WE RIDE DR.D’S 2013 HONDA CRF450: MR. YAMAHA BUILDS AN EXOTIC HONDA CRF450

April 2, 2013
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Former factory Yamaga motocrosss race Doug Dubach is known around the industry as “Mr. Yamaha.” A longtime test rider for the manufacturer, Dubach has been influential in many significant Yamaha motocross innovations. Doug’s finger is on Yamaha’s pulse because he gets to test future concepts and bikes that the public won’t see for several years. Because of this, Doug is at the forefront of technology, testing new ideas and designs, some of which might never see production.

“I’VE ALWAYS BEEN STRONG AT SELLING YAMAHA PRODUCTS, WHICH MAKES SENSE; HOWEVER, STILL TO THIS DAY, PEOPLE WILL CALL AND ASK IF I MAKE EXHAUST SYSTEMS FOR BIKES OTHER THAN YAMAHAS.”

Dubach is also the owner and operator of Dubach Racing and Development (DR.D). A jack of all trades, Doug is involved in all the processes of testing, designing and building exhaust systems before finally settling on the finished product. Doug is a busy man. He divides his time between his own company, testing prototypes for Yamaha, doing tire testing for Dunlop, racing competitively and raising a family.

Being stretched thin has its advantages, because Doug often gets to see what’s coming to the market way before anyone else. He has the knowledge to react to shifting market trends as an early adapter (Dubach was the first to make an aftermarket exhaust for the current-generation YZ450F) and make products that his competition wouldn’t think of (such as his popular Yamaha radiator lowering kit). This “hit ‘em where they ain’t” approach has helped make DR.D popular among the buying public.


Although improved over last year’s clutch, the 2013 CRF450 still needs something better. Hinson came to the rescue.

Unfortunately, being so closely associated with Yamaha is a double-edged sword. Why? As Dubach explains, “I’ve always been strong at selling Yamaha products, which makes sense; however, still to this day, people will call and ask if I make exhaust systems for bikes other than Yamahas. We make pipes for many different models!”

It is understandable that a large portion of DR.D’s business comes from Yamaha owners, but a close look at DR.D’s order sheets reveals that Honda sales aren’t far behind. Dubach is rather surprised by the company’s success among Honda riders. “We’ve grown quite a bit in Honda sales in recent years, yet we haven’t supported any big Honda race teams. I believe that we make a good Honda product, and people are starting to understand that. I’ve noticed that we’re selling a lot more Honda products in Europe, which is great.”

With the advent of the all-new 2013 Honda CRF450, Dubach realized the bike’s potential in the marketplace and limitations on the track. Doug states, “I noticed that the engine needed a lot of help. The engine is lazy-feeling. It has good power from 5000 to 7000 rpm, but it’s sluggish out of corners and very flat in the top end. As for the suspension, the front end doesn’t settle well and the chassis isn’t balanced. The bike sits like a stinkbug. I figured that adding more air to the Kayaba PSF forks would balance everything out. Instead, the forks became harsh and got busy before the bike leveled out. That plan didn’t work. I turned my attention to the shock spring and lowering the rear end, but that didn’t work either.” Doug understood that improvements needed to be made.


The DR.D twin-pipe exhaust has many benefits. It’s light, quiet, semi-affordable and very attractive.

“I LOVE IT WHEN MANUFACTURERS STICK THEIR NECKS OUT TO TRY A FRESH NEW IDEA, AND I APPLAUD HONDA FOR RUNNING THE DUAL EXHAUST.”

Dubach knows better than anyone the perils of Honda’s 2013 twin-pipe exhaust system. Doug believes that a single-sided exhaust would be better than the dual design, and he ought to know. When Honda introduced the dual exhaust back in 2006 on the CRF250, Doug was the first to make a single exhaust, and consumer demand eventually forced Honda to return to the single for production. Doug says, “We found that selling a single-sided pipe for that bike was better for performance and decreasing weight. Also, it didn’t cost as much money for the customer. Although we lost some sales early on, people eventually came to understand that a single exhaust was the way to go. This time around, with the 2013 Honda CRF450, we recognized that people might be interested in going to a single exhaust again; however, I love it when manufacturers stick their necks out to try a fresh new idea, and I applaud Honda for running the dual exhaust.” We’re sure that Doug had dollar signs in his eyes the moment he heard that Honda gambled on the dual concept again.

