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Added a product review for Nihilo Concepts Factory Frame Grip Tape 10/25/2014 5:36 PM
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Tested: Nihilo Concepts Factory Frame Grip Tape

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review and Photos by Michael Lindsay

Wandering the pro pits is always interesting, especially when you spot the small tricks that the factory mechanics do to their rider's bikes. One thing that's quite common, is to find grip tape along spars of the frame. Some riders love the extra traction that can be found by doing this. But it can be a bit of a pain to replicate, since cutting out the perfect-sized piece of grip tape is time consuming and takes practice, even with a good template. Now there's a solution, Nihilo Concepts has produced a grip tape kit that is made to fit individual brands and models.

Nihilo Concepts Factory Frame Grip Tape features:

  • Available in black, grey, and OEM colors.
  • Cut to match each individual advertised model.
  • MSRP $15.95-18.95.

First Impressions

The Nihilo's frame grip tape comes on a simple sheet of backing paper, such as a set of graphics would. You simply peel and and place them on the frame. Each piece is cut to match the corresponding side of the frame, and typically runs from right above the footpeg to the third of half-way point up the spars of the frame.

The grip tape is available in black and grey for all models, and the OEM color to match that brand. If you're a Husqvarna or KTM guy, the grip tape offers more than just extra grip, but can also protect your colored frame from wear, as well. Also, if you meet a minimum order amount, you can have them customized with a personal logo.

On the Track

As you can guess, the idea of this product is to give you more confidence on the bike by giving you better control over the bike. Depending on how you ride, the extra grip may not be immediately noticeable. In my case, it becomes the most apparent when standing up in the attack position, such as standing on the balls of your feet while charging into jump faces. Here it can help you keep your forward stance without as much effort. Also, I find more confidence in keeping proper body positioning under heavy braking.

Long-Term Durability

The grip tape takes a lot of abuse. It's attached to the frame and rubs directly against your boots, so something has to give. In this case, it's the grip tape. Depending on how you grip your bike, the life of the grip tape can vary. Unless your feet are always off the pegs, they will wear out.

The Last Word

Nihilo Concept offers up a simple but unique product that you otherwise would spend a lot of valuable time replicating. The Factory Frame Grip Tape does exactly what it's supposed to, improve your control and grip on the bike. Also in the case of KTMs and Husqvarnas, it can protect the finish on the frame. But it still faces a huge downside, it won't last. Depending on how aggressively you hug the bike with your legs, that time can be extremely short. In short, it's a great product if it solves your needs, but will always require replacement.

Vital MX Rating

Check out NihiloConcepts.com to find out if the Factory Frame Grip Tape is available for your bike.

About the Test Rider

Michael Lindsay- is a born-and-raised moto freak and gearhead from the heart of motocross in Southern California. First swinging a leg over a bike at the age of five, he immediately caught the racing bug, spending nearly every weekend behind a gate…and a lot of time on the couch while injured. While swinging back and forth between moto and the off-road scene, giving him a wide range of experience on the bike. Of course, all of this led to one thing: Lindsay loves working on his bikes almost as much as he loves talking about them. When he’s not in the Vital MX forum or writing his latest product review, you can find him out at the track taking dirt naps, snapping some pictures, or drooling over the latest parts for his bike. With an outspoken personality, gearhead background, and as Vital MX’s guru for product, Michael is here to share his unbiased opinion.

This product has 3 reviews.

Added a product review for Works Connection Aluminum Radiator Brace 10/14/2014 7:18 PM
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Tested: Works Connection Radiator Braces

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review and Photos by Michael Lindsay

In my group of riding buddies, bike damage seems to be a common theme. There's always that one guy who gets a flat, burns out his clutch, or destroys a radiator during a small tip over. (Actually, in my group that's typically the same guy.) A damaged radiator is one of the biggest pains. Mostly because you either have to buy a costly OEM unit, or if you're lucky your stocker might be repairable, which still results time and expense.

After I started racing off-road, I needed to do anything I could to keep the bike in one piece for the longer races. Between rocks, high speed desert sections, and constantly banging into riders before entering the tight confines of a scoring loop (have to make every pass count!), the radiators would be in a bit of danger. After doing a little searching, I settled on some radiator braces from Works Connection.

Works Connection Radiator Braces features:

  • Constructed from aircraft-grade aluminum.
  • Supports radiators from side impacts and being bent backwards.
  • Sold in pairs when applicable.
  • MSRP $39.99-$109.99.

First Impressions

The Works Connection Radiator Braces are fairly simple in design. For most models, they resemble an aluminum triangle that mounts to the top and bottom of the radiator and to the side of the frame. They're slim in design, following the general shape of the radiator shroud. On some models, it may take a look or two to even realize they're on.

Inside the packaging, you'll find a pair of braces (for single radiator bikes, there will only be one brace), along with mounting hardware.

In the Shop

For most models, there will be three mounting points. To install, you simply take the radiator shroud off, bolt the brace onto the outside of the radiator, then re-install the shroud. The braces use the bottom shroud mounting bolt hole and one along the side of the frame. Some models have a hole along the top of the radiator for the third bolt (such as the Kawasaki KXF models), but some need to have the third hole drilled (Honda CRF and Suzuki RM-Z models for instance).

You can bolt the braces up to the two pre-existing holes and then drill, using the open third hole as a template of where to drill on the radiator. As long as your radiators are fairly straight, these braces line-up extremely well. However, if the radiator has already taken a few hits, there are no guarantees that the braces will fit.

On the Track

Some radiator cages I've seen before required spacers because of their large size. This can cause the radiator shrouds to bulge out and widen the feel of your bike. I've tested these braces on five different bikes, and never once thought to myself that the shrouds were wider and impeding my comfort on the bike.

Long-Term Durability

The most long term situation I've spent with these braces consisted of a year on a KX450F. This bike spent its time between motocross tracks, desert races, WORCS, playing around with Endurocross, etc. Even though this bike had spent plenty of time bouncing down hills, falling in corners and rocks, and the occasional end-over-end flip, it still had its stock radiators at the end of the year. I will mention that I went through about eight sets of radiator shrouds in this time, giving you an idea of how may times it took on side impacts.

The Last Word

How do I describe these braces? Cheap insurance. A pair of these braces are cheaper than just one aftermarket radiator and around the cost of repairing your stocker. In trade though, they offer continued support crash-after-crash. They're well-priced, can save you money, and keep you from loading up early after a small tip over. As most riders are aware, you endo over a triple and your bike might be fine, but you can fall over at 5mph and rip your radiator off.

These braces will offer more protection on some bikes compared to others based off the bike's design. Personally, I've noticed these braces are most supportive for modern CRF and YZF models. The only real drawback is that some models require a small amount of drilling to properly install.

Vital MX Rating

Check out WorksConnection.com for more protective products for your bike.

About the Test Rider

Michael Lindsay- is a born-and-raised moto freak and gearhead from the heart of motocross in Southern California. First swinging a leg over a bike at the age of five, he immediately caught the racing bug, spending nearly every weekend behind a gate…and a lot of time on the couch while injured. While swinging back and forth between moto and the off-road scene, giving him a wide range of experience on the bike. Of course, all of this led to one thing: Lindsay loves working on his bikes almost as much as he loves talking about them. When he’s not in the Vital MX forum or writing his latest product review, you can find him out at the track taking dirt naps, snapping some pictures, or drooling over the latest parts for his bike. With an outspoken personality, gearhead background, and as Vital MX’s guru for product, Michael is here to share his unbiased opinion.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Troy Lee Designs 5955 Chest Protector 10/8/2014 8:04 AM
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Tested: Troy Lee Designs 5955 Chest Protector

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Michael Lindsay // Photos by Joe Carlino

At one point or another, we've all questioned how much protection we need to wear while riding. Weight and comfort is an issue, as is the ability to keep cool... or maybe look cool. Personally, I've been all over the map when it comes to chest protection. I grew up wearing a chest protector until I was almost 18. Then went without it, before realizing that the roost hurts, so I grabbed an under-the-jersey foam pad to eliminate the pain.

I then figured out that the foam padding wasn't quite enough to withstand small rocks flinging off the rear of a 450 during a beach race. At this point, I wanted slim and light, but with more protection. After walking down the line of a pro national, I noticed quite a few pros running Troy Lee Designs's 5955 Chest Protector (catchy, huh?). This includes some who aren't exactly sponsored by TLD. (Vented jerseys are a bit revealing...) Thus, my choice to try one out.

Troy Lee Designs 5955 Chest Protector features:

  • Neck brace integration.
  • Customizable, and capable of over 50 configurations.
  • Designed to be worn over or under jersey.
  • Jointed panels allow for larger movement range.
  • Available in black or white.
  • MSRP: $199.99.

First Impressions

In standard form, the 5955 looks quite bulky, but that's where the separate panels of this chest protector come into play. Thanks to the panels, the chest protector is hinged in some crucial places that allow you to move more freely and naturally.

On closer inspection of the panels, there are screws to disassemble these sections. The top sections on the front and back can both be removed to allow for the use of a neck brace. Beyond that, you can also remove the hanging arm pads and even the top shoulder pads. This quickly lightens up the 5955 and opens up another option. Stripping the 5955 down to this level makes it a great hard-shell under-the-jersey option.

On the Track

The original version of this chest protector I used was already stripped down to the bare bones when I received it. This time around, I left the 5955 in its normal configuration to find out how well all the folding panels worked while in action.

In the 5955's largest form, it can feel a bit bulky when getting underway. Once the action begins though, it quickly falls out of your mind. TLD built the folding sections in all the right places, making its overall size easy to forget when out on the track. For those looking for the maximum protection, this is a huge plus.

The 5955 features "neck brace integration," which is fancy talk for removable panels that offer an opening for your beck brace. This leaves plenty of room for a Leatt and an Atlas, but doesn't really leave enough room for the lower-sitting Alpinestar Bionic. The former two fit comfortably, but will move in conjunction with the chest protector at times.

The most standout feature is of course the ability to remove almost any panel that doesn't suite your style. If it's too much, unbolt it and go lighter. I personally pulled more and more sections off, until I was left with just the upper and lower sections, both front and back. On top of this, I even removed all the padding from the shoulder sections. This turned the originally bulky 5955 into a more protective vest which could be worn over the jersey or in my case, under.

Long-Term Durability

I've actually used one of these for well over a year, and it's held up amazingly well! My treatment of it includes cleaning the inside padding with a pressure washer after every ride. Surprisingly, the material is still in one piece and hasn't ripped from this abuse. I was also initially worried about the strength and durability of the folding sections, but this as well has impressed me and left no further concerns.

The Last Word

Sizing wise, this chest protector is not designed with taller riders in mind. At 5'9 (when my back has been recently adjusted), a large is barely adequate for me. If you rank much larger in size, you'll start losing coverage. If you're wondering, there isn't a size above large. Also, I've found that the screws that lock the sections together have been treated with some very strong Loctite. I highly recommend using an extra set of hands to disassemble the 5955.

Over the past year, I've used a few different chest protectors for shoots, but I always come back to the 5955. Its large variety of customization options, thin profile, and multiple flexing panels make it my top choice in my gear bag. However, that isn't saying it's perfect by any means. Its 200 dollar price tag may turn off some buyers, since it's still a hard shell protector, while there's a few more advanced chest protectors on the market in this price range. Now if you don't need the extended shoulder protection and the arm pads, there's a less expensive model ($25 less), known as the 5900.

Vital MX Rating

Check out TroyLeeDesigns.com for more information on their full range of protective equipment.

