Motorcycles DT Racing 2020 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition Review
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A piece of racing history was sold as Richard Childress put Dale Earnhardt’s 1996 NASCAR Monte Carlo into a charity auction where it brought $425,000!When you think of iconic pieces of racing history, you would hard-pressed to find one more recognized than the black number 3 cars piloted by NASCAR's legendary Dale Earnhardt. Its color fit perfect with his aggressive driving style and "intimidator" moniker. For years this piece of automotive history has been held in the collection of Richard Childress, but that changed when Mr. Childress, of Richard Childress Racing (RCR), decided to auction the car to benefit pandemic-related charities.
Dirt Rider contributor Mark Kariya recently wrote a story aboutbuilt by John Talarico. This is not just any run-of-the-mill motocross bike build; this is a full-on desert racing assault machine.
DT Racing is run by John Talarico, who has been building desert racebikes for more than 20 years. Each year he builds two or three professional riders’ racebikes along with any other racer who needs help for Vegas-to-Reno and numerous other events. Talarico’s lifelong goal has always been continual improvement. He built afor this year’s Vegas-to-Reno, a bike that he feels is without doubt capable of winning it.
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Learning from working with some of the best racers over the past two decades, he is very proud of the latest version of his Vegas-to-Reno machine—so much so that he invited Dirt Rider to come out and test not only his newest 2020 racebike, but also his 2019 machine to compare it to. Lucky for me, I got the nod to be the test rider.
I was slightly intimated arriving at the test location just north of Victorville, California. I was informed this new 2020 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition racebike was pumping out in excess of 65 hp (which is 6 hp more than the 2019 version Talarico built) on XPR Motorsports’ dyno and capable of going 116 mph in the dirt. After hearing that, I knew I better put my big boy pants on. The fastest I had previously gone on a dirt bike in the desert was 93 mph, which, surprisingly, was on a stock 2020 Husqvarna FE 350s dual sport bike.
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Having only seen photos of the bike, I spent a little time looking it over before hopping aboard. It appeared to be well built, having just the right amount of extra performance components, desert racing protection parts, and no unnecessary items that could become an issue in such a grueling race. It appeared as though Talarico picked components that were necessary to improve the bike’s performance and durability, but not items that were redundant or just there because a sponsor wanted them on the bike.
The single biggest thing that had me drooling like a puppy for a jumbo Milk-Bone treat was the WP factory suspension. I knew that if I was going to be able to ride this thing wide open, it was that the suspension better be light years above the stock components. The WP Xact Pro 7548 coil-spring fork with Cone Valve technology and WP Xact Pro 8950 shock with the SuperTrax feature sure looked the part. Talarico also uses a steering damper built by Precision Racing that has a unique design that allows it to mount directly to the handlebar and is very compact in size. It’s a nice feature as you can still run stock-height bar mounts, and if you prefer, you can also retain the crossbar without any modifications. Lucky for me, the bike was built for professional racers Axel Pearson and Jeff Trulove, both of whom are about the same height and weight as myself. Very little adjustments were needed for me to begin testing the bike.
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2020 Salt Lake City 6 Supercross 450 Class Race Report“We were all really close in speed, not a lot separating,” Webb remarked. “I fixed the whoops about halfway. I think that’s what was holding me back and I started hitting them really well. It was a tight race and the whole race it seemed like a lot of pressure between us all because we weren’t making many mistakes. I’m sure it was a fun race for the fans to watch and it was a fun race to win, for sure.
I suited up and jumped on the 450 SX-F Factory Edition waiting for Talarico to let me loose. He pointed at the desert road and said, “Go there; head straight down that road as fast as you can. In about five miles, turn left at the power lines and follow them for about another five miles. Then turn left again until you get around that mountain and [then make] one more left to head back into our pits.” It was a 20-mile loop that I was told should take 15 minutes. Twenty miles in 15 minutes? I would be lucky if I just didn’t get lost, I thought to myself.
Nodding my head, doing my best to look confident in where I was going, I clicked the bike into gear and headed out. As I began to shift up through the gears, I was surprised how comfortable I felt. Easily cruising in fifth gear, I clicked up to sixth. The gap was noticeable and it set the engine rpm in a very smooth area. Still getting my bearings and being cautious not to miss the waypoints, I began to push the bike a little harder.
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Reaching the first landmark of the power lines, I made the left turn and headed down a two-track road that had clearly been prerun by 100 or more trucks and buggies. The whoops were beginning to put the WP Xact Pro components to the test. With the addition of a few rocks, some the size of a softball or bigger, I knew it was time to get ready to hang on. The more comfortable I became with the faster than what I would call normal speeds, the more I began to appreciate how well the bike was working. The amount of damping control without harshness in the suspension was amazing. The way Talarico had the suspension set up gave me confidence to hit the biggest of whoops and not worry about timing them perfectly, and about feeling any harshness when clipping a rock here and there.
