ML512's Product Reviews

Added a product review for Works Connection Tach/Hour Meter with Resettable Maintenance Timer 3/15/2016 8:21 PM
C138_hourmeterproduct

Tested: Works Connection Tach/Hour Meter with Resettable Maintenance Timer

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

While we usually spend most of our time talking about what bike upgrades we want to spend our hard-earned dollars on, general maintenance is always in the back of the mind, nagging away. While we all attempt to keep a mental note of how many hours we've placed on our beloved machines, it's pretty hard to keep a accurate count. I think many are surprised by how many hours they're actually putting on their bikes, which makes a quality hour meter a fairly helpful part to add to any bike.

Works Connection Tach/Hour Meter with Resettable Maintenance Timer Features:

  • Record max RPM every ride.
  • Usable on fuel-injected/carbureted two-strokes or four-strokes, ranging from one to eight cylinders.
  • Can be mounted with adhesive pad or with optional bolt-on bracket.
  • Five different display modes.
  • Resettable maintenance timer.
  • MSRP: $44.95.

First Impressions

While Works Connection has had a fairly popular hour meter for quite a few years now, they recently updated it by adding a few new features. The most notable added feature is the resettable maintenance timer, which goes along with the other four viewing modes available. These modes are max RPM (from your last ride), current RPM (if the bike is running), total hours, maintenance hours, and a clock setting.

Spending some time actually reading the instructions goes a long way with this little meter, as all the functions are controlled by one button. How long you hold it, and how may times you press it, make a large difference on what will happen. There are multiple settings for EFI, carbed, and multi-cylinder bikes to get accurate time counting, along with adjusting the clock, and resetting the maintenance meter. Being able to reset the maintenance hour meter is definitely the most handy function that this model has. This allows the standard hour function to record endlessly and keep track of the total combined hours. While the maintenance meter can be reset after every oil change and service, which is as simple as holding down the white button for three seconds.

In the Shop/At the Track

Installation isn't too difficult, but does require a bit of parts removal. With most models, you'll have to remove the gas tank and some other hardware to be able work at the top of the engine. The wire from the hour meter needs to be wrapped around the spark plug/coil five times and then secured. To do this, simply pull the spark plug cap out of the valve cover, wrap the wire around it, secure the wire, and slide the plug back into place. Once this is done, you can route the rest of the wire and meter along the frame to its final destination, before reinstalling the tank. While Works Connection does sell a mounting kit, which allows you to mount the meter to the single bolt at the front of the gas tank, I tend not to use them.

I personally prefer using the 3M adhesive pad that's provided, so I can mount it to the side of the frame, in a tucked-away position. Also, I remove my fuel tanks often during service, so it just adds extra labor to remove the meter, then the mount, then the tank.

Long-Term Durability

In terms of reliability, I've had many Works Connection hour meters over the years. In that time, the only one that failed gave up the ghost at over 140 recorded hours. With the newer batch, I currently have two in place. One has just a couple of hours on it, while the other just cracked 15, and I've yet to have any problems.

The Last Word

An hour meter is a cheap and quick install to ensure that you know how many hours are truly on your bike. Works Connection takes it a step further by giving you the ability to keep further track of maintenance intervals, along with the ability to use the meter on a host of applications; from dirt to street. While there are some wireless options on the market, they also don't host the amount of features that a wired unit such as this one does. For me, personally, I find some of the added info in the Works Connection version quite handy and would definitely recommend picking one up.

Vital MX Rating: 4 Stars - Very Good

For more information on all the settings and options, check out WorksConnection.com.

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.

Review and Photos by Michael Lindsay

This product has no reviews yet.

Added a product review for 2016 KTM 250SX-F 3/11/2016 3:30 PM
C138_s1200_250_sx_f_90grad_2

Tested: 2016 KTM 250 SX-F

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Curious how KTM's 2016 250 SX-F has faired during our testing? Then look no further, we have five different test riders to give you their thoughts on KTM's newest 250F. Following in the footsteps of the 2015 Factory Edition, the bike has an all new frame, swingarm, engine, and bodywork when compared to the standard 2015 model. All these upgrades equal out to a much lower overall weight and plenty of new found power. The issue? The 2016 250 SX-F still holds onto WP's 4CS forks, which haven't garnished the greatest of reviews over the past few seasons. Were the other changes enough to overcome this holdout? Check out the opinions from our 2016 250F Shootout to find out.

Name: Robby Bell / Age: 30
Height: 6' 0" / Weight: 165 lbs.
Riding Experience: Professional Motocross and Off-Road

The KTM was really brought down for one main reason, the forks, as I really struggled to get them to feel as I wanted. They were the harshest in the class and were really noticeable when leaning into a corner while still hitting some braking chop. This harshness and rigidity hurt the front end tracking, which pushed me past the berm or rut I was aiming for a few times. I'm not sure it was all the fork, or perhaps the frame, or even up around the triple clamps, as it just felt little too rigid and didn't flex the way I'd like.

I was also surprised at how touchy the front brake was, as I really had to be conscious about how much pressure I used at the lever to keep from locking up the front brake. Aside from those two complaints, the bike is still very good. The motor is very strong, sharing the characteristics of its Husqvarna sister, and the shock/rear end of the bike worked well for me. I also want to make a quick note of the same issue and solution with the shift pedal as the Husqvarna, switching to the updated shifter making the shifting a bit easier and more comfortable. I'm sure, putting in more effort, I could get the front end to work the way I would like, which would totally change my opinion of the bike. But in this type of scenario, with limited testing time and no aftermarket modifications, I have to put the KTM in sixth place on my list of the 2016 250Fs.

Name: Shelby Paget / Age: 29
Height: 6'0" / Weight: 150 lbs.
Experience: Intermediate

I actually had to think on it for a few days, before finally deciding that the KTM would be my runner-up in this shootout. In my opinion, the KTM and the Yamaha were both in another league of their own in stock trim when compared to the other bikes in the lineup. There were a few things that I actually liked on the KTM much more than the Yamaha. First, the KTM is slim, light, and extremely nimble. From the killer brakes, to the improved chassis and suspension over the 2015, the KTM is top-notch package for anyone looking to head straight to the track from the dealership. The e-start should definitely be adopted by all the brands and this is one of my favorite features of the KTM and Husky. Lastly, I feel like KTM designed the chassis this year to provide more traction to the ground than any other brand for 2016. Whenever I was on the gas, it translated to instant and predictable forward motion on the KTM. This was personally my favorite attribute about the KTM.

On the downside, the front end on the KTM was a bit more dodgy compared to the YZF for me. It felt pretty consistent on the small braking bumps but had a slight blow-through feel when hitting braking bumps at high speeds or under heavy braking. If the KTM had a more refined fork and the low-end power delivery feel of the YZF, it would have been a clear winner for me.

KTM has come leaps and bounds over the last few years and it shows in their final product for 2016. The bike has great power, loads of traction, and fairly good suspension. With a few minor refinements to their WP 4CS fork this bike will be gunning for the top spot without a doubt!

Name: Derrick Caskey / Age: 42
Height: 6' 2" / Weight: 195 lbs.
Riding Experience: Vet Expert

First off, the electric start is worth its weight in gold, and now onto the rest of the bike. Honestly, the KTM is a very good bike and well-balanced; the motor was very solid, not as strong off the bottom as the Yamaha, but pulled strong from the mid-to-top. This made the KTM the bike that was the most fun to ride aggressively. It also had a very light feel and cornered very well, with fantastic front end traction. The suspension both front and rear was soft for my weight (as all bikes in the class are), and since they are spring forks, I would need heavier springs. I immediately went in two clicks stiffer on the compression in the forks, and then followed up with two more clicks after my first few laps. This was better, but when I would adjust them stiffer than that, the 4CS forks seemed to get harsher and had much less comfort.

The KTM is nice (like the Husqvarna) because you can make on track adjustments to the compression and rebound without a screwdriver. I switched back and forth with ignition maps as well, but overall, I preferred the aggressive one. Both the front and rear brakes were very good, and allowed plenty of time to take inside lines and more confidence to push deep into the corners. For me, a hydraulic clutch on a 250F was a blessing, because as a heavier rider I had to abuse all the clutches. With this, the hydraulic system kept the same lever feel the entire time. The one complaint I had with the KTM (and Husqvarna) was definitely the shift lever. It seems to be very far from the footpegs (which is amazing, since I wear a size 13 boot) and would have trouble missing shifts.