In spite of his belief that 2013 Honda CRF450 riders will eventually embrace his single-exhaust system, Doug took the time to engineer a dual system for customers who want it. The philosophy of building dual systems is based on the fact that 2013 Honda CRF450 owners want people to know that they own a new bike, so they want to keep the most recognizable feature of the 2013 CRF450.

Every pipe manufacturer has found that building an effective aftermarket exhaust system for the 2013 is a challenge. Dubach explains his process: “It was challenging to make the dual. I never take the easy way out. I always try to make something better than the next guy. The way we merged the two pipes is unique. Using a CNC mill, we cut the larger tube out and lay the smaller tube in. A lot of exhaust companies have a big connector where the mid-pipe goes into the muffler. I didn’t like that design, because I noticed that I didn’t have as good of a connection from the throttle to the rear wheel. By streamlining the one-into-two pipe area, I made performance gains. Building my design posed quite a challenge, but it makes a difference.”


Testers noted how the engine modifications broadened the power, allowing them to go faster. This bike is confidence-inspiring.

“I HAVE ALWAYS BELIEVED THAT I WILL FEEL MORE ON A TRACK THAN ON A BENCH TEST. THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS TO COLLECT DATA FROM THE DYNO, BUT I GATHER MORE INFORMATION BY RIDING.”
 
Doug Dubach has never been enamored by dynamometers. As he states, “I’m going on 30 years as a test rider for all different companies. I’ve tested tires, suspension, bikes and everything else under the sun. I have always believed that I will feel more on a track than on a bench test. There are so many ways to collect data from the dyno, but I gather more information by riding. I own a dyno, and I use it, but building an exhaust system that performs well on the dyno doesn’t always translate to the track. At the end of the day, you’re going to want something that performs well on the track and not just on the dyno.”

DR.D specializes in selling exhaust systems, radiator lowering kits, hot-starts, hour meters and YZ450F engine relocation kits. It is not a one-stop hop-up shop. After purchasing a 2013 Honda CRF450 from Malcolm Smith Motorsports, Doug enlisted help from his friends in the industry to build a race-ready bike. Below are the areas he focused on.


Dubach didn’t change the offset, but the red anodized Applied triple clamps were a nice touch.

DUBACH HAS DEVELOPED A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH ENZO SUSPENSION FROM HIS YEARS OF DOMINATING THE WORLD VET CHAMPIONSHIP. THEIR LONG HISTORY HAS CONTRIBUTED TO THE SUCCESS WITH WHICH THEY FIND FAVORABLE SETTINGS.

Suspension. Dubach has developed a personal relationship with Enzo Suspension from his years of dominating the World Vet Championship. Their long history has contributed to the speed and success with which they find favorable suspension settings. Of course, the new Kayaba PSF air fork was a hurdle to overcome. They added more damping in the fork ($180), revalved the shock ($180) and used a rear lowering kit ($40). Enzo recommended running 35 pounds of air pressure and 104mm of race sag.

Engine. The DR.D CRF450 had a carbon/stainless steel dual-exhaust system ($949.95). A note of interest: DR.D’s single-sided exhaust (using the same materials) costs $579.95. The pipe wasn’t the only engine mod, as Dubach dropped in a Hotcams Stage 2 camshaft ($269.95) and a super-trick R&D Genius throttle body. The $1500 Genius package includes the throttle body, Vortex ignition and ignition mapping.


A longstanding relationship between Dubach and Enzo equated to excellent suspension settings right away.

Clutch. The bike got a complete Hinson clutch ($1154.99), Maxima MTL 80 weight transmission oil ($9.50), Maxima Premium 4 engine oil ($7.95), and a DR.D hour meter and bracket ($64.95).

Gearing. Pro Taper handled the sprocket duties. Interestingly, Doug opted for a 13/50 gearing combination. He added two teeth to the rear sprocket to allow the CRF450 to be shifted into third gear sooner. Pro Taper also threw in their chain ($84.95), Evo handlebars ($89.99), and dual-density, half-waffle grips ($12.99).