As I made my way around what is DT Racing’s short loop test course, things started to get even more comfortable. The more I relaxed and let the bike do the work for me, the more fun it was. Generally, cruising down two-track roads at speeds over 60 mph can be a little stressful. However, with this bike, it seemed as though it was just reaching its stride.
2020 KTM 450 XC-F
2020 KTM 450 XC-F
After my first lap, I wanted to calm down the steering just a little because at higher speeds, I was getting a little bit of head shake in the handlebar. I asked about stiffening the Precision Racing steering damper, but Talarico explained that it was correctable by a small shock adjustment. He went in one click on the low-speed compression and suggested I try that.
I put my goggles back on and it was time for lap 2. On this lap, I didn’t waste any time getting up to speed and decided to see where my limit was. Quickly getting into sixth gear, I slid back on the seat, tucked down just a touch, and held it wide open. The way the bike picked up speed in sixth gear was no joke; it did so within seconds. I could not believe how fast I was going. The small change to the shock did exactly what I was looking for in the steering. Wide open at easily 100 mph or more and I felt like I could reach up and grab a drink from my USWE hydration pack, but I didn’t chance it.
About halfway through the second lap, I ventured off course down to what looked like a cool single-track trail that would take me over the mountain instead of going around. Certainly not typical terrain for the high-speed Vegas-to-Reno desert race, but I just wanted to see how the bike would perform at lower speeds in tighter sections.
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With 14/47 gearing and an IMS 3.0-gallon tank carrying a full load of VP Racing Fuels T4 race gas, the bike still performed well in the single-track. The IMS tank is very well designed as it maximizes the lowest center of gravity while still being narrow so that you can still get forward enough on the bike to steer it. First gear was a little tall and keeping my finger on the clutch was key as I accidentally stalled the bike once in the single-track. I was also able to reach down and open the adjuster on the Precision Racing steering stabilizer on the fly, freeing up the bike to steer a little better in the tight sections.
I rolled back into the pits and reported to Talarico that his adjustment was perfect and asked if we could do even one more click in the same direction. He made the adjustment and I went out to do two more laps and have some fun on the bike.
After a few laps and really getting comfortable with the 2020 racebike, he suggested I try the 2019 model to see the differences and if the improvements were noticeable. The major updates to DT Racing’s 2020 machine were the WP Pro Components suspension, Vertex piston with a 13.6:1 compression ratio, Vortex X-10 ECU mapped for desert racing by Chad Braun at XPR Motorsports, and a change in gearing to 14/47 (compared to the 2019 model’s 15/49).
It didn’t take me long to appreciate Talarico’s hard work and improvements. While the 2019 was fast and handled well, I could feel that the 2020 version was a much more polished machine. The stock WP Xact fork on the 2019 model, which featured a spring conversion kit and Gold Valves, didn’t offer the same amount of comfort and the engine was comparatively a little down on power as well.
Dirt Bikes For Kids
Dirt Bikes For Kids
Like the 2020 bike, the 2019 machine featured an added sixth gear and FMF Factory 4.1 RCT full exhaust system. The ECU was stock, but had been remapped. The MY19 racebike produced more low-end torque, but it took much longer to get up to speed in sixth gear. Talarico’s 2020 package with the Vertex piston and Vortex ECU smoothed out the bottom to mid and helped the bike to continue to build power much further into the rpm. What was most noticeable in the mapping was the 2019 bike wanted to spin the rear wheel a significant amount over the 2020 model, making it harder to ride. So much so that with equal time on both bikes on our test day, the rear tire was clearly more worn on the 2019 racebike compared to the 2020. For a long-distance race like Vegas-to-Reno, having a smoother, easier-to-ride engine may be important as it can result in less rider fatigue and longer durations between rear wheel changes due to less wheelspin.
One thing the 2019 had that the 2020 bike didn’t was an odometer. The top speed I was able to reach on the 2019 was 106 mph before having to slow down for corners on the relatively short (by desert racing standards) sections. The 2020 bike got up to speed much quicker and clearly pulled sixth gear significantly further into the high rpm.
Overall, DT Racing’s 2020 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition is by far the fastest dirt bike I have ever ridden. Even though it’s rated at over 65 hp on the dyno, I never felt like it was the kind of power I couldn’t control.
Because of the way Talarico set up the chassis, the 450 SX-F Factory Edition racebike felt more planted than a Yamaha YZ-F, but still lighter like a KTM SX-F. His ability to find the balance between the two is perfect. Combine that with a smooth, linear power delivery and you have a confidence-inspiring motorcycle, even for a rookie desert racer like myself.
I enjoy all forms of off-road and motocross riding/racing. I had never considered racing a high-speed desert race like Vegas-to-Reno, but after riding DT Racing’s latest 450 SX-F Factory Edition, I have a whole new outlook on it. If I ever do decide to take a shot at competing and somehow completing such a demanding event, I would certainly have DT Racing on the top of my list of people to call. They offer this exact same package to customers and surely have this bike figured out.
Dirt Bikes For Kids .
Dirt Bikes For Kids