Dirt Rider Torture Test - Dirt Rider Magazine

If there ever was a dream off-road riding day for the editors and test riders of this magazine, it was during this year's Torture Test. In fact, make that two days.There, the crme de la crme of dirt bikes was delivered-nine hand-built pieces of sweetness all constructed for our torture. Combine them with two perfect-traction days at the vast Glen Helen Raceway compound and you catch our dreaminess drift.The machines came by invitation-only, built around our recommendations for race capability in closed-course events, such as WORCS, GNCC and Grand Prix-style races. We also wanted them to be trail-ridable for the average guy. Meeting our demands wasn't easy, but as you'll see, it can be done excellently.After we gazed, drooled and smiled at all our entrants we ran them through our solid collection of tests with our solid battery of testers. Our opinions in each discipline were noted, with our Fun GP "nonrace" and intense testing on said nonrace's course weighing in the heaviest in our final voting.We saw the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly traits in these beasts and even picked an overall winner.So get ready, get pumped and experience the bikes of this year's Torture Test.#116 Precision Concepts/JCR
Honda CRF450X
Home Sweet Home

When you sit, stand or crouch in the cockpit of a Precision Concepts/Johnny Campbell Racing-built Honda the bike wraps its warm, fuzzy arms around you and gives you a great big hug.As first impressions (aka "showroom bounce") go this 450 is the best. It's the most comfortable place in the world for an off-road motorcyclist; it offers true perfection in control location and layout. Every single test rider who rode this bike agreed that the build quality and solidity of its components were second to none."The cockpit and layout are so tight and sano it's hard to believe," Jimmy Lewis raved immediately after flogging it around our pristine Glen Helen GP circuit. He was so impressed that he labeled the Honda the "ultimate package racer."The clutch pull, front brake lever reach, grip tack, starter and kill button location and even the cable routing are absolutely perfect.Check out the parts list and copy it if you want to open up and dial in your Honda CRF's controls (R or X). We've also successfully duplicated this feel on numerous motocross bikes including Yamahas and Kawasakis.The rest of Johnny's ride ain't bad, either!The most noticeable difference between a stock X and this beast is in feel. The modified Honda takes the heaviness out of the stock model and replaces it with a lightweight, quick-handling racer. How do they do it? By boosting the power and modifying the suspension. Plus, operating the machine through the best control position possible doesn't hurt.This bike shined the brightest in the fastest sections of our tests. Whether it was rocketing up the hillclimb or burning laps on the motocross track, the bike was set up to really speak to speed. Our highest-rated test (the GP loop) showed the Honda 450 settling in nicely. Its power character took a few moments to get used to since it's more powerful and delivered with a bigger hit. Whereas the stock X is smooth and strong, this X is snappy with a gnarly bite. The power doesn't come on instantly; it takes a second then hits with authority. There it builds so strong and fast you'd swear you're riding a motocross bike gone mad. The mid-to-top pull is linear and steep and will have you going as fast as you want to go in no time. It's like riding a factory Honda off-road bike. Oh, wait...it basically is a factory Honda off-road bike.Once you're aware of what you're riding, the bike becomes a full-tilt factory racer with the fit and finish to go with it. The aggressive power delivery did make it a handful on some of the tightest trails for the recreational testing crew, and we noticed some gaps in the transmission when creeping and crawling. But our fastest pros and quickest vets all sang praises for the Honda 450 when the speeds increased.The suspension was an improvement as well in exactly the same areas. In tight and technical situations, like those you'll see back East, the X had its biggest challenge and managed to meet it, for the most part, while keeping the high-speed demons at bay. It delicately improved initial feel with a plush touch. The stocker has harshness in the fork and the PC/JCR bike tuned that away for sure. Further into the stroke, the bike featured beefed-up valving to hold the Honda up at speed. G-outs and motocross track landings were eaten alive with the settings, and it featured some of the best bottoming resistance in the test. Plus, it cornered like a dream."The suspension soaked up the small chop and was still able to take some pretty hard hits without bottoming. I loved the way this bike cornered," Chris Denison said.It wasn't perfect everywhere. On the EnduroCross course and the slowest of trail sections it showed the limitations of a high-speed setup. Here, the suspension was stiff with a speedy rebound: something commonly found on really fast guys' bikes. Somehow, Johnny Camp- bell, Robby Bell, Kendal Norman and Timmy Weigand go through obstacles at about the same speed we manage on a flat straightaway.Where else is this bike limited? Well, if you want to go for an all-day ride, you'll need to pack gas in your CamelBak as the tank is teeny-weeny, just under two gallons. But boy, was it slim! Skinny tanks are easy to get up high on for motocross berm destruction and highspeed flat-tracking but bad for racing or riding for more than 45 minutes.Honda built this bike for speed, just like we asked it to. The result: a unanimous vote as the best WORCS series bike in the test. The Honda is the ultimate race machine prepackaged and delivered with a shine. That shine is followed by a hefty price tag and an expectation for victory. Can you afford either? If so, Precision Concepts and 1x International are ready to deliver.-Jesse Ziegler

Dubach Racing and Enzo teamed up to find a little more YZ in the WR450F. The plan worked. Joe Melton demonstrates.

#118 Dr.D Racing
Yamaha WR450F
Does This Look Infected?

Modified bikes should mirror their stock, pre-tweaked selves. Improvements should be made in places where standard manufacturing processes, demographic targeting and business economics require a blanket approach. The stock WR450 is a broadly pleasing bike. Sure, it comes with silly throttle stops and other restrictions from the showroom. But in "realistic" mode, the bike is hard to dislike.The Dr.D bike is just like stock, only improved as much as possible where it's needed to compete in closed-course, WORCS or GNCC racing. It's almost like Doug Dubach and his team (which was comprised of Doug, Jeff Emig, Joe Melton, Kevin Foley and PR-master Terry Beal) infected the bike with some sort of wonderful, fast-guy disease.Personally, I had the fastest time on the motocross track on the Yamaha. Why? Mostly it was because Joe Melton, the only member of Dubach's testing crew who didn't fall deathly ill during our two-day event, was mocking me. The WR wasn't happiest down low in the rpm, and it didn't possess the greatest tightly spaced MX gearbox, but I was still fast on it and Joe was very con. dent. He even bet lunch on our one-lap race. Was that smart for his wallet? Wait and see.Besides being motivated by a friendly rivalry, I was fast on this bike because it was simply usable. The bike has a WR heart with a YZ attitude. The motor makes smooth power and lots of it, predictably, but brings it much sooner than expected.The instant response to the throttle was welcomed on the wet track during our test. It picked up the power in YZ fashion and stretched it out as long as the leggy WR. I wasn't the only one who was impressed.

