Review

Tusk Impact Wheelset (2019 Yamaha YZ450F)

Mounting up some hubs/wheels is one of the first aftermarket modifications riders do to their ride. Do all dirt bikes need aftermarket wheels/hubs? No they don’t, but some can benefit from a beefier wheelset (like the Honda CRF250/450R and Yamaha YZ250/450F), so we decided to try the Tusk Impact wheelset and put some abuse on them to see if they really are a great purchase for your used or new steed. 

IMG_6602.jpg

Yes, this test took a while, but we have put numerous hours on these wheels to see how they would hold up, because quite frankly we don’t want to push something on you if it’s a P.O.S. Tusk’s aluminum hubs are forged from 6061 T-6 aluminum, not cast, and CNC-machined for a quality fit. The Tusk hubs come with high-quality bearings, seals and hard anodized wheel spacers. We have over power washed these areas to see how they have held up and we were surprised that we didn't encounter any issues while testing. The rims are anodized and made from 7075-T6 aluminum. They aren’t the more popular D.I.D. or Takasago rims, but come from a Tusk supplier. The spokes are 3024 stainless steel and are heavier than other spoke choices (more on that in a minute). Tusk wheels come completely assembled and will interchange with the stock OEM wheel components, which is very seamless and nice for the consumer. 

IMG_6603.jpg

Tusk’s Yamaha hubs are anodized blue, but aren't quite that “deep blue” we see on other hubs, which isn't a bad thing, but took sometime to get used to. The hub color is more of a light baby blue that offsets the black rims nicely. Tusk offers all of the colors of the manufacturer carousel so DO NOT worry they have every color for your ride. Yes, the Tusk wheelset is heavier than the standard OEM wheelset on the YZ450F, but if you’re reading this test I assume that weight isn't an issue for you. If you’re looking for a lower cost hub/rim than you shouldn't be looking at weight numbers, but we will give you the difference anyway. The Tusk front wheelset weighs in at 7 pounds 14 ounces and the stock OEM front wheelset weighs in at 7 pounds 11 ounces. NOT A HUGE DIFFERENCE! The Tusk rear wheelset weighs in at 11 pounds 9 ounces and the stock OEM rear wheelset comes in at 10 pounds 10 ounces. NOT THAT HUGE OF A DIFFERENCE. 

IMG_6604.jpg

So how do they work on the track? Installing aftermarket wheelsets can change a bike’s character on the track. Some wheelsets can make a bike feel rigid and stiff, especially on slap down landings and on braking bumps. I DO NOT use Excel A-60 rims/Talon hubs because of the rigidity on square edge and braking bumps. These hubs immediately change any bikes handing character. The Tusk hub/rims are only slightly more rigid feeling than that of the stock Yamaha hubs/rims and DO NOT give me that harsh feeling on the track. Yes, it’s slightly firmer than the OEM hub/rims, but they aren’t so stiff that I wanted to take them off ASAP. If you’re purchasing these, give yourself a couple rides to adjust to them, but I am sure you will get acquainted fairly quickly. If they do feel slightly harsher than your stock wheelset try speeding up your rebound on your fork and shock 1-2 clicks to see if that helps. Trust me, it helps in almost every condition with stiffer wheelsets. This allows the wheel to follow the ground better and absorb some of that new found firmness of the hub/rim. 

IMG_6599.jpg

Rear.

Front.

Front.

So how did they hold up? Look… You can count on two things… I am a hard ass when it comes to wheels and clutches. These Tusk hubs/wheels have held up surprisingly well for a lower price point wheelset. The spokes needed to be checked after every ride for the first couple weeks of riding, but after that I didn't have to fuss with them that much. You especially need to keep an eye on the spokes closest to the rim lock, so if you’re lazy (which some of you are) and you don’t want to go around the complete wheel, use the first few spokes as a guide to judge if the others might be loose. In other words if the ones closest to the rim lock are loose then check the whole damn wheel! After almost 30 hours the rim did get a couple whoops in them, but nothing that warranted me to get a new wheel laced up. You know that feeling (when you’re in the air) and your wheel is bouncing around because it has a couple good whacks to it? Yeah, that feeling never happened to me over the course of this test. Good news! The anodizing will fade over time so be forewarned that if you use harsh chemicals like Simple Green or 409 to wash your machine, the hubs will discolor somewhat. I usually use Bike Wash from Blud Lubricants or Slick Products because they are less harsh on our bikes. 

So is the Tusk Wheelset worst it? If you’re looking for another set of wheels that you can take to the track (in case of a flat) for a spare, want a set of practice wheels, or just looking to freshen up your older machine with some bling, the Tusk Wheelset is a great choice. Are these the wheels that I would take to a Supercross? Not necessarily, but for 98% of us they are plenty strong enough. For $549.99 a set, this Tusk wheelset is a really good choice for the working man that loves to go rip on the weekends, wants to look cool, or maybe just wants a back up set so he doesn't have to change a tube/tire at the track between motos. 


I also understand that some people on my social media page say they have had bad luck with these wheels. I understand there is an exception to every evaluation, but I have put in a ton of hard hours on these and have seen zero failures on my end. This doesn't mean that this product is 100% bulletproof, but I would have zero issues riding with these wheels and or recommending these to all of you. If you have any questions about this test or product please feel free to email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com. You can order the Tusk wheelset at rockymountainatvmc.com and choose from an array of sizes and colors

X-Trig Rocs Pro Clamps (2019 Honda CRF450R)

I have been getting ready for the first two AMA outdoor nationals and knew that I was going to be running an aftermarket triple clamps and those clamps would be X-Trig. Since my practice bike was my test bike, I thought it would be beneficial to get a set of X-Trig clamps to ride/test with to make sure I could get the “feel” of an aftermarket triple clamp, since I am so used to riding with the stock clamps on the 2019 Honda CRF450R. Like I have spoken about before, it’s tough to find aftermarket triple clamps that perform better than stock these days. So much R&D is involved (at the OEM level) in making a triple clamp that flexes enough, but also has enough rigidity to aid the machine under load/through corners as well. With the triple clamp flex character so important to each specific chassis (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 simply wanting to make sure that I wouldn't be trading comfort for stiffness on the Honda CRF450R somewhat finicky chassis setting.