Name: Michael Lindsay / Age: 23
Height: 5' 9" / Weight: 150 lbs.
Experience: Expert

The KTM narrowly falls behind its white brethren on my list because of a couple small aspects. While it nearly mirrors my comments in the engine department, I felt as if the KTM has a little better roll-on power, which could be due to the airbox. I also didn't like the Brembo hydraulic clutch as much as the Husky's Magura unit. The Brembo clutch is a bit better than years past, but still feels a bit too "on-off" for me and doesn't have as much modulation as the Husqvarna unit. While I was still impressed with the overall nimbleness and balance of the chassis, I did notice I wasn't as comfortable in higher-speed sections on the KTM. Notably on a few downhill sections, where I felt like the KTM squirmed a bit underneath me when entering the larger braking bumps at the bottom of the hills. In these situations, I felt that the Husqvarna was more planted and tracked straighter.

I do have to say, WP's shocks have really come a long ways and it shows on these newest models. I guess you can say their extended GP experience comes into play on hardpacked acceleration chop, as the WP shocks really seemed to have their rebound settings dialed. The KTM has just the right amount of recovery, allowing the rear end to settle between the chop and keep the power to the ground. However, I felt like the shock was a tad bit soft overall when I started to push the bike a bit harder. The 4CS forks on the other hand, still haven't won me over. While they have improved, they still have the same fault. Not enough hold up under braking and with abrupt obstacles, and if you try to stiffen them to handle these situations they end up becoming a bit harsh. Sadly, this can give up the excellent front end traction this new chassis provides.

Overall, just a couple small things changed my overall comfort with the KTM and gave the Husqvarna the nod in my final standings. On the plus side for the KTM though is the Dunlop MX32 tires, which I much prefer over the MX52 as an all-around tire. Also, can we just get electric start on all these bikes? These things are starting to spoil me.

Name: Ryan Washburn / Age: 17
Height: 5' 7" / Weight: 135 lbs.
Experience: Novice

The KTM was honestly an easy choice for me to pick as my winner, as we literally just set the sag and I rode it without feeling the need for any further changes. The 250 SX-F was extremely responsive and nimble entering corners, while the excellent brakes allowed to me to really push with confidence in each section. While the power right off the bottom wasn't the best in the class, it had the most outstanding mid-range through top-end pull. Even though it wasn't the strongest off the bottom, the rear settled just right in the corners and really put what power it had to the ground. Personally, I'd never swung a leg over a KTM 250 SX-F, but I'd really like this to be my next bike.

As mentioned above, these opinions were taken from our 2016 250 Shootout. If you're interested in how it faired against the competition and how the other models performed, click here: 2016 Vital MX 250 Shootout.

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Added a product review for MotoConcepts MotoStand 2/2/2016 9:25 PM
C138_motostand

Tested: MotoConcepts MotoStand

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Whether it's aluminum, plastic, steel, or maybe it's just a piece of wood; either way we all have something that we call a bike stand. Over the years I've had a bit of everything, from using an old milk crate, to a beater hand-me-down aluminum stand, and even some lift stands for working on the bike in the shop. However, the latest one I've been hauling around is a lightweight plastic stand from MotoConcepts, the MotoStand.

MotoStand Features:

  • Stackable with other MotoStands.
  • Full customizable graphics kits available.
  • Can carry a five-gallon fuel can when flipped upside down.
  • Injection-molded plastic construction.
  • Currently available in eight colors.
  • MSRP: $69.95.

First Impressions

While there are a couple of house-brand stands that are a tad bit cheaper than the MotoStand, it's fairly inexpensive compared to the other name brands on the market. Overall, it's a simple design, and some of the brighter color options really pop. While I had a standard stand to beat up on for a few months, we also had a few more made with custom graphics for our 250F Shootout. For the most part, I just gave them very basic info on what we were looking for, and they created some designs that I was pretty stoked on. There are quite a few options to customize them; whether you want sponsor logos, your name and number, contrasting colors, or maybe even just a cool design. Any of this will just cost you $29.95.

In the Shop/At the Track

I feel like there are two ways to judge a stand; how it works out at the track and how it works in the shop. Personally, I favored the MotoStand for track use for a few reasons. First off, the OEM color options and available custom graphics really popped. It's light and easy to throw in your van or truck, plus a gas can fits snugly inside of it, which helps conserve space. The plastic construction holds up better than the paint or coatings on metal stands as they slide around in the back of your truck, or just get hammered at the track. It can even double as a decent tire-changing stand at the track if flipped upside-down, but it's definitely a little on the short side to make that a regular occurrence. Once back home, the MotoStand easily washes off and looks brand new, time after time. My one complaint at the track actually has a bit to do with the four-sided base. This can make it a bit more challenging if the area you're using isn't totally level. A two-legged stand can straddle over edges or bumps, and be moved to work around a bit. But a four-sided stand will teeter a bit if the ground isn't very level. On the other hand, it's very stable due to the four-sided construction when on fairly level ground. I never had an "whoops" moment where the stand toppled when throwing the bike onto it.

At home in the shop, I found it a bit less favorable for a few reasons. One, even though it has a hole in the center of the stand to drain the oil, it's hard to find an oil drain pan that'll fit inside of the stand due to the encased bottom design. Second, the lack of a tool tray that can be placed in the bottom can be considered a drawback, if you use them as much as I do. Also, although the MotoStands are stackable, they sit almost directly on top of each other. While most other stackable stands sink farther into each other to take up less room. Once again, the customizable looks of the stand can help your shop area look a bit more professional, especially if you have more than one bike that needs a stand.

Long-Term Durability

After a few months of use and abuse on one of the MotoStands, I haven't found any complaints in terms of the durability. The four-sided bottom and strong overall build keeps the plastic stand from bowing and bending under force, which means I've yet to see any cracks or discoloration in the stand. Also, the rubber top has a ton of grip, and is well attached to the top of the stand...unlike the majority of rubber tops that are riveted to the top of aluminum stands.

I was very happy with the durability of the stand when it came to soaking it with chain lubes, degreasers, fuel, and even blasting it at point-blank range with a pressure washer for weeks on end. The stand still has great color and doesn't show the affects from any of this abuse.

The Last Word

Honestly, I like the clean design and look of the MotoStand, especially with a good set of graphics onboard. I think they look great at the track, their light weight is awesome, and they're easy to clean...along with being fairly affordable. On the other hand, I don't think that it's the most versatile stand when it comes to the mechanic that may miss a few things; such as a tool tray or easier access for an oil drain pan. If you're not worried about those things, then I would definitely recommend one. For me personally, though, the rating slips a bit due to the shortcomings that caught my attention.

Vital MX Rating: 3 1/2 Stars - Very Good

Check out MotoConcepts.com to see all the options for the MotoStand, along with their other moto 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.

Review and Photos by Michael Lindsay

This product has no reviews yet.

Added a product review for FMF Stainless/Aluminum 4.1 RCT System with Megabomb Header for 2016 KX450F 1/22/2016 8:50 AM
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Tested: FMF Stainless/Aluminum 4.1 RCT with Megabomb Header for 2016 KX450F

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

As some readers may have noticed, I've mentioned spending quite a bit of time on the Kawasaki KX450Fs over the past few years, and they hold a special place in my heart. So to say the least, I was quite excited for the 2016 model to come out, due to its large revamp. Overall, I think almost every test rider will agree that it's better in about every aspect over its predecessor. For me though, I do have one area I missed a little from the '15 and prior model, the low-end snap. While the '16 model has plenty of torque, it doesn't have quite the same instant snap of the throttle that some of the earlier models had. While the rest of the engine is awesome, I wanted to wake it up just a bit, if possible. In this case, I decided to slap FMF's more affordable Stainless Steel/Aluminum full system, the 4.1 RCT with a Megabomb head-pipe to attempt the job.

FMF Stainless/Aluminum Factory 4.1 RCT System with Megabomb Header Features:

  • RTS (Rapid Tuning System) makes for easy sound insert changes as well as adding a US Forestry Approved spark arrestor.
  • Quieter than stock.
  • Exhaust can and mid-pipe can be used with FMF or stock head pipe.
  • MSRP $699.99 with Carbon Fiber end-cap.

