PROTAPER PRESENTS MXA’S MID-WEEK REPORT BY JOHN BASHER


PHOTO OF THE WEEK

It took a few months, but the MXA gang got our hands on two of the most buzz-worthy bikes of the year–the 2015-1/2 KTM 250SXF and 450SXF Factory Edition bikes. For the first time ever, KTM unveiled a limited-edition 250SXF (read on for my thoughts on that bike) to go along with the 450SXF-FE. Above is a shot I took of Dennis Stapleton boosting the step-up triple at LACR in sun-drenched SoCal this past week. For information on our first week with the Austrian metal, click here.

JUSTIN BARCIA INJURY UPDATE

Press release: Last Thursday AutoTrader.com/Toyota/Yamaha Team rider Justin Barcia was injured while practicing in California.  He flew home to Georgia to seek the counsel of a specialist regarding a suspected injury to his hip.  It was determined that there is a crack in his pelvic bone.  The injury does not require surgery but Barcia will not be able to ride for at least two weeks, possibly longer.  His status will be updated as his recovery progresses.

 Weston Peick, who was injured at the Phoenix round of the series is attempting to return to racing thisSaturday, February 14 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas.  Peick started riding yesterday for the first time since his injury and if he feels strong enough he will race.  If he does not make the Dallas race he will be on the gate for the Atlanta round on February 21.  Phillip Nicoletti will substitute for the injured Barcia.  Fox Sports Two will broadcast the Dallas event live starting at 8:00 p.m. (EST).

FIRST IMPRESSION: 2015-1/2 KTM 250SXF FACTORY EDITION

The sun finally shone on the KTM 250SXF. Behold the 250SXF Factory Edition.

It’s wrong to say that it’s about time KTM came to their senses and unveiled a Factory Edition 250 four-stroke, but I’ll say it anyway. The marketplace shouldn’t be expecting specialized, race-ready motorcycles at a time of year when new bikes don’t come out. Yet that’s what KTM did in 2012 and have done in the years since with their 450SXF Factory Edition. The reasons for the 1/2-model-year release are well documented and easy enough for a monkey to understand. Still, I wasn’t satisfied with what KTM was doing. Sure, they made a trick 450SXF at a time when most of the U.S. was blanketed in snow. In the process, they essentially gave away their secrets about the next model year’s bike, because the 450SXF Factory Edition had all-new parts unseen until that point. They even wrapped the bike up in an attractive Red Bull graphics package (that couldn’t be replaced by anyone who didn’t buy a Factory Edition).

New engine? You betcha! She’s a ripper.

When KTM shared news that they would be releasing a 2015-1/2 450SXF Factory Edition I wasn’t surprised or even excited. The truth is that the Austrian’s 450 four-stroke didn’t need all of the tender loving care that it had been showered with for so long. The 2015 KTM 450SXF was an awesome bike with list of superior parts and attributes; it even won our prestigious “MXA 450 Four-Stroke Shootout.” Nay, instead it was the neglected KTM 250SXF that needed the Factory Edition treatment. It was the ugly stepsister that must have been relegated to a dark corner of KTM’s factory in Mattighofen. Why make such a cruel statement? It must to be true, because the 250SXF engine had been sucking wind for way too long. There’s a reason why it finished next-to-last in the 2015 250 shootout war. The engine was focused only on peak power. Great for Pros, but no good for anyone else. Plus, the WP 4CS  forks had settings that were in help of rehab. An electric starter was nice, but this was one bike that didn’t need any more added heft.

A sleeping giant finally woke up, thanks to KTM’s engineers. The 250SXF-FE powerband is better than the old design.

Ta da! My dreams were answered when KTM dropped the bomb that they also had a 250SXF Factory Edition for 2015-1/2. A new engine, revised suspension settings, and a plethora of forward-thinking design elements showed that KTM finally addressed the elephant in the room. It was about time!

MXA was hand delivered the KTM 250SXF Factory Edition last Wednesday at LACR. After ripping it through the sand we spent valuable seat time on the bike at Glen Helen, AV Motoplex, REM and Milestone. In its spare time, it has also gone on the dyno. In the days since we first threw a leg over the 250SXf factory Edition (and the 450 version) we have tried different gearing, mapping, race sag and suspension settings. That’s really just the beginning for us, because we plan on testing aftermarket pipes and other hop-up parts as they become available.