IMG_6465.jpg

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 felt it would be beneficial to try another offset with the Honda CRF450R for testing purposes, so I went with the ROCS Pro clamps. 


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 Honda vibrates more in the handlebar area than any other 450 aluminum framed motocross bike, so this is something that I feel the Honda needs, in my opinion. 


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. 

IMG_6471.jpg

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 +1 mm bar position (forward from stock), which I preferred as the stock Honda rider triangle is just fine for my 6’0 frame. The PHDS bar mount itself is the same height as the stock bar mount, which also was good for me and I mated the clamp/mount with a Pro Taper EVO SX RACE handlebar. 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.

IMG_6473.jpg

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 not gain front end rigidity, get a more precise front end feel through corners, without getting deflection on hard pack/rough straights. Basically trying to NOT get a harsher ride on the Honda, tough to do right? The good news is that this is exactly what I found with the X-trig ROCS Tech/PHDS system, but there is some fine print that I want to fill you in on. The X-trig ROCS Tech clamp on the CRF450R 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 better than the stock clamps. The stock clamps has a tendency to flex too much and give the rider a wiggle immediately off throttle (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. 

Optional Setting: I have tried the ROCS “Tech” with the pressed steering stem shaft as well and that set up is a little firmer of a feel as well as provided a little more rigidity (I found out this when I went to ride my race bike, which has the “Tech” installed). The differences are small, but I did feel it nonetheless. Going to a 24mm offset on the ROCS “Pro” helped the Honda settle down on faster tracks. Running the fork up 4mm with a 24mm offset really helped calm this chassis down for 2:00PM motos (AKA ROUGH TRACKS). The 24mm offset did affect the Honda’s turn in capabilities and made it feel slightly heaver through corners. If you’re looking to slow the chassis down on faster tracks try going to the 24mm offset, 105mm’s of sag, and the fork up 4mm. 

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 $900.00. 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 a set of clamps for the temperamental Honda CRF450R “vibes” pick up some front end cornering stability, get an optional offset, and even improve the looks of your Honda, X-trig has some really nice clamps and handlebar mounts available for your red 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





Works Connection Elite Clutch Perch Assembly

By: Michael Allen

As technology and quality of parts advance it’s becoming harder and harder to find things to improve upon on a stock motorcycle. Everything from the wheels to the handlebars have gotten so much better and last so much longer than in the past. That being said there is always one thing that stands out to me when I ride a bike and that’s a good cutch pull/engagement. Like I said, stock parts are great now a days and on my 2019 Yamaha YZ250F that includes the stock clutch lever and adjuster, but there was a little something that I didn’t even know I was missing until I bolted on the Works Connection piece. The stock lever and wheel work decent when they are new and lubed up, but after a while they dry out and they are kind of a pain to take apart for maintenance. When Kris tossed me the WC perch I threw it in my garage and forgot about it for a couple weeks until I broke my stock lever and figured what better time than now to try the new one out. 

IMG_4849.jpg

After taking off the stock lever and perch I opened up the new packages (the lever is sold separately from the perch, and that is sold separately from the adjuster wheel) and got all the parts ready to install. The parts are sold separately so you can match your wheel color to the perch of your choice which can also be matched to a silver or black lever. All the aluminum parts are made out of 6061 T-6 aluminum and are machined in the USA. The lever pivot uses a triple sealed bearing to assure smooth clutch action without having to take the lever out and lube the pivot. The adjuster wheel has machined in grooves that a spring loaded ball drops into every ¼ of a turn, so the clutch will hold its adjustment without self-adjusting. The “shorty” lever that is supplied has a nice factory feel to it on your fingertips. WC supplies a high quality 8mm bolt for the pivot which is protected by and embossed rubber cover that screws onto the perch to keep debris from gumming up the pivot. The other supplied rubber cover for the cable makes a nice seal on the perch and stock clutch cable. One thing that I did like (since I’m an off-road guy) was the fact that the adjuster wheel worked just fine with handguards and was still usable. Sometimes with handguards, adjuster wheels are hidden and hard to fiddle with while riding. 

IMG_4853.jpg

Aside from looking much better than stock, the WC lever assembly is more functional as well. The adjuster wheel is easier to use than the stock rubber unit, and the WC assembly is much easier to disassemble and clean. The main thing I noticed is that since WC optimized the ratio of the lever, I prefer the engagement over the stock clutch lever actuation. Although the change was minimal, I felt like the clutch feed was more progressive which gave me a less on/off feeling through corners, making them less jerky. I think that the fact the parts are sold separately is a huge plus because once you buy all three you’ll only have to buy replacement parts in the future if you break something instead of having to purchase the whole thing again. Although the initial price for all three parts is not super cheap with a MSRP of $155.85 (https://www.rockymountainatvmc.com/parts/works-connection-elite-clutch-perch-assembly-p), in my opinion it’s worth the investment for the buttery clutch feel alone. So regardless if you have a broken stock perch or not, or maybe you just want a clutch adjuster that easier to spin on-the-fly, do yourself a favor and check out the Works Connection Elite Perch assembly, because after all, who doesn’t like a smooth clutch pull?

Pro Taper Fuzion Handlebar



The Pro Taper Fuzion handlebar has been around for a while now and was a totally new concept to the off-road world (for crossbar lovers) when it was released a few years ago. The flex/locking system allows riders to choose between a stiffer/more controlled handlebar feel or a softer more shock absorbing feel depending on terrain and rider preference. Changing the bar from “Locked” to “Unlocked” takes only seconds by simply removing the bar pad and turning a knob. The Fuzion utilizes Pro Taper’s exclusive aluminum alloy, 4mm wall design for lightweight, strength and comes in six different bar bends.