First Impressions

As always, everything from FMF comes well-packaged. The exhaust can is shipped in a smaller box, while the Megabomb and mid-pipe are in sealed bags; along with a final bag that has any optional sound inserts (if they aren't already in the can), along with any additional hardware and some FMF stickers. Finally, it's all packaged with plenty of cushioning material in the box for shipping.

In this case, I chose to go with FMF's stainless/aluminum version of the 4.1 RCT to save some cash, but opted for the carbon fiber tip for the factory look. All-in-all, the pricing came out to $666.99, with $25 of that going towards the optional carbon fiber cap.

Installation

One of my favorite things about FMF's exhaust systems is the fit during installation. Once I took off the two-piece stock system, FMF's three-piece system slipped right together. The Megabomb header simply bolts onto to the stock cylinder head studs with two nuts and an exhaust flange, with the mid-pipe slipping on next and bolting to the subframe. FMF's mid-pipes don't have a solid thread inside the mid-pipe's mount section, but instead use a floating threaded nut on a small flange. This allows a bit of wiggle room, which is great considering I tend to lower the KXF subframes around 8mm. This means I don't have any issues with fitment, even though the mounting location on the subframe has moved down and slightly forward.

Beyond that, the 4.1 RCT muffler slips on last, with a solid aluminum bracket used to bolt it to the end of the subframe. The exhaust bracket is also slotted a bit, which once again makes fitment a breeze with my slightly lowered subframe. Between the mid-pipe and exhaust can, there's quite a bit of room for fitment if your subframe is tweaked as well. FMF provides a shorter bolt to replace the long shouldered unit that holds the exhaust can in place (due to the stock can being rubber-mounted), but I tend to still grab a longer bolt out of my stash. This is so I can run a locknut on the backside, to ensure I don't run into any problems down the road.

On the Track

As I stated early on, I was trying to gain back some of the initial snap that I felt was missing from the current KX450F. As I rolled onto the track the first time, I was quite hopeful as the bike felt more responsive when I blipped the throttle a few times.

After a few laps of warming up and I started coming out of the corners more aggressively, I felt exactly what I had been looking for. With the FMF system, the bike didn't feel too aggressive, but just seemed to make the power come on a bit stronger at a bit earlier point in the RPM range. This made using the clutch unnecessary when popping over obstacles out of corners, as the bike had the pull to do it by itself.

Once the bike got past the improved bottom-end power, the continued pull into and through the mid-range felt fairly similar to stock, as the Kawasaki already packs plenty of punch there. At about 8500rpm, the KX450F has a small drop in power for about 1000rpm, before pulling again and then finally dropping off (check out our dyno charts from the 2016 450 Shootout for a clear look at this). With the FMF system however, the KX450F feels like it continues to pull through this small lapse, before having a much more gradual sign-off. Between the extra bottom-end grunt and snap, along with the added power up top, the FMF system really helps the KX450F just feel a bit more complete and well-rounded.

Long­-Term Durability

I have no complaints regarding the durability of the exhaust in any way, and it still fits great after a few months, despite taking if on-and-off the bike a little over a dozen times. My one and only complaint lies with the header, which sticks out just far enough to burn the top corner of my boots from time-to-time. This also depends on which boots I wear, as some are constructed with more durable rubber or leather compounds in that area, but some have plastic which will melt from short-terms of contact (such as my Fox Instincts).

The Last Word

Once again, FMF's exhaust system has accomplished what I had hoped for, if not a little more. It produced gains on both ends of the power range, while being lighter and just flat out better-looking. If you're looking to shed even more weight, FMF's titanium systems are only $150-$200 more in this application. As for the price of this stainless system, it falls into the mid-to-higher range of where the top exhaust companies are. My only real complaint about the actual product itself was the slight burning issue I had with the head-pipe. However, FMF now sells a carbon fiber head-pipe heat shield, like some of the race teams have used, but it's an additional $99.

All-in-all, I love the fit and finish, the power, and the fact that the exhaust/mid-pipe can also be used as a slip-on system with your stock head-pipe if the FMF one gets damaged. However, I would like to see the stainless/aluminum system be a tad bit cheaper, as it doesn't take too much more to just pull the trigger on the full titanium system. Or maybe I should just give props to FMF for keeping their top-of-the-line systems a bit under their competition.

Vital MX Rating: 4 Stars - Excellent

Check out FMFracing.com to see all the complete exhaust systems, or slip-ons for your motorcycle.

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.

Review and Photos by Michael Lindsay

This product has no reviews yet.

Added a product review for 2016 KTM 450SX-F 12/31/2015 10:13 AM
C138_s1600_450_sx_f_90grad_2

Tested: 2016 KTM 450SX-F

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

The past few years, KTM has definitely been the manufacture on the move, and 2016 is no exception as they released another all-new 450. The KTM has become more main-stream in its feel, but still carries a few unique items with its WP suspension, electric starter, and chromoly frame. Do these and KTM's other unique features make it a winner or just another bike in the pack? Check out some opinions from five of our test riders to find out.

Dyno services provided by Race Tech.

Name:Robby Bell/ Age:30
Height:6' 0"/ Weight:165 lbs.
Riding Experience: Professional Motocross and Off-Road

What brings the KTM to the top, was how quickly I was able to feel comfortable and confident pushing the bike at pace. The handling felt balanced under braking and acceleration, and for me it had the best overall cornering characteristics. Though the front end maybe didn't settle quite as well as the RM-Z, it was wasn't far off and was very predictable when pushing the front end into and through the ruts. What put it over the top was that, unlike with the RM-Z, I could steer with the rear of the bike just as well as the front. I felt confident that the rear wheel would stay where I wanted it to when throwing the back end around a bowl corner or flat turn. Though some people seem to fear the WP 4CS forks, I felt they worked pretty well at Pala. Admittedly, it isn't the roughest track, but it was fairly rutted and soft while we were riding. There was a little bit of mid-stroke harshness initially, but stiffening up the fork compression a couple clicks helped keep the front end up in the stroke and created a smoother action.

The 450SX-F had great power all the way through the powerband, especially through the low-end and mid-range. It continued to make decent power into the upper RPMs, but I was happier riding it in the low-to-mid portion of the powerband. The motor didn't feel quite as powerful as the YZF, but had plenty of pull, especially for Pala, which features a lot of larger obstacles. For my height and riding style, the KTM seating compartment was very comfortable. I didn't feel like I was sitting too tall on top of the bike, and likewise it didn't feel like I was sitting too low, or down in the seat. The brakes felt really good and controllable, while the hydraulic clutch always offered a smooth pull. As a whole, the bike felt light and flickable in the air, and was also very easy to switch lines while on the ground.

For me, the KTM would need the fewest additions or changes to be race ready from track to track. For Pala, with near perfect dirt and minor sharp chop, it was tough to find too many faults with the bike. I could see adjusting the suspension further on a rougher track to dial it in, but for a stock bike it felt really good to me.

Name:Derrick Caskey /Age: 42
Height: 6' 2" /Weight: 195 lbs.
Riding Experience: Vet Expert

First off, the electric start is very cool and just spoils you. Beyond that, the bike in massively better in all aspects when compared to last year’s model I tested. The biggest surprise was how light the bike felt, especially after coming off of the Suzuki, and I just felt very comfortable on it right away. That's a different sensation for me when compared to KTMs of the past.

The front forks and shock were a little soft for my weight. Since the KTM is on spring forks, I'd definitely say I'd need heavier springs to keep riding this bike. I immediately stiffened the compression two clicks on the forks, which was better, but I couldn't go much stiffer without creating a harshness in the forks. As for making adjustments on the 4CS forks, it's really nice to be able to use the quick adjusting knobs beside the track, instead of having to ride back to the van and grab a screwdriver.

On the engine, I as very impressed with responsiveness and strong bottom-end, which felt like it pulled all the way through the powerband. I switched back and forth with the stock and aggressive mapping, and found I preferred the aggressive map, as it pulled better off the bottom and into the mid-range RPM.

Front and rear, the KTM has awesome brakes, which really gave me some extra confidence to push deep into the inside lines around the track. Overall, the new KTM cornered well and I was really able to get the bike into any line, grab a handful of throttle, and stay in the corner without extra effort of input on my end. Additionally, I haven't been a fan of hydraulic clutches in the past, but I had no issues with it on the KTM this year. For me to keep the KTM, I'd at least want some internal work done on the forks and replace the bar bend to something a bit straighter than what is currently offered.

