Photos by Chris Denison and Eric Narvaez
The Glen Helen HYR 24-Hour Endurance race is a notoriously brutal event, yet it is one of our favorite things to do at the end of the year. Recently, the Dirt Rider crew teamed up with Monster Energy Kawasaki on a feature story on the Glen Helen 24-Hour for our March 2013 issue. The print story focused on the riding elements of the event, but seeing as the bike we raced was such an absolute weapon we wanted to offer an even greater look at this machine.
Based off of the Monster Energy Kawasaki team’s tried-and-true off-road race settings, the KX450F that we raced at Glen Helen was fast, aggressive and extremely stable at high-speeds. With a stiff overall feel that could soak up hard hits in the night without throwing the bike off course, this Kawasaki was set up for a larger, heavier pilot and had a robust powerband that barked to life with surprising ease. Our team eventually settled on a slightly softer suspension setting to accommodate the wide range of racers we had piloting the bike, but we loved the broad delivery that ate up all segments of the challenging Glen Helen course and only made minor EFI tweaks to make the power more usable when the track became really rough. Baja Designs new headlight took care of lighting the way during the night segments, while Renthal components, a large-capacity IMS fuel tank, a Hinson clutch, Dunlop tires and an Akrapovic exhaust joined a legion of other trick parts to make this Kawi a well-rounded race bike that helped us earn a third overall finish at the event.
The Dirt Rider team consisted of several staffers and test riders who have varying degrees of experience at Endurance-style events, yet all of who have experience aboard the stock KX450F. Here is a taste of what we thought of the highly-modified Monster Energy race bike:
“The Monster Energy-backed Kawasaki KX450F was a real piece of art. It was decked out with a ton of trick parts, with plenty of carbon fiber and titanium. The bike was so clean you could eat off of it, and it almost made me feel a little bad knowing the bike would never look so clean again (good thing I snapped a few pics before the race on my phone). The bike had a aggressive setup that made me feel right at home instantly, it felt like it was setup for motocross. If it didn’t have a head light, I would have thought this was an AMA outdoor bike. As the track got more beat up and the bumps got bigger, myself and a few of the other test riders opted for a softer fork setting and a softer EFI setting to mellow the power. For a shorter race the set up was perfect for me, but as my pace slowed down to fast trail rider pace, the bike was a little stiff in the never-ending chop. With a little more testing, I would have went with a little softer and more comfortable setup for the long endurance-type event. All in all the bike preformed flawless and Kawasaki kept the bike running perfectly.” —Ricky Yorks / 6’1″/ 185lbs / Pro mx, but gets easily lost outside the moto track
“After riding the 2012 Dirt Rider Motocross Shootout and making the Kawasaki 450 my #1 pick, my first impression was “Hell yeah. I get to ride it again!” The bike performed awesome, and it had so much power that was there when you need it. We were all joking that when we started to get a little tired, we were all doing a little whiskey style through the tight stuff on occasion. The bike was super stable through the fast rough stuff with minimal rear brake dragging. The suspension settings were a little to stiff for all the square edges. I would have liked to soften it up a bit to save the hands. But the rest of the crew seemed cool with it. It is tough to make a bike fun perfectly for six different riders ranging from 135 lbs to 200 lbs; you have got to be a team player.” —Dane Herron / 5’11″ / 195 lbs. / Motocross Vet Expert / Off Road Int-Expert
“When I race an endurance race I like a mellow mannered machine with soft suspension. The KX450F had violent power and supercross suspension. Just gripping the throttle tube too tight had the KX-F belching and tearing forward, which was fun on the motocross portion of the course but in the single track and rocks I felt like I could file a domestic dispute charge against the Kawi. It straight beat the snot out of me and had me in fear for my life. A fork change in the middle of the night helped to soften the suspension and keeping the transmission a gear high and constantly working the clutch was the solution to the violent power. I would have paid a million dollars for a Rekluse on that beast! On a side note, it was very easy to start.”
—Adam Booth/ 5’8″/ 172.5 lb. / Off-road vet/expert
“I was really excited when I heard we were riding the KX450 at the 24 hour, since this bike is on my “top five favorite bikes” list. I feel that this bike is good at pretty much everything, so I wasn’t worried much about our setup. I knew the suspension would be a bit on the stiff side for this type of race, but my size would even that out. There’s a lot to be said for a bike that you feel instantly confident on, and this helped a lot as I started the race off with zero time on the bike. As the race went on I began to really miss my Fasst Co Flexx bars, but other than that the bike was amazing. She withstood the abuse very well, although it did seem to get much louder during the course of the race. I was amazed at how the bike still felt very tight and new at the end.” — Scott Denison/ 6’2”/ 250 lbs / off-road expert
“On the short mx parts of the track the Kawi was giving me good feedback but on the tech and hard chop plateaus my hands were numb within half a lap and there was no feeling for the terrain. Couple this with the blinding dust and I wasn’t having the best life experience in my first session out. I worked out that when you can’t see your handlebars due to dust, you have to back off the throttle and be patient… Nothing was worth trashing the bike for at this stage, we were a team and my job was to get the bike back and communicate the issues I was having with the hard nature of the overall setting. On handover to Ricky I discussed the ‘firm’ feeling with the crew but with everyone full of enthusiasm it would take a while for my words and experience to be turned into action. We eventually got the settings dialed in, and the bike was a ripper for the duration!” — Geoff Walker/ 6’2”/ Heavy/ Average dirt scrambler
“It was a privilege to race for Monster Energy Kawasaki at the 24 Hour, but perhaps the most rewarding part of the experience was getting to race a bike that performed well for the entire team. This machine got no rest; we literally flogged it from 10am on Saturday to about 10:20am on Sunday, with only fuel, air filter and tire swaps in between. One of the best things about our team is that nobody crashed hard or tweaked the motorcycle, which would have created excessive work for the Kawasaki technicians and could have jeopardized the race. Yes, the bike was set up slightly stiff, but for a race with so many huge bumps it was nice having extra hold-up in the suspension department. The Baja Designs light was amazing, too, and the excessive power was certainly not a bad thing to have on the massive hills at the Glen Helen facility. Kudos to Kawasaki for producing a tough machine that can go the distance, this bike was awesome!” —Chris Denison/ 5’10”/ 155 lb/ Off-Road Expert
For more on the Dirt Rider team’s adventures at the 24-Hour, check out Geoff Walker’s video from the event at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dR85gW_aCpE.