It all began with a bet between two long-time friends. From the smallest tales, profound stories grow. So it goes with Davi Millsaps and Eddie Ray. One of those names you are probably familiar with; Davi Millsaps won the 2006 AMA 250 East Supercross title, five 450 Supercross mains, and has been a fan favorite since he was on minicycles. Eddie Ray has also accomplished great things in motocross, even if he lacks the name recognition. Eddie is the husband of Jessica Patterson, the winningest female motocross racer of all time. He had a major stake in Patterson’s titles by ensuring his wife had the best equipment available. No slouch on a motorcycle himself, Eddie Ray also won a Loretta’s title and achieved modest success racing Supermoto.
Titles are trivial matters to Davi Millsaps and Eddie Ray, though—at least when they’re together. They measure success based on who can embarrass the other the most. They are the modern-day Smothers brothers (without the singing). As for the bet? Back in 2004 Millsaps was racing for Roger DeCoster’s factory Suzuki program in the 125 class. Davi was turning heads with a slew of strong finishes. Eddie Ray noticed his friend’s growing popularity within racing circles and made a bold prediction. He claimed that Millsaps would be racing for factory Honda once his Suzuki contract expired. Davi Millsaps laughed, stating that he would never ride for Honda. Ray was so emphatic that he bet Davi $500. Millsaps took the bet. Then, two years later, Davi signed on the dotted line with Honda.
After Millsaps was fired from Kawasaki on April 16, 2015, he promptly purchased several RM-Z450s and set to work getting a race program ready for the Nationals. Things never panned out with Suzuki. Instead, he landed a BTO Sports KTM deal, which is why Millsaps had brand-new full-race Suzuki RM-Z450s in his garage.
Davi Millsaps always repays his debts, but he does so with the speed of a snail. That’s what makes this story so interesting. Millsaps stalled for years, despite constant heckling from Ray. Eddie finally stopped asking for the money, but told his buddy that he would settle for a new pair of boots. Last summer Davi Millsaps called Eddie out of the blue and told him to swing by his house to pick up the new boots.
When Millsaps opened his garage door, it wasn’t a pair of boots Eddie saw; it was a fleet of brand-new Suzukis. Surrounding the bikes were boxes of after-market parts and trick components. After Millsaps was fired from Kawasaki on April 16, 2015, he promptly purchased several RM-Z450s and set to work getting a race program ready for the Nationals. Things never panned out with Suzuki. Instead, he landed a BTO Sports KTM deal, which is why Millsaps had brand-new full-race Suzuki RM-Z450s in his garage. Like a blood-thirsty shark, Eddie Ray circled one of Davi’s bikes and began prodding Davi about a price. Millsaps threw out a number so low that Eddie agreed to the deal without thinking twice. The price? $5000, which included all of Davi’s trick components. In reality, Davi’s bikes were worth twice as much money. Apparently, Millsaps is a giving friend—or maybe he just felt guilty about the delay in paying off the bet.
This brings us to our test of the 2016 Suzuki RM-Z450 that Davi Millsaps would have raced in the 2015 AMA 450 Nationals. MXA met up with Eddie at ClubMX’s training facility in Chesterfield, South Carolina, to spin laps on a bike so special that many fans never believed that it actually existed.
INNER WORKINGS: THE NUTS AND BOLTS
Eddie Ray’s bike is an example of what can be done to a 2016 RM-Z450 if you have deep enough pockets. What was on the hopped-up Suzuki?
(1) Throttle body. Jamie Ellis from Twisted Development installed his Under Mount Injector (UMI) throttle body kit. The UMI kit replaces the standard throttle body. A Vortex-programmed ignition with custom fuel and ignition curves is matched to the throttle body. It’s a plug-and-play package that doesn’t require any wiring. The UMI throttle body kit costs $1500.
(2) Gas tank. We’ve had experience with the Italian-made CRM Karbotank before, but it still always captures our attention. As super exotic as it is expensive, the tank shaves weight and holds more fuel than the stock aluminum tank. Believe it or not, the carbon fiber tank was included in the $5000 Eddie Ray paid to Millsaps.
(3) Forks. In place of the Showa SFF-TAC air forks were Showa A-kit spring forks. A wise move, given the abysmal settings on the 2016 RM-Z450 stockers. The 49mm stanchions increase rigidity, while the beefy internals improve performance. Gold DLC coating lessens stiction, but let’s not kid ourselves. The coating looks straight-up factory. Pro-Motion, a suspension tuner out of Greer, South Carolina, handled tuning duties. By the way, the A-kit forks were also part of the sales package. It pays to be good friends with Davi Millsaps.
(4) Clutch. Rekluse clutches have become very popular in motocross, but Rekluse offers more than just automatic clutches. Its TorqDrive Core Manual is worlds better than the putty-soft stock clutch pack and has a slightly heavier pull at the lever.
(5) Exhaust. Eddie Ray inherited Davi’s FMF Factory 4.1 RCT titanium exhaust with carbon fiber end cap ($899.99), but the pipe on Ray’s RM-Z450 cannot be purchased. Why? It comes with an extra strip of titanium welded on the head pipe as a means to protect the area from impact. This is a common measure taken by race teams in order to prevent a failure.