This bike goes where the birds fly. Daryl Ecklund felt comfortable right away on the 250SXF-FE.

What are our initial thoughts on the all-new KTM 250SXF Factory Edition? Read on. For a full review you’ll need to wait for an upcoming issue.

* The powerband is still linear, although KTM focused on dropping the bulk of the power lower in the rpm range. It still runs like a scared bear at high rpm, but now there is more power directed to the midrange. Personally, I’d like there to be more bottom-end hit, but that can be improved someahat with gearing.

* After years of harsh and unpleasant suspension, the WP forks finally perform well. We’re still trying to work out a few bugs, but the 4CS units are plush at the top of the stroke and are fluid through the travel. The best thing about them is that they would for slow and fast riders with clicker changes. Are they the best forks ever? Nope, but they are probably the best forks to ever come on the KTM 250SXF.

* Every test rider loved the ergonomics, the footpeg location, the can’t-miss shifter and the footpegs themselves.

* The Factory Edition is a night-and-day difference from the 2015 KTM 250SXF. Through our preliminary testing it has been better in every area: engine, suspension, handling, overall weight, ergonomics — and just as good brakes and hydraulic clutch.

* The internal gear ratios are off. We’ve gone through quite a few gearing combinations but have yet to find the sweet spot.

* We love the new look, factory race graphics, ODI lock-on grips, orange rear sprocket, clutch cover, and orange frame.

Be sure to check back on our website soon for a video (along with initial impressions of both Factory Edition bikes).    

MINI-VIEW: WESTON PEICK

Weston is going to give it a go this weekend in Dallas.

By Jim Kimball

MXA: Weston, now leaving your privateer status behind, and joining the Cycle Trader/JGR Yamaha Team, do you feel that you have truly “arrived?”

Weston: Yeah, but you know it’s been a pretty rough journey to get where I am at now. I’m really stoked to be here with them. It’s been very cool to be wanted by a major team, and getting all the support that I am now. I could probably go on for hours about the rough times of being a privateer, but I’ll save that for another day. The hardest part is probably just showing up every weekend, and then being on a level to ride like the guys on the factory teams do. It’s the money you make, not having to worry getting to the races, to the bikes being on-point every weekend that are the major things that a privateer constantly goes against. Being on a factory team it’s just so crazy with the amount, and level of support that you get. Its very difficult being a privateer today, but I just stuck with it, and worked my butt off to get to where I am now.

MXA: Early in your career you were labeled as an outdoor rider only, who lacked the finesse for Supercross, but you have now silenced your critics.

It’s just taken time, and me trying to change my riding style to be more fluid and relaxed. Buddy Antunez really deserves a lot of credit for helping me get to that next level. He’s really taught me that it’s all about being comfortable, and using technique as opposed to riding wide open. Another huge thing that has helped me be better in Supercross is knowing that you have a good bike under you.  – One that is going to do you right, and not spit you off.

MXA: Last year was a huge for you as far as getting fan support, and media attention.

Like I said, I feel that I have been progressing every year, but 2014 was a real breakout year for me.  As far as showing people my speed, and what I could do on good equipment, and having support behind me. I had a lot of good finishes last year, and it was a solid year. My fan base definitely grew a lot last year, and it was a big change to have so many people recognize my efforts. Walking through the pits now I get stopped a lot. (Laughing)

MXA: How was it switching from your privateer Ssupercross team to the RCH Factory Team for outdoors?

Anything factory is going to be better than anything as a privateer, but on the same note, the bikes that we built for Supercross were pretty good – and that showed in my results. But anytime you have a big change like when I went to the RCH Team it’s a game changer. On a factory team you have everything available for you. You can test constantly, and change anything that you want to. Going to RCH definitely helped me to get to that next level. Besides the actual bike improvement, being asked to fill in for them gave me confidence. We really only had two weeks to get the bike dialed in for outdoors, so even throughout the series we were still testing to get the bike as good as possible. I think we could have probably been a bit better had we had more time before the outdoors started, but we did the best that we could with the time that we had.

MXA: Let’s switch topics. You have a reputation as an aggressive rider, is that reputation deserved?

