MXA’s goal is to ferret out the modifications, products and settings that work. In the dynamic world of motocross, where everything is constantly being updated, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. When the MXA wrecking crew has doubts, we fall back on our most important resource–AMA National riders. These are the men who demand the most from their machines and have the wherewithal to get the best modifications, products and settings to make their bikes work.
Over the past year, the MXA test crew has ridden the bikes of Chad Reed, Tyla Rattray and James Stewart, and while these are sterling motocross bikes, riding full-factory bikes isn’t all that helpful in finding the best bike setups for the average Joe. There is no doubt that Bubba, Tyla and Chad have amazing engines and suspension, but most of their stuff is unobtainable, And, if it is obtainable, we couldn’t afford to run it anyway. And, if we could afford it, we wouldn’t be fast enough to utilize the stuff.
On the other hand, AMA privateers select their equipment from the same OEM and aftermarket parts bins that all motocross racers have access to. They can’t get unobtainium, which means that the race bike of a privateer can be duplicated. If the MXA gang finds something that works really well, it can be cloned on bikes all across the country.
That’s where Ben Evans, a 19-year-old from Boise, Idaho, comes in. Instead of going the home-school route, Ben stayed in high school and practiced and raced when he had the time. Luckily, Ben made this totally unheard of approach to pro racing work. He raced the Canadian Nationals and finished second in the 250 West Coast Series. He made it to some Amateur Nationals and won the 450 class at Loretta Lynn’s in 2007. To hone his Supercross skills, Ben raced in Germany twice and Switzerland once, winning both times in Germany and getting second in Switzerland. Now, Ben is ready to show his potential in the Big Show.
Ben finished 12th in the AMA 250 West Supercross points and is sponsored by a unique consortium of sponsors that make his bike a prime example of what can be achieved by a racer who wants the best bike he can get. Now that the Nationals have started his TiLube deal has ended, but he’s still doing well in the 250 Nationals. Ben is currently 14th overall in 250 National Championship points.
SHOP TALK: WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
In the AMA 250 class, horsepower is more critical than in the 450 class. A little extra power can make the difference in a 250 rider getting a good start, making a rhythm section, clearing a big double or outgunning another rider out of a turn. It goes without saying that the longest list of modifications to Ben’s bike is in the power delivery department.
Brown Motorsports is in charge of doing the work on the bike Evan’s raced in the 250 West. Alan Brown gained a reputation for hardcore motocross knowledge as the team manager of the Moto XXX team. Alan now puts his knowledge, experience and resources into Brown Motorsports.
On Ben’s Supercross bike, Alan ports the cylinder head, reshapes the combustion chamber and cuts the cylinder head to raise the compression. He uses a NEO Synthetics-coated Wiseco Hi-Compression piston. The NEO coating reduces friction and heat. The power package is further enhanced by a Crower Cam (built to Brown Motorsports’ specifications). Brown Motorsports also has their own ignition mapping that they run in a Vortex X10 ignition. Of course, jetting and carburetor modifications are necessary to match fuel and engine specifications. Alan also installs a balanced and lightened crankshaft from Crankworks, which helps the motor rev quicker and is especially good for Supercross. The bike runs on TiFuel, which is a product from TiLube.
A prototype DR.D exhaust system is used to refine power delivery and keep the decibel level down. DR.D’s battle against noise is fought on two fronts. The overall strategy involves the resonance chamber on the head pipe. The resonance chamber gives a little boost of low-end power and reduces the volume one decibel. It’s the secret inner-workings of the muffler where the real sound gains are made. DR.D is famous for favoring testing in the field over dyno testing. Ben Evans? pipe isn’t in production yet, but you can be sure the prototype will see production and become available to the public.
Normally, when you make a bike more powerful you raise the gearing, because a stronger motor can handle the increased jump between gears. However, Supercross isn’t exactly normal riding conditions. Ben’s bike’s 13/52 final drive is one tooth lower than stock.
AS FOR RUBBER. BEN’S BIKE WAS EQUIPPED WITH A PIRELLI MID-HARD REAR AND A MID-SOFT FRONT. BEN ESPECIALLY LIKES THE MID-SOFT FRONT AND RUNS IT AT MOST TRACKS.