(6) Wheels. A complete Dubya wheelset, replete with Kite hubs and D.I.D. DirtStar ST-X rims, ensures that wheel malfunctions caused by excessive force are taken out of the equation. Dunlop MX32 tires were matched to the bulletproof Dubya wheels.
(7) Triple clamps. The Suzuki RM-Z450 is the best-cornering 450 in the class, bar none. Believe it or not, Eddie Ray wanted even sharper handling, so he tested Ride Engineering’s 20mm offset triple clamps. For tight tracks and on loamy dirt, Ray preferred the Ride clamps to the stock 21.5mm offset.
(8) Air boot. Moto Tassinari unveiled its Air4orce tunable velocity stack a few years ago and gained a lot of support from factory teams. In fact, Ryan Villopoto won several titles using the Air4orce. Eddie Ray installed the longer velocity stack for more bottom-end power.
(9) Components. The already expansive package got an indestructible Hinson Racing ignition cover; Cycra Stadium front number plate, fork guards and bike stand; Boyesen Supercooler water pump impeller and cover; Hammerhead shifter (+5mm length); Galfer oversized front brake kit; Guts Phantom zero gravity seat foam and cover; a wide assortment of Works Connection hard parts; Emig V2 lock-on grips; and an Armored Graphix bike graphics kit.
TEST RIDE: HOLD ON AND PRAY
It’s no secret the 2016 Suzuki RM-Z450 has the underpinnings to be outstanding—if only the forks weren’t so wretched, the engine weren’t so meager and the bike weren’t so overweight. Keep in mind that MXA deals mostly in testing stock motorcycles. While Ken Roczen and James Stewart might set the world on fire among the racing elite, their equipment is considerably different from what rolls off the showroom floor, as Davi Millsaps’ RM-Z would have been. Fortunately, it is possible to make the RM-Z450 a formidable weapon at local races for the average Eddie. This build is a testament to that fact. Granted, it took a generous number of greenbacks for Ray to create a semi-custom rendering of the ultimate RM-Z450, but it is possible to achieve excellence.
How good was the Davi Millsaps/Eddie Ray conglomeration? There’s no reason to beat around the bush. In capable hands, it could score a top 10 at an AMA National moto. Maybe that’s a bold statement to make, given that Millsaps didn’t line up to an AMA 450 National gate last year, bur it’s a shame Davi didn’t throw his hat in the ring, because this bike is a winner. The engine did its best work in the low-to-midrange transition, but it also romped at full tilt. Whereas the stock powerplant noses over at high rpm, Ray’s engine begs to be wrung out. It was counter to what we’ve come to expect from an RM-Z450. The biggest gains were due to the Twisted Development Under Mount Injector and tuned Vertex ignition mapping package, while the FMF exhaust and Moto Tassinari Air4orce accentuated the dynamo mods. Given our druthers, we would spend the $1500 on the Twisted Development throttle body kit. Look for a full review of the product in a future issue.
Works suspension is meaningless without good valving. Credit should be given to Pro-Motion Suspension, as the Showa A-kit forks were very progressive for faster test riders. Clicker changes made a noticeable difference, yet the forks didn’t come unhinged when we made extreme clicker adjustments. That’s a sure sign of good valving. The larger fork stanchions created a planted feeling in the front end. Ride Engineering’s 20mm offset triple clamps were very aggressive for faster tracks and a handful in loose soil, especially sand. We believe they are best suited for stadium-style tracks.
We fell head over heels in love with the carbon fiber gas tank and titanium fasteners. While the parts cost more than what any sane person would shell out, they did raise the cool factor several notches. Needless to say, Eddie Ray’s RM-Z450 was the envy of MXA’s test riders. We feel it necessary to reiterate that it pays to be good friends with people in high places. Eddie Ray got a great deal from Davi Millsaps, and we were able to test Ray’s bike because we’re friends with him. It’s funny to think this whole thing wouldn’t have happened without a bet made all those years ago.
Rekluse: www.rekluse.com or (866) 735-5873
Pro-Motion: www.promotionmx.com or (864) 444-7838
Dubya: www.dubyausa.com or (714) 279-0200
Pro Taper: www.protaper.com or your local dealer
Works Connection: www.worksconnection.com or (530) 642-9488
Dunlop: www.dunlopmotorcycle.com or your local dealer
Cycra Racing: www.cycraracing.com or (800) 770-2259
Guts: www.gutsracing.com or your local dealer
Galfer: www.galferusa.com or (805) 988-2900
Emig Grips: www.odigrips.com or your local dealer
Hammerhead: www.hdmoto.com or (866) 436-6869
Armored Graphix: www.armoredgraphix.com or (704) 221-7723
Boyesen: www.boyesen.com or (800) 441-1177
FMF Racing: www.fmfracing.com or (310) 631-4363
Moto Tassinari: www.mototassinari.com or (603) 298-6646
K&N: www.knfilters.com or (800) 858-3333
Hinson Racing: www.hinsonracing.com or (909) 946-2942
Ride Engineering: www.ride-engineering.com or (800) 805-1516
Twisted Development: www.td-racing.com or (951) 698-7222