IMG_1394.JPG

 Depending on what type of bike I am riding depends on if I like running a crossbar or not. For example, lately when I have been riding a KTM/Husqvarna I like to run a crossbar because it feels better through corners to me visually (I know, don't ask). When I ride a Yamaha I go to a handlebar without a crossbar. Why? You guessed it, because they come stock with that style and it feels normal to me. I usually can tell the difference in stiffness when I go back and forth between each type of bar I ride with, so this made me want to test the Fuzion technology.

IMG_2895.jpg

 The 1-1/8 Fuzion handlebar weighs in at 1lb,15oz. and was put on several of my test bikes. The easy-to-adjust locking system can be adjusted by simply taking the bar pad off and turning the knob in the middle of the crossbar. If you’re used to running a 7/8 bar with a crossbar on your bike, but want some added strength, the Fuzion can be a great option. The downside to using a standard oversize bar with a crossbar is getting added rigidity through the bars that could be hard on the arms/wrists. Setting the Pro Taper Fuzion to the “unlock” position was most noticeable on the 2019 Honda CRF450R due to it being a more rigid feeling chassis. In stock form the Honda comes with a Renthal Fatbar handlebar and putting the Fuzion bar on gave me a less rigid through my arms. On braking bumps and hard slap down landings the Fuzion bar flexed as if I didn’t have a cross bar on. Does it flex more than an oversize crossbar-less handlebar? After spending more time on both types of bars I would say it’s very similar, but the crossbar-less handlebar still has a bit more flex to it.

IMG_2315.JPG

 I am very picky when it comes to handlebars and I felt that the Fuzion handlebar (when in the “locked” position) is slightly more precise (than on the unlocked position) when trying to corner on hard pack slick surfaces. Also, to my surprise only a little more rigidity was felt on braking bumps and on flat landings when “locked”. The smoother the track surfaces the better the Fuzion worked in the locked position. However, 90% of the time I felt the Fuzion felt best when “unlocked”. Especially for the hacked out, choppy, desert tracks I test on.  A few tip overs and one big get off left me praising the Fuzion’s durability. This happened on the Husqvarna and the handlebar got twisted in the bar mounts, but the handlebar itself wasn’t bent.

IMG_6237.jpg

 So at the end of the day why not just use an oversize crossbar-less handlebar you ask? The Fuzion handlebar eliminates having “crossbar lovers” cut their oversized crossbar handlebars for increased flex (and avoiding potential handlebar failure to achieve desired flex when he/she demands a crossbar). I like that ProTaper addressed the need for this niche market and cater to picky people like myself. Yes, it’s more expensive (at $129.99) than your average 7/8 handlebar, but it also will withstand a bigger crash.  

Fire Power Featherweight Lithium Battery


Fire Power is company owned by WPS (Western Power Sports) and they have recently come to market with a new Lithium battery to replace your OEM battery. The Fire Power battery components are designed, manufactured, assembled and packed in one location assuring high quality and consistency, are lighter than your standard OEM battery, has a built-in LED test gauge, has increased cranking amps over lead acid batteries, a fast recharge that can be brought up to a 90% charge within 6-7 minutes, has a claimed longer cycle life compared to lead acid batteries, a longer shelf life (up to 1 year before requiring recharging), can be mounted in any position, comes with no hazardous acid or heavy metals, non-explosive and non-combustible, and comes with a two-year warranty. 

IMG_5746.jpg

We tried a Fire Power battery in our 2019 Yamaha YZ250F and our 2019 Honda CRF450R with great results. The Yamaha YZ250F is sluggish to start and absolutely hates starting in gear. The YZ250F battery also took a crap on us (completely died) only a couple months in, so a new battery was in order. After installing the Fire Power battery into our CRF450R/YZ250F not only did they fire up quicker, but starting both in gear was slightly better as well. Fitting it into both machines was easy, but we didn’t like that the little square threaded nut (inside of the posts) could fall out, if the battery was tipped, so be aware of that when installing. The Fire Power battery on the Honda is slightly smaller than the OEM battery, so there will be a little more space inside the cage (in the airbox).   


Letting our Honda sit idle in the shop for over one month proved to not be a problem for the Fire Power battery as the red bike fired up instantly. The LED test light is also a nice feature just in case you decide the night before that you want to ride the following day. Not all of us ride every weekend, so this feature helps with the rider who may take a longer breaks in between riding sessions. Simply take your seat off, push the LED test light button and make sure your good to go for the following day’s activities. 


What about weight? The stock OEM Honda CRF450R battery weighs in at 1.06 pounds and the Fire Power battery weighed in at 0.95 pounds. Cutting some weight up high on any dirt bike is essential and will improve the handling character, especially leaning into corners. is it enough weight for you guys to feel on the track? Probably not, but it doesn't hurt to lose weight and add some cranking power on a four-stroke at any time. 

IMG_5742.jpeg
IMG_5741.jpeg

For $119.95 this Fire Power battery is a fairly inexpensive way to get some starting security on longer trail rides, days at the moto track, and lose a little weight in the process. You can check out all the Fire Power products over at firepowerparts.com or if you have any questions feel free to email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com. I’m an open book!  




Yoshimura RS-4 SS/AL Full Muffler System For 2019 Kawasaki KX450

By: Dominic Cimino

Any of you that stay up to date with us here at Keefer Inc. are aware that I really enjoy riding the 2019 KX450. Like I really enjoy it. Maybe it is because we have the chassis and suspension dialed in just for me or maybe it’s just because the bike is so damn fun. Either way, I am excited to continue making improvements to this bike in the upcoming months because every time I ride it I feel faster. Next on the chopping block is the motor department and we decided to start with exhaust first. I wanted to test the RS-4 Stainless Steel Yoshimura system because I have had great luck in the past using their systems on other bikes and the guys over there always take great care of us. 