Name:Chris See /Age: 26
Height: 5' 11" /Weight: 170 lbs.
Riding Experience: 25+ Pro

For me, the KTM made the most gains for the 2016 model year. By far the biggest change was just how comfortable the bike is in the rider cockpit area. The other positive I immediately noticed on the KTM, are the Brembo brakes, hydraulic clutch, and of course the electric start. Once on the track, I was very impressed with the KTM's ability to turn just about anywhere. The front end feels so planted, and has enough traction, that I felt like I could put the bike wherever I wanted.

As for the engine, I chose to stick with the stock map as I liked the smoother bottom-end power, which increased into more of a noticeable hit as it reached through the RPMs. If I was looking for more hit out of the corners, I just reached for the hydraulic clutch and gave it a little tap, knowing it wouldn't fade throughout the moto.

The KTM still has one major lacking point, which are the forks. For me, it still feels like the 4CS forks fall through the first part of the stroke, then get into the mid-stroke and become extremely harsh. Stiffening the forks would help the initial hold-up, but create an even harsher feeling in certain situations. As for the rear shock, I didn't have any real issues to complain about, as it seemed like this issue was reserved for the front end. Overall, the newest WP shock actually works quite well and was quite predictable. If KTM could just solve the harshness in the forks, this bike could easily take the number one spot.

Name:Michael Lindsay /Age: 23
Height: 5' 9" /Weight: 150 lbs.
Experience: Expert

Not having the all-new KTM at the top of my list doesn't represent how far this bike has come. Not to say last year's model was any slouch, but everything about this bike is so much better. The most immediate standouts were the light weight and new chassis. It's really impressive how small the chassis is, but also how stable it is. The bike feels planted, like a much heavier bike with a long chassis, but it has the snappy response of the Honda when being thrown into a deep rut or off the face of a jump. As most riders have been saying the past few model years, the feel of the controls and the rider's cockpit has reached a much more normal feel when comparing it to its Japanese competition. At this point, the days of adapting to a KTM are nearly gone. As for the engine, the KTM did top our dyno results, but it didn't feel as arm-wrenching as the Yamaha. Overall, the KTM powerplant can be a bit deceiving, with moderate roll-on power that builds into an aggressive mid-range and decent top-end, which drops off a bit, but pulls well until it revs out. Running the aggressive mapping creates a more responsive roll-on hit, which carries better into the mid-range. That makes it easier to pop obstacles right out of corners, but also creating a more linear feel which was easier for me to ride for multiple laps.

KTM's most questionable components of the past, their suspension, have also been largely improved the past few years. The newest WP shock has impressed me the most, as the bike does what I love; squats down and stays down under heavy acceleration. But it also has just enough movement that there's comfort when sliding across chatter chop on the exits of corners. With this, the KTM has the planted front and light feel to carve into the corners, and the rear-end feel to slide around on the exits if needed. Now the downside with the suspension still lies a bit with the 4CS forks. Overall, this setup is a bit softer and more comfortable than even the FE models I rode earlier in the year, which worked well for my weight. But up front, I needed a bit more hold up under heavy braking to keep the bike's balance. To do this, I stiffened the fork five clicks, which helped the overall action and hold up. I still felt like I could use a bit more, but if I went farther than this I noticed a bit of initial harshness on small bumps entering corners, especially at low speeds.

A other few small things that pulled the KTM down a little were the pegs, which I don't seem to have consistent traction on and the thin seat which doesn't offer much give when seat bouncing. I do want to give KTM some applause for their tire selection, however, if a brand is going use Dunlops, please follow KTM's lead and use the MX32, not the MX52 for everyday riding.

Name:Ricky Diaz /Age: 25
Height: 5' 9" /Weight: 145 lbs.
Riding Experience: Expert

The KTM was my first bike of the day, when the track was very soft and smooth, so I made sure to take it for another spin after things got rougher. I noticed in the early session the bike felt a bit underpowered, which surprised me considering how much I've heard about the KTM creating some big power numbers. Once I rode it later in the day, I was still a bit surprised. Yes, the bike was fairly quick, but didn't feel as responsive or powerful as the YZF. I enjoyed riding the SX-F in both of the power settings, as both had their positives so I didn't really choose one over the other.

In regards to the suspension, I didn't enjoy the feel of the forks. As I went stiffer with the forks, they held up better so I could try to push into corners but it still didn't offer enough confidence. The front end felt a bit harsh in certain sections, which would make it hard to get into the corners. The KTM felt quite planted but the fork issues made it a bit hard to maximize its cornering capabilities. As for the shock, it felt great and I made minimal adjustments to it. I felt confident in it at low and high speeds, along with accelerating out of corners due to its consistency.

As mentioned above, these opinions were taken from our 2016 450 Shootout. If you're interested in how it faired against the competition and how the other models performed, click here: 2016 Vital MX 450 Shootout.


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Added a product review for 2016 Kawasaki KX450F 12/26/2015 8:52 AM
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Tested: 2016 Kawasaki KX450F

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Curious how the 2016 Kawasaki KX450F's upgrades have been received? Then look no further, we have five different test riders to give you their thoughts on this heavily upgraded 450. The list of revisions are fairly long; include a new frame, swingarm, engine, and more! The KX450F has been known for its great power and stable chassis, but have the changes finally made the Kawasaki the nimble and easy-to-turn bike riders have been waiting for? Find out below.

Dyno services provided by Race Tech.

Name: Robby Bell / Age: 30
Height: 6' 0" / Weight: 165 lbs.
Riding Experience: Professional Motocross and Off-Road

Kawasaki did quite an overhaul to their 450 for 2016, reducing the weight and getting the handling to feel more responsive on track. I definitely noticed the weight savings right away, as the bike felt especially light in the front end. So much so, that the initial sag setting of 107 didn't put enough weight on the forks and hurt the cornering ability. Once we bumped up the sag to 105, the bike responded and tracked much better into corners, though it also brought about a bit of harshness in the front forks. I went in two clicks on the fork compression to try to compensate by getting the forks up and off the harsh spot in the valving. That helped some, but didn't totally solve the issue. For me, the KX's cornering characteristics are similar to the KTM, but lacked the same ease of cornering, as the front and rear end don't settle quite as well as the orange bike.

The power felt similar to the KTM as well, as it liked to be ridden in the mid-range. But it had good low-end power as well, again though not as much as the YZ, but enough to be enjoyable and exciting. One thing I noticed was that the KX had the shortest distance between the seat and footpegs of all the bikes. I have pretty long legs and I was right on the border of being slightly cramped, but this is easily fixed with the bike's adjustable footpeg location. One more minor squabble I had, was that the KX grips aren't very pleasant but that's also a pretty easy fix. Overall, the KX450F is fun and confidence-inspiring, and though it doesn't necessarily stand out in any measurable area, it's very solid across the board. I feel some suspension work would dial the bike in pretty quickly and put it right up there in anyone's rankings.

Name: Derrick Caskey / Age: 42
Height: 6' 2" / Weight: 195 lbs.
Riding Experience: Vet Expert

To put it bluntly, the 2016 Kawasaki was awesome. I think with a little work to dial in the forks (which I know can be done), the bike is near perfect. The new chassis was very comfortable in regards to the seat and bar combination, and is easy to tailor fit to my size. This lighter and slimmer 2016 model was easier to flick around in the air, but was also improved in the corners. I found myself confidently whipping the bike out further and further on jumps, feeling that it could be easily brought back to land safely. With the limited time, I went Kawasaki's recommended air pressures for my weight at 180 psi inner, 203 psi on the balance, and 18 psi on the outer. At this setting, the forks worked okay, but I would have needed a few more days of riding to find a air pressure combination to completely make me comfortable. The shock worked very well, even with being under-sprung for my size, as I just increased the compression a couple clicks and it helped compensate enough to give me confidence in the rear end all day.

As for the engine, the standard coupler puts out great overall power, with okay hit off the bottom, into a fairly healthy mid-range and top-end. However, I preferred the aggressive coupler as it increased the bottom-end, but I felt like it may have given up a little on top. Outside of this, I really don't have any complaints. Both the front and rear brakes felt great, and nothing really popped out at me as a large negative. It was very hard to not pick the Kawasaki as my top bike for 2016, because I feel that in its stock form with a few more days of testing with the bike, it could have been the best for me.