Maybe it’s deserved some, I just don’t take crap from anyone, either on the track or off the track. If you have a problem with me, then move aside. I guess that gives me somewhat of a bad boy image. But I don’t look for any trouble or problems. I just show up on the weekends to do my own thing and race to win. If stuff comes my way, I just don’t back down, so I guess that’s why some people think I’m too aggressive.

MXA: You have had some issues in the past with your teammate Justin Barcia, who is also known as riding aggressive. How has it been in the team semi?

It’s kind of strange, but it’s been okay. I’d say we now get along when we are at the races, but we are not friends. In the past I don’t think you could say that we got along (laughing). Now we might say “hi”, or “bye” but that’s about it. We don’t share anything, or hang out together. Its like everything else; you need to keep it professional when you are racing, and in the same rig. We have respect for each other, and are nice to each other, as we have to come back to the same truck every night!

MXA: Many believe that JGR hired Justin Barcia as their lead rider, the guy to win a win a championship, and that you were the second rider – what do you say?

It’s really tough to say. I know that before I hurt my foot that my results were very, very good. He does his own thing, and I do my own thing. I wouldn’t say that it’s really a big deal for me to beat him in the results, but obviously we want to beat each other. The team wants us both up front, and that’s obviously where we want to be. I don’t know how much he gets paid. I definitely don’t feel like I’m the “second rider”.

MXA: Can you expand on the team dynamics at JGR?

I feel that by far, this team is the best team out here. They have unlimited access at their shop with lots of help from the truck side, and the car side. They can, and will do everything possible with the bikes to make them better. They go through a lot of hoops to make the bike better. There is no “sorry we cannot do that” here. Its awesome to be able to race for a team like them.

MXA Has there been more aggression, or dirty riding in 2015?

I think there is bar banging and aggression every year. I just feel that everyone forgets about it during the off-season! But yeah, there has been a lot of good racing and bar banging this year – but that’s what it takes to be up front. Like many other sports, this is a contact sport. If you need to get it done, you need to do it. If you have to hit someone to pass them, go ahead and do it. You need to get people out of your way. I think its great, and would actually like to see more of it.

MXA: What is your take on the whole Canard/Reed/Black Flag incident?

I think it’s wrong that Reed got black-flagged. I don’t have anything against those two riders, but when Canard made the decision to jump inside Reed on that triple it was more or less Canard’s fault. They were both on the track racing, and whether it was intentional move by Chad or not it was a bad move to black flag Reed. That following weekend Bowers pretty much killed Webb, and that was considered “just racing”, and nothing happened to him. It was all just racing, and I think that it was a cheap call by the race officials to bring out the black flag. Everyone makes mistakes. You are on two wheels going over jumps, and whoops — anything can happen.   

MXA: You are from Southern California, but with JGR being in North Carolina do you see yourself spending more time out east?

California is my base. I have a home here. The team ships me anything that I need – although we do much of our big testing back there. But this year I may actually get a place in North Carolina, and spend more time with the team. I’d like to get away from some of the California tracks that can get so bad in the summer. Especially for the outdoor Nationals I feel being out east would be better, and easier for travel.

MXA: I know that often you have raced while nursing injuries, so it must kill you to be at a race where you are not competing.

It’s a bummer that I got hurt. I hate coming to the races, and just watching. It makes you not want to be there. But at the same time it gives me more drive to want to get back out there.

MXA: Wrapping up, in only your second Supercross with the new team you were battling Ryan Dungey for a podium spot. You are here to get on the box aren’t you?

I got off to a good start there and was riding comfortable and good. I worked very hard to be able to put myself in a podium position. Everything was good. It’s my expectation to be on the podium consistently. I do not see myself not being on the podium. We have all worked hard, the team and myself. My time on the bike, as well off the bike training has been phenomenal. I’m confident, and ready to be here. I’m not going to be happy until I am winning, and taking a championship. I want to be on the podium every single weekend, then winning races, and then taking a championship.

PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT: RIDE ENGINEERING YAMAHA YZ250F/450F LOCKING WHEEL SPACERS

Press release: Now available for Yamaha’s bigger 22mm front axle. Ride Wheel spacers have a flange that locks them in place once inserted past the seal making wheel installation faster and easier. Front & rear wheel spacers are in stock and also available for CR/CRFs, KX-Fs, RM-Zs and YZ/YZ-Fs in red, blue and green colors. They fit stock and aftermarket hubs (TCR & Kite) that accept stock wheel spacers. Insert a red set in black, brown or blue hubs to really accent your bike. MSRP $31.95 (pair). For more information, visit www.ride-engineering.com or click here.

