3 grip patterns) for the 2019 YZ 250F test bike and figured the neon blue/black (they have a magnitude of colorways) would look decent so I started the install process. The clutch side is as easy as it sounds, cut off the old grip, make sure the bar is clean, slide the new clamp-on grip on and tighten the pinch bolt once the waffle is oriented the desired way. For the throttle side Pro Taper gives you a selection of throttle cams that lock onto the throttle tube. In the instructions they give you a list of the cams they provide and what bike they go to. You just have to match the number with your bike, index the gears on the cam and throttle in the orientation you want the waffle. Next you need to remove the stock throttle tube and replace it with the new Pro Taper Clamp-On Grip/Tube combo. This is where it can be slightly annoying because once I got the throttle side reassembled, I realized the teeth were off by one so I had to take the whole throttle assembly back apart to re-index it (I’m anal with how my grips and levers are oriented). Once back together the grips are 100% locked on and they haven’t moved on me since the install.

 

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 The first thing I noticed when I rode the bike was the smaller clutch side grip. I was personally not a fan of the smaller diameter because of my large hands (I wear an XL glove), but some other testers with smaller hands have mentioned they like the smaller size. I’ve ridden with other brands of clamp-on grips and noticed a definite increase in vibration to my hands over traditional style grips, but this wasn’t totally the case with the Pro Taper Clamp-On Grips. Although the vibration is much less than other “Clamp-On” brands, I still notice a slight increase in vibration over the stock Yamaha grips on both sides. They never twisted after riding in mud or after being washed, nor did the clamp ever come loose. All that being said let’s get to the point; although a good idea, I don’t think clamp-on grips are for me for the following reasons. I don’t like the slight vibration felt through the grips. I don’t like the smaller clutch side grip (could just be my large hands). I don’t like having to take the throttle assembly apart to change grips. Lastly, are “we” that lazy that “we” can’t put on some glue and slap on a grip? If the reasons I just listed don’t apply to you then these grips just may be for you. Maybe you don’t like safety wiring on grips? Maybe you hate grip glue or maybe you just don’t like having to slide on new grips and would rather clamp them on. For me however, I think I’ll just stick to the old school rubber things on the ends of my handlebars. -Michael Allen

 

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Second Opinion: I also have put some time on the Pro Taper Clamp-On Grips…I am much like Michael where I prefer glue on/old school grips. I get what companies like Pro Taper are trying to do here though, I am not oblivious. They are making it easier for the customer to install new grips and giving them more choices. I believe this is a great business model for the weekend warrior and to me there is no real negative to the Pro Taper Clamp-On Grips…Except getting a slightly firmer feel than my glue on style 1/2 waffle soft grips. The Pro Taper Clamp-On Grips are not as rigid feeling as the ones that come on the KTM’s so that's a plus. Just like Michael said, if you’re a “Clamp-On” type of rider then you will be impressed by these grips. I prefer a glue feel, but I am super annoying and picky. -Kris Keefer

Pirelli Scorpion MX32 Mid-Soft Tires  

 

I have been on a Pirelli Scorpion MX32 Mid-Soft testing bender while riding my 2019 Yamaha YZ450F test machine for a few months now. I have ridden plenty of Southern California tracks along with some of the softest dirt I have ever ridden out on a Colorado farm field. If you haven't listened to my podcast on “Tires 101” do yourself a favor and go listen. In the meantime while you're here you might as well read about what Pirelli's soft motocross tire offering is all about. 

 

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I found out quickly that one of the first things that impressed me the most was that the Pirelli Scorpion MX32 Mid Soft’s carcass gives the rider a ton of comfort on choppy/square edge terrain. When the track gets rougher the rear tire (120/80-19) gives more cushion than any other tire that I have tested lately. This carcass feel acts like another piece of your bike’s suspension and can really help a rigid feeling chassis become slightly better on choppy terrain. It impressed me so much that I tried it on a 2018 Honda CRF450R and it gave me slightly less of a harsh feeling that the chassis puts out on choppy/square edge tracks. Pirelli also offers a 120/90-19 size rear tire as well that I have tested, that was even better on square edge cushion feel. The 120/90-19 also puts more weight on the front end of the machine to help increase front-end steering. If you do decide to go with the 120/90-19 and feel like your rear end is too high after installation, I do recommend lowering your fork in the clamp by 1-2mm to prevent a high feeling rear end (stink bug). The Pirelli MX32 Mid-Soft rear tire offers great traction on soft/intermediate terrain through ruts and coming out of soft corners. The MX32 works well under lean angle and that lean angle traction is one of Pirelli’s rear tire strong suits, as the rider is able to get on the throttle sooner (while leaning) without washing out. You are also able to start your lean sooner (compared to a MX3S) coming into a corner and the Scorpion remains planted to the ground. Braking predictability gives the rider confidence to pivot and throttle out of flat corners without much hesitation. If you’re a predominately a front end steering rider the Scorpion MX32 rear tire will provide you with less sliding ability and let you steer with the front tire more. If you're a rear end steering rider that likes to drift the back end around this tire may not suit you as much as a Bridgestone X20. The only complaint I had is when the track surface was on the harder side, I could feel the side of the tire carcass roll when accelerating from flat corners. This gives me a pushing or loose feeling rear end that caused me to be more ginger with my throttle hand. To combat some of this it’s very important to run the correct air pressure (between 13-14 psi) for the Pirelli’s soft carcass. I do notice that when the Pirelli tire gets half worn the performance also doesn’t suffer as much as with a Dunlop MX3S rear tire. Chunking wasn't an issue with the set of Pirelli’s I had as I got well over 10 hours on a rear tire. You will also have to understand that Southern California conditions are much harder than east coast conditions so lifespan would dramatically go up in softer east coast based dirt.  

 

 Farm Dirt Bros.

Farm Dirt Bros.

 

The Pirelli MX32 front tire is great for front-end feel and lean angle traction especially in heavy dirt. The softer the dirt the more responsive this front tire is. However, it can at times be almost too grabby, but for me, I prefer a tire that really digs into the dirt and lets you carve underneath blown out berms or ruts. The Scorpion MX32 Mid-Soft front tire actually makes the steering feel heavy at times because the tire is at maximum grip under initial lean in corners. Like I mentioned above, the MX32 is tailor made for a front wheel steering rider and can be leaned into corners earlier than you would come to expect. The only other front tire that has as much front end lean angle traction is a Michelin Starcross 5 Soft. This Pirelli front tire does suffer from predictability when the track is freshly watered and was broken in/slick on top. The MX32 would give the front end a vague feel (un-predictable) as the bike would have a tendency to push unexpectedly through flat corners. To me this is a pure soft natured front tire and if the conditions are soft to loamy this tire works great, but if the track gets hard pack, you will get some uncertainty when pushing the front tire’s limits. The wear of the MX32 front tire is superb and unlike most soft terrain tires the Pirelli will NOT chunk. I typically get 10-12 hours on a MX32 front tire before I start to see some of the performance life start to dissipate. This is a performance based tire and should be purchased knowing this. 13 psi is a good baseline for this tire, but be sure to check the pressure after a couple motos. Tire pressure will rise with heat so make sure to have a good tire pressure gauge handy in the tool box. 

 

 Farm Dirt Bros.

Farm Dirt Bros.

 

The Pirelli Scorpion MX32 Mid Soft has quickly become one of my favorite sets of tires when I am going to a softer type of track. Just be forewarned that the MX32 front tire is more finicky in hard pack conditions than the rear, so I typically have a MX32 Mid-Hard front tire with me handy for late afternoon sessions. Pirelli is quoted by saying “we race what we sell” and although I am not completely buying in on that saying, I will say that the MX 32 Mid-Soft tires are one of the best at getting performance and durability/longevity weaved in together. 

FCP Racing Titanium Engine Mounts (2018-2019 YZ450F)

 

Out of all of the aftermarket parts I test, on any machine, it is the easiest to dissect what is good and what is bad on the Yamaha YZ450F. Why? Probably because it’s one bike (out of three) that I like to ride the most, so I am hypersensitive to any slight changes to any of those three machines. When I get to “choose” which bike I want to ride when I don’t have to “work”, a blue bike is usually one of those machines. 