Yoshimura exhaust systems are made from scratch right here in Southern California. Their R&D facility houses everything from the race team shop, dyno/engine rooms, to the space where they lay all of their own carbon fiber. The attention to detail and quality of product is top notch in everything they produce and to give you a little more background on Yosh, you can watch this short clip:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5J5kltNfvQ

Although it is a couple years old and mainly showcases road racing disciplines, trust me when I say that it all translates equally into motocross. You can sleep peacefully knowing that your investment is going to be worth it. 

IMG_1659.jpeg

The stock exhaust system on the 2019 KX450 is not too bad overall. Beside it looking really bad (that is a no-contest) and weighing a decent amount, it produces a good tone and useable power. I think this exhaust compliments the motor and power delivery well by keeping things linear and quick revving - one of my favorite traits about this bike overall. But on the flip side, the motor does lack some “meat” in the RPM range and the over-rev tends to sign off relatively quickly at the top. Installation of the new Yosh was quick and easy with every single piece fitting in place perfectly. I love when that happens! The stainless/aluminum system that I tested weighed over a pound less than the stocker and comes in at a fair price of $675.78. In roughly ten minutes, the KX looked better instantly with the new system in place, and when I pushed the button to wake her up, she sounded healthier too. I am not a fan of obnoxiously loud exhaust systems so I was happy to listen to the Yosh when cracking the throttle on the stand. Definitely louder than stock, but not deafening. 

IMG_1662.jpeg

Before installing the new Yoshimura system, I did a couple morning motos at Glen Helen to get the best gauge of the stock comparison. The most obvious difference when cruising back onto the track was the tone, as it has a deeper/healthier sound. But when in stride, the exhaust made the KX come to life from the mid range and beyond. The linear power curve stayed true on delivery, but exemplified a more crisp powerful feel when on throttle. I felt the Yoshimura system was able to harness a little more “meat” that I have been searching for and also helped push the bike into the higher revs more efficiently. On the top end, over-rev was increased quite a bit as the KX seemed to pull longer and harder overall. I noticed when charging down Mt. Saint Helen I could hold 2nd gear almost half way down the hill before hitting the limiter. The stock exhaust would sign off way earlier than that in the beginning part of the day. I also realized I stayed in 2nd gear almost all the way around the Glen Helen circuit. This is a testament to the linear power I have been talking about on this 2019 KX450, and the Yoshimura system makes it even better. Where I didn’t notice a substantial improvement was bottom end power delivery. The KX is not a torquey bike in stock trim by any means, but I was expecting to get a little more bark with the new system. This was not the case and I found myself clutching the bike in the soft corners to wake it up in order to get back into the mid range, where I think it excels. 

IMG_1663.jpeg

Overall, the new Yoshimura exhaust system is a great performance improvement to this already great bike. Looks good, sounds good, and runs good - thats what it’s all about, right? Obviously, I am going to set my sights on continuing to improve the power delivery to round out this new KX450. I am happy with the mid/top end feel, so maybe we can experiment with new map settings to get a little more lovin’ down low.  As always, stay tuned for what is next here at Keefer Inc. If you have any questions about the 2019 KX450 please feel free to email me at dominic@keeferinctesting.com.  Or you can head over to Yoshimura-rd.com to see what they offer for your green machine.

Rekluse Torque Drive Clutch Pack

I am hard on clutches. Why? Well…Instead of letting off the throttle when the front wheel starts to loft upward, I simply just slip/drag the clutch a little to modulate the power, so I can get to point A to point B in a faster manner, without letting off of the throttle. This way of riding puts a lot of strain on the clutch and the plates that are inside any given bike’s engine. I usually can get anywhere between 8-10 hours on a Yamaha YZ450F clutch and the boys at Yamaha are frankly sick of handing me clutch plates every other week. We have tested the Rekluse Torque Drive kit in our Honda CRF450R. However, if you do not want to spend that kind of money on your clutch, Rekluse offers a Torque Drive Clutch Pack that utilizes the OEM clutch parts that replace your stock fibers, steels, and springs with their thinner plates and basket sleeves. 

IMG_5184.JPEG

The Torque Drive Clutch pack on the Yamaha YZ450F utilizes 12 friction plates, 10 steel plates, six springs, and steel basket inserts to fit over every finger of your clutch basket. The idea behind Rekluse’s clutch pack is to use what they learned with their Torque Drive system and put it into an OEM platform. Rekluse is setting out to increase your OEM’s clutch capacity by increasing the number of plates, so you can get more of a positive connection at the rear wheel (AKA less slipping). 

I wanted to do this test and run the stock clutch and Rekluse clutch back to back, so I started the test with one moto on the stocker and one moto with the Rekluse. The clutch pack doesn't take much time to install, but be careful sliding the steel sleeves onto your basket as sometimes they can be slippery. You don't want to be fishing sleeves out of your engine/clutch basket all day. Once installed and out on the track (with the Rekluse) the first thing I noticed is a lighter clutch pull feel than the already fairly light feel of the Yamaha YZ450F. After doing my first 25 minute moto with the Rekluse I could tell that there were some improvements in performance. Coming out of corners I could roll on the throttle without modulating/covering my clutch because I had increased positivity to the rear wheel. With the Rekluse I also felt like I had a small increase in throttle response from 0-10% throttle opening. There wasn't much of a torque/pulling power increase, but I did notice (at crack of throttle) the Rekluse had more bite/snap. The good news about getting this extra response is that it didn't affect control or power delivery through deep ruts. 

IMG_5185.JPEG

The clutch engagement however was little more grabby on/off feel than the stock one, but wasn't so bad where I couldn't feed my clutch properly while doing starts. The real benefit to me was the lifespan of my clutch in two aspects. One aspect is the toughness this clutch pack has in longer motos (Testing Term: Track Toughness). Since it’s been raining a lot in Southern California I have been testing on sand tracks more than usual and the Rekluse Torque Drive Clutch Pack has provided me with less clutch drag when the engine heats up. I love to run third gear through corners, lug coming out, slip the clutch while exiting, and start to accelerate down the straight. Doing this puts a heavy load on my engine and the Rekluse Clutch Pack allows me to do this more without getting the plates too hot to where they start slipping during a moto. The second aspect that the Rekluse has sold me on was the overall lifespan that I am able to get out of the Rekluse. I have used the Rekluse Clutch Pack almost 14 engine hours and am just now starting to feel it slip/drag. I am getting a six hour increase in life, which is huge for me! 

