BIG BOYS ON THE TRAIL
SO, THE BOTTOM LINE IS…
The KTM flat kills it again. Not only does it have a very
broad and hugely responsive powerplant; it has the button. Add a hydraulic clutch, the quietest stock exhaust—
though no spark arrestor—and a very hiccup-free fuel-injection system that is smooth down low and it quite
easily takes the win.
In second, with a big lead over third, is the Kawasaki
KX450F. The most adjustable machine in the shootout,
it’s also the fastest, has the easiest clutch pull and is the
most effortless starting of the kickers.
Third goes to the Suzuki by virtue of a very strong and
broad powerband and superb concerning traits. The fork
really needs work for off-road, and the starting is a weak
link, but the rest of the package is right.
Fourth goes to the Yamaha. It has broadly based suspension, but the power is a bit lurchy down low, and it’s
a bit quick-hitting when you try to roll it on. A flywheel is
a big help, and you can map out some of the bark and
make it much friendlier for off-road. We know; we raced
Paul Whibley’s YZ450 and it was superb.
Last place goes to the Honda, although it has a very
light feel, sweet fork (air and easily adjustable for off-road) and strong rear suspension. The clutch really holds
the bike back with weak engagement. You cannot modulate the action well enough to maintain traction in tight
terrain. Still, it starts easily and is a joy to ride once
you’re up to speed. ;
All of our machines received new rear mufflers that were spark-arrestor legal. Motoworks supplied their system for the YZ
and KX, and both have bolt-on and removable spark arrestors. On the KX, the rew pipe is helped drastically to curtail the
hard-edged bark and also to smooth the low-end roll-on. With the YZ450, the power flowed better and felt less lurchy. FMF
supplied 4.1s for the Suzuki and the KTM, and this muffler flat rocks. They’re very quiet, spark-arrestor legal and help
enhance the power from bottom to mid. On the CRF dualie, we went with Yoshimura slip-ons (RS-9D) that have removable
spark arrestors. They helped curtail the noise, but more important, really helped to liven up the powerband. We felt a substantial increase in the mid-power, and this is where the CRF was lean.