Name: Ricky Diaz / Age: 25
Height: 5' 9" / Weight: 145 lbs.
Riding Experience: Expert

My favorite aspect about this year's KXF is definitely the weight reduction. It really feels like Kawasaki shaved a lot of weight off of this bike for 2016, and you can feel it immediately while on the track. This weight loss, combined with the thinner frame, really added a lot of confidence for me that I haven't had with the past KXF models. For me, it was by far the easiest and most fun to corner.

The Kawasaki crew started me off with the sag at 105mm, and I never felt the need to change it at any point during the day. I felt like I could make the bike go anywhere I wanted it to, especially as the track got rougher. If for some reason I needed to make a last-second decision and cut down quickly in a turn, the bike did so perfectly and the front tracked right into the new line. I was also fairly happy with the power that this bike had as well, especially after I switched the the more aggressive coupler to get more low-end response out of the bike. Although it's not as powerful as the Yamaha, it felt very competitive compared to the rest of the field.

Name: Chris See / Age: 26
Height: 5' 11" / Weight: 170 lbs.
Riding Experience: 25+ Pro

Right off the bat, you can really tell that Kawasaki has made some huge strides this year. I can't say enough about how much thinner and lighter this bike feels when you swing a leg over it. At the same time, the green monster was still extremely stable at speed and creates a huge amount of confidence the faster you go. The Kawasaki has always been a front-end high bike...well, at least since I started riding them...and that is still the case here. I think it's both a good and bad thing for this bike; good in the sense of when it's rough, the bike is stable and that's what you want in that situation. But it can be bad in the sense that the bike feels squatted in the rear and high in front in corners, causing it to stand up a bit when on the throttle. This is part of what makes the Kawasaki more of a rear steering bike, which just doesn't suit my style. For me, this was the biggest negative and brought the bike down a bit in my final decision.

Other than that, I feel that this bike also had some of the best air forks I've ridden, as I made very few adjustments and was much happier with the overall action when compared to past years. Overall, this Kawasaki has seen the biggest improvement in my eyes, but still needs a little work to be my top choice.

Name: Michael Lindsay / Age: 23
Height: 5' 9" / Weight: 150 lbs.
Experience: Expert

For 2016, Kawasaki definitely improved the all-around handling characteristics. The new, lighter, and more nimble chassis kept the rear steering and stable feel that I enjoyed from the previous model. But it also added confidence in the front end that they haven't had before. Also, while air forks have been somewhat of a struggle for some riders over the past few years, I was quite happy with the improvements Kawasaki made with the Showa TAC fork this year. The combination of air pressures is similar to a setting I was running last year, so my changes were held to the clickers on the valving leg. With Pala having quite large obstacles, I stiffened up the compression a few clicks to keep the fork a bit higher in the stroke when tackling the track. At my lighter weight, the actual action of the fork was quite consistent, and really added to the improved front end traction. Compared to the past few KX450Fs, I found myself happier with a bit less sag (105mm vs 107mm), but I did open up the high-speed compression a bit to help it squat a bit deeper under acceleration.

Overall, my only complaint is I'm not 100% sold on the engine changes. I quite liked the more snappy feel of the previous KX engine, while the new bike has more of slower to build torque feel. Switching to the white (aggressive) coupler helps bring back a bit of this snap while keeping a bit of the new broad roll-on feel, which works well when the track gets rougher. However, I could do with just a bit less engine braking on this bike.

All-in-all, I chose the Kawasaki after I rode it as my first bike and last bike of the day. When the track was at its worst at both ends, which raised the lap times (plus my injured feet didn't help in my speed aspect at all). But through this, I found that the KX gave me confidence in all areas at any time of the day, making it the bike I would like in my garage.

As mentioned above, these opinions were taken from our 2016 450 Shootout. If you're interested in how it faired against the competition and how the other models performed, click here: 2016 Vital MX 450 Shootout.

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Added a product review for 2016 Honda CRF450R 12/23/2015 10:12 AM
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Tested: 2016 Honda CRF450R

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Need a good comparison on the 2016 Honda CRF450? Well, we have five test riders to give their thoughts on the lightweight, nimble red machine. For 2016, the CRF450R went through a number of changes to suspension and chassis, but nothing major on the engine side. These thoughts, taken from our 2016 450 Shootout, should give you an idea if Honda's nimble approach is enough to overlook the mellow power that so many argue about.

Dyno services provided by Race Tech.

Name: Michael Lindsay / Age: 23
Height: 5' 9" / Weight: 150 lbs.
Experience: Expert

It's funny to think that the Honda has had a small, lightweight, 450 platform since 2009 and just a few of the other brands are finally getting down to that weight and size in 2016. Even with this time though, it seems like Honda has still struggled year-to-year with chassis setup and other areas of the bike.

For 2016, the changes are very minor but in typical Honda fashion, their smaller changes seem to be more effective than the large ones. The longer forks, different link, and new shock settings have definitely been a positive and helped stabilize the bike on more open tracks. From there I still made a few changes to the bike, such as opening the high-speed compression on the shock and slowing down the rebound. This was done mostly to get the bike to squat and settle the rear end.

Even though I'm a fairly smaller rider, I actually find the rider compartment to be a bit cramped on the Honda. For me, the bars are too tall and the seat seems to get me trapped in this pocket at the front of the bike, making me feel like I'm sitting right on top of the front tire. To move around a bit better, I like the rear lower so the seat flattens out a bit and then roll the bars back so it's a bit easier to get to the rear of the bike.

As for the engine, it's just as you'd expect from the Honda; mellow and easy to ride, but somewhat frustrating in certain situations. When the track is soft or smooth, I just feel like I'm always wanting a bit more power everywhere in the powerband. But the rougher it gets, the more acceptable the power becomes as the bike becomes easy to use and throw around, since it won't catch you off guard when making last-minute decisions in rough sections. There are times where more power in rough conditions is needed, such as squaring up a rough corner before a large jump, thus giving yourself a bit less room to accelerate. However, when it comes right down to it, this bike is ridiculously easy to throw around and when you have it set up right, you feel like Superman since you can ride it as close to its limits, when compared to the other models.

Name: Robby Bell / Age: 30
Height: 6' 0" / Weight: 165 lbs.
Riding Experience: Professional Motocross and Off-Road

The Honda is an interesting bike to me. I feel there's a lot of potential in the bike, but in stock trim there were a few things I struggled with, starting with the power. It makes decent power, especially in the advanced power setting, but it's a little uninspiring to ride and lacks a bit of the fun factor of the first three bikes on my list. Where it lacks in terms of power, for me, is still in the low-end pull. I personally like to have a motor that has more of a hit, which I can then control with the throttle and/or clutch.

Similar to last year's model, I still felt the forks were harsh and twitchy. And ever since 2009, I've felt like the front wheel is right underneath me, giving the bike a short wheelbase feel. We made some adjustments to the forks, which helped, but I feel it would take some internal suspension work and possibly triple clamps, to get a front end feel I'd be more confident in. Having said that, the Honda front end did settle pretty well into ruts for me...not quite the pure cornering ability of the Suzuki...but it was easy to corner. My favorite part about the Honda was the confidence I had in the rear end of the bike. I felt like I could put the rear end wherever I wanted, and I wasn't nervous if I came into a bump or sharp edge a little off-balance or sideways. For me, the rear of the bike would predictably soak it up and stay underneath me throughout the track.

One thing I did notice about the seating compartment was that it pushed me up towards the tank when I was sitting and it required a bit of effort to stay in a more neutral position on the seat. I also noticed how thin the stock grips were. They didn't offer much cushion between my thumbs and the handlebar, which made for some sore calluses on the inside of my thumbs after a few laps, but that's an easy problem to solve. I did like the small steering stabilizer behind the front number plate, as I felt it helped keep the front end from being as twitchy as it otherwise might have been.

Name: Derrick Caskey / Age: 42
Height: 6' 2" / Weight: 195 lbs.
Riding Experience: Vet Expert

I'm a diehard Honda guy, which means it kills me to rank it against the other 450s. That being said, I personally know the Honda has drawbacks in stock form, but does offer great potential. Due to my many seat hours on the Honda, it instantly feels the most comfortable to me and the seat-to-bar positioning, and fits my style the best. The bike still feels very light and nimble, although many competitors are getting really close.