I tested the FCP Racing engine mounts on the 2018 Honda CRF450R a while back and was impressed with the positive changes that it made on the red bikes chassis balance. When I was presented with some titanium engine mounts for the 2018-2019 Yamaha YZ450F, I of course jumped at the chance to see if it made one of my favorite bikes even better. FCP offers titanium front mounts in soft, medium and stiff for the 2018-2019 YZ450F and I tried all three over the course of several months. Not only did I test at the typical tracks here in Southern California, I even spent time with all the mounts in soft, farm-fresh, deep dirt in Colorado. All you east coasters out there, I got you covered on this one ok! I understand that in most cases what works here for us in California might not work there for you on the east coast. This is why I made sure that I tested these mounts in very deep conditions to really get a full coverage evaluation.  

 

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For my weight and ability I can rule out the soft titanium mounts as it makes the bike flex too much (especially on soft dirt) coming into corners (on de-cel) and left me with a vague feeling front end. Maybe if you are a super lightweight rider (under 140 pounds) and wanted some added straight line stability (on-throttle) this could be good, but for what I was looking for this wasn't a good setting. 

 

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My favorite set of mounts were the medium titanium mounts as they improved lean in coming into corners and gave me increased front wheel traction. If you are still feeling a vague feel on the 2018-2019 YZ450F through corners these mounts can get you some added front wheel traction. I also noticed an increased tracking ability when landing off jumps when immediately having to turn the bike. Imagine a jump that is immediately followed by a sharp 180 degree corner (with ruts). You must land and immediately find a rut to get into and make the corner. Sometimes this can be tough with the stock mounts of the YZ450F, but this is where the medium titanium mounts improve tracking because it makes the YZ450F feel even more planted in these types of conditions. This allows the rider to get on the throttle sooner (after landing) and lets you lean the YZ450F over through the corner easier.  Another improvement was though flat corners with no rut or berm to bank off of. The 2019 YZ450F is slightly improved in this area (over the 2018), but if you have a 2018 and are looking for increased front end bite through flat corners, these medium titanium mounts can help you with added traction. If there is one negative to these medium titanium FCP mounts it’s that I noticed a slightly stiffer feel (near head tube) when the track gets hard pack and square edge. This isn't a huge difference, but I do want to note that I did feel a slight change. That slight stiffer feel that I experienced gave me a little more deflection (on-throttle) in the front-end (fork). I am going to experiment with some fork settings (updated valving) to see if I can tune this out. I consider these titanium medium mounts an improvement over the stock pieces and if the stock mounts were a baseline 3 the titanium medium mounts were a 3.25. 

 

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The stiff titanium mounts only increased that stiff head tube area feel and the YZ450F lost some of that comfort that makes it so appealing to ride. I feel like these mounts are geared towards a bigger sized rider (over 220 pounds) or someone that is racing Supercross. The stiff mounts did increase lightweight cornering feel and also helped side to side movement (“flop” or “tip in”), but for the average consumer I feel like this is too much in the wrong direction. 

 

After spending a couple months riding back to back with the stock mounts and the FCP Racing titanium mounts, I have come to the conclusion that this is a great option to make your 2018-2019 Yamaha YZ450F react quicker and increase tracking into ruts. For $199.00 plus shipping, it’s not so expensive where you're breaking the bank or pissing off your wife by making the purchase. The bad news is that FCP Racing only has an Instagram (@fcpracing) and Facebook (FCP Racing) page which can make it difficult for old school fellas to purchase. Contact them through direct message and they are usually pretty good about getting back to you ASAP.  

 

If you have any questions about this product please feel free to email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com or if you see me at the track, come up and ask away! 

FMF 4.1 RCT Titanium Muffler System (2019 Kawasaki KX450)

The 2019 Kawasaki KX450 is the most improved machine of the new year, hands down! It has a very responsive engine character, comfortable suspension, a lightweight feel and cornering that is very neutral. I will be the first one to admit that I get nervous about sticking on any type of aftermarket muffler system when I really like the stock power curve of any machine. Sometimes aftermarket mufflers are just smoke and mirrors. They are lighter, titanium, look cool, but in the end they are no better than your heavy, ugly, big stock muffler. While I was testing the 2019 KX 450 earlier this year I could hear this little voice inside my head say “it’s going to be tough to make a muffler that is better than this stock one”. Fast forward to a few weeks ago and a shiny new FMF 4.1 RCT titanium exhaust shows up at my door, to be evaluated on the green machine. I sat on it for a week knowing that this new, shiny, lightweight piece of FMF artwork might not be better than the current monstrosity that is on the 2019 KX450. Nonetheless I installed the FMF system (which was easy I may add) and headed to the track to give it a go. 

 

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The stock power curve of the 2019 KX450 engine has a snappy throttle response (with a free feel to it) and at times can almost be too much through corners with the standard green coupler installed. Once rolling on the throttle and passed the corner, the power is not quite as strong as the Honda or Yamaha, but still creates a easy to ride power feel on the track. I didn't necessarily need more rpm response with the 2019 KX450, but I wouldn’t mind some more meat through the mid to top end range. Bolting on the KX450 FMF Factory 4.1 RCT system is by far the easiest system I have installed on any 2019 machine. Installation literally took me through two full songs on the “Classic Rock” station on Pandora. Not bad! The 2019 Kawasaki is a light bike stock, but FMF sent me the full titanium system, which dropped the Kawasaki’s weight by 2.9 pounds from the stock system! To me the titanium FMF 4.1 system is one of the most stunning aftermarket mufflers you can put on any bike. I love the blue anodized finish as it looks good on almost every make and model machine there is.

 

 FMF builds great looking mufflers! 

FMF builds great looking mufflers! 

 

On the track the FMF 4.1 makes a slightly smoother bottom end power delivery, but keeps that exciting RPM response. Where most of you will feel your hard earned money is in the mid range pulling power when exiting corners. The stock system feels empty in this area, but the FMF fills in the power through the mid-range. What I mean by “fill in the power” is that the FMF system actually feels like it is shooting forward, as soon as you shift into third gear, unlike the stock Kawasaki’s power where it lacks some “meat” through the mid-range. The FMF 4.1 increases that mid range area and gives the rider some more freedom to be lazier in third gear. That is great news for all you vet riders out there, trust me! Top end is also increased slightly and you get increased pulling power near the end of each straight with the FMF. Over-rev is slightly increased as well with the 4.1 (over the stock muffler) as I could leave the KX450 in second and third gear slightly longer. The one downside to me is that it is loud sounding (compared to the stock system). It has more of a deeper/throatier pitch to it, which makes it sound louder than the stocker. 

 

I tested couplers along with mapping with the Kawasaki R&D guys and came up with a couple options for you (see attached maps). The white coupler map is better for bottom-mid range power, but the black coupler map is slightly better from mid to top end (the black coupler map is what I am running now). The good news is, unlike last year, the 2019 KX450 FMF 4.1 system will not have that de-cel popping with either coupler (along with these installed maps), which is a huge plus when it comes to a clean ignition/fuel mapping power feel.

 

 Black Coupler Fuel Map 

Black Coupler Fuel Map 

 Black Coupler Ignition Map 

Black Coupler Ignition Map 

 White Coupler Fuel Map 

White Coupler Fuel Map 

 White Coupler Ignition Map

White Coupler Ignition Map

 

At the end of the day the FMF 4.1 RCT full titanium muffler system delivers a smoother roll on bottom end delivery with a mid to top end puling powerl that is better than stock (along with improved mid-top end RPM response). I will say this again….Being able to achieve a power delivery that is better than what an OEM muffler system can give you is very hard to do. FMF has achieved this with their 4.1 system on the 2019 KX450. Not only does it make power, but it also takes off some weight and looks better than the stock bazooka. I wanted some added control down low and more mid range (on the 2019 KX450) so with this FMF system I got what I was looking for. I am not going to sit here and tell you guys that every FMF system, for every machine is better than stock, but with this one they knocked it out of the park. Don't be scared to try the maps that are attached above, because with today's four-stroke technology, getting the correct mapping for a certain muffler can really make a difference. 

