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

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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
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Tested: X-Trig Triple Clamps

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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
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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
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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
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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

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Rating:

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The Bad:

Overall:

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.

Added a product review for GET MD60 LOG Tool 7/1/2013 10:54 PM
C138_get_md60log

Tested: Lap times taken to a new level!

Rating:

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The Bad:

Overall:

The GET MD60 LOG (1 1/8

Lap times, lap times, lap times…they are oh so important. How consistent was I? What was my best or my worst? If you don’t have someone to hold a stopwatch, there are timers you can mount on your bike but typically you either have to set up a transponder as a “finish line” or remember to push a button on the bar every lap at the exact same moment. Well, if these options are not up your alley, GET has a solution for you: the MD60 LOG

In the box you will find the MD60 LOG, a USB to micro USB cable (to connect the logger to your computer), a soft carrying bag, a pair of AA batteries, and a disc with GET’s Gatelite software to analyze the info on the logger. Separately, you can buy a bar pad mount with a clear top so you can view the MD60 while riding.

So what is it exactly? Running off GPS satellites to track your activity, the MD60 LOG is one of the most advanced MX lap timers on the market, with the ability to set up multiple split segment times, hold hours worth of data, provide real-time information, and more.

Let’s start off with the basics: lap times. After turning on the logger and giving it a minute or two to secure a satellite signal, you can create a new track to begin logging times or pick from a track you’ve already saved. Although the GET unit is a little challenging to learn at first, creating a new track is actually quite simple once you get the hang of it. The essential part is selecting your finish/start line for where the MD60 should mark each individual lap.

Once you get rolling, a quick look down at the screen will show your current lap time, current speed, number of laps completed, best time, and battery life. The first time I approached the jump face that had been set as my finish line, I was a little skeptical of how accurately the MD60 would mark each lap. However, while airborne I peeked down to see if the device was working and the screen was, in fact, already displaying my new lap. With each passing lap, I would take a look to see if the MD60 was keeping marking my times only find that it was spot on!

Although there is a PC program (sorry Apple users, it is PC specific) that comes with the MD60, you can also view your timing reports from the logger’s main menu. The MD60 will hold up to ten sessions, with each session holding as many as 99 laps.

There are quite a few options and they are worth digging through to personalize your setup. For example, you can change what is shown on the main display, how long the screen will display your last lap time, lighting, mph versus km/h, and so on. The button layout is very simple (only two buttons, with one mainly for scrolling and the other for selecting functions) and is easy to use even when mounted on the bike once you get the hang of the menu screens.

Mounted on a Renthal Fatbar, the MD60 is both visible and accesible with the clear topped bar pad cover. The large display allows the rider to see the lap times with no issues.

Once I got the hang of the functionality of the MD60, I decided to step up and take advantage of the option for the split sections. Rolling around the track I set up my four segments to click off on two jumps and two corners that were evenly spread out. Once again, just as it had before with full lap times, the MD60 worked quite well and was able to pick up each segment every lap.

(note: If riding on a tight track with sections close together to set the “line” in the center of the track, in one instance I set a line on the left edge of the track that had a section within about 2 feet of it. After a few laps I came down the far side of that was against the other section and it clicked off that segment incorrectly, since it senses within a few feet to each side of the line you set. If I set in the center of a lane I did not run into this problem again.)

Once you have downloaded the Gatelite software from the disc and plug the logger into your laptop you can download any new tracks you have created, the lap time charts (which appear in a text-based format) showing your best times, each individual lap or split times, and any other info from your logged sessions.

After installing the GET Gatelite software, you can download your laptime data from the MD60 for further analysis...as long as you're using Windows and not Mac OSX.

Beyond this you can get even more advanced and run the MD60 in Data Logging mode in which the unit will constantly log your actions (based on acceleration, de-acceleration, changing direction, ect.) so it can create a digital analysis showing where and how hard you were accelerating and braking based on times. The software will also show a digital line depicting the track, which you can save in your track library so that you can see your consistency (or lack thereof) lap by lap and section by section. The downside of Data Logging mode is that it eats up battery life far faster than on the regular setting.

So far I can say that I am impressed with the functions, consistency, and capabilities of the GET MD60 LOG. The little Italian device is, by far, the most in depth way I have found to keep track of lap times. On the downside, it can be a bit complicated to figure out at first. However, once you’ve taken the time to sit down and play around with the functions, setup at a new track becomes second nature.

I highly recommend reading the manuals to understand how the data logging function works and how to run the Gatelite program before trying it the for first time. The $399 price tag can also seem a bit steep, but you get a lot of functionality for what you pay.

For more information on the MD60 LOG visit: www.getdata.it

-Michael Lindsay

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Smith Intake Sweat-X Goggles 3/8/2013 3:35 PM
C138_26011304

Smith Intake Sweat-X/with roll-offs

Rating:

The Good: Articulating outrigger for goggle strap to help with different helmet shapes; bright vibrant colors; roll-off kit included; goggle foam excelled at keeping dust and small particles outside. Made in the USA.

The Bad: Slightly long goggle strap; lack of tear off posts on roll-off canisters; anti fog lens wasn't as effective as I would have liked.

Overall:

What you get: The current price of the Smith Intake Sweat-X I used is $65. For your money, you get a pair of Intake Sweat-X's (which come in four different colorways), a cloth baggy to hold them, and a roll-off system.

The goggles themselves are well made, have multi-layered foam, and an outrigger style frame.

