MXA RETRO TEST: WE RIDE JUSTIN BRAYTON’S 2010 JGR YAMAHA YZ450F

We get misty-eyed sometimes thinking about past bikes we loved, as well as ones that should remain forgotten. We take you on a trip down memory lane with bike tests that got filed away and disregarded in the MXA archives. We reminisce on a piece of moto history that has been resurrected. Here is our test of Justin Brayton’s 2010 JGR YZ450F.

The story of Justin Brayton’s path to racing success is one that crazed mini parents should take note of. In fact, they should study Brayton’s carefully selected career choices. Why? Justin Brayton isn’t your typical modern-day professional. While other aspiring professionals his age skipped out on school and spent their days riding for the sole purpose of establishing motocross dominance, Justin was hitting the books and going to public high school. Justin had a typical childhood, chock full of study halls, school dances and homecoming celebrations. His parents stressed the importance of an education—a catalyst for his motivation to succeed regardless of the size of the task that lay before him. Like most sensible parents, the Braytons realized that their son shouldn’t bet on turning Pro. Instead of putting all of his eggs in one basket, Justin earned his high-school diploma and had the opportunity to move on to college. For that, the MXA wrecking crew is impressed with Justin Brayton.

Of course, there are many other reasons we like Justin Brayton. Justin had the misfortune of growing up in Iowa—an area that isn’t exactly a hotbed for pro motocross racers. Justin proved the naysayers wrong, however, and is now one of the premier racers in the world. He certainly stood up for Iowa. 

Justin rides with sheer intensity and never throws in the towel when the odds are against him. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s a friendly person with an intelligent perspective on racing. It’s common knowledge that Brayton signed a two-year deal with the relatively new Joe Gibbs Racing team (JGR). There are a few key bits of information that you need to know about the JGR team. 

(1) The team is the brainchild of Coy Gibbs, the younger son of famous football coach and NASCAR race team owner Joe Gibbs. 

(2) JGR fielded its first motocross team in 2008 (with riders Josh Hansen and Josh Summey). 

(3) The race shop is located on the outskirts of North Carolina in what can best be described as NASCAR country. While Southern California is often labeled as the hot spot for the motocross industry, Huntersville, North Carolina, is NASCAR’s nirvana. 

(4) Coy Gibbs requests that his team riders live near the race shop. As for those riders who don’t think it’s a viable option, Coy either moves on to the next possible candidate or tells them, “Tough luck.” Gibbs’ reasoning is that the race team’s massive gym, training facility, in-house nutritionists, physicians and vast riding areas offer the best conditions to help riders reach their full potential. Coy is a kind man, but he expects a return on his investment. He wants to make sure that his riders are putting in the time and effort to achieve maximum success. No one can fault him for that.

SHOP TALK: A WORK OF ART

We asked Coy Gibbs, JGR team manager Jeremy Albrecht, and many of the other members of the staff what sets their bikes apart from all the other bikes on the track. The responses were swift and cohesive. JGR has complete control over its bikes. JGR only uses aftermarket parts that they believe work at the highest level of performance. If JGR isn’t satisfied with the choices, while innumerable, they take matters into their own hands and make the parts themselves. From drawings to CAD renderings to construction to testing, they oversee the specific part every step of the way. Case in point, the team built its own triple clamps. It was a painstaking task that soaked up a portion of the team’s operational budget, but the result was a clamp that met their high demands.

Justin Brayton’s Muscle Milk/Toyota/Joe Gibbs Racing/Yamaha YZ450F isn’t remarkably close to a work of art; it is, in fact, a work of art. Saying anything less about the bike would be like telling a swimsuit model that she has a decent figure. As Jeremy Albrecht gave us a verbal walk-through of Brayton’s bike, we couldn’t help but give him an incredulous stare. The attention to detail, the hours spent handcrafting parts, the mirror-like shiny frame, and the melding of aftermarket products with JGR-specific and factory Yamaha parts had our heads spinning like Linda Blair. It quickly became apparent that Brayton’s YZ450F was the product of a team’s devotion to building the best bike possible.    

Which parts are unique? JGR developed its own footpeg bracket covers (to prevent mud from packing in the brackets), a pressurized radiator system (allowing the team to make incremental changes to the pressure inside the radiators), wider and stronger fork lugs (for increased rigidity), a special transponder bracket (affixed to the top triple clamp) and an aluminum heat shield between the exhaust midsection and shock. Another modification is found in the shifter lever (Hammerhead knob with JGR shifter arm). The team also drills 10 small, strategic holes in each shroud to improve airflow to the air filter, and they cut slits into the plastic housing in front of the gas tank. JGR can get away with exposing the Filtron air filter because Supercross tracks are rarely dusty or muddy. It’s also important to note that the team uses engine and suspension oil specifically developed and formulated by the JGR NASCAR team. Justin Brayton’s mechanic, Patrick Barker, toils away on the frame, swingarm, kickstarter and rear brake arm to give these parts a mirror-like finish, while in-house engine specialist Dean Baker is in charge of the engine work on Brayton’s and teammate Josh Grant’s bikes. 