Kris Keefer

During his testing, Jimmy "Sometimes I Smile" Lewis praised the power. On the GP course he claimed, "The bike makes big power and felt like it climbed as fast as anything." And after some EnduroCross abuse Lewis grumbled, "This was one of the best motors in the EnduroCross course. It had great snap and pulled quickly out of obstacles. The clutch was solid, too, but the darn E-start wasn't working."Boy, that electric start took a beating with our testers! This WR, due to some jetting issues which only affected starting, was basically a kickstarter and that, in a world of electric-start motocross bikes and two-strokes with buttons, is an attention-getter, especially when you're carrying the battery and all that fancy starter stuff on your off-road bike. The starter motor simply wouldn't spin fast enough, even with a full battery charge to ignite the blue meanie. We've been giving the team a hard time about it since. Now, back to the test.Yamaha WRs have tested consistently similar in handling over the past couple of years. The bikes are planted, . rm and stable with a heavier feel to them in the tank and, mostly, in the ends of the handlebar. Dubach's ride was no different. The bike wasn't quick handling at the bar in any sense. To change directions, you use your feet more than anything and let the hands and bar follow into place. If you're a muscle-steering, crank-the-bar turner, the bar will physically . ght back. The sensation is similar to riding a bicycle with a quart of oil taped to the ends of the grips. You can really feel some weight out there. Kris Keefer is an extremely talented test rider and he noticed his right away in the Escargot test."The front-end traction wasn't great on the WR. But the mellow, smooth roll-on power made for some good grip for the hardpack test. Still, the bike felt a little topheavy up front," Keefer said.In an endless, . at-track circle, like our Escargot test, the WR is forced into a position just after turn initiation and just before it settles in for the apex. It doesn't really like it there.Handling in the real world isn't affected by this as it's more a feeling and small hindrance than a glaring . aw. It's just the way the bike feels at one angle of lean. And that feeling is heavy. Each of our test riders noticed it. Some hated it and some translated the sensation into a planted, stable feel. One thing's for sure, the faster you went on this bike, the lighter it became. And going fast wasn't a problem.With a plush suspension and a low-slung engine, the center of gravity on the WR at speed is way down there. This makes it a breeze to manipulate with your lower body and delivers the con. dence needed to crank it up. Lewis agreed."Once you moved into the more GP sections, the faster-. owing stuff where you could use the mid and upper power, the WR was a whole other bike. It got light, planted and plush," he said.Sean Finley also felt the bike liked speed more than slow. "The suspension was set up better for going fast versus a smooth trail ride. For somebody looking to do a wide range of riding with a slant toward an occasional race, this would be a great bike," Finley said.The bike was so fast that Jeff Emig had the third fastest time up the timed hillclimb and Karel Kramer aired it out over the top in a full-on Fro-Daddy impersonation, . st pumping to the crowd and everything. OK, that didn't happen. But it should have.Kramer really loved the WR. For him, and a few other testers, the biggest holdback this model has (stock or modified) is in its tight trailability. The same low-engine cradle that gives you sweet slicing and dicing is often the first bike to hang up on rocks or bog down in the mud, Kramer pointed out.The Dr.D crew did a great job infecting their WR with some of their own race-winning DNA. It's one of the fastest WRs we've ever ridden, has a superior suspension setup that can please a wide range of riders and handles well enough on a motocross course to ensure Melton gets at least one free lunch out of me. -Jesse Ziegler

The finale of our EnduroCross test included dragging the bike under two poles. Jimmy Lewis says AWD helps.

