WE RIDE MB1/TOKYO MODS HONDA CRF450

 

Einstein’s theory: Tokyo Mods’ engine formula is simple. Make the most power and make it right now.

AS PART OF THE MXA FAITHFUL, YOU NO DOUBT REMEMBER THAT WE TESTED BOTH A STAND-ALONE MB1/TOKYO MODS HONDA CRF250 AND A CRF450 IN OUR INFAMOUS BLIND-TASTE-TEST PEPSI CHALLENGE.

This isn’t the MXA wrecking crew’s first rodeo with the MB1 and Tokyo Mods boys. As part of the MXA faithful, you no doubt remember that we tested both a stand-alone MB1/Tokyo Mods Honda CRF250 and a CRF450 in our infamous blind-taste-test Pepsi Challenge. With those two tests still rattling around in your cerebral cortex, it is probably a waste of time to rehash old territory, but indulge us while we give readers less in-the-know a quick refresher course on MB1 and Tokyo Mods.

After a successful career as a suspension tuner, first at Race Tech and later for Team Honda, Mike Battista, the MB in MB1, decided after the 2004 National season that it was time to travel less and spend more time with his growing family. Unfortunately, his high-profile job as Team Honda’s Showa suspension technician had him testing over 180 days a year. His only choice? To walk away from the glitz and glamour of Team Honda and forge his own path with MB1 (using all the tricks he’d learned along the way).

Thanks to the close-knit relationship he has with Showa (Mike left on good terms), MB1 had access to Showa’s works kits. This includeds the 47mm fork kit, 49mm fork kit and 18mm shock shaft kit. Within a year, Mike became the go-to guy for privateers looking for that factory edge (like the Subway/Coca-Cola team). Even more impressive to the MXA gang than their National credentials are MB1’s real-world settings for average racers. Usually, when you’ve spent most of your suspension career tuning for the likes of guys like Ricky Carmichael, Ezra Lusk, Ernesto Fonseca and Kevin Windham, you tend to think on the really stiff side. So far, MB1’s stuff has been pleasantly supple.

WITH MORE KNOWLEDGE THAN MOST ABOUT THE INNER WORKINGS OF MOTOCROSS’BURGEONING FOUR-STROKE MOVEMENT, RON LEFT TEAM HONDA TO STRIKE OUT ON HIS OWN.

With a name like Tokyo Mods, you might think the company is based out of Japan. Wrong! It’s located in sunny San Juan Capistrano, California. Much like MB1, Tokyo Mods was founded at the end of the 2004 season by former Team Honda four-stroke engine guru Ron Wood. With more knowledge than most about the inner workings of motocross’s burgeoning four-stroke movement, Ron left Team Honda to strike out on his own to create a hop-up shop that focused on four-strokesbig and small. So what exactly does Tokyo Mods do? They offer anything and everything to make your engine faster. Initially, it was as simple as headwork and Vortex ignitions (with their own special maps). Then they added carburetor mods. And now, Tokyo Mods offers everything from mechanical cam chain adjusters to motor mount kits to slipper clutches to an engine stand system that you need to see to believe.

Mossy side: MB1, Tokyo Mods, Hinson, FLU Graphics, Dunlop, CP and Renthal left no stone unturned on MXA’s full-race project bike.

WHEN THE TEST RIDERS CASUALLY ASKED ABOUT THE BIKE, MIKE SAID, “YOU SHOULD TRY IT.” THAT’S ALL WE NEEDED TO HEAR.

So, how did MXA end up testing yet another MB1/Tokyo Mods creation? It all started while several MXA test riders were waiting on the starting line at the White Brother’s Vet World Championships. Mike Battista was racing on what looked like a pretty trick CRF450. When the test riders casually asked about the bike, Mike said, “You should try it.” After the track record we’d had with the other MB1/Tokyo Mods bikes, that’s all we needed to hear. To be honest, we love testing race bikes like the MB1/Tokyo Mods CRF450 more than the works bikes of the factory moto-stars. Why? Because it’s a bike everyday people could actually own. You don’t have to be a Pro on a National race team to get this bike. All you need is a healthy bank account and the desire to build a CRF450 that could easily holeshot an AMA National. How do you go about building an MB1/Tokyo Mods CRF450? The steps are easy. Anything related to the suspension MB1 handles. Anything engine-related is Tokyo Mods’ domain. Everything else is up for grabs from a myriad of other companies.