About the Test Rider

Michael Lindsay - is a born-and-raised moto freak and gearhead from the heart of motocross in Southern California. First swinging a leg over a bike at the age of five, he immediately caught the racing bug, spending nearly every weekend behind a gate…and a lot of time on the couch while injured. While swinging back and forth between moto and the off-road scene, giving him a wide range of experience on the bike. Of course, all of this led to one thing: Lindsay loves working on his bikes almost as much as he loves talking about them. When he’s not in the Vital MX forum or writing his latest product review, you can find him out at the track taking dirt naps, snapping some pictures, or drooling over the latest parts for his bike. With an outspoken personality, gearhead background, and as Vital MX’s guru for product, Michael is here to share his unbiased opinion.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for No-Toil Biodegradable Chain Lube with Wax 10/3/2014 10:28 AM
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Tested: No-Toil Biodegradable Chain Lube with Wax

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Michael Lindsay // Photos by Michael Lindsay and Joe Carlino

In my personal experience at local tracks and races, I noticed that most people under-rate the use of chain lube. Most riders tend to just give the chain a small spray before they ride in the morning, sometimes just in their garage and not even at the track. Once this is done, they tend to forget about their can of chain lube and just ride moto after moto without giving it another thought. When I ask my friends of this habit, they tend to answer with, "Well, I sprayed it this morning, it's fine!"

The way I look at it, your metal chain is rubbing against a metal sprocket, which causes friction and heat. This of course leads to wear and fatigue, plus the added friction causes power loss between your engine and rear wheel. Because of this, I regularly have a can in my hand before every moto. Now for the past few years, I've been using the same brand. Recently, I decided to switch it up and grabbed a can from No-Toil.

No-Toil Biodegradable Chain Lube with Wax features:

  • Three-in-one formula for cleaning, lube, and maintenance.
  • Biodegradable and non-toxic.
  • Guilt-free, overspray will not harm the environment.
  • Available in 12 oz. bottles.
  • MSRP: $13.95.

First Impressions

First off, I don't usually choose chain wax. I've always leaned towards standard chain lube. Why? In my experience, chain wax has been very sticky and can create quite a mess on the chain and the bike itself. No-Toil claims that their chain lube with wax is mess-free, if you let it sit for 15 minutes after application.

At the Track

Once at the track, I had to remind myself about the 15 minute wait time, as I usually have a habit of lubing the chain right as I'm about to head out for a moto. To my surprise, the chain lube with wax was much lighter during application than any other wax-based lube I've used previously. This upped my hopes that my chain wouldn't produce a mess on the bike as I rolled out to put in some more laps.

Once my laps full of arm-pump were finished, I came back in to inspect the chain and the rest of the bike to see how No-Toil's product had performed. I was immediately happy to see that there was not only no mess along the swingarm or rear fender (or the back of my pants...yes I've tried chain lube that was that messy before), but also the chain had a sealing layer on it that kept it clean and well-lubed.

To see how well it would keep the chain lubed, I broke my usual habit and did more back-to-back motos without re-lubing the chain. I found I could be a little more lax with my OCD habits and was cutting back to lubing the chain every other outing.

The Last Word

Once you find a chain lube you prefer, it's hard to switch or try something new. Overall, I was quite happy that I broke my usual routine and tried out No-Toil's chain lube, as I found it was better lubricating while keeping the chain squeaky clean compared to the previous brands I had been using. Also, the better quality of lube meant I wasn't having to soak the chain as often and was getting a bit more life out of each can. Plus, it's biodegradable, which means you're being green. I'm not sure how this ranks up with owning a Prius, but it has to count for something!

Now there were a few small negatives I found. First, it has a higher price than the majority of chain lubes on the market. This isn't too much of a problem however, considering I'm talking about a product that still costs less than 15 dollars. Also, even though the lube doesn't leave a messy residue on the chain, it will on the tire, which I found turns white after sitting for a bit.

Vital MX Rating

Check out NoToil.com to find out more on their products and where you can get some for yourself.

About the Test Rider

Michael Lindsay - is a born-and-raised moto freak and gearhead from the heart of motocross in Southern California. First swinging a leg over a bike at the age of five, he immediately caught the racing bug, spending nearly every weekend behind a gate…and a lot of time on the couch while injured. While swinging back and forth between moto and the off-road scene, giving him a wide range of experience on the bike. Of course, all of this led to one thing: Lindsay loves working on his bikes almost as much as he loves talking about them. When he’s not in the Vital MX forum or writing his latest product review, you can find him out at the track taking dirt naps, snapping some pictures, or drooling over the latest parts for his bike. With an outspoken personality, gearhead background, and as Vital MX’s guru for product, Michael is here to share his unbiased opinion.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Seven SE3 Supra Helmet 8/16/2014 3:40 AM
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Tested: Seven SE3 Supra Helmet

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review and photos by Michael Lindsay

I already know what you're thinking. "Hey that looks like a Troy Lee Designs SE3 helmet!" Well, you're right. The Seven SE3 is a TLD SE3, with a different paint job (a very good-looking one, I might add). Now Seven's gear is completely different from TLD's, but why is the helmet the same? Simple, it's expensive to develop a helmet, especially a high-end one such as the SE3. So instead of wasting time and money developing a new helmet, Seven decided to borrow the well-known and proven design that TLD had already put the work into. So if you're wondering what we think of the TLD SE3, this should help you out.

Seven SE3 Supra Helmet Features:

  • Dual-density Shock Pad System and EPS liner.
  • Quick-release cheek pads to aid in emergency helmet removal.
  • Meets SNELL M2010, DOT FMVSS .218 and CE 22.05 safety standards.
  • Helmet bag included.
  • Cheek pads, helmet liner, and chin straps are fully removable for washing.
  • MSRP: $495.00

First Impressions

When you first pull the Seven SE3 Supra from its zip-up carry bag, you'll find a spare visor inside. This has become quite uncommon to include with the purchase of a helmet, but it's a really nice touch when you're spending nearly $500. Especially since the majority of riders will destroy a visor or two during the lifetime of their lid.

I have a unique experience when it comes to the fit of a helmet. I have a medium-sized head, but slightly smaller-than-average cheek bones. So it's not uncommon for me to have to add thicker cheek pads to improve the fit of most helmets. The Seven SE3 for instance, fits snuggly around the top, side, and back of my head. But surprisingly, the cheek pads were just thick enough that it didn't require me to order a different set. So riders with larger-than-average cheek bones may actually need to order a thinner set.

With some of the newer helmets on the market bringing in new safety features, you may ask what does the Seven Supra offer? Well, outside of its carbon/composite shell and Dual EPS liner, it features a dual shock padding system in the shell. This is easily spotted by the red material, which is softer and allows for more energy dissipation under low-speed impacts. This all translates to seeing less stars when you smack you head on that hardpacked corner you slid out on.

On the Track

Out of the helmets I've tested, the SE3 has one of the most consistent-feeling shells in correlation to where it contacts your head. This translates to nearly no movement while out on the track. Being that the design of this helmet is a few years old now, the venting is around average for a high-end helmet. I didn't find myself sweltering during a California summer, but I could've done with a bit of extra air flow.

A huge plus with the SE3 is its ability to handle even the largest of goggles. You may have noticed the Troy Lee Designs team (remember this doubles as a TLD helmet) run arguably the goggle with the largest frame on the market, the Oakley Airbrake. I personally used the Airbrake, along with the Dragon NFX and 100%'s Racecraft, which make up the largest goggle frames available. Each goggle fit without a problem, with the frame's foam being able to completely seal against my face. The only problem that arose was with the Racecraft's nose guard. The Supra features its own built in nose guard, so most goggles will need theirs removed.

Long-Term Durability

Overall, the Seven Supra has held up quite well. The only major complaint I have is that the cheek pads, chin straps, and part of the liner are made from a white material, meaning they show dirt fairly quickly. On the bright side, they clean up quite well and even the chin strap covers are removable to wash.

The Last Word

Taking a popular pre-existing helmet design was a great move on Seven's part. The designs perfectly match the gear they are modeled after. However, this is also a bit of a negative, since their designs have fairly unique color combos, they don't work too well with other gear sets.

The SE3's superb fit slightly outweighs the average venting. Also, the initial price matched that of most high-end helmets when it was introduced. Since then, some recent models hitting the market have exceeded this. This leaves the SE3 towards the lower-end of this price range, making it a bit better value. Especially when you consider the included extra visor and quality zip-up helmet bag.

Vital MX Rating:

Check out SevenMX.com for more information on the Supra line of helmets.

About the Test Rider

Michael Lindsay - is a born-and-raised moto freak and gearhead from the heart of motocross in Southern California. First swinging a leg over a bike at the age of five, he immediately caught the racing bug, spending nearly every weekend behind a gate…and a lot of time on the couch while injured. While swinging back and forth between moto and the off-road scene, giving him a wide range of experience on the bike. Of course, all of this led to one thing: Lindsay loves working on his bikes almost as much as he loves talking about them. When he’s not in the Vital MX forum or writing his latest product review, you can find him out at the track taking dirt naps, snapping some pictures, or drooling over the latest parts for his bike. With an outspoken personality, gearhead background, and as Vital MX’s guru for product, Michael is here to share his unbiased opinion.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Neken SFS Triple Clamps 7/22/2014 4:26 PM
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Tested: Neken SFS Triple Clamps

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review and Photos by Michael Lindsay

Wandering the pits at a Supercross race can reveal some pretty trick parts on the top team’s bikes. Earlier this year, I spotted a unique set of triple clamps on Ryan Dungey’s KTM. Instead of standard solid bar mounts, they’d been replacedwith little air shocks! My first thought was about how cool an idea this was, but it was quickly followed by, “There is no way you can buy these.” Well, I was wrong. These clamps are built by a French company known as Neken, and they’re for sale to the public. So we snagged a set of their SFS (Smooth Feeling System)clamps and put them to a long-term test.

Neken SFS Triple Clamp Features:

  • Built in adjustable shock absorber bar mounts.
  • Available as top clamp only, or as a complete set.
  • Currently available in blue, red, and orange for most major motocross models.
  • MSRP $739.95 top clamp/ $929.95 complete set.

First Impressions

Trick, trick, and trick. This is the first thing that popped into my mind as I unboxed these gorgeous clamps. I felt like I’d stolen these straight from a factory team’s race shop! Since we decided to test a top/bottom clamp set, our box included a top SFS clamp and bottom clamp with steering stem. Installation for these clamps took a tad bit longer than usual, mostly because the lower clamps didn’t come with a bearing pre-pressed on. The majority of clamp sets sold nowadays, come with a bearing already pressed onto the stem. This meant I had to order an OEM one separately (Update: The next production batch of lower clamps will include a bearing pressed on). Beyond that, it goes fairly quickly. Especially since the top clamp has the bar-mount shocks already installed. Because of the design of the bar-mount, you must use an open-end wrench to tighten the steering stem nut. The lower bar-mount has a cross piece that blocks any access to the nut with a socket.

Once the clamps are installed, the torque settings are located above each grouping of bolts (a nice touch). Then you can set the air pressure on the bar mounts. There is only one Schrader valve, which feeds both shocks evenly. Neken recommended we used an air pump with a finer adjustment than the average pump offers (because of the low overall volume). Even most shock pumps that you would use to adjust a set of air forks seemed inadequate (I tried), as they don’t bleed slowly enough to set the pressure accurately.

On the Track

To start things out, I tested the clamps with 120 PSI in the shocks. This was equivalent to using a solid bar mount, and gave me a base feeling as which to judge the capabilities of these clamps. After getting some solid time in with them (literally solid!), I started dropping the pressure five PSI at a time. Once it dove below 100 PSI, you could start to feel the way these clamps worked, and the difference they made.

