Taking a beat MXer and turn it into a woods warrior

By Adam Booth

What do you do with a well-used and abused 2014 YZ125? If you like riding off-road, you throw a little cash and some elbow grease at it, granting it a new lease on life. This particular YZ125 spent a substantial amount of time at the motocross track, first as a race bike, then as a tired practice bike. It was hammered but not broken. Cal (aka “NASCAR”) at FTI Racing was the gentleman responsible for converting this tired moto machine into a strong woods weapon.

The Project YZ125 engine was on the receiving end of a new top end from Wiseco, Pro X bearings, Rekluse clutch, FMF exhaust system and lots of love.

The YZ125 off-road refresh started with a full tear-down and deep clean. All the bearings on the bike, including the internal engine bearings, were replaced with ProX products. A Wiseco piston found a new home in the cylinder, and a Rekluse Core Manual Torq-Drive clutch took over for the tired stock setup. An FMF Fatty pipe and Shorty muffler handled the duties of directing the spent fumes. ProX was also called upon for the sprockets and chain (13/51), brake rotors and brake pads.

The 18-inch rear wheel helps make good traction and allows you to run lower air pressure. The testers loved the Kenda IBEX rear meat.

For a bike to perform at its full potential off-road, an 18-inch rear wheel is essential. Because the stock wheels were far from perfect, a set of Tusk wheels with an 18-inch rear found a home on the YZ. Because comfort is important, an SDG seat cover and seat foam relegated the stock stuff to the trashcan.

Works Connection goodies adorned the YZ front to back. Cycra plastic and Armored graphics made the well-used machine look refreshed. THUGS (The Hands Ultimate Guard System) full-wrap hand guards were added to protect riders’ hands from the trees in the woods of Ohio. They are a stout setup that offers superb protection. One cool feature is the shouldered inner pivot bolt that allows the hand guard to articulate, so the handlebars can flex as designed.

The THUGS full wrap hand guards were tough and have some innovative technology.

During our two days of riding in Ohio at Crow Canyon, we had a mix of perfect dirt and some super-slippery mud, which Ohio is famous for. Riding the YZ125 was more like riding a mountain bike than a dirt bike. Keys to excellent handling are suspension setup and tire choice. The FTI-modified suspension was very plush and soaked up the roots and rocks without upsetting the chassis. FTI kept the stock spring rates and focused on valving for off-road.

An 18-inch rear Kenda Ibex sticky tire was added for incredible traction. We ran a heavy-duty tube and 9 psi for seriously good rear-tire hookup. The sticky compound is pure bliss when the trail is muddy and littered in roots and rocks. The Washougal II dual-compound front tire worked well in a variety of conditions. We ran a conservative 12 psi up front.

All 125s lack impressive bottom-end grunt, but with the smooth overall power of the YZ engine and easy modulation of the Rekluse clutch, navigating tight woods was actually fun. Given more time on the bike, we’d be inclined to go even softer on the springs for an ultra-light pull at the lever, because 125’s require more clutch action than other bikes. We would also gravitate towards a longer silencer for even smoother power but loved the barky side of the FMF Shorty out on the motocross track.

Not everyone has the cash for a shiny new dirt bike, but finding a decent used bike and spending a little time and a few dollars can get you something that is a complete blast to ride in a lot of areas. Not all these mods are necessary to resurrect a tired bike, but getting the suspension dialed and lacing up an 18-inch rear wheel can turn a moto machine into a really capable off-roader for a fraction of the cost of a new bike.





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