 

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Attention mechanically inclined riders!!!!! Please note that re-packing of the FMF muffler is important for the can’s lifespan. The muffler portion (or can) will start to leave hot spots/scarring when the packing starts to burn away from inside. Once you start seeing these “hot spot/scars/markings” on the muffler, remove and re-pack it ASAP. FMF offers re-packing kits and taking the can apart to re-pack is not that hard to do. I get around 12 hard engine hours before I see these markings and have to re-pack. If you run it past the recommended time, you run the chance of hurting performance and damaging the core (or perf) inside the muffler. Don’t be a dummy and waste your money, re-pack your muff! 

 

If you have any questions about this test please email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com

Maxxis Maxxcross MX ST Tire Review

 

 

I am not going to sit here and blow smoke up your asses and tell you I was a big fan of the previous generation Maxxis Maxxcross tires. They didn't provide consistent lean angle grip and had problems with side knob chunking way too soon in my opinion. Fast forward to the summer of 2019 and Maxxis has introduced a brand new performance tire that was developed with “The King” Jeremy McGrath exclusively for us die hard moto guys called the Maxxcross MX ST. The ST features an all new tread pattern designed to optimize traction while giving the rider more confidence and predictability in intermediate to soft soil, an all new compound and a lighter pliable carcass. At first glance it almost looks like a Pirelli Scorpion MX32 tread pattern design with a slightly different side wall. I ran a set of 80/100-21 and 110/90-19’s MX ST’s for almost ten engine hours and wanted to compare these new MX ST’s with the older Maxxis Maxxcross design as well as sprinkle in some comparisons with other big name brands. We tested the Maxxis tire on our 2018 Honda CRF450R test bike and came away these findings: 

 

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I found that the first thing that impressed me was that the Maxxis Maxxcross MX ST rear tire offers great forward bite (traction) under acceleration in intermediate/soft terrain through ruts and coming out of corners. The Maxxis side knob design works well under lean angle and traction is one of the MX ST’s (rear tire) strong suits, as the rider is able to get on the throttle sooner (while leaning) without washing out. You are also able to start your lean sooner (than any other Maxxis tire I have tried in the past) while coming into a corner and the MX ST remains planted to the ground. Braking predictability is also increased as it gives the rider confidence to pivot and throttle out of flat corners without much hesitation. Previous Maxxis tire compounds would step out (or wash out) on you once you completed your braking and were back on the throttle, but the MX ST lets you pivot/lean under throttle through flat corners adequately. One complaint I had is that when the track surface was freshly watered/slightly hard, I couldn’t get as much predicability from the rear tire as I wanted. It gave me a pushing or loose feeling rear end until the track tacked up somewhat. Running the correct air pressure in the MX ST tires is crucial as I found the happy setting at 13 psi for most conditions. The softer nature of the MX ST carcass flexes and absorbs bigger bumps/square edges much better than the previous generation tire, which is great news for us older riders out there. MORE COMFORT!  When you get a hard carcass feeling tire like the previous generation Maxxis Maxxcross you will notice your machine will deflect and feel harsh on braking bumps and acceleration chop, but the new design doesn’t feel anything like this. I did notice around the 8 hour mark that the Maxxis rear tire performance gets less predictable and feels much like a worn Dunlop MX3s tire, which to me is to be expected, but nonetheless needs to be noted. The Maxxis MX ST rear tire loses most of that “predictability” (when 8 hours old) on lean angle (coming into corners), which causes the rear end to wash out easier. Kudos to Maxxis for making a rear tire that doesn’t chunk before the 10 hour mark. I have chunked some Dunlop MX3S tires before the ten hour mark (under normal intermediate terrain), but as of right now the Maxxis rubber hasn’t broken apart . If you are using the MX ST rear tire on pure sand, the lifespan of the tire goes up exponentially, so just know this. Also note that if you’re using this tire in hard pack conditions the compound/knob will wear much sooner. This is by far the best rear tire Maxxis has put out to date and I assume we can thank Jeremy McGrath for some of that right? 

 

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I am a picky SOB when it comes to front tires! The Maxxis MX ST directional front tire is so much better for front-end feel and lean angle traction, especially over the older Maxxcross versions in EVERY condition. The MX ST front tire actually can now bite not only in soft soil, but also in looser hard pack soil as well. The MX ST is not as grabby on lean angle as a Pirelli MX32 or Dunlop MX3S, but it can be somewhat grabby if you're not used to it and can cause some oversteer, in softer conditions (on de-cel). The MX ST front tire will accommodate the moderate front end steering rider and is able to be leaned into corners fairly aggressively. The contact patch feel on lean angle is much wider on the MX ST than a Bridgestone 403 and has enough lean angle performance to be compared to a Dunlop MX33. Did I ride them back to back? No, I didn't, but I have spent enough time on all kinds of tires to know that the MX ST is in the ballpark now at least. Previous generation Maxxis front tires were NOT even in the conversation, but now we can at least put them in the mix with the other “big four” (Dunlop, Pirelli, Bridgestone, Michelin). Acceleration on lean angle traction (on the MX ST) is not quite as predictable as it is on de-cel however. If accelerating on a fast sweeper, the front tire does want to “hunt and peck” somewhat. What is “hunt and peck”? Hunt and peck is a testing term we use when the tire feels like it is moving underneath you and doesn't feel planted. Off-throttle planted sensation is great, but on-throttle sensation, I notice the front tire moves around and deflects a little more than I would like. When the track had just been freshly watered (similar to the rear tire) and was slick on top (think of the second moto in late afternoon at a Southern California type of track) the MX ST also loses a little predictability. This kind of condition would give the front end a vague feel (pushing sensation) as the bike would have a tendency to slide the front-end through flat corners more. I found that going up slightly in air pressure helps this out tremendously and gives the front end less push. The best recommend air pressure is 13.5 psi as you can feel the tire roll if you get into the 12-13 psi range. Yes, going up 0.5 psi does help! The wear of the MX ST front tire is also much better and hasn't shown signs of chunking yet, which is also another improvement for the Maxxis brand. 

 

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Maxxis has improved their premiere motocross tire exponentially! This is the most improved motocross tire for 2018 and can be a serious option for the motocross consumer. The MSRP on the front is $120.00 and the rear goes for $140.00 and comes in an 12,14,16,17,18,19,21 inch sizes. I will be continuing to put more time on these and will be doing a side by comparison on the Maxxis MX ST to the other “big four” in the coming weeks.

Brake Tech Cobra MX 270mm Front Rotor Product Review

 

It seems like a lot of guys purchase aftermarket front brake rotors for their new bikes, so I decided to throw my hat into the ring and see what all the fuss is about. I asked Keefer if I could try out an oversize brake rotor to test, just to see if I was able to feel a difference. I am just your typical blue collar electrician that loves to ride, but could use some more braking power on my 2018 Honda CRF450R. He graciously handed me the Brake Tech CobraMX 270mm front brake rotor to evaluate and the task began.

Brake Tech has been around for a while, but maybe you're not familiar with the brand? They have years of R&D in brake rotors and brake pads with most of their effort being on the street racing scene. Having great success with street bike rotors, Brake Tech turned their focus to the dirt. Their newest product being the Cobra MX front brake rotor and it shares a lot of similarities with their already established AXIS road race rotors. The AXIS road race rotor is a full-floating front rotor where the Cobra MX rotor is what Brake Tech calls a semi-floating front rotor. When it comes to rotors there are a couple different avenues you can pursue; a fixed rotor, which is a one piece rotor, a full-floating rotor, which is a two piece rotor mated together with ground down shims, which allows the outer rotor to flex. Semi-floating rotor’s like the Cobra MX use ground down shims and spring washers. This allows you to have more stability under braking like a fixed rotor yet have the benefits of a full-floating rotor. Being made of two metals is said to aid in warping under high heat as well as a lighter weight. The Brake Tech rotor is cryogenically treated along with being fully re-buildable. Also a nice bling feature is that you get your color choice on the bobbin rings as they come in color choices of red, blue, black and KTM orange.