#115 Christini
KTM 250 XC-W(e)
More Power For Pulling, Please

We're very familiar with Christini-equipped machines. So are you as a dedicated DR reader. We've tested every combination available and have been riding and commenting on the mechanism through all its stages of development. Now that it's been a finished product for over a year, we thought including a Christini bike in the Torture Test would be an excellent idea.Geoff Aaron has recently found success in a new form of motorcycle competition that has nothing to do with wearing tights or riding vertically up trees: He's taken his immense pile of bike skill and a Christini KTM to the toughest races in the country and finished well. His runner-up (and only other finisher) result at this year's Red Bull Last Man Standing is a huge statement. So we borrowed Geoff and our KTM 250 XC-W(e) Christini for some torture time!Overall, the Christini did manage to surprise most of us, yet again. We know the benefits of the system and those benefits showed up often. We also know the negatives (increased weight, a learning curve to get used to the front wheel sensation and overall power-sapping). What we didn't really know was how it would work through all our tests.The weather helped out this bike big time by dumping a couple inches of rain all over Glen Helen the night before our event. With the mud holes, the first benefit of AWD came quickly. Pete Peterson noticed it right away."The powered front wheel really pulled through the thick mud sections. It drove forward and stayed straight," Peterson said.That's saying a lot coming from Pete. He's usually too scared to ride in the mud. But he was right. If you sit back and enjoy the muddy ride, the Christini bike will pull you through easily.As with all the nasty elements in the world of off-road, the Christini generally makes them easier. Technical hillclimbs, rocky sections and slippery logs are all tackled with less effort and at a faster pace. Was this made for the desk-bound, suit-wearing off-road enthusiast who doesn't get out enough to improve his skills? Or maybe it's the workingman's bike. Well, there's no one better to ask than Finley. He's our publisher and is the closest we have to anyone around here with a real job."For extremely technical trails, this bike can make the difference between a fun day and a real struggle. If I rode in those supertechnical conditions a lot, with riders who are better than me on that kind of stuff, I would want to have the Christini to help narrow the gap and keep me from being the guy who's holding everybody up," Finley said.Honestly, we hope he doesn't get one because he's faster than most of us already. Even the wisest trail hound among us, Kramer, said that if he could get past the cost and the added weight, he'd need new riding buddies because he'd be that much better.But that doesn't mean everything about the Christini is easier or that it improves every riding situation. This bike was a 250, and not a knock-our-socks-off 250 twostroke screamer at that. It seemed down on power, and the additional drag of the front-drive system had the bike lagging behind even more. It's hooking up and moving, just not screamingly fast. So when you're at a lower rpm, the motor can't pick up by spinning because it won't. That's too bad, because these AWD systems work best when a bike is making horsepower. On the high speeds of the GP and motocross tracks, Lewis could barely feel a benefit to the AWD since the bike wouldn't spin up and rev. It also turned with traction, but not as fast as a bike he was sliding in at speed."I didn't feel any advantage with AWD in the GP test. It wouldn't let the bike spin up and rev fast like I was used to, and I didn't feel the turning was any better because I was used to sliding all the others and this bike didn't slide at speed," Lewis said.The Christini is definitely something to get used to. And if you do, the thing does some magical things. The bike loves low-traction situations. If your rear tire is gripping, the front doesn't help. But if you can get on a flat turn or dry, loose soil and spin up the rear, then the front takes the cue and pulls. This was obvious to me in the motocross test. I stopped taking outside lines and started hugging the insides. The front end would bite, I would point where I wanted to go and gas it. The bike followed in complete control. The same happened on our flat Escargot test. Keefer was in the saddle all day and when the Christini came through, he was stoked."This AWD bike is a fun machine! Great front-end bite and the lean angle was great. I could lay it over really far for traction and the power was consistent," Keefer said after he unwound from doing the longest turn in the history of mankind.In most cases, if you keep the Christini's front wheel on the ground, spin up the motor so the AWD is efficiently engaging and have medium to poor traction situations, this bike is going to blow you away. If you're lofting the wheel, are roosting in tacky dirt or lugging a bike around in the bottom of the rpm range, quirky things will raise their quirky heads. Other compromises in braking and all-out acceleration are made as well. It's just not the same as other bikes. Even the bikes it's made out of.The Christini is heavily modified with a large chain-drive system and altered gas tank which widens the ride and gives a noticeable feel at the knees, as well as reduces capacity. This bothered testers who had never ridden a Christini before. Testers who had Christini experience didn't notice it. Pop a wheelie or loft the front end at a crawl and you'll feel all that ingenuity working at or above the feeling of a steering damper. The system doesn't necessarily pull one way or another; it's a wild blend of gyroscopic forces. And if you're screaming down a trail or section of track and need to be on the brakes hard enough to do a stoppie, the system on our Torture Test bike would sometimes work against your brakes by continuing to drive through them.In the end, the system made more fans at this year's Torture Test and reminded us that if we have AWD, we want more power. -Jesse Ziegler

KTM bolted on a spark arrestor, dialed the settings and chucked the 250 XC-F into the deep end. Pictured: Charles Jirsa, Tom Moen, Mike Lafferty, Kurt Caselli and Clint Castleberry.

**#111 KTM
250 XC-F
Little Bike, Big Heart
**Dirt Rider's Torture Test had to include a KTM 250F. The format called for bikes that were as mean as a junkyard dog for GNCC or WORCS racing but wouldn't chew off your arms on a trail excursion. you've paid any attention to the new-for-2007 GNCC XC2 class-for pro riders on 125cc two-strokes and 250cc four-strokes-you know that KTM often kicked the other dogs up onto the porch.While prepping this bike KTM chose to add hand guards and a KTM FMF Q4 quiet spark arrestor to meet our requirements. Other than that it was box-stock and brand-new.This '08 has amazingly usable bite in the basement, and even with the S/A it snarled into the mid and ran like greyhound on top. Rider comments were enthusiastic. Jimmy was in charge of the bike for the third-gear roll-on: "Without my looking at the sidepanel to see the engine size, this thing chugged like a 450. Then you grab the throttle and wonder why it takes so long to steam up. The torque at idle is surprising. Then it pulls long and consistently all the way till top."We also flogged the bike up two types of hillclimbs. The 250 XC-F was up first on the technical 280-foot hillclimb test with pro tester Robie Peterson: "The KTM 250 XC-F doesn't have a whole lot of bottom, but it caught in the mid and really pulled well. I had no problem, and I very rarely ride a small bike."Next Dension tackled the EnduroCross section: "Good pop and torque down low-pulls well through the bottom and didn't hesitate."

While we considered all of the different tests and price while rating the bikes, the GP course opinions and times and the trail evaluation factored heavily in the final decision. During those tests the little thumper earned praise from riders as disparate as Vet pro Lewis, WORCS pro Ryan Orr and even Pete "I'd Rather Moto" Peterson.Lewis: "The bike pulled like a 300cc four-stroke, and it was jetted perfectly, a big improvement from last year. The pull is long and forever, it never flattens.Orr: "Good torque and a broad, usable powerband with plenty of overrev."Peterson: "The little engine required a lot of shifting compared to the open two-strokes, but that just adds to the fun for me. Just when I thought I'd buried the little bike into a soft berm it couldn't tractor out of, the bike simply pulled right out without a bog or strain. The throttle response was nice for a 250F."Jesse's moto test was a shorter, more intense test, but again: "Torquey with great power that liked to be revved as much as it could chug. This bike always seemed to be in the meat of the power and stayed there longer than most bikes, including bigger bores."Handling and suspension are vastly improved for 2008 with a new chassis, fork design and shock angle, and the changes show up positively in the opinions. It didn't matter if it was a pro like Orr: "The suspension is plush. The bike tracks extremely well in . at corners, feels light and is fun to ride."Or Lewis: "The suspension stood out as being really good when you're pushing the bike, especially in chop. It stays light-feeling, especially in the upper rpm where the other bikes get heavy. That's good since that's where you're riding this bike. The brakes are super strong and the clutch is simple to use."Novice and intermediate pilots were equally impressed. Pete said, "This bike was more fun than the two-strokes because it handled better on the gas, and this little 250F lets me get on the gas sooner than with the other bikes. The front wheel got great traction yet did not ride up in the ruts or do anything grabby with all that traction. When a bump threw the back end out, there was no drama as the little F was controllable and easy to bring back in line."Despite being a lot heavier, I agreed, "This is the most fun bike in the test. The negatives are a slightly soft spot in the power in the lower midrange and suspension that simply isn't plush on trail braking bumps or through rocks. The bike feels light and nimble, and it flicks easier than bikes that are even lighter." The bike wasn't perfect for every rider. Denison felt the rear was high in the EnduroCross, and Keefer was chasing the front end on the Escargot.This bike is slim and narrow with a clean design, so it slinks through ruts, dodges rock outcrops and stumps and it isn't a mud magnet. The more rocky and ledge-filled the trails, the more crisp and firm the suspension feels. The suspension would definitely be overly firm for a light rider. Even though this bike has a close-ratio six-speed, first gear is plenty low for technical riding. Throttle control in tricky situations is magic. The exhaust note has more bite to the bark than we like, and the XC model is not green-sticker-legal for 2008. If we ranked this test solely on smiles-per-dollar or on a most improved bike from last year, this KTM might have won. But we tested race bikes regardless of class, and the 250 was always a bit slower on the stopwatch. -Karel Kramer**#110 Precision Concepts/JCR
Honda CRF250X
Scaled-Down Screamer
**We forget who it was who said, "You can't go back," but it's true. That roller coaster is never as scary, an old girlfriend found again doesn't match the memories, your first car isn't as cool revisited and neither are dirt bikes. And as we tested the Precision Concepts/Johnny Campbell Racing CRF250X, we thought "you can't go back" had struck again.