I’ll be honest, going into this I was fairly certain I’d feel an odd sensation when the bars would drop away as the shocks compressed. I’m usually extremely sensitive to bar movement, but that wasn’t the case with the SFS. Could I feel them moving? Yes, but the consistency and the way they moved was different than I expected. I imagined the bars dropping away, but when you think about it, they’re compressing as the bike comes towards them (such as when the bike hits a bump). So even though the bar mounts move, you don’t get the sensation that the bars are moving. Especially because the shocks move together so seamlessly, and the tolerances are so tight, that you don’t feel any rocking in the bars or bar-mount themselves. This leaves you feeling like you’re in complete control, actually improving your connection to the bike. But all the while, the shocks are compressing as the bike comes towards you, which takes the edge off of impacts.

This was at its best when I found my personal sweet spot, which was at about 60 PSI. At this point, I still had enough damping force, but without the shocks blowing through the stroke. If I went below this (about 50 PSI or less), I could actually feel the bar mounts bottom out with a thud into the clamps. For the most part, 60-70 PSI was the best range to stay in. On a few tracks, which mostly consisted of large jumps and harsher landings, I could get the occasional bottoming feeling at 60. In response, I would bump the shocks up 5 PSI at a time until it no longer occurred.

The advantages of these clamps became more obvious as the tracks became rougher, especially on a choppy, hard-packed track. In these situations, I could put the front end where I wanted without as much effort, mostly because the clamps took that extra harshness out of impacts. This was most apparent when the front end was diving under the forces of heavy braking. At this point when the front end is deeper into the stroke, and more weight is transferred there, braking chop can feel more vicious. This can make the task of entering a rut even more difficult. But the secondary suspension these clamps provide takes away from that abrupt feel of each bump. This allowed me to keep my control over the front of the bike, without it jittering around, and throwing me off balance.

Long-Term Durability

The SFS shocks have kept a consistent feel, even with around four months of solid use. Also I couldn’t detect an loss in performance during long motos. I actually expected a bit of fade, but this never occurred. Neken also claims that the shocks never need to be serviced.

The Last Word

First, the minuses. The clamps are definitely on the pricey side, and the bar mounts have no fore/aft adjustment. For me personally, this was fine, as it’s set more to the rear of the clamp, which was about where my normal setup would be. But lankier riders who prefer their bar mounts forward in the clamps may have a problem.

The pluses are obvious, these things work! What may look like a gimmick is actually a great advantage. Especially for riders suffering from arm pump or hand numbness, this could be the solution for you. Especially on choppy, hard-packed tracks. If you’re looking to improve your connection to the front of the bike, while keeping your arms from turning into bricks, the SFS triple clamps from Neken is a top-of-the-line option. Even though the performance is spot on, we do mark it down a bit for its price, lack of bar position options and lower bearing, thus the 4 star rating.

Vital MX Rating

Check out Neken.EU for more information on available models and where to purchase.

About the Test Rider

Michael Lindsay - is a born-and-raised moto freak and gearhead from the heart of motocross in Southern California. First swinging a leg over a bike at the age of five, he immediately caught the racing bug, spending nearly every weekend behind a gate…and a lot of time on the couch while injured. While swinging back and forth between moto and the off-road scene, giving him a wide range of experience on the bike. Of course, all of this led to one thing: Lindsay loves working on his bikes almost as much as he loves talking about them. When he’s not in the Vital MX forum or writing his latest product review, you can find him out at the track taking dirt naps, snapping some pictures, or drooling over the latest parts for his bike. With an outspoken personality, gearhead background, and as Vital MX’s guru for product, Michael is here to share his unbiased opinion.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Baja No Pinch Ultimate Tire Tool 6/24/2014 5:10 PM
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Tested: Baja No Pinch Tire Tool

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

I think we can all agree that showing up to the track with a pinched tube after you changed the tire is very frustrating. While not everyone has difficulty changing tires, we all have that riding buddy who does. The Baja No Pinch Tire Tool was made as a way to help eliminate pinching a tube during mounting, while trying to make it easier as well.

Baja No Pinch Tire Tool Features:

  • Ultimate tool package includes 20mm, 17mm 15mm axle shafts, and a 25mm sleeve for KTMs.
  • Rack and pinion system pushes the tire over the rim.
  • Tool can be disassembled and carried in a tool bag.
  • Made in the USA.
  • Baja No Pinch Tire Tool MSRP $89.95 and Ultimate tool package MSRP $139.95

First Impressions:

Baja No Pinch sells two different kits. The first kit includes just the tool and the most common 20mm axle shaft. The version we tested was the Ultimate Tool Package, which also includes a 17mm and 15mm axle shaft and a 25mm sleeve. These cover the most common sizes of axles found on modern motocross bikes.

The different size shafts screw into the bottom of the tool and use a set screw to hold them in place, while the 25mm sleeve goes over the standard 20mm shaft (Used for some KTM models). Baja No Pinch's kit also includes two allen keys that are needed to adjust and take apart the tool. Another part of the adjustability is the push rod that is used to install the tire, which can be set up to use on a 16-21 inch rim.

In the Shop and At the Track:

I first started out using the Baja No Pinch on a wheel I had setup on my tire changing stand. At first the tool is a bit unusual to use and takes a couple adjustments to figure out the right starting length for the push rod. Once I had that figured out, the process sped up quite a bit, and I had the first side of the tire mounted up. When I tried to finish mounting the other side of the tire, I ran into a slight problem. I found that a bead buddy is a must-have when using this tool. Usually when I mount a tire with tire irons, I can hold one iron on the opposite side of the tire that I'm mounting. But since both hands are used when handling the Baja No Pinch, you need a bead buddy to hold down the bead on the opposite side of the tire that you are working on. Otherwise, the other side keeps popping back up as you work your way around the tire.

To be thorough, I tested out the Baja No Pinch Tire Tool in a few other ways. First up, I grabbed a five gallon bucket and performed a tire instillation using the bucket as my stand. The tool was a bit more useful in this scenario, since the bucket lacked the support of my tire stand. Since the tool is pushing from the center of the wheel, it doesn't try to flip the wheel off the bucket.

Beyond that, I tried one more scenario. I threw the wheel down in the dirt and got to work like I was out on the trail or at the track. This is the best scenario for this tool. Instead of straining your back while bending over and prying at the tire, you can just sit down and make the tool do the heavy lifting.

Long-Term Durability:

With the tool's simple design, there isn't too much to worry about when it comes to durability. The only thing I found to watch for is leaving all the anodized parts to bounce around in your tool bag, or the box you take to the track. I'd recommend keeping the tools wrapped up or in a separate container. Otherwise, they can get pretty beat up.

The Last Word:

Overall, this tool is helpful and with a bit of practice can make installation of a tire a breeze. For anyone who really struggles with constantly pinching tubes, this could be a lifesaver. This isn't the almighty tire tool however, as a good set of tire irons are still a necessity for removal, and a bead buddy is a must have during mounting. So this tool only covers one part of the tire changing process. It can be quite useful for a trail rider who won't have a tire stand or bucket to work from. But you need to have the space in your bag for both the tire irons and the Baja No Pinch disassembled.

Personally, I don't usually have any problems mounting tires. But I personally found this tool to be quite useful to use on tires with stiffer sidewalls, and black rims that I'm worried about scratching with normal tire irons.

Vital MX Rating:

Check out BajaNoPinch.com for more information on their tools.

About the Test Rider:

Michael Lindsay- is a born-and-raised moto freak and gearhead from the heart of motocross in Southern California. First swinging a leg over a bike at the age of five, he immediately caught the racing bug, spending nearly every weekend behind a gate…and a lot of time on the couch while injured. While swinging back and forth between moto and the off-road scene, giving him a wide range of experience on the bike. Of course, all of this led to one thing: Lindsay loves working on his bikes almost as much as he loves talking about them. When he’s not in the Vital MX forum or writing his latest product review, you can find him out at the track taking dirt naps, snapping some pictures, or drooling over the latest parts for his bike. With an outspoken personality, gearhead background, and as Vital MX’s guru for product, Michael is here to share his unbiased opinion.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Fly Racing Kinetic Mesh Gear Set 6/13/2014 8:23 PM
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Tested: Fly Racing Kinetic Mesh Gear Set

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Michael Lindsay // Photos by Andre Barbosa and Michael Lindsay

Summer in sunny Southern California means a few things to me, like long days, flip flops and the beach. But when it comes to riding, it means one thing above all others. Vented gear is a must-have! For my latest trip down vented lane, I grabbed a set of Fly’s new Kinetic Mesh gear to put to the test. This is the same gear that Trey Canard and Andrew Short have been racing in since temperatures started to rise.

FLY Kinetic Mesh Features:

Three color options: Blue/Navy, Red/Black, Teal/Orange

Jersey:

  • Multi-panel construction - for maximum performance and comfortable fit.
  • Mesh ventilation panels - integrated into the jersey in key areas to help dissipate unwanted heat.
  • Tagless printed collar - for added comfort.
  • Sublimated graphics - allow for the highest quality in powerful detailed graphics.
  • Extended tail - helps keep the jersey tucked into your pants.
  • Comfort-stretch collar.
  • Integrated Mesh-Tech panel design - allows massive airflow to help keep you cool.
  • Shorty cuffs with elastic sleeves - reduces unwanted arm pump.
  • MSRP: $32.95

Pants:

  • Leather heat shield panels with Kevlar® stitching - located on the inside of each leg for durability and heat resistance.
  • Ratcheting Fly closure - allows for adjustability and positive closure for a secure fit.
  • Zipper Lock system - exclusive Zipper Lock system keeps pants closed and secure.
  • Adjustable waist belt - for maximum fit and adjustability.
  • Stretch-rib panels - strategically placed for flexibility where you want it most.
  • Comfort mesh liner - ventilated mesh liner helps keep you comfortable and cool.
  • Customizable leg cuff design - low-profile stretch cuffs with removable elastic band.
  • Internal pocket - located inside the waistband.
  • Sublimated graphics - allow for the highest quality in powerful detailed graphics.
  • Soft-flex protective rubber badging - ventilated for increased airflow, mechanically integrated.
  • Ultra-durable multi-panel mesh and 900D construction - to withstand the rigors of track and trail while providing extra breathability.
  • Ergonomically pre-shaped and fully vented knee - generously contoured to accommodate all types of knee braces and guards while a massive air-intake system cools and protects.
  • MSRP: $109.95

First Impressions:

Lighter and simpler gear is the current trend amongst gear manufacturers. Once I picked up the gear, it was obvious that Fly was onboard the lightweight train as well.

The jersey is made completely from a mesh material, as to be expected of a vented jersey. Once on, the jersey was a bit baggy like most vented jerseys I've tried, but the sleeves were also on the large side. Oddly, one of our jersey’s used an asymmetrical design, with a section of larger holes on the right side of the jersey, running from the sleeves to the torso and down the sides. These larger holes were not found on the left side of the jersey, though. However, one of the other designs from this this line we tested, had the larger holes on both sides.

The pants are quite minimalistic, with all the logos being sublimated into the material. Only the vents, which are located on the front of knees are separate from the material of the pants. Surprisingly, these aren't just for show and actually flow a decent amount of air considering their size. For materials, there are quite a few different types used throughout the pant to ensure you have the needed movement.

On the Track:

Once you’re up and moving is when you reap the rewards of vented gear. The jersey flowed a great amount of air, which left me with no complaints in that department. But the larger sizing came back into play as the sleeves are fairly long. To solve this, I rolled them up a bit so they wouldn't try to slide over my gloves mid-moto. In return, this left me with some bunched up material along my arms.