 

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Just like a lot of you blue-collar guys out there I get super excited with any new part for my dirt bike, so as soon as I got the box, right to the garage I went to install the nice looking piece. Installation was very easy and if you can change a wheel on your bike, you can easily install this rotor. Just like “if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball” (Dodgeball The Movie quote in case you didn't know). You will use the stock bolts and other hardware to mount the new rotor and caliper bracket. You can use your stock brake pads, but Brake Tech does recommend using a set of Brake Tech’s Ferdo brake pads. As I set out for my first laps I immediately noticed that the lever had a firmer feel over the stock rotor. At first this was a feeling I was not too fond of as the stock set up is very grabby and makes it hard to modulate the braking power through corners. As I did my motos I began to feel more benefits of the new Brake Tech rotor (even with the firmer feel) as it was not quite as grabby when you first apply pressure to the lever. Where I really felt like the Brake Tech rotor shined was under heavy braking. As I ride my motos I tend to get a little excited from time to time and come in a tad too hot into some corners. Where the stock rotor would lack a little stopping power the Brake Tech unit had great stopping power at high speed. You didn’t have to pull the lever in quite as much to get the Honda stopped in a hurry. This gave me a little more confidence and did allow me to charge harder into corners. With the Brake Tech rotor (under heavy braking) I would give it a “3.5” on the “Keefer Testing Scale”over a baseline “3”

 

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I give Brake Tech kudos on the Cobra MX front brake rotor and give it a solid 3.5 on the Keefer scale (If you don’t know what the Keefer testing scale is head over to the “Keefer Tested Podcast” and listen to his “How to Test” episode in the archives). As a hard working laborer I like that the Brake Tech Cobra MX rotor is durable as well as re-buildable. This is money saver in the long run for us 9 to 5’ers because we actually have to save up our money for every upgrade to our trusty steeds. If you damage a part of your rotor send it to Brake Tech and they will rebuild your rotor (labor free) and you will only be forking out the money for the damaged parts that were replaced.

 

 We tried the Brake Tech rotor in conjunction with the Ride Engineering Brake Caliper as well and found the front brake lever to be slightly less firm, but even more powerful under heavy braking. The front brake lever had more of a progressive pull to it with the RE Brake Caliper installed. Without the RE Brake Caliper installed the lever has a firmer feel to it as Matt Sirevaag explains in this test. Either one of these products (by themselves) will help braking power on your machine. You will just have decide on how much stopping power you need.  

We tried the Brake Tech rotor in conjunction with the Ride Engineering Brake Caliper as well and found the front brake lever to be slightly less firm, but even more powerful under heavy braking. The front brake lever had more of a progressive pull to it with the RE Brake Caliper installed. Without the RE Brake Caliper installed the lever has a firmer feel to it as Matt Sirevaag explains in this test. Either one of these products (by themselves) will help braking power on your machine. You will just have decide on how much stopping power you need.  

 

The Brake Tech Cobra MX rotor kit retails for $339.95 and the brake pads for $59.95. This price is on par with most oversized rotors on the market as I did some research before typing out this article. Brake Tech is another great option if you are in the market for more braking power. Head over to BrakeTech.com and check out their selection of brake rotors and pads. -Matt Sirevaag 205 Pound Novice (Full Time Electrician/Husband/Father/Dirt Bike Lover)

If you have any questions about this test please feel free to email kris@keeferinctesting.com 

 

2019 Kawasaki KX450 Clutch Mod

Do you have a 2019 Kawasaki KX450? If so, we are here to give you a little inside knowledge. The new 2019 KX450 is one great machine, but the doesn't mean it is perfect right? On our test bike we have experienced with some clutch drag and clutch lever movement when riding. Under heavy load (or acceleration on deeper tilled tracks) the clutch on the 2019 can drag and or the clutch lever can move. This is not something we liked, so we went to work with Kawasaki to remedy this problem. 

 

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If you are reading this and you haven't felt any of these sensations while riding then DO NOT WORRY ABOUT IT. If you do notice a drag or lever movement, simply take the judder springs and narrow fiber plate out of your clutch and replace it with a standard fiber plate (as shown). That's it! Once this mod has been installed, the lever was much more consistent and the drag we felt out of corners was gone. Not only was the drag gone, but we also noticed that rear wheel traction was increased a little as well. It's a cheap fix and relatively easy to do. Enjoy your green machine!  

 

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Ride Engineering Billet Front Brake Caliper

 

I feel one aspect of a bike’s performance that is often over looked is the brake system. Most of us including myself have over looked this area more times than not. Some of us typically will go buy a new or used bike, drop money on an exhaust, wheels, graphics and maybe even race fuel. After all when you spend almost ten grand on a new bike you think the brakes are top notch off the showroom floor right? Or in my case, feel that you are not fast enough to notice the benefits of an aftermarket brake system. When Ride Engineering sent us there Billet Front Brake Caliper and steel braided brake line I was excited to give it a go. I was anxious as I felt this was my chance to see if this would be money well spent, even for the average blue collar, nine to fiver like myself. Keefer was nice enough to let me test this part and I gave it a go to see if this is something I would want to spend my own hard earned money on. Maybe more importantly, would I even notice a difference? 

 

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 The Ride Engineering Billet Front Brake Caliper is born from billet aluminum. Being made from billet aluminum instead of cast as most stock/production calipers are made, gives the Ride Engineering unit a stronger, less flexible body. This helps with a more precise feel at the lever while riding. It also has larger pistons than the Nissin units (that comes stock on most Japanese bikes). The Ride Engineering Billet Front Brake Caliper also incorporates large fins to help dissipate heat and aid in cooling when hard on the brakes. It comes in black or a polished aluminum finish, utilizes the stock brake pads and hardware for your bike. Ride Engineering offers this caliper for most bikes that use Nissin units like Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Suzuki. 

We tested the Ride Engineering billet front caliper on our 2018 Honda CRF450R test bike, which just so happens to be the same bike I own as well. Booya!!!!! When it arrived I was so excited that even after a long day at work, I rushed home and went right to the garage to install. Yes, I still get excited about new parts for my dirt bike even in my mid thirties. The Ride Engineering Caliper takes a little time to install as you need to attach your old brake line or you can purchase a steel braided line from Ride Engineering like we did. Bleeding is not as much of a hassle if you own a vacuum bleeder, but in my case, I don't have one, it’s a little more difficult because I have to call on the wife or kids to help me bleed, old school style.

 

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 My first test with the Ride Engineering Caliper and Steel Braided Brake Line was at a local moto track that I am very comfortable with. When hitting the track it took a couple laps to get the hang of the new found feeling at the lever. Upon my first on track assessment I honestly thought I had a slight mushy feel at the lever, but as I started to pick up the pace I was mistaken. The feel at the lever was not mushy or soft but a far more progressive feel. This made it a lot easier to modulate the braking power coming into corners. The stock set up has a very firm feel and at times the braking can feel very grabby. This always made me feel uneasy, scared to cover the front brake (while in a corner) and especially in any sort of deep rut. I felt like I would almost lock up the front brake if there were any rocks, bumps or any inconsistency within the rut. The Billet Front Brake Caliper and its progressive feel at the lever gave me much more confidence everywhere on the track. Now I was able to modulate the braking as well as keep my finger on the lever throughout the whole corner without it being to grabby. This helped keep the Honda’s front tire from lifting out of ruts, which happens often with me. Don’t for one second think that there is not a lot of stopping power to go along with this progressive feel. I never felt as if I was lacking braking power or wanted more front brake. The harder you pull in the lever the quicker you stop and you are able to tell that you have more braking power available over the stock caliper within a lap or two. I also noticed a more consistent lever pressure no matter how long my moto was. I had some fading with my stock front brake, but fading wasn't as apparent with the Ride unit. 

