Story By: Michael Allen
The simple fact that more manufacturers are offering off-road closed course competition bike’s brings a smile to my face since at heart I’m an off-road lover. That being said I feel like most manufacturers should know that 99% of all off-road racing organizations require race bikes to be equipped with a spark arrestor. Although the bikes are really good in stock trim, this issue has opened up a nice market for aftermarket exhaust manufacturers to be able to come in and save the day while making bikes race legal. I recently ran into this issue when I decided to race our 2019 Yamaha YZ 450FX at a local District 37 Sprint Enduro and realized last minute that I needed a legal muffler. I made a couple calls, but before I knew it FMF saved the day and I had a slip on Factory 4.1 on its way (two days before heading to the race).
When I got the new 4.1 slip on muffler I immediately installed it, which was very self-explanatory and the fit and finish of the stainless can mated to the carbon endcap was top notch. Now here is the part of the story where Kris gave me crap about the spark arrestor… Admittedly I was putting on the muffler last minute and rushing to get all of my stuff ready to race the next day and I did what everyone says not to do; I assumed…. I assumed that the muffler came from FMF with the spark arrestor screen already installed, so I didn’t even think twice before loading up my bike and heading to the race. Well… I soon found out (thanks to my friend Brendon) that I didn’t have a spark arrestor because as Kris warned me about (and I forgot) FMF puts the insert in the bottom of the muffler box, where it stayed in my recycle bin until I got home that night. Luckily I was able to squeak through sound and spark arrestor testing and go to the start line.
Initially what I noticed when I fired the 450FX up was that the new muffler was slightly louder (without the screen insert) than the stock muffler. This slightly louder sound was deeper than the somewhat raspy sounding stock muffler. The performance of the stock muffler was by no means hampering the 450FX power character, in fact it was quite good, but like I said, I needed a spark arrestor. The new 4.1 has a larger opening than the stock muffler, which in turn gives the 450FX slightly less back pressure. With a little less back pressure the FX lost a touch of smoothness in the very bottom end, giving the bike a more on/off feel. The tradeoff for the on/off feeling on the other hand was that the bike gained some over-rev and seemed to pull slightly longer into the RPM range. During the race I changed maps to try and smooth out the bottom end which helped, but didn’t completely remedy the bottom end touchiness. After getting home, going into my recycle bin (thankful the trash man didn’t come) and installing the spark arrestor insert, the bottom end delivery smoothed back out. With the insert comes a quieter sound, which was welcomed as well as some added back pressure. The back pressure gives this bike a little more lugability without wanting to flame out, so I didn’t have to worry as much about covering the clutch in tighter sections of the trail.
The bottom line is that all bikes marketed to off-road racers should come with spark arrestor inserts, they don’t. That being said, FMF has done a great job at providing the off-road community a multitude of choices for whatever their specific type of riding entails. From full titanium systems, to more affordable aluminum slip on mufflers, FMF seems to have all the bases covered. At $449.99 for the stainless/carbon slip on that I installed, I think it’s a good combination of not breaking the bank while still looking slick at the track (not to mention that it takes almost two full pounds off your bike). If you have any questions, or just want to tell me I’m a dumbass for not seeing the spark arrestor in the box, feel free to reach out to me at Michael@keeferinctesting.com .