The pants had me quite impressed from the first few laps. The knee area is what really caught my attention with these pants. In my past experience if too much folding material is used, there is a chance of binding and ripping them with knee braces. But if there are only move-able panels used, there isn't enough room to flex the knees properly. Utilizing a combination of multiple panels and a small bit of accordion-like folding material, the movement with large braces in the Kinetic Mesh pants was excellent!

I’m not usually the person that has trouble with pants staying up during motos, but the thin waist material had me a bit worried. Fly uses a few means to ensure the pants do stay on though; including a ratchet closure, adjustable waist size strap, and the zipper lock. Now the zipper lock may sound like a complete gimmick, but is actually quite useful. This ensures that the zipper doesn’t try to work its way down during a moto, thus expanding the waist size and causing your backside to be displayed to the world.

Long-Term Durability:

In my mind, this has always been Fly’s strong point. I’ve yet to find a set of gear from them that I can ruin. After spending around the last three months in one set, the Kinetic Mesh is no exception. The worst damage I’ve been able to produce is a few stray strings around the backside of one of the knees. This is partially due to my knee getting caught on the radiator shroud a few times.

The Last Word:

As for the fit, the jersey and pants would rank a bit different for me personally. I quite like the pants, as they are possibly the best set on the market that I've recently tested, and I would give them a top rating of five stars. The jersey however didn't win me over solidly as the pants did. Due to the large fit and unusual venting differences, the jersey would get a lower rating from me. As a set though; considering the price point, quality and durability, Fly’s Kinetic Mesh line is still a great purchase.

Vital MX Rating:

Check out FlyRacing.com for more info on the Kinetic Mesh line or Fly's other products.

About the Test Rider:

Michael Lindsay- is a born-and-raised moto freak and gearhead from the heart of motocross in Southern California. First swinging a leg over a bike at the age of five, he immediately caught the racing bug, spending nearly every weekend behind a gate…and a lot of time on the couch while injured. While swinging back and forth between moto and the off-road scene, giving him a wide range of experience on the bike. Of course, all of this led to one thing: Lindsay loves working on his bikes almost as much as he loves talking about them. When he’s not in the Vital MX forum or writing his latest product review, you can find him out at the track taking dirt naps, snapping some pictures, or drooling over the latest parts for his bike. With an outspoken personality, gearhead background, and as Vital MX’s guru for product, Michael is here to share his unbiased opinion.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Ride Engineering 2014 YZ250F Linkage 5/18/2014 9:48 AM
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Tested: Ride Engineering 2014 YZ250F Linkage

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall: Review and photos by Michael Lindsay and Andre Barbosa

Whenever an all new model hits the market, it usually gets the most attention when it comes to aftermarket support. This also includes our attention, as we want to address everything we possibly can with the bike. With the new YZ250F having an all-new chassis, we've spent quite a few hours this year seeing if it was possible to improve on the stock characteristics. After trying a few triple clamp options (which you can check out here), we decided to try out a shock linkage option from Ride Engineering.

Ride Eng. Linkage Features:

  • 1.25mm longer than stock linkage (2014 YZ250F).
  • Comes complete with bearing and seals installed.
  • Recommended sag 102-105mm.
  • MSRP $224.95.

First Impressions:

The Ride Eng. link comes with pre-installed bearings and seals. This means you do have to re-use the sleeve and bearing caps from the stock linkage, but this only takes just a minute to swap once you've removed the stock linkage. This is also a great opportunity to thoroughly grease the bearings before installing the new linkage. From there, instillation is fairly straightforward, with no special needs or instructions.

On the Track:

The most immediate difference was with the stance of the bike, and as you'd expect, the longer link lowers the rear end. Although the Yamaha isn't the biggest culprit when it comes to stinkbug stance (high rear end), it was still a welcome change. Especially if you're not the tallest in stature, or just prefer a lower to the ground feel.

From a performance point of view, the biggest plus was the bike's attitude in ruts. Once you'd entered the rut, the bike settled in much more naturally and the rear end continued to track from mid-turn on more consistently. On flat corners however, it was a bit more inconsistent under heavy throttle, as the bike would squat and wallow a bit. A few adjustments of the high speed compression on the shock helped remedy this. The bike's balance under braking had changed a bit as well. Under lighter braking in slower sections, the bike felt more balanced and easy to control. But in higher speed sections under heavier braking, the rear would go from squatting to an unloaded feel too quickly and would sometimes upset the balance of the bike entering corners.

Long-Term Durability:

Any linkage takes abuse from rocks, or casing jumps, logs, etc. With the Ride Eng. version being anodized, you can expect some small rock nicks and other wear based on your riding conditions. Beyond that though, the bearing life has been superb with no notable issues.

The Last Word:

We spent some time testing this linkage with both stock and different offset triple clamps. When used with the stock clamps, it had notable improvements but also suffered from a few drawbacks. Our best combination was to use the linkage with a different offset triple clamp and some shock/fork adjustments. This brought improvements from each product, but allowed us to offset any negatives we found. Even though it's an easy to install product with some upsides, the downsides when not using it with our other changes made it not quite as desirable as a standalone part.

Vital MX Rating:

To find out more about Ride Engineering's linkages or their other products, check out Ride-Engineering.com.

About the Test Riders:

Michael Lindsay - is a born-and-raised moto freak and gearhead from the heart of motocross in Southern California. First swinging a leg over a bike at the age of five, he immediately caught the racing bug, spending nearly every weekend behind a gate…and a lot of time on the couch while injured. While swinging back and forth between moto and the off-road scene, giving him a wide range of experience on the bike. Of course, all of this led to one thing: Lindsay loves working on his bikes almost as much as he loves talking about them. When he’s not in the Vital MX forum or writing his latest product review, you can find him out at the track taking dirt naps, snapping some pictures, or drooling over the latest parts for his bike. With an outspoken personality, gearhead background, and as Vital MX’s guru for product, Michael is here to share his unbiased opinion.

Andre Barbosa - is a part-time photographer / videographer, part-time film student, and full-time motocross enthusiast. He started as a mechanical engineer, because of his love for all things motorcycle related, but switched to the banking industry after getting his MBA. He currently lives in Irvine, and can be found riding the local SoCal tracks a couple of times a week. Although he regularly raced Districts 6 and 34 when he lived in NYC, currently his friends call him a professional practice rider.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for AGV AX-8 EVO Helmet 5/5/2014 4:40 PM
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Tested: AGV AX-8 EVO Helmet

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Michael Lindsay // photos by Michael Lindsay and Andre Barbosa

Every time I see a new helmet hit the market I think, "How much is your head worth?" I know budget-wise, getting the most expensive helmet isn't always an option. Because of this, we always try to test out as many helmets as possible in varying price ranges. Although the AGV AX-8 EVO has been on the market for a few years, its unique design interested me, and I've been riding in one for a few months.

AGV AX-8 EVO Features:

  • Fully removable and washable inside padding in breathable Dry-Lex® with hygienic treatment. The fixed part of the cheek pads is covered in easily washable soft plastic material.
  • Three outer shell sizes with SSL (Super Super Light) layering made of carbon, Kevlar®, and fiber glass.
  • Adjustable peak system; AGV patented.
  • Double-D retention system.
  • (IVS) Integrated Ventilation System with a wide channel hollowed directly in the shell for an enhanced air-flow into the helmet and an improved aerodynamic penetration.
  • Five front air vents, two lateral air intakes and two rear extractors.
  • DOT and ECE 22.05 Certified.
  • MSRP $369.99 solid colors, $399.99 graphic designs.

First Impressions:

The first thing that stands out about AGV's AX-8 EVO is its flat, open mouthpiece, chin bar design, and its unique visor. To some, this may seem a bit odd, but I'm personally a fan of this helmet's aggressive look. When deciding which size to ride in, I was informed by AGV that their helmets run fairly large, so they recommended I try a size smaller than I'd normally use. In this case, the AX-8 EVO in a small felt more like a medium in most other helmets I use and not in-between sizes. There are maybe two or three helmets on the market I've tried that I've had to do this with.

The fit itself was quite comfortable, with no pressure points or odd ridges along the shell. The cheek area is a little on the tight side, but I typically prefer this, especially when the cheek pads run past your chin (which the AGV does). This helps push your head back into the shell, preventing it from sliding forward in a faceplant scenario. The AX-8 EVO also has a fairly large goggle area, allowing for even the largest frame goggles. In addition, the shell is a bit wide in this area, so an outrigger style goggle frame works quite well with the AGV.

On the Track:

While on the track, the snug fit of the AX-8 EVO keeps it in place, with no shifting or sliding around on your head. As with most carbon fiber helmets from Europe, the lack of weight is quite noticeable. This helmet comes in at a featherweight two-and-a-half pounds, which is quite noticeable after a long day on the bike.

The venting is the next standout. Outside of the large mouthpiece vent, the AX-8 EVO also has two large intakes located under the visor on the front of the shell. The air traveling through these intake vents is able to reach the top of your head without much resistance. This is because the helmet's liner has numerous openings, allowing the air to easily travel through, instead of fighting to get through the material. In addition, these vents can be opened or closed based on the conditions or your personal preference.

Long-Term Durability:

The most abuse I put the AX-8 EVO through consisted of a couple slide-outs on a hard pack track that resembled concrete. These resulted in a few small scuffs in the clear coat, but no major damage to the graphics or the shell itself. Happily, those mistakes also didn't result in any birdies circling my head, giving me more confidence in the safety aspect of the helmet. The only negative I found durability-wise is actually with the visor. Although I never clipped it in a crash, it can be twisted easily. This is because the points on the visor where it attaches to the shell are very thin and flimsy. Although broken visors are common, I can see it as being a bit more common with this one.

The Last Word:

The AX-8 EVO's unique and aggressive styling may not win over everyone, but in my eyes it's a winner. It offers top-of-the-line ventilation and safety, in a lightweight package that still squeaks in at under $400. This is a plus in a market where it's competing against helmets that are coming in at the mid-$500 and up range. The only two knocks I have against it are its flimsy visor, and a slight lack of graphics to suit my tastes. Normally, I would also take the non-standard sizing as a negative. But AGV admits to this and recommends looking towards a size smaller than what you may normally choose.

Vital MX Rating:

Check out AGV.com for more information on the AX-8 EVO or their other helmet lines.

About the Test Rider:

Michael Lindsay is a born-and-raised moto freak and gearhead from the heart of motocross in Southern California. First swinging a leg over a bike at the age of five, he immediately caught the racing bug, spending nearly every weekend behind a gate…and a lot of time on the couch while injured. While swinging back and forth between moto and the off-road scene, giving him a wide range of experience on the bike. Of course, all of this led to one thing: Lindsay loves working on his bikes almost as much as he loves talking about them. When he’s not in the Vital MX forum or writing his latest product review, you can find him out at the track taking dirt naps, snapping some pictures, or drooling over the latest parts for his bike. With an outspoken personality, gearhead background, and as Vital MX’s guru for product, Michael is here to share his unbiased opinion.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Yoshimura RS-4 SS/AL Full System for 2014 YZ250F 4/28/2014 9:37 AM
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Tested: Yoshimura RS-4 SS/AL Full System

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Michael Lindsay // Photos by Michael Lindsay and GuyB

The 2014 YZ250F's biggest improvement over its predecessor is its new and much more powerful engine. It reigns in as the torquiest stock 250F we've ridden. Even with an amazing powerplant, there is always room for improvement, right? The YZ250F is at its best from the low to mid-range, but some may consider it signing off a bit early and falling a little flat on the top end. After seeing the results of a few aftermarket exhausts, we noticed that gains were hard to come by, especially without losing in other areas. This shows that Yamaha did their homework with their stock system, leaving a bit of a head-scratcher on what to try next. Yoshimura recently released their RS-4 system for the new YZ250F, so we decided to check it out.