With respect to the suspension, Joe Gibbs Racing capitalizes on the technology and machines at their fingertips (thanks, in part, to the NASCAR team). The team’s suspension guru, Jonny Oler, is a fan of Frankenstein creations. The team uses Showa forks, even though the 2010 Yamaha YZ450F (just like in years past) comes stock with Kayaba units. Oler uses parts off various models of Showa forks to create what he calls “F-Type” units. The beefy 49mm forks aren’t available to the public, nor are they even accessible to factory riders. Only JGR riders get the F-Type setup. The NT shock, labeled “Version 2.0” by the team, contains a Renton titanium spring and is also very unique. 

Being one of Yamaha’s factory-backed teams has its advantages. JGR utilizes numerous parts that would be otherwise unobtainable, thanks to Yamaha’s blessing. The works parts list includes a four-speed transmission (fifth gear is locked out), shock linkage arm, lightweight hubs, steel axles, a 280mm front rotor and brake hanger, gas tank heat shield and titanium bolts. 

The suspension was done in-house by Jonny Oler.

Joe Gibbs Racing relies on aftermarket support to keep the team’s 18 wheeler rolling to each race. LightSpeed covers the chain guide, skid plate and front brake cover with protective carbon fiber, as well as titanium footpegs. Strong Excel A60 rims are used, along with an RK chain, FMF Factory 4.1 titanium exhaust, Hammerhead holeshot device, JE Piston, Xceldyne valve train, VP Racing fuel, Carrillo Industries connecting rod and complete Hinson clutch. Also on the parts list are a Renthal rear sprocket, 997 Twinwall handlebars, Renthal soft half-waffle grips, ARC levers, red CV4 radiator hoses, Dunlop tires and N-Style graphics with a seat cover. The team receives tremendous financial backing from Muscle Milk, Toyota and Sport Clips.

JGRMX made most of the trick parts in-house.

TEST RIDE: LET IT RIP

Justin Brayton’s body size and shape epitomize the typical 450 professional racer. He tips the scales at 170 pounds and stands 5-foot-10. While he uses the standard footpeg height and subframe, his quirkiness resides in his lever position. What’s funny is that MXA test riders didn’t take issue with Brayton’s lever position. Apparently, Justin is one of those riders who can notice a 1 millimeter rotation up or down from his go-to blade position.

Although the MXA wrecking crew was aware that Brayton’s bike had a special works four-speed transmission before they started testing, the JGR staff thought it pretty comical when one tester after another came in after riding and asked where fifth gear went. In truth, every rider enjoyed the four-speed tranny, because second gear pulled further than standard. The gear ratios allowed us to lug the engine or attack certain sections with the rpm range up and still move forward with ease. We’d be remiss to say that the four-speed was better than our previously favorite transmission—Tim Ferry’s YZ426F three-speed tranny.

As for the engine, we immediately fell in love with the powerband. Although we tested on soil that was heavily saturated, the engine blew through the soft spots in an easy and predictable manner. The JGR powerplant spit hot fire, but only after the bike was hooked up. Compared to the explosive bottom-end power on the stock 2010 YZ450F, Brayton’s JGR Yamaha was considerably more pleasant off the bottom but rocketed through the midrange and into the top end with alacrity. 

We are confident that Justin Brayton’s JGR engine would be a significant improvement for any level rider. That is the best compliment the MXA wrecking crew can pay to any racer’s engine. 

Most surprising of all was the performance of the suspension. As a rule, Supercross suspension is stiff and rigid. It is set up that way to handle big obstacles and the pounding of whoops; however, Justin Brayton’s one-of-a-kind forks and shock were actually supple. Don’t get us wrong, the suspension was still overkill for slower test riders, but Pro-level testers were enamored with the usable travel and feel (particularly in the forks). JGR admitted that it had moved towards softer settings since the beginning of the Supercross season. If Brayton’s results are any indication, the team went in the right direction.

CONCLUSION: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?

There’s a sense of accomplishment in testing a factory-level bike. The MXA wrecking crew finds it difficult to turn down an opportunity to test unobtainable machinery. Every MXA test rider is a blend of techno geek, information freak and diehard motocross rider. Joe Gibbs Racing is made up of people who are exactly the same. They believe in finding solutions to problems, regardless of the effort it takes. JGR wields the incredible technology to increase the performance and craftsmanship of its bikes. Justin Brayton’s JGR Yamaha YZ450F is one of the trickest bikes we’ve ever tested. That’s saying a lot.

 

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