The only downfall to the Rekluse Clutch Pack is that it is more expensive than buying an OEM clutch kit. At $349.00 it’s over a $120.00 more, but then again, you will be getting more life out of a Rekluse Torque Drive Clutch Pack than your OEM plates. The cool looking Rekluse cover (which you don't need with the kit) doesn't come with the kit, but if you want to bling out your steed, the cost for the cover is $159.00. If you're hard on your clutch or maybe you're a hard core racer that wants the benefit of a Torque Drive clutch without the cost, the Rekluse Torque Drive Clutch Pack is an excellent purchase.

Hinson Nine Plate And Rekluse Torque Drive Clutch Comparison

I originally wanted to do a Hinson versus Rekluse clutch test for the 2019 Honda CRF450R, but after going back and forth for a few weeks (testing these parts), I decided that both of these mods are such an improvement over the stock clutch system, that there shouldn't be a “winner”. Each clutch has a specific character/feel on the track, but both are equally as impressive and much better than the stock system. Since we had to purchase our own 2019 Honda CRF450R test bike this year, I wanted to really try/test quality upgrades, that this bike absolutely “needed”, since we would be having to sell this unit at the end of the year. The 2019 CRF450R “needed” a clutch upgrade and so this evaluation process was born. I let my resident mechanic/blue collar test guy Matt Sirevaag install and ride with each clutch system initially and then I tested each to get my impression. This article is based on what we thought collectively, but if you want to hear even more background/feedback about these parts, check out the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast that will be up very shortly. -KK


 For years Hinson has been one of the go to clutch manufacturers for factory motocross and off-road race teams. In the last few years Rekluse has been making a name for itself as they are now on a ton of race teams in any given paddock as well. So when it was time to install a clutch in our 2019 Honda CRF450R test bike, it only seemed right to ring up Hinson and Rekluse to see what they had to offer for a bike that needed help in this department. Hinson sent us their complete nine plate clutch kit (part # HC989-1901 ) that adds two extra friction plates (to a total of nine), while the stock Honda CRF450R uses seven friction plates. The Hinson complete clutch kit comes with a new clutch basket, inner hub, pressure plate, fibers, steels, clutch springs and let’s not forget the icing on the cake, a billet proof clutch cover. This is a complete kit that replaces all of your stock clutch components. 

IMG_4216.jpg


Rekluse sent us their Core Manual Torq-Drive clutch kit (part # RMS-7101002). This kit goes a couple steps further using twelve friction plates. Yes, you read that right twelve plates! The Rekluse Torque Drive Kit comes with inner clutch hub, Torq-Drive friction plates, thin steels plates, pressure plate, core clutch springs, spring screws with screw sleeves, basket sleeves, new tab washer, and a beautiful Rekluse clutch cover.

IMG_4217.jpg

When it comes to the 2019 CRF450R there are a couple items that can be addressed to improve the clutch. It has been well known that Honda has not exactly led the 450cc class in clutch life and/or in the clutch lever pull department. These have been weak points on the Honda CRF450R for quite sometime and usually the bike gets ranked down in shootouts because of it. Honda has made progress from their old four spring clutch as the new CRF450’s have gone back to a six spring clutch. The stock 2019 CRF450R clutch has a very narrow window of engagement and is tough to really get a linear engagement/progressive actuation when attacking the track. This makes it very hard to modulate the power in corners as the clutch makes the power similar to a light switch that has an on or off type of feel. I am sure most of you Honda guys can relate as our email inbox has seen a flood of Honda clutch questions. The clutch pull takes He-Man type strength and can expedite arm pump in a moto, which sucks huge for us blue collar riders! With a narrow window of clutch engagement and a very hard clutch pull it really makes it difficult to manage the power (of the Honda), especially late in the moto as fatigue starts to set in. The stock Honda clutch also tends to fade as the moto’s get longer and if you're a clutch dragger like Keefer is, things can get ugly (or hot) in a hurry. This leads us to clutch life; I am not even close to what you call a clutch abuser (like Keefer), but I have always taken pride in the life I can get out of a stock clutch on other machines. With this Honda CRF450R I even showed signs of wear and slightly burnt clutch plates at less than twenty hours. This was a problem that needed to be addressed. 

Besides riding these dirt bikes, I love working in the garage and wrenching on them. When the Hinson package arrived I told the wife I would be eating dinner in the shop and I began to tear into the 2019 CRF450R’s clutch. Just be forewarned that this Hinson system is a more in-depth install then just changing out clutch fibers and steels. There are some special tools needed to help with install of the clutch basket. Besides your basic hand tools you will need a clutch hub holding tool to remove and Install the new clutch hub. Also needed is a drill or grinder to remove the primary drive gear from the stock hub, so that you can re-install it onto the new Hinson billet hub. Hinson provides great instructions with pictures, which are very helpful for you novice mechanics out there (cough, cough, Keefer). Lastly don’t forget to use your OEM Owners Manual to provide you with the correct torque specs. Hinson also states adding 300cc more oil than stock, so 1300cc without changing an oil filter and 1350cc with oil filter replacement is your new levels with the Hinson Kit.