 

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As you can see even the everyday nine to fiver can benefit from some better braking. I was quite surprised at what I have learned in testing this product. This is definitely at the top of my “to buy” list behind hand guards (Sorry Keefer) when I save up my pennies to buy my next bike, which is soon! Shhhhhhhh. Don’t tell the wife! The Ride Engineering Billet Caliper retails for $399.95 and the steel braided brake line is $69.95. Add that up and that is less than an aftermarket exhaust, but yet actually lowered my lap times, increased my corner speed and added that cool factory look to my bike. It was a Win.Win. -Matthew Sirevaag, 200 lbs. Moto Novice, Full Time Electrician And Full Time Dirt Bike Lover

WP Cone Valve Fork And Trax Shock For The 2018.5 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition

 

I have been riding the 2018.5 Husqvarna FC 450 Rockstar Edition A LOT. Over the course of only a few months I have over 50 hours on the test unit I have. I am in love with how well it works on the track, how easy it is to ride and how light it feels through corners. Yes, that’s right even with the WP 48mm AER fork it is still pretty damn good. However, I can’t leave well enough alone and must tinker with things to see if I could get the white edissssshhhh even better than where it’s at currently. I called the guys at WP to see about getting a set of their Cone Valve Fork’s and Trax Shock to see if this sucker can improve even more. The Cone Valve fork and Trax shock is basically WP’s A-kit option for us average dudes out there. Yes, it is expensive, but if you are in the market for close-to-factory level suspension, it is considerably less money than the Showa A-kit sets that are for sale. The Cone Valve fork and Trax sock can be purchased at any authorized WP dealer. Your dealer then can get you your own valving set up, but for this test WP valved my stuff for me directly. WP even offers the Cone Valve and Trax suspension for the Honda, Kawasaki, Husqvarna, KTM, and Suzuki models. So is it worth the money? I rode the stock suspension and Cone Valve/Trax set ups at several different tracks and here is what I came away with:

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Fork: 

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We are dealing with two totally different types of fork’s here, so the feel on the track is going to be completely different. The stock AER fork is the best air fork on the market, but still doesn't have that predictability over the course of a full day of racing/riding. I will find a good setting with the AER fork and it changes slightly throughout the day. The first thing I noticed when I when out on the track with the Cone Valve fork was that the Husqvarna turned slightly slower on initial lean (into corners). You can actually feel the extra weight right away in the front end, but it wasn't a bad feeling, I was just surprised I could feel it this much when entering corners. I started out with a fork height of 3mm up in the fork, but went with a 5mm height setting after I felt the slower front end lean feel. Along with the extra weight feeling however I gained more front end traction through every corner (especially flat corners). The Cone Valve fork leaves you with a more front end tire contact patch sensation and you can lean over more in ruts without getting the high front end, vague feeling like I did with the AER fork. With the AER fork I get some pushing in the front end through the middle to end of the corner, which made me roll off the throttle to try and compensate. With the Cone Valve fork I can lean in the corner and the fork stayed planted, which let my front end settle and bite. The CV fork also felt less active on braking bumps. I am able to jump in and out of bigger bumps without having the fork rebound too quick. If I wanted to pound through the bumps, the fork had a better damping control feeling through the middle to end part of the stroke. The most notable change was to my wrists when over jumping or flat landing with the Cone Valve fork. The AER fork holds up well, but I feel like it stops at the end of its stroke leaving me with a spike feeling that jolts up through my hands. With the Cone Valve fork, it’s a smoother action feel and I have less harshness at the end of the stroke than I do with the AER fork. You are getting more comfort and performance with the spring CV fork than you are with the AER. The only downside I can see from going to the CV fork is the weight (which didn't bother me after a few laps) and spending the money to switch over to spring. It’s costly! The guys over at WP have great settings that can get shared with authorized dealers if need be to get you comfortable in a hurry. It only took me got me two settings to get to where I was happy with my fork setting. 

 

Shock:

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The Trax shock gave the rear of the Rockstar 450 machine a firmer feeling than the standard shock, but it wasn’t so firm that it beat you up around the track. Unlike the CV fork, you will lose a little comfort on small bump absorption, but gain performance on bigger bumps on the track. Where the stock shock will blow through at the end of the stroke (high speed compression) the Trax shock holds up better and you are able to get more aggressive around the track. I can hit the faces of jumps harder and the Husqvarna will not give you an empty, low feeling sensation that the stock shock sometimes gave me. In order to combat that feeling with the stock shock I would have to crank up the high speed compression so much that I lost the comfort coming out of corners (and rear wheel traction). The Trax shock provides you with more high-speed damping and you still get a decent amount of acceleration comfort. I also noticed a little more connectivity to the the rear wheel (when hard on the gas) on flat corners with the Trax shock. The Trax shock is firmer so there is less wallow in the rear end when accelerating, so the rear of the FC450 tracks straighter and doesn't upset the chassis. “Balanced” is a great word to describe both ends of the Husqvarna Rockstar Edition now (with the cone valve fork and Trax shock). I have the Trax system turned “off” for my setting as I felt like it had more of a dead feeling (which is a feeling that I like). A “dead feeling” is where the bike can be pushed hard into braking bumps or square edge chop and will not move or react as quickly. With the Trax “on” the rear wheel followed the ground slightly better out of choppy ruts/corners, but reacted too quickly when coming into large braking bumps when entering corners. I would think the Trax system would benefit an off-road rider that needs his rear end to move and follow the ground more at higher speeds (think west coast off-road). I ran the sag a little higher at 103mm (rather than the standard 105mm) and this seemed to be the happy spot where the Husqvarna felt less rear end low. The Trax shock is very finicky to adjustments so make sure you only do very small 1 click increments as you will be able to feel each change you make.

 

If I were a Husqvarna Rockstar Edition owner (which I might be in the near future) and I was looking for that next level performance, this WP set up would be a great choice. I have always felt more of an upside going from stock to WP A-Kit level suspension on a Husqvarna/KTM than I have with a KYB or Showa A-Kit level on a Yamaha or Honda. While it is expensive to obtain these bump sticks it is slightly cheaper than other “Kit” level suspension. Remember when WP wasn’t the best set of suspension you could get on a bike? All of that is long gone now as WP has come a long way with their suspension and now one of the leaders in suspension performance and comfort. I know Matthes is sick of hearing about this bike, but I can’t wait to keep riding the crap out of this thing. The WP CV fork and Trax shock is huge reason why my Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition test bike works so damn good!

Pro Taper Race Cut Half-Waffle Grips

“It’s just grips, who cares”? Uhhhhhh…..No sir, it’s not just grips, it’s where your hands live while you’re riding, so that is pretty damn important to me. A pair of grips can be like an old pair of shoes you love and want to wear every day. Changing from your favorite pair of grips to a different set is not always a great experience, as the fit and feel is a very important aspect in motocross and off-road riding. I will be completely honest with you guys, I have been a Renthal half-waffle soft guy forever, but felt I needed to branch out and see what else is out there (I have another analogy to go along with this, but I will keep it PG rated with this test). I purchased a set of Pro Taper’s Race Cut Half-Waffle grips to replace the Renthal’s that have graced my machines for years and went riding. 

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The Pro Taper Race Cut was designed with its soft waffle pattern that incorporates wire tie grooves and an extra-supple layer of rubber. Installing the grips is simple and using the contact cleaner/super glue slide-on method didn't tear or eat away at the grip. Some other super soft compound style grips will actually tear and get eaten away from some types of grip glues, but the PT Race Cuts came out fine. 

 

I wear a large glove and the feel of the grip in my hand felt adequate and is not too large when riding. I hate large feeling grips because I usually suffer from arm pump when the grip is too big. The feel is also very soft and plush while riding with the PT’s. I could feel the extra cushion in my palm when I landed from jumps and the grip took some of the bike’s vibration away from my hands (compared to a stock lock-on Husqvarna Rockstar Edition grip). Durability of the grip is what impressed me the most. I will normally wear down a set of grips near the flange very quickly, but the PT’s lasted 20 engine hours until I began to notice a wear mark in the grip (where your thumb rests). 

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The occasional crash that occurred didn't tear the Pro Taper Half-Waffle Race Cut Grips all to hell and they also did great over several pressure washer sessions. I am impressed with the Pro Taper Race Cut Grips and for $9.99 a pair they are not expensive like some other grips on the market. You can check them out over at protaper.com and if you have any questions about this test please feel free to email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com.

Dunlop MX33 First Impression

 

I have been through many tire tests in my day and I am aware of how much work goes into bringing a new tire design to market. Dunlop introduced their new MX33 yesterday at Zaca Station and I had the chance to test the MX3S and the new MX33 back to back. I wanted to see first hand if there were any performance advantages to the new MX33, compared to the 3S that I run on a lot on my test bikes. Now this isn't a durability review (we will do that at a later time), but this test is simply to give you some initial information before you may want to purchase a set of these come Monday when they arrive in North American dealers. Before we get to the findings on the track, let’s give you some information on the tire directly from Dunlop themselves: 

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Multiple Block Distribution

In addition to creating an aggressive look, new Multiple Block Distribution technology increases the number of knobs on the shoulders and center of the tires, and also varies the height and angles of the knobs within the tread pattern. This translates to more biting edges and more traction, creating superior grip and increased handling performance.’