FUN FACT: 450 SUPERCROSS BY THE NUMBERS

Everyone is chasing the #5.

2…Riders within one race (25 point) of leader Ryan Dungey–Ken Roczen and Trey Canard.

4…Race winners–Ken Roczen (2 wins), Trey Canard (2), Ryan Dungey (1), Eli Tomac (1)

5…Riders within two races (50 points) of leader Ryan Dungey–Roczen, Canard, Tomac, Anderson and Seely.

7…Riders inside the top 20 who call Florida home.

7…Riders inside the top 20 who are from California.

9…Points lead Ryan Dungey has over Ken Roczen.

12…Riders that have scored points in every race.

35…Riders that have scored a point in 450 Supercross.

250 EAST COAST PREVIEW: THE PLAYERS

Is this Marvin Musquin’s year in the 250 East?

With Cooper Webb well in control of the 250 West, the Supercross series switches gears and heads eastward. The first stop of the 250 East is this weekend in Dallas, which brings a new playbill of characters that have yet to be seen in 2015. It’s a star-studded cast, highlighted by last year’s Champion, a veteran that was so close to winning the title two years ago, last year’s 250 National Champ, an unknown European, and a bunch of rookies trying to establish themselves in the rank and file of professional racing.

Every year there’s a debate over which 250 regional Supercross series has more formidable competition. In recent times the competition was nearly equal on both coasts. Having seen Cooper Webb practically dominate the 250 West, amassing a 30-point lead over Anaheim 1 winner Jessy Nelson and the rest of the field, it’s fair to say that Webb is one of the top 250 Supercross racers in all the land. Does that mean that the 250 West is superior to the 250 East in depth, speed and talent? Absolutely not. Sure, guys like Nelson, Tyler Bowers, Zach Osborne, Shane McElrath, Aaron Plessinger, Justin Hill, Alex Martin and Malcolm Stewart have had flashes of brilliance. Yet are they good enough to challenge 250 East stalwarts Marvin Musquin, Justin Bogle, Jeremy Martin and Martin Davalos? Certainly the East contingent has a stronger history of proven success. Need proof?

There’s going to be added pressure on 250 National Champ, Jeremy Martin. By the way, he’ll be sporting #6 indoors before switching to #1 outdoors.

Justin Bogle – Multi-time winner and 2014 250 East Supercross Champion.

Jeremy Martin – 250 Supercross winner.

Marvin Musquin – Multi-time 250 Supercross winner and runner-up in the 2013 East series.

Martin Davalos – Multi-time 250 Supercross winner and runner-up in the 2014 East series.

Vince Friese – Third place overall in the 2014 East series.

Kyle Cunningham – Fourth place overall in the 2014 East series.

It will be hard to determine which coast has more depth, but there’s no argument over which series has the better storylines. The 250 East, with a returning title holder, a Frenchman looking for one last shot at 250 Supercross glory, a 250 National Champion trying to establish dominance indoors like he did outdoors, a horde of rookies, and a woman – Vicki Golden – attempting to make a 250 Supercross main for the first time ever…the storylines go on and on. In the 250 West there was the Webb versus Bowers brouhaha, Jessy Nelson and Malcolm Stewart becoming first-time winners, and a bunch of close – borderline dirty – riding. All well and good, but the 250 East has the makings of an incredible series that should overshadow what happened at the beginning of the year.

Best of all, the 250 East series charges through seven cities in as many weeks. There are two Atlanta rounds, the famed Daytona race, a journey to Detroit, and then passing through the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Of course there’s also the Supercross round in New Jersey, which will be held during the daytime and shown live on Fox. That’s a big deal.

WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO THIS WEEK

It was a busy week for the MXA gang. Before the KTM Factory Editions made their way to Jody’s stable of test riders, we journeyed around SoCal to test the new bikes at every track possible. We also found time to ride a DR.D Kawasaki KX450F (note the radical exhaust pipe in the photo below), along with Austin Politelli’s 51-FIFTY Yamaha YZ250F. Here’s a week in pictures, courtesy of my Canon camera.

