American-Made Factory Bike - Dirt Rider Magazine

We watched intently, before the supercross season even kicked off, as the Joe Gibbs Racing squad started work on the brand-new 2010 Yamaha YZ450F ("Top Secret SX Testing: Birth Of A Supercross Bike," April 2010) and initiated the craft of turning it into a full-fledged race machine for the highest level. For the Outdoor bike they worked through the supercross season and even during the planning and preparation period for the Lucas Oil Outdoor Nationals, since an Outdoor machine is a whole different animal than its nocturnal indoor brother.Jealous as well as curious, we were, knowing the inner workings at the JGR shop and seeing the stage performance of the machine. But what the bike was like to ride, we could only wonder as we stood staring at it at the JGR rig just before the first Outdoor National at Hangtown. Since JGR is a little different than your typical factory team, where getting a test ride on a works bike (even though they are production-rule-based) could require months of planning, a lot of secrecy and the even more common flat-out cancelation, we just asked, "Sure would like to ride that Josh Grant bike, you know?"Team manager Jeremy Albrecht responded, "OK, meet Josh and Alex (Ewing, Josh's mechanic) next week at Milestone where he's going to practice. You can ride it there."Now the bike we rode was Josh's practice bike. It was pretty stinking close to a full-on racer, just built up with a little less of the extremely expensive titanium and maybe slightly less of the go-for-broke tune on the engine. The motor still runs hard enough to have only a 10-hour life span, and the suspension was exactly the same as the race bike. At Grant's level he has to practice on top-flight equipment to be on his game.The practice bike comes out of a clean white van, not a factory hauler. It isn't shined to the hilt like the race bike is weekend in and weekend out, but try telling that to Alex who spent eight hours the night before getting the bike ready for a practice day, since some old, fat magazine editor was going to ride it and take a few pictures. It still requires a good warm-up and it is still on the clock when it is running, even with said editor flogging it at half-speed. The good thing about this bike was that Josh and I are of similar size, so his layout was just about perfect, save for a slight clutch lever engagement point adjustment. Everything else on the bike was exactly where I have it on the YZ450F I have been riding.But there were a few big differences, and it started in the power department. This bike, of course, has a lot of power, and it starts right on the bottom, lower even than stock. It is a lot more deliberate than the stocker but is smoother and does not have a step or hit in power like the stocker can at the crack of the throttle. This bike just has so much boost you can have the hit anytime you want it simply by cranking the throttle. I was revving the bike in every gear and taking my time to shift it on my first few laps, but when I pulled back off the track Alex told me, "Bang shifts as fast as you can; don't rev it, just shift."Well, that was a whole new experience on the Dean Miller-tuned engine, and it worked. It was a little deceiving since it revved so well, but if you just hammer the shifts, the JGR YZ-F pulls even harder and goes even faster. Grant likes a lot of top-end, and this bike has it. But it pulls so hard that shifting is the key to speed and traction, plus it is easier on your brain. Just shift. It does not take long to get into fifth through the works transmission inside the cases, which wasn't noticeable by way of ratios. But then I wasn't really ever shifting down below third gear either, even on the tight corners that require second on my stock machine. This shows two things: Lots of power and high corner speed.

And that corner speed carried all the way through what was a rough track since Wednesday at Milestone is sort of a mini national and amateur fast-guy practice day. The bumps were building, and ruts were pretty established. Not to the level one would see at an actual Outdoor National but way rougher than any normal practice track becomes. These guys don't go around stuff when it gets rough, they hammer through it. Which is understandable once you ride a factory bike and feel how stiff the suspension is. But the JGR bike is different in one way that made it stand out from all of the other factory-level machines I have ridden. It was truly plush. Works suspension has a way of having a "dead" plush feel with all of the stiffness, a sensation that makes the bike feel planted, stuck to the ground and heavy. This way the bike absorbs half of the bump and it does not go anyplace, but your body better be strong to handle the rest. What JGR has done, with a Showa kit 49mm fork and a JRI shock it has been developing, is get that true plushness back into the mix without having the bike feel wallowy or flexy, and at the same time stay stiff enough for pro speeds. It is planted, plush and then the bike still feels truly light on its wheels. About the only thing on the shock that is the same as what we've seen before is the bump rubber, though there isn't just one single thing inside the shock or fork that is allowing that plushness according to Albrecht: "It just took us longer to get it dialed all in with that feel." Currently only 10 of these shocks exist, and they are now outdated. A newer and upgraded version should be around soon implementing some of the things the team has learned. The bike is, like most race bikes, hard to bottom, but I wasn't hitting stuff like those riders do anyway. The bottom of the suspension stroke is to prevent disaster; I was staying far from it.Some tweaks to the chassis come mostly through different-offset steering-head bearings and races to alter the geometry from track to track, and the team runs hand-built triple clamps to hold the Showa fork, though at the stock offset. Grant's bike was not outright light feeling in the bar, like a stock YZ-F is, but that was with me going slow. Get the bike up to speed and the front got really light, so much so that the team is looking at adapting a steering damper soon. Overall, the bike is less prone to falling into turns and is a little more on rails once you get into the turn. Grant, like me, likes to follow the front wheel through the turn as opposed to sliding the whole way through, but from watching him use the power, he is speaking about that on a different level. Coming out of the turns is another area the suspension is quite magical in the works bike world as there is a level of comfort not common. It seems like the shock is able to act quicker without becoming springy feeling.The rest of the works bike goodness, the touches and tweaks that makes a works bike really a works bike, is found throughout the machine. The oversize front brake is self-explanatory. Lowering the rear subframe allows Josh to get farther over the back and not be bucked. There is ongoing tuning of the shock linkage which also plays with the geometry of the machine. And all of this has even more of a purpose than just racing in front of a crowd.As you read this, JGR is expanding to have a commercial side to its race effort, a high-end performance business for those who want to have the top-of-the-line stuff that the race team has been developing. Yes, you can almost have Josh Grant's bike less the factory Yamaha OW works transmission and wheel hubs. They are also working on all brands of machines as we speak. But I can tell you one thing, they really have this Yamaha working on a very different level. As much as I like the mostly stock machine I've been riding as my DR Long Haul, now I want a lot of what this bike has. Riding a top-flight race bike really ruins me.