LUCKILY, THIS WASN’T A FACTORY BIKE THAT WE WEREN’T ALLOWED TO TOUCH WITHOUT A COURT ORDER. WE COULD SPIN THE DIALS ALL WE WANTED.

When we initially talked to Mike, he asked if we wanted the bike to have 49mm kit forks or the stock 47mm forks with kit internals and different coatings. Since we’re on the kick that anyone could own this bike, we opted for the 47mm Showa forks with kit internals and the ultra-trick black coatings. Not content to run the 47mm kit forks in stock triple clamps, MB1 now offers their own triple clamps. We like the factory-like machine finish and oversize bar mounts. The Showa shock got a bigger 18mm shaft and a complete revalve. How did all this high-tech suspension work on the track? In one wordstiff. If you want two wordsreally stiff. Up until now, every bike we’d tried with MB1 suspension had been really plush; more suited to a typical racer than a National Pro. Not this bike. Even some of the fastest Pros on the planet would think that this suspension was stiff. Luckily, this wasn’t a factory bike that we weren’t allowed to touch without a court order. We could spin the dials and crank on the spring all we wantedand we wanted it softer. The clicker helped, but our ultimate solution was to ask Mike to knock it down a few notches.

WHEN DOES IT BECOME A PAIN? LATE IN THE MOTO AND ON TIGHT TRACKS WHERE THERE ISN’T ENOUGH ROOM TO BREATHE THE CAM OUT.

The engine that Tokyo Mods created for this bike is an absolute monster. Hanging on to it became job number one. We found ourselves either always riding in third or short shifting from second to fourth in a matter of just a few feet to be able to manage the power. If you don’t respect it, you can get into trouble in a hurry. Looping out isn’t a remote possibilityit’s highly likely. So where does an engine like this shine? To the first turn, on long straights, in deep sand and up steep hills. When does it become a pain? Late in the moto and on tight tracks where there isn’t enough room to breathe the cam out. If you’re a hard-core racer, the positives easily outweigh the negatives.
So how does Tokyo Mods go about building a monster like this? They leave no stone unturned. They completely rework the head, add a high-compression CP piston, modify the carburetor, and outfit the Vortex ignition with custom-designed Tokyo Mods maps. To top it all off, they run an FMF Titanium Factory 4.1 exhaust with a carbon fiber muffler. There is one small problem with this beast of a motor that we haven’t mentioned yetvibration. After spending a ton of time on the zero vibration 2006 Yamaha YZ450F, we can honestly say any vibration is too much.

WOULD WE REALLY BUILD THIS BIKE IF WE HAD TO SPEND OUR OWN CASH? THIS IS THE COLD HARD TRUTH. WE WOULD DO IT IN A HEARTBEATWITH ONE CAVEAT.

To harness Tokyo Mods’ horsepower, the CRF450 got a complete Hinson clutch. That includes the outer clutch cover that improves oil flow. As for the bling factor, the bike was decked out with the complete Works Connection catalog. It has the red reservoir covers, anodized engine plugs, Elite clutch perch and radiator braces (which in our experience are a must-have on CRFs). Other touches that round out the MB1/Tokyo Mods CRF450 experience are Renthal tapered grips, Renthal TwinWall bars, Renthal chain and sprockets, and Flu graphics.

The real question we always ask ourselves after the end of every test is, would we really build this bike if we had to spend our own cash? This is the cold hard truth. We would do it in a heart beatwith one caveat. What’s the hitch? We would build our CRF450 using MB1 suspension and Tokyo Mods engine work, but we’d tell both of them to build it with a really slow beginner in mindbecause then we’d probably be able to hang on to it.

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