Yoshimura RS-4 SS/AL Full System Features:

  • Aluminum pentagonal shaped muffler sleeve and aluminum mount bracket.
  • Features a polyresonant duplex chamber, a two-staged stepped baffle, and carbon end cap.
  • Durable high-grade stainless steel tapered header and mid-pipe.
  • Carbon fiber end cap comes with a USFS-approved Spark Arrested insert installed in the muffler.
  • Step-by-step directions and all necessary hardware included for an easy installation.
  • Mounting brackets on the head-pipe allow for the use of the stock Yamaha heat shields.
  • MSRP $725.00

First Impressions:

Thanks to the unique design of the current YZF's wrap-around exhaust, we're left with some different features and layouts from aftermarket exhausts. Yoshimura stuck with the three-piece design of the stock system and even re-uses the stock heat shields. That is a huge plus considering that each side of the head-pipe runs right along your legs, leaving a high chance of burning your boots or pants.

Although Yoshimura's tolerances are tight, the system was fairly easy to assemble. I did run into one difficulty with assembly, but this is more of a design issue with the Yamaha's exhaust layout. There is only enough room around the back of the cylinder to tighten down the head-pipe with an end wrench in small turns. To tighten the head-pipe with a new exhaust gasket and crush it properly, I removed the rear shock to get a straight shot at the nuts with a socket and extension on a ratchet. Yoshimura also includes a large sheet of heat reflective material to apply to the inside of your exhaust-side number plate, to protect it from excessive heat and melting. Once again, this is a nice touch.

On the Track:

The results were instantly noticeable on the top end, helping the already strong YZF pull longer, and keep it from going flat as it pulled into the higher rpm range. Now the bottom-to-mid was a different case. It felt like there was less punch entering the usually snappy mid-range. This smoothness was caused by an increase in bottom end power that carried better into the mid-range. As a result, the engine felt more tame, but it was actually pulling harder and was broader across the whole rpm range.

On rougher and slick conditions this was a huge plus, allowing you to lay on the throttle harder, and have more confidence that it would track and not break loose. There was a downside as well, though. The bike took more clutch input to get it to snap and break loose when needed. Overall though, the RS-4 did it's job by adding a spread of usable power, and not losing any ground to the stock system. As four-strokes continue to develop and the manufactures create a better product out of the box, it's becoming harder add more power with just an exhaust system.

Long-Term Durability:

The RS-4 has held up extremely well on our YZ250F, this is thanks to a few mains reasons. One advantage is that Yamaha's wrap-around head-pipe design keeps the head and mid-pipe fairly well protected from roost damage. The only areas left exposed are where the head pipe runs along the side of the cylinder head, but both of these ares are protected by the stock bolt-on guards. On top of that, we chose the less expensive stainless system for its improved life span. Stainless systems are heavier than their titanium counterparts, but stand a much better chance of survival from the day-to-day abuse of the local track warrior, along with them being a bit easier on your wallet.

The Last Word:

Overall, the RS-4 SS/AL system was a great addition to the 2014 YZ250F, creating more usable power while being easier to ride as well. It's also competitively priced with other big name aluminum/stainless systems, while keeping a top-of-the-line look with the same carbon cap as Yoshimura's titanium models. The only complaint about the RS-4 system is that deceivingly smooth power it creates can take a bit of adjustment to get used to.

Vital MX Rating:

Check out Yoshimura-rd.com for more information, or to see their other available exhausts and other performance products.

About the Test Rider:

Michael Lindsay - is a born-and-raised moto freak and gearhead from the heart of motocross in Southern California. First swinging a leg over a bike at the age of five, he immediately caught the racing bug, spending nearly every weekend behind a gate…and a lot of time on the couch while injured. While swinging back and forth between moto and the off-road scene, giving him a wide range of experience on the bike. Of course, all of this led to one thing: Lindsay loves working on his bikes almost as much as he loves talking about them. When he’s not in the Vital MX forum or writing his latest product review, you can find him out at the track taking dirt naps, snapping some pictures, or drooling over the latest parts for his bike. With an outspoken personality, gearhead background, and as Vital MX’s guru for product, Michael is here to share his unbiased opinion.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Ride Engineering 23.5mm Offset Billet Triple Clamps 4/23/2014 9:27 PM
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Tested: Ride Engineering 23.5mm Offset Triple Clamps - 2014 YZ250F

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by Michael Lindsay and Andre Barbosa // Photos by GuyB

If you saw our First Ride segment on the 2014 YZ250F then you'd know that we were extremely impressed with Yamaha's latest small-bore four-stroke, but our main concern was whether all this excitement in the bike hold up when we got it back to California. Sadly, the dirt out west is not nearly as tacky as what we originally rode on at Monster Mountain in Alabama, so after putting in some time on the YZF in home territory, we wanted to experiment with a few things we would like to improve from a handling standpoint. After setting up the suspension, we turned our attention towards some different offset triple clamps. At first we tried to bring the front end in by trying a set of 20mm offset clamps (stock is 22mm), but this caused the bike to knife entering corners, climb out of ruts, and cause too much over-correcting on the exit. After this experience, we opted to go the other direction and see what results were. This led us to a 23.5mm offset from Ride Engineering.

Ride Engineering Billet Triple Clamps Features:

  • Includes top and lower clamp, pressed in steering stem, and lower bearing.
  • Bar mounts and mounting hardware sold separately.
  • Clamp set is about a quarter of a pound lighter than the stock clamps.
  • Available in silver and black for current models, and blue for YZ, WR, and some older YZF models.
  • MSRP: $479.99 silver clamps, $499.99 anodized clamps, $99.99 bar mount kit.

First Impressions:

Unboxing Ride Engineering's billet machined clamps will instantly remind you of a set of works triple clamps. Their clamps are very straightforward in design, straight cuts, and a clean look with no external ridges. They also feature a heavy amount of machining underneath each clamp to reduce weight, while still leaving enough bracing to ensure plenty of strength and structural integrity. Installation is straightforward like any other set of triple clamps. Remove the forks, controls, etc, and then mount up the new clamps and reassemble. Ride's clamps include a steering stem and lower bearing. This has become more common practice for clamp manufactures, but it's still greatly appreciated and heavily cuts down on installation time.

To go along with the clamps, we chose to use Ride's own bar mounts. These mounts are rubber-mounted but also feature a one-piece top clamp that uses eight bolts in total, rather than the usual two bolts per side. This allows the mounts to keep from twisting due to an impact, but still allow the extra comfort of a rubber-mounted setup.

On the Track:

A key to testing triple clamps is to use them across a wide range of terrains, as some offsets work better in the morning when the track is fresh, and other sets work better when the track has decayed. We made it a point to set off early and stay late, to get the the most accurate results. Initially, some gains were noticeable even early on as the bike had become more stable entering corners, allowing us to push harder and dive deeper into the corners with added trust. Even though we raked the front end out more than stock, this actually improved the handling from mid-corner on as well.

With the standard clamps, we found a bit of front end push and vagueness at the end of longer ruts, especially as conditions deteriorated. The 23.5 offset gave us a more consistent feel throughout the corner. The bike felt less twitchy and easier to keep in line in the center of the corner, while it continued to have a more planted feel towards the exit of the corner and onto the following section. These traits became more noticeable as the day went on and the track got rougher and slicker. These conditions are where less desirable traits from the stock offset became more predominant. Another plus for the 23.5mm offset was the way it handled rear end steering sections. Once the rear end had stepped out, it was more confidence-inspiring to stay in the throttle as the front was easier to countersteer and stayed more consistent, not requiring as much input and course corrections.

Long-Term Durability:

The best part about silver clamps is their ability to holdup to abuse, such as scratches or rock chips compared to a set of anodized clamps, which tend to show off wear. Ride Engineering also uses a clear sticker with their logo that covers the front of the bottom clamp and on the side of the top clamp. This is helpful, as this is where most of the abuse is usually centered. You do have to be careful if you use a pressure washer. Be sure not spray directly at them for long periods, because they can peel off by accident.

The Last Word:

Ride's 23.5mm billet clamps accomplished exactly what we sought out to improve. The clamps brought a more stabilized feel to the front end when entering corners and giving a more constant feel throughout the corners, especially as the track deteriorated. The handling characteristics through the center and exit of turns were better as well, as the bike felt like it needed fewer corrections through the corners. This stood out mostly when under hard acceleration, as it was more consistent when using the power to let the rear end slide out a bit. The stock setup would feel a bit twitchy, going back and fourth between the front end pushing and tucking in this situation. Overall, with the added performance and fair pricing of the clamps, they rate highly in our book. We would definitely recommend considering a set if you're looking to improve the handling on your new YZ250F.

Vital MX Rating:

For more information and other clamp options you can check out Ride-Engineering.com.

About the Test Riders:

Michael Lindsay - is a born-and-raised moto freak and gearhead from the heart of motocross in Southern California. First swinging a leg over a bike at the age of five, he immediately caught the racing bug, spending nearly every weekend behind a gate…and a lot of time on the couch while injured. While swinging back and forth between moto and the off-road scene, giving him a wide range of experience on the bike. Of course, all of this led to one thing: Lindsay loves working on his bikes almost as much as he loves talking about them. When he’s not in the Vital MX forum or writing his latest product review, you can find him out at the track taking dirt naps, snapping some pictures, or drooling over the latest parts for his bike. With an outspoken personality, gearhead background, and as Vital MX’s guru for product, Michael is here to share his unbiased opinion.

Andre Barbosa - is a part-time photographer / videographer, part-time film student, and full-time motocross enthusiast. He started as a mechanical engineer, because of his love for all things motorcycle related, but switched to the banking industry after getting his MBA. He currently lives in Irvine, and can be found riding the local SoCal tracks a couple of times a week. Although he regularly raced Districts 6 and 34 when he lived in NYC, currently his friends call him a professional practice rider.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for FMF Titanium Factory 4.1 RCT Full System/ MegaBomb Header for 2014 YZ450F 4/11/2014 8:20 PM
C138_fmf780

Tested: FMF 4.1 RCT Full Titanium System/ Mega-Bomb Header

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Bryan Wallace/ Photos by Michael Lindsay

Since Vital MX received their 2014 YZ450F, I was lucky enough to grab it for the past few months to pound out some laps, and put in the hours. With all this time on it, I found myself wanting to see if there was anything to be gained in the power department. FMF had an early jump on development with the new YZ450F, thanks to their partnership with JGR. So when I was handed this and told to try it out, I was excited to see if all the testing would shine through.

FMF 4.1 RCT Features:

  • Tuned exhaust with optimized core specifications for each application.
  • Patented core shape lowers sound level while maintaining maximum power output.
  • Quieter than stock.
  • Huge weight savings with Titanium models.
  • New RTS (Rapid Tuning System) makes for easy sound insert changes as well as adding US Forestry Approved Spark Arrestor.
  • RCT exhaust can/mid-pipe can be used with a FMF or stock head-pipe.
  • Mega-Bomb head pipe produces long header like torque but with short header over-rev.
  • Starting Price $899.99 ($1049.99 as tested).
  • Comes with 94db insert.

First Impressions:

Since Yamaha went with their reverse cylinder design, instillation of an exhaust can be... a bit interesting. When I was unboxing the FMF system that thought kept running through my mind, wondering if it would all slide into place like a puzzle, or if I was going to be grabbing a mallet to help it along. FMF has done their homework though when it comes to fitment, as their system goes together even easier than the stock one. With the way Yamaha routes their exhaust, the cans end fairly early and are tucked in behind side plate. Thanks to the blue anodized can and carbon end cap, the FMF stands out a bit more, which is always a plus when you're spending the extra cash for the higher end systems. After all, who wants it to look stock?