 

Block-In-A-Block Technology

After the great success of Dunlop’s patented Block-In-A-Block technology on the MX3S rear tire, Dunlop has improved this technology by altering the shape of the interior block. This new diamond-shaped block is larger, adding more surface area and two additional angles to improve traction.

 

Dunlop has also added Block-In-A-Block technology to the front tire for the first time, creating a new industry standard for handling and grip.

 

Advanced Apex Design

Not only does the Geomax MX33 look remarkably different than its predecessor, but the MX33 also has many new components under the tread. The new construction of the front and rear tire features a taller, thinner apex. Known as Advanced Apex Design, the same sidewall material used in the MX3S is now distributed in a slimmer, but taller apex. Without adding weight, this technology delivers superior shock absorption, uniform rigidity in the sidewall, and a smoother ride and firmer feel. (Applies to 18”, 19” and 21” sizes.)

 

Carcass Tension Control System

In this new design, Dunlop optimizes the distribution of tension of the components so the tire absorbs more shock, but flexes when necessary to smooth out ride characteristics, which allows the bike to track in a straighter line.

 

All-New Compound

The MX33 also incorporates a new rubber compound with a higher molecular weight polymer to improve durability and a carbon micro-particle to increase grip.

 

 

 

On The Track (Rear Tire 120/80-19):

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Now for those of you asking, you will be able to get the MX3S for a little while longer, but just know that the MX33 is replacing the MX3S

Zaca Station’s soil is a mix of loose sand on top with a hard slippery base underneath. It's one of those tracks that looks like you can just hold it wide open and run it in deep, but in reality you have to be cautious about throttle delivery on lean angle at times or Zaca can bite you real quick (trust me, it’s bit me a time or two). The first positive that stood out to me was the MX33 rear tire’s ability to grip on lean angle. Usually I am a very sensitive front end feeling rider, but the MX33 rear tire was so much better than the 3S on lean angle, under acceleration, that it was easy for me to dissect rather quickly. Rolling out of corners while under throttle the MX33 bites and doesn't slide as much as the 3S when the the soil is slippery/wet. I was able to get on the throttle sooner out of slippery corners with the MX33 versus the 3S because of the positive connected feeling that I got from the 33. The MX33 rear tire also has a firmer feeling carcass than the 3S on square edge, which gave me slightly less comfort through choppy ruts and acceleration bumps. This was a very subtle feeling and some of you may or may not be sensitive to this, but this is something that I felt towards the end of our test day. Tire cushion is important when it comes to suspension feel and the 33 doesn't have as much plushness as the 3S does. Straight line traction was better on the MX33 as there is less side to side movement from the rear end under acceleration. Braking is something most do not talk about when comparing tires, but it’s a very important aspect when designing a tire for the public. The MX33 doesn't have as much ability as the 3S to drift (or slide) when brake sliding or pivoting around a corner. The 3S slides slightly better when on the rear brake and the rider is able to pivot the machine more quickly than the MX33. “Now is that a good thing or a bad thing Keefer”? The answer lies in your riding style…If you’re a rear end steering guy you may want that drifting/sliding ability in your rear tire tread design/compound, but if you’re a front end steering guy like me, then having the rear tire not slide as much is more up my alley. 

 

On The Track (Front Tire 80/100-21): 

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I am super picky when it comes to front tires and noticed a few things from the new MX33 that differs from the MX3S. The MX33 has more lean angle bite (off-throttle) when starting your lean for corners. As soon as you get off the throttle to enter a rut or berm, you will notice the tire pulls down the front end more while biting the ground (very grabby). This may take some time for you all to get used to, but I like the fact that it doesn’t have that vague initial feeling like the 3S. Once the 3S gets into the corners its side knobs work well in soft-intermediate terrain, but I have always had a problem with that quick sudden “turn-in” with the 3S. The MX33 front tire lets you cut down from a blown out berm or make sudden line choices (with your front-end) easier due to some extra lean angle grip. Where I felt the MX33 could be lacking is on-throttle maneuverability. When finishing your corner and you start to roll the throttle on, the front MX33 has a slight “Hunt And Peck” feel to it. “What is hunt and peck Keefer”? “Hunt And Peck” to me is when the front tire has a slight wandering sensation and doesn't feel like the knobbies are dug into the terrafirma. I want to clarify that this feeling was only felt right out of a corner while under throttle. The MX3S never really feels like it has that “Hunt And Peck” feel to it under acceleration. Braking traction feel has improved on the MX33 over the 3S, as the tire doesn't slide as much as the MX3S does when the track is freshly watered or greasy on top. This is a nice feature because the MX3S front tire sometimes was a handful when tracks received some water in the middle of the day. The MX33 front tire is also more consistent when scrubbing up faces of jumps and will not slide away from you as easy as the 3S. When the track is nice and broke in and all of that good dirt has been pushed away, the MX33 was noticeably better than the 3S. The MX33 was more consistent in all “off-throttle” situations and provided more bite, especially on lean angle when the track gets hard pack.  

 

Conclusion/Sizing:  

 

The Dunlop MX33 is available in 10,12,14,16,17,18,19 and 21 inch sizing. A new 90/100-19 sizing is offered by Dunlop in the MX33 as well. My first impression of the MX33 was a good one, but I really want to dissect these tires some more at different tracks next week. It should be noted that the MX33 worked best at 13PSI instead of the normal 13.5 PSI of the MX3S. I will also be testing the durability of the 33, to see if the carcass is better (than the 3S), like Dunlop says it is when it comes to knob chunking. The MX33 should be available at your local dealer by Monday May 14th. 

Akrapovic Evolution Titanium Muffler System (2018 Yamaha YZ450F)

 

You’ve heard me talk a lot about how stock muffler systems are pretty damn good right? Usually I say something like, “the stock 2018 Yamaha YZ450F muffler system is hard to beat”, but that quote doesn't stop me from trying to see if there is something better out there. I am a fan of MXGP’s and seeing the Akrapovic mufflers on the Yamaha’s of Romain Febvre and Jeremy Van Horebeek got me thinking I wanted to try one of these beautiful looking systems. After some scouring, I found a US connection and got one delivered to give it a test ride. 

 

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First off the Akrapovic Evolution muffler system is one of the most beautiful looking systems made today, is well built and has quality welds all the way around it. Once hot, the titanium color of the headpipe is the most dynamic blue you will ever see from any muffler manufacturer. The Akrapovic Evolution titanium muffler system is 1.5 pounds lighter than the stock system and tucks under the right side panel very nicely. When putting on the system make sure to leave the headpipe loose and then connect the mid pipe, so that the slip fit joint slides in easily. Once those two pieces are connected, tighten the headpipe bolts and mid pipe bolt just snug. The Akrapovic uses your existing stock heat shields or you can purchase carbon heat shields separately. The Akrapovic muffler uses an aluminum spacer in the rear hole to give the muffler enough clearance (from the brake caliper) once the suspension is full collapsed. I did notice that there is a small screen deep inside the core of the muffler, however I was told that this isn't a spark arrestor, but a noise insert. Note: Leave the insert in, as the muffler performs better with insert in and is much pleasant to the ear. Once rear section (muffler) was installed, I went around and tightened up the remaining bolts. Doing it this way ensures there is absolutely no binding going on between each slip fit joint. 

 

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Out on the track the Akrapovic Evolution muffler has a deeper sound and is slightly quieter than the stock system. I started the test with the “TP map” installed inside the 2018 YZ450F (if you don’t know what the TP map is, email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com). Roll on power delivery was smoother out of corners with the Akrapovic and “TP 1.0 map” installed compared to the stock system and “TP 1.0 map”. I didn’t really like the smoother delivery and I wanted to get some bottom end delivery back, so I went to the TP 2.0 map. Doing this helped me get some of the RPM response and bottom pull that I wanted back from the Yamaha out of corners. If you feel like you want a smoother delivery or ride hard pack you may want to leave the “TP map 1.0” installed with the Akrapovic. The Akrapovic system really comes alive once out of the corner as the Yamaha starts pulling harder and longer than the stock system down straights. Second and third gears can be stretched longer by the rider and once the TP 2.0 map is installed back in the bike (with the Akrapovic) rolling third gear in corners is slightly easier on the rider as well (with 49 tooth rear sprocket). Over-rev is slightly better through each gear with the Akrapovic and the overall engine feels like it revs a little quicker. The Akrapovic also gave the Yamaha YZ450F a free-er feel and takes away a little engine braking sensation on de-cel. 