IMG_3143.jpg

The first test of the Hinson clutch system was during the Dubya USA Vet Nationals at Glen Helen. Right off the bat I noticed that the clutch pull was slightly easier, which made me happy right away. The second positive aspect of the Hinson clutch that I noticed was that the engagement of the clutch was not nearly as narrow (or on/off) as the stock clutch. I feel this was the best part about the Hinson set up because it really helped open up my corners. I now had a clutch that I could easily modulate the power of the Honda’s engine character without shutting off the throttle. Most times with the stocker I would have an issue with the front tire jumping out of ruts or wheeling right out of a corner because I had trouble with the on/off engagement feel. However now I found myself rolling through corners with more speed and confidence knowing that I was hooking up better. The Hinson gives the sensation of added rear wheel traction and a more connected feel to the track. I didn’t notice any clutch slippage or jutter while abusing the clutch during motos and Keefer even mentioned that he could ride/slip the clutch (during his 30 minute motos) without the clutch fading.

The Rekluse Torque Drive clutch install is easier and at the same time harder to install than the Hinson. Why? Let us explain… It’s easier in a sense because you are using your stock outer clutch basket, which means there is no need for any grinders. It’s slightly more difficult because there are a lot more moving parts like the basket sleeves, which will test your patience, while installing the fibers and steels. Having said that the other important part to pay attention to is the Rekluse Torque Drive starts and ends with a steel plate, not a fiber. Another difference from most clutch kits is that Rekluse provides (in the kit) three different clutch springs to help tailor the clutch feel/delivery to the rider. Silver giving you the easiest clutch pull, gold, and then red being most aggressive with the hardest clutch pull/bottom end hit/delivery. You can run three silver and three gold or three gold and three red to really help get the clutch feel/power delivery that you prefer. I decided to go with three silver and three gold springs in hopes to help clutch pull feeling at the lever. Just note that the stiffer the clutch spring the harder it is on your transmission under heavy load (acceleration).

IMG_4215.jpg

As I rode to an undisclosed location (Keefer’s Test Track) with the Rekluse Torque Drive I immediately noticed a much better lever feel than stock and a slightly lighter pull than the Hinson. As I made my way around Keefer’s new test track or I should say turn track, I noticed that the Rekluse has a wider window of engagement than the stock clutch, yet very close to what the Hinson had to offer as well. This makes it a lot easier to modulate the power of the Honda just like I mentioned above. You can really slip the clutch and feed the power better to the rear wheel. This gave me a new found confidence as I was able to cover the clutch and keep the Hondas front tire from lifting out of corners (similar to the Hinson). If anyone knows Kris, you know that you’re always on the clock when you’re riding, which meant thirty minute moto’s to test the Rekluse’s durability. As it neared the end of each moto (which we did over the course of several weeks) the feel at the lever stayed consistent and never seemed to fade on either Kris or I very much at all. Messing with the lever play while riding was minimal and Keefer even mentioned that he barely had to adjust the free play during his sand motos. As with the Hinson, the Rekluse clutch definitely got the power to the ground and gave both of us a little more snap (bottom end response) out of corners. The Rekluse got the power to the rear wheel better than the stock unit and nearly as good as the Hinson. The only difference we both felt was that the Rekluse had a little more bite (or pop/excitement) out of corners than the Hinson. The Hinson had slightly less bottom end hit than the Rekluse, but had slightly better rear wheel traction. The Rekluse made the Honda feel more exciting and playful out of corners without sacrificing traction. Both clutch kits provided much better power delivery/traction than the stock system and have lasted much longer as well. Another positive attribute of the Rekluse Torque Drive is that it actually improved the recovery time of the engine when I found myself in the wrong gear (mostly third gear in tight corners). With just a flick of the clutch the Honda’s engine was right back in the RPM it was supposed to be in.

IMG_4218.jpg


This was a very educational test for me as I have never tested or used an aftermarket clutch in any of my bikes. Keefer thought it would be a great way for both of us to feel the differences between two companies that know a thing or two about clutches. The Hinson and/or Rekluse Torque Drive clutch systems are just what the Honda needs. They both improved performance as well as reliability, which to me is the most important piece to this test. I am a blue collar type of guy that works to put food on the table for my family, not pay for unwanted parts/bling for my dirt bike.

Hinson’s nine plate clutch kit retails for $1,184.99 and is not exactly what you call inexpensive, but to us, this Hinson Nine Plate set up could pay for itself if you’re hard on clutches like Keefer is. The Rekluse Core Manual Torq Drive retails for $899.00, but since you re-use your stock outer clutch basket, we can see why this costs less (than the Hinson). If I was to go purchase a clutch for my personal Honda, which this one kind of became, I would choose either one of these because they both fixed my two major gripes with the stock 2019 CRF450R clutch. Either one is a great choice, it’s just a matter of how much money is in the ol’ bank account. -Matt Sirevaag

If you have any questions or concerns about either of these products feel free to email kris@keeferinctesting.com and he can hopefully guide you into the right purchasing direction.











Raptor Titanium Footpegs 

 

There are many aftermarket parts that are easy to improve upon with stock motorcycles, but there are also some that are pretty damn good in production form. Some people don’t realize how much goes into making a stock footpeg work so well, but listening to Keefer talk about how much he has tested production footpegs got me thinking. Footpegs basically don’t get the recognition they deserve because frankly, if you aren't talking/complaining about them, that means they are doing their job. You never hear a rider say “hey bro, my footpegs are working great out there”. No instead, no news is good news, when it comes to footpegs. However, there are many aspects to look at such as pitch, sharpness, folding ability, etc. About a year ago I bought myself a personal bike, a 2006 YZ125, which has been a blast, but after many off-road rides, the pegs were looking a little tired, dull, and tattered. Kris saw my beat up pegs and said I should try a set of the Raptor pegs he had in the shop and since most all current Yamaha pegs are the same, they bolted right up to my 2006 personal steed.

