Do you know who Tyla Rattray is? Do you really know, or are you just afraid to admit your ignorance? How can we be sure? Of course, now you know who Tyla Rattray is because he is racing the AMA 250 National Championships. But did you know who he was before the Lucas Oil National series started? Don’t be ashamed, most Americans didn’t.
Behold, a brief introduction to Rattray. Born and raised in South Africa, the 24-year-old raced the European Grand Prix circuit with remarkable success for the last five years. He won the FIM 250 World Championship class last year and decided to follow his dream of racing in the U.S. He decided to forgo the AMA Supercross series and instead prepared for a 250 National title bid under the tutelage of Mitch Payton and the Pro Circuit team. So even if you don’t know much about Tyla Rattray, at least you know the powerful Kawasaki team that he is now riding for.
MXA has a long history with Pro Circuit. We tested the first race bike they ever built (way back in 1978) and have been fortunate enough to test the race bikes they built for Ricky Carmichael, Grant Langston, Nathan Ramsey, Jeremy McGrath, Steve Lamson, Chris Gosselaar, Ryan Hughes and Ryan Villopoto. We have earned a master’s degree in testing Pro Circuit bikes, with a minor in what Mitch Payton and his crew eat, sleep and think. Their passion and knowledge translate into race-winning machines. When we heard the news that Rattray had crossed the pond and was racing the Nationals on a Pro Circuit KX250F, we were licking our chops to test his 2009 bike.
SHOP TALK: DISCUSSING THE COMPONENTS
Since Rattray is sponsored by Pro Circuit, it is no surprise that the majority of the KX250F parts are handcrafted by Mitch Payton and the boys at Pro Circuit. With their extremely strict attention to detail, every part on Rattray’s bike has a purpose. No area of the Kawasaki KX250F is left untouched, nor is any part left to question.
The Pro Circuit mantra involves developing aftermarket products that aid in the overall performance of the bike. Need examples? The aluminum throttle tube doesn’t make Tyla’s KX250F faster, but it is much stronger than the stock plastic throttle tube. In turn, the aluminum tube can prevent a costly DNF in the event of a crash. Of course, the name of the game is horsepower, so Pro Circuit utilizes titanium intake and exhaust valves. The lighter-than-steel valves are but one piece of the very big puzzle that, when finished, creates what many pit pundits consider to be the fastest 250 four-stroke on the National circuit.
It is the most unobtainable parts on Tyla Rattray’s bike that really tickle our fancy. Pro Circuit is Kawasaki’s powerhouse 250 team. They receive money, bikes, technical support and works parts from Kawasaki. Mitch Payton receives monetary support, as well as product support. Money makes the wheels go around, and that is evident in the trick KHI (Kawasaki Heavy Industries) parts that help make Rattray’s bike stand out from the crowd. The factory radiators hold more fluid than the stockers; the KHI oil cooler aids in engine performance late in a moto; the magnesium hubs are as strong as an ox; and the massive front brake caliper allows Rattray to stop on a flea’s hair.
WE ALWAYS GET CHILLS WHEN WE SET OUT TO TEST A PRO CIRCUIT RACE BIKE. AMAZINGLY, EACH ONE IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT, DUE TO RIDER PREFERENCES. HOWEVER, EVERY PRO CIRCUIT BIKE HAS HELD THE DISTINCTION OF BEING A ROCKETSHIP. NEVER ONCE HAVE WE FOUND ONE LACKING IN POWER.
The works parts are super trick, but Kawasaki actually stopped most race development on the Kawasaki KX250F and handed it over to Pro Circuit. Not only was this less expensive for KHI, but Pro Circuit did a better job of it. In essence, KHI is just another supplier for the parts that Pro Circuit orders.
Summarizing the extent of Pro Circuit products on Tyla’s KX250F looks similar to your mother’s grocery list. In every department, there are a multitude of aftermarket pieces. In the engine category are the coated wrist pin, high-performance camshafts, coated tappets, titanium valves, special valve spring kit, high-compression piston and stiffer clutch springs. Additionally, Pro Circuit installed copper valve seats, ported the head, tumbled the transmission (to polish the gears) and replaced the stock black box (with a proprietary JD Electronics ignition). For the parts that can be purchased, the bill would be $4768 (not including labor).
And that price does not include the Showa A Kit suspension with its beautifully anodized turquoise fork tubes and shock shaft. The Showa A Kit suspension receives most of the attention from casual observers ($6750 for the suspension and around $1325 for the titanium nitrate coatings). Pro Circuit also installs their own shock linkage arm, titanium shock spring, 22mm offset triple clamps, and rider preference bar mounts. How much does the entire suspension package cost on Tyla Rattray’s bike? If you set aside $10,000, you’d get $334 back in change.