Tim Weigand, Johnny Campbell, Eric Siraton, Caleb Gosselaar and Robby Bell.

JC and the team know enough about the relatively tame and tiny 250X to clobber the mod bikes DR torture tested in our June 2007 issue. But a gifted crew like the one Campbell works with is never sitting still, or satisifed with the way things are or were. Plus, we asked for race-bred bikes capable of trail riding. They knew they were trading some trail manners to drop the lap times on the GP loop. That '07 torture test winner was subjected to serious trail work including a muddy national enduro, and we could barely find a fault. For the '08 TT entry, the chassis prep, level of workmanship and attention to detail remain outstanding.Novice off-roader Peterson is a 250F fan, and this bike was no exception. "Two words kept coming to mind riding this bike: balanced and plush. This bike did almost nothing wrong and felt extremely comfortable." Jesse Ziegler, who spent the most miles on the '07 CRF-X, was, for once, in agreement with PP. "Everything about the Campbell Racing '08 Honda is good. Its suspension and ergos are dialed with only the CRF450X's cockpit beating the little guy in comfort. And it did have the factory finish and accompanying dialed-in feel everywhere."That suspension praise just kept popping up in opinions. Our heavy trail guys Kramer and Brian Cornelius called this the best suspension in the test. Yet lighter fast guys like WORCS pro Orr said, "Plush! The bike tracks Well n the straight chop and in flat turns. The bike also corners well." PC had the bike dialed in, with the front a little high and firm and the rear a little low and super plush, but it worked. We have the utmost respect for Precision Concepts off-road suspension. The guys know their stuff, and having the benefit of years of input from Honda's top riders helps. Stock Honda 250X suspension is tough to beat, but this bike smoked it.The beauty of the stock X motor is that it has a lot of grunt from surprisingly low in the rpm range. The bike doesn't make the peak power of the WR (uncorked) or the KTM 250F, but in almost all trail situations it makes up for it with strong-everywhere pull. Since we asked that this bike be set up for racing, at a certain level torque and tractability are sacrificed for outright power. You just need more boost racing a smaller bike. Precision Concepts went after that with an '07 R cam, head porting, a Pro Circuit pipe and a 450 carburetor, for an engine hop-up bill over $2000. The result is smooth pull off-idle, great roll-on pull in the lower midrange and a ripper high-rpm crescendo compared to stock. There's just a soft area between the midrange and the high-rpm rush. Some riders felt this most when the engine struggled 84 to pull tranny gaps, though Lewis found it pulled the third-gear roll-on fine. Orr noted that, "The motor hits the rev-limiter too quickly. Then, when you try to shift up to get off the rev-limiter, the bike bogs down because it lacks power."Keefer had to leave the bike in second for the entire Escargot test, since it wouldn't pull in third. But Jesse put all of our feelings together succinctly, "I really like modified CRF250Xs. After last year's bike, I wanted to buy one as soon as I saved my pennies or got that sweet raise. This year, I was almost equally pleased but not sure I'd drop more cash than last year's bike would've cost for this more-modified-motorwise beauty. It was a screamer with less torque and more top-end boost than I remember. I don't have a problem stretching a 250F out on an MX track or a GP course, but I think I'm happiest and bikes handle the best for me if I can short-shift them into a midrange torque. The Honda didn't really have a lot there compared to all the big bikes or even the meaty KTM 250 XC-F. I think I'd burn more clutch plates on this and spend more money down the road on top end parts."

If you subscribe to "Go big or go home," the Rocky Mountain MC/Pro Cycle KTM EXC is for you. Kris Keefer also likes to go big.