Wheels.
Faster USA, located in Temecula, California, specializes in race wheels. They also anodize stock rims and polish hubs and spokes. Faster USA anodized the stock silver CRF450 rims black and gave the stock hubs a mirror-like finish, all for $495. As for the brakes, Galfer provided a 270mm Tsunami oversize front-rotor kit ($371) and rear wave rotor ($129.99).

Accessories.
A host of other companies stepped in to help Doug in his quest for finding 2013 CRF450 nirvana. MotoSeat provided the seat cover ($59.95). Moto Hose provided the radiator hose kit ($134.95), silicone hose clamps ($1.95 each), crankcase ventilator ($29.95), gas balls to aid in determining fuel level ($8.95), brake snake ($8.95) and a sili-cool blue sleeve to guard the radiator hose from the head pipe ($19.95). Applied provided their factory triple clamp set in stock offset ($485.85). DeCal Works designed attractive custom graphics ($199). Dunlop gave Doug an MX31 front and MX51 rear tire. Works Connection parts were littered throughout?Elite clutch perch ($155.85), front ($28.50) and rear ($24.95) brake cap, axle blocks ($49.95), engine oil dipstick ($39.95), engine plugs ($39.95), rotating bar clamp ($27.50), oil fill plug ($24.95), Pro Launch starting device ($109.95), skid plate ($84.95) and radiator braces ($99.95).


Every Japanese bike will benefit from an oversize front brake kit. The Galfer Tsunami is an MXA favorite. It does the trick.


It doesn’t take a calculator to realize that the DR.D CRF450 project bike wasn’t cheap to build. There are several high-priced items on the shopping list, most notably the R&D Genius throttle body. Having said that, Dubach felt it necessary to spend some coin on a bike that desperately needs help in the engine and suspension departments. The MXA wrecking crew can’t fault him for his efforts, because we are well aware of the 2013 CRF450’s shortcomings. As Doug mentioned, the powerband is almost nonexistent beyond the midrange, and the suspension is unbalanced.

WITH THE DR.D PIPES AND THE R&D GENIUS THROTTLE BODY, WE WERE ABLE TO SNAP THE BIKE OUT OF CORNERS IN A WAY THAT KEPT THE REAR TIRE FROM LIGHTING UP LIKE A JACK-O’-LANTERN.

Test riders immediately noticed the benefits of the engine modifications. The DR.D dual system does a commendable job of improving low-end to midrange power and throttle response. With the DR.D pipes and the R&D Genius throttle body, we were able to snap the bike out of corners in a way that kept the rear tire from lighting up like a jack-o’-lantern. With the bike geared down, testers were able to shift to third gear sooner and maximize engine output in the midrange. Top-end power was noticeably better than stock, but it was still a far cry from the breadth and expansive powerband of the stock Kawasaki KX450F and KTM 450SXF. A world-beater this bike is not, and Dubach knew so. He confessed, “When I rode the bike, I was hoping for more midrange to top-end power, but I believe with cylinder head porting and a few other tricks, we could make it happen. That will be phase two of this bike build.”

Enzo got the CRF450 suspension in the ballpark for our faster test riders. We found that the forks did a masterful job of soaking up bumps and allowing us to set up for corners earlier. Lighter riders felt that the suspension was too stiff and busy, so we softened up the compression in the forks and shock. Air pressure was set at 35 psi. We then turned our attention to the fork rebound. Going in on rebound made the front tire feel flat. Turning became heavy, so we went in the other direction. The CRF450 is known as a tight-cornering bike, and this brought it back into that realm.


The DR.D CRF450 allowed riders to blast and go. Gone was an anemic powerband, replaced by a race-ready package.

Doug Dubach is a master of his craft, and his project 2013 Honda CRF450 is proof. He has spent countless hours working to make an exhaust and a bike that would meet his high demands. He is his own worst critic, and the MXA wrecking crew knows that. We were very impressed with the DR.D CRF450, even if he feels that there is room for improvement. We can’t say that the project is the be-all, end-all solution to the bike’s woes; however, it’s exceptional for most riders. Mr. Yamaha might not be in love with the results, but it’s more than satisfactory for us.

For more information, please visit www.dubachracing.com.

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