To get the power to the ground, Ben’s bike utilizes Wiseco Clutch components, Dark Synergy clutch springs and Pirelli tires. For Supercross, Ben likes his clutch to really grab. Ben has been known to shim clutch springs to get the clutch even a little bit tighter, especially when running stock clutch springs. As for rubber. Ben’s bike was equipped with a Pirelli Mid-Hard rear and a Mid-Soft front. Ben especially likes the Mid-Soft front and runs it at most tracks. Inside the tires, Ben runs the lightest inner tubes he can get away with. Rotating mass and unsprung weight are important, and Ben is sensitive to it.
For all the effort put into making the engine accelerate quickly, it takes an equal amount of work to make it stop quickly. A QTM 270mm oversized front brake rotor fulfills all of Ben’s stopping needs.
Ben’s bike was also equipped with a K&N air filter, an RK GB520MXZ chain, Excel A60 wheels, Vortex sprockets and handlebars, UFO plastic, Fusion Graphics, SDG gripper seat, RG3 triple clamps and a Tamer two-position holeshot device. Last, but certainly not least, are the Race Tech-tuned Showa A Kit forks and shock.
TEST RIDE: HANG ON AND PRAY
Most professional motocross racers tend to be a bit vertically challenged. Sure there are some tall guys (like Pastrana and Preston), but they are in the minority. Cut subframes and shaved seats are common. Ben’s stature is refreshingly normal. The first thing we noticed when we sat on the bike was the lack of ergonomic customization. The positions of the levers, handlebars and footpegs were very neutral, and we adapted to the bike immediately. When we rolled out onto the track, we discovered that neutrality was a common theme throughout the bike’s setup.
The Race Tech-tuned A kit suspension had a good, firm Supercross setup. The first part of the stroke was relatively plush and usable, while the rest was a little too stiff for a regular guy. Thankfully, the transition didn’t have the midstroke harshness that plagues some Showa A kit fork setups. The suspension was pleasantly balanced, front and rear. For many Supercross pros, getting through the whoop section cleanly is the top priority, and this can lead to the forks being much stiffer than the shock. Ben’s setup doesn’t focus on any specific obstacle and works well through turns and bumps.
Overall, the setup wasn’t as stiff as you might expect from a taller-than-average Supercross pro, although Ben did tell us that as he got better through the season, he went stiffer and stiffer on the settings.
WE’VE RIDDEN BIKES WITH MOTORS THAT WERE SO WOUND UP THAT THEY COULDN’T GET OUT OF THEIR OWN WAY. THE BROWN MOTORSPORTS-TUNED ENGINE WAS VERY USABLE. BEN EVANS’ HONDA PRODUCED GOOD TORQUE OFF THE BOTTOM THAT WOULD PULL OUT OF THE EXIT OF A TURN QUICKLY ENOUGH TO KEEP THE FRONT WHEEL FROM DROPPING THOUGH THE WHOOP SECTIONS.
Sometimes engine tuners get so fixated on getting more horsepower that they make the power very difficult to use. We’ve ridden bikes with motors that were so wound up that they couldn’t get out of their own way. The Brown Motorsports-tuned engine was very usable. Ben Evans’ Honda produced good torque off the bottom that would pull out of the exit of a turn quickly enough to keep the front wheel from dropping though the whoop sections. But as with all pro bikes, the engine makes its best power when it reaches the upper portion of the rpm range.
The power on Ben’s bike felt very crisp and responsive, but didn’t have a big hit. Instead, it built up quickly to peak horsepower and hung there as it reached the high rpm range. The place where the motor seemed to hang produced great power. The Brown Motorsport’s engine definitely isn’t the fastest pro’s engine we have ridden, but it is crisp, competitive, well tuned and not a ticking time bomb. Part of the crispness and responsiveness can be attributed to the jetting. Ben is sensitive to jetting and spends a lot of time on it.
WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?
Ben Evans may have been an AMA rookie on a new team, but the men behind Ben have figured out the setup and racing strategies that show veteran experience. Ben Evans’ TiLube CRF250 is quick, versatile and competitive. Ben has the talent and the equipment to make a good sized blip on the pro class radar screen.