Most of our difference of opinion on the motor stems from our being blow away by the milder (and far cheaper to build) engine we tested in 2007. This '08 engine is clearly faster but takes more thought to ride than we are used to with an X. That in no way diminishes the pro-caliber level of prep and detailing this bike exhibits.Like the JCR 450, the 250X chassis is as good as it gets. The details of performance, protection and day-long comfort are all amply addressed. As a package this bike is amazing, with suspension so good that it made life tougher for the other bikes in the test.If you ride at a level that demands high-rpm pull like this X, start with a CRF250R. It would be cheaper and faster as well as lighter (unless you need an electric starter or a wide-ratio gearbox like we prefer for any type of off-road!). This bike clearly shows that you need to communicate what you really want when working with a performance shop. Precision Concepts gave us what we asked for. -Karel Kramer**#117 Rocky Mountain MC/Pro Cycle
KTM 530 EXC
Gentle Giant
**So why would a company bring a street-legal model to a hard-core off-road test? Simple: The 530 XC-W(R)s are in such demand that even a KTM dealer can't get one. But, fortunately for all involved, the street-legal EXC version is so close to an XC-W(R) it didn't take much to heave-ho the street stuff for this test. Off-road specialists Pro Cycle KTM (of Saint George, Utah) set up and modified the suspension, and off-road superstore Rocky Mountain MC (of Payson, Utah) took care of the other accessories.As you might expect from the biggest bike in the test, the 530 motor generated a lot of buzz. Not the vibration kind, the talk-in-the-pits sort. Remember the old commercial line, "Where's the beef?" It's here.I put down my fastest time on the drag-race hillclimb on the 530, and Jimmy had to change his method for the third-gear roll-on test: "Power was super strong and it was hard to keep the wheel down even in the third-gear roll-on. The torque made the initial roll-on easy. When revving you had to use throttle control, not just pin it." But the beauty of the new KTM single-cam engine is the blend of power and control. Pro Cycle changed the gearing to off-road specs, dialed in the jetting and added the Lexx MX spark arrestor/muffler, so they didn't mess up a good thing. The power came on smooth and strong without hitches or leaps, and was modulated with a great hydraulic clutch. To top it off, that tranny has a wide-ratio six-speeder in there, so top speed will never be an issue.Despite the potential for brutishness, it never happens. Guest test rider/freestyle Godfather Mike Metzger isn't a physical giant, but he drew the 530 for the EnduroCross section: "No complaints. Power is powerful but smooth. Easy to put where you want it."The motocross test is another arena where a dualsport bike converted to an off-road bike should not shine, but it did for Jesse. "The big-boy KTM was like a gentle baby. A huge baby, but gentle just the same. It was easy to ride, the power wasn't surprising or aggressive and the handling was decent. The tank was dif. cult to ignore for hot lap, and the other off-road bulkiness was noticeable as well. But when you ride a 530, you have power to make up for it. The bike ran flawlessly and delivered a power that works for moto. It's mellow enough but big enough to do what you need."On the heavily scrutinized GP test it was obvious that Pro Cycle was going for a trail/desert suspension setting but it managed anyway.Jimmy: "This is a big bike with more of a trail suspension setting. This bike bottomed more than others, but it never did anything scary and I never needed more from the motor. It was really fast-so fast that the thing I noticed the most was that the brakes weren't as strong and didn't bite as much as the stock KTM ones, and I wanted more (usually I want less but I'm getting used to strong brakes again). The speed and weight of this bike taxes the brakes! Pretty impressive from a bike that could have a license plate."

Just when you think bigger is better and new rules, L.A. Sleeve shows up with an '06 debored to a 400. It works! Michael Vanderlip agrees.

As expected, the trail section of the testing allowed the 530 to shine brightly for Kramer and Finley.Kramer: "I love these bikes, and I really like this one with the exception of the tank. The tank tester at IMS must be short, because this one is wide right between my knees. I thought the engine and suspension were a bonus over stock. I wouldn't say the suspension blew me away like the 250X, but for a big, powerful and relatively heavy bike, this thing rocks."Finley is a light rider and as close to the average rider in size as you can get, and he isn't a big-bore guy usually, but he coped fine here. "The Rocky Mountain MC crew did a really good job with this bike," he began. "It had balanced suspension, ergos and the 530 motor is incredible. The bike turned well and just did everything right. For such a big motor, it didn't feel like a big bike on the trail." Keefer claimed the bike felt big and didn't want to rev on the Escargot test, yet he turned his second fastest (KTM 300 XC-W(e) was faster) time of the test.Yet again we see the importance of clear communication with the company dialing in your race bike. Had we weighted the trail test more, the 530 would have been ranked higher, but most of the places the RM/Pro Cycle bike was rated down had more to do with the fact that the bike is essentially big, powerful and, while it's in fact lighter than the WR450F or the Honda CRF450X, feels big for a tight, closed-course race. Excessive power has that kind of effect. But if you have long miles to cover in a day, look for a gentle giant. -Karel Kramer**#119 L.A. Sleeve
Honda CRF400X
Outdated Or Underrated?
**One thing we do here at Dirt Rider is live in the real world. We know not everyone is living high on the hog and cashing in with a new ride every year, let alone dumping loads of dough into that ride. (Yes, that's why we call them Dream Rides!) So we got an interesting entry from L.A. Sleeve: They wanted to bring out the test bike from the 2006 DR 24-Hour, then a CRF430 but now debored to a CRF400X. We told them to come on out.They'd redecorated the bike a bit from 2006 but it was the same tried-and-true '06 CRF under the pretty skin. OK, so the pretty skin cost a bit, just look up the price list, but L.A. Sleeve didn't want to bring an ugly duckling to the party. As far as true needed maintenance the bike was due for a head rebuild as it had been through a brutal 24-hour race at Glen Helen and its fair share of GPs. The piston got fresh rings while the cylinder was off and that was all.It came armed with a seven-inch RTT HID Destroyer headlight for the duration of the test, and that was the first thing riders noticed and truthfully the first thing they felt through the bar. It adds a bit of weight and, combined with the steering damper, you can feel it.The Escargot was the only weak point of this bike through the whole testing regime as it fought the front end pushing and the weight in the bar on the flat bermless turn. Yet as soon as you get used to it, as test riders quickly did, it wasn't all that bad, even in EnduroCross. The one thing that was missing was a set of hand guards. This is what happens when motocross guys build off-road bikes, but they learned quickly in EnduroCross and out on our trail!Being unpumped to a 400 made this CRF a very manageable ride in every other test. In the drag race it was, "a little soft and very . at compared to 450s. It pulls the third gear roll-on fine but is unimpressive, ditto in the drag race. Very little wheel lift, very little spin," is what I wrote in my notes.Metzger was surprised in the EnduroCross: "It was very easy to get over the hard obstacles using the soft suspension with good rebound to bounce over the rocks and logs. Lighter to maneuver than expected. Great delivery on the clutch."And the headlight even helped Robie Peterson on the hillclimb, "It let me get my weight back farther than the other bikes without the front end coming up."

You've seen Mike Metzger way high and upside down, but he had to get low on the KTM 300 XC-W(e).