 

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In conclusion, I feel the Akrapovic Evolution muffler system is an excellent system once going back to the TP 2.0 Yamaha Power Tuner setting. You will not be getting more bottom end than a stock system, but the gains through the mid-top end are a noticeable difference. It will be up to you if that difference is worth the $1300.00 you will spend on the Evolution titanium system.  Akropvic’s website is a very informative, clean, and one of the best aftermarket muffler websites to browse around on if you got the time. There are dyno charts, a sound tool that lets you compare the stock system to Akrapovic’s muffler sound, documents of replaceable parts, and technical data about the system itself. You can head over to akrapovic.com and punch in what bike you want to geek out on. I did, for about an hour! 

 

 The Akrapovic accepts the use of Yamaha's stock heat shields.

The Akrapovic accepts the use of Yamaha's stock heat shields.

If you have any questions about this test please feel free to email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com

 

Giant Loop One-Gallon Gas Bag Fuel Safe Bladder

A Safe And Collapsible Way To Carry Extra Fuel

By Seiji Ishii

 

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Carrying extra fuel during adventure and dual-sport rides in remote areas has historically been inconvenient and sketchy. The tried and true repurposed Gatorade bottle works fine, as long as the full bottle isn’t put under any pressure, which can make the lid leak…on to your clothes, your food, your sleeping bag, etc. Purpose-made fuel containers, like the Rotopax, do the job, but when empty, they take up valuable storage space and often require mounting hardware. Enter the Giant Loop Gas Bag Fuel Safe Bladders; they are collapsible and made in collaboration with Fuel Safe, a neighboring business that specializes in fuel storage and transport, both for motorsports and utility. We tested the one-gallon version (MSRP $150), and they are also available in 2, 3, and 5-gallon sizes. 

I have deployed various fuel storing and transporting strategies while out in remote areas like Baja. Sure, water bottles and such have worked in a pinch, but I had to be careful of how they were packed, and I made sure to empty them as soon as possible to limit the chances of disaster. Failure of these ad hoc containers when completion of the route requires extra fuel could be devastating. I have used systems designed for the job, like Rotopax, and they do perform their tasks admirably, but when empty they still take up space. These fuel specific containers are often awkward to carry on the bike, many requiring special mounting hardware that again, takes up valuable space when unused. 

Giant Loop’s Gas Bag Fuel Safe Bladders offer a practical solution to the fuel storage and transport problem. These collapsible and light gas bags utilize a fuel-proof welded film bladder sewn into a ballistic nylon sleeve. Webbing daisy-chain anchor points and handles adorn this protective cover. The claimed weight for the one-gallon size is 11.5 ounces and rolls up into a tight little 4” roll when empty, saving precious storage space in the bags. 

Filling the Giant Loop Gas Bag Fuel Safe Bladder requires some care; holding the bladder upright while dispensing fuel, without squeezing it, of course, is harder than dispensing into a container standing on the ground. There is a fill line marked on the sleeve to indicate the maximum level that will allow you to remove the lid without spillage (this mark began to wear off quickly, presumably from fuel spilling). Pouring fuel into the bike’s tank also requires purposeful actions and care; tipping a flexible bladder while aiming the bladder’s neck opening can be tricky. The sleeve isn’t attached to the bladder at the fill neck, so care must also be exercised to not pour fuel into the space between the fabric sleeve and the bladder. Doing so means storing the empty bladder on the outside of the luggage to prevent contaminating other gear. The bladder neck is the standard size for fuel canisters, so spouts can be purchased to ease filling the bike, and a funnel would also be a huge help. I didn’t use either, choosing to be careful when dispensing fuel over carrying more gear. Leaving the gas bag out in the rain causes another consideration; water can collect in the space between the sleeve and bladder. Draining collected water is prudent before dispensing fuel into the bike’s tank. I found out the hard way, contaminating my fuel with water and suffering lousy engine performance afterward. 

The welded film bladder has proven durable and reliable; storing the fuel-filled bladder in my luggage raises no concerns, and the only odors come from accidental splashing of fuel on the exterior. The Giant Loop Gas Bag Fuel Safe Bladder has survived extremely jarring travel both inside bags and lashed to panniers via the daisy chains. It has also survived intense heat and below freezing conditions over the last six months, with no adverse effects. There have been zero fuel breaches either through the bladder film or cap. 

If you are in search of a more space saving, light weight, durable, and reliable on-bike fuel storage and transport, the Gas Bag Fuel Safe Bladder is worth investigating. It performs a critical task and doesn’t cramp limited storage space when not required, nor does it need any mounting hardware. I was skeptical at first of a bladder being durable, fuel-proof, and reliable, but the 1-Gallon Giant Loop Gas Bag Fuel Safe Bladder has proven itself and will remain a part of my remote trip kit. 

Giantloopmoto.com

 

 

 

 

2018 Kawasaki KX450F Race Tech Suspension

The 2018 Kawasaki KX450F has a lot of potential to be a great machine, but the Showa SFF-Air TAC fork holds this machine back some. In stock trim the fork can be somewhat difficult to set up and get a comfortable setting. When you soften it up to get comfort, it bottoms and rides too low in the stroke. When you stiffen it up to add hold up, it becomes harsh on square edge and small acceleration chop. If I had a Kawasaki, I would put a spring conversion in it immediately, but I understand that everyone is not like me and will go to a spring fork or a spring conversion kit. I wanted to see if we could make this seem of suspension better on the KX450F, so I handed the fork and shock off to Race Tech, to see if they could get my non air fork having ass somewhat happy and comfortable on the SFF-Air TAC. 

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First off let me give you a brief explanation of the SFF-Air TAC fork. SFF means Separate Function Fork because each fork leg performs a separate function. The left leg contains the damping cartridge and the right fork leg contains the pneumatic air spring. TAC means Triple Air Chamber. The right fork leg houses three pneumatic air chambers to tune the air spring side of the fork. The advantages that Kawasaki and Showa seen when developing this fork was the adjustability, weight, and minimal effect on total pressure, if the fork leg and seal are damaged. The air spring allows riders of different sizes to be able to set up their bikes at the track without any disassembly or costly fork springs. Additionally, air pressure can be altered quickly when track conditions change with mud, hard pack, rocks and loamy soil. The Showa SFF-Air TAC fork weighs just over two pounds less than Showa’s current spring fork that currently comes on the Honda’s. All sounds good on paper right? Well, when this fork was introduced it quickly became apparent that it wasn't as good on the track as Showa made it sound. 

 

Once Race Tech did their work, I installed the suspension back on the bike and was off testing. I went to more than a few types of tracks to really dissect if this Race Tech stuff was better than the stock suspension. I went as far as getting another stock 2018 Kawasaki KX450F to ride back to back with the Race Tech suspended set. The first thing I noticed was that the fork didn't have that sticky feel to it on the top of the fork’s stroke. When accelerating out of corners with the stock suspension the fork always seemed to be hard and deflect, but with the Race Tech fork it moved more freely in the stroke and gave me increased front end feel. Mid stroke comfort was still hard to find however and that proved to be my toughest challenge over the course of this test. I played with the inner and balance air pressures a lot before I came up with a setting that I was good with. I did notice with the Race Tech fork that the movement of the fork over square edge and braking bumps was plusher than the standard fork. Basically in Layman's terms; you feel less of the track up front. Bottoming resistance was still great and when I did decide to soften the fork up a little (to get some added compliance in hard pack conditions) it didn't blow through. With the Race Tech valving I felt like each adjustment I made (in air pressure) didn't negatively affect another area (of the fork’s action) too much. To me the biggest difference between the Race Tech fork and the stock fork is “entrance of corners”. I could come into corners harder without the fork diving or getting to low in the stroke and it kept better front tire contact to the ground than the stock fork. Does this mean I feel like this Race Tech SFF-Air TAC fork is better than a spring fork now? No, it doesn’t, but at least now I can get more consistency with the front end of this Kawasaki. Spring forks still add another level of comfort  and consistency through rough conditions that this Showa air fork can’t (even with the Race Tech Gold Valves). The question I will now get asked is…. Is this fork now good enough that I could live with it on my bike? My answer to you is “yes”! Unless you’re riding very rough, dry hard pack conditions (or long off-road races) the Race Tech fork is worth the price of admission. 