IMG_3513.jpg

The look of the Raptor pegs are quite aggressive with large, pointy, titanium edges that appear hungry to eat any boot sole they come in contact with. The fit and finish of the Raptor pegs are top notch and being a metal fabricator myself, I can truly appreciate the craftsmanship of quality material/good looking welds. On my initial ride with the new pegs I noticed the slightly larger than stock platform which I like because it adds some comfort when standing. I also noticed that the pegs sit flat and not upward like smoother aftermarket pegs we have tried in the past. Although they do look aggressive they don’t seem to chew up boot soles any quicker than stock foot pegs.  My foot placement/grip is slightly better than stock when it comes to forward and back movement, but when it comes to side to side movement, I think the raptor pegs are somewhat lacking in grip. The reason I say this is because if you look at most stock foot pegs, the three or four outside teeth are taller than all the others, which helps keep your foot from sliding off the side of the pegs. The Raptor pegs are flat all the way across, there aren’t any built up teeth near the end of the peg, which led to my feet slipping off the sides of the pegs a couple times when the riding got wet/slippery. One other negative thing I noticed with the Raptor pegs was that the brake side peg, when folded up, started putting a small crease in my brake pedal where the pivot bolt is. This didn’t cause a problem, but I could possibly see over time, with a big enough hit, this possibly being an issue. 

IMG_3509.jpg


After many HARD off-road miles on the Raptor pegs they show no sign of wear and because of the strong titanium material, they take abuse without ever bending, denting, or getting dull. Like I said in the beginning of the story, there are some parts that are hard to improve upon and I think Raptor did a good job of improving the stock foot peg in some areas, but also came up slightly short in others. Footpegs are very much a rider preference part and for me I’ll take the couple shortcomings in order to have an overall stronger foot peg that will stay sharper for a longer period of time. 

If you have any questions about the Raptor pegs feel free to reach out to me at Michael@keeferinctesting.com. -Michael Allen

 

Yoshimura RS-9T Full Titanium Sytem For 2019 Honda CRF250R




It’s no secret that the Honda CRF250R is still lacking some bottom to mid range power when compared to the other competitors in the 250 class in 2019. Seeing as how I’ve been logging some hours on this machine as of late, I decided to test the full Yoshimura RS-9T titanium system to see if we can get some added low end power. Installing the new full system took me less than 20 minutes and the instructions were very detailed. All of the parts that came inside the box fit perfectly and no curse words were thrown out in the garage while installing the Yoshimura exhaust.

Now to the part that everyone wants to know. Does the Yoshimura help the 2019 CRF250R? The simple answer is yes, but who likes simple answers? Not me! With the stock system, the Honda pulls nicely from mid top end, but when exiting corners and trying to grunt up obstacles, the engine needed some assistance. The best way I can explain the stock feeling 2019 CRF250R is that it needs help on “recovery" when the rider makes a mistake. “Recovery” basically means how long it takes the engine to recover by getting in the meat of the power again. When you're tired or lazy and miss a shift, this is where the Honda CRF250R gets smoked by the Yamaha YZ250F. I had to ride a gear lower at times in corners (with the stock CRF250R compared to other 2019 250F machines) and if I didn’t, it took a bit of clutch feathering and more coaxing to get the bike pulling hard again. If the track is flowy and fast the stock Honda works great, but when the track is tighter, this engine suffers.

10751012336__MG_1499.jpeg

As soon as I fired the bike up with the new exhaust it was clearly a bit louder, not obnoxious, but a nice throaty sound that was deeper. I tested the stock system back to back with the Yoshimura system on consecutive days, so it was interesting to see the places (at each track) where the bike really felt different. 

10750702816__MG_1503.jpeg

The most noticeable place the bike felt better was out of tight inside ruts that exited up jump faces. With the stock system I had to slightly slip the clutch all the way up the lip (to be able to clear the jump). When I bolted on the Yoshimura system I could leave it in second gear and just use the meat of the newfound bottom end power to pull me up and over those types of jumps. When I had to be in second gear and scream the bike (with the stock system), I could now be in third gear and use the smoother/stronger part of the power to exit the turn with the Yoshimura muffler system. RPM response was improved as well and this made the Honda feel even lighter when popping out of corners. Connectivity to the rear wheel was improved and even with that extra RPM response I gained with the Yosh system, I received more rear wheel traction. From mid to top end I only noticed a sightly better pulling power down each straight with slightly more over-rev. This part of the muffler wasn't mind blowing, but took me a couple tracks to figure out that there was a little extra “meat” through the mid range (compared to stock). Overall the little Honda just has a little more RPM response, better pulling power through second and third gears, and a small gain when revving the bike out in each gear.   

10751033040__MG_1493.jpeg

 This doesn't mean that your new Honda CRF250R (with the Yoshimura exhaust) is going to be a YZ250F killer, but it closes the gap a little. If you have a 2019 Honda CRF250R and feel like you’d like a bit more bottom-mid range power I’d definitely look into the RS-9T system. There are three types of Yoshimura mufflers that you can choose from; a slip on muffler system ($763.15), the full stainless system ($947.36), and the full titanium system ($1463.15). Admittedly none of these are super inexpensive options, but it’s one of the few things in today’s four-stroke world that provides a true bolt on benefit. Besides, if you were looking to save a few bucks, I don't think you would be rocking a new 2019 Honda CRF250R right now anyway. 

Ride Engineering One Piece Oversize Bar Mount

The Ride Engineering One Piece Oversize Bar Mount has a one-piece top that is designed to resist bending much better than the stock bar mount. Precision machined from aircraft quality aluminum, there is also a 6mm difference between the forward and back mounting positions. Ride Engineering also machines their own stainless steel posts that prevent over tightening, unlike some other competing brands that DO NOT use quality posts. 