For the test that was most heavily judged, the GP course, the bike shined in a way that was more than impressive. It acted a little like the fun 250F in outright power, but with a substantial amount more torque and at much lower rpm than those screaming meanies. It was very easy to keep the motor in its long, sweet spot; it had plenty of power everywhere and never too much. It pulled the gears just fine and the only place you were thinking you needed more was on long steep climbs. Karel was impressed enough he was wondering what the bike would be like in moto trim.Some of the notable upgrades since we last saw this bike was the swap from an aluminum skid plate to a carbon-. ber one. This and a revalved set of Precision Concepts suspension gave the bike a very planted feeling where it rode low in the stroke but didn't bottom excessively as it felt like it would. And it had no funny handling issues, either.The R&D; carb mods had the bike jetted perfectly and never missing a beat even when the rider grabbed a big ol' handful. And with a power spread that started at such a low rpm and pulled out so far, that was a good thing. This motor ran like a tuned package. Are you crazy to debore a 450? Only as crazy as boring out a 250F. In a lot of ways they arrive at the same point. Sure, you'll gain a little weight in comparison (the 400 feels lighter than the 450 for sure), but you'll have more torque and certainly better durability as you're putting less power through a motor designed for more.The 400's times were, as expected, faster than the 250F's but slower than the bigger bikes' in most of the tests. But here's where we run into that old debating topic of, "Yes, but how are you going to be riding it when you get tired?" For the record, most likely better than anything else, we'd say. You don't need to be as aggressive as you'd have to be when riding a smaller bike. And you don't have to worry about getting into trouble with excessive power, the kind of power that tires you out in the first place. So this bike was a really good performer just lacking in that one-lap gusto that we all love to pontificate over.Good, impressively so. Impressive? Dude, it was a 2006 and it kept up with the brand-new bikes just fine- are you kidding? -Jimmy Lewis**#113 KTM
300 XC-W(e)
Armed And Dangerous
**When planning for the Torture Test, KTM responded to our request for bike proposals with a simple, "Tell us which models you want and we'll stick spark arrestors on and show up. Oh, and since we won every major off-road championship last year, which champ do you want on the bikes?" Pretty cocky, eh? But the company is backing it up and running with its "Ready to Race" slogan.The 300 XC-W(e) was a pretty easy choice since we'd raved about it in previous testing, but was it the right choice? There's one thing for sure: KTM has variety in the 250-300cc two-stroke range. Would a 250 XC have been better? Stiffer suspension and a lighter feel with identical peak power as the 300? Well, for the majority of us it seemed the electric starter was the golden nugget that had us compromising with the wide-ratio W gearbox and nonsealed cartridge fork.

You have to watch out for the pipe, but that's about all that's worrisome on the KTM 300.

So FMF hooked on one of its new Q Stealth spark arrestors and the bike was ready to go. Talk about an easy prep! In fact, during the radar run the bike was still pretty tight and felt a little loaded up; nice break-in! Here, especially in the roll-on it was evident that the two-stroke is working through a lot less of a usable rpm range. It will pull at low revs but not with the authority that a thumper does. Then it signs off a lot sooner yet it isn't the cutout of a rev-limiter informing you. Instead, it's a progressive flattening of power telling you for a long time to shift! This doesn't do much damage to the engine, either, I might add (unlike the valve-chattering that four-stroke rev-limiting does). But in every test the bike competed in it was praised for a super-smooth motor. It offers four-stroke-like (if not better than) smoothness and a full-range torque that just keeps on giving. It scored the low times in both Escargot and in EnduroCross and was pretty much top three in every other test it took on, we'll give Kurt Caselli some credit, but even our test riders backed it up. What? This in a nearly stock KTM trailbike? think we chose the right one.In the Escargot it was billed as the "fun machine" and was one of the few bikes that didn't need to be shifted, so there are no "between gears" here. Take that, all you four-strokes with long powerbands. The "super smooth" motor didn't hurt a thing, especially traction. In EnduroCross its superlight feel was out of place with the power available; usually you have to . ght the girth of a 450 to have this much boost and lunge on tap. Metzger called it, "the perfect EnduroCross bike." Out on the trail our resident novice Peterson said it had, "throttle response that a four-stroke can't match." He was only put off minimally by the vibration and it would be his first choice as an off-road race bike.Heavier riders and large guys like Kramer and Brian Cornelius definitely felt the suspension was on the soft side. Even for trail riding, guys over 210 pounds are at least looking at springs. I also felt the softness in the GP test where the bike bottomed, though not enough to cause much concern, especially considering it didn't do anything funny when the suspension was maxed out. On the other end of the suspension spectrum, the bike can feel a little on the dancy side and gets busy in choppy ground at speed. This is a trait lighter bikes have and it was a far cry from anything we call headshake. Yet the hookup on acceleration bumps was superb. But when it comes to flicking the bike side to side, quickly, this bike is king. And at the same time it goes just as fast as the four-strokes, which are heavier, even as much as they have progressed in just the last two years in the weight-feeling department.In a GNCC-type setting, the two-stroke and this KTM particularly have an advantage since the racing is happening at middle throttle openings and rarely do you pin it and chase gears. You're also doing a lot of turning and changing directions, quickly and oftentimes side-to-side where less mass really comes into play. Out west in a WORCS or GP setting you can still keep the speed on the 300; it just takes more shifts to do it. Shifting isn't as much of a disadvantage as extra weight can be in tighter racing. If the going gets tight, technical or downright tiring the KTM, a lot like the CRF400F, is easy to conserve energy on since the motor is smooth and sweet and the KTM 300 is truly light. And you have electric starting if you should stall. But going full-bore the bike actually feels a little slow in a four-stroke world of 11,000 rpm and you feel like you're short-shifting it in comparison.The jetting on the bike was stock and just perfect for racing conditions, though we've found it can be set leaner for trail riding. Add to the package that the bike has a deep tank carrying three gallons of fuel while staying reasonably thin. As much as this bike is billed as a single-track trail hound, it can race just the same.

Charlie Flippen, Jason Schmigel, Destry Abbott, Ricky Dietrich, Tanner Harding, Jonny Weisman and Craig Adams.