I know Honda isn’t broadcasting any motor updates, but I felt that the 2016 was slightly better in power over the 2015, or at least more responsive. As for the mapping, I was leaning towards the stock setting, as the aggressive map felt too lean. The overall lack of power in stock form is still Honda's weakest link. That said, the Honda begins to shine a bit more as the day goes on and the track breaks down. Once the track dries out and hardens up a bit, you see what Honda is pushing for with his bike. But when it's early in the day and the track is soft and loamy, you can get a bit frustrated.

As for the suspension, I went with their recommendations on the fork and really didn't make much in the way in changes from there, as well as with the shock. As I'm very comfortable with the bike, the balance felt fine but the shock definitely feels under-sprung for my weight. Overall, the Honda offers a light and nimble package with an easy to ride feel. The engine however does have some great potential, but needs an influx of cash to get it where the other brands have started.

Name: Chris See / Age: 26
Height: 5' 11" / Weight: 170 lbs.
Riding Experience: 25+ Pro

Honda obviously doesn't win the top pick because of its raw power, but it can because of its overall package. It starts at the rider cockpit; when I sit on the Honda I just feel comfortable because of how thin it is and the feeling of the bar bend. With that said, every great thing has its faults and in this case, the Honda's front end can be less than desirable. For me, the biggest complaint would be that when traveling through the initial part of the stroke, the fork ramps up to compensate and creates a severe mid-stroke harshness. I do think this also comes from the rear of the bike not being very supportive, with a stiff enough rear spring for my style. I bumped the fork up to 38 PSI with two clicks stiffer on compression to help hold it up in the stroke. As for the shock, I slowed the high-speed down three clicks and set sag at 106mm, trying to get the rear to settle a bit more under acceleration. These changes seemed to be what worked best for me.

At the end of the day, this test was based on what bike is best off the showroom floor and that was the Honda for me. This is because it can corner on a dime, and can be placed anywhere I wanted due to its light, nimble chassis. The power may not be as arm ripping as its competitors. but it's linear and useable no matter what track conditions you place it in. For me, this made it hard not to pick the Honda as my day-to-day bike.

Name: Ricky Diaz / Age: 25
Height: 5' 9" / Weight: 145 lbs.
Riding Experience: Expert

Since I personally own a 2015 CRF450R, I tried to save this bike until later in the day to give it a fair comparison. The reason I own one, is the fact that I'm a big fan of the slim and flickable feel of the Honda. As a smaller rider, the cockpit gives me a lot of confidence in how I can control and give input to the bike when riding.

As you may guess, the power of the Honda definitely didn't blow me away when compared to all the other bikes, but it definitely comes into its own as the day goes on. As the conditions break down, the engine really suits the chassis, allowing me to ride closer to the limits without putting myself into a bad situation. This makes the Honda the easiest bike to lay down consistent laps. Honda does offer three different engine maps, in which I chose the third and most aggressive setting, as it makes the bike feel the most responsive.

As for the suspension, the stock forks are a bit twitchy and deflective at high speeds, but the shock feels very planted at speed.

As mentioned above, these opinions were taken from our 2016 450 Shootout. If you're interested in how it faired against the competition and how the other models performed, click here: 2016 Vital MX 450 Shootout.

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Added a product review for 2016 Suzuki RM-Z450 12/23/2015 8:31 AM
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Tested: 2016 Suzuki RM-Z450

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Looking for a few opinions on the 2016 Suzuki RM-Z450? Then you've come to the right place. Below you'll find five different test rider's opinions from this year's 450 Shootout on the bike that has been labeled "the best turning 450" for many years. In 2016, the RM-Z450 didn't gain many improvements, but built upon a host of changes from the 2015 model. So does this Suzuki live up to its reputation? Scroll down and find out what everyone thought after spending the day with the RM-Z.

Dyno services provided by Race Tech.

Name: Michael Lindsay/ Age:23
Height: 5' 9"/ Weight:150 lbs.
Experience: Expert

While this bike looks the same as the 2008 model, it's quite a bit different under that nine-year-old plastic. One of the most major changes was actually a new frame introduced in 2015, which has really improved the overall balance and feel that the bike gives back to the rider. As usual, the Suzuki can make most of us feel like heroes in the corners. The bike gives off great confidence as the front end just feels so planted at any lean angle when entering corners. A large downside, which became more obvious this year than ever, is the weight and feel of the bike. With three of its competitors going through some major weight reduction in the past year, it really leaves Suzuki feeling like the tank in this class.

The RM-Z engine is fairly broad, and is actually fairly competitive with the other bikes in its class on a dyno, but just feels a bit lacking once underway. The response seems to be there, just not the grunt to match it at times.

As for the suspension, Suzuki gained Showa's SFF TAC fork in 2015, but didn't update it in 2016. The fork can be a bit of a struggle, as I feel a heavy combination of air pressure and the bike's balance needs to be changed to improve the action of the fork. In my case, I'm pushing the forks out farther in the clamps and lowering the sag to about 107mm to get some weight off the front. Then it doesn't dive so hard under braking and allows me to carve the bike through corners without it trying to climb out of the inside.

Suzuki's stock bars are also steadily falling further down my dislike list. For me, the low, unusually-swept bars, along with the tall feeling rear really doesn't give me enough confidence to move around on the bike as I'd like. Overall, Suzuki has made some great changes over the years but the bike needs to now shed some weight, and either improve the fork action or maybe tweak the balance of the bike some more. Also, a larger brake rotor would be nice, as the Suzuki is the only 450 model left with a rotor under 260mm, at 240mm.

Name: Robby Bell / Age: 30
Height: 6' 0" / Weight: 165 lbs.
Riding Experience: Professional Motocross and Off-Road

The RM-Z is a very good bike, and for anyone who wants to feel like a hero on a turn track, it's the obvious choice. But it does lack in a few areas compared to the three bikes I picked ahead of it. First, I wanted a little more power out of the bike down low, especially with the stock ignition coupler, where I felt I had to clutch the bike on occasion to get up into the meat of the power. Once we changed to the more aggressive coupler, the low-end power improved but I still felt it was a little tame, not as fun and inspiring as the blue, green, or orange bike.

Another squabble I had was the effort it took to steer with the rear of the bike, as I didn't feel it was as easy to throw the back end around a corner. Although, the Suzuki settles and tracks through ruts with the front end very well. Personally, I like to corner more with the rear of a bike, or at least have a very settled, squatted rear end. This is probably why I noticed the cornering characteristics a little more than somebody else might. In that same vein, the rear of the bike felt a little less stable than the other bikes. Though it never really kicked me, it gave the sensation that it may lift or step out over braking bumps or sharp chop. We worked to get the shock to settle down, making adjustments to get it to squat more, which definitely helped as the track became rougher later in the day. Another feature of the bike that took a little getting used to for me, which is again probably more a personal preference, is that I felt like I was sitting more on top of the bike compared to the other brands, giving a slight stink-bug feel to the bike. Overall, I did enjoy the RM-Z, but I feel that it needs a little more work than the other bikes to really dial it in and be a competitor.

Name: Derrick Caskey / Age: 42
Height: 6' 2" / Weight: 195 lbs.
Riding Experience: Vet Expert

The Suzuki was the biggest shock to me this year. Due to the other bikes going on diets, I really noticed how heavy this bike feels in comparison. Starting with the engine, it was a little too smooth for my liking with the stock coupler. Because of this, I really preferred the lean coupler as it made the bottom-end much more aggressive with a little compromise on top. Considering I tend to short shift quite a bit, this worked well for me to get me into the next gear faster and feel like I had more punch when I needed it.

In cornering, I still feel like the Suzuki has this nailed withe a front end that feels every planted on corner entry. I ran 174 psi on the inner chamber, 188 on the bottom, with the outer set at zero. On the rear, I ran the sag at 105mm, high-speed compression a quarter turn out, and the rebound one click slower. This setup worked well to get me through the day, and settle the rear of the bike down, but the forks still didn't feel quite right and need some further attention to get my full confidence in them.