On the Track:

An exhaust can look trick and even make great power on a dyno, but on the track is where it really matters. The stock YZ450F is one of the strongest 450s I've ridden, but it isn't the most rideable. It hits very hard low-to-mid, hard enough to wear you out after a few laps when pushing. Then it goes a bit flat up top, causing you to short-shift and fall right back into that hard-hitting power. Instantly I noticed the FMF changed this up a bit by spreading the power out. It upped the torque at an even lower RPM, meaning even though it's making more power, it's actually starting so low it carries even better into the midrange. Up top, there are some gains as well, as it continues to pull a bit farther than stock without going as flat. This spread of power made the bike quite a bit easier to ride when the track was getting wore down and the laps were dragging on.

Long-Term Durability:

Running a Titanium system always leaves a bit of a worry when it comes to durability, but FMF seems to have this area dialed as well. In the last five months, I've put around 25 or so hours on this exhaust and outside of a few scratches on the can (which are due to the cut of the side-plate), it has held up very well. With the exhaust wrapping around right along your legs on both sides, burning your pants can be an issue. FMF has tabs on their head-pipe on each side, so you can re-use the guards off the stock system. It made the system look a bit more stock, which I didn't care for, but I'll take the trade-off, considering my pants haven't been melted thanks to those guards.

The Last Word:

The improvements the FMF system made were a welcomed addition. It seems to be getting harder and harder for exhaust companies to make gains and not lose power at another point. On top of that, being able to make power that is usable and makes the bike easier to ride, which is a huge plus considering how much time I spend on this bike. I know that Titanium systems are always a bit pricey, but FMF's current Yamaha systems are one of their most expensive pipes. For most, a stainless/aluminum would probably be easier on their wallet but with this much head pipe length, the Titanium system does drop a fair amount of weight.

Vital MX Rating:

For more information on FMF's 4.1 RCT Exhaust System, or to check out their other products go to FMFracing.com.

About the Test Rider:

Bryan Wallace was born and raised in New Jersey by a family that owned a motorcycle shop. Growing up chasing the dream of becoming a professional motocross racer has led him around the country racing and landing him in California, where he now maintains tracks for some of the sport's top riders. When he isn't fixing tracks, he is ripping them up, and lining up for any national he can get to.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for X-Trig Triple Clamps 3/14/2014 9:15 PM
C138_xtrigwoot

Tested: X-Trig Triple Clamps

Rating:

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The Bad:

Overall:

Review and Photos by Michael Lindsay

Tested on: 2013 KX450F and 2013 KX250F

Don’t you hate it when you buy the latest and greatest bike and struggle with the handling? Even after setting up the suspension, you may still find yourself wanting to change its characteristics. Now, whether you’re looking for more bite, gaining a little stability, or trying to eliminate the front end tucking, a good route to go is to try some different offset triple clamps. Finding the right offset can be a challenge, as you may not like the change in all situations (based on speed, track material, roughness, etc.). This can also bring the difficulty of finding a set that fits your needs, and has a bar position or height that is to your liking. Well, this is where the X-Trig triple clamps come into play, which are arguably the most adjustable triple clamps on the market. Between the highly adjustable bar positions and clamp offsets, I was curious to see if they would help me find the “perfect” setup I’ve been looking for.



Technical Features:
  • Bars can be mounted in six different positions.
  • X-Clamp designs allows for two different clamp offsets.
  • Handlebars can be mounted on solid Fix-System bar mounts or PHDS (Progressive Handlebar Dampening System) bar mounts, both sets include riser blocks for taller applications.
  • Stiffness of the steering stem is tuned to the needs of each model.
  • Precise clamping with special bolts for a lower torque spec.
  • MSRP ($799.99 with PHDS bar mounts), ($779.99 with Solid bar mounts).

The three different durometers of rubber cushions for the PHDS mounts.

First Impressions:

The X-Trig clamps are a sight to see, with excellent attention to detail. When you unbox them you’ll find a lower clamp with a DLC-coated steering stem, a lower bearing already pressed on (also includes a bearing race), top clamps, quick-adjust nut, and pinch bolts. X-Trig has a unique system that they call the “X-Clamp”, which gives you the ability to change the offset of the clamps. The steering stem is actually offset at it’s base, so if spun around it changes the offset of the clamps by 2mm. The stem is held in by two bolts, which you can loosen, and then spin the stem 180 degrees, and tighten it back down, thus changing the clamp offset. On the Kawasaki KXF models it changes from the stock 23mm offset to 21mm. You have a choice of two different bar mounts to purchase; solid mounts or the PHDS mounts. I chose to go with the PHDS mounts for the extra comfort. They are mounted solidly to the upper clamp, but have rubber cushions on each end of the bar mount (between the top and bottom of the bar clamping area). This allows the bars to more or less “float” vertically and horizontally to reduce feedback to your hands and arms. There are also three different durometers of the rubber cushions; the standard that the system comes with, and both a harder and softer compound. This allows you to further adjust the level of flex and feedback you’re receiving. With this system you get the comfort of a rubber-mounted bar, but the strength and lack of twisting from a solid mount. The mounts are also offset allowing for different bar positions, this combined with the top clamp’s three mounting holes, it allows for a total of six bar positions.

Pictured left: The PHDS mounts at standard height and taller setting with riser blocks.<br> Pictured right: Three different mounting holes on the top triple clamp for the bar mounts.

On the Track:

Even thought the clamps have a large number of bar positions, I quickly found what I wanted, torqued down the clamps, and was ready to set off. I started off on the standard offset so I could get a feel for the PHDS bar mounts. The medium (yellow) compound felt similar to a standard rubber mounted bar mount, the stiffer (red) compound is more rigid as you would expect, but still have more comfort than a solid mount. Finally, the soft (green) compound allows for quite a bit of movement, which was welcome on choppy hardpack, but for larger jumps it flexed a bit too much for my preference, so I ended back at the standard mediums. With that in order, I turned my attention to the offsets. The standard offset is 23mm (which is the same as stock) and the option is 21mm. For some, the KX450F could use some help in the turning department, and on tighter tracks I agree with this. Instead of having to completely switch to a new set of clamps, I put the X-Trig’s ”X-Clamp” to work, and swapped the offset in a few minutes. The 21mm offset aids by bringing the front-end closer to the frame and adding weight to the front end. This brought improved traction up front but can give up some stability on faster/rougher tracks, but with a simple switch I was back to where I started. It was interesting being able to switch back and forth so quickly. It allowed me to find allot of differences on how the bike handled on the same track, same day, same conditions, when normally I wouldn’t spend the time completely switching clamps.

If you remove the lower two bolts and place one in the third whole, it will push the lower stem out. You can then spin it 180 degrees, push it back in and tighten it down, then the offset will be changed.

Long Term Durability:

One thing that always worries me with anodized aftermarket clamps is how long the color will resist fading. I’ve experience this with many clamps over the years and certain colors fade quicker than others. This wasn’t the case with the X-Trigs, which has held its color even after days of sitting out in the sun at the track. To protect my investment I ran a Cycra stadium plate to protect the front of the clamps, so there was a lack of roost chips that also kept the clamps looking fresh. With the bar-mounts being solid with a large base they have resisted any kind of bending or twisting, even after a few larger spills.



The Last Word:

Upfront these clamps look like a bit of an investment, with a higher price tag than the majority of clamps on the market. If you’re just out for a set of clamps to brighten up the bike, then these are probably not up your alley. If you’re looking for the adjustability that normally only factory riders have access to, then these clamps are a perfect fit. For the price, it’s practically two high-quality clamps with a load of adjustments to customize them to the fit you’re looking for. Some riders may not switch the offset as much as I do or just stick with one once they learn the differences. Either way, the simplicity of the change, adjustability, and high quality bar mounts makes these a winner in my book.

If your interested in X-trig's clamps or other products then check out TechnicalTouchUSA.com

Vital MX rating: 4 stars

About the Test Rider:

Michael Lindsay is a born-and-raised moto freak and gearhead from the heart of motocross in Southern California. First swinging a leg over a bike at the age of five, he immediately caught the racing bug, spending nearly every weekend behind a gate…and a lot of time on the couch while injured. While swinging back and forth between moto and the off-road scene, giving him a wide range of experience on the bike. Of course, all of this led to one thing: Lindsay loves working on his bikes almost as much as he loves talking about them. When he’s not in the Vital MX forum or writing his latest product review, you can find him out at the track taking dirt naps, tearing down bikes, working on heavy equipment or maybe even over at Enzo Racing building suspension. With an outspoken personality, gearhead background, and as Vital MX’s guru for product, Michael is here to share his unbiased opinion.


This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Alpinestars Tech 10 Boots Boot 1/23/2014 10:09 AM
C138_astar_tech_10

The Renewed Veteran

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Dirt bikes are hard on our bodies, period. One place in particular is our feet and ankles. Boots have come a long way from their all-leather construction and tons of straps that made them look like they came out of an alternative rock band’s dressing room. Look down at your feet…. I personally have broken everything you can imagine in my left foot and ankle from the tib/fib down, making me the perfect candidate to snivel about boots. In the last few years I have set my feet into about every major boot for some extended time. For 2014, Alpinestars has released a new version of their flagship Tech 10 boot. As someone who never wants to experience the pain of a broken foot again, I took the opportunity to slide my feet into latest high-end offering from the Italian company.

Alpinestars Tech 10 Feature Highlights

A new Dual sliding blade system allows for less break in time and easier movement front to rear.

The updated buckling system uses an all new design with an aluminum bridge and center pin that is much easier to lock and unlock (for past tech 10 users, no more hammers!)

The new and heavily revised Tech 10 comes in size 7-14 and 6 color-ways currently.

MSRP $579.95

First impressions

I was curious to see how the new Tech 10 would feel since it has been a while since I’ve tried on a boot with an inner bootie system. Although most major boot companies have leaned towards a hinged ankle system, Alpinestars has kept the bootie in their Tech 10. Having a shoe size of 8 ½, I tend to lean towards a size 9 boot. However, after slipping on the new boot in a size 9 , I was surprised at the amount of extra room I had around my foot and decided to try a size 8. As it turned out, Vital MX Content Manager, Bayo, had a similar issue, going down one boot size from his regular choice. After strapping in the booty and latching the new buckling system (anyone who has had Tech 10s in the past knows this can be a tough feat, but now is as simple as well… flipping a switch), I walked around the pits for a few minutes. In the past the tech 10s have been extremely stiff initially for me and have taken some notable break in time, but after my walk down the pits they already felt ready to moto.

On the Track

Out on the track is where the real opinion matters. Having not used a bootie system in a long time, I had forgotten how much ankle support they actually offer. The Tech 10 bootie gives a bit of extra confidence when over jumping, landing in a corner, and other situations where that extra bit of support is usable. Because I don’t have the largest of foot sizes, there’s a fine line between riding on my heels, riding on my toes, and my boots not even being on the pegs. I have struggled in the past with keeping traction while on the riding on balls of my feet. Fortunately though, the Tech 10 has a unique rubber pattern on the toe box area that aids in extra grip, which, in this case, was quite noticeable. The toe box area is a bit stiffer than some boots I have used recently, meaning that shifting and braking duties took a little while to get used to with the boot having less feel at the shifter.