Take a close look at that exhaust pipe on our DR.D Kawasaki KX450F test bike.

Dennis Stapleton twisted the throttle on the DR.D KX450F out at AV Motoplex.

Jody racing the 450SXF Factory Edition IV at Glen Helen.

Austin Politelli’s 51FIFTY Yamaha YZ250F was a beauty. Look for a video on our test of Politelli’s book soon.

MINI-VIEW: AUSTIN POLITELLI

MXA: How did the 51FIFTY team deal come together?

Austin: I had a tryout with the team at the end of September. Things went well, because I got a call back from them a few weeks later. They offered a deal for the 250 West Supercross series, and I was pumped. I raced the Monster Cup on my own on a Yamaha YZ450F. We had a late start on testing, but things have been getting better. My results have been a little off, but with a new team and getting everything figured out we’re making headway. The team isn’t giving up on me, and that’s a good feeling. I’m going to come back for the last three rounds really strong.

MXA: How nerve-racking was it competing for a job before the season began?

I was really nervous! I hadn’t ridden since the Canadian Nationals, and I hadn’t touched a Supercross track since I broke my femur last year at Anaheim 1. However, I went for it, and my talent paid off.

MXA: What’s it like hopping on a Supercross track again after breaking your leg, not riding that type of track in months, and putting it all on the line for the prospect of a job?

Honestly, it’s one of those things where I realized that it’s something that needed to be done. Racing is what I want to do, so I went for it. The injury last Supercross season wasn’t my fault. The bike had a malfunction, so I was able to get over that. I knew that as long as I was on a safe bike then I would be fine.

MXA: We spoke at the Straight Rhythm race, and you said that you were on a stock bike.

[Laughter] I got the bike the day before, and I raced on a bone stock bike. I wanted to be a part of the event, and it was good to get some racing under my belt. I had a blast doing it. That event for the fans might have been a little boring, because the way the track was laid out it couldn’t have been easy to follow all the action. Maybe if they put in grandstands the whole way down the track that would help. I do think that event will stick around, because the racers liked it, and the fans that could see most of the track were into it.

MXA: You admitted that the 250 West rounds haven’t gone very well for you this year. What’s the reasoning behind the results?

At Anaheim 1 I was running really well. I was in eighth place, but I crashed with another rider after the whoops and got stuck in his bike. I’ve been trying to get my suspension dialed in. We’ve been working hard, and I’m learning. No excuses, though. I haven’t been riding the way that I should be. I’m going to use the West coast break to get testing done that we couldn’t fit in before the season began.

MXA: Do you like that there’s a break in the West coast series?

Yes and no. It’s a long break, and I don’t know if I have an outdoor deal yet, so I would like to keep racing and prove myself. However, it’s good to recharge the batteries and get over the sickness I had this past weekend in San Diego.

MXA: Would you go back up to Canada and race the Nationals?

Yes, for sure I would. I haven’t talked to anyone up there yet, but I do like racing the Canadian Nationals. The traveling is tough, but it’s worth it. I like the laid-back atmosphere, and there are long motos.

MXA: In terms of bike setup, what’s the one area of chief concern?

My suspension. I’ve been struggling with that area this year. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m trying to find that comfort zone that allows me to race up front. As I said before, I’m learning how to set up my suspension by relaying what I feel the forks and shock are doing underneath me.

MXA: How do you learn suspension setup?

That’s what I’ve been learning. I worked with Graeme Brough for so long, and he knew what I liked. So, to answer your question, I’m figuring things out. I need to grow up and find what I like.

MXA: Are you setting your sights on racing a 250 or a 450 for outdoors?

I’d like to do the 450 class, because of my size. The 450 fits me better, and I prefer to ride the bigger bike anyway. I’m 6’1”, 175 pounds and always on a diet [laughter]. It’s hard to keep the weight off, because that’s how I’m naturally built.

SPENCER RATHKAMP’S SAN DIEGO SUPERCROSS PHOTO GALLERY

250 east51fiftyaustin politellidr.dfactory editionjim kimballJOHN BASHERktmMID-WEEK REPORTprotaperride engineeringspencer rathkampSUPERCROSSweston peick