It isn't so easy to see how this KTM did so well in our test. It isn't modified yet it almost seemed purpose built for our conditions and requirements. It isn't exactly politically correct with everything going four-stroke and a two-smoker comes right in and ruffles feathers, if not downright kicking some ass in the process. And it wouldn't take much to make this bike shine even brighter with personalization for any rider. KTM provides you with a pretty adequate starting point even if it is pretty much finished. -Jimmy LewisChart Legend
(red) #110 HONDA CRF250X
(orange) #111 KTM 250 XC-F
(pink) #113 KTM 300 XC-W(e)
(green) #114 KAWASAKI KLX450
(brown) #115 KTM CHRISTINI
(yellow) #116 HONDA CRF450X
(dark green) #117 KTM 530 EXC
(navy blue) #118 YAMAHA WR450F
(black) #119 HONDA CRF400XThe Charts
You can learn a lot about the bikes with these charts. Every bike went through all the tests with a team rider and a Dirt Rider test rider or editor at the controls (except for EnduroCross where we didn't want to break the bikes by going for time, we just rode for an impression). Remember, some of the team riders were world-class pros, other times they were Average Joes. The DR rider was always the same guy for consistency. And after looking at the times, we feel our tester's times are very representative of how the bikes worked. Each rider only got one shot at each test, and there were no practice sessions, just like in the real-world of off-road racing. Penalties were accessed in EnduroCross for breaking the ribbon (one minute). The sound test was the standard SAE J1287 test at 20 inches and the ride-by was done wide-open in third gear at 50 feet, which gives you a good idea about how a muffler really works.**#114 Kawasaki Team Green
Kawasaki KLX450
Where's Sign-Up?
**Kawasaki did exactly what we asked, it brought us a race bike. A 100 percent certified, tried-and-true Destry Abbott WORCS bike with its whole Monster Energy squad there to back it up. Kawasaki said that this KLX is even a perfect trail riding bike, especially if you are one Destry Abbott. Who are we to complain? Critique, well yes, we can do that...The KLX is the tamest of the 450 trailbikes in the real world. It doesn't take much to give them a little boost, but Team Green knows how to make them rock. With a Pro Circuit engine build list that covers the entire top end, the KLX takes on a very potent nature yet always remembers it's an off-road bike. It gets more power, yep, enough to be the outright fastest bike up our drag-race hill, giving some thanks to one very talented Damon Huffman. Off the bottom the bike has torque and steam but lacks hit. It's a bit on the fluffy side actually, but that allows the bike to pull from low-low rpm very smoothly. You can twist the throttle farther, be somewhat sloppy actually, without getting in trouble. And when it starts building steam it really goes. You feel the power strokes and you feel the bike trying to rip the knobs off the tire. It has great hookup and it pulls a long time. Riding a gear high is the best game, and you still fire out of the turns. The gearing was spaced perfectly, and the clutch allowed you to get away with this abuse. In fact, Keefer did the whole Escargot in third gear.Where this race bike really makes an impression is in the prep and details it has put into it. Like the Precision Concepts bikes the Team Green ride has the touch of a factory mechanic and a lot of little signature marks. The stuff most riders don't take the time to do because we are out riding, not detailing a bike to the highest level. The parts list is only part of the equation; the love that went into the assembly is, as they say, priceless. And we won't forget to mention the fork, which was works kit material.

Destry's setup is a little low in the rear and pretty stiff in the front. It isn't the best turning package, but we all know desert racers can't turn anyways (ha!). How he runs at the front of the WORCS pack...well, we'll just shut up now. In actuality, the bike can and will turn, you just have to mean it and the front end will stick. The larger tank doesn't help this but, then, Destry can go for over an hour on fuel, wide open. And once you get used to the bike's turning character it isn't bad, just different. But where the bike was pure magic was in the braking bumps. You could pretty much ignore them or hit them any way you wanted coming into turns while still in control. The rest of the time the bike acted very stable and sometimes a little heavy feeling; we place a lot of the blame on the larger-capacity tank and the power, both affect this. Overall impression, for the faster stuff, this bike is dialed. Get into true motocross and it acts like an off-road bike.Getting to the nitty gritty, we put the bike through the EnduroCross test, which revealed some heaviness and bulk. Like the Precision Concepts Honda CRF450F, the tighter and more technical, especially with stop-and-go action, the more that 450cc race bikes become a handful. It has a lot to do with power and a little to do with the weight as stock versions of these bikes would have tackled EnduroCross better. Stock versions with this race suspension would've been even better. But a stock motor would get blown away everywhere else, especially at the level this bike is designed to run. Knowing how fast and open GP racecourses are only made it more obvious how pointed and focused this KLX is. It seemed to run the longest between the gears of any bike in the test and required the least amount of shifting. The binders made easy work of late braking, and then inside or outside through the turns the bike pulled with authority. In our GP test this bike was ever so close to the CRF450, it would've come down to personal preferences for any rider. And we know Destry likes it better than anyone. -Jimmy LewisThe Victor!
KTM 300 XC-W(e)

In the end you can have only one winner. We could've picked several, easily, but then there wouldn't be a true winner, now would there? That's why we gave out some distinctive awards throughout the comparison. In the end it wasn't really hard for us to agree on one thing, that the KTM 300 XC-W(e) was an amazing bike that met every challenge we threw at it, finishing at the top of almost everyone's opinions in the subjective tests and near or on top of the charts on the timed tests. It has the amazing ability to hang with the four-strokes where they shined and stick it to them when weight and agility become an issue. It even starts just like them, thank you very much. This, at a time when most have banked that two-strokes are dead. This is also the least modified bike in the test, therefore costing less, in some cases thousands less, than the other bikes. It easily strikes a chord for those of us on a budget and at the same time offers a high performance platform that's ready to compete better than modified bikes since the rider has the ability to personalize it further yet. KTM was selling ready to race. And for this test, that was plenty to win.

