Busy week: over the last few days, we were involved with tests of the KTM 85SX, the Beta 300RR Race Edition and an 450 off-road shootout. We don’t often test mini motocross bikes for two reasons. First, they’re small and we’re big. Second, they don’t change often. But as it turns out, the KTM 85 SX is one of the most significant bikes of 2018. It has an all-new motor, meaning that KTM has redesigned every two-stroke in its line up over a four-year period. It also has the mini version of the WP air fork, which is called the AER 43. The frame is narrower, the bike is lighter and, overall, it’s the most important thing to happen in the mini world in years.

We enlisted Max Vohland to help us with the test. He came down from Sacramento for a photo shoot, along with his dad Tallon, who raced Nationals and GPs in the ‘90s. The bike wasn’t new to Max. He’s already an Orange Brigade rider in the Supermini class. Aside from being an incredible photo model, he was useful in helping us understand the bike, and comparing it to the previous generation KTM. We also used regular test rider Sean Lipanovich to help out. He’s an adult, but small enough to ride the bike and give us feedback.

Between the two of them, we came to understand that the new KTM is miles ahead of the previous version, especially in suspension and low-end power. That’s encouraging because the 85 class has a history of moving toward expert riders and leaving out beginners. With additional torque, the new 85 SX should appeal to both camps. Same goes for the suspension, If ever there was a good argument for an air fork, it’s in the mini class, where riders range from 70 pounds to over 110.

The test will appear in the March print issue of Dirt Bike, along with an overview of KTM’s other minis.


We have the Honda CRF450X, the Yamaha WR450R and the Suzuki RMX450Z in the house. These are all legitimate trail bikes. They come soft and quiet from the manufacturer, and if you want something a little more hard edged, you can do it yourself. The roadmap is well established. Any modifications make them into closed-course vehicles in the eyes of various government agencies.

The Honda is, of course, the model that’s won the Baja 1000 a bunch of times. It hasn’t changed much in over 10 years. You can ride it without modification, or you can rebuild it into a virtual 2008 CRF450R motocross bike. It has to be said that in absolutely stock form, the Honda has a clear advantage over the others.  There’s no throttle stop and it runs clean and crisp. It’s  not especially fast, but it is very quiet.

The Suzuki comes with a throttle stop, an inner exhaust baffle and a very restrictive airbox to pass EPA off-road rules. You have to remove the throttle stop or life is very frustrating. If you go a step further and remove the inner baffle, it’s pretty fast. It’s also pretty loud. If you open the airbox, it gets a little lean, and requires remapping. JD jetting has an EFI tuner that works well.

Yamaha equipped the WR with a throttle stop, too, that virtually all customers will replace. It runs well with only that change–about like the stock Honda. Beyond that, Yamaha has a well-established procedure to up the performance. There’s a GYTR competition kit that has the black box from the YZ450FX; it sells for $113. Between that and a full race exhaust, you can make the WR run exactly like the FX. For the full story, check out the March Print issue of Dirt Bike.


The best job perk of all time is having the privilege of occasionally riding new 300 two-stroke off-road bikes. This is a great one: the Beta 300RR Race Edition. Beta took the standard 300RR, removed the oil injector and upgraded the suspension. There are a few other cool cosmetic items, and the bike just looks awesome.

I shoot Pete Murray on the bike on Wednesday. He always give it everything he’s got. The test will be in March.



Two weeks ago I got a 1995 Honda CR250R project bike for $750. It was fairly rough, but I did a mad dash to get it running for the last Big 6 race of the year. Precision Concepts did a rush job on the suspension, I installed a Vertex piston, put in a left side crank seal and got a plastic kit from Polysport. I borrowed a tall seat from Bob Casper, who is the leading local authority on old Hondas. It also got new cables and IMS footpegs. Then I showed up at Lake Havasu and raced in the Revo class. It was awesome! The test run was encouraging enough to go all the way, and make it the subject of a full restoration. The engine is already out, the frame will go off to San Diego Power coating and that’s only getting started. Will it be ready in time for Big 6 race one of 2018? Maybe, maybe not. Photo by Mark Kariya.

That’s all for now,




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