Perusing Rattray’s bike is like going to Disneyland. Sparkly things are everywhere. The bike uses a Ti-4R race system, a cast clutch cover, CNC-machined clutch perch, sturdy hot-start connector, machined axle blocks, engine plug kit, reconfigured carb body, cast water pump cover with impeller, adjustable fuel mixture screw, special cable guides, heat thermostrips, high-temp radiator hose kit, brake snake, air filter screen eliminator kit, titanium footpegs, launch control, silver reflective heat film, rear brake clevis, banjo bolts, forged brake lever and forged clutch lever. Pro Circuit also uses their own radiator catch tank, which stores boiled-over radiator fluid into a tank and self-siphons it back into the radiator once the bike cools.
Of course, there is a cornucopia of other aftermarket companies helping the Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team. UFO (plastic kit), Twin Air (air filter), Hinson (pressure plates, inner hub, clutch basket), Renthal (TwinWall 997 bend bars, sprockets, medium-density grips), RK (gold chain), LightSpeed (glide plate, case guards, rear caliper guard), Braking (270mm oversized cauliflower front rotor and rear rotor), Excel (A-60 rims), VP (Pro 4.1 fuel), Bridgestone (602/604 combination), WRP (titanium bolt kit) and N-Style (graphics kit) all pitch in.
TEST RIDE: HOLD ON AND PRAY
We always get chills when we set out to test a Pro Circuit race bike. Amazingly, each one is totally different, due to rider preferences. However, every Pro Circuit bike has held the distinction of being a rocketship. Never once have we found one lacking in power. In fact, the last Pro Circuit race bike we tested was Ryan Villopoto’s Motocross des Nations-romping 2007 KX250F. We were so enamored with the engine that we compared it to a mini 450.
Was Tyla Rattray’s bike as much of a horsepower monster? Absolutely! Where Ryan Villopoto’s engine was best from mid-to-top, Rattray’s KX250F lived high in the upper rpm ranges. The Pro Circuit powerplant had the ability to be lugged at lower rpm and was eye-opening in the midrange, but it nearly tore our arms out of their sockets once the engine reached full tilt. We weren’t surprised that Tyla went for the gusto and requested an engine profile that performed best in the top-end of the power range. After all, he won his 250 World Championship on a KTM 250SXF—the king of rev engines. Tyla Rattray’s KX250F engine is definitely for pro-level-only riders. It’s a good thing that Tyla has a World Championship to his credit, because otherwise he might not fit the description of who this bike best suits.
Often we find that AMA National riders opt for unbalanced suspension. They like their shocks spongy and soft and the forks so stiff that the spring could be replaced with rebar. Not so with Tyla Rattray. His forks actually moved up and down, which made it a joy to slam through bumps on his bike. The shock wasn’t overly soft or down in the rear, but instead was well-balanced with the front. The Showa works forks didn’t deflect or flex in the braking bumps, the shock offered a tractable feel, and the suspension could handle anything that was thrown its way.
SEVERAL OF TYLA’S PERSONAL RIDING PREFERENCES CAUGHT OUR ATTENTION IMMEDIATELY. FIRST, HE USES A SEAT HUMP THAT IS SO BIG THAT IT SHOULD BE GIVEN ITS OWN AREA CODE. FORTUNATELY, THE SEAT HUMP WAS IN A COMFORTABLE LOCATION—EVEN FOR TALLER RIDERS.
Several of Tyla’s personal riding preferences caught our attention immediately. First, he uses a seat hump that is so big that it should be given its own area code. Fortunately, the seat hump was in a comfortable location—even for taller riders. As for the massive rotor and caliper combination on the front brake, it was strong enough that we were scared to squeeze the front stoppers. Rattray’s front brake setup could probably stop an F1 car at the end of a 180 mph straightaway. Also, Tyla’s mechanic cut 5mm off the subframe, and we were quite impressed with the results. The rear end of the bike was about 15mm lower and didn’t slap us on the rear like our mothers would after spray painting the neighborhood cat.
CONCLUSION: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?
Write this down: Tyla Rattray will win AMA Nationals in 2010 (and he won a moto in 2009). Even if he doesn’t have the speed to transfer his European success over to the outdoor Nationals, he will have the bike to get the job done. Having the best bike on the track will ease his transition to learning the tracks, adapting to the American lifestyle and staying away from the distractions that are all too common in racing circles.