The Honda powered some of the trickest Baja Designs lights. Johnny Campbell looks for La Paz.
Robby Bell
Jesse Ziegler
Robby Bell
Kevin Foley kept the Dubach Racing WR nice and dirty through all our torture.
Kevin Foley
Doug Dubach
The Honda powered some of the trickest Baja Designs lights. Johnny Campbell looks for La Paz.
Robby Bell
Jesse Ziegler
Robby Bell
Kevin Foley kept the Dubach Racing WR nice and dirty through all our torture.
Kevin Foley
Doug Dubach
The Honda powered some of the trickest Baja Designs lights. Johnny Campbell looks for La Paz.
Robby Bell
Jesse Ziegler
Robby Bell
Kevin Foley kept the Dubach Racing WR nice and dirty through all our torture.
Kevin Foley
Doug Dubach
With the Christini, Mike Metzger became the Godfather of traction.
Homero Diaz
Geoff Aaron
Karel Kramer
The Honda powered some of the trickest Baja Designs lights. Johnny Campbell looks for La Paz.
Robby Bell
Jesse Ziegler
Robby Bell
This bike has the best KTM 250 thumper engine we have sampled to date. #111 made a lot of friends.
Clint Castleberry
Mike Lafferty
With the Christini, Mike Metzger became the Godfather of traction.
Homero Diaz
Geoff Aaron
Karel Kramer
The Honda powered some of the trickest Baja Designs lights. Johnny Campbell looks for La Paz.
Robby Bell
Jesse Ziegler
Robby Bell
This bike has the best KTM 250 thumper engine we have sampled to date. #111 made a lot of friends.
Clint Castleberry
Mike Lafferty
With the Christini, Mike Metzger became the Godfather of traction.
Homero Diaz
Geoff Aaron
Karel Kramer
The Honda powered some of the trickest Baja Designs lights. Johnny Campbell looks for La Paz.
Robby Bell
Jesse Ziegler
Robby Bell
When the going got rough we hardly noticed on this bike. Ryan Orr wanted more bumps!
Timmy Weigand
Ryan Orr
Jimmy Lewis
Kris Keefer
This bike has the best KTM 250 thumper engine we have sampled to date. #111 made a lot of friends.
Clint Castleberry
Mike Lafferty
With the Christini, Mike Metzger became the Godfather of traction.
Homero Diaz
Geoff Aaron
Karel Kramer
The Honda powered some of the trickest Baja Designs lights. Johnny Campbell looks for La Paz.
Robby Bell
Jesse Ziegler
Robby Bell
When the going got rough we hardly noticed on this bike. Ryan Orr wanted more bumps!
Timmy Weigand
Ryan Orr
Jimmy Lewis
Kris Keefer
This bike has the best KTM 250 thumper engine we have sampled to date. #111 made a lot of friends.
Clint Castleberry
Mike Lafferty
Karel Kramer
Burt Bradford
With the Christini, Mike Metzger became the Godfather of traction.
Homero Diaz
Geoff Aaron
Karel Kramer
The Honda powered some of the trickest Baja Designs lights. Johnny Campbell looks for La Paz.
Robby Bell
Jesse Ziegler
Robby Bell
When the going got rough we hardly noticed on this bike. Ryan Orr wanted more bumps!
Timmy Weigand
Ryan Orr
Jimmy Lewis
Kris Keefer
This bike has the best KTM 250 thumper engine we have sampled to date. #111 made a lot of friends.
Clint Castleberry
Mike Lafferty
Taking a little boost away from a 450X added fun factor in technical riding.
Justin Jones
Mike Metzger
Justin Jones
Michael Vanderlip
With the Christini, Mike Metzger became the Godfather of traction.
Homero Diaz
Geoff Aaron
Karel Kramer
The Honda powered some of the trickest Baja Designs lights. Johnny Campbell looks for La Paz.
Robby Bell
Jesse Ziegler
Robby Bell
When the going got rough we hardly noticed on this bike. Ryan Orr wanted more bumps!
Timmy Weigand
Ryan Orr
Jimmy Lewis
Kris Keefer
This bike has the best KTM 250 thumper engine we have sampled to date. #111 made a lot of friends.
Clint Castleberry
Mike Lafferty
Taking a little boost away from a 450X added fun factor in technical riding.
Justin Jones
Mike Metzger
Justin Jones
Michael Vanderlip
With the Christini, Mike Metzger became the Godfather of traction.
Homero Diaz
Geoff Aaron
Karel Kramer
The Honda powered some of the trickest Baja Designs lights. Johnny Campbell looks for La Paz.
Robby Bell
Jesse Ziegler
Robby Bell
When the going got rough we hardly noticed on this bike. Ryan Orr wanted more bumps!
Timmy Weigand
Ryan Orr
Jimmy Lewis
Kris Keefer
Kurt Caselli
Clint Castleberry
Taking a little boost away from a 450X added fun factor in technical riding.
Justin Jones
Mike Metzger
Justin Jones
Michael Vanderlip
With the Christini, Mike Metzger became the Godfather of traction.
Homero Diaz
Geoff Aaron
Karel Kramer
The Honda powered some of the trickest Baja Designs lights. Johnny Campbell looks for La Paz.
Robby Bell
Jesse Ziegler
Robby Bell
Radar Drag Race There isn\'t much of a surprise here, other than how fast and hard the CRF450X pulled in the middle of the run and how the WR450 ran so strong at the end. Both keeping even the KTM 530 honest. Where the lines turn down is the exact same distance from the start, meaning the Honda 450 got there fi rst and the Honda 250F would\'ve been last.
Radar Third-Gear Roll-On/Top Speed The third-gear roll-on is a no-clutch twist of the throttle as fast as the bike will allow until it tops out. It shows top speed in third gear and how hard a bike pulls. Top speed was measured at the end of the drag race.
When the going got rough we hardly noticed on this bike. Ryan Orr wanted more bumps!
Timmy Weigand
Ryan Orr
Jimmy Lewis
Kris Keefer
Kurt Caselli
Clint Castleberry
Taking a little boost away from a 450X added fun factor in technical riding.
Justin Jones
Mike Metzger
Justin Jones
Michael Vanderlip
With the Christini, Mike Metzger became the Godfather of traction.
Homero Diaz
Geoff Aaron
Karel Kramer
The Honda powered some of the trickest Baja Designs lights. Johnny Campbell looks for La Paz.
Robby Bell
Jesse Ziegler
Robby Bell
Radar Drag Race There isn\'t much of a surprise here, other than how fast and hard the CRF450X pulled in the middle of the run and how the WR450 ran so strong at the end. Both keeping even the KTM 530 honest. Where the lines turn down is the exact same distance from the start, meaning the Honda 450 got there fi rst and the Honda 250F would\'ve been last.
Radar Third-Gear Roll-On/Top Speed The third-gear roll-on is a no-clutch twist of the throttle as fast as the bike will allow until it tops out. It shows top speed in third gear and how hard a bike pulls. Top speed was measured at the end of the drag race.
When the going got rough we hardly noticed on this bike. Ryan Orr wanted more bumps!
Timmy Weigand
Ryan Orr
Jimmy Lewis
Kris Keefer
Kurt Caselli
Clint Castleberry
Taking a little boost away from a 450X added fun factor in technical riding.
Justin Jones
Mike Metzger
Justin Jones
Michael Vanderlip
With the Christini, Mike Metzger became the Godfather of traction.
Homero Diaz
Geoff Aaron
Karel Kramer
The Honda powered some of the trickest Baja Designs lights. Johnny Campbell looks for La Paz.
Robby Bell
Jesse Ziegler
Robby Bell