Long Term Durability

In the past I haven’t exactly been nice to boots, gripping heavily with my feet and legs usually leaves me with chewed up or soles that fall off in a hurry. The Tech 10 lives up to the quality that Alpinestars is known for. After spending every riding hour in these boots for the last 5 months, I have been quite pleased with how they are holding up. The soles, of course, have signs of foot peg digs, but nothing out of the ordinary. The boots themselves still feel as stiff as they did after their initial break in (that’s a good thing). When spending serious money on boots, you not only want protection but quality and life span and the Tech 10 delivers on both fronts.

Hard Boiled Truth

I was not a huge fan of the previous Tech 10 boots, but I have been immensely impressed with Alpinestars’ latest version of their premier MX footwear. The new slider and buckle systems are huge improvements as are the practically innumerable other revisions. As with any pair of boots, I highly recommend trying a pair on first before dropping the money for this high-dollar item. In a perfect world, I would like for a bit more feel in the toe area under braking and when shifting, but the overall quality has me keeping these my standard choice to throw into my gear bag.

About the Test Rider

Michael Lindsay is a born and raised moto freak and gear head from the heart of motocross in Southern California. Swinging a leg over a bike at five, he immediately caught the racing bug, spending nearly every weekend behind a gate…and a lot of time on the couch while injured. Eventually, Michael swung over into the off-road scene, racing WORCS and GPs. He even had a short-lived freestyle career that included hitting steel ramps at least a dozen times with huge one- and two-handers. Of course, all of this lead to one thing: Lindsay loves working on his bikes almost as much as he loves talking about the them. When he’s not on the Vital MX Moto-Related forum, you can find him out at the track taking dirt naps, tearing down bikes, working on heavy equipment, or maybe even over at enzo racing praying that he put his suspension together properly and doesn’t come apart in mid-air. With an outspoken personality and gear head background, Michael is here to share his unbiased opinion…even if it’s wrong.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Alpinestars Fluid Tech Carbon Knee Brace 12/27/2013 6:23 PM
C138_6500314_black_red_1_3_3_5

Cost Effective Carbon

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A few years back, if you wanted knee braces your options were few and far between outside of getting a prescription for a custom set. However, in recent years quite a few companies have thrown their names into the hat, including Alpinestars. The Italian company was once known only for their boots, but today offers equipment for just about every part of the body. For 2014, Alpinestars’ Fluid Tech Carbon knee brace is a completely redesigned offering from the ground up.

Fluid Tech Carbon Feature Highlights

The braces are sold separately (not as a pair), at $349.95 (so roughly $700 for a set) and they are available in two adjustable sizes: S/M/L or XL/XXL. Each brace comes in its own box with a separate batch of parts. The Fluid Tech Carbons are as the name suggests…made of carbon. Instead of your typical carbon fiber weave, Alpinestars developed a carbon polymer compound that can be injection molded instead, allowing much faster production in a wider and more intricate variety of shapes and curvatures. Just like any item made of carbon, it is light yet very strong and even flexible when needed.

The brace is fairly standard in design, consisting of upper and lower segments held together by hinges on each side, a semi-floating patella cup, and four straps (two on top, two on bottom with each combining into an X shape). Alpinestars only offers two sizes in this brace but has featured them with a fitment system to allow the Fluid Tech Carbon to accommodate users of various sizes. Outside of strap adjustment, you have the option of changing the width on the inside of the brace. The condyle pads are essentially two cups that press on each side of your knee with a variety of spacers that you can be used to tighten up the grip on your knees. Away from this fitment system, though, there is no way to change sizing with the top and lower frames of the brace which is a bit of a drag considering the brace only comes in two sizes.

Initial Impressions

The first major thing I noticed when throwing the braces on was the strap system. I am a big fan of the X pattern that Alpinestars utilized as it evened out the tension on the back of my leg and didn’t bite the backs of my calves or knees. The straps themselves are low profile so they don’t catch on the inside on your riding pants when sliding them on over the braces. With the X-design there are actually two different closure systems. At the top and bottom, the closures are a more standard hook and loop strap, but the middle two use a pivoting quick release clip that allow the straps to move with my leg as I bend my knee instead of binding up.

On the Track

The Fluid Tech Carbon falls somewhere in the middle of the road in terms of complexity and function. It isn’t the most restrictive brace but also is not overly simple and flexible. When bending my knees, I can feel a bit of resistance as there is an elastic band running from the knee cup to top and bottom portions of the brace giving the brace an elastic feel. This means it’s resting place is in a straight position, so there is a slight feeling of the brace constantly wanting to extend.

Since everyone has different knee issues, the Fluid Tech Carbon comes with small U-shaped stops of different thicknesses that you can place in the hinges to keepthe brace from reaching full extension when standing. The thicker the stop, the sooner the hinge locks out.

Things That Could Be Improved

Note: The first set of braces I tested turned out to be a pre-production run with some less than desirable characteristics, namely flimsy frame padding (which caused binding of the material when bending your knee) and thin condyle pads for the inner knee. Alpinestars was made aware of the issue and also wanted to ensure that the set I was testing would be the same design that would reach the consumer. The addressed the flaws and we were provided with another updated set of Fluid Tech Carbons with thicker condyle pad options and far more sturdy frame padding.

After swapping to the updated set of Fluid Tech Carbons, the material no longer moved and binded in between the brace and the knee cup. With the thicker condyle pad options there was more pressure relieved from my knees than I initially experienced. Between the standard and thicker pads there is allot more options and combinations (including doubling up pads) to help get the feel you’re looking for.

Long Term Durability

I have found that the more metal that is used knee brace construction, the quicker the brace seems to deteriorate. Metal rivets on hinges and pivots are often far stronger than the plastic or composite pieces to which they are attached (and the padding around them) and therefore tend to cause damage to all of that surrounding material overtime. This is only a minor issue with the Alpinestars Fluid Tech Carbons.

These braces have very few metallic fittings. Most of the points of contact for the straps and hinges are carbon, plastic, or cloth. All these are soft and mostly non-abrasive creating very little friction or wear. The only place that does have a significant amount of metal is the pivoting plastic/aluminum base for the condyle pad on the inner and outer knee. In terms of wear for the aluminum, I has not been any concern so far in testing, nor do I think it will become so.

However, on the same point, the plastic cup is far more flimsy than I think it should be, and seems to be the source for my initial complaints with pressure on my inner knee. If Alpinestars were to make the inner knee cup more rigid, the additional condyle padding would become less of a necessity for comfort, and more of an option for fitment.

Hard Boiled Truth

Initially I wasn’t digging the braces after some extended use, but the updates that Alpinestars has made were a big step in the right direction for the brace and eliminated my earlier squabbles with our initial test braces. The unique strap system really stands out for me as the fit and adjustability was outstanding without the straps “binding” as your move around on the bike. I’m still a bit unsure of the uses of two sizes. Alpinestars has done a great job of averaging out the sizes to work across a wide range of riders but there will still be a few people (myself included) that the frame won’t entirely work for. Just like helmets and many other products, certain things fit certain people better than others, so if you’re in the market for some new braces I would recommend checking out a pair of the Fluid Tech Carbons.

-Michael Lindsay

About the Test Rider

Michael Lindsay is a born and raised moto freak and gear head from the heart of motocross in Southern California. Swinging a leg over a bike at five, he immediately caught the racing bug, spending nearly every weekend behind a gate…and a lot of time on the couch while injured. Eventually, Michael swung over into the off-road scene, racing WORCS and GPs. He even had a short-lived freestyle career that included hitting steel ramps at least a dozen times with huge one- and two-handers. Of course, all of this lead to one thing: Lindsay loves working on his bikes almost as much as he loves talking about the them. When he’s not on the Vital MX Moto-Related forum, you can find him out at the track taking dirt naps, tearing down bikes, working on heavy equipment, or maybe even over at enzo racing praying that he put his suspension together properly and doesn’t come apart in mid-air. With an outspoken personality and gear head background, Michael is here to share his unbiased opinion…even if it’s wrong.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Rocket Exhaust Carbon Fiber Full System 11/11/2013 5:02 PM
C138_carbon_44

Affordable Power

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One of the first things most of us buy for our trusted machines is an exhaust system. Unfortunately, as bike prices have gone up so too have the cost of pipes. With this in mind, Rocket Exhaust is trying for more power but at a more affordable price. Here is the latest offering from the Southern California-based shop, tested on a 2013 KX450F.

Rocket offers slip-on and full exhaust systems. For full systems, the head and mid pipe are made of stainless steel, but you have an option of an aluminum or carbon-fiber exhaust can. Options are where Rocket really shines: you can order aluminum models as bare or black anodized and all versions come with carbon end caps. For those looking for every bit of an advantage you can order the exhaust cans in custom lengths from 12 to 17 inches, head pipes with resonance chambers, different core designs, and spark arrestors if you so desire. Our test model was a standard length pipe with a resonance chamber, and a full carbon-fiber muffler.

Fitment is fairly straightforward. The Rocket Exhaust utilizes the stock hardware and doesn’t use pipe springs, making installation a breeze. So, it’s as simple as putting on the head pipe a bit loose, sliding on the mid-pipe followed by the exhaust can, and bolting everything down. The system lined up quite easily, without any binding or pulling to line up the bolt holes. The exhaust itself is fairly sharp looking with the carbon-fiber muffler, end cap, clean welds, and excellent fit (what can I say I’m a sucker for a factory-looking resonance chamber).

After getting everything snugged down, I kicked the bike to life and was rewarded with a nice throaty, crisp sound on the way to the track. The exhaust keeps the Kawasaki KX450F’s stock broad and strong feel but with an extra kick in the pants throughout the power band. The 2013 and 2014 Kawasaki 450 is already very strong off the bottom end. Rocket’s system starts off feeling similar to stock, then immediately starts to build even better across the power band, allowing the bike to remain very manageable off the bottom. This continues to build into an even stronger midrange and top end that does not seem to stop pulling until it touches the rev limiter. Initially I tried the system on a few more wide-open tracks, but even after getting it on some tighter layouts the power was still very usable. In the process it also quiets down the louder stock Kawasaki exhaust without sacrificing power.

Another feature with the Rocket is the ease of maintenance. The packing can be changed while the system is still mounted to your machine (fresh packing always equals more power). The end cap has three Allen bolts that need to be removed, then another four on the end of the can. Once everything is unbolted, you can grab the muffler tip and pull open the end of the muffler, take out the old packing and slide a new batch in. Pretty simple. Just bolt everything back up and you’re ready for more berm blasting.

After putting in a few weeks with the Rocket exhaust, I came away very impressed with the fit, finish, power delivery, and the amount of options. However, I did find two small knocks against the new system.

Not being the tallest in stature I typically run a lowered subframe (it’s actually notched so that I can reset it to stock if needed). Some exhausts I have tried will work with my lowered setting and some will not. The Rocket fell in the list of exhausts that do not fit in the lowered setting so I had to set the subframe back to stock height (reminder: this is just something I ran into on the KX450F and have not tried this with any other machine). Also for the overall size of the muffler, I thought it should be a bit quieter, but Rocket does offer different inserts for sound and even a FIM/AMA sound limit option for those that are sound conscious or dealing with sound testing.

Slip-ons start at $324.95 for the KX450F

Full systems start at $524.95 for the KX450F

(Price as tested $849.95, carbon-fiber exhaust and added resonance chamber)

If you would like more information on Rocket Exhaust’s exhaust systems or their motor work you can visit them atwww.rocketexhaust.comor reach them at 951-471-3500.