As with some of the bikes, the bars were not not great with my style and caused a bit of a struggle at times. While the Suzuki is a solid performer and does a good job in most of the categories, it's time for it to go on a diet and maybe get a bit more performance from the engine.

Name: Ricky Diaz / Age: 25
Height: 5' 9" / Weight: 145 lbs.
Riding Experience: Expert

I'd never actually ridden a Suzuki RM-Z450 before, but I can understand why people are saying the bike feels outdated. The Suzuki definitely felt like it was the heaviest bike out of all the manufacturers, which had its pros and cons. While I did feel the effects of the weight towards the end of a long moto, as I didn't feel as comfortable scrubbing and making last minute corrections with this bike, it felt very planted entering corners and I never felt like the bike wanted to wander off at any point.

As for the suspension, I did notice the shock packing pretty excessively and getting too deep into the stroke, which we fixed by speeding up the rebound a couple clicks. As for the engine, I was really wishing the Suzuki had a bit more punch. Even though the Honda is shown as being down on the power, the Suzuki doesn't feel as responsive. Because of this, I had to make sure I was in the correct gear at all times, or I'd find myself punishing the clutch to compensate and get over obstacles. Overall, Suzuki could really make its way up the charts if it was a bit lighter, and had more responsive and usable power.

Name: Chris See / Age: 26
Height: 5' 11" / Weight: 170 lbs.
Riding Experience: 25+ Pro

Starting off, old yellow yeller is still an all-around decent bike. But for the first time, I can finally say this bike feels old to me. The biggest reason behind this is not only the looks, but the overall feeling of the bike. It starting to feel a bit heavy and the characteristics have been nearly the same year-after-year. Yes, the Suzuki turns great, but quite a few have caught it in this regard, all while making improvements elsewhere.

Really, my major complaint with this bike are the front forks. By the end of the day I had a decent setting, but no matter what we did I always felt that the front end would drop through the stroke a bit and deflect off chop. In the air fork era, the Suzuki really feels like it needs some help with the overall action.

In the engine department, things are pretty mellow for the most part. It makes decent power everywhere, but nothing that stands out and has me writing home about. By no means am I saying this bike can't get the job done for you, but in my case I'm going to spend my money on something that is changing and growing with the time, not on the bike that is staying the same. In retrospect, the RM-Z still holds a positive for the crowd just looking for a bike that makes them feel like a king on a corner track and won't wear them out before they get there.

As mentioned above, these opinions were taken from our 2016 450 Shootout. If you're interested in how it faired against the competition and how the other models performed, click here: 2016 Vital MX 450 Shootout.

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Added a product review for 2016 Yamaha YZ250X 12/14/2015 10:21 AM
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First Impressions: 2016 Yamaha YZ250X

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More Motocross Videos

Check out our thoughts on Yamaha's two-stroke cross-country bike, the YZ250X, which brings the lightweight fun of the venerable YZ250 into a more off-road friendly package.

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Added a product review for 2016 Yamaha YZ450FX 12/11/2015 4:35 PM
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First Impressions: 2016 Yamaha YZ450FX

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More Motocross Videos

Check out our thoughts on Yamaha's entry into the 450 off-road/cross-country segment, the 2016 YZ450FX. This bike is built off the success of the newest YZ450F, but geared for the serious off-road rider or someone looking for an all-around versatile bike.

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Added a product review for 2016 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition 12/9/2015 8:26 AM
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First Look: 2016 KTM 450SX-F Factory Edition

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Vital MX - KTM just gave us a sneak peek of their newest Factory Edition motocross bikes. for 2016, KTM has given the 450 SX-F version the usual treatment, basing the look off of the upcoming 2016 Red Bull KTM race bikes. Outside of the rare chance to have a Red Bull themed bike, it also comes with an Akrapovic titanium slip-on exhaust, and WP's new AER 48 air fork. These changes alone drop the weight of the bike by over four pounds when compared to the standard 2016 model. While other changes for the 2016 Factory Edition include orange billet triple clamps and frame, along with a brake disc guard and a Selle Dalla Valle team seat-cover.

Scroll up for more photos of the bike, or click on the specs tab for a more in-depth look at the numbers behind the bike. Check back in early January for a First Impressions test on the 2016 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition.

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Added a product review for 2016 KTM 250 SX-F Factory Edition 12/9/2015 7:57 AM
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First Look: 2016 KTM 250 SX-F Factory Edition

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Vital MX - KTM just gave us a sneak peek of their newest Factory Edition motocross bikes. for 2016, KTM has given the 250 SX-F version a new look based on their new Factory Troy Lee Designs team. Using their graphics scheme, along with an FMF titanium slip-on exhaust system. Other changes for the 2016 Factory Edition include orange billet triple clamps and frame, along with a brake disc guard and a TLD team seat cover. Beyond that however is the biggest change, the switch from the 4CS forks to WP's newest AER 48 air fork! To go along with this new fork, is an updated shock setting to top things off.

Scroll up for more photos of the bike, or click on the specs tab for a more in-depth look at the numbers behind the bike. Check back in early January for a First Impressions test on the 2016 KTM 250 SX-F Factory Edition.

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Added a product review for 2016 Suzuki RM-Z250 9/24/2015 12:13 PM
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First Impressions: 2016 Suzuki RM-Z250

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For 2016, Suzuki has made a large amount of improvements to their RM-Z250. This includes over 80 changes throughout the engine, a switch to KYB suspension, and an upgraded frame. To hear out thoughts on the bike, click play.

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Added a product review for 2016 Yamaha YZ250F 9/17/2015 1:23 PM
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First Impressions: 2016 Yamaha YZ250F

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Hear our First Impressions on the 2016 version of Yamaha's highly-acclaimed YZ250F.

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Added a product review for 2016 Honda CRF250R 9/16/2015 12:01 AM
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First Impressions: 2016 Honda CRF250R

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For 2016, Honda made a host of changes to their CRF250R. Most notably a wide range of engine and other performance related changes, along with suspension changes to continue the performance gains with Showa's SFF TAC fork. Check out our thoughts to find out how useful Honda's changes were for the new model.

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Added a product review for 2016 Suzuki RM-Z450 9/6/2015 8:44 PM
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First Impressions: 2016 Suzuki RM-Z450

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Suzuki's RM-Z450 has become the veteran of the 450 class due to its year-after-years of updates and revisions to the base design. 2016 continues this path and offers up a bike that has been refined even more. Check out our thoughts on the 2016 Suzuki RM-Z450.

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Added a product review for 2016 Kawasaki KX450F 8/13/2015 8:01 AM
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First Impressions: 2016 Kawasaki KX450F

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First Impressions: 2016 Kawasaki KX450F — More Motocross Photos

Hear our thoughts about the new 2016 Kawasaki KX450F after spending the day on it out at High Point Raceway.

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Added a product review for Boyesen Supercooler Water Pump Kit 7/15/2015 8:15 PM
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Tested: Boyesen Supercooler

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You know the drill... the combustion of fuel and oxygen in our bike's engines creates power, and while this reaction propels it through a series of mechanical functions, it also creates heat. The faster you are, or the longer the motos, the higher the heat. At a certain point, the higher temperatures become the enemy when it gets to the point where it decreases power and reliability. Of course, most modern bikes are water-cooled to keep the temperatures in check, but Boyesen has tried to improve one of the most important aspects, the water pump, with their Supercooler.

Boyesen Supercooler Features:

Two-piece cast aluminum construction.

Increased coolant flow at all RPM ranges.

Patented Nautilus style impeller for hydrodynamic efficiency.

Price $189.99 - $219.99.

First Impressions

At first glance, the Boyesen Supercooler is visually larger than the stock Kawasaki unit. This is because the Supercooler's impeller is larger, which means that the housing has to be larger to accept it. The Boyesen Supercooler also features smoother transitions and surfaces internally, allowing the water to flow without as much resistance throughout the water pump. Think of it as a porting job for your water pump.

The Supercooler that arrived for us is also part of Boyesen's Spectra series. While the Supercooler is available in silver, black, and magnesium on most models, the Spectra series also offers colors that are more desirable for certain bikes. In this case, I received a blue water pump to outfit our 2015 KX450F.