56557950284__5ACCCBB1-A210-4022-908C-E38F257C5D38.JPG

We stuck the Ride Engineering one piece bar mount on our 2019 Honda CRF450R and ran it with the stock triple clamps and Ride Engineering’s Works Edition Red Triple Clamps as well. I hate realigning bent, twisted and misaligned front ends, especially during a race. I rarely bend handlebars, but I do have some screwed up twisting going on after some wash outs/tip-overs. Usually, the standard rubber-mounted bar mounts get tweaked and I've even bent the bar-mount stem a time or two while the handlebar somehow stays straight. One of the best products I've found to keep me pointing in the right direction is the Ride Engineering One Piece Bar Mount, in which I tested on our 2019 CRF450R. This $104.95 all aluminum bar mount is sturdy enough to take some crashes, but doesn't cause any added rigidity problems. I would know because I am super sensitive to any added rigidity in my front end. The flex I got on the track (from the Ride mount) is as good as the stock flex and Ride Engineering’s rubber cones are also as flexible as stock. Ride does offer a variation of different elastomers/rubber cone compounds for a custom desired flex, just in case you need a stiffer or softer feel. The Ride Engineering Fourth Generation One Piece Mount has been refined over the years to weigh as little as possible, yet stay strong. The final product is a little heavier than stock, but for the added strength that I am getting, it’s worth its “weight” in gold. 

IMG_4179.jpg

Installation is simple as the Ride Engineering One Piece Mount easily goes on with the stock Honda rubber cones or you can choose to get Ride’s rubbers (like I mentioned above) as well. The top mount is a one piece design held on with eight 8mm head bolts and when placed over a Pro Taper EVO bar, the machined guidance holes (in the mount) lined up perfectly, making it easy for me to set my bar at the right angle. Once tightened up, I forgot about this mount and didn't stress on the average tip over or any normal sized spill I may take. So, if you're like me and your bike hits the ground on occasion, this mount is money well spent. Head over to ride-engineering.com to check them out or get yours. If you do decide you need this piece, use the code Keefer-20 to see some dough. 

Pro Circuit Ti-6 Pro Titanium Muffer System


The 2019 Yamaha YZ450F won the Keefer Inc. Testing shootout this year because it has all tangibles that are needed to let a rider go fast on the track with the least amount of work. I am a fan of the stock muffler system on the 2019 YZ450F, but was looking for a full system to help me lose some weight and gain a little more mid range pulling power without sacrificing low end delivery, that the stock system does so well. I went to Pro Circuit to seek out Mitch Payton and see if he would give me a Ti-6 Pro Titanium System to try out. I managed to walk out with a system, but missed out on the opportunity to speak with Mitch. He probably doesn't even know who the hell I am, but I appreciate that he got me a system to test out. I haven't tested that much Pro Circuit products in 2018, but our next couple project builds will have some PC products on board or 2019. 

IMG_1071.jpg

The Pro Circuit Ti-6 Pro full system was created for professional racers competing in a series such as AMA Supercross or AMA Motocross to ensure they pass AMA/FIM sound regulations. The Ti-6 Pro Titanium Exhaust System is constructed of titanium throughout the head pipe, mid pipe, and canister while the end-cap is carbon fiber. I wanted the “Pro” system because I have learned that loud mufflers are not the best mufflers for power feeling on the track and sometimes putting an insert in “some” mufflers actually helps power delivery.

IMG_1073.jpg

Installation of the PC system was painless to install (for Yamaha standards), but always make sure to install the headpipe on the cylinder head studs and then connect the mid pipe. Once the mid pipe is slipped onto the headpipe you can begin to tighten the headpipe nuts. This assures that the mid pipe doesn't bind and is free. 

IMG_1063.jpg

So how does this sucker feel out on the track? The exhaust note on the Pro Circuit Ti-6 Pro is not near as loud or weird sounding as the Ti-6 or T6. The exhaust note on the “Pro” is deeper and slightly quieter, which I personally like more. The power delivery is slightly smoother down low, but only on throttle opening. At 0-5% throttle position there is a slightly softer RPM response, which I didn't mind on nasty, dry, choppy tracks in Southern California. If I needed more bottom I simply ran a more aggressive map and that helped the “pop” I was looking for out of corners. I usually ran the TP 2.0 map with the Pro Circuit system and it made me happy with the amount of smooth roll on power I had. The rear wheel definitely feels connected to my throttle hand and in comparison the PC system has more bottom end power than that of the Akrapovic that I tested a couple months ago. The mid-range is where I wanted more power out of the Yamaha and this is where exactly the PC system delivers. The meat of the Ti-6 Pro’s power out of corners and accelerating down the next straight is much better than stock. I am able to use second and third gears longer with the PC system (compared to stock) and even though the low RPM response is slightly softer than the stock system, the mid-range RPM response is much more instant. Mid- range RPM response is crisp and makes the Yamaha feel “lighter” when trying to hop over square edge choppy areas of the track when accelerating. Top end pulling power is as good as stock as the PC Ti-6 Pro doesn’t pull harder up top, but the PC system does have slightly more over-rev. I am able to be slightly lazier with my shifting and can decide to shift later after each corner. 

I was impressed how the Pro Circuit Ti-6 Pro delivered and spread out its power and to me made the Yamaha even more fun to ride. If that is possible? The PC Ti-6 Pro Titanium System runs $1,064.95 and is available over at procircuit.com. I will be doing a 2019 Yamaha YZ450F Muffler Shootout Podcast in the very near future, so if you want to hear how it stacks up against its competitors listen and subscribe to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast right now. 

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

   

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.

AZ7Y0201.jpg

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).

FullSizeRender-4.jpeg

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 

DL4_0226.jpg

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

9X1A5071.jpg

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

Keefer Shootout Day 1-33.jpg

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

IMG_7171.JPG

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

IMG_4644.jpeg

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.

FullSizeRender-6.jpeg

 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). 

IMG_3545.jpg

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.

2019 Honda CRF-450R Dyno.png


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.

IMG_0706.jpg

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. 

IMG_0708 2.jpg


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.  

IMG_0427.JPG


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. 


IMG_0437.jpg

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.

IMG_4640.jpeg


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. 

IMG_4644.jpeg

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. 

FullSizeRender-5.jpeg

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.

FullSizeRender-4.jpeg


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



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. 

 

IMG_8100.JPG

 

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. 

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. 

 

IMG_9952.jpg

 

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. 

 

IMG_9967.jpg

 

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: 

 

IMG_1878.jpeg

 

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? 

 

DSC06954.JPG

 

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. 

 

IMG_1903.jpeg

 

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.