-Michael Lindsay

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Ride Engineering Billet Front Brake Caliper 9/20/2013 6:07 PM
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Stopping On a Dime

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Braking power and usability are things I’m always searching for on my bikes, and on today’s 450s, more stopping power is a welcomed attribute, especially if it’s usable and manageable stopping power. Outside of rotors and brakes pads, the general public doesn’t have much in the way of options. The last few years of walking through the pits at a national, I’ve looked at the factory calipers on certain team bikes and wondered how much of a difference they make. Well, Ride Engineering new Billet Front Brake Caliper is for those looking to maximize the stopping power on today’s fast bikes that are only getting faster.

A few months ago, I got the opportunity to try out Ride Engineering’s 2013 Honda CRF450R, and after spending the day on it one of the things I was most impressed with was their brake caliper unit. After talking to Adrian Ciomo from Ride Engineering, I had one to try out. I have used a few different brands of rotors and brake pads, but I’m always looking for any advantage in the braking department.

Machined from billet aluminum, the Billet Front Brake Caliper is offered in anodized black or machined silver (for that nice factory look). The Ride Engineering unit has larger pistons than the stock Nissin caliper for more power, is lighter, and has machined openings for better venting to keep the temperature down under heavy abuse. Despite the large openings, the caliper actually stiffer than the stock unit, allowing less flex for a more solid and consistent feel.

Installation is fairly straightforward. I threw in some new pads, greased the sliding pins, bolted up the brake line and started the patience practice that is bleeding brakes. If you plan on using the caliper with a stock sized rotor, you will need a different bracket from Ride Engineering, but if you already have an oversized rotor kit, the majority of the brackets in those kits will work instead.

Once everything was bolted up and ready, I rolled around the pits and broke in the new pads before going out for some laps. The first thing I noticed was that there was bit more travel in the lever, but with a more progressive brake feel. The stock unit had a strong lever feel but almost no modulation; the brake would go from complete disengagement to locking up with little movement between. The Ride caliper was strong but progressive throughout the lever pull, starting light while building stronger without an unexpected grabbing point.

VitalMX test rider, Mike Lindsay has now used the Ride Engineering Billet Front Brake Caliper on three different machines and has come away impressed. Here he airs out the Ride Eng. 2013 Honda CRF450R in his first ride with the brake system.

The gradual power increase is a bonus for me, with moderate feedback under small grabs and usable power when the track is hard packed. On fast straights, I could ease into heavy braking without the brake suddenly grabbing and tucking the front end. Landing directly in a corner, there is plenty of power to allow me to hit my line with ease (If you’re a fan of a stiff immediate feel you can try out a braided steel brake line). I even spent time swapping the Billet Front Brake Caliper back and forth between my KX250F and KX450F, with both oversized and stock sized rotors and found a gain on each setup. Even with the stock sized rotor, I found the caliper offered better progression and more power.

The Ride Eng.’s new caliper will work on any modern Honda CR/CRF, Suzuki RM-Z, Kawasaki KX-F, and WR Yamaha (to use on a YZ/YZF model you must have an 11mm front master cylinder of one of the other models listed).

At $374.95, the Ride Engineering brake caliper is about the same price as the highest end oversized rotor kits. In return it can give the more powerful action of an oversize rotor and with more manageable feel and a marginal amount more work for installation. After swapping back and forth over and over, I’m convinced the caliper by itself is better than an oversized rotor kit on its own. If you are looking for the ultimate braking advantage though, the best result would be to combine the caliper with anoversized rotor to allow more control over your setup (and wouldn’t you know it, Ride Engineering sells 270mm Oversized Rotor Kits with Galfer rotors for all of the Japanese OEM machines as well).

The only downside with the caliper is price and price alone, and some people might see a rotor kit as less work and less cost. However, if you’re looking for that Supercross, stop-on-a-dime power the Ride Engineering Billet Front Brake Caliper and Oversized Rotor Kit are the ticket. This is an excellent product and I'm giving it a 4.5 star rating with the only marks against it being price and that it is not yet available for every bike ( it will not work on newer Yamaha's or any KTM's).

For more information on the Billet Front Brake Caliper and other Ride Engineering products, visit www.ride-engineering.com.

- Michael Lindsay

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Alpinestars Bionic Neck Support Tech Carbon 9/18/2013 11:48 PM
C138_bns_tech_carbon

Low Profile

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I have been wearing a neck brace since the big push and David Bailey video came out a few years back, but recently I just wasn’t as happy with the brace and helmet combo I had been using. Since I hadn’t tried the Alpinestars neck brace in a few years, I jumped at the chance to try out their new Bionic Neck Support (BNS) Tech Carbon.

So what do you receive for $349.95? The BNS Tech Carbon comes with a pair of X-straps, a package of frame adapters, and a package of different size pads for the rear, center, and front of the brace.

A major difference between the preview version and the new BNS is that there are now only two sizes for sale, XS/M and L/XL. To compensate for the reduced size-specific options, Alpinestars has added the parts needed to change the sizes (adapters on each side of the brace can lengthen or shorten the diameter of the brace and different sized pads for the rear, front, and center help with fine adjusments). This means that a customer can get XS, Small, and Medium sized braces or a Large and XL braces for the price of one. The different adapters are attached by two bolts on the back portion of the brace and two more bolts under the front portion. Once the bolts are out you can slide the adapters out and slip in a different size. For further adjustment, the hook-and-loop backed pads come in a variety of different thicknesses and can be used for fine-tuning. This was a big hit for me considering my qualm with the previous brace was the lack of adjustability, and after trying a few pad sizes and playing with the adapters I found my fit.

Another nice improvement is the new closure system, which now uses a pull cord to open the front of the of the BNS and automatically locks shut just when closing the brace…no more forgetting to latch it shut! There is also a magnet by the latch that helps keep everything in place when closing the brace. Overall I think the new closure system is a much better and simpler system than the old boot buckle-style latch on the previous BNS. The new brace still utilizes the same low profile as the older model, but a redesigned frame, including more adjustability with the frame adapters and pads. The new back plate is also a bit wider that before, helping to spread the load of an impact even more.

After playing around with some of the features, I threw on the X-straps (two elastic straps you can wear under or over your jersey that hook onto two taps at the top of the BNS to keep it secure while riding come) and went out to spin some laps. Right off the bat I noticed the low profile of the brace and the lightweight (the BNS Tech Carbon weighs in at 726 grams or 1.6 pounds). Instead of a traditional carbon fiber weave, this new brace is made from long-fiber carbon polymer. Developed by Alpinestars, this new type of carbon fiber is actually injection molded rather than hand-laid. While the new process is not quite as rigid as traditional carbon fiber, it is just as lightweight and is far easier to mass produce (and can also be formed into a wider variety of shapes), all of which is passed down to the customer in the form of significant price reduction. The new BNS Tech Carbon is currently $50 less than the older Carbon BNS (you may recall that the original was pricier still).

With the low profile of the Alpinestars brace, even the ridges and low chin bars of newer style helmets have ample amount of room to move around. No matter the neck brace, you should be able to have the bottom of the helmet contact the top of the brace when tilting your head in any direction, but ideally not to an extent that would limit your movement during normal riding. The only time I noticed my helmets make contact with the brace while riding was when leaning over the bars and it this honestly just gave me a confident feeling that it would stop the motion of my neck in a crash. I also was able to get a snug fit that still allowed enough room to move while riding (shoulder muscles push out in some motions so there needs to be a bit of room in the brace) and without any unwanted or uncomfortable pressure points.

After a long day of riding, you can simply spin the rear strut to remove it, making the brace much more compact to find a home in your gear bag. However, the new back piece tends to spin and come off a bit easier than I would prefer. On more than one occasion, I found myself looking for the rear strut after it fell off when I picked the brace up. Nevertheless, once you have the BNS on and it’s pushed up against your back, it cannot spin and pop off.

The only major dig I have against the Alpinestars brace is the fitment with certain chest protectors. The long front section and the two ridges on the back piece make for a hard fit with most chest protectors, even with some of the neck brace friendly ones (partially because many of these were designed specifically for the Leatt Brace). Alpinestars does have their own chest protector that will work with it, the A8 vest, but I also found a few others that would work well, such as the Troy Lee Designs Bodyguard 5900. Still, the options are limited.

Overall, this is an upgrade from Alpinestars’ previous brace, offering much more adjustability and a more refined fit than the last carbon model. I am a big fan of the fit, the new latch system, lightweight, and low profile, not to mention the lower price in conjunction with the fact that you’re getting 2-3 braces (in sizing) for the price of one. The only downside for me was the back piece spinning a bit too easily, the chest protector fit and that the carbon model only comes in red. If you want one in white Alpinestars offers their less expensive BNS Pro in white, but is also a bit heavier due to the fiberglass and polymer construction.

Considering I rarely use a chest protector, I’m giving the Alpinestars Bionic Neck Support Tech Carbon a rating of 4 ½ stars. If I was a regular chest protector user the rating would be a bit lower, because of the fact you would most likely be buying a new chest protector to work with the brace.

For more information on Alpinestars and the BNS Tech Carbon, visit www.alpinestars.com.

- Michael Lindsay

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Works Connection Digital Shock Pump 9/5/2013 3:39 PM
C138_full_26_350g_1_896949

Gauging the Air Age

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If you have been keeping up with the Jones’s you have either seen or tried a set of “air forks” that come stock on the 2013 and 2014 Honda CRF450R and Kawasaki KX450F bikes. One of the functions of the air forks is the ability to change the air pressure, similar to changing the spring rate but instead of taking forks to a specialist, the PSI can be changed trackside in a matter of minutes. To do so you will need an air gauge and pump, but a regular tire gauge and air pump don’t quite cut it. The average pump and gauge will bleed out air every time you try to test the PSI or fill the fork through the Schrader valve. If you have a bike equipped with air forks a good gauge/pump is a requirement for proper use and adjustment. Works Connection has seen the need for a proper gauge and now has a digital air pump to offer.

So what do you get? It’s an all in one pump and gauge with a digital display at the top of the pump with a swivel hose and screw on connector on the backside. The digital display will read in PSI, Bar, and KG measurements, but for most needs you will just stick with the PSI setting which will read from 1 PSI up to 100 PSI in .5 increments for a more accurate adjustment and 1 PSI increments from 100 to 300 PSI. The fact that there is a number to view can be more reassuring than a dial style gauge,

To make your adjustments, thread the swivel hose onto the Schrader valve (the swivel spins quite fluidly, although the last turn or two to snug it up sometimes you have to spin the whole pump as it tightens). To go up in pressure it’s as simple as a few pumps or to lower the pressure there is a small button on the face of the pump that bleeds out slowly for a controlled adjustment. When you’re done just unscrew the digital pump, limber up, and start shredding! Thanks to the design and very accurate digital read out, this style of pump doesn’t bleed out or lose pressure as you unscrew it.

The super smooth, ball jointed-swivel Schrader valved connector makes attaching the pump a breeze.

Other features include an auto shut off after a minute (it actually does not have an off button…batteries are replaceable), and if you’re into pedal power, this pump can play double duty on your MTB forks and shocks since it will work on anything with a Schrader valve. On top of that, the swivel hose that comes standard on the Works Connection Digital Shock Pump is usually an item sold separately on most other pumps…bonus!

The digital display is plenty big enough, but in certain light can be difficult to read.

Within a few uses, checking my fork pressure became as second nature as setting tire pressure, just something you automatically do before you swing a leg over the bike. After using this pump day in and day out, checking my forks over and over (and comparing against my buddies’ gauges), the accuracy seems to be spot on. The only major complaint I have is that the screen doesn’t have a backlight making it hard to see in darker conditions while the digital readout itself is a little dim and can also be difficult to see in very bright conditions as well. All in all, the Works Connection Digital Shock Pump does what it needs to do and has earned a permanent place in my toolbox.

-Mike Lindsay

This product has 1 review.