As for the installation, it was fairly simple. First, I drained the coolant, loosened and removed the bolts holding on the stock cover, and removed it from the water pump hose. As for the stock impeller, most can be removed if you place the bike in gear and hold down the rear brake pedal (since the water pump is driven off the engine, it will turn over the engine when it's turned). As for the new water pump impeller, simply reverse the steps while using the recommended torque specs for the impeller. The impeller is not the strongest part in the engine, so overtightening it can break the part. Then install the new gasket, place the dowels from the stock cover into the Boyesen unit, tighten it back down, and refill the bike with coolant.

On the Track

So how did I compare the before and after performance of the Supercooler while riding? I decided to monitor it with a temperature sensor. To do this, I cut a radiator hose and installed an in-line sensor which had a digital meter, so I could view the temperature in real-time. The results were fairly obvious, as I tested this with the stock water pump and Boyesen one within about 20 minutes of each other. The Boyesen unit runs a couple degrees cooler at idle, and I saw as high as an eight degree temperature swing when riding at pace.

As for how the Supercooler aids in perfromance, specifically in EFI bikes, you can get more info by checking out this interview we did with the Boyesen staff last year - Boyesen: Engine Heat VS Power Loss. In short, keeping the bike at its optimum temperature allows the EFI system to run in the most powerful map. If the bike becomes too hot, the EFI system will slightly decrease power as a failsafe.

Long-Term Durability

This isn't actually my first go-around with the Boysen Supercooler. While our 2015 KX450F has had one for the past two months, I've also had one on another personal bike for over one year without any problems. As with any area of the engine cases though, it can be susceptible to impacts and damage caused by debris or other bikes if it doesn't have proper protection. In the case of the KX450F, the water pump is a bit exposed and could take some serious damage in certain situations. But that's true of the stocker, as well.

The Last Word

To put it simply, the Boyesen Supercooler does exactly what it's supposed to do. By increasing flow, it offers the engine the ability to run cooler and keep closer to its optimal operating temperature. This aids the engine's reliability and allows it to stay closer to its maximum power output.

Overall, it isn't a must-have product for every rider, but one that can definitely help those with a heavy throttle hand, or who live in hot climates and are experiencing cooling problems.

Vital MX Rating

For more information on Boyesen's Supercoolers, check out Boyesen.com.

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.

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Added a product review for Galfer SKW Oversize Front Rotor Kit 6/20/2015 7:51 AM
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Tested: Galfer SKW 270mm Front Rotor Kit

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Over the past few years, larger front brake rotors have become more popular, especially on modern 450s. An aside to this trend has been the increased frequency of floating rotors, which have taken away attention from the good ol' solid-mounted rotor. Until recently, I'll proclaim that I was dead-set on riding the floating rotor train...until I had the chance to test a couple bikes with larger solid-mounted rotors. To give this my best comparison, I grabbed a 270mm SKW solid-mounted rotor from Galfer to test on our 2015 Kawasaki KX450F, which comes stock with a 270mm floating rotor.

Galfer SKW 270mm Front Rotor Kit Features:

  • 270mm diamater rotor produced from 420 stainless steel.
  • Caliper bracket made of 6061 T-651 CNC billet aluminum.
  • MSRP: $150.00.

First Impressions

Over the past few years I've had the chance to sample the majority of Galfer's products, and the SKW 270mm kit gave me the same impression as those I'd tried before...quality. The kit is simple, and for $150 the package includes a 270mm SKW solid-mounted rotor, along with a billet aluminum bracket for the caliper to help accommodate the larger rotor. In this case, the 2015 Kawasaki does come stock with a 270mm-sized rotor, so the bracket wasn't necessary. I did switch it anyhow, as the Galfer bracket was lighter, appeared to be tougher, and just flat-out looked better. (Style wins points). The rotor itself continues the trend, as it's also lighter than the stock unit by 3.5 ounces.

On the Track

As I mentioned before, I decided to test the SKW kit on the 2015 KX450F, which already features its own 270mm floating rotor. The reason for this was to find the difference and feel in the actual rotor itself.

Once the rotor was broken in, the difference in action and power was immediately noticeable. To put it simply, the solid rotor doesn't move when the pads press against it like the stock floating unit would. That means there's a more positive feel from your fingers to the action of the brake. The floating rotor has a bit more give before braking action, which relates to more lever travel. Because of this, I would tend to grab the lever a bit quicker to activate the brakes, but I'd typically get in a rush and cause the brakes to lock as I'd grab the lever too hard with the stocker.

Overall, I was left with more consistent braking action. This was extremely helpful in dry and slick conditions, where I'd tend to misjudge the stock brakes and lock them, causing me to tuck the front end or slide.

Long-Term Durability

It's interesting to see the wear difference between some stock rotors and a quality aftermarket unit. In some cases, I've found that a stock rotor will thin out and wear down just as quickly as the brake pads. However, Galfer's SKW rotor has been through two sets of pads with almost no wear to the rotor at all.

The only real negative to this large solid-mounted rotor is the higher chance to bend it or damage it due to an impact.

The Last Word

Even on the KX450F, which may seem like the least likely bike to add a 270mm rotor onto, the Galfer SKW was an improvement. At $150.00, this a pretty solid investment, no matter which brand/model you're on. I have no real complaints because Galfer has produced another great product.

Vital MX Rating

Check out GalferUSA.com to see what braking-related products they have 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.

Review and Photos by Michael Lindsay

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Added a product review for Polisport Folding Bike Stand 5/27/2015 10:43 AM
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Tested: Polisport Fold up Bike Stand

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Whether they're constructed from metal or plastic, and are tall or small, we all have bike stands. Aluminum stands are sturdy, but take up a bit of space. The size of your stand may not be a big deal if you're going for a solo ride in your pickup, but if you're hauling a few bikes, then every bit of space becomes important. If you're like me and need the extra space, a folding stand could be quite helpful, like this one from Polisport we've been using recently.

Polisport Fold Up Bike Stand Features:

  • Supports up to 550 pounds.
  • Crafted through injection-molded rubber and polypropylene.
  • Weighs just over nine pounds.
  • Removable side panels.
  • Available in eight color options.
  • MSRP $99.99.

First Impressions

Polisport's folding stand arrives as you might expect, all folded up. When folded flat, the stand is roughly four inches thick and features a nice rounded handle at the top (coming out of the center of the stand top) to carry it with. Unfolding the stand is quite simple, as you just spread the the frame a bit, then press down on the top of the stand until it completely unfolds and clicks into place.

Once expanded, the stand spreads its weight by contacting the ground in six places. Obviously, the four corners of the stand hold the weight but it also touches the ground in the center of the holding joints, giving it a bit of extra stability. The rest of the construction is fairly simple. The top features rubber ridges to hold the bike in place, and the side panels can be removed if needed.

At the Track/ In the Shop

I found Polisport's Folding Bike Stand to be useful whether I was at the track or in my garage. While in the shop, I could have a few stacked in the corner without taking up too much space. The actual stand is very practical and set at a good height, not too short but just tall enough that even the awkward-sitting Honda will have both wheels off the ground. Also, the rubber ridges offer great traction and are tall enough that they leave a bit of a channel for oils, fuel, etc to settle in and not affect the grip of the rubber.

Heading to the track is where this stand really shines, especially when you have a full truck or van. While a folding stand may seem gimmicky, it's quite nice to have that extra room when necessary.

Long-Term Durability

In the past, I haven't had the greatest luck with plastic stands. Because of my smaller size, I typically swing the bike onto the stand with a bit of momentum, which has led to some cracking or failure of stands. Because of this, I took it pretty easy on the Polisport stand for the first few weeks, but all seemed to be good. Once I started to treat it as I normally would, I noticed a little bit of flex when the bike slammed onto the stand. But after three months, the stand is still intact and hasn't cracked.

The only thing I've found to be an issue is the fact that a bit of dirt can bind up the hinges, so I take care to pressure wash the stand and occasionally use some WD-40 to keep the hinges freed up.

The Last Word

As I mentioned before, I viewed the Polisport Fold Up Bike Stand as a bit of a gimmick when I first received it, but have really grown to like it during my time using it. Overall, I can only find one deterrent from buying this stand, which is the lack of a tool tray that's common on other brands. For me, though, the Polisport is a traveling stand and the tray would just be in the way, so I don't find it as a major negative.

Vital MX Rating

For more information on Polisport's extensive plastic product lineup, check out Polisport.com.

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.

Review and Photos by Michael Lindsay

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