February 17, 2014
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Once every decade the “next big thing” makes an appearance on the scene. History has proven that these highly touted up-and-comers rarely fail at meeting expectations. Need proof? Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart, Jeff Emig, Justin Barcia and Travis Pastrana notably ascended to the Pro ranks and continued their winning ways.

Adam Cianciarulo is the latest “next big thing.” His name has been bandied about by the sport’s biggest stars for many years. Jeremy McGrath predicted that Adam Cianciarulo would be a future champion when the Florida native was still competing in the 50cc class. Ricky Carmichael praised him as he rose through the 65cc ranks. Team Kawasaki signed him to a long-term deal when he was still on 85cc bikes. And, Pro Circuit began grooming him before he was in his teens. Everyone who is anyone believes that Cianciarulo has the speed, talent and determination of a winner.

With 11 AMA National Amateur titles to his credit, it was expected that when Adam turned Pro he would win every moto by 30 seconds and entertain crowds from Unadilla to Utah. It didn’t happen during his debut in the2013 AMA 250 Nationals.

Adam Cianciarulo is short with a small build. The low, sweeping Renthal handlebars, 5mm-lower subframe, forward seat hump location and general ergonomics were fine-tuned to his size. Even so, MXA’s taller test riders felt confident on the Pro Circuit KX250F.

You could aksed, “What if Adam Cianciarulo hadn’t contracted salmonella poisoning in the days leading up to his professional debut at the Hangtown National?” No one will ever know. The bug sapped his energy and cannibalized what muscle he had packed on in the months before his AMA National debut. Forget fighting for the lead against Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen; Adam struggled just to keep nutrients in his frail body.

History will show that Cianciarulo raced against the world’s best, but few will remember Adam’s moto scores from his first-ever AMA National at Budds Creek. He went 14-17 for 16th overall?a far cry from what the soothsayers had predicted. As the series progressed, Cianciarulo built up endurance and improved his speed, and his determination finally paid off. At the penultimate round of the Nationals, he scored a third-place moto finish at Utah. And even though he missed four rounds out of 12, Adam finished 16th overall in the 2013 National points standings.

Suspension: To quote Adam Cianciarulo, “I’m not too picky about my suspension, but I do like my forks really stiff. That way, when I’m coming into corners, the bike doesn’t dip down.” Adam’s bike was far from balanced, but that didn’t offend our test riders. Of course most of us are 40 pounds heavier than young Adam. The shock was soft but predictable and resistant to bottoming.  

But, Adam was able to use 2013 as a stepping stone. It may have humbled him, but it also hardened him to the realities of Pro racing. And, it prepared him for the 2014 AMA 250 East Supercross season. Which he started off by winning the first round of the East in his first-ever Supercross. Not bad?and something that takes the monkey off his back after last year’s trials and tribulations.

The MXA wrecking crew has extensive history testing Mitch Payton’s Pro Circuit race bikes?as far back as 1979. Pro Circuit’s race bikes are always eye-watering fun to ride, so we were tickled pink when Mitch asked if we were interested in testing one of Pro Circuit’s Kawasaki KX250Fs. Mitch Payton sweetened the deal by giving us the pick of his litter. We could choose from among the bikes of Blake Baggett, Darryn Durham, Martin Davalos, Justin Hill or Adam Cianciarulo. We didn’t hesitate. We chose Cianciarulo’s KX250F, given all the hype that surrounds the affable youngster. In no way, shape or form were we disappointed with our choice. Why? If Adam Cianciarulo’s bike is any proof, the kid is going places?and lightning fast. And, Pro Circuit’s KX250F will take him there?just as long as he stays away from the gas-station sushi that got him back in May of 2013.

Here are the details:

Engine: Pro Circuit runs every race engine on a dynamometer for a performance evaluation before it gets plugged into the bike. Mitch Payton uses every tactic possible to make the most potent powerplants, including titanium valves, high-lift camshafts, high-compression pistons and ported heads. Each engine has a two-hour lifespan. There was only 40 minutes left on the clock when Pro Circuit gave us the bike to test.

Radiators: The radiator gussets have been reinforced with an extra bead of aluminum. Note how far the left-side radiator extends below the shroud. Heat can be a significant problem over the course of a sweltering, 35-minute moto. Cianciarulo’s mechanic, Brett Mountain, installed mesh screening over the intake scoops to ward off damage from roost.

Radiator catch tank: High-end race bikes always have custom-made radiator catch tanks. Two hoses circulate overflow coolant in and out of the radiators. The catch tanks stop Cianciarulo’s KX250F from losing even an ounce of precious coolant.

Oil cooler: Heat is the enemy. The cooler the engine runs, the more power it makes. Cianciarulo runs a mini radiator housed behind the large right-side radiator that cycles oil and pulls air in through the small fins to lower the oil temperature.

Muffler: Pro Circuit uses a variety of different-length header and muffler combinations to get the best performance. The shorter muffler enhances bottom-end hit; conversely, the longer exhaust improves top-end power. The team was tight-lipped about their ultimate header/muffler length.

We’re always amazed by factory bikes. Every part has that newer-than-new feel. No stone is left unturned. Cianciarulo’s KX250F was light and flickable in the air, easily soaked up chop, and revved to the moon. One MXA test rider confessed, “This bike is like cheating.”

Steering stem: Many AMA Pros crank their headset bearings down to act as a steering stabilizer. It works, but is hard on the bearings. MXA test riders liked the tightened feel in corners and straights, but the sensation was unusual when turning up jump faces. Mechanic Brett Mountain says that the steering head bearing races are scorching hot after a long moto.



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