Features

Articulating outrigger system: This allows the outrigger angle to change and was quite helpful with different helmet shapes. In the past, I've used outrigger frames that allow the strap to pull incorrectly on certain helmets and create and uneven seal along your face. The articulating frame helped with fix this issue on the few different helmets that I used with the Intake Sweat-X.

The roll-off system: Most goggles you buy nowadays come with a soft baggy and possibly a few tears-offs or another lens. These Smith's come with a roll-off system that is interchangeable with the lens (the tear-off post's on the lens are removable). So instead of having to have separate roll-off systems on each lens and having to buy all new systems when the lens gets scratched, you can now just put the system on different lenses of your choice: clear or available tints. The instructions are slightly vague on how to put the system together but the process isn't overly complicated.

My one complaint with the system is the lack of tear-off posts on the outside of the roll-off canisters. In the few races (mostly mud and sand) that I've used a roll-off system, I preferred having a few tear-offs on top of the roll-off system. During the first few corners of a race when you're getting the most pelted with roost, you can clean off your whole field of vision before switching over to the slide on the roll-offs that only clean a portion of the lens. I also recommend putting these together (especially the first time) at home and out of the dust and grime of track conditions.

The frame: The goggle frame itself has vents at the top which can be opened to channel air more directly to the top of your head, The foam itself is of good quality, especially around the air vents. Having ridden with these on a few windy and dusty days, the foam was exceptional at keeping dust and small particles out.

Negatives: This is a small complaint about the strap that may or may not bother some. I found the strap to stretch out quite a bit the first few times I rode with the Intake Sweat-X and had to adjust the strap quite a bit at first to keep the goggles tight on the helmet. I rode on a few wet mornings where the anti-fog lens included didn't work quite as well as I expected (while riding at speed wasn't a problem, the moment I stopped...and I mean as soon as I stopped, the lens would immediately fog up a bit). As I mentioned above I would have greatly preferred tear-off posts on the roll-off canisters.

Conclusion: The great quality of the goggles makes up well for the little complaints I have. As a stand alone goggle I would give it a slightly higher rating but the roll-off system leaves me wanting a little more.

For more information, visit www.smithoptics.com.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Acerbis Skid Plate 3/5/2013 10:47 AM
C138_dk495895

Simple, Tuff, Affordable...

Rating:

The Good: Uses stock mounting instead of aftermarket mounting brackets, extremely tough, flexible enough to take abuse.

The Bad: Can be air restrictive, but has patterns visible to drill out.

Overall:

So after a full seasons of racing Worcs, GPs, and other offroad events without ever breaking or having a problem with these I thought it was about time to give them a little recognition.

Upside: At 75 dollars the acerbis skid plate is much cheaper than using a carbon fiber or comparable full coverage aluminum skid plates. The molded plastic is both tough but flexible to to take heavy hits from rocks, logs, ect. Also compared to some other aftermarket skid plates it uses the oem mounting. So no messing around with aftermarket clamps that hard to put in place! I personally tested these on kawasaki's 250 and 450, on both offering great protection of not only the frame and cases but also the waterpump and oil filter housing. If your a fan of racing enduros or any type of racing that involves log styles obstacles, the smooth bottom creates a great gliding surface if you don't quite make it all the way over and catch your frame.

Downside: It still is made of plastic and can be broken or cracked. Overall these have taken some great abuse in my personal experience but i have seen some cracked in some extreme encounter with rocks. The skid plate can be somewhat air restrictive, if your require abit more "cooling" though you will notice a pattern in most models that your can drill out with a hand drill or drill press quite easily.

Overall: For the price vs durability, I've been quite pleased the protection I've gotten out of these skidplates. I'd would recommend looking at this skid plate if your in need of "insurance" against some nasty obstacles.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Scott USA Deuce Grips W/Donut 11/26/2012 6:41 PM
C138_06301004

Scott Deuce grips

Rating:

The Good: Costs roughly as much as a standard set of name brand grips, but you get a much more unique grip with dual layered material and grip donuts. The softer layer allows for firm grip for your palm, while the harder layer around the majority of the grip resists wear while the pattern still allows for a solid "finger" grip. These grips have a harder end material then most, resisting tearing during tip overs and comes in six different color combos.

The Bad: The throttle side grip fits very snug, on some thicker throttle tubes this may cause the grip to split slightly and stretch. The pattern on the grip is unique and changes shape along the grip, this may not work for those who prefer a straight/consistent pattern.

Overall:


I'm usually not too big of a fan of changing grips. After years of using a soft single compound half waffle grip I decided to "branch out" and see what other offerings there are. What caught my eye with this set of grips from Scott was the dual layered grip and pattern (a nice plus was the grip donuts for the price). I did notice in installation thought that the throttle side grip was a bit tight on the aftermarket throttle tube i was using. Causing it to split slightly at the end of the grip where the layers came together, but through my continued riding the small split did not grow any worse and was not noticeable. The softer material in the palm area (and a small patch for your thumb) allowed for great traction, while the harder area surrounding the majority of the grip did not have as much traction it had a unique pattern and ridges that allowed for a nice amount of grip for your fingers while not wearing out quickly. They also have ample sized grooves for those who like to wire tie their grips. After roughly 15 hours of riding time on a set they are holding up quite nicely. Usually I would have been half way through my second set of single layered grips by this time. Overall I would definitely recommend giving these grips a try.

This product has 2 reviews.