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Going into this test I wasn't thinking that there would be that much difference in feeling on the track between the stock shock and the Race Tech shock, but I was wrong. I experienced with shock sag settings and always came back to 106 mm as that is what made the Kawasaki feel the most balanced. The most noticeable improvement that I felt was rear wheel traction (especially on acceleration). Coming out of choppy corners (with the Race Tech shock) the rear end of the Kawasaki felt more planted, stuck to the ground better and gave me more forward bite. De-cel comfort (or braking bumps) feel was also improved as the rear wheel stayed on the ground better and gave me more of a planted feel. With the stock shock the Kawasaki rear end stayed straight, but sometimes would have a noticeable kick when hitting the first big braking bump coming into a corner (which sometimes would un-settle the chassis). The Race Tech shock soaked up the first few de-cel bumps before it would want to react and when it did react, it was more of a dead feel on de-cel. The only complaint I had was that it was maybe a little too soft on g-outs or sharp transitions (high-speed compression). I stiffened the high speed up a little and that helped some, but I think I would want to try and go a touch stiffer internally with the valving. 

 

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At the end of this test I was happy to figure out that there is some hope for riders that want to keep their Showa SFF-Air TAC fork and maybe don’t want to necessarily go to a spring conversion kit. Like I said in the 2018 450 MX Shootout, “I feel like the green machine has the best overall frame feel and just needed some suspension help”. Race Tech did a great job with providing some added comfort to the 2018 Kawasaki KX450F. Below is my best suspension setting with the Race Tech valved suspension. If you have any questions about this test please feel free to email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com and I can try to help as much as I can. 

 

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Fork: 

Inner: 155 psi.

Outer: 16 psi

Balance: 170-172 psi

Fork Height: 5mm

Compression: 8 out

Rebound: 10 out

 

Shock: 

Sag: 106 mm

Low Speed Compression: 8 out

High Speed Compression: 2 out

Rebound: 11 out

 

Dunlop Geomax MX3S Tires

The Dunlop Geomax MX3S tires have been around for a while now, but I still seem to get quite a few questions about these tires in my email inbox. The MX3S tire is the most popular off-road tire Dunlop offers, so I wanted to break down what I thought of the soft to intermediate terrain offering. There will be a new Dunlop MX33 tire that is coming later this summer, which means be on the look out for a full review right here on keeferinctesting.com in May.  

 The Dunlop Geomax MX3S Tires. 

The Dunlop Geomax MX3S Tires. 

 

 I found that the first thing that impressed me was that the Dunlop Geomax MX3S rear tire offers great forward bite (traction) in intermediate/soft terrain through ruts and coming out of corners. The “block within a block” side knob design works well under lean angle and traction is one of the MX3S rear tire strong suits, as the rider is able to get on the throttle sooner (while leaning) without washing out. You are also able to start your lean sooner (than most other brands of tires) coming into a corner and the MX3S remains planted to the ground. Braking predictability gives the rider confidence to pivot and throttle out of flat corners without much hesitation. Sometimes other rear tires can step out (or wash out) on you once you completed your braking and back on the throttle, but the MX3S lets you pivot/lean under throttle through flat corners nicely. The only complaint I had is that when the track surface was blue grooved, I could feel the side of the tire carcass roll when accelerating from flat corners. This gives the rider a pushing or loose feeling rear end. The key here is to run the correct air pressure at 13.5 psi for the Dunlop's soft carcass. The soft nature of the MX3S carcass flexes and absorbs bigger type bumps and square edge (similar to suspension), which actually gives added comfort when the track turns rough. When you get a hard carcass feeling tire you will notice your machine will deflect and feel harsh on braking bumps and acceleration chop. Lowering your air pressure will sometimes help this sensation, but with the casing that Dunlop provides with their MX3S line, the bump absorption is superb. I do notice that when the tire gets half worn the performance goes away sooner than a Michelin Starcross 5 Medium or Bridgestone 404. The MX3S rear tire loses its “predictability” when worn on lean angle (coming into corners), which causes the rear end to wash out or slip under load. It is not uncommon for the side knobs to chunk off when worn down as well. I can usually get close to 10 engine hours on a MX3S rear tire on intermediate terrain. If you are using the MX3S rear tire on pure sand, the lifespan of the tire goes up exponentially. The Dunlop MX3S is a pure performance tire and is one of the best available for maximum traction when fresh.  

 

 Dunlop's Block Within A Block Technology. 

Dunlop's Block Within A Block Technology. 

 

The MX3S directional front tire is great for front-end feel and lean angle traction, especially over the older MX31 and MX51 versions in all conditions. The MX3S front tire actually makes the steering feel “heavy” at times because the tire is at maximum grip under initial lean in corners. It can be somewhat grabby if you're not used to it and can cause some oversteer, but once used to the lean angle feel the MX3S becomes magical in soft to loamy conditions. The MX3S is tailor made for a front wheel steering rider and can be leaned into corners earlier than most other tires very easily. The only other front tire that has as much, if not more front end lean angle traction is a Michelin Starcross 5 Soft. I did have a problem with the MX3S when the track had just been freshly watered and was slick on top (think of the second moto at a Glen Helen-type track). This would give the front end a vague feel (un-predictable) as the bike would have a tendency to push the front-end through flat corners (the MX52 is better in these types of conditions). The wear of the MX3S front tire is not as friendly in hard pack terrain as you can feel the side knobs roll on the hard pack surfaces. The vague/pushing sensation is common once on hard pack so you may want to stick with more of an intermediate to hard terrain tire if your local track has a hard base. Again, like the rear tire, the side knobs can chunk off rather quickly if you’re riding on intermediate terrain often. I typically get 10-12 hours on a MX3S front tire before I start to see chunking of the side knobs. This is a performance based tire and should be looked at accordingly.

 Watch for chunking on the side knobs of the MX3S front tire. 

Watch for chunking on the side knobs of the MX3S front tire. 

 

“Hey Kris of course you’ll take the performance based tire because you don’t have to pay for them”. That is a statement I hear very often. My rebuttal is "No, I don’t always get tires for free so I spend my money on tires just like you". Yes, tires are expensive, but I am more performance based than a durability based kind of tire guy. That means I accept the fact that I may get 10-12 engine hours on these tires before I have to go purchase another set. I understand that some of you reading this can't do that. However, you have to consider riding conditions, how hard you ride and how often you ride. My 12 hour lifespan could mean 3-4 months of riding for you. Maybe longer? 

Are you looking for performance or durability/lifespan from your motocross tires? You will have to decide for yourself on that because it is tough for a tire manufacturer to give you both at a very high level. I ride hard and often, so I am constantly pushing the knobbies of a tire. Dunlop has created a great tire, but saying it is the most durable tire on the market would be comical. However, I know what I am getting when I purchase a Dunlop MX3S and I like that it is a predictable tire for the conditions we have in Southern California. Will a Bridgestone 403/404 last longer? Yes, and it is a pretty damn good tire, but I get more lean angle traction with a Dunlop, so I choose to run a tire that I am able to push on. Look for a Keefer Tested podcast on tires very soon as we will break down performance and durability.    

 

 

Notes:

Again.... Running 13.5 psi in the MX3S front and rear tires is crucial. As the soft carcass of the tire breaks down it tends to lead to pinch flats with 11-12 psi (even with heavy duty tubes). Not to mention the tires will roll on your rims more with 11-12 psi. 

I tested and installed both of these types of tires on a 250F (80/100-21 and 100/90-19) and a 450F (80/100-21 front and 120/80-19). Installation of both sets of tires didn’t feel any different as any other older style Dunlop's, but I will have to say that the Michelin Starcross 5 Soft tires are easier to put on. 

The Geomax MX3S front tire is available in the aforementioned 80/100-21 size for $127.51. For 19-inch rear wheels, MSRP ranges from $134.04-$149.25.